Title:
Method and apparatus for an artificial twisted wicker strand
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for providing an artificial wicker strand and article of manufacture made therefrom is provided, wherein a plurality of strands of core yarn may be coated with, for example, a thermoplastic polymer. The yarn is extruded to apply the thermoplastic coating, twisted at least in pairs, heat-set, and permitted to cool. The strands are twisted to reflect light in similar manner as natural wicker. The twisted strands may then be used to form articles of manufacture. The twisted strands may be wrapped around an article of manufacture frame such that the frame is substantially covered by the twisted artificial wicker.



Inventors:
Mathis, Coley (Dothon, AL, US)
Application Number:
10/374387
Publication Date:
08/26/2004
Filing Date:
02/25/2003
Assignee:
MATHIS COLEY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
D02G3/28; D02G3/40; (IPC1-7): D02G3/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GRAY, JILL M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SNELL & WILMER, L.L.P. (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An artificial wicker strand comprising: a. a first elongated core yarn material of indeterminate length; b. an first outer coating substantially surrounding said first elongated core yarn material providing a first coated core yarn material; c. a second elongated core yarn material of indeterminate length; d. a second outer coating substantially surrounding said second core yarn material providing a second coated core yarn material; and e. wherein said first coated core yarn material and said second coated core yarn material are twisted with the first coated yarn material spiraling around said second coated core material.

2. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 1 wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn and second elongated core yarn is comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point greater than that of at least one of the first and second outer coating.

3. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 2, wherein at least one of said first and second elongated core yarn is comprised of at least one of a thermoplastic polymer, a thermo set polymer, fiberglass, and a metallic wire.

4. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 3 wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn and said second elongated core yarn is one of monofilament and stranded.

5. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 4 wherein at least one of said first and second outer coating comprises at least one of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point less than 350° F.

6. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 5 wherein at least of said first and second outer coating comprises at least one of a thermoplastic polymer, a polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polyamide, a polyester, a polyolefin and a polyurethane.

7. An artificial wicker strand comprising: a. a first elongated core yarn material of indeterminate length; b. a second elongated core yarn material of indeterminate length in proximity to said first elongated core yarn material; c. an outer coating, said outer coating substantially surrounding said first elongated core yarn material and said second elongated core yarn material providing a coated core strand including a FIG. 8 cross-section; and d. said coated core strand being twisted in a spiral-like shape.

8. A artificial wicker strand according to claim 7 wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn and second elongated core yarn is comprised of one of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point greater than that of said outer coating.

9. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 8 wherein at least one of said first and second elongated core yarn comprises at least one of a thermoset polymer, fiberglass, and a metallic wire.

10. An artificial wicker strand according to the claim 7 wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn and said second elongated core yarn is one of monofilament and stranded.

11. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 7, wherein said outer coating comprises at least one of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point less than 350° F.

12. An artificial wicker strand according to claim 11, wherein said outer coating comprises at least one of a thermoplastic polymer, a polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polyamide, and a polyester, a polyolefin and a polyurethane.

13. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance comprising: a. a frame having a shape of an article of manufacture, said frame including a structural member; and b. an artificial wicker strand including at least a first and second elongated core yarn material of indeterminate length, said first core yarn material including a first outer coating substantially surrounding said first core yarn material and said second core yarn material including a second outer coating substantially surrounding said second core yarn materials, wherein at least a portion of said first outer coating of said first coated core yarn material is common to a portion of said second outer coating of said second coated core yarn material, said first and second coated core yarn materials being twisted into a spiral-like shape, wherein said twisted coated core yarn material is in substantial communication with at least said frame.

14. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13, wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn and second elongated core yarn is comprised of one of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point greater than that of the coating material.

15. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13, wherein at least one of said first and second elongated core yarn is comprised of at least one of a thermoset polymer, fiberglass, or a metallic wire.

16. A article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13, wherein at least one of said first elongated core yarn material and said second elongated core yarn material is one of monofilament and stranded.

17. A artificial of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13, wherein said outer coating comprises at least one of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point less than 350° F.

18. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13 wherein said outer coating polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polyamide, and a polyester, a polyolefin or a polyurethane.

19. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13, wherein said twisted coated core yarn material is wrapped around said structural member.

