Title:
Glass/polymer reinforcement backing for siding and compression packaging of siding backed with glass/polymer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An acoustical and thermally absorbent composite formed of thermoplastic bonding materials and reinforcing fibers is provided. The reinforcing fibers are preferably wet use chopped strand glass fibers (WUCS). The thermoplastic bonding materials may be any thermoplastic or thermosetting material having a melting point less than the reinforcing fiber. The composite material may be formed by partially opening the WUCS fibers and bonding fibers, blending the reinforcement and bonding fibers, forming the reinforcement and bonding fibers into a sheet, and bonding the sheet. The composite material is a lofted insulation product that may be used as a reinforcement backing for cladding such as vinyl siding. The composite material may be affixed to the siding by ultrasonic welding. After the composite material has been affixed to the siding, the siding product may be vacuum packaged within an air-impervious material to reduce the storage and/or shipping space required for the siding product.



Inventors:
Haque, Enamul (Novi, MI, US)
Siwicki, Andrew J. (Clarkson, MI, US)
Geiger, Steven F. (Johnstown, OH, US)
Graham, David W. (Granville, OH, US)
Knoll, Gary (Westland, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/178618
Publication Date:
01/11/2007
Filing Date:
07/11/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B31B45/00; B29D22/00
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Primary Examiner:
YAGER, JAMES C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OWENS CORNING (GRANVILLE, OH, US)
Claims:
Having thus described the invention, what is claimed is:

1. A reinforcement backing for cladding comprising: about 30 to about 98% by weight of at least one thermoplastic bonding material; and about 2 to about 70% by weight dried wet reinforcement fibers having a melting point that is above the melting point of said thermoplastic bonding material.

2. The reinforcement backing of claim 1, wherein said at least one of said thermoplastic bonding material is a multicomponent fiber.

3. The reinforcement backing of claim 1, wherein said thermoplastic bonding material and said dried wet reinforcement fibers are substantially uniformly distributed throughout said reinforcement backing.

4. The reinforcement backing of claim 3, wherein said wet reinforcement fibers are wet use chopped strand glass fibers and said thermoplastic bonding material is a member selected from the group of polyethylene terephthalate fibers, poly 1,4 cyclohexanedimethyl terephthalate, glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate, polyester fibers, polyethylene fibers, polypropylene fibers, polyphenylene sulfide fibers, polyvinyl chloride fibers, ethylene vinyl acetate/vinyl chloride fibers, lower alkyl acrylate polymer fibers, acrylonitrile polymer fibers, partially hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetate fibers, polyvinyl alcohol fibers, polyvinyl pyrrolidone fibers, styrene acrylate fibers, polyolefins, polyamides, polysulfides, polycarbonates, rayon, nylon, phenolic resins and epoxy resins.

5. A reinforced siding product comprising: a composite reinforcement backing material including dried wet reinforcement fibers and a thermoplastic bonding material having a melting temperature that is less than the melting temperature of said dried wet reinforcement fibers, said dried wet reinforcement fibers and said thermoplastic bonding material being substantially evenly distributed throughout said composite reinforcement backing material; and a cladding product, said cladding product being affixed to a major surface of said composite reinforcement backing material.

6. The reinforced siding product of claim 5, wherein said dried wet reinforcement fibers are present in said composite reinforcement backing material in an amount up to 70% and said thermoplastic bonding material is present in said composite reinforcement backing material in an amount of from 30-100% by weight.

7. The reinforced siding product of claim 6, wherein said thermoplastic bonding material is present in said composite reinforcement backing material in an amount of 100% and said composite reinforcement backing material is affixed to said cladding product through ultrasonic welding.

8. The reinforced siding product of claim 5, wherein said cladding product is a member selected from the group of vinyl siding, foamed siding, plaster board siding, metal siding and wood siding.

9. The reinforced siding product of claim 8, wherein said cladding product is affixed to said composite reinforcement backing material by a member selected from the group of adhesives, ultrasonic welding, vibration welding and mechanical fasteners.

10. The reinforced siding product of claim 5, wherein said reinforced siding product is compression packaged by a member selected from the group of vacuum compression and mechanical compression.

11. The reinforced siding product of claim 10, wherein said compression packaged reinforced siding product is maintained in a compressed state by a rigid container that is larger than said compression packaged reinforced siding product and smaller than said uncompressed reinforced siding product.

12. The reinforced siding product of claim, 6, wherein said wet reinforcement fibers are wet use chopped strand glass fibers and said thermoplastic bonding material is a member selected from the group of polyethylene terephthalate fibers, poly 1,4-cyclohexanedimethyl terephthalate, glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate, polyester fibers, polyethylene fibers, polypropylene fibers, polyphenylene sulfide fibers, polyvinyl chloride fibers, ethylene vinyl acetate/vinyl chloride fibers, lower alkyl acrylate polymer fibers, acrylonitrile polymer fibers, partially hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetate fibers, polyvinyl alcohol fibers, polyvinyl pyrrolidone fibers, styrene acrylate fibers, polyolefins, polyamides, polysulfides, polycarbonates, rayon, nylon, phenolic resins and epoxy resins.

13. A method of making a composite reinforced siding product comprising the step of: attaching a composite reinforcement backing material to a major surface of a cladding product to form said composite reinforced siding product, said composite reinforcement backing material including dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers and a thermoplastic bonding material having a melting point that is less than the melting point of said dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein said composite reinforcement backing material is attached to said cladding product by a member selected from the group of adhesives, ultrasonic welding, vibration welding and mechanical fasteners.

15. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of forming said composite reinforcement backing material prior to said attaching step, said forming step including: removing water from wet reinforcement fibers to form said dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers; blending said dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers with said thermoplastic bonding material to form a substantially homogenous mixture of said dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers and said thermoplastic boding material; forming said mixture into a sheet; and bonding at least some of said dehydrated wet reinforcement fibers and said thermoplastic bonding material to form said composite reinforcement backing material.

16. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of: shaping said composite reinforcement backing material to substantially the shape of said cladding product prior to said attaching step.

17. The method of claim 13, further comprising the steps of: mechanically compressing said composite reinforced siding product to place said composite reinforced siding product in a compressed state and to reduce the overall size of said composite reinforced siding product for shipping and storage; and placing said compressed composite reinforced siding product into a container that is larger than said compressed composite reinforced siding product and smaller than said uncompressed composite reinforced siding product to physically maintain said composite reinforced siding product in said compressed state.

18. The method of claim 13, further comprising the steps of: encapsulating said composite reinforced siding product in a gas-impermeable flexible sleeve; vacuum compressing said composite reinforced siding product in said gas-impermeable flexible sleeve to reduce the overall size of said composite reinforced siding product for shipping and storage; and sealing said gas-impermeable flexible sleeve.

19. The method of claim 13, further comprising the steps of: vacuum compressing said composite reinforced siding product to reduce the overall size of said composite reinforced siding product for shipping and storage; placing said compressed composite reinforced siding product into a container that is larger than said compressed composite reinforced siding product and smaller than said uncompressed composite reinforced siding product to physically maintain said composite reinforced siding product in said compressed state.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein said wet reinforcement fibers are wet use chopped strand glass fibers and said thermoplastic bonding material is a member selected from the group of polyethylene terephthalate fibers, poly 1,4-cyclohexanedimethyl terephthalate, glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate, polyester fibers, polyethylene fibers, polypropylene fibers, polyphenylene sulfide fibers, polyvinyl chloride fibers, ethylene vinyl acetate/vinyl chloride fibers, lower alkyl acrylate polymer fibers, acrylonitrile polymer fibers, partially hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetate fibers, polyvinyl alcohol fibers, polyvinyl pyrrolidone fibers, styrene acrylate fibers, polyolefins, polyamides, polysulfides, polycarbonates, rayon, nylon, phenolic resins and epoxy resins.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD AND INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to siding products, and more particularly, to a composite material that includes wet reinforcement fibers and organic fibers. The composite material is used as a reinforcement backing for siding products and possesses improved sound absorption and thermal insulation. A method of forming the composite material and vacuum compressing the siding product containing the composite material is also provided.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Aluminum and vinyl siding has been used for years as exterior surface coverings on buildings such as residential homes to give the buildings aesthetically pleasing appearances. However, siding made of vinyl or metal has very little insulative properties. Thus, it is common practice to install an insulating board between the siding and the building frame. The insulating board is typically in the form of a core of a foamed polymeric material such as polyurethane, polyisocyanurate, a polyurethane modified polyisocyanurate, or a phenolic resin interposed between two facer sheets. The insulating board both inhibits the transfer of heat across the wall of the building and provides support for the siding.

Although known insulated siding systems may provide improved thermal insulation properties over non-insulated siding systems, they still may allow significant air flow which may adversely affect the overall thermal properties of the building. Such air filtration reduces the “R”-rating of the siding system. Further, conventional foam insulated siding typically have low R-values. In addition, the insulating board is typically attached to the siding by a thermosetting adhesive, which tends to degrade over time and exposure to the elements.

Another problem with the conventional insulation materials is that the vertical edges of adjacent vinyl siding panels may not lay flat as a result of the deformation of the shape of the vinyl siding due to improper manufacturing, handling, or installation. Such deformations may subject the internal portion of the siding to water, dirt, and other debris. Water contamination in the insulating board may provide a support medium for the growth of bacteria, fungi, and/or mold in the insulating board which will eventually spread to the siding product. The bacteria and mold may cause unpleasant odors and a discoloration in the insulating backing that may transfer to the siding. Moreover, conventional foam insulating boards for backing residential siding does not provide sound absorbing properties.

Therefore, there exists a need in the art for a backing for residential siding that exhibits superior insulative properties, structural properties, sound attenuating properties, that is mildew and water resistant, and can be easily packaged and shipped.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a composite backing material that provides improved thermal insulation, sound absorption, and impact performance. The composite material is preferably used as a reinforcement backing for siding. The composite material is formed of an organic bonding material and one or more types of reinforcement fibers. The organic material has a melting point that is less than the melting point of the reinforcement fibers, and may be present in the composite material in an amount up to about 100%. In preferred embodiments, the organic material is polyethylene terephthalate. The reinforcing fibers may be any organic or inorganic fiber that possesses good structural qualities as well as good acoustical and thermal properties. The reinforcing fibers may be present in the composite material in an amount up to about 70%. Preferably, the reinforcement fibers are glass fibers, and even more preferably are wet use chopped strand glass fibers. The composite material is a lofted, compressible insulation product that contains a uniform or substantially uniform distribution of reinforcement and bonding fibers which provides improved strength, acoustical and thermal properties, stiffness, impact resistance, and acoustical absorbance.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a siding product formed of a cladding (e.g., siding such as vinyl siding, foamed siding, plaster board siding, metal siding, and wood siding) and the lofted composite material described above. The composite backing material may be die cut to the design or shape of the siding or may be molded to the shape of the siding in a conventional manner. The shaped composite material may be attached by adhesives, ultrasonic welding, vibration welding, or mechanical fasters to the face of the siding that is intended to abut the structure. In preferred embodiments, the composite material is attached to the siding by ultrasonic welding. The ultrasonic welds may be placed at inconspicuous locations on the siding product, such as on the nail strip used in conventional vinyl siding to affix the siding to the building structure. The composite material provides improved insulation properties (R-value ≧about 5), greater sound absorption, and high impact properties (e.g., ≧about 125 inch-pound).

