Patent application title: EMBROIDERY WORKSTATION UTILITY CART
Anthony A. Breen (Walpole, MA, US)
David A. Goldman (Bedford, MA, US)
Kristen R. Frias (Haverhill, MA, US)
IPC8 Class: AD05C300FI
Class name: Sewing special machines embroidering
Publication date: 2012-04-26
Patent application number: 20120097081
An embroidery workstation utility cart for optimizing the positioning of
supports for the embroidery machine, thread spool rack, monitor,
workpiece queue, and other accessories desired for optimal embroidery
1. An embroidery workstation utility cart, comprising: a thread spool
rack support configured to support a thread spool rack; and a monitor
support configured to support a monitor in one or more positions relative
the thread spool rack support; and wherein the thread spool rack and the
monitor support are integrated into a single unit.
2. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 1, wherein the monitor support comprises an adjustable arm which allows a monitor supported thereon to be moved to a plurality of different positions.
3. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 2, wherein the adjustable arm is configured to raise and lower a monitor supported thereon in a space above an embroidery machine when the embroidery machine is situated adjacent the embroidery workstation utility cart.
4. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 1, comprising: a frame integrating the embroidery machine support, the monitor support, and the thread spool rack support as a single unit.
5. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 4, wherein the frame comprises one or more wheels positioned at the bottom of the frame and configured to allow the cart to be rolled from one position to another.
6. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 4, wherein the frame comprises a steel frame.
7. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 1, further comprising one or more trays configured to support one or more accessories.
8. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 1, further comprising a bar for hanging one or more garments.
9. The embroidery workstation utility cart of claim 1, further comprising: an embroidery machine support configured to hold the embroidery machine.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates generally to embroidery workstation efficiency, and more particularly to an embroidery workstation utility cart designed for optimal embroidery processing efficiency and operator ergonomics.
 Methods, systems, and techniques for computer-assisted embroidery are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,836,695 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 7,016,756 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 6,947,808 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 7,016,757 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 7,587,256 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 6,804,573 to Goldman, U.S. Pat. No. 6,397,120 to Goldman, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2010-0191364 A1 to Goldman, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2007-0118245 A1 to Goldman et al., U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2010-0017011 A1 to Goldman et al., U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2008-0079727 A1 to Goldman et al., each of which is incorporated by reference herein for all that they teach.
 Modern embroidery is commonly created on sewing equipment that pairs a sewing mechanism with a means for synchronously moving a textile beneath that sewing mechanism. More specifically, a textile is moved in forward, back, left, or right directions while the sewing mechanism embeds stitches of thread within that textile having locations dictated by the aforementioned movements. Thus, as the process progresses a pattern of stitching emerges that is designed to represent a particular image or graphic. Embroidered designs are quite common on a wide variety of garments or products such as baseball caps, sweaters, or golf shirts. Furthermore, these designs are often produced such that they contain a variety of different thread colors to best represent the aesthetics of the graphic being depicted. For example, an embroidery design depicting the image of a basketball might use orange thread stitching to depict the round circular area of the ball and then use smaller black thread stitching to depict the outline and other black lines that are present within the ball's image. Thus, two different thread colors, orange and black, are utilized to create embroidery representing the basketball design. As designs become more complex or sophisticated, designs may require an even greater number of different thread colors. In fact, many embroidery designs may require more than a dozen unique colors of thread to be produced, where each different part of the design is embroidered using a different thread color.
 Modern embroidery equipment exists to easily produce multiple thread color designs by allowing more than one thread color to be loaded onto the equipment at a single time. In fact, many machines allow 6 or more different spools of uniquely colored thread to be placed on the equipment allowing it to automatically transition to embroidering with a different thread color at varying times during the production of a design. However, it is impractical for such embroidery equipment to hold (or have loaded) an unlimited number of thread colors and modern embroidery equipment usually does not allow more than approximately 15 unique thread colors to be loaded at a single time. This instigates an issue where from a potentially infinite palette of colors, thread manufactures have created many hundreds of unique thread colors, no more than a very limited set of those colors can be loaded onto embroidery equipment at a single time (e.g. perhaps 15 thread colors at once). Subsequently, producing designs that use a larger number of thread colors than can be loaded onto equipment is significantly more difficult or impractical. Furthermore, if one embroidery design requires a specific subset of thread colors to be loaded onto the machine, a different embroidery design may require a different subset of thread colors. While those two subsets of thread colors may overlap (i.e., both subsets may contain a black thread color for example), the differences in the subsets will require certain spools of thread to be removed from the equipment so that new spools of different colors may be loaded such that the different embroidery design may be produced.
 Within many typical manufacturing environments the subset of thread colors loaded onto embroidery equipment is constantly changing to meet the requirements of the specific embroidery designs being produced. For example, if an embroidery machine can only hold two different thread colors at once and is producing a basketball design that uses orange and black colored thread, if the next design is one of a baseball design requiring white and red colored thread, both the black and orange colored threads must be removed from the machine and replaced with white and red colored threads before that baseball design may be produced.