20. An article of manufacture having a wicker appearance according to claim 13 including a woven material including a warp strand and a weft strand, wherein at least one of said warp strand and said weft strand is comprised of said first and second coated elongated core yarn materials.

21. A method of manufacturing an artificial wicker, comprising: a. coating a first core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a first coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material; b. coating a second core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a first coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material; c. twisting the first coated core yarn material in spiral around the second core yarn material producing a first twisted coated core yarn material including reflections of light substantially similar to natural wicker; d. heatsetting the first twisted coated core yarn material; and e. permitting the first twisted coated core yarn material to cool.

22. A method of manufacturing an artificial wicker according to claim 21 further including coating a third core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a third coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material: a. coating a fourth core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a fourth coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material; b. twisting the third coated core yarn material in spiral around the fourth core yarn material producing a second twisted coated core yarn material including reflections of light substantially similar to natural wicker; c. heatsetting the second twisted coated core yarn material; d. permitting the second twisted coated core yarn material to cool; and e. weaving a artificial woven material including a warp strand and a weft strand, wherein at least one of the warp strand is comprised of the first twisted coated core yarn material and the weft strand is comprised of the second twisted coated core yarn material.

23. A method of manufacturing article of artificial wicker, comprising: a. coating a first core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a first coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material; b. coating a second core yarn material of indeterminate length with an outer coating comprised of a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid meting point of less than 350° F., to produce a first coated core yarn material, wherein the coating is performed during extrusion of the core yarn material; c. twisting the first coated core yarn material in spiral around the second core yarn material producing a twisted coated core yarn material including reflections of light substantially similar to natural wicker; d. heatsetting the twisted coated core yarn material; and e. permitting the twisted coated core yarn material to cool; and f. wrapping the twisted coated core yarn material substantially covering a frame having a shape of an article of manufacture.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to an artificial twisted wicker strand and an article of manufacture made therefrom.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] In recent years, the popularity of articles of manufacture made from natural wicker has increased significantly. Natural wicker is a desired material for making articles of manufacture such as, for example, chairs, rockers, headrests, shelves, tables, household accessories and the like. Unfortunately, making the articles from natural wicker poses several problems. First, natural wicker is extremely costly which in turn makes purchase of natural wicker articles undesirable. Second, articles made from natural wicker are high maintenance in that the wicker sometimes frays and must be trimmed to preserve the appearance and the comfort that a newly manufactured wicker article provides. Third, the natural wicker has a low resistance to inclement weather, making the wicker undesirable for use outdoors. Lastly, natural wicker is subject to breaking since the wicker is not sufficiently strong to support fairly a substantial weight.

[0003] Because of the shortcomings of natural wicker, manufacturers are increasingly seeking ways of making artificial wicker, which may meet the demand for articles made from natural wicker. Recent attempts to produce artificial wicker typically have focused on replicating the unique appearance of wicker given by the raw twigs and branches used in the natural wicker manufacture. For example, metallic wire wrapped in natural rush or paper is often used to simulate the color, texture, and imperfections found in natural wicker materials. However, like natural wicker, articles made in this manner may be destroyed by inclement weather if used outdoors. Further, the paper or rush used in the manufacturing process is subject to wearing and tearing, making the articles unsightly after extended use.

[0004] Another method for making artificial wicker involves coating a polymer yarn (e.g., a polyester filament cord) with a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating. Wicker articles manufactured from polymer yarns have been found to be strong, wear resistant, relatively inexpensive, and somewhat resistant to inclement weather. However, the polymer yarns typically have a smooth plastic look and feel, giving them an artificial rather than natural appearance.

[0005] Manufactures have attempted to impart a more natural appearance to the synthetic yarns by adding, for example, grooves, artificial raised points, and/or colored stripes which are intended to mimic the typical light reflections of the patterns found in natural wicker. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,382 B1, issued Jan. 30, 2001 to Schwartz, discloses a method for manufacturing artificial wicker made of strands of synthetic yarn, wherein strands of yarn include an inner core and an outer coating having grooves and stripes. The stripes and grooves may include pigmentation (e.g., color) as desired for giving the yarn a more natural appearance. The grooves are axially embedded in the outer surface of the artificial wicker strand for simulating the feel of natural wicker. Further, the stripes may be located within the groove and either the stripe or groove, or both may be continuous or interrupted along the yarns axis.

[0006] However, while the Schwartz patent may present a method for simulating natural wicker, the Schwartz patent is limited in that by specifically including the grooves and stripes disclosed in the patent.

[0007] Thus, a need exists for an artificial wicker strand and method, which eliminates the need to include grooves or stripes, but yet provides an artificial wicker strand of natural appearance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides a twisted strand artificial wicker which addresses the shortcomings found in the prior art. In accordance with the invention an artificial wicker is produced which simulates the appearance of natural wicker. In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, an artificial wicker includes at least two strands of core yarn, which may be extruded with an outer coating and twisted to produce a product, which reflects light in similar manner as the twigs or branches of the various plants used in natural wicker.

[0009] In one exemplary embodiment of the invention, the core strands are extruded separately. The strands may then be twisted one over the other. The resulting twisted core may then be heat set to ensure that the outer coatings of the individually extruded cores meld thereby producing a twisted wicker strand product with a portion of the outer coatings of the individually extruded cores melting one into the other. Moreover, heat setting the twisted strand may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles by relieving stress introduced during the twisting process that may otherwise cause the strand to untwist, curl, buckle or kink. The twisted strand product may then be cooled to allow the outer coating to resolidify, thereby making the twisted wicker strand suitable for use in the manufacture of an artificial wicker article.

[0010] In another exemplary embodiment of the invention the core strands may be placed side by side prior to extruding. The core strands may then be simultaneously extruded to apply an outer coating. Upon application of the outer coating the strands may be twisted and heat set. The strands may then be subjected to a cooling process to permit the outer coating to resolidify, thereby producing an artificial twisted wicker strand, which simulates the appearance of natural wicker.

[0011] In yet another exemplary embodiment of the invention, the materials used in forming the outer coating may be shaped or formed into an artificial wicker simulating natural wicker without the advent of an inner core yarn. The outer coating may be formed into single strands of elongated material, and twisted to reflect ambient light to simulate artificial wicker. The core-less strands may be twisted one over another, or may be placed side by side prior to twisting. The strands may be heat set subsequent to twisting to permit a portion of the outer surface of the core-less strands meld, and then permitted to cool to allow the strands to harden (e.g., resolidify) thereby making the twisted strands suitable for use in manufacturing an artificial wicker article.

[0012] In yet another embodiment, a woven material is provided which simulates the appearance of natural wicker. The material may include a warp comprising a plurality of spaced warp strands and a series of weft strands, wherein at least one of the warp and weft yarns may be comprised of an embodiment of the twisted wicker strands. The weft strands may be interwoven into the warp strands thereby producing a material which simulates a woven material of natural wicker, but which may support greater weight and have a greater resistance to the deteriorating effects of inclement weather than natural wicker.

[0013] In still another embodiment of the present invention, an article of manufacture is provided having the appearance of natural wicker. The article may be constructed from one of the twisted wicker strands and the woven material produced from the twisted wicker strands. The article may support greater weight than natural wicker and may be more resistant to inclement weather, thereby making the article suitable for use outdoors.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] A more complete understanding of the present invention may be derived by referring to the various exemplary embodiments which are described in conjunction with the appended drawings figures in which like numerals denote like elements, and in which:

[0015] FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary core material in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary coated core material in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 3 illustrates an exemplary process for providing a twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary embodiment of an exemplary twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 5 illustrates a pair of exemplary core materials in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0020] FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary process for providing a twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with and exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0021] FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary extruded core pair material in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0022] FIG. 8 illustrates a cross-section of an exemplary extruded core pair in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0023] FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

[0024] FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary woven material using an exemplary twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

[0025] FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary article of manufacture using an exemplary embodiment of a twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0026] Although the drawings are not drawn to scale, the functional relationships of the elements of the invention are clearly depicted.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0027] It should be appreciated that the particular implementations shown and described herein are merely exemplary and are not otherwise intended to limit the scope of the present invention. Indeed, for the sake of brevity, conventional extruding, twisting principles and related manufacturing systems will not be discussed herein. Further, the process of heat setting a coated core material using a heat set oven is well known. In that regard, the systems for extruding, twisting, and heat setting will not be discussed in detail.

