Title:
Method and system for specialty sportball construction
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention provides a method of constructing a specialty sportball (1) that includes creating a graphic (7), producing a print of the graphic as a function of an sportball printer, providing at least two panels (2, 3, 4, 5) transferring the print to at least one panel, attaching the one panel to the second panel, and forming a specialty sportball from the attached panels with artwork thereon.



Inventors:
Dubow, Mark G. (Northbrook, IL, US)
Lee, Robert E. (Franklin, WI, US)
Raddatz, Paul A. (Delafield, WI, US)
Application Number:
10/512613
Publication Date:
10/06/2005
Filing Date:
04/22/2003
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B41/08; A63B43/00; A63B45/02; (IPC1-7): A63B43/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCLELLAND, KIMBERLY KEIL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOYLE FREDRICKSON S.C. (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
1. A method for constructing a specialty sportball comprising the steps of: providing a plurality of panels, each panel having a outer surface and predetermined dimensions; printing a graphic on a heat transfer panel, the heat transfer panel having dimensions generally equal to the predetermined dimensions of a first panel; thermally bonding the heat transfer panel onto the first panel; removing the heat transfer panel from the first panel such that the graphic is transferred to the outer surface of the first panel; interconnecting the plurality of panel; and forming a sportball from the interconnected panels.

2. (canceled)

3. The method of claim 1 wherein the plurality of panels are fabricated from a group consisting of vinyl and leather.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein the plurality of panels are interconnected by a thread.

5. The method of claim 1 further comprising securing a lining panel to at least one of the plurality of panels.

6. (canceled)

7. The method of claim 1 wherein the sportball defines an interior cavity and wherein the method further comprises the additional step of inserting a bladder into the interior cavity of the sportball.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein the sportball defines an interior cavity and wherein the method further comprises the additional step of inserting a filler into the interior cavity of the sportball.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein the filler is selected from the group consisting of: sand, paper, cork, recycled material, and rigid core.

10. The method of claim 1 wherein the plurality of interconnected panels defines an interior cavity and wherein the outer surfaces of the plurality of interconnected panels care directed towards the interior cavity prior to forming the sportball and further comprising attaching at least one panel to a second panel in a manner that their printable and finished surfaces face the sportball center.

11. The method of claim 10 wherein the step of forming the sportball initiates the additional step of inverting the plurality of interconnected panels of the sportball outside out.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein the plurality of interconnected panels are inverted manually.

13. 13-20. (canceled)

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

In general, the invention relates to sports equipment. More specifically, the invention relates to the construction of sports equipment and in particular, to a method for constructing specialty sportballs.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The market for specialty sportballs is growing. A specialty sportball has the shape and feel of a regulation ball, for example a regulation football or soccer ball. An important aspect of the specialty sportball is the artwork on the ball. One particular style of artwork on a specialty sportball may be sold in large quantities. For example, if a specialty football has a team logo thereon, a fan of that team would be the typical purchaser. However, a considerable market exists in the creation of specialty sportballs with new printing technologies.

Since the specialty sportball is not normally purchased for competitive use, its essential reason for existence, the unique artwork on the specialty sportball, is critical to its marketability. Typical shortcomings of current specialty sportball designs include lifting off of the artwork from the panel of the sportball, fading or discoloration of the artwork, printed panels which are shiny unlike standard autograph (white, smooth) panels, and a low initial inability to print vibrant colors.

Thus, there is a significant need for a method and system for improving the construction of a specialty sportball that overcomes the above disadvantages and shortcomings, as well as other disadvantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the invention provides a method for constructing a specialty sportball, which includes creating a graphic, producing a print of the graphic using an sportball printer, and transferring the print to at least one of a multiple of panels. The panels are attached in a manner as to form a specialty sportball.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a system for constructing a specialty sportball is provided, which includes a means for creating a graphic, and a means for producing a print of the graphic using an sportball printer. Also included is a means for providing at least two panels, means for transferring the print to at least one panel, means for attaching the one panel to the second panel, and means for forming a specialty sportball from the attached panels.

The foregoing and other features and advantages of the invention will become further apparent from the following detailed description of the presently preferred embodiment, read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. The detailed description and drawings are merely illustrative of the invention rather than limiting, the scope of the invention being defined by the appended claims and equivalents thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a cross section view through one embodiment of a specialty sportball, in accordance with the current invention;

FIG. 2 is a plan view for one embodiment of a vinyl presentation panel forming a portion of the specialty sportball of FIG. 1, in accordance with the current invention;

FIG. 3 is a side view illustrating one embodiment of the vinyl presentation panel of FIG. 2 with a standard ball lining attached, in accordance with the current invention; and

FIG. 4 is one embodiment of a printer capable of producing an artwork onto the vinyl presentation panel of FIG. 2, in accordance with the current invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to FIG. 1 through FIG. 4, wherein like reference numbers designate like or corresponding parts throughout several embodiments of the invention. One embodiment of the present invention provides that a sportball may be produced in a like manner to a football, soccer ball, basketball, rugby ball, or any other ball produced from panels as is known in the art, thus producing for example a football. In this embodiment, a sportball is not intended for use in an actual sporting event. In an additional embodiment, the sportball may be produced as a football, soccer ball, basketball, rugby ball, or any other ball produced from panels as is known in the art, thus producing for example a regulation football. In this embodiment, the sportball may be used in an actual sporting event.

