Title:
Tufting machine
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tufting machine which has improved production rates such that it is capable of being used to produce larger samples of tufted products or is capable of being used for production runs of tufted products, but still retains sufficient flexibility for changes in yarn and construction of the tufted product to be made relatively easily is disclosed.



Inventors:
Modra, Timothy John (Warragul, AU)
Application Number:
13/206610
Publication Date:
01/02/2014
Filing Date:
08/10/2011
Assignee:
Modra Technology Pty Ltd. (Warragul, AU)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
112/80.41, 112/80.58
International Classes:
D05C15/12; D05C15/30; D05C15/14
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DURHAM, NATHAN E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FAEGRE DRINKER BIDDLE & REATH LLP (FORT WAYNE, IN, US)
Claims:
1. Apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web, said apparatus including: feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone; a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; needle head support means for said needle head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path; second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly; a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; looper head support means for said looper member head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; and actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone.

2. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said first drive means and said third drive means are independent of one another.

3. Apparatus according to claim 2 wherein movement of said needle forming head and said looper head along said first and said second transverse paths is synchronized when tufted pile is formed on said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone.

4. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said apparatus has an operational zone containing said tufted pile forming zone and a service zone, each of said first and second transverse paths enabling the needle sub assembly and the looper member sub assembly to be selectably positionable in said service zone.

5. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles is removable from said needle head and replaceable by a different said needle sub assembly.

6. Apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the needle sub assembly comprises a plurality of modules each comprised of a predetermined number of said tuft forming needles, each said module being selectably removable and replaceable with a different said module of tuft forming needles.

7. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the looper member sub assembly having a plurality of looper members or hook and knife members is removable from said looper head and replaceable with a different said looper member sub assembly.

8. Apparatus according to claim 7 wherein the looper member sub assembly includes a plurality of modules each having a predetermined number of said looper members or hook and knife members, each said module being selectably removable and replaceable with a different said module.

9. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly includes a crank mechanism including a connecting arm pivotally connected to said needle sub assembly, said crank mechanism being rotated to drive said connecting arm in a reciprocating motion.

10. Apparatus according to claim 9 wherein said crank mechanism is adjustable to vary the length of said reciprocating motion.

11. Apparatus according to claim 9 further including balance means connected to said needle sub assembly to balance forces imposed by said crank mechanism.

12. Apparatus according to claim 9 wherein the needle head includes a first outer support structure, said crank mechanism being mounted in a second support structure, height adjusting means being provided to enable said second support structure to be height adjusted relative to said first support structure.

13. Apparatus according to claim 1 further including first gripping means configured to selectably grip and release an edge zone of the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said first gripping means being movable in a transverse direction to stretch said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone when tufted pile is being formed on said backing material web.

14. Apparatus according to claim 13 further including second gripping means to selectably grip and release an opposed edge zone of said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone.

15. Apparatus according to claim 14 wherein said second gripping means is also movable in a transverse direction to stretch said backing material web.

16. Apparatus according to claim 14 further including positional sensing means to ensure movement of said first and/or said second gripping means in said transverse direction maintains edge zones of the backing material web at the same position during each tufted pile forming run of the needle head and the looper member head.

17. Apparatus according to claim 1 further including a register marking device to mark on said backing material web a register mark as said needle head produces tufted pile on said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said apparatus also including a position sensing device to cooperate with said register mark to control movement of said needle head, said needle sub assembly or said backing material web ready for a repeat operation of said needle head.

18. Apparatus according to claim 1 further including a first yarn feed means to uniformly feed yarn of the same length to each needle of the needle sub assembly and a second yarn feed means to enable adjustable amounts of yarn to be selectably fed to each needle of the needle sub assembly.

19. Apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web comprising: feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone; a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; needle head support means for said needle head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path; second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly; a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; looper head support means for said looper member head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone; and said apparatus having an operational zone containing said tufted pile forming zone and a service zone, each of said first and second transverse paths enabling the needle sub assembly and the looper member sub assembly to be selectably positionable in said service zone.

20. Apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web comprising: feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone; a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; needle head support means for said needle head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path; second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly; a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; looper head support means for said looper member head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone; and said second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly includes a crank mechanism including a connecting arm pivotally connected to said needle sub assembly, said crank mechanism being rotated to drive said connecting arm in a reciprocating motion and being adjustable to vary the length of said reciprocating motion, said apparatus further including balance means connected to said needle sub assembly to balance forces imposed by said crank mechanism.

21. Apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web comprising: feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone; a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; needle head support means for said needle head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path; second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly; a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; looper head support means for said looper member head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone; said apparatus further including a register marking device to mark on said backing material web a register mark as said needle head produces tufted pile on said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said apparatus also including a position sensing device to cooperate with said register mark to control movement of either said needle head, said needle sub assembly or said backing material web ready for a repeat operation of said needle head.

22. Apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web comprising: feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone; a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; needle head support means for said needle head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path; second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly; a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web; looper head support means for said looper member head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web; third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone; and said apparatus further including first gripping means configured to selectably grip and release an edge zone of the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, and a second gripping means to selectably grip and release an opposed edge zone of said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, at least one of said first gripping means or said second gripping means being movable in a transverse direction to stretch said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone when tufted pile is being formed on said backing material web.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to improvements in tufting machines for producing looped pile or cut loop pile in various patterns, lengths and designs on a backing web of fabric material, typically but not exclusively for producing carpet, rugs or sample carpets or rugs.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional carpet or rug making machinery typically provides means for feeding continuously a primary backing material web past an array of in line tuft forming needles, each receiving a yarn of a desired colour and size, to produce tuft loops (either cut or uncut) with a corresponding array of cooperating loop forming members or hooks with a cutting knife on the opposite side of the backing material web. The array of in line tuft forming needles generally extends transversely across the backing material web. The needles typically reciprocate through the primary backing material web to form the tuft loops but are otherwise mounted in a fixed position. Such machines are effective when producing tufted (carpet) material of reasonably large size and where yarns, colours or structures of the tufted material are not changed as it is a time Consuming and difficult process to make such changes. As a result such machines are not often used to produce samples or designs of small run volumes.

In U.S. Pat. No. 7,478,605, a tufting machine is disclosed for producing sample designs of tufted carpet like material or specialist small run carpet or rug designs of a relatively small size. In this machine a backing material web is incrementally moved through a tufting zone with one or more tufting needle beads being moved transversely across the backing material web in the tufting zone to produce tuft loops or cut pile in association with a hook looper head on the opposite side of the material web. If a cut pile is to be formed, the looper head includes a hook and knife to cut the loop formed whereas if looped pile is formed the looper head includes a loop forming member. Each of the needle heads includes a plurality of needles, each capable of receiving a desired yam of a selected colour/configuration, with each needle being individually selectable for use in a particular operational run of the needle head across the backing material web. The machine also includes means to selectably feed a desired length of yarn to the needle in use to allow looped tufts to be formed of selectable lengths or heights relative to the backing material web. The machine is highly flexible and is therefore particularly useful for producing sample products or specialist designed products, however as it produces one or only a limited number of lines of tuft loops across the backing material web each pass of the needle head (or heads), it remains relative slow in production rates. It is therefore less suitable for producing larger sample products or for producing production runs of medium to larger tufted products (carpets, rugs or the like).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The objective of the present invention is to provide a tufting machine which has improved production rates such that it is capable of being used to produce larger samples of tufted products or is capable of being used for production runs of tufted products, but still retains sufficient flexibility for changes in yarn and construction of the tufted product to be made relatively easily.

According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided apparatus for forming a tufted pile product including a backing material web comprising:

    • feed means for said backing material web for feeding said backing material web in incremental steps substantially along a horizontal path through a tufted pile forming zone;
    • a needle head arranged on one face of the horizontal path for said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said needle head including a needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles arranged in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web;
    • needle head support means for said need e head enabling movement of said needle head along a first transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web;
    • first drive means for driving said needle head along said first transverse path;
    • second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly operationally through said horizontal path as said first drive means drives said needle head along said first transverse path, all of the needles of said needle sub assembly penetrating, in use, the backing material web upon reciprocation of said needle sub assembly;
    • a looper head arranged on an opposite face of said horizontal path for said backing material web, said looper head carrying a looper sub assembly including a plurality of looper members or a plurality of hook and knife members in an array extending generally in the direction of said horizontal path for said backing material web;
    • looper head support Means for said looper head enabling movement of said looper head along a second transverse path relative to said horizontal path for said backing material web;
    • third drive means for driving said looper head along said second transverse path; and
    • actuation means for the looper members or the hook and knife members of said looper sub assembly to move said looper members or the hook and knife members simultaneously to cooperate with a respective said needle of the needle sub assembly as the needles of the needle sub assembly reciprocate through the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone.

Conveniently the first drive means and the third drive means are independent of one another. Preferably, movement of said needle forming head and said looper head along said first and said second transverse paths is synchronized when tufted pile is formed on said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone.

In one preferred arrangement, the apparatus has an operational zone containing said tufted pile forming zone and a service zone, each of said first and second transverse paths enabling the needle sub assembly and the looper member sub assembly to be selectably positionable in said service zone. Conveniently the needle sub assembly having a plurality of tuft forming needles is removable from said needle head and replaceable by a different said needle sub assembly. The needle sub assembly may comprise a plurality of modules each comprised of a predetermined number of said tuft forming needles, each said module being selectably removable and replaceable with a different said module of tuft forming needles. Conveniently, the looper member sub assembly having a plurality of looper members or hook and knife members is removable from said looper head and replaceable with a different said looper member sub assembly. The looper member sub assembly may comprise a plurality of modules each comprised of a predetermined number of said looper members, each said module being selectably removable and replaceable with a different said module of looper members. In a possible alternative embodiment, in the looper member sub assembly, cooperating hooks and knives are provided to enable yarn loops formed to be cut to form cut pile. By providing that the needle sub assembly and the looper member sub assembly are each bodily replaceable, it is possible to quickly and easily reconfigure the apparatus for producing an alternative construction of tufted pile product without the labour and time intensive requirements with conventional apparatus of this type. Greater flexibility is also introduced by providing the replaceable needle modules and loom member modules.

In a preferred embodiment, the second drive means for reciprocating said needle sub assembly comprises a crank mechanism including a connecting arm pivotally connected to said needle sub assembly, said crank mechanism being rotated to drive said connecting arm in a reciprocating motion. Conveniently, the crank mechanism may be adjustable to vary the length of said reciprocating motion. The apparatus may further include balance means connected to said needle sub assembly to balance forces imposed by the crank mechanism. The needle head may include a first outer support structure, said crank mechanism being mounted in a second support structure, height adjusting means being provided to enable said second support structure to be height adjusted relative to said first support structure.

In a further preferred arrangement, the apparatus may include first gripping means configured to selectably grip and release an edge zone of the backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said first gripping means being moveable in a transverse direction to stretch said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone when tufted pile is being formed on said backing material web. The apparatus may further include second gripping means to selectably grip and release an opposed edge zone of said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone. Preferably said second gripping means is also moveable in a transverse direction to stretch said backing material web. Position sensing means may be provided with each of the first and the second gripping means to ensure movement in said transverse direction maintaining edge zones of the backing material web at the same position during each tufted pile forming run of the needle head and the looper member head.

Preferably the apparatus further includes a register marking device to mark on said backing material web a register mark as said needle head produces tufted pile on said backing material web in said tufted pile forming zone, said apparatus also including a position sensing device to cooperate with said register mark to control movement of said needle head, said needle sub assembly or said backing material web ready for a repeat operation of said needle head.

In a still further preferred embodiment the apparatus may include a first yarn feed means to uniformly feed yarn of the same length to each needle of the needle sub assembly and a second yarn feed means to enable adjustable amounts of yarn to be selectably fed to each needle of the needle sub assembly. The first and the second yam teed means being selectable by an operator of the apparatus depending on the nature of the tufted pile product the operator wishes to produce.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Preferred embodiments of the present invention will hereafter be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a tufting machine according to one preferred embodiment of the present invention, the tufting needle head and the cooperating looper member head being shown in an operative position relative to the cooperating backing material web;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a tufting machine similar to FIG. 1 but showing the tufting needle head and the cooperating looper member head in an extended service position;

FIG. 3 is a detailed partial perspective view showing the needle bar assembly of the tufting needle head being selectably replaceable relative to the operating mechanism of the tufting needle head;

FIG. 4 is a detailed partial perspective view showing the looper member sub assembly of the looper head being selectably replaceable relative to the operating mechanism of the looper head;

FIG. 5 is a detailed partial perspective view of the tufting needle head including the needle sub assembly and its operating mechanism, the tufting needle head being lowered for a short needle stroke with the needle sub assembly in an upper or withdrawn position;

FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5 with the tufting needle head lowered for a short needle stroke and with the needle sub assembly in a lowered extended operative position;

FIG. 7 is a view similar to FIGS. 5/6 but with the tufting needle head being elevated for a longer needle bar assembly stroke and with the needle sub assembly in an elevated or withdrawn position;

FIG. 8 is a view similar to FIGS. 5 to 7 with the tufting needle head elevated for a longer needle stroke and with the needle sub assembly lowered in an extended operative position;

FIG. 9 is a partial perspective view of the tufting needle head and the yarn feed arrangement showing yarn being fed to the needles of the needle sub assembly via common rollers whereby a uniform length of yarn is fed to each needle during a tuft loop forming step;

FIG. 10 is a partial perspective view similar to FIG. 9 where individual yarn feed mechanisms are provided for each needle of the needle bar assembly whereby differing tuft loop lengths can be formed;

FIG. 11 is a partial perspective view of the looper head in a partly exploded view, this view showing the hooks and cutting knives for forming cut pile;

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 11 but showing the parts in an assembled position;

FIGS. 13, 14 and 15 are partial perspective views of a hacking material web gripping mechanism in different stages of activation used to grip and stretch the web when tufted pile is being formed, there being such a web gripping mechanism on either side of the web in the tufted pile forming zone;

FIGS. 16 and 17 are partial perspective views of the needle head illustrating a cut off mechanism for the yarn lengths passed to each needle on completion of a loop pile stitching run; and

FIGS. 18, 19, 20 and 21 are partial perspective views of the needle head illustrating a register marking device to enable correct positioning of the needle head at the start of each stitching run.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1 and 2 of the annexed drawings illustrate a tufted pile forming machine 10 for producing tufted pile products such as carpet, rugs or the like. The machine 10 has a supporting frame structure 11 including longitudinally extending rigid I-beams forming a base structure 12 and similar I-beams forming an upper structure 13. Opposed end walls 14 and 15 formed by steel plate material is provided and define an operative tufted pile forming zone 16 therebetween. At one end 17, a service area 18 is provided by a beam structure 19. At the end 17, the end wall 15 has a central opening 20 to allow the upper tufting needle head 21 to project into the service area 18 (FIG. 2). Similarly, the opening 20 also allows the lower looper head 22 to project into the service area 18 (FIG. 2) for reasons explained hereafter. The frame structure 11 is made as rigid as possible as any out of alignment or deflections makes it difficult for the needles of the tufting needle head 21 to cooperate correctly with a looper member or hook and cutting knife of the lower looper head 22.

Within the tufted pile forming zone 16 a support shaft 23 is provided to support and carry a roll of primary backing material web 24. The backing material web 24 is passed via a roller 25 and a spiked roller 26 to horizontally pass through the zone 16. The spiked roller 26 is driven by suitable drive means 27 to incrementally move the backing material web 24 in desired steps through the horizontal region in the zone 16. Suitable rollers arid collection means are provided on the opposite side of the zone 16 to maintain the web 24 taut in a transverse direction in the horizontal region of the zone 16. Gripper and stretcher devices 28 are provided to grip lateral edges 29, 30 of the web 24 in the horizontal region of the zone 16 to maintain the web 24 taut in the longitudinal direction during an operational run of the needle head 21 to produce tufted pile on the web 24.

The lower looper head 22 is supported to move on spaced. bearing tracks 31 extending in the longitudinal direction of the machine 10 and transverse to the movement direction of the backing material web 24 through the tufted pile forming zone 16. The bearing tracks 31 extend from the zone 16 into the service zone 18. The lower looper head 22 is moved by a driven toothed wheel (not shown) carried by the head 22 operatively engaging with a toothed belt 32. Alternatively other drive means including a rack and pinion drive could be used. Similarly, the upper needle head 21 is supported on bearing tracks (not shown) running parallel to the bearing tracks 31 and moved via a driven toothed wheel (not shown) engaging with a toothed belt 33. Alternatively a driven pinion wheel with teeth might engage with an elongated rack with cooperating teeth. Similar to the drive means for the upper needle head 21, alternative drive means could also be used. Each of the upper needle head 21 and the lower looper head 22 are driven independently of one another but during a tufted pile forming operation, the drive means are synchronized to ensure the needles properly co-operate with the looper members or hook and knife members during the lulled pile formation (looped or cut loop).

FIG. 3 partially shows the upper needle head 21 including part of the needle actuation mechanism 34, described in greater detail with reference to subsequent drawings. The mechanism 34 includes a support frame 35 that, in operation is reciprocated in a vertical direction by the actuation mechanism 34. The support frame 35 has a lower bar 36 that is disposed generally transverse to the longitudinal direction of the machine 10 and preferably parallel to the movement direction of the hacking material web 24 through the tufted pile forming zone 16. A modular needle bar 37 is provided such that it can be secured by fastener members 38 to the lower bar 36 of the support frame 35. A plurality of modular needle sub assembly members 39, each comprising an upper support plate 40 and a plurality of downwardly depending needles 41, are separately mounted to the needle bar 37 by fasteners 42. The structure is such that the needle bar 37 can be removed easily and replaced with a separate needle bar 37 of a desired configuration, when it is desired to produce a tufted pile of a different construction. Similar, each of the sub assembly members 39 can also be selectably removed and replaced, if desired. Such changes would occur in the service area 18 where access to the parts is easily achieved. The structure, when assembled to the machine 10 provides an inline array of needles 41 extending, in use, parallel to the movement of the backing material web 24 in the zone 16. In use, each of the needles 41 is fed, as described hereafter with a single length of yarn for producing the desired tufted pile.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a looper member sub assembly 43 is illustrated, partially exploded with some parts omitted for the sake of clarity. A looper member assembly with knives for cutting the yarn to produce cut pile is described with reference to later drawings. The looper member sub assembly 43 includes means 45 for operatively moving the loom members 46 into a cooperating position with the needles 41 during production of a looped tufted pile. The looper members 46 are themselves generally of a conventional design. The looper member sub assembly 43 includes a support bar 47 formed in modular form to which a plurality of looper member elements 48 are connected via fasteners (not shown) through apertures 49. Each element 48 includes a support plate 50 and a plurality of inline looper members 46 such that when assembled the looper members 46 are formed in a line and, in use, are positioned to cooperate with the needles 41. That is, there is one looper member 46 for each needle 41. The sub assembly 43 further includes a support clamp 51 comprising a first bar member 52 connected to the means 45 for operatively moving the looper members 46 and a second clamp bar 53 to clamp the support bar 47 between the clamp bar 53 and the bar member 52 by fastener means (not shown) passing through apertures 54. The support bar 47 includes elongate recesses 55 to be positioned about the fastener means (not shown) to allow the position of the support bar 47 to be physically adjusted relative to the support clamp 51. Any adjustments or replacement of the looper member sub assembly would normally be carried out in the service area 18 where access is easily attained.

FIGS. 5, 6, 7 and 8 illustrate in perspective view, various features of the upper needle head 21 and needle actuation mechanism 34 for moving the needles 41 upwardly and downwardly to provide the motion required for forming tufted pile on the backing material web 24. The upper needle head 21 comprises an outer support box 56 that, in use, is mounted to move on bearing rails in a longitudinal direction of the machine 10 transverse to the backing material web 24 in the zone 16. Within the outer support box 56, an inner support box 57 is mounted on vertical bearing rails 58 and associated bearings 59 such that the inner support box 57 can be selectably moved upwardly or downwardly in a generally vertical direction. A shaft 60 driven by a drive motor (not shown) is provided to selectably raise or lower the inner support box 57 as may be desired. The support frame 35 carrying the needle bar 37 is mounted to spaced vertical rails 61 slidably mounted in bearings 62 mounted to the upright side walls 63 of the inner support box 57. Upper ends of the vertical rails 61 are pivotally mounted at 64 to pivot arms 65. A pair of pivoting balance arms 66, 67 are pivoted centrally at 68 to the inner support box 57, each having one end pivotally mounted at 74 to the upper free ends of the pivot arms 65. The free ends of the balance arms 66, 67 each carry a balance weight 69. The needle actuation mechanism 34 further includes a connecting arm 70 pivoted at 71 to the support frame 35 carrying the modular needle bar 37. The upper end 71 of the connecting arm 70 includes selectably adjustable crank arm (not shown) to selectably vary the length of the crank arm to thereby vary selectably the up and down length of movement of the connecting arm 70 and thereby the up and down length of stroke of movement of the needle head 37. The mechanism further includes balance weights 73 such that the balance weights 69, 73 damp out any vibrations caused by the crank arm mechanism during the needle bar 37 in a reciprocating vertical movement. As described earlier, the inner support box 57 in FIG. 5 is lowered by actuation of the adjusting shaft 60 to provide a shorter needle stroke with the needle bar 37 in an upper most position ready to start a downward pile forming movement. In FIG. 6, the needle bar 37 is also in a lowered position for a short needle stroke but the needles 41 are at their lower most position after a pile forming movement stroke has been completed, the crank arm being partially seen in this view. The adjusting shaft 60 (not seen in FIG. 7) has raised the inner support box 57 to provide a longer needle stroke and the needle bar 37 is shown in an upper most position similar to FIG. 5). In FIG. 8, the adjusting shaft 60 has also raised the inner support box 57 to provide a longer needle stroke and the needle bar 37 is shown in a lower most position similar to FIG. 6).

FIG. 9 is a view of the upper needle head 21 and the yam feed mechanism 77 to each of the needles 41, only two yarn flow paths 78 being illustrated for the sake of clarity. Yarn is fed from a yarn spool supply (not shown) via the path 78, through an aperture 79 in an upper guide plate 80. A single aperture 79 is provided for each yarn supplied to a needle 41. Driven cooperating nip rollers 81 draw a uniform length of yam from the yarn spool supply which in this embodiment, provides a uniform length of yarn to all needles 41. The yarn travels through apertures in individual intermediate guide plates 82, 83, through apertures 84 in a lower guide plate 85 to the needles 41 in the modular needle bar 37.

FIG. 10 is a view similar to FIG. 9 except in this case, the individual lengths of yarn are supplied from the yam spools (not shown) through individual adjustable feed mechanism 86 each driven by an individual drive motor 87. Each individual feed mechanism 86 is capable of delivering a selected length of yarn to individual needles 41 in the modular needle bar 37 such that tufted pile of differing heights can be formed with each reciprocation of the bar 37. The adjustable feed mechanisms 86 may be as described and illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 7,478,605 and this disclosure is incorporated into the present description by this reference thereto.

FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate a preferred alternative embodiment for the lower looper member head 22 in which cutting knives 87 are provided in the modular head 22 for each looper member 46. This arrangement can replace the looper head sub assembly 43 when it is desired to produce cut pile with the machine 10. An actuating mechanism 88 is provided for the head 22.

FIGS. 13, 14 and 15 are partial perspective views illustrating operation of the gripper and stretching devices 28 intended to grip and stretch the edge zones 29, 30 of the backing material web in the zone 16 (see FIGS. 1, 2). The mechanism comprises an upper plate 89 with a series of holes 90 formed therein. A lower plate 91 is pivoted about a pivot axis 92 to the upper plate 89 and includes a plurality of spikes 93 formed thereon facing towards the upper plate 89. The plates 89 and 91 have two relative positions, a first (FIG. 13) where the plates are splayed relative to one another freeing the edge zone 29, 30 of the web 24, and a second (FIG. 14) closed or gripping position where the plates 89, 91 are adjacent one another with the spikes 93 passing through the web 24 and into the boles 90 in the upper plate 89. Movement to the closed or gripping position (FIG. 14) is achieved by actuator means operating along line 94 to pivot the lower plate 91 about the pivot axis 92 either towards the closed gripping position (FIG. 14) or away from this position to the open position (FIG. 13). When the device 28 is gripping the web 24, actuators 95 can stretch the web 24 as shown in FIG. 15. Preferably position sensing or control devices (not shown) are utilized to ensure the edge of the web 24 is always stretched to the same position to ensure the pile forming stitches start and finish at the same position. The position sensing or control device might include control means controlling the actuators 95 to ensure they move to the same position each operative actuation. In possible alternative arrangements two spaced gripper and stretching devices 28 might be provided or alternatively larger gripping plates 89, 91 might be utilized with spaced actuators 95 at opposed end regions of the plates 89, 91.