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a vacuum packaged siding product formed of cladding and the lofted composite material described herein. To vacuum package the siding product, the siding product may be encased in a flexible, gas-impervious sleeve or covering. The siding product may then be subjected to a vacuum so that all or nearly all of the air within the gas-impervious sleeve is removed. Preferably, the gas-impervious sleeve is formed of a flexible plastic material. In one exemplary embodiment, the air within the sleeve is drawn through an opening that is connected to a vacuum pump that removes the air from within the sleeve. Optionally, a mechanical press may be used to further compress the composite material to a desired thickness. After the vacuum has been applied to the siding product, the sleeve is hermetically sealed to lock in the vacuum in the sleeve. As a result, the composite material remains in a compressed state during shipping and storage. A rigid shipping container may be placed over the compressed siding product to protect the compacted composite material during shipping and storage. The container may be formed of cardboard (corrugated or non-corrugated) or a rigid plastic material.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a method of forming a reinforced siding product that includes the composite material described herein and a cladding product. As described herein, the composite material is formed of organic bonding fibers (about 30 to about 100% by weight) and wet reinforcement fibers (up to about 70% by weight). The organic bonding material has a melting point that is less than the melting point of the wet reinforcement fibers. The composite material may be formed by using the wet reinforcement fibers in a dry laid process to obtain a lofted, insulation product in which the reinforcement fibers and bonding fibers are substantially uniformly distributed. To form the reinforced siding product, the composite material is attached to a major surface of a cladding product. The composite material may be attached by adhesives, ultrasonic welding, vibration welding, and mechanical fasteners. The siding product may be vacuum compressed for shipping and handling.

It is an advantage of the present invention that the physical properties of the composite material may be optimized and/or tailored by altering the weight, length, and/or diameter of the reinforcement and/or bonding fibers.

It is another advantage of the present invention that the composite material has a uniform or substantially uniform distribution of reinforcement fibers and bonding fibers that provides improved strength, acoustical and thermal properties, stiffness, impact resistance, and acoustical absorbance.

It is yet another advantage of the present invention that ultrasonically welding the composite material to the siding can be conducted in-line to increase the speed of manufacture.

It is a further advantage of the present invention that the degree of the ultrasonic weld can be varied to tune the bond strength between the composite material and the cladding according to customer specifications.

It is also an advantage of the present invention that the size of the packaging for the siding product and shipping and warehouse costs can be reduced by vacuum compressing the siding product. In addition, packaging material costs may also be reduced because less materials are needed to package the compressed, vacuum packaged siding product for shipping and storage.

It is also an advantage of the present invention that the composite material can be manufactured at lower costs because wet use chopped strand glass fibers are less expensive to manufacture than dry chopped fibers.

It is a further advantage that the composite material formed in a dry-laid process that uses wet use chopped strand glass such as in the present invention has a higher loft (increased porosity).

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will appear more fully hereinafter from a consideration of the detailed description that follows. It is to be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for illustrative purposes and are not to be construed as defining the limits of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The advantages of this invention will be apparent upon consideration of the following detailed disclosure of the invention, especially when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a flow diagram illustrating steps for using wet use chopped strand glass in a dry-laid process according to one aspect of the present invention; and

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of a dry-laid process using wet use chopped strand glass fibers to form a composite material according to at least one exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION AND PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention belongs. Although any methods and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of the present invention, the preferred methods and materials are described herein. All references cited herein, including published or corresponding U.S. or foreign patent applications, issued U.S. or foreign patents, or any other references, are each incorporated by reference in their entireties, including all data, tables, figures, and text presented in the cited references.

In the drawings, the thickness of the lines, layers, and regions may be exaggerated for clarity. It is to be noted that like numbers found throughout the figures denote like elements. The terms “top”, “bottom”, “side”, and the like are used herein for the purpose of explanation only. It will be understood that when an element is referred to as being “on” another element, it can be directly on the other element or intervening elements may be present. If an element is described as being “adjacent to” or “against” another element, it is to be appreciated that the element may be directly adjacent or directly against that other element, or intervening elements may be present. It will also be understood that when an element is referred to as being “over” another element, it can be directly over the other element, or intervening elements may be present.

The terms “sheet” and “mat” may be use interchangeably herein. Further, the term “reinforcing fibers” may be used interchangeably with the term “reinforcement fibers” and the term “reinforcement fibers” and “reinforcing fibers” may be used interchangeably with the term “reinforcement material” and “reinforcing material” respectively. Further, the term “cladding” and “siding” may be used interchangeably. The terms “composite material” and “composite product” may also be interchangeably used within this application.

The present invention relates to a composite reinforcement product that provides thermal and acoustical insulating properties with an improved impact performance. The composite material may be used in a variety of applications, but is especially useful as a reinforcement backing for vinyl siding. The composite product may be die cut to fit the design or shape of the vinyl siding or it can be molded and affixed to the siding using adhesives, ultrasonic welding, vibration welding, or mechanical fasteners. The composite product includes organic bonding fibers such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and reinforcement fibers such as glass fibers in varying amounts up to about 70% by weight. The presence of an organic bonding fiber such as polyethylene terephthalate enhances the acoustical absorption properties of the composite material.