For one embodiment of the invention, a sportball may be the same size as its regulation counterpart ball. Another embodiment of the invention may produce a sportball smaller or larger than a regulation ball. However, the sportball is generally constructed of materials and in a style typical to the regulation ball it represents. A specialty sportball is a sportball that has a graphic image affixed on the exterior of the sportball, thus producing for example a specialty football.

Illustrating one embodiment of a specialty sportball, FIG. 1 provides a cross sectional view of a specialty football 1 that is formed of four panels 2, 3, 4 and 5 sewn or otherwise secured together to form a traditional football shape. These panels may have a football lining (lining panel) 19, which in one embodiment can be stretch resistant, sewn to the panels before they are secured together to form the regulation football shape. A bladder 6 may be provided within the cavity formed by the football panels for inflating the ball to a desired pressure. The football panel 2 may have a graphic 7 from a heat transfer panel 9, heat transferred to its exterior surface in a manner known in the art. One embodiment of the invention provides that the graphic may be a photograph, the name of a player, a team logo, the score of an important football game, or any other text or artwork. An exposed side 25 of the football panel 2 may be receptive to graphic 7 heat transferred with heat transfer paper 9 onto the panel.

The heat transfer panel 9 may for one embodiment, be cut from flat stock into the shape of the football panel 2 as illustrated in FIG. 2. This embodiment of the heat transfer panel 9 has ends 16 and 17 and curved side edges 14 and 15.

The graphic 7 can be printed on heat transfer paper 9, and the graphic 7 can be transferred to the exterior surface of the football panel 2, which itself is cut from a flat stock of suitable material, such as vinyl or leather, in the same basic shape and dimensions as the heat transfer panel 9, and which has curved edges 11 and 12.

With the heat transfer paper 9 with graphic 7 adhered to the football panel 2, the football panels 2, 3, 4, and 5 are formed into the specialty football 1 itself. The curved edges of each of the panels are turned inwardly, as seen in FIG. 1, and may be secured to the inwardly turned edges of the adjacent panel by sewing with thread 13, and for another embodiment of the invention may be secured using an alternative means. The assembly of a football is typically done inside out from the final shape that is shown in FIG. 1. An inverted assembly is used so that the edges may be exposed to facilitate sewing or otherwise securing the edges together. This is also typical for one embodiment of the assembly for the specialty football 1. Two of the panels may additionally have a split between them. The specialty football 1 can be turned outside out through this split, and secured with lacing as with a regulation football.

The edges 14 and 15 may be sewn or otherwise secured between the edges 11 and 12 of football panel 2 and the adjacent edges of football panels 3 and 5 so that edges 14 and 15 are hidden from the exterior of the football. Also, the dimensions of the heat transfer paper 9, if slightly larger than the football panel 2, may not be significant because any overlapping paper will ultimately be on the inside of the football and unseen.

After the football panels have been secured together, the football is then turned outside out into the configuration as shown in FIG. 1. For one embodiment of the invention, this can be done by hand to avoid damaging the heat transfer paper 9 and the graphic 7 thereon.

A bladder 6 may next be placed within the football through the previously described split between two of the panels. The bladder may have an air valve passing through a precut hole in one of the panels to allow the insertion of an inflation needle. The specialty football 1 can then be laced and inflated to the desired pressure. For one embodiment of the specialty football 1, inflation may be 13 psi (pounds per square inch). After lacing, excess lace can be trimmed off with the end of the lace being tucked under the lacing on the football. The bladder valve can be trimmed to be almost flush with the football panel it protrudes through. It remains only then to package and ship the completed specialty football 1 to the customer.

In an additional embodiment of the invention, a substitution for bladder 6 may include a filler. The filler can be for example, sand, paper, cork, recycled material, material similar to that used in stuffed animals, and/or a rigid core, such as is illustrated as 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 as shown in FIG. 1. The filler material can be selected depending on cost and the application desired.

Mass personalization of specialty sportballs has never been successfully achieved before mainly because the technology would not allow for cost effective production. Silk screening has been widely used in the past but is not feasible for small production runs due to high set up costs. The present invention provides a process and apparatus allowing the printing of specialty sportballs with a permanent, premium quality impression. It has been found that for one embodiment of the invention, it is important that the footballs are turned outside out manually. Additionally, before transferring to the football panel 2, one embodiment of the invention provides that the previously described graphic 7 can be printed on the heat transfer paper 9 by a color ink process (sportball printer) 10 including, but not limited to, an inkjet (bubble jet) printer, a laser printer, and an impact printer as illustrated in FIG. 4. Waterproof or water resistant outdoor durable inks may be used for one embodiment of the invention, however additional inks may also be used. The graphic 7 may be designed on a computer 8, or produced in any alternative manner known in the art and digitally scanned. The method and system of the present invention can also be used to place panel images on a specialty sportball after the sportball has been constructed.

The above-described methods and systems for constructing specialty sportballs are example methods and systems. These methods and systems illustrate one possible approach for constructing specialty sportballs. The actual implementation may vary from the method discussed. Moreover, various other improvements and modifications to this invention may occur to those skilled in the art, and those improvements and modifications will fall within the scope of this invention as set forth below.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive.