Timed URL Link

A timed hotlink or URL that allows a user to enter a website at a set or pre-determined time. This could be either a web page or a chat room. The link could also be dependent upon the attendance of others in a chat room. Perhaps the mother of a family is allowed to enter a chat room only after all of the other invited attendees are there.

Instant Ecards

An application or Java applet that allows consumers who register with Hallmark.com or another affiliate to send instant ecards or other social expression products to each other or to multiple recipients.

Ecard Multimedia Window

An ecard or other product that has a built-in window to allow stored video or streaming video to be played. Creative content (images, message, icons, animation) would surround or be displayed with the video and the window.

Custom Streaming Music

Customers could play streaming audio or create a CD that would be built upon their preference of music style or by the theme of an occasion. The system is completely automatic after user preferences are gathered.

Dynamic Email Status Icons

Provides small icons in the title of the email to show if the user has responded to a received email and if others have responded to emails sent by the user. These icons would also show if others have read the email or not, including the number of people who read the email. These icons would appear in the list of the users email so the user could tell the status with just a quick glance of multiple emails.

Customized Postage Stamps

A user can take a digital file or convert an image to a digital file and then use it to create their own stamp. This could be done by systems at retail, over the Internet from a computer or wireless like device, or by sending in a design to a central manufacturing site. The system would then embed a digital watermark into the design. Scanners in the post office would validate and track the use of these "personal" stamps using the watermark. This idea could further be utilized for personalized rubber stamps.

Mood/Color Avatars

Consumers can express feelings and emotions with visual cues vs. plain text in on-line applications. The consumer can easily signal their emotion/situation through software that responds to the keyboard, mouse, voice or touchscreen to alter avatar appearances.

Future Family Album

Automatically create a "future" family album for a teenager. The user could choose a partner and the system could show them what their kids might look like along with themselves in the future. The system could also create a life story based on their education, goals, interests and environment.

Lithophane Ornaments

Keepsakes has developed an automated process for making master patterns for lithophane ornaments. Lithophane is a visual effect created by backlighting porcelain of varying thickness-the translucency of thin, unglazed porcelain being inversely proportional to its thickness. Lithophane master patterns have, until now, always been hand made. Our new process uses Computer-Aided Design and Machining software and a Numerically Controlled mill to make such master patterns. The new process improves the fidelity of the lithophane to the designing artist's original 2D image. It also provides an automated method of creating high levels of detail to more faithfully reproduce any continuous ton grayscale (drawing, painting, photograph, etc.), which will lead to dramatic new lithophane products in the future.

Ecard Converter & Management System

Create a screen saver or wallpaper from an ecard. On an ecard, have a button the recipient clicks that will automatically make a screen saver or wallpaper for that recipient from that ecard. This also allows the recipient to store an ecard at Hallmark.com or on their local media. This provides an easily understood metaphor for the saving of electronic greetings with all the benefits of a scrapbook includin journal entry capabilities 1(ability to organize by subject, occasion, sender, and time period), can be "passed around" for others to look at via electronics means such as email attachments, ability to enhance the entries with scrapbooking design extras such as Hallmark clip art "stickers", background designing, different color "papers," and title pages. Multiple scrapbooks can be titled and stored on an electronic scrapbook shelf within the application, which could leave a scrapbook open on the computer desktop to create wallpaper.

Emodicoder

Today, a shorthand culture uses phrases in emails and chat rooms. Examples: ROFL = role on floor laughin LOL = laugh out loud; : <) = Happy. While advanced users may know what these symbols and terms mean, many novice users feel overwhelmed and confused by use of these terms. This decoder would allow people to build their own coding short cuts and may allow groups to have their own decoders. A user could also select text used in chat rooms or other web sites and decode that text. Users could use the decoder to translate full text messages into an equivalent shorthand or symbolic form.

Persistent Reminder Service

Invitations with a persistent RSVP reminder until the invitees respond. The user and system could set/limit duration and frequency of reminders. This idea works by allowing the user to alter the database against the list of recipients that will schedule one or more reminders. These reminders can be set at multiple times or the user may schedule reminders such as everyday, once a week and so on. Once the system gets an RSVP from a recipient, it will remove their name from future reminders.

Mobile Station for Flash Downloads

This idea provides kiosks at various tourist locations that are connected to the Internet. These kiosks allows users to quickly download their data from flash memory and the kiosk then moves the data to a location or account as specified by the user. The connection to the Internet may be LAN or wireless. The system consists of a flash memory input device, a connected network of flash download kiosks, and connectivity to the Internet.

Gift Certificate w/ Coupon

Today there are numerous websites that track and display digital coupon codes from online retailers. This system will automatically search for electronic coupon codes for the retailer(s) designated within an electronic gift certificate when a user purchases a gift certificate. This allows the recipient to receive a larger gift with the addition of the coupon.

Embedded Print Data in Ecard

Digitally embed print data into an ecard or other social expression product so that the consumer can print a more suitable image at their own print device. This may require an applet or separate application in addition to the web site as presented.

Online Activity Book

Get printable pages and the ability to create your own drop elements of line art from a trusted online source. This system also has a sophisticated administration to help populate your own site with clip art and projects that match your taste, and will automatically email you when new pages or activities, are available that match your interest.

Craft Idea Generator

The generator is a complete process and digital system that allows for the systematic generation of printable activity pages that are created, published, and distributed electronically to consumers over a digital medium. The system allows the consumer to specify the type of activity in which they are interested in many dimensions that satisfy very personalized needs (e.g., gender, age, theme, subject, format, time required to complete) through a digital user interface that allows the consumer to easily search a database of countless activities and then print out those activities directly from the digital medium.

