Title:
Waterproof, breathable articles of apparel with fleece liners
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Articles of apparel and the method of making the same which include a uniquely constructed fleece liner and an elastomeric polyurethane film that will allow water vapor due to perspiration to transpire through the article, but will prevent water from external sources from reaching the wearer's extremities. The fleece liner component is constructed using a novel adhesive bonding process that produces a virtually seamless liner component that provides substantial warmth and comfort to the user.



Inventors:
Williams, Cole (Duarte, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/122096
Publication Date:
10/16/2003
Filing Date:
04/11/2002
Assignee:
WILLIAMS COLE
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41B11/00; A43B19/00; B29D35/12; (IPC1-7): A41B11/00; A43B17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROSSI, JESSICA L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Suite 860, James Brunton E. (700 North Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA, 91209, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A method of making an article of apparel used to cover a wearer's extremities comprising the steps of: (a) depositing a heat activated adhesive on the first surface of a first fleece member to form a first precursor coated component, said heat activated adhesive comprising a powdered adhesive; (b) placing a second fleece member component over said first precursor coated component to form an unbonded assemblage; and (c) heating said unbonded assemblage along a line to an elevated temperature sufficient to melt said heat activated adhesive thereby bonding said first precursor coated component and second fleece member component together along said line.

2. The method as defined in claim 1 in which said line is in the shape of a foot.

3. The method as defined in claim 1 in which said unbonded assemblage is heated along said line to an elevated temperature of between about 350 and about 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. A method of making an article of apparel used to cover a wearer's extremities using a die generally corresponding to the shape of the margin of the article of apparel, the method comprising the steps of: (a) depositing a heat activated adhesive on the first surface of a first fleece member to form a first precursor coated component, said heat activated adhesive comprising a powdered adhesive; (b) placing a second fleece member component over said first precursor coated component to form a precursor assemblage; and (c) heating the die to an elevated temperature sufficient to melt said heat activated adhesive; and (d) bringing said die into pressural engagement with said precursor assemblage to bond together said first precursor coated component and said second fleece member component to form an article of apparel.

5. The method as defined in claim 4 in which the die is heated to an elevated temperature of between about 350 and about 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. The method as defined in claim 4 in which the die is brought into pressural engagement with said precursor assemblage at a pressure of between about 40 and about 60 p.s.i.

7. A method of making an article of apparel used to cover a wearer's extremities comprising the steps of: (a) constructing a fleece liner component in accordance with the following steps: (i) depositing a heat activated adhesive on the first surface of a first fleece member to form a first precursor; (ii) overlaying a second fleece member over said first precursor to form an unbonded assemblage; and (iii) heating said unbonded assemblage along a line defining the shape of the fleece liner to an elevated temperature sufficient to melt said heat activated adhesive to bond said first precursor and said second fleece member together along said line; (b) depositing a heat activated adhesive on both surfaces of a stretchable, waterproof, breathable membrane to form a coated membrane; (c) forming said coated membrane into a bladder having an extremity receiving portion in the general shape of the wearer's extremity to be covered, said bladder having a smooth outer surface and a smooth inner surface generally conformable to the contours of the extremity to be covered; (d) placing said bladder over said fleece liner component to form a first assemblage; (e) placing an outer fabric member over said first assemblage to form a second assemblage; and (f) simultaneously heating said second assemblage to a temperature of between about 260 and about 390 degrees Fahrenheit and compressing said second assembly at a pressure sufficient to form a composite in which said fleece liner component and said outer fabric member are securely bonded to said bladder.

8. A method as defined in claim 7 in which said waterproof, breathable membrane comprises a thin, generally planar, smooth surfaced thin film having a wall thickness of between about 0.001 inch and about 0.0018 inch.

