BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to digitally printed furniture and methods for the manufacture thereof.
2. Description of Prior Art
Consumers of ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture products recognize the lower cost of RTA furniture with a faux wood image in comparison to the higher cost of solid wood furniture. Traditionally, RTA furniture was manufactured with a piece of plastic veneer with a faux wood surface design glued to the furniture structure, comprising precut, wood-based products selected from various densities of particleboard. Components of RTA furniture were generally assembled into furniture after purchase by the consumer. In order to reduce the costs associated with traditional RTA furniture, modern RTA furniture was developed which included a thin plastic coating layer, similar to contact paper, adhered to particleboard or other suitable material. The thin plastic coating layer can be easily peeled away or accidentally cut or damaged, revealing the underlying particleboard or other material. The surface design on the thin plastic coating was a faux wood image that was particularly visible at the juncture points of the sub-components of the furniture where the faux wood designs were unmatched.
Recently, RTA furniture entered a renaissance relating to surface design preparation and furniture finishing. The renaissance involves the creation of RTA furniture with a surface design having a high quality appearance without the high cost of solid wood furniture. These newer versions of RTA furniture have a solid wood appearance, which is the result of printing a surface of the furniture with a graphic design. In particular, RTA desktops have been created by combining several desktop sub-components with different surface pattern designs to create an appearance of a wood inlay design. These RTA desktops require the manufacturing steps of cutting, coating, and assembling of individual sub-components to create a desktop. Upon initial assembly, the desktop appears to be a single piece desktop with a wood inlay surface design. However, through use, the desktop tends to become disjointed as the sub-components and fasteners wear and loosen, adversely affecting the appearance of the wood inlay surface design.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Therefore, a need exists for furniture having a durable laminate surface comprising a high quality surface image of a wood grain or other design that is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and a method for the manufacture thereof.
The present invention provides furniture with a durable laminate surface comprising a high quality surface image of a wood grain or other design that is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and a method for manufacture including a method of lamination thereof.
Generally, the method for manufacturing the furniture comprises the steps of creating a graphic image of a design for printing on paper, digitally printing the graphic image on printer paper initially or later adhered to wood or wood-based furniture substrate, coating the printed paper with a durable ultraviolet protective coating, and finishing the laminated furniture substrate for later assembly.
Creation of the graphic design comprises development of a digital pattern such as a wood grain or other custom design. The digital art development occurs in layers to allow for visual tuning of the color of each element of the pattern. Further visual tuning of the color of the design can also occur at a printer station. Once finalized, the graphic image of the wood grain or other design is digitally printed with a printer onto printer paper.
Printing the graphic image on printer paper comprises use of a large format commercial grade printer capable of large print surface jobs, such as a desktop or other furniture substrate with paper adhered to the surface. The printers are configured to print the graphic image of a wood grain pattern or other custom pattern in one pass onto printer paper adhered to a surface of a furniture substrate. As an alternative to printing a graphic image to printer paper laminated on a wood or wood-based furniture component, the graphic image may be printed on rolled printer paper that is later adhered to the surface of a piece of furniture substrate.
Coating occurs by applying a layer of an ultraviolet protective coating overtop of the exterior surface of the printer paper printed with a graphic image adhered to a furniture substrate. The coating step creates a final laminated surface with a printed graphic image of a graphic design.
The finishing of the laminated furniture substrate comprises cutting and shaping the laminated furniture substrate into corresponding furniture components. Once cut and shaped, the laminated furniture components are edge-banded to protect the underlying furniture substrate, and the laminated furniture components are then further cut and bored to create housings for fastener components in preparation for assembly.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The assembled furniture manufactured from the method has a durable, laminated surface with a high quality printed graphic image of a wood grain pattern or other design.
The patent or application file contains at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent or patent application publication with color drawings will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.