Site-wide Calendar System

This system is for integrated click and brick retailers who wish to maintain a presence and functionality at both levels. It will allow a customer to schedule an appointment directly through an on-line system by calling a customer service representative or the store directly. The system will allow the customer or representative to schedule an appointment at the closest retail store with the desired time available on the schedule (time driven appointment), or to schedule at the desired store at the first available time (location driven appointment). It will track effectiveness of promotions, club membership and purchase history based on the scheduled appointment, and allow the retailer to actively promote their service based on information stored in the tracking database. Additionally, the system can generate "thank yous" for the customer and offer different coupons and/or promotions based on visit information. One option envisioned is a printed thank you that might stimulate additional purchases or visits. For those who miss their appointment, a follow up card could be sent with a "we missed you" coupon and info asking to reschedule their visit. This would allow better utilization of the retail sites, improved tracking of customer data, better use of coupons and promotions, and improved overall reporting.

M-Greetings by Location

This system sends messages, directions or electronics gifts to a recipient based on their location. The sender could specify a dynamic region in which the person may receive the message. The system would allow the user to send social expression greetings, electronic gifts, games or messages once a recipient reaches a point as specified by the sender. For example, a mother could send a social expression to her daughter when she reaches her destination in Orlando. This social expression greeting could welcome her to a theme park, suggest a good restaurant close by and then present her with a $10 certificate to that restaurant.

Enhanced Multi-media Greetings

The multi-format social expression production and delivery system allows multiple inputs from various sources in conjunction with digitally stored libraries of various elements to create unique and personalized products in multiple formats, both manufactured and digitally transmitted. The system will customize the interface based on the preference and previous buying habits of the consumer to give them a truly customized shopping experience. The system will have a global positioning element in that it knows the consumer by preference, and also would know their exact location and interface appropriately. The system will provide for automatic language translation, both in the produced goods and also in the interface. The system will allow the input/output of multiple formats from multiple media types. For example, a finished product could be combined from a segment from DVD, video from a user's own camcorder, an animation scene from the Internet, and voice inputted from a cell phone. The finished product could be digitally transmitted over the Internet or sent to the recipient from various magnetic or optical media.

Flip Books from Video

This system allows a consumer to submit a video or animation clip to be printed in a "flip-book". The user would then flip the pages of this book in sequence to re-create a moving video or animation memory.

Automatic Record Camera

This system works by capturing a pre-defined duration prior to the image or video being captured, and makes sure the user doesn't miss those special moments right before a picture or video is taken. Reusing a short-term memory that is always capturing what is happening provides this functionality. When the image or video is captured, the short-term memory is moved to long-term memory storage, and will save the specified duration before and after the image or video is captured.

Embroidery by Electronic Order

This concept utilizes electronic communications means such as the Internet, phone lines or cellular phones to accept and apply personalized embroidery to clothing or other materials. The consumer selects an item to personalize and then specifies the custom embroidery portion. This idea would take the consumers input and automatically translate the custom embroidery portion into a format useable by the application device.

Electronically Ordered Product w/ Voice Chip

A system where consumers can purchase product with an embedded voice chip electronically through the Internet or through a store Kiosk. The system allows the consumer to speak a voice message through Internet telephony if available, or gives them a phone number to call. The system takes the digitally saved message and inputs it into a sound chip that is part of the card or other product.

Creative Content Search Engine

The Hallmark Creative Content Search engine would allow consumers to ask for and generate a list or menu of creative content which they could add to their designs. The engine would automatically search the web for the content and bring back only those items matching the request. Additionally, the system would find "royalty-free" content or inform the user of content that requires a royalty.

Automatic Borders Around Images / Video

A system where a border is automatically built around an image without the user having to crop the image to fit inside a border. The border is automatically built around images supplied by the consumer. This would relieve the consumer from having to crop images to a specific dimension and would also be more ascetically pleasing as it integrates the image and a border into the overall design. The consumer would be able to adjust the width of the border, specify the color of the fill of the border or specify to fill the border with a pattern. This would be accomplished by reading the header info of the supplied image and determining the width and height of the image.

Touch-Activated Album

This album allows the consumer to continue to prepare their memory albums with a touch pad embedded between conventional memory album pages. The touch pad will activate voice and recording modules for narration of selected memories on each page. The system consists of an album page with embedded touch pad sensors, battery, speaker, and recording modules between the pages. The touch sensor can launch any number of activities including scent, animation, lighting, or sound. These sheets will be transportable between multiple album formats as automation resides within each page. Conductive inks could be utilized to provide the circuitry for the pages and album.

Dynamic/Regenerative Music Source

This system creates a music source that dynamically regenerates itself so as to fit a time element based on supplied video and images. This will allow users to easily lay an audio track on top of a production without worrying about the music running past or short of the video segment.

Shared File Scheme for Production Use

There are numerous sites that allow users to store images or other files on the web. The user can define who can look or retrieve the data. However, these sites require to user to store the images on a centralized server and not from their own computer. There are yet other systems like Napster or Scour that allow users to share files residing on their own computer but with no password protection. The Hallmark system is a way to share files on a user's CPU through a coordinated system that allows the user to block access by individuals or groups and for the use in production systems.

System for Loading Paper Feeders

This system employs an integrated system of multiple automation components integrating multiple distinct systems. The integrated systems provide efficient product delivery from an ergonomic, central operator workstation to one of multiple feeders, pushbutton control of the automated components, performs the material lowering, line traversing, material insertion, a motorized feeding trolley and a linear positioning track system. The system includes nearly frictionless paper handling and small lifts of substrates thus eliminating all heavy load operator issues. Material is pushed onto a lowering system and lowered to the trolley, or equivalent transport. The motorized feeding trolley extends to transfer the material onto a transport. The motorized transport is configured with a belt driven system. The transportation system is accurately positioned in front of the feeder requiring material. This accuracy allows continuous feeding without any operator adjustments or misfeeds. The transport system then returns the transfer to the workstation where additional material queued for delivery transfers to a desired destination. This process is repeated. The linear track system is integrated below the floor surface. This provides an unobstructed, safe working environment for the operators as well as satisfying maintenance requirements. Floor plates are mounted over the trench with a small one-inch opening. A custom designed I-beam provides the mounting of the transfer to the track through the narrow opening in the floor plates. Important safety features include: Simple push button motion control; operator-monitored control movement; and obstruction detection which releases the pushbutton and causes the transfer to immediately stop and safety overload coupling, allowing transfer motor disengagement.

Digital Prism with Laser Hot Foil Process

The new Digital Prism with Laser Hot Foil process was developed to provide a unique product "look" that simulates a more costly holographic foil process.

  1. The key to this process is the digital preparation of the artwork for the hot foil die. The artwork is digitally broken up into specified regions. The prism lines are created digitally by assigning a halftone value, a frequency (LPI) and an angle for each region of the artwork. The assigned halftone value and the LPI determine the width of the prism lines and the spacing between the prism lines. A single piece of artwork can contain many different regions with unique angles, spacing and LPI values. For example, certain samples contain 1 to 5 angles with equal spacing and a frequency of 120 LPI. Note that two geographically separate regions can have the same prism values.
  2. Film is acquired by processing the digital file by a Linotronic or similar film printer. The hot foil die is coated with a light sensitive resist and exposed with the film placed over the die. The die is then acid etched.
  3. The process requires one foil die containing the artwork. A layer of Laser hot foil is applied to the paper or card stock using the foil die.
  4. Laser foil is a holographic hot foil that behaves similar to a prism where light is refracted and reflected back. The color being observed depends upon the viewing angle. By applying the Laser hot foil with artwork containing prism lines, the observer sees more than one color with the same viewing angle. By applying the laser foil with a die that has the artwork broken up into prism lines, the color being refracted and reflected by the laser foil is then dependent upon the viewing angle and the angle of the prism lines.

Sitewide Shopping Cart

This system is a shopping cart that, while part of the overall Hallmark site, allows a customer to shop different sites (URLs) with different e-commerce solutions such as Crayola and Hallmark Entertainment. However, it allows the customer to consolidate their purchases into one shopping cart and enter their purchase information only once. The shopping cart consolidates the orders based on the customer and authorizes from each site. This returns the authorization for each purchase so that when the different sites fulfill their orders they complete the payment process themselves. Each site can manage communications and payments in a manner that best meets their needs while giving the customer the convenience of purchasing from multiple sites but only submitting their credit card and billing information once.

Virtual Tree Ornament System

A Web site that allows visitors to use a virtual tree and ornaments to decorate the tree and save it as their "personal tree" on the Web site or on their desktop. An option would allow the customer to only add ornaments they have purchased and have the tree updated as they or others continue to purchase ornaments. This could also serve as a gift registry or "wish list" to allow others to purchase ornaments.

Virtual Party Planner/Decorator

A consumer can't plan a party, adult or juvenile, without purchasing the products and arranging the materials in an iterative fashion. The process is time consuming and the consumer is unsure of which and how many products to purchase until the event is prepared, at which time it may be too late to make the necessary corrections to the decorations. The consumer has similar difficulties when trying to coordinate home dicor products. Whereas in routine daily life home decoration issues may not be critical, when entertaining or preparing for that special occasion they do become important. A means of virtually planning decorations prior to the event is needed. This process will import the customer's desired location as the working palette and will be able to decorate the location with the appropriate products. The decoration opportunities will be cost-based, theme-based or occasion-based. Events will no longer have too many decorations, decorations that aren't coordinated in the room, or not enough materials. As the consumer decorates, the system will track the products and offer suggestions related to the information provided by, and the choices selected by, the consumer. At the end of the virtual planning session, the consumer is offered a detailed listing of the products and the nearest available location(s) to purchase the products, or will be offered the opportunity to have the selected products shipped to the consumer's door. The consumer will have the opportunity to print the image that has been decorated, so that the decoration will be done as developed in the virtual system. Additionally, the system will retain the base and final planning images for future reference should the customer wish to plan an additional occasion using the same location. The choices made related to repeating opportunities will be retained for suggesting opportunities for the next event in the series. Optional invitation generation will also be offered with this opportunity.

Ecard Stories

Presently ecards are singular entities. Ecards are only related by theme or creator and are not in a series. There is not an ecard series that tells a story on a periodic basis that develops and conveys a story like a weekly or daily soap opera. Ecard Stories would be created so that each story began and was further developed on a periodic basis. Ecard Stories would be delivered in an ecard and/or email format. As in the telling of any story, the sender would also be able to customize each Ecard Story prior to delivering it to its recipient. Each Ecard Story will tell a story when created. Each Ecard Story will add to the overall story and will only be available until the next part of the story is developed. The sender of each Ecard Story can use available stories or make their own.

Website Performance Check

Today it is often frustrating when you wait a long time for a Web site to load. As the user, you have no idea how long it takes to load a certain site and why there is such a delay in loading a site. Furthermore, there is no way to categorize a site based on certain performance criteria. This idea solves the aforementioned problem by using a WORM to classify each site with a performance rating. Currently, the WORM only categorizes the content, not the website performance. If this functionality is built into an on-line search engine, it can then return the performance rating along with the requested information. The user can also tell the system the type of connection they have to help in the categorization.