9. A method as defined in claim 7 in which the article of apparel comprises a sock.

10. A method of making a sock used to cover a wearer's foot comprising the steps of: (a) constructing a fleece liner component in accordance with the following steps: (i) depositing a heat activated adhesive on the first surface of a first fleece member to form a first precursor, (ii) overlaying a second fleece member over said first precursor to form an unbonded assemblage; and (iii) heating said unbonded assemblage along a line having the shape of the sock to an elevated temperature sufficient to melt said heat activated adhesive to bond said first coated precursor and second fleece member together along said line; (b) depositing heat activated adhesive on both surfaces of a stretchable, waterproof, breathable membrane to form a coated membrane; (c) forming said coated membrane into a bladder, having an extremity receiving portion in the general shape of the wearer's foot, said bladder having a smooth outer surface and a smooth inner surface generally conformable to the contours of the extremity to be covered; (d) placing said bladder over said fleece liner component to form a first assemblage; (e) placing an outer fabric member over said first assemblage to form a second assemblage; and (f) simultaneously heating said second assemblage to a temperature of between about 260 and about 390 degrees Fahrenheit and compressing said second assembly at a pressure sufficient to form a composite in which said fleece liner component and said outer fabric member are securely bonded to said bladder.

11. A method as defined in claim 10 in which said waterproof, breathable membrane comprises a thin, generally planar, smooth surfaced thin film having a wall thickness of between about 0.001 inch and about 0.0018 inch.

12. The method as defined in claim 11 in which said waterproof, breathable membrane comprises a material selected from a group consisting of urethane, polyurethane, and elastomers made from polyester, polyamides, cellulose derivatives and polyacrylic acid and a polytetraflouroethylene film.

13. An article of apparel used to cover a wearer's extremities comprising: (a) a pliant, generally extremity-shaped hollow bladder constructed from a waterproof, breathable material, said bladder including as a part thereof, a continuous extremity covering portion for enclosing there-within the wearer's extremity, including a continuous outer surface and a continuous inner surface generally conforming to the contours of the wearer's extremity; and (b) a generally extremity shaped fleece liner having a continuous surface attached directly to said inner surface of said bladder along a substantial portion thereof.

14. An article as defined in claim 13 in which said fleece liner is bonded to said bladder by a heat activated adhesive.

15. An article as defined in claim 13 further including an outer fabric member bonded to the outer surface of said bladder.

16. An article as defined in claim 13 in which said article is adapted to cover a wearer's foot and in which said bladder and said fleece liner are in the general shape of a human foot.

17. A waterproof footwear article for enclosing a wearer's foot, comprising: (a) an elastomeric, breathable and waterproof stretchable elastic bladder having a continuous foot receiving portion the general shape of the wearer's foot and including continuous outer surface and a continuous inner surface generally conformable to the wearer's foot; (b) an inner fleece liner bonded to said bladder along a substantial portion of said inner surface of said bladder; and (c) an outer fabric covering bonded to said bladder along a substantial portion of said outer surface of said bladder.

18. An article as defined in claim 17 in which said elastomeric bladder permits the water vapor content of perspiration to pass therethrough in a direction toward said outer fabric covering, but prevents water in liquid form from passing therethrough toward said inner fleece liner.

19. An article as defined in claim 17 in which said bladder comprises a material selected from a group consisting of urethane, polyurethane, and elastomers made from polyester, polyamides, cellulose derivatives and polyacrylic acid and a polytetraflouroethylene film.

20. An article as defined in claim 19 in which said inner and outer socks are bonded to said bladder by a heat-activated adhesive.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to articles of apparel. More particularly, the invention concerns improved articles of apparel used to cover the wearer's extremities such as an improved, waterproof sock that includes a novel, stretchable fleece liner that adds comfort and warmth to the sock and an elastomeric polyurethane film that permits perspiration to transpire through the sock, but keeps water from external sources away from the wearer's foot.

[0003] 2. Discussion of the Prior Art

[0004] Various attempts have been made in the past to produce breathable, water-proof articles of apparel such as gloves and socks that will keep the wearer's hands and feet dry and at the same time permit perspiration to transpire through the article. Materials, which will accomplish this desired function, have been known for sometime. Among the most successful waterproof, breathable articles of apparel ever developed are those developed by the present inventor and described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,402,540, 5,655,226 and 5,483,703. Because of the pertinence of these patents to a complete understanding of the present inventions, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,402,540, 5,655,226 and 5,483,703 are incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

[0005] The present invention constitutes an improvement in the articles described in the aforementioned patents. More particularly, the articles of apparel of the present invention include a novel fleece liner component that is constructed in a highly novel manner to provide substantial warmth and comfort to the user.

