Title:
Multi-material molded shell for footwear
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shell for a boot or other footwear includes a first section of molded of a first thermoplastic material and a second section molded of a second thermoplastic material and integrally bonded with the first section. The first and second thermoplastic materials preferably have different material properties, such as color, hardness, or density, to enhance the aesthetic and/or functional design of the footwear. Methods of making molded multi-material shells and footwear including such shells are also disclosed.



Inventors:
Laska, Daniel S. (Portland, OR, US)
Application Number:
11/271150
Publication Date:
05/17/2007
Filing Date:
11/11/2005
Assignee:
Columbia Sportswear North America, Inc. (Portland, OR, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A43B1/10
View Patent Images:
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20080289219ADJUSTABLE FOOTWEAR SOLE CONSTRUCTIONNovember, 2008Nakano
20080078103Shoe Construction With Double UpperApril, 2008Liles
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20050022424Shoes - a new designFebruary, 2005Held
20070094815Orthopedic Insoles for Protecting the Metatarsal Heads of the ForefootMay, 2007Barak
20100083537SUB-ASSEMBLY FOR INCORPORATION INTO A SHOE HAVING AN ADJUSTABLE HEELApril, 2010Wierda et al.
20070199208DANCE SHOE WITH MOLDABLE FOOT COMPARTMENTAugust, 2007Wilkenfeld
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Primary Examiner:
KAVANAUGH, JOHN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STOEL RIVES LLP - PDX (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A shell to which a sole and an upper of an article of footwear are attached, comprising: a first section of a first molded thermoplastic material; and a second section of a second molded thermoplastic material different from the first molded thermoplastic material, the second section being integrally joined with the first section along an interface therebetween to form a shell of unitary construction.

2. The shell of claim 1 in which the first and second thermoplastic materials are different colors.

3. The shell of claim 1 in which the first and second thermoplastic materials are different hardnesses.

4. The shell of claim 1 in which the first and second thermoplastic materials are different densities.

5. The shell of claim 1 in which the first section comprises a collar.

6. The shell of claim 1 in which the second section is over-molded around the first section.

7. The shell of claim 1, in which the shell includes a flange to which the upper is attached.

8. The shell of claim 1, in which the shell is waterproof.

9. The shell of claim 1, in which: the first thermoplastic material is a first TPU material having a first density; and the second thermoplastic material is a second TPU material having a second density different from the first density.

10. The shell of claim 9, in which the second density is greater than the first density.

11. An article of footwear including the shell of claim 1.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This application relates to footwear and, more particularly, to molded thermoplastic shells for footwear and methods of molding such shells.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Waterproof winter boots and other kinds of footwear sometimes include a semi-rigid molded plastic shell in the configuration of a slipper, to which an outsole may be molded, glued, or stitched. An insole and/or foot bed may be inserted inside the shell to provide cushioning. Finally, a flexible fabric or leather upper including lacing eyelets is typically stitched or glued along the rim of the shell to complete the boot or other article of footwear.

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/889,586 of Laska et al., filed Jul. 12, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference, describes a molded shell for footwear and a method of molding the shell around a skirt of the upper to provide a strong molded connection between the shell and the upper.

The present inventor has recognized a need for improvements in footwear and molded shells, in particular, for providing an enhanced aesthetic appearance or improved flexibility characteristics for enhanced comfort.

SUMMARY

In accordance with embodiments disclosed herein, a shell for a boot or other footwear includes a first molded thermoplastic section and a second molded thermoplastic section integrally bonded with the first section. The first section may be pre-formed by molding a first thermoplastic resin in a first mold or by other means, then inserted into a second mold in which the second section is formed by over-molding a second thermoplastic resin into integral chemical and/or mechanical engagement with at least a portion of a perimeter of the first section to form a unitary structure. In alternate embodiments, the first and second sections are formed simultaneously or sequentially in a single mold, during one or more mold cycles. An outsole and an upper are preferably attached to the shell after it has been molded.