Reconfigure Sites by Preference

Many consumers require special needs when using an intranet, extranet or Web site due to difficulties with vision impairments. These individual needs of the consumer require customized manipulations of the information for the consumer. These special needs are not met with current manipulation schemes for information display. The described concept within selectively converts the information for the user based on their preferences by presenting written data in audible form, selectively increasing the font size or performing language conversions. This concept includes an interface that enables the user to configure their site with easy to understand controls. The text, if not formatted as either voice or written word, will be read with character recognition software and converted to voice. Images will be loaded into a viewer that will allow enlargements or reduction of the image as the user requires. Pictures may also be converted into text descriptions that are read by the voice software. Additionally, pictures may contain descriptive text files for further audio interpretations. For colorblind users, the system may automatically change the color schemes in order to display colors the user can differentiate.

Bookmark/Snippets w/Reminders

The Internet and wireless phones make a tremendous amount of information available in a very convenient manner. Items of interest can be bookmarked or saved for reference later by topic or subject matter. However, information from web pages that needs to be stored based upon its relevancy to a particular date or time is currently not an option available to the consumer. Users can save pages from a website according to when they need it in the future or when their schedules permit more time to review the information. As an example, a consumer browsing the Internet comes across ideas for birthday gifts and bookmarks them for review later in the year. When the event is closer at hand, the stored web pages reappear to remind the consumer of ideas that were thought of previously.

Capture Entire Event on CD

This idea allows a user to automatically capture everything that happens in a chat room or a Web site for a determined duration. This user may want to host an online class or family reunion. All of the conversations and materials used within that online reunion would then be captured on a CD or other removable storage media. The user then has the option of sending the recorded data to one or many recipients. Another option of this concept would allow all of the guests to enter the Web site while the "guest of honor" is held at a separate site until all the guests have arrived or a certain time is met.

Roundhouse for Wireless

The number of digital devices that can be used for personal communications continues to grow. Some of the prevalent wireless devices include cellular telephones, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDA), and portable computers. Many people now carry at least two of these devices on their possession. In addition to the wireless devices, many people also have multiple wired devices for personal communications. These include personal computers (PC), internet appliances, and internet televisions. A person who wishes to send a message must decide which digital device of the recipient to send to. The decision is often based on the urgency of the message or the level of personalization that the sender wishes to convey. Tools for the sender to format the message for the recipients' digital device do not exist in a centralized location. The sender does not know if the receivers' digital device is online until the communication is attempted. A new approach to fix these problems lists the recipient's digital devices that are currently online. It simplifies the sender's matching the message urgency or personalization to the appropriate digital device. It presents tools based on the device and automatically formats the message for transmission. It transmits the message to multiple devices. A person uses the Virtual Roundhouse application to determine which digital devices of the recipient are currently online. The sender is presented with a list of online devices to select for delivery of the message. Options to format the message for each online device selected are presented. The user composes the message and the Virtual Roundhouse application sends the formatted message to the selected digital devices.

Cell Phone GPS-Enabled Greetings

Today in the social expression industry there is no automatic or electronic means of sending a message or gift to a person based on their location. This idea solves this problem by sending messages, directions or electronic gifts to a recipient based on their location. The sender could specify a dynamic region in which the person may receive the message. The Hallmark system would allow a user to send social expression greetings, electronic gifts, games or messages once a recipient reaches a point as specified by the sender. For example, a user could send a social expression to her sister when she reaches her destination in Orlando. This social expression greeting could welcome her to Disney World, suggest a good restaurant close by and then present her with a $10 certificate to that restaurant. However, this greeting would not be sent until the system detected she was in a specified area. The system consists of a mobile PDA or cell phone with an embedded GPS device communicating with a Hallmark mobile greetings system capable of tracing and sending messages to the recipient based on their location.

Mobile Party Solution

This wireless system allows users to invite a group of friends with "virtual" invitations through cell phones, PDAs or other wireless means. The user could add a name and/or use names from their address book. Invitees would receive an electronic invitation and could respond electronically. The host and all invitees would be able to track responses from all the invitees. The system could also send reminders at multiple intervals based on the settings specified from the host of the party.

Web Phone Greeting Generator

Sending mobile greetings to a mobile phone or PDA device is a growing trend, especially in European and Asian markets. However, the actual space on these phones for consumers to select and send a greeting is relatively limited. A menu approach that would allow a person to specify a mood, an occasion, the relationship and other information would present the sender with an ideal method of selecting a greeting without actually seeing the design. This system solves these shortcomings by using the aforementioned menu system and automatically generates and sends mobile greetings to a mobile phone or PDA. The system does this by automatically generating the greeting based on the menu inputs of the sender. The system could also allow the user to add their own voice or other personal data stored on their ordering device or available through other electronic means. The solution consists of a system and consumer ordering interface menu that allows users to input various data related to the sending situation and then automatically build a greeting based on those menu choices.

Packaging Spot Welder

A back-sealer fitted to a form and fill packaging line comprised of a heated star-wheel rotating in lockstep with the motion of the packaging film. The star-wheel selectively melts and welds the film in a pattern dependent on the form of the star-wheel. This pattern provides an intermittent seal with desirable qualities: reduced holding power allowing easier opening of the package; space between the welds to provide a window for an optical scanner to view the product barcode; and welding patterns that can be used for identifying the manufacturing plant that package the product.

Flexible/Reconfigurable Scrapping Die

This invention works in conjunction with a card extracting press. Conventionally, a scrapping die made by a method such as water-jet cutting of steel or laser cutting of plywood is discarded after use. It is inefficient to use a dedicated piece of tooling such as that since its use is so limited. Also, significant lead time may be required to order a dedicated tool for a particular job. This invention involves a device which can easily be reconfigured by someone with minimal mechanical ability to fit nearly any layout. Nothing of the device is discarded after a given use. The device consists of a main frame around the perimeter of the die cut sheet, with that frame holding "fingers" of various suitable lengths that support the lift of stock where the gutters intersect the perimeter of the layout. These fingers fit into slots in the die frame and are secured by screws that clamp the finger assembly to the frame.

Tri-Die

Greeting cards which are embossed are typically produced by printing on large sheets which are then embossed in one pass through a sheetfed press and scored (to aid in folding) and die-cut in a subsequent pass through a die-cut press. Each pass through a press adds cost to the card. This invention reduces cost by combining embossing/debossing, scoring, and die cutting into a single "tri-die," thus eliminating one pass through a press. Tooling to die-cut and score is typically fabricated with bent rule inserted into a carrier board. The tri-die method is unique in that a sharp cutting edge is formed by CNC milling a die so that the cutting edges are relieved from a background area. A similar machining technique is used to form a more blunt scoring edge. The background area can then be engraved using CNC machining to form an embossing design. Trie-dies may be made from a hard or hardenable material such as high-carbon steel. This invention is made possible by applying a CAD/CAM software that is capable of both creating the geometry of the die-cut and score edges as well as the emboss design, and generating tool path code for CNC milling. In the preferred embodiment, a digital file is used to cut the steel die to size and an annealing process is then applied to remove stresses in the steel. The die is then CNC engraved to "rough out" the die-cut edges and form the background area. The die is heat-treated again to remove further stresses that have been caused by the engraving process. The die is then CNC engraved with a much finer cutter to form the sharp die-cutting edges that are raised from the background area approximately 0.6 mm with a 30- to 40-degree taper angle for strength and durability. The embossing design is then CNC engraved into the background area. The resulting die has raised die-cut and score edges and recessed embossing areas (and/or raised debossing areas). Finally , the die is surface hardened with a nitriding chemical treatment. In addition to saving money by eliminating one pass through a press, this invention allows for very intricate die-cut designs and it has an esthetic advantage in that the cut edges are rounded on the card cover side forming a smooth edge. The intricacy of cut is comparable to laser cutting without any edge charring. There is an added benefit of improved registration capability between emboss and die-cut that comes from having both processes on a single, digitally-created die.

Mask-Free Decorating of Three-Dimensional Objects

Painting of three-dimensional objects can require the use of a precision clamp or a hand-held mask for each paint operation, to assist in the application of paint to a specific surface area by a semi-skilled painter. Without such a mask, the painting would have to be completed by skilled painters requiring significantly more time. Drawbacks of the use of such masks include that only a fraction of the paint which is sprayed actually reaches the intended area, and that area often receives from two to three times the thickness of paint required. Elimination or reduction of the use of masks therefore could result in cost savings for mask purchases, paint purchases, labor, facilities, and distribution. That could be accomplished with a digitally-controlled painting process where the paint operation consists of an ink jet head attached to a multi-axis robot arm with the capability of precisely applying paint onto the surface of the 3D objects. The primary components of the system consist of a compact or pen-like ink jet head, a rotatable mounting jig that retains the part to be decorated, a computer and software capable of converting 3D surface color data into control logic, and one or more multi-axis robotic arms. Other paint dispensing apparatuses could also be used, such as digitally-controlled air brushes and conventional spray heads to facilitate the painting of larger areas or areas that do not require precise paint application. These devices could also be controlled with a similar robotic arm, as with the ink jet head or the same robotic arm that is capable of selecting the painting device from digital image file data. Color data for a 3D surface could come from existing digital files or from a 3D scanner. That data would be converted by software into suitable device drivers for control of the elements described above. Future 3D printers could make it possible to download from a website ornaments, toys, replacement parts for toys, licensed properties, pharmaceuticals, and spare parts for home appliances and tools for "manufacturing" within the consumer's home, eliminating conventional manufacturing, fulfillment, and returns costs.

Toolless Embossing

Existing embossing methods are based upon manufacturing tooling that consists of metallic and non-metallic dies engraved with an image. The engraved dies are then locked into a registered location within a rotary or platen type press. The die contacts the substrate to be embossed with sufficient force and then the embossed article is removed. The cost of the die-making and setting up of the embossing press contributes to the embossing cost. The cost per piece is significantly lower when the same embossing die or tool embosses thousands of pieces. Toolless embossing methods reduce costs significantly as the tool is created nearly instantaneously and positioned in register to the substrate automatically. The embossing tool is computer controlled and reprogrammed nearly instantaneously with a new image, which eliminates tool making and setup of the platen or rotary press equipment for image register and quality. The invention works as follows: a) The substrate is placed onto a flexible surface, with the substrate's surface that is to be raised by the embossing action in contact with the flexible surface; b) The image that is to be embossed is selected and loaded into the embossing driver controller; c) The pneumatically or electromagnetically operated embossing dot peen array mechanism is positioned in register to the substrate where then the embossing dot peen driver controller operates each dot peen hammer. The dot peen driver controller could also control the lateral (X), longitudinal (Y) and the vertical (Z) positioning of the dot peen hammer so as to vary the depth of the emboss and the overlapping of the dot peen action producing images representative of conventional engraved dies. Multiple dot peen hammers could be configured into arrays and multiple arrays could be deployed for larger images or to reduce embossing time. The selection of the flexible surface or counter is essential to the success of embossing non-wovening substrates such as board and paper. Initial testing indicates that the flexible counter enables the dot peen hammers to contact the substrate and high velocities without tearing or shredding the substrate. This process significantly reduces the skill level associated with emboss tool die making. The same dot peen hammer material is suitable for all materials to be embossed. Special effects are possible by varying the shape of the dot peen hammer and locating those special effect hammers within adjacent dot peen hammer arrays that would be positioned over the substrate automatically by the dot peen hammer controller. Other conceivable uses for this invention include dual burnish foil; embossed logos on envelope flaps; inscribing foiled surfaces to create new looks with ribbons; imaging objects such as Christmas tree ornaments; adding textures to embossing and foiling dies; and embossing handwritten signatures.