 The replacement of a thread color currently loaded onto a machine with a different new thread color is typically a manual process whereby a machine operator (i.e., a person in charge of running the equipment) must remove a spool of thread currently sitting within a holder and threaded into the mechanics of the equipment and then put a new spool of thread in its place such that it then feeds into those same mechanics. For example, referring to FIG. 1, there is depicted an embroidery equipment operator 2 present to maintain and operate an embroidery machine 10 and to prepare textile workpieces 4 (such as t-shirts) for embroidery by the embroidery machine 10. Preparation of the workpieces 4 may involve mounting workpieces in frames or hoops 6 which hold taut areas of the textile to be embroidered. The operator 2 also monitors and changes out thread spools between a thread spool rack 20 and spindles on the embroidery machine.
 Referring to FIG. 1, an embroidery machine 10 typically holds spools of thread 30 using some organization of spindles, for example on spool spindles 12. A thread spool rack 20 for storing thread spools 30 on dowels or spindles 22 may be located nearby to allow the operator to switch out spools of thread of colors not being used in current or upcoming embroidery jobs with spools 30 needed by the embroidery machine 10 in current and upcoming embroidery jobs. Notably, the thread spool rack 20 is located independent of the embroidery machine and embroidery job operations screen.
 In industrial embroidery manufacturing, various embroidery manufacturing jobs are managed by a computerized scheduler/controller 90. The scheduler/controller 90 may be a complex multi-user computing system or a single user device such as a personal computer, workstation, laptop, notepad, tablet, PDA, cellular phone, or other such device. In general, the scheduler/controller 90 receives multiple embroidery jobs corresponding to orders for various embroidered items, determines which embroidery machines on a manufacturing floor (not shown) get which jobs and in what order, and sends embroidery jobs to a local computerized workstation 50 corresponding to the embroidery machine 10 that is to perform a corresponding embroidery job.
 While typical manufacturing embroidery workstations include the necessary components (i.e., an embroidery machine, thread spool rack, job monitor 50, hoops 6, workpieces 4, and work area) for processing an embroidery job, such components are generally collected and set up according to the types of components, and typically without much regard to operator ergonomics. The use of a separate thread spool rack and monitor space drives a large workstation footprint and less efficient work space for each embroidery machine. Furthermore, there is no additional functionality for storage of workpiece queue, storage of PC peripherals, or mounting of the monitor.
 Accordingly, it would be desirable to have a more ergonomically-correct embroidery workstation that includes strategically-positioned workspace for the embroidery machine, a thread spool rack, a monitor, and a workpiece queue.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 An embroidery workstation utility cart for optimizing the positioning of supports for the embroidery machine, thread spool rack, monitor, workpiece queue, and other accessories desired for optimal embroidery processing.
 In an embodiment, an embroidery workstation utility cart includes a thread spool rack support configured to support a thread spool rack and a monitor support configured to support a monitor in one or more positions relative the thread spool rack support. The thread spool rack and the monitor support are integrated into a single unit. The embroidery workstation utility cart may include additional features including workspace and utility trays, bars for hanging garments, hoops, and tools for facilitating a physical work queue for the embroidery workstation.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 A more complete appreciation of this invention, and many of the attendant advantages thereof, will be readily apparent as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which like reference symbols indicate the same or similar components, wherein:
 FIG. 1 is an illustration of a prior art embroidery workstation set up for a manufacturing floor;
 FIG. 2 is a front view of an exemplary embroidery workstation utility cart implemented in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the embroidery workstation utility cart of FIG. 2; and
 FIGS. 4-6 are respective top-down, side, and front views of the embroidery workstation utility cart of FIGS. 2 and 3.
 Embodiments of the embroidery workstation utility cart described herein exemplify more efficient use of labor within an embroidery operator station. The embroidery workstation utility cart provides direct and quick access to necessary thread spools, queued materials and monitor which provides manufacturing based instruction on spool changes, status of machines, required actions etc.
 Turning now to the drawings, FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate an exemplary embroidery workstation utility cart 100 implemented in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. As shown therein, the embroidery workstation utility cart 100 includes a thread spool rack support 110 configured to support a thread spool rack 111 and a monitor support 120 configured to support a monitor 125 in one or more positions relative the thread spool rack support 110.
 The embroidery workstation utility cart 100 is preferably also configured with one or more trays 130, 140 for supporting materials required for processing embroidery workpieces. For example, the embroidery workstation utility cart 100 may include a workspace tray 130 which is preferably positioned so as to be ergonomically correct for the operator. For example, for a standing operator, the workspace tray 130 is level close to operator-waist high. For a seated operator, the workspace tray 130 is configured at an ergonomically correct height relative to the seated operator. Such height will depend in the first case on the height of the operator, and in the second case on the height of both the operator and the seat on which the operator is sitting. The workspace tray 130 may be configured as a flat tabular surface, as shown, and may further include a raised lip 131 to assist in preventing items situated on the tray 130 from falling off the tray 130. The workspace tray may be further configured with a dowel or bar 132 for allowing garments, hoops, or other embroidery processing items to be hung via hangars or simply by draping over the bar 132. The use and positioning of the tray and bar in the exemplary embodiment allows intuitive and ergonomically efficient means of managing a work queue of physical products for the embroidery machine. For instance, in one embodiment the tray is used to rest framed caps (within steel cap frame devices) ordered according to the correct embroidery job production order. Alternatively, the bar 132 is used to position hooped garments (where such hoops have been appropriately modified with hooks for hanging) in a scheduled or optimal production order.