The organic bonding fibers utilized in the composite material have a melting point that is less than the melting point of the reinforcement fibers so that the organic fibers can melt and bond the reinforcement fibers together to form the composite material. Although the organic bonding fibers may be present in the composite material in an amount up to about 100% by weight, it is desirable to include reinforcing fibers to provide additional impact resistance and strength to the composite product. In general, the organic bonding fibers are present in the composite material in an amount of about 30 to about 100% by weight, preferably in an amount of about 50 to about 100% by weight, and even more preferably in an amount of about 80 to about 100% by weight. When reinforcement fibers are present in the composite material, the reinforcement fibers are preferably present in an amount from about 2 to about 70% by weight.

In addition, the organic bonding fibers present in the composite backing material may have different denier and/or fiber lengths to provide increased sound absorption properties or to fine tune the acoustical properties of the composite material. The organic bonding fibers utilized in the composite material may have lengths of about 6 to about 75 mm, preferably from about 18 to about 50 mm. The organic bonding fibers may have deniers from about 1.5 to about 30 denier, preferably from about 5 to about 20 denier. Also, the specific combination and ratio of organic bonding fibers present in the composite material may be used to optimize the acoustic properties desired for specific applications. As a result, the composite material can be tailored to meet the acoustical needs of a particular application.

One or more types of organic bonding materials may be present in the composite material. The specific combination of the types of organic materials present in the composite material are chosen to meet the specific acoustical requirements of the particular application. It is desirable that the organic bonding fiber is a thermoplastic polymeric fiber that provides increased or enhanced acoustical absorbance. Suitable examples of organic bonding fibers for use in the composite material include polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers, modified polyethylene terephthalate fibers (such as poly-1,4 cyclohexanedimethyl terephthalate and glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate), polyester fibers, polyethylene fibers, polypropylene fibers, polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) fibers, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fibers, ethylene vinyl acetate/vinyl chloride (EVA/VC) fibers, lower alkyl acrylate polymer fibers, acrylonitrile polymer fibers, partially hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetate fibers, polyvinyl alcohol fibers, polyvinyl pyrrolidone fibers, styrene acrylate fibers, polyolefins, polyamides, polysulfides, polycarbonates, rayon, nylon, phenolic resins, and epoxy resins. The organic bonding fibers may be functionalized with acidic groups, such as, for example, by carboxylating with an acid (e.g., a maleated acid or an acrylic acid) or with an anhydride group or vinyl acetate. The organic bonding material may alternatively be in the form of a flake, granule, or a powder rather than in the form of a polymeric fiber. In preferred embodiments, the organic bonding fiber is polyethylene terephthalate or a modified polyethylene terephthalate.

One or more of the organic bonding fibers may be a multicomponent fiber such as a bicomponent polymer fiber, a tricomponent polymer fiber, or a plastic-coated mineral fiber such as a thermoplastic coated glass fiber. When a multicomponent fiber is present in the composite material, it is preferably a bicomponent fiber formed in a sheath-core arrangement in which the sheath is formed of first polymer fibers that substantially surround a core formed of second polymer fibers. It is not required that the sheath fibers totally surround the core fibers. The first polymer fibers have a melting point lower than the melting point of the second polymer fibers so that upon heating the bicomponent fibers to a temperature above the melting point of the first polymer fibers (sheath fibers) and below the melting point of the second polymer fibers (core fibers), the first polymer fibers will soften or melt while the second polymer fibers maintain their structural properties. This softening of the first polymer fibers (sheath fibers) will cause the first polymer fibers to become sticky and bond the first polymer fibers to each other and to any other adjacent fibers, such as the reinforcement fibers present in the composite material. Numerous combinations of polymeric materials are used to make the bicomponent polymer fibers, such as, for example, combinations of sheath/core fibers of polyester, polypropylene, polysulfide, polyolefin, and polyethylene fibers. Specific examples of polymer combinations for the bicomponent fibers include polyethylene terephthalate/polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate/polyethylene, and polypropylene/polyethylene. Multicomponent fibers may be present in the composite material in an amount up to about 65% by weight, preferably from about 35 to about 65% by weight.

The reinforcement fibers utilized in the composite material may be any type of organic or inorganic fiber suitable for providing good structural qualities as well as good acoustical and thermal properties. One or more types of reinforcement fibers may be used. The reinforcement fibers assist in providing the composite material with structural integrity and impact resistance. In preferred embodiments of the invention, the reinforcing fibers are present in the composite material in an amount up to about 70% by weight of the total weight of the fibers present in the composite material, preferably from about 2 to about 70% by weight. In at least one exemplary embodiment of the invention, the reinforcement fibers are present in an amount up to about 50% by weight, and more preferably from about 2 to about 20% by weight. One advantage of the reinforcing fibers lies in the fact that the sizing chemistry of the reinforcement fibers may be easily adapted to match the properties of individual types of organic bonding fibers. As a result, a large variety of composite materials and composite products formed from the composite materials can be obtained.

The reinforcement fibers may be present in varying lengths and diameters and in varying amounts within the composite material to achieve improved and/or specific acoustical, strength, and impact properties. For example, the structural and acoustic properties desired for specific applications can be optimized by altering the weight of the reinforcement fibers and/or by changing the reinforcement fiber content, length and/or diameter. The reinforcement fibers utilized in the composite material may have lengths of about 10 to about 100 mm in length, preferably, from about 25 to about 50 mm. Additionally, the reinforcing fibers may have diameters of from about 11 to about 25 microns, and preferably have diameters of from about 12 to about 18 microns. In some exemplary embodiments, the length of the reinforcement fibers and the organic fibers are substantially the same length to aid in processing.