[0028] Further still, the present invention may be practiced without the advent of an inner core yarn. That is, the materials suitable for coating a core yarn in an exemplary process described below are molded, formed, and/or shaped into elongated strands simulating natural wicker in accordance with various embodiments of the invention. The elongated materials may then be processed (e.g., twisted, heat set, cooled, etc.) in a similar manner as the coated core yarn of the invention to produce an artificial wicker product and/or woven material. However, for the sake of brevity and to facilitate understanding of the invention, the invention is described herein with respect to an artificial wicker including an inner core yard, although it is to be understood that the invention is not so limited.

[0029] In accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an artificial wicker strand may be produced from a plurality of individual coated core material. The core material may be a single strand of yarn, such as, for example, polyester, polyamides or the like as are used in conventional artificial wicker. The core may be monofilament or stranded, and may be of an indeterminate length.

[0030] The individual core materials may be extrusion coated to apply an outer coating to each core. The outer coating may be composed of a thermoplastic polymer. For example, a polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polyamide, a polyester, a polyolefin, a polyurethane and the like may be used. The thermoplastic polymer may include a fluid melting point of less than 350° F. The coating may make up at least half of the cross sectional area of the coated core cross section. In one exemplary embodiment, the outer coating may be a foamed PVC or the like which gives greater volume to the resulting artificial wicker strand.

[0031] The core material may be extruded using any conventional method for applying an outer coating. In one exemplary embodiment the method for extrusion may include typical extrusion methods for use with, for example, a PAK 350 extruder manufactured by Akron Extruders Incorporated.

[0032] Upon individually extruding the core materials, the core materials may be twisted to produce a twisted artificial strand. In this context, “twisting” may mean that a plurality of core materials are wound one around another. Thus, for example, a pair of coated core materials may be twirled into a spiral shape. An exemplary twisting system for use with the present invention may include the Roblon Tornado 400 twister manufactured by Roblon Engineering.

[0033] The twisted strand may then be heat set at a temperature of about 250-350° F. Preferably, the temperature may be about 270-330° F., and most preferably may be from about 300-320° F., although the temperature of the heat set oven may be dictated by the composition of the outer coating. The temperature is chosen so that the outer coating softens and forms a bond between the individual coatings of the plurality of core materials.

[0034] The heat setting may be performed using a convention heat set process or heat set oven. A typical heat set process may include, for example, a heat set oven as is typically found in the art. An exemplary heat set oven may be manufactured by mounting of Radround Series 40 heaters manufactured by Glenro Incorprated in a suitable enclosure for introducing a product requiring or benefiting from heat exposure.

[0035] With heat setting, the outer coatings of the twisted strand may soften, causing the outer coating of an individually coated core material to intermingle with the outer coating of adjacent coated core material. Moreover, heat setting the twisted strand may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles by relieving stress introduced during the twisting process that may otherwise cause the strand to untwist, curl, buckle or kink. The intermingled adjacent coatings and core materials may then be cooled to permit the outer coatings to resolidify, forming a stress free twisted artificial wicker strand free from curl, buckles or kinks. In this way a twisted artificial wicker strand is made to resemble natural wicker, since the twisting of the strands causes non-uniform patterns or light reflections similar to natural wicker and resembles a twisted form commonly used with natural wicker.

[0036] In another exemplary embodiment, an artificial wicker strand may be provided from a plurality of core materials positioned in proximity to one another and extruded simultaneously. In this way, the plurality of core materials may share a single outer coating. The single outer coating may be provided surrounding and in between the core materials.

[0037] Once the outer coating is applied, the coated plurality of core materials may be twisted into a spiral to produce a twisted strand. The twisted strand may then be heat set in similar manner as described above to make the twisted product more malleable and to relieve stress introduced by the twisting process. The twisted product may then be cooled to permit the outer coating to resolidify forming an exemplary stress free twisted strand free of curl, buckles or kinks resembling artificial wicker.

[0038] In yet another embodiment of the invention, a twisted artificial wicker strand may be woven into a material having a wicker appearance. The woven material may include any twisted artificial wicker strand described herein. The woven material may be provided using any conventional method suitable for weaving yarn, coated yarn, or the like. Such exemplary method may be practiced using, for example, a TP-536 Loom manufactured by Nuovo Pignone.