[0006] As will be better appreciated from the discussion which follows, the present invention provides, for the first time, articles of clothing such as socks and gloves which exhibit the warmth, comfort and stretchability of traditional types of sport socks and gloves. The articles of the invention include a uniquely constructed fleece liner component and a barrier membrane component that provides an article that is both breathable and completely waterproof.

[0007] While certain articles of clothing have been fabricated in the past using fleece materials, the articles have been constructed using traditional cutting and sewing techniques. These techniques produce articles that exhibit welts that are generally unacceptable in articles of clothing such as socks and gloves. The fleece articles produced in the traditional manner have proven unacceptable for use in the construction of the three-ply waterproof and breathable articles of clothing of the present invention. Accordingly it was necessary for the present inventor to conceive of and develop an entirely new and novel method for the construction of the fleece articles that do not exhibit the undesirable welt characteristics found in the prior art sewn garments.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is an object of the present invention to provide comfortable articles of apparel and the method of making the same which include a uniquely constructed fleece liner and an elastomeric polyurethane film that will allow water vapor due to perspiration to transpire through the article, but will prevent water from external sources from reaching the wearer's extremities.

[0009] A particular object of the invention is to provide a footwear article of the aforementioned character which includes a fleece liner component that provides substantial warmth and comfort to the user.

[0010] Another object of the invention is to provide an article as described in the preceding paragraphs in which the fleece liner component is constructed using a novel adhesive bonding process that produces a virtually seamless liner component.

[0011] Another object of the invention is to provide a method of making articles of the character described in the preceding paragraphs which is simple and straight forward, does not require the use of complicated equipment and can be performed by unskilled workmen with a minimum of training.

[0012] A particular object of the invention is to provide a sock as described in the preceding paragraphs which is of simple construction, is lightweight, is pliant and durable in use, and is easy to manufacture.

[0013] In one form of the invention, the footwear article comprises a sock having a body portion that is of three-ply construction with the inside ply being formed from a uniquely constructed fleece liner that embodies elastic fibers, the intermediate ply being made from an elastomeric polyurethane film and the outside ply being formed from a suitable stretchable fabric. The three plies are uniquely bonded together using a pliant, waterproof adhesive to provide a rugged, durable and extremely comfortable sock.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] FIG. 1 is a generally perspective, diagrammatic view illustrating the first step in one form of the method of making the fleece liner component of the footwear article of the invention.

[0015] FIG. 2 is a generally perspective, diagrammatic view illustrating the next step in one form of the method of making the fleece liner component of the footwear article of the invention.

[0016] FIG. 3 is a generally perspective view of the fleece liner component of the footwear article of the invention.

[0017] FIG. 4 is a greatly enlarged, cross-sectional view taken along lines 4-4 of FIG. 3.

[0018] FIG. 5 is an enlarged, fragmentary, cross-sectional, illustrative view showing one of the steps in the method of making the footwear article of the invention wherein the precursor footwear article is heated and compressed.

[0019] FIG. 6 is a top plan view of one form of the footwear article of the invention.

[0020] FIG. 7 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 6.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0021] Referring to the drawings and particularly to FIGS. 1 through 4, one form of the fleece liner component of article of apparel of the present invention and the method of making the same is there illustrated. As depicted in FIG. 3, the fleece liner here comprises a bonded assemblage made up of an inner layer of a conventional, commercially available fleece material. While several commercially available materials are suitable for use in constructing the fleece liner component, a fleece fabric made by Malden Mills Ind. Inc. of Lawrence, Mass. has proven to be ideal for use in accomplishing the method of the present invention. This material is a highly insulating fabric that is soft and both comfortable and durable in use. Additionally, the material includes an elastomeric component that is woven into the fabric so that the material stretches both lengthwise and crosswise thereby providing a fourway stretch making it extremely attractive for use in the present application.