Non-limiting examples of reinforcement fibers that may be utilized in the composite material include glass fibers, wool glass fibers, natural fibers, metal fibers, ceramic fibers, mineral fibers, carbon fibers, graphite fibers, nanofibers, and combinations thereof. The term “natural fiber” as used in conjunction with the present invention refers to plant fibers extracted from any part of a plant, including, but not limited to, the stem, seeds, leaves, roots, or bast. Preferably, the reinforcement fibers are glass fibers, such as A-type glass, E-type glass, S-type glass, or ECR-type glass such as Owens Corning's Advantex® glass fibers. Even more preferably, the reinforcement fibers are wet reinforcement fibers such as wet use chopped strand (WUCS) glass fibers. Wet use chopped strand glass fibers for use as the reinforcement fibers may be formed by conventional processes known in the art. It is desirable that the wet use chopped strand glass fibers have a moisture content of less than about 30%, preferably about 5 to about 15%.

Wet use chopped strand glass fibers are advantageously used as the reinforcing fiber material because the glass fibers may be easily opened and fiberized with little generation of static electricity due to the moisture present in the glass fibers. In addition, the use of wet use chopped strand glass fibers allows the products formed from the composite material to be manufactured with lower costs because wet use chopped strand glass fibers are less expensive than conventional dry chopped fibers to manufacture, which are typically dried and packaged in separate steps prior to being chopped.

The reinforcement fibers described above may be used in dry-laid processes to form a composite material that is a high loft, non-woven mat or web of randomly oriented reinforcement fibers and organic bonding fibers. An exemplary dry-laid process for forming the composite material using wet reinforcement fibers such as wet use chopped strand glass fibers is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/688,013, filed on Oct. 17, 2003, to Enamul Haque entitled “Development Of Thermoplastic Composites Using Wet Use Chopped Strand Glass In A Dry Laid Process”, the content of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. The utilization of wet use chopped strand glass in the dry-laid process described below and depicted generally in FIG. 1 contributes to the improved sound absorption of the inventive composite material because the composite materials formed by the dry-laid process described herein have a higher loft (increased porosity), at least in part due to the fiber openings and the laying of the fibers in the bale openers and sheet formers in the dry-laid process.

The process includes at least partially opening the wet use chopped strand glass fibers and organic bonding fibers (step 100), blending the chopped glass fibers and organic bonding fibers (step 110), forming the chopped glass fibers and organic bonding fibers into a sheet (step 120), optionally needling the sheet to give the sheet structural integrity (step 130), and bonding the chopped glass fibers and organic bonding fibers (step 140). It is to be understood that although FIGS. 1 and 2 and the corresponding description set forth herein depict the reinforcing fiber as wet use chopped strand glass fibers, any wet reinforcement fiber that provides suitable strength and integrity to the composite material may be utilized.

The wet use chopped strand glass fibers and the organic bonding material are typically agglomerated in the form of a bale of individual fibers. Turning to FIG. 2, the wet use chopped strand glass fibers 200 are fed into a first opening system 220 and the organic bonding fibers 210 are fed into a second opening system 230 to at least partially open and filamentize the wet chopped glass fiber bales and bonding fiber bales respectively. The opening system serves to decouple the clustered fibers and enhance fiber-to-fiber contact. The first and second opening systems 220, 230 are preferably bale openers, but may be any type of opener suitable for opening the bales of organic bonding fibers 210 and bales of wet use chopped strand glass fibers 200. Suitable openers for use in the present invention include any conventional standard type bale openers with or without a weighing device.

Although the exemplary process depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 show opening the bonding fibers 210 by a second opening system 230, the bonding fibers 210 may be fed directly into the fiber transfer system 250 if the organic bonding fibers 210 are present or obtained in a filamentized form, and not present or obtained in the form of a bale. Such an embodiment is considered to be within the purview of this invention. In alternate embodiments where the bonding material is in the form of a flake, granule, or powder, and not a bonding fiber, the second opening system 230 may be replaced with an apparatus suitable for distributing the powdered or flaked bonding material to the fiber transfer system 250 for mixing with the WUCS fibers 200 (not shown in FIG. 2). A suitable apparatus would be easily identified by those of skill in the art. It is also considered to be within the purview of the invention that the wet use chopped strand glass fibers 200 may be fed directly to the condensing unit 240 (FIG. 2), especially if they are provided in a filamentized or partially filamentized form.

The at least partially opened wet use chopped strand glass fibers 200 may be dosed or fed from the first opening system 220 to a condensing unit 240 to remove water from the wet fibers. In exemplary embodiments, greater than about 70% of the free water (e.g., water that is external to the reinforcement fibers) is removed. Preferably, however, substantially all of the water is removed by the condensing unit 240. It should be noted that the phrase “substantially all of the water” as it is used herein is meant to denote that all or nearly all of the free water is removed. The condensing unit 240 may be any known drying or water removal device known in the art, such as, but not limited to, an air dryer, an oven, rollers, a suction pump, a heated drum dryer, an infrared heating source, a hot air blower, or a microwave emitting source. The dried or substantially dried chopped strand glass fibers 205 that emerge from the condensing unit 240 may be passed through another opening system to further filamentize and separate the dried chopped strand glass fibers 205 (embodiment not illustrated). As used herein, the phrase “substantially dried” is meant to indicate that the wet reinforcing fibers are dry or nearly dry.

The dried chopped strand glass fibers 205 and the organic bonding fibers 210 are blended together by the fiber transfer system 250. In preferred embodiments, the fibers are blended in a high velocity air stream. The fiber transfer system 250 serves both as a conduit to transport the bonding fibers 210 and dried chopped glass fibers 205 to the sheet former 270 and to substantially uniformly mix the fibers in the air stream. It is desirable to distribute the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 as uniformly as possible. The ratio of dried chopped glass fibers 205 and organic bonding fibers 210 entering the air stream in the fiber transfer system 250 may be controlled by a weighing device optionally present in the first and second opening systems 220, 230 or by the amount and/or speed at which the fibers are passed through the first and second opening systems 220, 230. It is to be appreciated that the ratio of fibers present within the air stream will vary depending on the desired structural and acoustical requirements of the composite material.