[0039] The woven material may include warp materials extending longitudinally with weft materials extending laterally, although any conventional technique for weaving may be used. In this context, the warp materials may remain stationary and extend vertically along the woven material. The weft materials may be woven horizontally back and forth through the warp. The resulting woven material may have the appearance of a mesh formed of natural wicker, but with greater strength and resistance to inclement weather.

[0040] In still another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an article of manufacture is provided where a portion of the article is made from the twisted artificial wicker strand and/or woven fabric described above. The article may include a frame composed of metal and formed in the shape of the intended final product. For example, where artificial wicker bookshelf is desired, the frame may be shaped in the form of a bookshelf. The twisted artificial wicker strands may be wound around the frame to the give the frame the appearance of a having been constructed from natural wicker. The sides, bottom and top of the article may be composed of the woven twisted artificial strand material. The ends of the woven material may be fastened to the twisted wider strands surrounding the frame in any suitable manner. For example, the ends may be woven into the surrounding strands to secure the woven material to the frame. Alternatively, the woven material may be fastened to the frame using clips, screws, rivets or the like.

[0041] A further understanding of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention may be had with reference to FIGS. 1-4. In particular, FIG. 3 illustrates an exemplary process 120 for producing a twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with the present invention. The process 120 may begin with a plurality of separate core materials similar in description to the core material 102 shown in FIG. 1. As noted, the core material 102 may be monofilament, polyfilament, stranded and the like. The core materials 102 may be constructed from a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point greater than that of the coating material, a thermo set polymer, fiberglass, or a metallic wire. For example the core material may consist of a thermoplastic polymer such as polyester, polyolefin, polyamide: a thermo set polymer such as aramid; or a metallic wire such as aluminum

[0042] As can be seen in FIG. 3, a plurality of separate core materials 102 may be extruded individually. The core materials 102 may be extruded using a conventional extruder 101 to produce a core material having an outer coating which substantial surrounds the core material 102 surface. That is the core material 102 is provided an outer coating 104 to produce a coated core material 100 (shown in FIG. 2). The outer coating 104 may be a thermoplastic polymer with a fluid melting point less than 350° F. For example, PVC, a polyamide, a polyester, a polyolefin, a polyurethane or the like may be used.

[0043] Once extruded, the coated core materials 100 may be twisted using any conventional twister 103 or twisting method as is found in the art. The twister 103 may wind the individual coated core materials 100 one over the other to produce a twisted material strand 106. It should be noted, that although FIG. 3 depicts the twisting of two coated core materials 100, the invention is not so limited. For example, any number of coated core materials 100 may be twisted to achieve the twisted material strand 106.

[0044] The twisted material strand 106 may be heat set using any conventional heat set oven 105 or technique as is found in the prior art. During heat set, the temperature of the oven is maintained such that the outer coating 104 of the coated core material 100 softens permitting the outer coating 104 of a first coated core material 100 to intermingle and or bond with the outer coating of a second coated core material 100 while maintaining the overall general circular cross-section. Moreover, heat setting the twisted strand 210 may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles by relieving stress introduced during the twisting process that may otherwise cause the strand to untwist, curl, buckle or kink.

[0045] Upon heat setting, the outer coating 104 of the twisted strand 106 may be permitted to cool, thereby permitting the twisted strand 106 to be handled. Cooling may be performed by, for example, by permitting the heated twisted strand 100 to air cool, or, alternatively, cooling may be performed by immersing the twisted strand in water maintained at or below ambient temperature. In this way, a twisted artificial wicker strand (cooled twisted material strand 106) is produced.

[0046] Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention may be understood with reference to FIGS. 5-9. In particular, FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary process 220 for producing a twisted artificial wicker strand in accordance with the present invention. The process 220 may begin with at least two core materials 202 (shown in FIG. 5) of similar description as core materials 102.

[0047] In this exemplary embodiment, the core materials 202 may be placed in substantial proximity one to another. That is, a first core material 202 may be placed near to, but not in contact with, a second core material 202 as shown in FIG. 5. The core materials 202 may then be extruded simultaneously while maintaining the substantial proximity. The extruding may be provided by passing the core materials 202 through an extruder 201 of similar operation and description as extruder 101.