FIG. 1 is a flow chart of the manufacturing method of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a photograph of a desktop surface of an RTA desk manufactured in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 3 is a photograph of a comer of the desktop surface shown in FIG. 2;
FIG. 4A is a sectional view of a desktop made in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 4B is a sectional view of the desktop along line A in FIG. 4A showing layers of the laminated furniture component; and
- DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 5 is a photograph of a desk made in accordance with the present invention.
In reference to the disclosure of the invention, similar references to similar parts are used uniformly throughout the disclosure. For example, the phrase “graphic image” means any wood grain design, a wood grain inlay design such as those shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 5, or another custom design. The phrase “furniture substrate” means any piece of solid wood, wood-based substrate such as any available density of particleboard, or other acceptable furniture substrate known by those skilled in the art that is cut into the primary structural components of a piece of furniture. The words “laminated” and “lamination” mean the composite layers of adhesive, printer paper, printed graphic image and protective coating used to create a laminated surface on the underlying furniture substrate in accordance with the present invention. The phrases “furniture component” and “corresponding furniture components” mean any or all pieces of laminated furniture substrates that are used to assemble a desk 42 as shown in FIG. 5, credenza, bookshelf or any other piece of furniture.
Referring to FIG. 1, the present invention comprises a method of manufacturing furniture and method of laminating a furniture substrate to provide a durable, laminated surface comprising a high-quality printed graphic image of a wood grain design, a wood grain inlay design or other custom graphic design, for ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture. However, the use of the method is not limited solely to the manufacture of RTA furniture and may also be used to manufacture other furniture. Particularly, in reference to FIGS. 2-5, the present invention also provides an RTA furniture product with at least one exterior surface, such as a desktop, drawer front or door, with a laminated surface comprising a coated high quality printed graphic image printed on printer paper adhered to at least one surface of a furniture substrate of the RTA furniture product.
Specifically, referring to FIG. 1, the method of the present invention comprises the step 2 of designing a high quality graphic image. After the step 6 of adhering paper to a furniture substrate, the method comprises the step 10 of printing the graphic image with a large format printer in one pass onto printer paper 24 adhered 6 with adhesive 22 to a furniture substrate 20. See FIG. 4B. Alternatively, the method comprises the step 4 of printing the graphic image onto printer paper 24 and the step 8 of later adhering the paper 24 to a furniture substrate 20. Thereafter, the method comprises the step 12 of coating a printed graphic image 26 on printer paper 24 with an ultraviolet protective coating 28, as shown in FIGS. 4A-B. The protective coating 28 is an outermost surface layer 30 of laminated surface 32 on the furniture substrate 20 and is, therefore, characteristically durable. Finally, the method comprises the further step 14 of finishing the furniture substrate 20 with the laminated surface 32. The finishing step 14 comprises cutting the furniture substrate 20 into desired dimensions to create corresponding furniture components 34 and adhering an edge band 38 along edges 36 of furniture components 34, as shown in FIGS. 4A-B. When finished, the corresponding furniture components are adapted to receive fasteners capable of attaching related furniture components into a piece of furniture, such as desk 42 shown in FIG. 5.
The step 2 of developing the graphic image is the most time-consuming step of the method of the present invention. A schematic of a design pattern is conceived and then embodied in a graphic format using an available computer-based software program capable of high quality graphic design. Additional computer hardware such as a scanner may be used to scan elements of a design to incorporate into the development of a design pattern in graphic format. The design may be a wood grain pattern, such as oak, maple or other wood, with a particular color tone and visual depth. The design may also be a compilation of various wood grain graphic images showing an inlay wood design pattern, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Furthermore, the design may also be a graphic image of a corporate logo, government seal or other custom design pattern with an optional, single color or wood grain design as a visual backdrop in the design. Essentially, the design that is developed for incorporation into the laminated surface 32 can embody nearly limitless visual configurations.
Step 2 of developing the conceived image into graphic format occurs by layering visual elements of the image into a graphic design. The visual components are layered in graphic form so that the various layers may be tuned visually to create a high quality graphic image that may appear to be real wood when printed to printer paper 24 in accordance with the invention. The visual tuning of the image involves adjusting characteristics of the layered components such as color, contrast and other visual characteristics with the software program used in the design development. For example, Adobe® Photoshop® and CAD 18 software programs are suitable for development of graphic images. Other suitable software programs will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Layering the visual components of the design also provides a richness of color and visual depth in the appearance of the printed graphic image 26, as shown in FIG. 2. Further visual tuning of the design may occur after printing the graphic image at a printer station until the design is in an acceptable final form as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Once finalized, the graphic image of the pattern is used to print consistent patterns on printer paper 24 during manufacture of furniture components. The graphic image may be archived in a storable digital format for later applications.
Referring to FIG. 1, the alternative steps 4,10 of digitally printing the finalized graphic image on printer paper involves use of a large format commercial grade digital printer capable of printing on large surfaces. Suitable commercial grade printers for printing in accordance with the present invention are sold by Leggett & Platt Inc. Any other suitable printer will also be apparent to those skilled in the art. The printer is used for digitally printing the graphic image onto a desktop 40, shelf top, door, drawer front or other furniture component having printer paper 24 adhered with adhesive 22 to the furniture substrate 20. Alternatively, the printer is used for digitally printing, as in step 4, the graphic image onto printer paper 24 that is later adhered with adhesive 22 to a furniture substrate 20, as in step 8. An example of suitable printer paper 24 is a double calendered, 70# paper manufactured by the Millcraft Paper Company. Other suitable printer paper 24 will be apparent to those skilled in the art. A key advantage to the present invention is the capability of the large format printer to print a high quality image in a single pass onto printer paper 24, rather than in multiple passes over the printer paper 24. The single pass printing provides a high quality printed graphic image 26 with a rich color and visual depth without adding a time-intensive manufacturing step.
Whether pre-printed with a graphic image or blank, the printer paper 24 is adhered with an adhesive 22 to the corresponding furniture substrate 20 through an adhesion process. The adhesion step 6 or 8 involves applying an adhesive 22 to either the printer paper 24 or the surface of the furniture substrate 20. An example of a suitable adhesive 24 is a water-based adhesive for membrane application sold by the Jowat Corporation. The adhesion step also involves pressing the printer paper 24 against the furniture substrate 20 with the adhesive 22 sandwiched between the printer paper 24 and the furniture substrate 20. A suitable pressing machine is a veneer press manufactured by Wehoner. During the adhesion step 6 or 8, the furniture substrate may be either uncut or pre-cut to close to the final dimension of the furniture component 34.
The step 12 of coating the exterior surface of the printer paper 24 with a protective layer involves applying a layer of an ultraviolet protective coating 28 to the printed graphic image 26 on the printer paper 24 adhered to the underlying furniture substrate 20. A suitable protective coating sold by the Valspar Corporation is a 100% solids, acrylated coating that is sprayable. Other suitable protective coatings will be apparent to a skilled artisan. The coating step 12 is the final step in creating a laminated surface 32 on a furniture substrate 20. Overall, as shown specifically in FIG. 4B, the laminated surface 32 of the furniture substrate 20 comprises at least one exterior layer of protective coating 28 overlying a printed graphic image 26 on printer paper 24 adhered with an adhesive 22 to an underlying furniture substrate 20.
The step 14 for finishing the furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32 involves several processing steps. The furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32, whether uncut or precut, is shaped and cut with suitable wood shaping devices, such as saws and sanders, into final dimensions to correspond with related furniture components 34 used to assemble a piece of furniture such as a desk 42, as shown in FIG. 5. Edge bands 38 are then adhered with an adhesive 22 and other suitable fasteners, such as nails or staples, to an edge 36 of the furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32. The edge band 38 is used to cover and to protect the edge 36 of the furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32. The edge band 38 comprises wood or other acceptable material capable of covering and protecting an edge 36 of the furniture components 34. Holes and related receiving spaces are provided in the furniture components 34. The holes and receiving spaces provide housings for fasteners and attachment devices used by those skilled in the art to connect a furniture component 34 with corresponding furniture components 34, which may also be furniture substrates 20 with laminated surfaces 32 in accordance with the present invention.