The mixture of dry chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 may be transferred by the air stream in the fiber transfer system 250 to a sheet former 270 where the fibers are formed into a sheet. One or more sheet formers may be utilized in forming the composite material. In some embodiments of the present invention, the blended fibers are transported by the fiber transfer system 250 to a filling box tower 260 where the dry chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 are volumetrically fed into the sheet former 270, such as by a computer monitored electronic weighing apparatus, prior to entering the sheet former 270. The filling box tower 260 may be located internally in the sheet former 270 or it may be positioned external to the sheet former 270. The filling box tower 260 may also include baffles to further blend and mix the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 prior to entering the sheet former 270. In some embodiments, a sheet former 270 having a condenser and a distribution conveyor may be used to achieve a higher fiber feed into the filling box tower 260 and an increased volume of air through the filling box tower 260. In order to achieve an improved cross-distribution of the opened fibers, the distributor conveyor may run transversally to the direction of the sheet. As a result, the bonding fibers 210 and the dried chopped fibers 205 may be transferred into the filling box tower 260 with little or no pressure and minimal fiber breakage.

The sheet formed by the sheet former 270 contains a substantially uniform distribution of dried chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 at a desired ratio and weight distribution. The sheet formed by the sheet former 270 may have a weight distribution of from about 600 to about 1400 g/m2, with a preferred weight distribution of from about 900 to about 1200 g/m2.

In one or more embodiments of the invention, the sheet exiting the sheet former 270 is optionally subjected to a needling process in a needle felting apparatus 280 in which barbed or forked needles are pushed in a downward and upward motion through the fibers of the sheet to entangle or intertwine the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and organic bonding fibers 210 and impart additional mechanical strength and integrity to the sheet. Mechanical interlocking of the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 is achieved by passing the barbed felting needles repeatedly into and out of the sheet. An optimal needle selection for use with the particular reinforcement fiber and polymer fiber chosen for use in the inventive process would be easily identified by one of skill in the art.

Although the organic bonding material 210 is used to bond at least portions of the dried chopped glass fibers 205 to each other, a binder resin 285 may be added as an additional bonding agent prior to passing the sheet through the thermal bonding system 290. The binder resin 285 may be in the form of a resin powder, flake, granule, foam, or liquid spray. The binder resin 285 may be added by any suitable manner, such as, for example, a flood and extract method or by spraying the binder resin 285 on the sheet. The amount of binder resin 285 added to the sheet may be varied depending of the desired characteristics of the composite material. A catalyst such as ammonium chloride, p-toluene, sulfonic acid, aluminum sulfate, ammonium phosphate, or zinc nitrate may be used to improve the rate of curing and the quality of the cured binder resin 285.

Another process that may be employed to further bond the dried reinforcing fibers 205 either alone, or in addition to, the other bonding methods described herein, is latex bonding. In latex bonding, polymers formed from monomers such as ethylene (Tg−125° C.), butadiene (Tg−78° C.), butyl acrylate (Tg−52° C.), ethyl acrylate (Tg−22° C.), vinyl acetate (Tg 30° C.), vinyl chloride (Tg 80° C.), methyl methacrylate (Tg 105° C.), styrene (Tg 105° C.), and acrylonitrile (Tg 130° C.) are used as bonding agents. A lower glass transition temperature (Tg) results in a softer polymer. Latex polymers may be added as a spray prior to the sheet entering the thermal bonding system 290. Once the sheet enters the thermal bonding system 290, the latex polymers melt and bond the dried chopped glass fibers 205 together.

A further optional bonding process that may be used alone, or in combination with the other bonding processes described herein is chemical bonding. Liquid based bonding agents, powdered adhesives, foams, and, in some instances, organic solvents can be used as the chemical bonding agent. Suitable examples of chemical bonding agents include, but are not limited to, acrylate polymers and copolymers, styrene-butadiene copolymers, vinyl acetate ethylene copolymers, and combinations thereof. For example, polyvinyl acetate (PVA), ethylene vinyl acetate/vinyl chloride (EVA/VC), lower alkyl acrylate polymer, styrene-butadiene rubber, acrylonitrile polymer, polyurethane, epoxy resins, polyvinyl chloride, polyvinylidene chloride, and copolymers of vinylidene chloride with other monomers, partially hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetate, polyvinyl alcohol, polyvinyl pyrrolidone, polyester resins, and styrene acrylate may be used as a chemical bonding agent. The chemical bonding agent may be applied uniformly by impregnating, coating, or spraying the sheet.

Either after the sheet exits the sheet former 270 or after the optional needling of the sheet in the needle felting apparatus 280, the sheet may be passed through a thermal bonding system 290 to bond the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and organic bonding fibers 210 and form the composite 300. However, it is to be appreciated that if the sheet is needled in the needle felting apparatus 280 and the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and the bonding fibers 210 are mechanically bonded, it may be unnecessary to pass the sheet through the thermal bonding system 290 to form the composite material 300.