Operation of the machine 10 is generally as follows. The upper needle head 21 and the lower looper head 22 arc driven from one side of the web 24 to the other while each of the needles 41 are repeatedly reciprocated to form tufted pile across the web 24. While this occurs, the devices 28 have been engaged to grip the edges 29, 30 and to stretch the web 24. On the completion of each run, the yarn lengths are withdrawn from the backing web 24 (cut pile) or for loop pile cut by a mechanism 95 shown in greater detail in FIGS. 16 and 17 and the devices 28 release the edges 29, 30 of the web 24. FIGS. 16 and 17 show a yarn cutting mechanism 95 mounted to a lower zone of the needle head 21. The mechanism 95 includes a frame 96 defining a guide track 97 generally parallel to the array of needles 41. A cutter blade 98 is mounted on a cutter head 99 and moved along the guide track 97 by an actuator or drive motor 100 to cut yarn lengths supplied to the needles 41 at the end of a stitching run. This would normally be required only at the end of a stitching run to produce loop pile.

At the end of a stitching run of the heads 21, 22, the heads 21, 22 are driven back to the starting side of the backing material web 24 and the web 24 is indexed on to allow the process to be repeated.

Conveniently the machine includes a register marking device 101 shown in FIGS. 18 to 21 to mark a position line on the backing material web, preferably adjacent the last row of yarn stitches formed on the backing material web 24. The register marking device 101 comprises a pivotal frame 102 with a forward support bar 103. The frame 102 is pivotal via actuating means not shown to move the support bar 103 from an operative position generally as shown to a slightly elevated non-operative position. The device 101 includes a marker device 104 such as a marker pen or similar supported from the support bar 103 and adapted to apply a marker such as a marker line 105 to the backing material web 24. Spaced from the marker device 104 approximately the distance of the array of needles 41 and also mounted to the support bar 103 is a position sensing means 106 which may be a camera device or similar. The position sensing means 106 has a sufficient field of vision in the direction of the array of needles 41 so as to have the capability of sensing a marker line 105 previously applied to the web 24, In use, the marker device 104 and position sensing means 106 are located just forward of the array of needles 41. FIG. 18 shows the needle bead 21 at a start of stitching position with the marker device 104 in a down position to apply the marker line 105 to the web 24. In this drawing, the needle head is about to commence a first stitching run comprised of a plurality of stitched rows, one for each needle 41 in the array. The marker line 105 is positioned a precise distance to the left on the drawing) of the left hand most needle 41 in the array of needles 41. FIG. 19 shows the needle head 21 in a similar position to FIG. 18 but after the needle head has formed at least one previous group 108 of stitching rows. As shown in FIG. 20 the needle head 21 has been moved back to a start position and the web 24 has been indexed on with the position sensing means 106 sensing the marker line 105 previously formed and in response thereto the needle head 21, or the array of needles 41 in the head, or the web 24 is adjusted in position correctly align the needles 41 with the last stitching rows in the last group 108 so that there are no gaps or over stitching when a new group of stitching rows is formed. FIG. 21 shows the needle head 21 at an end of a stitching run where the needle array is raised and the support bar 103 is raised allowing the backing material web 24 to be indexed to the right in the drawing. In this position the position sensing device 106 and the marker device 104 are in a raised inoperative position so that needle head 21 can be moved back to a start position (FIG. 18).

As can be recognized, because multiple needles are simultaneously producing stitches of yarn to form tufted pile, the process is reasonably quick. Moreover the machine does permit any size (width) of tufted pile product, limited only by the support means for the backing material web 24. The structures described in the foregoing allows relatively easy adjustment of the yarns used, the height of the pile formed, variability in the height of the pile formed, and variability in the colour patterns of the tufted pile product that can be produced.