[0048] Upon extruding, an extruded core material pair 206 (shown in FIG. 7) may be provided. Core material pair 206 may include a plurality of core materials 202 substantially surrounded by an outer coating 204. The outer coating 204 may have similar composition as was described with respect to outer coating 104. The outer coating 204 is provided such that the outer coating 204 encircles the plurality of core materials 202, while substantially maintaining the overall shape of two core materials 202 placed side by side. For example, where two core materials 202 are extruded to produce core material pair 206, the lateral cross-section 214 of the extruded core material pair 206 generally traces a FIG. 8 as shown by dashed line 212.

[0049] The extruded core material pair 206 may be twisted into a spiral shape using a twister 203 of similar description and operation as twister 103 described above. The twister may provide, for example, a twisted material pair 210 depicted in FIG. 9. In this instance, twisted may further mean that the twisted material pair 210 is produced by spiraling the pair such that the pair is similar in appearance to a common corkscrew.

[0050] The twisted material pair 210 may be heat set to permit the outer coating soften. Heat setting may be performed using any conventional heat set process and or heat set oven 205 of similar description and operation as heat set oven 105. Moreover, heat setting the twisted strand 210 may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles by relieving stress introduced during the twisting process that may otherwise cause the strand to untwist, curl, buckle or kink. Following heat setting, the twisted material pair 210 may be permitted to cool in a similar manner as was described with respect to twisted artificial wicker strand 106 to lock it into a continuous twisted strand.

[0051] To make the twisted pair have a more natural, non-uniform appearance that may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles, the coated material pair 206 may be subjected to winding while the outer coating 204 remains in a softened state. For example, the coated material pair 206 may be wound onto a reel or spool, and subsequently unwound following extrusion coating, and/or prior to twisting, heat setting or cooling. Moreover, the twisted material pair 210 may be wound and subjected to heat setting while remaining wound on a reel or spool. By heat setting the twisted material pair 210 while wound on a reel or spool, the twisted material pair is made more malleable, and may take on a more natural, non-uniform appearance thereby more suitable for use as a twisted artificial wicker strand. Moreover, heat setting the twisted strand 210 while wound on a reel or spool may make the strand more suitable for use in the manufacture of artificial wicker articles by relieving stress introduced during the twisting process that may otherwise cause the strand to untwist, curl, buckle or kink.

[0052] In yet another exemplary embodiment according to the present invention, a material woven from at least one of the twisted artificial wicker strands 106 and 210 is provided. As illustrated in FIG. 10, the woven material 300 may include warp strands 302 and weft strands 304, wherein the weft strands are alternately woven above and below the weft strands. Further, the weft strands 304 may have similar description as at least one of twisted artificial wicker strands 106 and 210. In addition, although not depicted, warp strands 302 may have similar description as twisted wicker strands 106 and 210 described above.

[0053] As shown, the warp strands 302 may be provided longitudinally to the weft strands 304 such that the strands are orthogonally placed. However, any patterns of strand placement permitting the strands to be woven are considered to be within the scope of the present invention. Further, the strands may be woven such that the strands are directly adjacent to each other or in a more open pattern with space between each strand.

[0054] In yet another exemplary embodiment of the present invention an article of manufacture is provided wherein the article is composed of at least one of a twisted artificial wicker strand (e.g., strands 106 and 210) or woven material comprised of the twisted artificial wicker strands (e.g., woven material 300) in accordance with the present invention. For example, FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary article of manufacture 400 which may be constructed using twisted artificial wicker strands 106, 210 and/or artificial wicker woven material 300. As shown, the article of manufacture 400 includes a frame 402 about which a twisted artificial wicker strand 106, 210 may be wrapped.

[0055] Frame 402 may be any suitable material for use in providing sufficient structure for placement of the twisted artificial wicker in accordance with the present invention. The twisted artificial wicker strand 106, 210 may be wrapped around the frame 402 to take the shape of the intended article of manufacture 400. Where the article 400 includes sides 404, the sides may be constructed from woven material 300 woven from twisted artificial wicker according to the present invention.

[0056] The foregoing specification may describe the invention with reference to specific embodiments. However, it will be appreciated that various modifications and changes can be made without departing from the scope of the present invention as set forth in the claims below. The specification and figures are to be regarded in an illustrative manner, rather than a restrictive one, and all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of present invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the examples given above. For example, the steps recited in any of the method or process claims may be executed in any order and are not limited to the order presented in the claims.