In the thermal bonding system 290, the sheet is heated to a temperature that is above the melting point of the organic bonding fibers 210 but below the melting point of the dried chopped glass fibers 205. When bicomponent fibers are used as the bonding fibers 210, the temperature in the thermal bonding system 290 is raised to a temperature that is above the melting point of the sheath fibers, but below the melting point of the dried chopped glass fibers 205. Heating the bonding fibers 210 to a temperature above their melting point, or the melting point of the sheath fibers in the instance where the bonding fibers 210 are bicomponent fibers, causes the bonding fibers 210 to become adhesive and bond the bonding fibers 210 both to themselves and to adjacent dried chopped glass fibers 205. If the bonding fibers 210 completely melt, the melted fibers may encapsulate the dried chopped glass fibers 205. As long as the temperature within the thermal bonding system 290 is not raised as high as the melting point of the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and/or core fibers, these fibers will remain in a fibrous form in the composite material 300.

The thermal bonding system 290 may include any known heating and/or bonding method known in the art, such as oven bonding, infrared heating, hot calendaring, belt calendaring, ultrasonic bonding, microwave heating, and heated drums. Two or more of these bonding methods may be used in combination to bond the dried chopped glass fibers 205 and organic bonding fibers 210. The temperature of the thermal bonding system 290 varies depending on the melting point of the particular bonding fibers 210, any binder resins and/or latex polymers used, and whether or not bicomponent fibers are present in the sheet. The composite material 300 that emerges from the thermal bonding system 290 contains a uniform or substantially uniform distribution of dried chopped glass fibers 205 and bonding fibers 210 which provides improved strength, thermal properties, stiffness, impact resistance, and acoustical absorbance to the composite material 300. In addition, the composite material 300 has a substantially uniform weight consistency and uniform properties. The composite material 300 is a lofted, compressible insulation product.

Additional fibers such as chopped roving, dry use chopped strand glass (DUCS), glass fibers, natural fibers (such as jute, hemp, and kenaf), aramid fibers, metal fibers, ceramic fibers, mineral fibers, carbon fibers, graphite fibers, polymer fibers, or combinations thereof may be opened and filamentized by additional opening systems (not shown) depending on the desired composition of the composite material 300. These additional fibers may be added to the fiber transfer system 250 and mixed with the dried chopped fibers 205 and organic bonding fibers 210. When such additional fibers are added to the fiber transfer system 250, it is preferred that from about 2-10% by weight of the total fibers consist of these additional fibers.

The composite material 300 may be used for various structural and semi-structural applications, but is particularly suitable as a reinforcement backing for cladding such as vinyl siding. The composite material 300 provides the structural integrity and stiffness needed to support vinyl siding that conventional backing materials (e.g., polyurethane foam) available in the market today lack. In addition, the high loft composite material 300 provides improved insulation properties (R-value ≧about 5), greater sound absorption, and high impact properties (e.g., ≧about 125 inch-pound). Because polymer and reinforcement fibers are inherently resistant to mildew and water wicking, the composite material 300 provides improved water resistance to the inventive siding product. In addition, the reinforcement and organic fibers located at the surface of the composite material 300 may be fused on one or both sides of the composite material 300 to make the composite material 300 substantially impermeable to air or water. The phrase “substantially impermeable” as used herein may be interpreted as impermeable or nearly impermeable.

After the composite material 300 exits the thermal bonding system 290, it may be die cut to the design or shape of the cladding (e.g., siding such as vinyl siding, foamed siding, plaster board siding, metal siding, and wood siding). Alternatively, the composite material 300 may be molded to the shape of the cladding in a conventional manner, such as by thermoforming with conduction, radiant or convection heating, steam heating, or by a roller die, and then attached to the cladding. The composite material 300 is attached to the surface of the siding that faces the framing of the house and is generally not exposed to external elements such as wind, sun, and rain. The composite material 300 may be attached to conventional vinyl siding by adhesives (pressure sensitive or heat sensitive), ultrasonic welding, vibration welding, or mechanical fasters (such as u-clips, s-clips, nails, screws, etc.) to form the siding product.

Ultrasonic welding is a preferred method of fastening the composite material 300 to the cladding. Ultrasonic welding fuses the organic fibers in the composite material 300 to the siding and creates a mechanical bond that is capable of exceeding the life expectancy of known siding materials. The ultrasonic welds may be placed at inconspicuous locations on the siding product, such as on the nail strip used in conventional vinyl siding to affix the siding to the building structure. In addition, the degree of the ultrasonic weld (e.g., amount of welding) can be varied to tune the bond strength between the composite material 300 and the cladding according to customer specifications. The composite material 300 and the siding can be welded together at any location, depending on the particular application and the customer's demands. Once the composite material 300 is ultrasonically bonded to the siding, the siding product can be nailed onto the building structure.

Numerous advantages are afforded by ultrasonically welding the composite material 300 and the cladding. For instance, ultrasonic welding can be conducted in-line, which can speed up the manufacturing process. In addition, ultrasonic welding eliminates the need for the hazardous chemicals currently utilized in conventional plants for attaching the backing board (polyurethane foam) to siding and the need to remove glue from the back surface of the siding to mate the siding pieces. For example, to overlap pieces of conventional siding with a foam backing, the foam backing is pulled from back surface of the siding and the back surface of the siding is cleaned to ensure that no visible gap is present when the siding pieces are overlapped. In conventional siding, an adhesive covers the entire length of the siding board. As a result, a large amount of the siding must be cleaned prior to mating the siding pieces. However, the ultrasonic welds utilized on the composite material are small and cover a minimal area on the siding. Therefore, cleaning and overlapping the siding is a quick and easy task. Further, the ultrasonic bonding points can be adjusted to reduce deformation (e.g., sagging, wrapping, etc.) of the siding material that may occur during a long term exposure to heat and maintain the shape of the siding on the building structure.