Auto Cube-Fill Machine

The auto cube-fill machine works at the end of a packaging line, placing completed wholesale packages of cards or other products into cubes for shipping to distribution centers. As packages come off of the line, the machine creates stacks, then a robot picks up the stacks and loads them into cubes in one of a number of patterns based on card size and thickness. To start a packaging run, the operator selects the card size from a menu on the computer. Next, the machine measures the thickness of the wholesale packages. Using the card size and package thickness, the computer determines which pattern to use and how to set up the machine. The computer automatically adjusts the machine to run the card size which gives the operator the flexibility to run a wide range of cards. Prior to having the auto cube-fill machine, a person grabbed wholesale packages off the end of the packaging line and placed them in the cube. The job required a lot of repetitive motions, such as gripping, twisting and bending. This machine improves the ergonomics of the task, as well as saving money.

Single-pass Printing on Both Sides of Paper Napkins

There was a desire to have a paper napkin which is printed with different designs and/or colors on both sides, thus adding value by giving the consumer additional options for decoration/presentation. Previously, this could only be done by two-pass printing, which is inefficient and cost-prohibitive. Additionally, there was a need to produce two-ply, solid color tissue in the bulk format. Beater-dyed tissue from the paper mill is too flimsy to run efficiently on existing equipment because it can only be produced with thin-caliper plies. This invention is a process which enables printing of multi-colored designs on both sides of the napkin web with a single pass. The napkins are then folded and packaged in line with printing as in the normal process. The new process significantly reduces labor and spoilage (and thus cost) by eliminating the need for a second. The ability to flood-coat solid colors on both sides of the napkin enables the use of much thicker two-ply napkin stock which is only available in white. This thicker and less flimsy stock converts efficiently on the equipment, and is cost-effective compared to beater-dyed stock because of single-pass printing. The process consists of threading the web through a unique path on the napkin printer and reversing the drive direction of certain color decks. The foremost requirement for the invention is a napkin machine with individually servo motor-driven flexo print decks which enables them to be altered in speed and direction. The paper web is threaded in a loop within the press such that it passes through specific print decks in a reverse direction, thus applying ink to the reverse side. The number of colors per side can thus be any combination of the available colors. The print decks had to be specially modified to facilitate reversing their direction. Special ply-bonded paper had to be used because the contortions and numerous changes in direction would cause non-bonded stock plies to slip in relation to one another, causing a "ghosting" effect from ink strike-through. Also, the individual plies would not be strong enough for such severe manipulation. The paper stock had to be pre-conditioned with a coat of extender as it enters the printer to reduce wrinkle formation and to enhance register control. Special auxiliary dryers had to be added at strategic locations to control stretch and wrinkles. Special wrinkle control rollers had to be added at specific locations. The impression rolls had to be specially coated to reduce their affinity for ink which reduced ink build-up. The speeds of the servo drives had to be individually adjusted to compensate for stretch between stations. All of these adjustments had to be accomplished in tandem with subsequent embossing, cutting, folding, stacking, and packaging of the napkins directly in line with the printing operation. The compression plate at the entrance to the retail wrapper had to be modified to "fluff-up" the heavily inked stack of napkins to facilitate the positioning and sealing of the poly overwrap. Other products such as mini-giftwrap can be produced with this process. A rewinder can be added to the napkin machine to produce double-sided design rolls which could be converted to other products with other processes.

Plunge Method

Emboss and foil designs are applied to paper/cards by compressing the paper and foil between a die and counter tool set. The interface at the backs of the die and counter are controlled by the press and thus must be flat and parallel. The tooling design interface must also be a precise dimensional fit, but, the design-engraving perimeter need not lie on a single plane. Tools will be produced as follows: 1) the die raw material must be flat on the press side, on opposite side, the design side, the die design will be milled, not from the top of the surface, but sunken, plunged, into the die. 2) The counter will be flat on the press side. On the counter design side, a raised area will be added around the outside of the design-engraving perimeter, with a margin, of approximately .100" to provide a land for the die design-engraving perimeter interface.

Improved Masking Input Station

Digitally photographing three-dimensional products from multiple viewing angles presents challenges. This solution uses one or more cameras at set angles and allows the operator to position the product one time on a moveable turntable. The cameras, turntable and lighting are pre-programmed and digitally controlled. After the first shots are taken, the product is backlit to create masks. The masks are automatically applied to their respective images, which are then cut out of the background. The turntable moves to reposition the product for the next set of images. These steps are repeated as needed to provide the shots required to digitally stitch the entire three-dimensional item.

Exact Registration System

Traditionally in the print industry design registration is determined from the edge of the stock using the edge guides on the press to assure repeatable image placement from sheet to sheet. This same edge is then used to precisely position subsequent processes over the image. In situations where the subsequent process equipment does not offer precise edge guides such as in using an electrophotographic (EP) printer or in cases where the substrate edge has been altered, registration marks printed at the same time as the design, are in perfect register with the image. These registration marks are located by electronic sensors associated with the input side of the printer. The printer's image position is then adjusted based on the location of the registration marks and accurately placed over the pre-printed design.

Dimensional Viewing Box

Three-dimensional product that is shot digitally requires color correction for the monitor to match the illuminated product. During this process the product is placed in a viewbox with the appropriate illumination. Commercially available viewboxes are configured for flat artwork and do not appropriately illuminate three-dimensional objects. A 3D viewbox, designed with a flexible lighting system, allows the object to be view with the same light quality as the initial photographic shot. The viewbox is curved and fabricated from materials that work similarly to a studio lighting set up, casting the appropriate shadows necessary for color correction.