[0022] In constructing the fleece liner 14 of the character shown in FIG. 3, a first sheet or layer 16 of the fleece material is placed on the top surface of a rigid support such as an aluminum plate “P”. A thin layer of heat activated powdered adhesive “A” is then sprinkled on the upper surface of first layer to form a first precursor, coated component 16. Next, a second sheet or layer 18 of fleece material is laid over first precursor, coated component, 16 in a manner shown in FIG. 2 to form the unbonded assemblage 20. Assemblage 20 is then uniquely bonded together into the general configuration of a sock using a strategically formed, heated die 22 of the general character shown in FIG. 2. While several heat activated adhesives can be used in the construction of the fleece liner component 14, an adhesive sold by EMS-Chemie (North America), Inc. of Sumpter, S.C. under the name and style GRILTEX D-P160400 has proven satisfactory for this purpose. It is to be noted that the usual prior art method of constructing articles of apparel using sheets of this type of fleece fabric involves first cutting the sheets of fabric into the desired configuration and then interconnecting the sheets using conventional sewing techniques. However, sewing the seams in the traditional manner undesirably forms welts on the assembled article that are objectionable in apparel such as socks and gloves. Because of this substantial drawback of the prior art material joining techniques, it was necessary to develop the novel bonding method of the present invention for assembling the fleece components to form the inner liner component of the article of apparel.

[0023] In accordance with one form of the method of the invention for constructing the fleece liner 14, the die 22 is used to heat the unbonded assemblage along a line “L” defining an open ended area that corresponds to the sock shape of the fleece liner. More particularly, the die heats the unbonded assemblage along the line of the die so as to controllably bond together the fibrils of the fleece material that are disposed beneath the die. In accomplishing the method of the invention, the die is held in a suitable press of a character well understood by those skilled in the art (not shown) and is heated to a temperature of between about 350 and about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly above the softening point of the adhesive. When the heated die is brought into pressural engagement with the assemblage 20, the discrete particles of the adhesive which have been randomly deposited onto the sheet 16 melt in a manner to strategically fuse together the fibrils 25 of the fleece material that are located beneath the heated die along line “L”. These bonded fibrils define the margin of the bonded liner (see FIG. 4). During this bonding step, the pressure exerted on the die by the press is preferably between about 40 psi and about 60 psi. After the edge fibril-bonding step has been completed, the particles of adhesive that were not activated during the bonding process are removed by shaking or tumbling the liner component 14. This done, the first and second precursor components that have been bonded together along the desired bond line are suitably trimmed to define a clean, well-defined margin. Due to the nature of the fibril bond line formed in accordance with the novel method of the invention thus described, the edges of the trimmed assemblage which forms the fleece liner 14 is supple and uniquely exhibits almost no undesirable seam welt.

[0024] Forming an important component of the sock construction 28 of the present invention shown in FIG. 6 of the drawings is a thin, pliant bladder 30 that is constructed from a waterproof, breathable material, such as polyurethane sheet. The polyurethane sheet can be of various thicknesses as, for example, between about 1.0 mils and about 3.0 mils. As illustrated in FIG. 7, bladder 30, which includes an inner surface 30a that has been coated with a heat activated adhesive “A” and an outer surface 30b that has also been coated with a heat activated adhesive “A”, has the unique capability of generally conforming to the contours of the human foot and leg so that it can be comfortably worn inside a boot or shoe.

[0025] Bonded to the inner surface 30a of the elastomeric bladder is the previously discussed fleece liner 14. The article of the invention also includes an outer sock 34 that is bonded to the outer surface 30b, The details of the construction of outer sock 34 will presently be described. While several heat activated adhesives can be used in the accomplishment of the method of the present invention, a hot melt adhesive in powder form sold by EMS-Chemie (North America), Inc. of Sumpter, S.C. under the name and style GRILTEX D-P160400 has proven satisfactory for this purpose.

[0026] The thin, pliant, thermoplastic material from which the waterproof, breathable bladder is made is of a character that will prevent penetration of liquid water while at the same time permitting free passage of moisture vapor such as perspiration. This material can be polyurethane sometimes described as thermoplastic polyurethane. A suitable material of this type is sold by The Dow Chemical Company. Other suitable materials include elastomers made from polyesters, copolyesters, polyamides, cellulose derivatives, polyacrylic acid and its holologs, natural or synthetic rubber with hydrophilic impurities, copolyozamides, polyureas, polyelectrolytes, polyphosphates, polyvinylamid, polyvinylalcohol, polyether, and copolymers thereof, polythioether, polythioether-polyether, copolyepichlorohydrinether, polysulphosphates, copolyester-ether and derivatives or mixtures thereof and film materials made by W. L. Gore and Associates, called Goretex that incorporate The DuPont Company's Teflon® polytetraflouroethylene.

