Field of the Invention
This invention relates to floor coverings, including carpet
and carpet tile and resilient sheet and tile products such as vinyl flooring, and
a machine and method of making these floor coverings.
Background of the Invention
Modules of stone, brick, concrete, tile and other refractory
products have long been used for flooring. Many such products are installed with
a cementitious material like mortar, called "grout" between modules, and such grouted
regions are quite prominent and substantially contribute to the appearance of the
finished floor. Some resilient flooring such as vinyl flooring has long mimicked
the appearance of tile modules with grout between the tiles, even in roll goods
of substantial width having very few actual seams. However, textile face floor covering
like carpet and carpet tile has generally sought to hide the seams between adjacent
modules or other floor covering components, striving for "invisible" seams.
Floor covering, including carpet, is produced in modular
or tile forms as well as in broadloom or roll goods. Substantial effort has been
devoted to making seams between abutting roll goods and tile edges invisible or
at least difficult to see, so that a visually continuous expanse of floor covering
is seen. Upstanding yarn pile products facilitate hiding seams because of the tendency
of the pile on opposite sides of a seam to intermingle.
Additionally, carpet seams or the edges of carpet tiles
are susceptible to fraying or raveling. Such fraying or raveling creates an unpleasant
appearance and reduces the life of the carpet. Fraying or raveling problems are
increased with flooring consisting of a thin or low face weight, textile fiber based
face. Flooring with a flat woven face fabric makes it particularly difficult to
hide seams because there is no upstanding pile that can intermingle.
Such thin flooring provides many advantages such as resiliency
to deformation caused by heavy loads, reduction in the amount of materials required
to produce the carpet, increased durability, and design flexibility available from
woven face fabrics. One drawback of these carpets is that due to the thin nature
of the top layer and the resulting flat appearance it is difficult to provide a
three dimensional appearance with some portions of the floor covering surface higher
Document Patent Abstracts of Japan, Vol. 1 S, No. 302,
2nd August 1991 (&JP-A―03112511) discloses "a tile-like nap raising
fiber floor material 1 is formed so that a pressing portion with a lower nap raising
than the nap raising of an adjacent portion is provided on the end portion".
Document Database WPI Section Ch Week 198441 XP 002137953
discloses "A carpet is cut into required shape. Heat and pressure are applied to
the edge the pile face on the carpet with a suitable width. This forms a pile recessed
section along the edge.".
Summary of the Invention
According to the present invention, a method for imparting
an edge appearance in the upper textile fiber face of a flooring module by the step
of treating edges of a module comprises the steps of effecting relative longitudinal
movement of a treating head and edges of a flooring module (42);and treating upper
textile face edges of the flooring module to produce the visual appearance of a
grouted edge by coloring and/or elevating the temperature with energy and/or impregnating
or plasticizing and/or compressing or consolidating.
Also according to the present invention, apparatus for
imparting an edge appearance in the upper textile fiber face of a flooring module
comprises a treating head operative in use to treat edges of a module and means
to effect relative movement between the treating head and the module wherein said
relative means comprise a conveyor for moving one of the flooring module and a treating
head to effect relative longitudinal movement between the treating head (30) and
flooring module edges; and, the treating head comprises a heat source or heat gun
or a hot air gun or a glue gun or a die coater or an embosser or a laser; whereby,
in use, the visual appearance of a grouted edge can be produced in top edges of
Embodiments of the present invention are set forth in the
appended, dependent claims.
This invention addresses the issues associated with seams
or abutting regions of adjacent floor covering pieces or modules by doing exactly
the opposite of one of the objects of great effort in the arts of manufacture and
installation of textile face floor coverings. Rather than seeking to make seams
invisible, the location of such seams is emphasized, so that the appearance created
is of modular units with clear demarcation between adjacent units, somewhat similar
to the appearance of traditional ceramic tile with grouted regions between adjacent
Such border regions between carpet or other textile floor
covering tiles or modules are created by treating a peripheral region around the
entire module so that it is visually different from the remainder of the tile or
module. Each module for a floor area is treated similarly so that when the edges
of all the modules are placed together a consistent edge region is created at the
edges of each module. The region formed by adjacent treated portions of modules
greatly decreases the noticability of the "seam" or demarcation between modules.
This "grouted edge treatment" can be accomplished in a number of different ways,
including "manual" and automated ones.
Among other alternatives for accomplishing this flooring
modular edge treatment are one or a combination of (1) use of a colorant such as
a dye, ink or pigment, (2) treatment of the edge with energy to elevate the temperature
enough to cause at least a change in appearance, and (3) impregnating or otherwise
treating the region with a plastic material such as a thermoplastic like a hot melt
adhesive. Treatment with energy and use of a hot melt adhesive can bond face fabric
fibers, thereby consolidating the fiber. Hot melt adhesive on adjacent tile or module
edges can be reheated after tile installation to bond adjacent tiles edge-to-edge
and create a water-impervious floor covering as well as a grout-like appearance.
Such edge treatment could also potentially be accomplished
by transferring color onto a carpet or other flooring surface, such as by using
a sublimatic transfer printer in which a vacuum is created so that dye stuffs sublimate
from paper onto carpet.
Module edges can be treated with or without additional
colorants or other materials such as hot melt adhesives separately or simultaneously;
progressively or an entire edge at a time; before, after or during cutting the module
from a floor covering web; and by moving a module past one or more treating devices
or by moving the treating device (s) past the module.
Relatively high speed production of modules having the
grouted edge appearance of this invention may be accomplished by conveying a tile
past treating stations such as hot air guns or devices for applying hot melt adhesive
or colorant. Two such stations can treat opposed edges of a square or rectangle
tile while the tile is conveyed in a first direction. Two more stations can then
treat the remaining two edges while the tile is conveyed in a direction orthogonal
to the first direction or after rotating the tile 90 degrees.
In summary, possible techniques and devices for achieving
the "grouted edge treatment" of this invention include:
- 1. Ultrasonic etchers;
- 2. Lasers;
- 3. Hot air guns;
- 4. Hot air knives;
- 5. Hot rolls;
- 6. Textured hot rolls;
- 7. Hot elements other than rolls, such as hot plates and bars;
- 8. Polyvinylchloride ink;
- 9. Flexographic ink;
- 10. Other inking processes;
- 11. Chemical application (e. g. dyes);
- 12. Chemical burning of the yarn;
- 13. Chemical alteration of the edges; and
- 14. Topical chemical application spray, roller, flick roll, lick roll, transfer
coated, film transfer, etc.
Another feature of this invention includes changing the
color, gloss and texture of the module utilizing heat guns, die coaters and embossers.
In still another feature of this invention, other treating
methods, such as, for instance, impulse heating, radio frequency sealing or lasers
are utilized to create a tile having a grouted appearance edge.
Brief Description of the Drawings
Detailed Description of the Invention
- Figure 1 is a perspective view of treated flooring modules placed together forming
a floor covering.
- Figure 2 is a side elevation, schematic view of a tile treated in accordance
with this invention.
- Figure 3 is a side elevation, schematic view of edge-to-edge bonding of a flooring
module of this invention.
- Figure 4 is a side elevation, schematic view of fabric-to-fabric bonding of
- Figure 5 is a perspective view of treated flooring modules and a heat source
utilized with a "manual" embodiment of this invention.
- Figure 6 is a side elevation schematic view of a hand apparatus including a
hot air gun utilized in the "manual" embodiment of imparting a treated edge to a
- Figures 7A and 7B are top plan views of an apparatus including conveyor belts
and heat guns for producing a grouted appearance edge on modular flooring.
- Figure 8 is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the apparatus of Figures
7A and 7B showing one of the heat guns.
- Figure 9 is a top plan view of another embodiment of this invention showing
an apparatus for providing a module having a grouted appearance edge tile including
a textured surface that can be made in a variety of colors.
- Figure 10 is a perspective view of a die coater usable to apply hot melt adhesive
in the embodiment of this invention depicted in Figure 9.
This invention provides textile fiber face modular and
broadloom or roll goods flooring having edges treated with a "grouted-edge" appearance
and machinery and methods for making the flooring. Alternatives for accomplishing
this modular flooring include both "manual" and automatic embodiments.
Figure 1 illustrates a perspective view of several tiles
42 placed together. Each tile 42 has the "grouted edge treatment"70. The treated
edge 70 is represented in Figure 1 by the shaded portion of the tiles 42. As shown
in Figure 1, the tiles 42 are aligned such that the edges create a grout-like appearance
II. Edge Treated Floor Covering Structure and Installation
Figure 2 shows a side elevation, schematic (not to scale)
view of roll goods or modular flooring, such as tiles 42, treated in accordance
with this invention. The flooring material such as a tile 42 has a top or face layer
72 of textile material, such as woven fabric, tufted fibers, looped fibers, knitted
fibers, fusion bonded fibers or another structure. Face layer 72 could include a
precoat. An example of a woven fabric usable for layer 72 is disclosed in International
Application No. PCT/US98/21487, entitled "Floor Covering With Woven Face, "dated
October 13,1998. A backing layer 74 and a resilient layer 76 lie under the face
material 72. The flooring material 42 has a region 78 at both sides of the cross
section that are different in appearance and may be lower than the nontreated portion
of the flooring material 42.
The edge treatment of this invention using any of the methods
described here can occur after the product has been cut into modules or, in the
case of modules produced from a web, can occur before the web carpet is cut into
modules or tiles.
If the appearance of smaller modules than the entire tile
size is desired, a treatment similar to the edge treatment can also be applied across
the tile, making it appear that a single module actually is a larger number of smaller
modules. For instance, if a marking centered side to side in a square or rectangular
tile is positioned between each pair of opposed edges, the tile will appear to be
divided into four smaller tiles. Any of the "grouted edge" treatments described
here could also be used to create patterns on the face of the tiles in order to
give the tile surface a three dimensional appearance.
An alternative and or additional way of achieving the desired
"grouted edge" treatment is to use additional "grout-like" material between adjacent
edges of floor covering, such as conventional cementitious grout. Such filler materials
may not necessarily be conventional grout but instead can be, for instance, hot
melt adhesives, glue and a wide variety of polymeric materials including, in particular;
polymers the same as, or compatible with the polymer (s) that form the floor covering.
Such "grouts" can serve not only aesthetic functions but also utilitarian ones.
They can bond the floor covering to underlying floor, serve as a moisture barrier,
seal floor covering edges and provide enhanced strength, among other things.
Such "grout" material is illustrated in Figure 3 as glue
86, which can be placed on the carpet in several ways. Figure 3 shows a side elevation,
schematic (not to scale) view of backing-to-backing bonding of tiles. This application
is particularly appropriate for flooring having relatively thin face fabric. In
this case the glue 86 is placed not only on the face of the flooring at the perimeter
78 of the tile 42, but also on the edge 88 of each tile 42. Immediately before or
after the tiles 42 are placed side by side, a heat gun or other heat source is utilized
to heat the glue 86 on the perimeter 78 and edge 88 of adjacent tiles so that the
adhesive flows and bonds together. Thus, the two tiles 42 bond not only the upper-to-upper
face fibers, but also side-to-side and backing-to-backing.
Figure 4 shows a side elevation, schematic (not to scale)
view of fabric-to-fabric bonding of tiles 42. For an application that involves pile
carpet, among other situations, it may be more appropriate to apply glue 86 only
to the upper fibers of the perimeter 78 of the tile 42. When the top side perimeter
of each tile 42 is heated, the glue 86 melts and bonds pile-to-pile or fabric-to-fabric
of adjacent tiles.
When the tiles 42 are installed in the field, the edge
region of the tiles 42 may be reheated to melt or fuse abutting edges together by
fusing the hot melt adhesive, which: (1) creates a bond between the tiles, thereby
provides a moisture impermeable floor covering and (2) hides the seam between tiles
and enhances the grout-like appearance.
Both backing-to-backing and fabric-to-fabric bonding allows
the glue gun or hot melt adhesive application to provide a tile with the grout-like
edge appearance having the tile-to-tile bonded capabilities and moisture barrier.
III. Techniques for Producing Grouted-Edge Appearance
The floor covering of this invention can be produced utilizing
a wide variety of techniques.
A. Hot Air
The floor covering of this invention can be produced utilizing
hot air that is directed against a peripheral portion of the floor covering 42 to
melt, consolidate and discolor a portion of the face as illustrated in Figure 5.
Methods and apparatus for such treatment is described in detail in sections B-F
B. Hot Melt Adhesive Treatment
A glue gun can extrude a "ribbon" of hot melt adhesive
through a small slot positioned adjacent to the tile 42 portion being treated to
provide a grout-like appearance on the tile 42. Such a glue gun is available as
a model HA2 one module slot coater applicator used in conjunction with a STS 50-4H
hot melt supply unit from Suretack Systems, a division of Crist Company, 201F Bell
Place, Woodstock, GA 30188. The glue gun includes an extruder for releasing stored
glue and a heat source for heating the glue. The glue gun applies glue to the four
edges of a tile 42. The glue can be applied to the eriphery of the square tiles
from a few hundredths of an inch (one hundredth of an inch = 0,254 mm) up to an
eighth of an inch (3,18 mm) or more, providing a grout-like region of twice that
width when two tiles are placed adjacent to each other. Preheating at least the
portion of the tiles 42 on which hot melt adhesive is applied may be desirable to
slow cooling of adhesive and facilitate deeper penetration of the face fibers 78
of tile 42. This provides for maximum penetration and consolidation of the fibers.
An appropriate hot melt coating based on EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) is product 52-428
supplied by The Reynolds Company, 10 Gates Street, P. O. Box 1925, Greenville, SC
29602. Hot melts and comparable alternatives can include the following ingredients:
ethylene vinyl acetate polymer; styrene butadiene polymer; polyolefin polymers;
styrene isoprene polymer; petroleum derived tackifying resins; rosin derived tackifying
resins; paraffin waxes and oils; terpene derived tackifying resins; microcrystalline
waxes and oils; napthanic waxes and oils and polyamide resins.
C. Impulse Heating
Impulse heating may also be utilized to create a grouted
appearance edge on a flooring module. The impulse heating apparatus includes a brass
bar that is heated by resistance heating. The bar surface adjacent to the flooring
module may be covered by Teflon® tape. Vertrod Corporation, Brooklyn, New York
provides impulse heating machinery suitable for use with this invention. In operation,
the brass bar optimally covered with Teflon@ tape contacts the module then high
voltage electricity heats the module edge and the bar releases. The cycle time required
to treat a module is a function of the pigments, depth and type of carpet tile module
Impulse heating may also be used on a flooring web in conjunction
with a die cutting apparatus for cutting the web into tiles or modules. By positioning
impulse heating bars adjacent to die cutting blades or knives, a web of flooring
material may be cut and the module heat treated in one step.
D. Radio Frequency Sealing
Radio frequency sealing may also be utilized to treat the
edges of the module. A thermoplastic tape or film is applied to the edge of the
module and radio frequency energy passes from a transmitter through the module to
a receiver, heating the module and tape. Radio frequency sealers available from
Kabar Manufacturing Corp., Farmingdale, NY and tape material such as Thermx™
polyester made by Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN are suitable products
for use with this invention.
Tapes in a variety of colors can be utilized with both
impulse heating and radio frequency sealing to provide a decorative module edge
finish. Suitable tapes include unsupported films and supported films. Unsupported
films (i. e. adhesives) can include a chemical composite such as, for example, olefinic
polymers, unsaturated polyester or polyamides (i. e. nylon). Bemis Associates Inc.,
Shirley, MA provides suitable unsupported films. Supported film has an adhesive
and a supporting layer. The supporting layer can include another fabric or film
(or mylar) that is not thermoplastic. Fabrics that are woven or nonwoven such as,
polyesters, nylons, polypropylene and knits are suitable for use as the supporting
Flocking can also be utilized to provide a treated edge.
Flocking includes a supported film and an upper layer adapted to impart color. In
addition, flocking materials can be affixed to the edge of the module and embossed
to provide a textured, decorative appearance to the module. Fabrex International
Limited, Lancaster Road, Hinkley, Leicestershire, United Kingdom provides suitable
In another embodiment, a laser is utilized to provide the
grout-like edge appearance on flooring modules. Lasers can also be used to "engrave"
more complex patterns on the tile, such as a broken "quarry tile" appearance, and
to engrave "grout lines" in a middle portion of the tile making one tile look like
many. A thermoplastic coating such as, for instance, tape or film, can be applied
to the module before the laser treatment. Such a "grouted-edge" appearance can be
accomplished using the techniques (described for other purposes) set forth in U.