Pattern Adhesive Automation

As described in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publication no. US 2004/0237361 A1, some greeting cards and similar products contain translucent insert pages which are glued to the outer cards. The places where the glue contacts the insert page are often visible through the translucent insert, especially when the card stock is relatively dark. Those glue spots can be irregular and therefore unsightly. One means of correcting that is by applying the glue in a controlled, decorative pattern, as described in the application which is the subject of the aforementioned publication. A means which was described in that application was the use of "silk screen" printing. However, that process is a manual one and therefore it is time-consuming and labor intensive, and therefore relatively costly. In order to reduce that cost, we have created a method to automatically apply the adhesive in a pattern using a foam die which has been laser-etched from the pattern glue file created by our production art department. The foam die is used on a press to automatically and precisely apply the glue pattern while attaching the translucent insert pages.

Pin Point Lighting of Ornaments Conventional spray masking decoration techniques on irregular surfaces may not be able to provide drop-out areas for pin point lights because of limitations of mask construction. Therefore, such pin point lighting effects could only be provided by means of costly fiber optics. This invention achieves pint point lighting that is equivalent to fiber optics. It uses conventional painting decoration techniques with the addition of a hand wiping operation. A transparent pin point projection is extended from the outside surface of a transparent plate that is back lighted with an incandescent lamp or LED light source. This surface is painted, and then, while the paint is still wet, the paint is wiped off of the tops of the points. This exposes only the tips of the points to allow light to be transmitted through these point tips.

Thank You Card System

SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATICALLY GENERATING A THANK YOU CARD IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE PURCHASE OF A GIFT OR OTHER OCCASION

This system automatically generates a thank you card in conjunction with a gift giving or other social/business occasion, which thank you card includes at least the basic information required of a thank you card. This system is activated, for example, by the purchase of a gift for a gift recipient and it transmits a message indicating the availability of the automatically generated thank you card and/or the thank you card itself to the gift recipient to thereby enable the gift recipient to send the thank you card to the gift purchaser without undue effort. The gift recipient can customize the thank you card to personalize the message, such as by including a photograph therein, and then transmit the thank you card to the gift purchaser.

The system receives gift purchase information from any of a number of sources and includes information, such as a name of a purchaser of the gift, the address of the purchaser, identification of the gift, identification of the gift giving event, name of the gift recipient, address of the gift recipient, and the like. The purchase can be from a gift registry, catalog, retail store, e-commerce site and the data input to the system can be automatically obtained from various sources, including: e-catalog order data, package mailing label, credit card data, or data manually input by the purchaser or store clerk via fax, customer terminal equipment, or in-person. In addition, the thank you card can be originated in response to an individual participating in some social or business occasion, such as attendance at an open house, seminar, volunteer work project, and the like. The system produces a customized thank you card that is addressed to the gift purchaser (or occasion participant) and generates a message to the gift recipient to advise them of the availability of the thank you card. The message is typically coordinated with the gift delivery, such that the thank you card can be included in the package with the gift, or a notification can be sent to the gift recipient via email, voice mail, text messaging on a cellular terminal device, and the like. The gift recipient can customize the thank you card, for example, accessing a website that hosts the automated thank you card generation system and selecting a thank you card format from a collection of card formats stored thereon. The system merges the automatically generated thank you card data with the selected thank you card format and also enables the gift recipient to further customize the thank you card by use of one or more of a set of card customization features, such as: natural handwriting, inclusion of a gift recipient message, uploading a photograph/video from the gift recipient's terminal device, card emboss, and the like. The system can then produce the thank you card in an associated production system and mail the thank you card to the gift purchaser. Alternatively, the thank you card can be printed at the gift recipient's terminal equipment or an electronic version of the thank you card can be electronically transmitted to the gift purchaser via the Internet or cellular communication system.

Map Creation System

SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATICALLY GENERATING A MAP IN CONJUNTION WITH THE GENERATION OF AN INVITATION

This system automatically generates a map in conjunction with the generation of an invitation to an event, which map defines a travel path from a location related to an address of an invitee to a predetermined destination. This system enables the individual who is orchestrating the event to simply download an address book of invitees to the system and the system not only produces a customized invitation addressed to the invitee, but also produces a map that provides the invitee with direction to the event location from the invitee's address.

The system can produce a paper invitation with the automated invitation map printed thereon, or print the map as an enclosure, or print the map as a "tip-on" which is removably affixed to the invitation. Alternatively, the system can produce an electronic invitation and associated automated invitation map for transmission to the invitee via a communication medium. The invitations themselves can be selected by the individual who is orchestrating the event from a collection of standard invitations and the individual who is orchestrating the event can customize the selected invitation to define the event, event designee (if any), time and location of the event. The access to the invitation database can be printed locally by the individual who is orchestrating the event or can be printed at a fulfillment center and mailed therefrom.

System for Ordering Customized Gift Bundles

This system provides a customer with the capability to design a recipient-specific gift bundle, consisting of a plurality of individual gift items. This system enables the customer to specify a price range and/or theme and/or occasion for the gift bundle, then presents the customer with displays of predetermined gift bundles within the customer specified price range and which the customer can modify to fit her budget and needs. Alternatively, the system presents the customer with individual gift selection suggestions which can be used to create the gift bundle, with those suggestion being dynamically modified to maintain the gift bundle within the customer specified price range. In addition, the system guides the gift suggestions offered to the customer according to the gift theme indicated by the customer and/or gift consistency manager. The gift selections can also be modulated by data stored in a communities database which indicates the preferences of the recipient, prior purchases by the recipient, and gifts received by the recipient. The gifts used to create the gift bundle can be provisioned from multiple vendors and are combined into a single delivery.