The physical properties of the first thermoplastic material, such as color, hardness, elasticity, and others, may differ from the physical properties of the second thermoplastic material, thereby forming a shell having regions of different colors, hardnesses, elasticity, or other properties. In one embodiment a generally U-shaped collar of a first material of a first color extends from the medial ankle region forward, over the instep, and rearward to the lateral ankle region. A second section of the shell, including the toe box, lower sidewalls, heel region and underfoot portion, is formed of thermoplastic material of a second color. The material of the second section may provide enhanced insulation capabilities and an aesthetically pleasing color contrast from the first portion.

The multiple material shell concept can also be extended for shells of three or more different molded materials.

Additional aspects and advantages will be apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments, which proceeds with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front-top-lateral side perspective view of a boot including a shell according to a preferred embodiment, wherein the stippling indicates color;

FIG. 2 is a rear-lateral side perspective view of the boot of FIG. 1 with regions broken out to show detail;

FIG. 3 is an exploded assembly view of the boot of FIG. 1 with the upper omitted and showing detail of an insole, the shell, and an outsole of the boot;

FIGS. 4-7 are a pictogram showing steps for molding the shell of FIG. 3, including inserting a preformed plastic collar section of the shell into the mold (FIGS. 4-5), closing the mold around the collar and a core of the mold (FIGS. 5-6), and, after injecting a material to form a second section of the shell, opening the mold and removing the shell (FIG. 7);

FIG. 8 is a cross section view of the mold of FIGS. 4-7 showing cross sectional detail of the molded shell;

FIG. 9 is a cross section view of the mold and shell of FIG. 8 taken along lines 9-9 of FIG. 8;

FIG.10 is a cross section view of the mold and shell of FIG. 8 taken along lines 10-10 of FIG. 8; and

FIG. 11 is a cross section view of the mold and shell of FIG. 8 taken along lines 11-11 of FIG. 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Throughout the specification, reference to “one embodiment,” “an embodiment,” or “some embodiments” means that a particular described feature, structure, or characteristic is included in at least one embodiment. Thus appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment,” “in an embodiment,” or “in some embodiments” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

Furthermore, the described features, structures, characteristics, and methods may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the various embodiments can be practiced without one or more of the specific details or with other methods, components, materials, etc. In other instances, well-known structures, materials, or operations are not shown or not described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of the embodiments.

With reference to FIGS. 1-3, a boot 10 according to a preferred embodiment includes a shell 20 to which an upper 24 of boot 10 is attached via a flange 28 (FIG. 2) of a shell 20. Upper 24 may be made in any suitable manner and is preferably assembled primarily of soft fabric, leather, or synthetic material components. Upper 24 may be attached to shell by adhesives, stitching, taping, molding, heat bonding, or any other means. A sole 30, including a cushioning midsole 32 and an wear-resistant outsole 34, is attached to shell 20 opposite upper 12 by any suitable method. However, it may be preferably to glue or mold the sole 30 to shell 20, to preserve a waterproof aspect of the shell that might otherwise be compromised by a stitched attachment. Prior to its attachment to upper 24 and sole 30, shell 20 is formed by a molding process, a preferred embodiment of which is described below with reference to FIGS. 4-7. An insole 46 (FIG. 3) may be inserted into shell 20, after it is made, to provide cushioning and arch support.

With reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, shell 20 comprises a first molded thermoplastic section 40 and a second molded thermoplastic section 42. The first section 40 is preferably preformed as a U-shaped collar (open at the heel) in a preliminary injection molding operation. The second section 42 is then preferably overmolded onto first section 40 in a second injection molding operation, i.e., an over-molding operation described below with reference to FIGS. 4-7. The first and second sections 40, 42 are preferably formed of two different thermoplastic materials that are selected to be chemically compatible so as to form a chemical bond at their interface 48. A chemical bond helps to strengthen the semi-rigid shell 20 and to form a unitary waterproof structure that is resistant to separation, tearing, or leaking at the interface 48. Compatibility of the materials of the first and second sections 40, 42 may also result in a mechanical bond at the interface 48, due to re-melting of the material of first section 40 during the over-molding of second section 42 and attendant mixing of the two materials at the interface. Without forgoing the desired chemical compatibility, the first and second materials may comprise two different formulations and colors of thermoplastic material.

Shells 20 according to the present disclosure may have two or more regions of different colors, hardnesses, elasticity, surface finish, strength, insulating capability, and other physical properties. The particular combinations of properties and colors are virtually unlimited, and subject only to the availability of chemically compatible materials having the desired properties.

The physical properties of the first thermoplastic material of first section 40, preferably differ from the physical properties of the second thermoplastic material of the second section 42 in a manner that results in improved footwear performance characteristics. For example, first section 40 may be formed of a material having a light color and low hardness for fashion and enhanced flexibility across the instep, while the second section 42 may be formed of a darker material having a higher hardness to provide scuff resistance and hide dirt and scuffs lower on the boot 10, where the shell 20 is more likely to contact soil, rocks, and other objects. The contrasting dark and light bands of shell 10 can be achieved without expensive painting or gluing operations.

In one embodiment, the first section 40 is formed of a first material comprising a medium hardness thermoplastic elastomer, such as a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) having a durometer of approximately 80 Shore A. One suitable high-density TPU material for first section 40 is sold under the name ELASTOLLAN® S80 by BASF Corporation. The second section 42 may be formed of a second material comprising a harder TPU having a durometer of approximately 85 Shore A. A suitable hard TPU material is sold under the name AVALON® 85AB by Huntsman Chemical Company (formerly ICI Plastics). The coloring of the materials may preferably be due to colorants mixed with the resin, which will not bleed or separate.

The first section 40 may be pre-formed by molding a first thermoplastic resin in a first mold or by other means, then inserted into a second mold. With reference to FIG. 4, first section 40 may comprise a preformed collar 50 that is inserted on a mold core 54 or into a cavity of a mold 60 (FIG. 5) for forming second section 42. Collar 50 may take any suitable shape. In the embodiment shown, collar 50 extends from the medial ankle region forward, over the instep, and rearward to the lateral ankle region. In other embodiments, the first section comprises panels or components of other shapes and configurations. In some embodiments, the first section 40 comprises two or more pieces that are both inserted into mold 60 at the same time for over-molding the second section 42 thereto. Skilled persons will appreciate that the thicknesses, positions, and widths of various regions of the sections of different materials can be customized to achieve desired design and performance attributes, such as flexibility, lateral stability, comfort, weight, and others.

After first section 40 has been inserted into mold 60 or onto core 54, the mold 60 may be closed as depicted in FIG. 5. Mold 60 may preferably include a dam 64 comprising a small sharp rib extending within the cavity of the mold and positioned to come into contact with or press against a lower perimeter region of collar 50 adjacent where interface 48 will be formed when second section 42 is molded. Dam 64 helps to achieve a crisp transition between the first and second materials by preventing the second material of second section 42 from flowing around first section 40 during the molding step. Dam 64 may preferably extend along the entire lower perimeter of first section 40, as depicted by the broken line numbered 64 in of FIG. 8.

As shown in FIG. 6, when mold 60 is closed, a cavity 70 is formed around first section 40. The cavity includes a toe box region 72, lower sidewalls 74, a heel region 76 and underfoot region 78, which, when filled with the thermoplastic material, as depicted in FIGS. 7 and 8, will form corresponding regions of the second section of the shell 20.

A part line 80 of the mold runs along a portion of the lower perimeter of first section 40 to correspond with dam 64 for at least a portion of the length of shell 20. FIGS. 8-11 show the placement of part line 80 and dam 64 in greater detail. Strategic placement of part line 80 can help minimize mold flash and result in an aesthetically pleasing shell 20, devoid of part lines along the top of the shell.

In an alternative embodiment, the molding process is repeated one or more times to add third or further shell sections, so that shell may comprise three or more sections of different molded materials. In still other embodiments, the first and second sections are formed simultaneously or sequentially in a single mold, during one or more mold cycles. In yet other embodiments the first and second sections are formed by a co-molding process.

It will be obvious to those having skill in the art that many changes may be made to the details of the above-described embodiments without departing from the underlying principles of the invention. The scope of the present invention should, therefore, be determined only by the following claims.