S. Patent No. 4,629,858, entitled "Method For Engraving Carpet And Carpet So Engraved,
IV. Machinery for Treating Floor Covering
A. "Manual" Treating Machine
In a "manual" embodiment of this invention shown in Figure
6, an apparatus 139 for mounting a hot air gun 29, such as, for example, a Leister
Hot Air Welder model number 1G3, available from Heely Brown Company, Inc., Atlanta,
GA. An suitable apparatus is disclosed in provisional patent application entitled
"Hand Apparatus for Imparting Grouted Edge Appearance to Tile Face Floorcoverings,"
filed January 20,2000.
A textile fiber face modular tile or floorcovering 42 is
treated with the hot air gun 29 that is moved along the edge 70 of a stationary
tile 42 (see Fig. 5). The orientation of a tip 140 of the hot air gun 29 provides
for directing air to a peripheral portion of the floorcovering 42. A base plate
142 rests on rollers 144 that contact the floorcovering 42. Arms 146 are adjustably
mounted to project from base plate 142. Each arm 146 terminates in a leg 148 projecting
down, which in turn terminates in a guide roller 150 that bears against the edge
of floorcovering 42 being treated. The guide roller 150 working in cooperation with
the rollers 144 provide control and stability so that an operator can efficiently
impart hot air to the floorcovering 42.
The hot air gun 29 is adjustably mounted on base plate
142 utilizing a sloping gusset or carriage 152 bolted to stanchion 154 with adjustable
fasteners 156 permitting adjustment in the height of hot air gun 29 above floorcovering
42. A handle 158 affixed to stanchion 154 can be useful in operating this apparatus.
A heater bracket 160 adjustably attaches the hot air gun 29 to the stanchion 154.
The air from the hot air gun is delivered through small
holes in the appropriately shaped tip 140 to a peripheral portion of the tile 42
such as a region, for instance, approximately 1/8 (3,18 mm to 6,36 mm) to 1/4 inch
wide (although wider areas may be desirable in some instances) and then pinch rollers
may optionally be used to compress the heated fiber. The tip 140 of the air gun
29 and the pinch rollers move along the edge of the module. In another embodiment,
a heated contact implement similar, for instance, to the tip of a soldering iron
can be briefly brought in contact with a peripheral portion 70 of the tile 42 to
treat that portion. Alternatively, the edge treatment 70 could be accomplished using
infrared radiation or laser light, or by contacting portions of the tile 42 to be
treated with a heated die having the pattern desired to be "imprinted" on the tile.
In another embodiment, a peripheral portion 70 of the tile
42 is treated with an ultrasonic machine, such as an ultrasonic "etching," "welding,"
or "bonding" machine. With ultrasonics, the tile fiber is generally compressed rather
than melted and broken as with a heat treatment. Compressing the face yarn prevents
edge ravel, because the face yarn of the treated region is compressed together.
The compressed face yarn is also depressed below the nontreated yarn creating a
"grout-like" appearance 70 when placed together with similarly treated tiles 42.
Additionally, ink can be used with the ultrasonic machine to change the color of
the treated region. Ultrasonic machines currently used to create designs in textile
products such as mattress covers and quilts can be adapted for this application.
B. "Automatic" Tile Edge Treatment Machine Using Hot Air
Figures 7A and 7B show a top plan view of a production
apparatus or machine 20 for imparting a grouted-edge appearance to square or rectangular
modular flooring, such as a carpet tile or other modules having a textile fiber
face. As shown in Figure 7A, the machine 20 includes a coriveyor line 22, and heat
sources 30,32. A second conveyor line 24 is positioned to be fed by conveyor line
24 at right angles to conveyor line 22.
The conveyor line 22 is positioned to traverse in a substantially
horizontal direction to move modules 42,44 and 47 past the heat sources 30,32 to
treat two opposed edges. A second pair of heat sources 31 and 33 treat the other
pair of opposed module edges on the next conveyer line 24. Each conveyor line 22,24
rests on legs (not shown) which support it at a convenient height for a worker placing
modules on and removing modules from the machine 20. A control box (not shown) has
controls for stopping the machine 20 and for controlling each conveyor line 22,24
and heat sources 30,31,32 and 33. In one embodiment, the heat sources 30,32 are
a heat gun such as a Leister TWINNY Y heat gun or Leister Hot Air Welder model number
1G3. In another embodiment, the heat sources 30,32 are a laser.
Figure 7A shows a top view of flooring tiles 42,44 on the
first conveyor line 22. Tiles are placed on the first conveyor line 22 such that
they are adjacent to (or abut) each other. The conveyor lines 22,24 include fences
46 on each side. The fences 46 serve to position the tiles 42,44 so that the edges
will be properly treated. Spring strips 48 attached to parallel bars 50 affixed
over the conveyor lines 22 and 24 serve to eliminate lifting, curling or puckering
of the tiles 42,44 while traveling along the conveyor lines 22 and 24.
As shown in Figure 7A, two adjacent tiles 42,44 are being
treated by heat guns, 30 and 32, respectively. One edge 49 of the tile 44 was first
treated first by heat gun 30. As the tile 44 progresses along the conveyor line
22, the opposite edge 51 is heat treated by the other heat gun 32. The adjacent
tile 42 is in position to be treated from the heat gun 30. Heat is first applied
to one edge 52 of the tile 42. As tile 42 passes underneath heat gun 32, the opposite
edge 53 of tile 42 will be treated. Spring strips 48 apply slight pressure on the
tiles 42,44 so they remain in position on the conveyor line.22. Tiles 42,44 and
47 are transported along the first conveyor line 22 to a chute 66 that transitions
the tile 47 to the second conveyor line 24.
The downstream end 26 of conveyor line 22 is elevated so
that a tile 47 can drop from conveyor line 22 onto conveyor line 24. The chute 66
receives the tile 47 from the first conveyor line 22 and drops the tile 47 onto
the slide 68 for positioning on the second conveyor line 24. As the tile transfers
from one conveyor line 22 to conveyor line 24, the conveyor line 24 is orthogonal
(i. e., at 90) to the first conveyor line 22 so that a second edge 71 of the tile
47 can be heat treated. Thus, the tile 47 does not turn, but the second pair of
edges is presented for treatment by moving tiles in an orthogonal direction as compared
to their first direction of travel. Conveyor line 22 utilizes two belts 21 and 23
positioned end to-end. Conveyor lines 22 and 24 can be: (1) one or more belts each
or (2) roller conveyors or (3) other types of conveyors. Belt 21 conveys tiles 42,44
past treating stations 30 and 32 and onto belt 23, which operates at a higher speed
than belt 21, thereby separating tiles 42,44 that were abutting when traveling on
belt 21. This separation between tiles at the point where they change direction
even though they abut (or are adjacent to) each other when passing the treating
stations provides time for the tile 47 to drop, and settle in position on the next
conveyor belt 25 and start moving orthogonal to the original direction of travel
without dropping a succeeding tile on top of tile 47. Due to the change in speed,
the tile 47 drops onto belt 25 of conveyor line 24, settles onto conveyor belt 25
and begins traveling in the direction of the next heat source 31 shown in Figure
7B before the next tile 44 drops onto belt 25. Belt 25 of conveyor line 24 may also
be operated at a higher speed to feed belt 27 running at a lower speed.
Alternatively, an apparatus for rotating each module 90
could be used between conveyor lines 22 and 24 so that both conveyor lines 22,24
could move modules in the same direction.
A tile 61 having two treated edges 62 and 64 travels along
the conveyor line 24 to have the remaining two edges 63,67 heat treated. Edge 67
is treated by heat gun 31. As the tile 61 continues to traverse along the conveyor
line 24, the edge 63 will be treated.by the heat gun 33. The result is a tile 73
discharged from belt 27 having all four edges 69,75,77 and 79 heat treated.