 The one or more trays provided by the embroidery workstation utility cart 100 may also include one or more utility trays (shown singly at 140) additional trays that may be utilized to hold embroidery processing materials (such as hoops, garments, labels, packaging, tools, etc.) and/or operator tools and equipment (such as a keyboard and mouse, power strip(s), scissors, manuals, etc. While the one or more trays 130, 140 are depicted as flat work surfaces or flat storage surfaces with (131, 141) or without a lip for preventing materials from falling off the respective tray(s), the trays 130, 140 may be otherwise variously implemented. For example, the lower tray(s) 140 may be configured as storage areas such as baskets, bins, shelves, cabinets (with or without a door), etc.
 In an embodiment, the cart 100 comprises a frame 101 integrating each of the thread spool rack support 110, the monitor support 120, and tray(s) 140, 150 into a single unit. In an embodiment, the frame is constructed from steel or other metal. In alternative embodiments, the frame may be constructed from other materials such as wood, heavy-duty plastics, etc. Preferably, the frame 101 comprises one or more wheels 102 positioned at bottom members 103 of the frame 101 and configured to allow the cart 100 to be rolled from one position to another.
 The cart 100 may include one or more alignment members 160 that are configured to align with one or more areas of an embroidery machine 190 for optimal ergonomics during processing. For example, the embroidery workstation utility cart 100 shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 includes a base frame member 161 that extends laterally from the frame 101. The frame member 161 preferably aligns with a portion of a embroidery machine base 195 such that when the embroidery workstation utility cart 100 is positioned adjacent the embroidery machine 190, the thread spool rack 110 is adjacent the embroidery machine 190 and the monitor 125 is positioned above the embroidery machine 190.
 Referring to FIGS. 2-6, the monitor support 120 in an embodiment is implemented with an adjustable member such as a movable arm 121. The arm 121 may be movably attached to the frame 101 and configured to move to one or more discrete positions using a adjustable gear 123, or may be moved to any continuous position between two end positions. Any means for adjusting a position of the arm may be employed. In an embodiment, the movable arm 121 allows a monitor supported on the monitor support 120, for example using a mounting bracket 122, to be moved to a plurality of different positions between a raised position and lowered position in a space adjacent to the thread spool rack support 112 and above an area where the embroidery machine is supported.
 In alternative embodiments, the embroidery workstation utility cart further includes an embroidery machine support 195 configured to hold the embroidery machine. In an embodiment, not shown, the embroidery machine support 195 is integrated into the frame 101 such that the embroidery machine support 195, the thread spool rack support 110, the monitor support 120, and tray(s) 140, 150 are all integrated into a single unit.
 In further embodiments, a thread spool rack 111 is integrated into the thread spool rack support 110. The thread spool rack 111 may comprise a peg board assembly 112 with pegs 113 attached thereon for holding spools of thread.
 The rod 132 included for hanging of garments and/or hoops may be a steel rod, for example 5/8'' or so in diameter.
 The frame 101 is preferably steel constructed and counterbalanced, including four 2'' casters 102 positioned at each of end of two base members 103. A support member 104 connected between the two base members 103 provides support for the base members 103 and assists in counterbalancing the monitor support 120 and monitor 125 (when mounted thereon).
 The work space tray 130 may be used to seat a keyboard and mouse for use in interacting with a manufacturing application executing on a local PC that may be connected to the monitor 125. A tray (not shown) may be implemented on the frame, for example situated behind the thread spool rack 111 to support a personal computer or thin client and other computer accessories utilized in conjunction with the monitor 125. The utility tray(s) 140 may include steel baskets for storing workpieces, hoops, etc.
 As exemplified by embodiments described herein, the embroidery workstation utility cart optimizes the positioning of supports for the embroidery machine, thread spool rack, monitor, workpiece queue, and other accessories desired for optimal embroidery processing. Furthermore, the utility cart minimizes the footprint of the cart, minimizes operator movement, provides organized storage of computer components, and provides optimal location(s) for queuing of embroidery materials. The embroidery workstation utility cart allows an embroidery production process to be more efficient than current embroidery manufacturing processes.
 Although this preferred embodiment of the present invention has been disclosed for illustrative purposes, those skilled in the art will appreciate that various modifications, additions and substitutions are possible, without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention as disclosed in the accompanying claims. Furthermore, while the term "embroidery" is used throughout this application, the term "embroidery" encompasses traditional "sewing" as well. Hence, the described and claimed embroidery workstation utility cart may be utilized in similar operation with sewing machines, and the terms "embroidery machine", "embroidery job", and other uses of the term "embroidery" in the claims are also defined herein to include "sewing machine", "sewing job", etc.
Patent applications by Kristen R. Frias, Haverhill, MA US
Patent applications in class Embroidering
Patent applications in all subclasses Embroidering