[0027] The construction of the waterproof, breathable bladder 30 in accordance with one form of the method of the invention is accomplished by first coating both sides of a sheet of the thin, pliant bladder membrane with a light coating of the hot melt adhesive “A” to form a precursor, coated membrane. Next, the precursor, coated membrane is heated to a temperature slightly above the softening point of the adhesive, thereby causing the discrete particles of the adhesive which have been randomly deposited onto the bladder to fuse to the surface of the bladder material to form a coated membrane. Reference should be made to incorporated-by-reference U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,402,540, 5,655,226 and 5,483,703 for a more detailed description of this adhesive deposition process.

[0028] The next step in the method of the invention for constructing the waterproof, breathable bladder is to overlay two sheets of the previously described-coated membrane and then to define on the membrane a line circumscribing the boundary of the bladder. This done, the sheets of coated membrane are heated along the boundary line to a temperature sufficient to sealably bond the membranes together along the boundary line. This heating-fusion step can be accomplished in several ways well known to those skilled in the art, including the techniques described in the incorporated by reference U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,402,540, 5,655,226 and 5,483,703. The heating-fusion step produces a bladder having an extremity-receiving portion that is in the general shape of the wearer's extremity, in this instance of the wearer's foot.

[0029] The next step in the method of the invention is to place the fleece liner 14 over a generally foot-shaped, approximately {fraction (1/32)} inch thick, generally planar mandrel 36 having smooth outer surfaces (see FIG. 5). The fleece liner 14, which has inner and outer surfaces 14a and 14b (FIG. 5) is placed over the mandrel so that inner surface 14a thereof is disposed in engagement with the faces 36a of mandrel 36.

[0030] After fleece liner 14 has been placed over mandrel 36 and smoothed out so that its inner surface is in close engagement with the faces of the mandrel, a first assemblage is formed by carefully placing bladder 30 over the assemblage of the fleece liner 14 and mandrel 36. This done, bladder is smoothed so that the inner surface of the bladder is in close engagement with the outer surface of the fleece liner. Next, the precursor assembly is formed by carefully placing the outer fabric sock 34 over the first assemblage. This done, the outer fabric sock 34 is smoothed so that the inner surface thereof is in close engagement with the outer surface of the bladder 30. Fabric sock 34 preferably comprises a knit sock that includes stretch fibers such as those sold by DuPont under the name and style LYCRA™ Spandex. Alternatively, sock 34 can comprise a conventional cut and sewn sock component. Reference should be made to the incorporated by reference U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,483,703, 5,655,226 and 5,483,703 for a more complete description of the mandrel 36 and the techniques for the construction of the precursor assembly.

[0031] The precursor assembly formed in the manner described in the preceding paragraph, which comprises the bonded together fleece liner 14, the bladder 30 and the outer sock 34 is then heated and compressed in the manner illustrated in FIG. 5 and more fully described in the incorporated by reference U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,655,226 and 5,483,703 to form the finished article. Briefly, this step is accomplished by placing the mandrel, upon which the precursor assembly is mounted, between two platens “P” that can be controllably heated to a temperature between about 260° F. and about 390° F. and urged at a pressure of between about 5 pounds per square inch and about 20 pounds per square inch together. During this temperature-pressure step, the polymer of the adhesive is bonded and cross-linked making a permanent, waterproof bond of the fleece liner 14 to the inside of the bladder and the outer sock 34 to the other side of the bladder. During this important temperature-pressure step, the bonded joint between the fleece layers 16 and 18 is reheated and securely bonded along the margin of the fleece liner to the bladder. During this bonding step the bonded joint uniquely tends to smooth out so that it is virtually unnoticeable to the user when the article of the invention is worn.

[0032] After completion of the heating and compression step, the precursor assembly is removed from the press and allowed to cool thoroughly prior to doffing the completed waterproof footwear article from the mandrel. When removed from the mandrel, the footwear article is generally planar in shape and in one form of the invention, the article may be stitched along the margin of the bladder and the cuff. In use, when the foot is inserted into the open cuff of the article, the foot-engaging portion of the sock will neatly and smoothly conform to the shape of the wearer's foot.

[0033] Having now described the invention in detail in accordance with the requirements of the patent statutes, those skilled in this art will have no difficulty in making changes and modifications in the individual parts or their relative assembly in order to meet specific requirements or conditions. Such changes and modifications may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, as set forth in the following documents.





 
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