Figure 8 shows a close up view of the energy source or
heat gun 30, and illustrates a tile 42 being treated by the heat gun 30. A gap 64
in the conveyor line 22 positioned beneath a nozzle 65 of the heat gun 30 vents
the hot air from heat gun 30. The heat gun 30 includes a narrow slot that allows
for focusing the heated air on the tile 42. The tile 42 travels along the conveyor
line 22 with an edge 52 of the tile 42 adjacent to the fence 46. The heat gun 30
delivers focused hot air and radiant energy to the edge 52 of the tile 42 to produce
a grout line appearance in an area of a desired width, typically between a few hundredths
of an inch (one hundredths of an inch = 0,254 mm) to about one half of an inch (12,7
mm) wide. The nozzle 65 of the heat gun 30 blows air against an edge 52 of the tile
42, causing an indentation 78 in the tile 42, thereby creating a "grouted" edge
appearance. Thus if two tiles 42,44 having grouted edges of one eighth an inch (3,18
mm) in width are positioned side-by-side, the total grout line appearance is about
one quarter an inch (6,36 mm)
The position and inclination of the heat gun 30 is adjustable.
Each heat gun 30,31, 32, and 33 mounts on a pivoting plate 53 that, in turn mounts
on a carriage 55 that is adjustable in height and lateral position. The pivoting
plate 53 is controlled by a threaded rod 54 that can adjust the pivotal position
of the plate 53 on the carriage 55 and, therefore, the inclination of the heat gun
31. The carriage 55 can travel vertically on rods 54,56, and its vertical position
is adjustable with rod 56. The carriage 55 travels horizontally on rods 54, 56,
and its horizontal position is adjustable with rod 57. A cage 62 can be placed around
the heat gun 31 to prevent inadvertent contact with hot surfaces.
C. "Automatic" Machine With Die Coaters and Embossers
Figure 9 is a top plan view of another embodiment of this
invention showing an apparatus 90 similar to apparatus 20 for providing a module
having a grouted appearance edge tile including a textured surface that can be made
in a variety of colors. The apparatus 90 includes heat sources 30, 32, die coaters
92,94, and embossers 100,102. Conveyor lines 108,110 and 112 traverse substantially
horizontally moving modules 115, 116 past the heat sources 30, 32, die coaters 92,94,
and embossers 100,102. The module 116 edge 126 first receives heat treatment from
the heat source 30, such as for instance, a heat gun. The die coater 92 is positioned
adjacent to the heat gun 30 and provides a coating application to the melted edge
126 of the module 115, Figure 10 shows an embodiment of a die coater 92. A suitable
die coater is available from Suretack Systems of Woodstock, Georgia.
Referring to Figure 9, a thermoplastic coating is applied
to the pre-heated end 126 of the module 115. Suitable thermoplastic coatings include,
but are not limited to, polyolefins, polyurethanes, polyesters and polyamides. By
adding a thermoplastic coating to the module 115, a variety of levels of gloss fro
shiny to dull and colors can be added to the module 115. After the thermoplastic
coating has been applied, embossing occurs utilizing the embosser 100. Embossing
involves stamping or impressing a pattern into the module 115. The wheel 101 rolls
over the module 115 creating an engraved pattern appearance while the module 115
is warm and soft.
For example, embossing can create a concrete-like textured
appearance or a module edge that resembles a bound edge. At the end of conveyor
line 110, the module 120 does not turn, but a second pair of edges 130,132 are presented
for treatment by moving tiles in an orthogonal direction as compared to their first
direction of travel (past a second set of heat guns 30,32, die coaters 92,94, and
embossers 100,102 not shown). The result is a module 115 having all edges treated.
The combination of heat guns 30,32, die coaters 92,94, and embossers 100,102, allow
the completed module to have many variations in color, gloss and texture.
Alternatively, a module 115 can be treated only by the
heat guns 30,32, and die coaters 92,94, or a module 115 can be treated by only the
heat guns 30,32, and embossers 100,102. Any combination of heat guns 30,32, die
coaters 92,94, and embossers 100, 102, can be used on a module 115.
In another embodiment, the tile remains stationary on the
apparatus and the energy sources move around the tile, treating the perimeter or
other portions of the tile creating the grout-like appearance edge.
While certain embodiments of this invention have been described
above, these descriptions are given for purposes of illustration and explanation.
Variations, changes, modifications and departures from the systems and methods disclosed
above may be adopted without departure from the scope of this invention.