Referring to FIGS. 2-5, furniture manufactured by the method of the present invention may be a desk 42 (as shown in FIG. 5), a credenza, a bookshelf, a hutch, a table, an entertainment unit or any other piece of furniture in a form ready to assemble or, alternatively, already assembled. At least one exterior surface of a furniture component 34, such as a desktop 40, comprises a furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32 in accordance with the present invention as shown particularly in FIG. 4B, which is a close up view of the desktop 40 cut along line A. In fact, all exterior surfaces of the furniture components 34 may be a furniture substrate 20 with a laminated surface 32 in accordance with the present invention. For example, as shown in FIGS. 2-5, a desktop 40 of a desk 42 may have a laminated surface 32 comprising a printed graphic image 26 of a wood inlay design, while other exterior surfaces of the desk 42 have a design matching the printed graphic image 26 of a wood inlay design of the desktop 40. Additionally, all of the exterior surfaces of a desk 42 may have laminated surfaces 32 comprising a wood design to make the desk 42 appear as if made from solid wood as shown in FIG. 5. In another embodiment, the doors of a credenza may have laminated surfaces with a wood inlay design, while all other exterior surfaces of the desk may have a wood design matching elements of the wood inlay design. In yet another embodiment, a surface of a table may have a laminated surface with a printed corporate logo or government agency seal on a solid color or wood design background. In accordance with the invention, the furniture product may have any combination of printed graphic designs in the laminated surface on a furniture substrate.
Referring to FIGS. 4A-B, the invention provides that the furniture component 34, such as a desktop 40, has an edge band 38 attached by an adhesive 22 or other suitable attachment, including nails or staples, along the edge 36 of the desktop 40. The edge band 38 may be any desired type of wood, such as oak, maple or other suitable wood, that is stained and coated with a protective coating 28 to color match the wood design in the laminated surface 32 of a furniture substrate 20. The edge band 38 may be shaped into a variety of dimensions by cutting and routing the edge band 38 to create a desired three-dimensional appearance for a piece of furniture made in accordance with the invention. Essentially, the edge band 38 covers and protects the exposed edge 36 of the furniture substrate 20 that is not laminated, while also finishing the furniture components 34. For example, the edge 36 of a desktop 40 will have an edge band 38 that is cut and routed to a size to cover the edge 36 of the desktop 40, while also having mitered ends to create a finished corner of the desktop 40. In addition, the edge 36 of a furniture component 34 used as a vertical support, such as a side or front of a desk, credenza or bookshelf, will have an edge band 38 sized to cover the edge 36 of the laminated surface 32 of the furniture substrate 20. Furthermore, the edge 36 of a table top will have an edge band 38 cut to cover the edge 36 of the table top and will have mitered corners to create a finished appearance. Additional wood stripping may be attached with an adhesive or other fasteners, such as nails or staples, to create any three-dimensional design feature on any laminated surface 32 of a furniture component 34.
All corresponding furniture components made in accordance with the present invention are cut and bored in appropriate locations to house screws and other suitable fasteners used by those skilled in the art to assemble the furniture components into a piece of furniture. For example, bore holes are provided to mount slide mechanisms with screws and handles with bolts for a drawer, hinges for a door and any other relevant components of a piece of furniture. In addition, cuts and holes are provided in the furniture components to house suitable fasteners for assembling components into a piece of furniture. The components of the furniture are adapted to receive fasteners and other functional hardware such as handles, hinges and the like, known in the art, to assemble the components of furniture manufactured in accordance with the invention.
Having described preferred embodiments of the invention, additional embodiments, adaptations, variations, modifications and equivalent arrangements will be apparent to those skilled in the art. These and other embodiments apparent to those skilled in the art will be understood to be within the scope of the appended claims.