Processes for Applying Foil With Tactile Properties

The need for new looks of foil on paper was the primary impetus for these two processes. Also of great interest is to create those looks without the need for tooling. This permits the image to always remain in a digital format without any manual intervention. One process produces foil that appears to have a raised liquid look and produces a tactile feel. Its appearance is somewhat comparable to engraved lettering. The other process gives the appearance of an emboss image under the foil. This image will have a tactile feel similar to a light emboss, yet no emboss die is required. The use of a laser printer (aka: Xerography or Electrophotography) to apply toner to paper has been done for some time in the office environment. The laser printer's toner contains a plastic that when heated acts like an adhesive. This principle has been used to adhere foil to a sheet of paper in the artistic community to proof designs and for home use. The user prints or photocopies an image onto a sheet of paper, then feeds the paper through a heated nip with a sheet of foil against the image side. The heated nip raises the temperature of the toner to activate its adhesive action, which pulls the foil from the mylar of the foil sheet, thus attaching foil in the locations of the toner. The use of the adhesive properties of the toner is used to help create the following unique foil processes. In one of the processes, card stock is fed into a single laser printer. This laser printer must have the capability to put down a heavy amount of toner (as much as 1 mil thick) for the image. Next, the card stock is put into a heated press (or heated nip) which applies proper temperature, dwell time, and pressure onto the foil, which activates the toner to attach the foil to the paper. Successive printers may be used to get approximately the same toner thickness as may be achieved with one printer. A significant amount of toner is to be applied to create a tactile surface. The next step in the process will attach foil to this surface and conform its shape to that of the toner. In the second of the processes, a sheet of paper is fed into a laser printer, which applies the first image (typically a solid area). This same sheet is then printed on again, using a different image with a heavy amount of toner (.5 mil - 1 mil thick) placed on top of the first image. It is then fed into a heated press that applies the proper temperature, dwell time and pressure to adhere the foil to both images. Here again, multiple printers may be used to apply the second image to get the desired toner thickness. For example, a solid area may be used for the first image and "HI" for the second image. As can be seen and felt on the finished product, the "HI" provides a surface on top of the rectangular area. When this is foiled, this gives the appearance and feel of an embossed "HI" within a rectangular foiled area.

Electrophotographic Foil Transfer Process

This disclosure describes the use of the electrophotographic (EP) decorating process as it can be applied to the transfer of foil to a variety of substrates. This process addresses the application of the toner powder via the print engine directly onto the foil substrate thereby creating a single sheet foil transfer that can be applied to a variety of substrates and products. The concept of foil transfer begins with the construction of the foil substrate. Typically, standard stamping foil is constructed by layering a carrier (Mylar) with aluminum, adding color or design, and an adhesive to aid in the stamping process. The construction of the EP foil transfer substrate requires similar layering. The first layer comprises the base carrier. The caliper of the carrier layer is increased for stiffness allowing the sheet to pass through the print engine much like an overhead transparency. The subsequent layers of aluminum and color are included as before. No adhesive layer is required. The adhesive, in this case, comes from the properties of the toner powder. With the special construction of the foil substrate, a foil transfer can be produced. The print engine receives a digital image to print. The image must be converted to a reverse image. The print engine applies the image, in reverse, onto the foil substrate, fuses the toner and delivers the finished transfer. This printed reverse image reads correctly when the foil is transferred to the product substrate. The foil transfer can now be applied to a variety of product substrates (paper, plastics, acrylic, metal, leather, glass, crystal, wood, etc.) thermally. By heating the foil transfer, the fused toner changes state and become tacky. The foil transfer is applied to the product with pressure and heat. The pressure ensures positive contact of the desired image (toner) to the surface of the product. The heat causes the toner to become tacky and adhere to the product. The adhesion to the surface is greater than the attraction to the Mylar carrier and therefore the foil is released to the product. Foil is only transferred where the toner image resides since it becomes the adhesive layer when heated. Variations of the method to apply heat and pressure can yield foil transfer to surfaces that are not flat. A heated, flexible material would apply uniform pressure and heat to an irregular surface. This would allow foil to be transferred to cylindrical, crowned, or textured surfaces.

Surface Decorating Greeting Cards Using Non-Contact Fluid Applicator

Hallmark applies a number of decorative processes on our products including flitter, flock, beads, thermo-plastic powder, various coatings and thermographic printing. These processes and materials require an image to be applied using energy curable fluid prior to applying the decorative powders, materials or other processes. The tooling and labor costs for setting up these processes using screen, lithography, and flexography printing techniques can be considerable. This costly tooling and labor can be reduced or eliminated by utilizing a non-contact fluid applicator capable of dispensing energy curable fluids to form the image on the substrates. Utilizing a non-contact fluid applicator driven by a digital driver, such as an inkjet printhead, or combination of printheads configured in an array or multiple arrays to achieve the desired film thickness and design coverage, that is positioned above the substrate, an image of the correct film thickness and resolution is deposited, followed by the application of the decorative material that is flooded onto the surface substrate, removal of non-adhering material and subsequent curing of the fluid. In some cases, in order to achieve the desired finish or thickness, or to improve adhesion, the energy curable fluid may be partially cured, followed by additional application(s) of energy curable fluid and decorative material and subsequent curing. In other cases, heat curing may be applied after the energy curing. To achieve a smoother finish, a heated, polished cylinder can be applied after partial curing. The energy curable fluid may be applied over, and in register to a pre-printed image to change the appearance of the transparent energy curable fluid. This system can also be used to apply foil to a substrate by applying the energy curable fluid in the desired image, partially curing and polishing with a polished cylinder and applying cold foil to the substrate, with the foil remaining where the energy curable fluid image was applied. The application of energy curable fluid with an inkjet head enables multiple additional decorative processes including high resolution application of decorative particles, high gloss finish, and can deposit sufficient thickness of fluid to achieve a three dimensional appearance that is unachievable with current thermographic technology.