After the lofted composite material 300 has been affixed to the cladding (e.g., siding), the composite-reinforced backed siding product may then be packaged (e.g., compression packaged) for storing or shipping. In at least one exemplary embodiment of the invention, the siding product is vacuum packaged within an air-impervious material to reduce the storage and/or shipping space required for the siding product. By reducing the size of the packaging for the siding product, shipping and warehouse costs can be reduced. Packaging material costs may also be reduced because less materials are needed to package the compressed, vacuum packaged siding product for shipping and storage.

To vacuum package the siding product according to this exemplary embodiment, a flexible, gas-impervious sleeve or covering is positioned such that it encapsulates the siding product. The siding product is subjected to a vacuum so that all or substantially all of the air within the gas-impervious sleeve is removed and the composite material reinforcing the siding is compressed through the vacuum. Preferably, the gas-impervious sleeve is formed of a flexible plastic material.

It is envisioned that the vacuum may be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, the encapsulated siding product may placed in a vacuum chamber where the atmospheric pressure on the inside and the outside of the sleeve is reduced equally. A mechanical press may be activated within the vacuum chamber to compress the composite material to a desired thickness. The sleeve may then be sealed so that when the sleeve is removed from the vacuum chamber under normal atmospheric conditions, the composite material remains in a compressed state within the sleeve. The composite material on the siding remains in a compressed state by the external air pressure acting on the evacuated sleeve.

In another example, the air within the sleeve may be drawn out through an opening in the sleeve that is connected to a vacuum pump. The vacuum pump works to remove the air from within the sleeve and the atmospheric pressure acts to compress the composite material. A mechanical press may optionally be applied to the sleeve to further compress the composite material to a desired thickness. It is to be noted that the vacuum and mechanical press should not be applied to a degree that would deform the siding affixed to the composite material. After the desired amount of vacuum is applied, the sleeve is hermetically sealed to lock in the vacuum in the sleeve. As a result, the composite material remains in a compressed state during shipping and storage. Alternatively, the sleeve may not be hermitically sealed and a second sleeve or container that is sized larger than the compressed siding product and smaller than the original (uncompressed) size of the siding product may be placed in or positioned around the compressed siding product prior to releasing the vacuum to physically hold the siding product in its compressed state. It is preferred that the second sleeve or container be slightly larger than the compressed siding product so that the majority of the compression of the composite material is maintained. Although the composite material will attempt to expand to its uncompressed (unrestricted) height, the second sleeve physically refrains the siding product from expanding beyond the size of the second sleeve. It is preferred that the second sleeve or container be formed of a rigid material sufficiently strong so as to maintain the compressed siding product in a compressed state without causing physical damage to the siding product. In some embodiments, protective corners are placed on the sleeve to help protect the siding product during shipping.

In at least one other exemplary embodiment, the siding product is mechanically compressed to reduce the composite material to a desired thickness. The siding product may be compressed by any known mechanical method. The compressed siding product may then be wrapped in a sleeve or container (gas impervious or gas permeable) or placed in a container (gas impervious or gas permeable) that is larger than the compressed siding product and smaller than the uncompressed siding product to hold the siding product in its compressed state. As with the embodiment described above, it is preferred that the container be slightly smaller than the compressed siding product. The material used to form the sleeve or container is not particularly limited, and may be any material that maintains the siding product in a compressed state without physically harming the siding material.

Once the composite material is compressed in the sleeve, a rigid or semi-rigid shipping container may be placed over the compressed siding product to protect the compacted composite material during shipping and storage. The container may be formed of cardboard (corrugated or non-corrugated), wood, or a rigid plastic material. The shipping container may have any shape, however, it is desirable for the shipping container to have a shape that is similar in shape to the compressed siding product. This helps to reduce the space needed for shipping and storage. In at least one exemplary embodiment of the invention, the shipping container is a box-like or tube-like container. The rigid corners on a box-like container may be further used to protect the siding product from damage during shipping.

When the compressed packaged siding product reaches it point of destination and the siding product is ready to be installed, the flexible sleeve(s) and/or shipping container is opened and removed, allowing the composite material to expand or recover. The thickness that the product recovers is referred to as its recovered thickness. In preferred embodiments, the composite material has a recovered thickness that is the same or substantially the same as the original thickness (R-value) of the composite product.

Having generally described this invention, a further understanding can be obtained by reference to certain specific examples illustrated below which are provided for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to be all inclusive or limiting unless otherwise specified.

EXAMPLE

Impact Resistance

A composite material composed of glass fibers and polyethylene terephthalate according to the principles of the instant invention was formed and attached to vinyl siding to form a siding product. The siding product was then tested according to the procedures set forth in ASTM D4226, Procedure A (incorporated herein by reference in its entirety) and compared to conventional vinyl siding and vinyl siding backed with an expanded polystyrene. The inventive siding product and conventional siding products were cut to form flat specimens of at least 0.75 inches wide. The individual specimens were placed on a base below an impact head of an Impactor with a head configuration of H.25. The depth of the penetration is the distance the Impactor head protrudes into the support plate when properly seated. In the H.25 configuration, the depth of penetration is 0.48 inches ±0.04 inches. An 8 pound weight was then raised to various heights and allowed to fall onto the test specimens to determine the impact resistance of the siding products. The results are set forth in Table 1. As shown in Table 1, the inventive siding product provides high impact resistance.

TABLE 1
Test SpecimenImpact Resistance
Vinyl Siding (Not Backed) 60-90 inch-pound
Expanded Polystyrene240-320 inch-pound
(EPS) Backed Vinyl Siding
Inventive Composite Material125-200 inch-pound
Backed Vinyl Siding

The invention of this application has been described above both generically and with regard to specific embodiments. Although the invention has been set forth in what is believed to be the preferred embodiments, a wide variety of alternatives known to those of skill in the art can be selected within the generic disclosure. The invention is not otherwise limited, except for the recitation of the claims set forth below.