FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a printing apparatus which can feed a long strip of media, such as photographic paper more or less continuously from a supply cassette, to a supply section, to a printing section, and thereafter to a takeup section. The printing apparatus of the present invention is of a modular design and is configured to provide for vertical twisted web paths while at the same time minimizing web tracking variation.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Conventionally, when a printing apparatus includes a plurality of supply cassettes and take-up cassettes, a complex shuttle mechanism and complex paper handling are required. For example, in an apparatus which includes a plurality of supply cassettes and take-up cassettes, it is necessary to divert a web of photosensitive media, such as photosensitive paper, through a plurality of loops which requires a complex interface. Furthermore, for the purpose of splicing the photosensitive media at the supply side of a multi-cassette arrangement, it is necessary to divert the paper into a splicer separately for each entry position of the cassette.
The present invention provides for a printing apparatus having multiple supply cassettes and take-up cassettes which is of a modular design and creates a paper path that follows an exact constraint design. The paper path of the printing apparatus of the present invention is configured to accept media from a plurality of supply cassettes and deliver media to a plurality of take-up cassettes. The paper path is separated into tensioned web spans which include, for example, a paper supply span, a paper punching span, a write engine span and a paper takeup span. The spans can be isolated from each other by motion control slack loops.
The printing apparatus of the present invention comprises three separable sections, which include a supply section, a center printing section, and a take-up section. The breaks between the above sections are preferably located within the supply and the take-up sections, and are the locations in which the web can undergo a vertical twist. This vertical twist is the result of a pivoting of the paper path by an angle of between 0-90 degrees, for example, an angle of ±30 degrees between the plurality of supply cassettes and take-up cassettes. The design of the present invention provides for exact constraint web handling while at the same time, minimizing the effect that twisting and frame tolerances have on web tracking.
The present invention provides for a printing apparatus which comprises a media supply section having a transport assembly and a plurality of media entry openings. The transport assembly is rotatable to each of the media entry openings so as to accept media from a selected one of the media entry openings. The printing apparatus further comprises a printing section which is adapted to accept the media from the media supply section and a take-up section which is adapted to receive media from the printing section. The take-up section includes a take-up assembly and a plurality of media exit openings. The take-up assembly is rotatable to each of the media exit openings so as to discharge media through a selected one of the media exit openings.
The present invention also provides for a printing apparatus which includes a media supply section comprising a first transport assembly that conveys media along a first transport assembly longitudinal axis. The first transport assembly is rotatable between a plurality of supply entry ports on the media supply section to selectively accept media from each of the supply entry ports. The first transport assembly further comprises at least one first roller which is rotatable with respect to the first transport assembly about the first transport assembly longitudinal axis. The printing apparatus further comprises a printing section that receives media from the media supply section. The printing section comprises a first guide plate that guides media from the at least one first roller into the printing section. The first transport assembly has at least one rotatable position which creates a twist in a media span of the media between the at least one first roller and the first guide plate.
The present invention further provides for a media supply assembly which comprises a plurality of media entry ports; a transport assembly that is rotatable to each of the media entry ports to receive and convey media entering through the media entry ports along a longitudinal axis; and at least one roller mounted on the transport assembly so as to be rotatable about the longitudinal axis. The at least one roller conveys media along the transport assembly toward an exit port of the media supply assembly.
The present invention further provides for a media take-out assembly that comprises a media entry port; a plurality of media exit ports; a transport assembly that conveys media from the media entry port to one of the media exit ports, with the transport assembly being rotatable to each of the media exit ports; and at least one first roller mounted on the transport assembly so as to rotate about a pivot point which is spaced from a rotational axis of the at least one first roller.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention further provides for a printing apparatus that comprises a rotatable transport assembly provided at least at one of an input side or output side of a printing section. The transport assembly is adapted to twist a web of photosensitive media about a vertical axis as the photosensitive media is conveyed through the printing apparatus.
FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of printing apparatus in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a further view of the printing apparatus of the present invention without certain housing sections to better illustrate the twisted web spans;
FIG. 3 is a side view of the printing apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a schematic view detailing features of the supply web section of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a schematic top view of features of the supply web illustrated in FIG. 4;
FIG. 6 is an isolated view of a gimballed roller in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 7 is a schematic view of the take-up section of the present invention;
FIG. 8 is a schematic top view of the take-up section of FIG. 7;
FIG. 9 is an isolated view of a castered roller in accordance with the present invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 10 is a isolated view of a castered and gimballed roller in accordance with the present invention.
Referring now to the drawings, wherein like references numerals designate identical or corresponding parts throughout the several view, FIG. 1 is an overall view of a printing apparatus 15 in accordance with the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 1, printing apparatus 15 comprises a media supply section 17 and a media take-up section 19. Media supply section 17 is adapted to accommodate a plurality of media supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c, while media take-up section 19 is adapted to accommodate a plurality of media take-up cassettes 19 a- 19 c. As illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c and take-up cassettes 19 a- 19 c are wheel cassettes, which facilitate the interaction between the cassettes and the corresponding supply section and take-out sections (17, 19), however, the invention is not limited thereto, and the cassettes do not have to be wheeled cassettes.
On the supply side, supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c can each contain a roll 23 of, for example, photosensitive media that is to be processed through a printing section 21. Take-up cassettes 19 a- 19 c on the take-up side are initially empty and each include a shaft 90 adapted to receive a roll of photosensitive media after the web has past through printing section 21.
As illustrated in the view of FIGS. 1 and 2, supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c and take-up cassettes 19 a- 19 c are provided at three locations and are angularly positioned with respect to each other. However, the invention is not limited thereto, and the cassettes can be located at various angles, while the printing apparatus can include more than three or less than three cassettes at each of the supply and take-up sides.
Referring to FIG. 3 which illustrates a side view of printing apparatus 15, it noted that supply cassette 17 a which is seen in the view of FIG. 3 includes supply roll 23 of media such as, for example, photosensitive media. Supply section 17 includes a plurality of entry openings or ports 25 which mate with a corresponding port or opening in supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c to permit a web 100 of photosensitive material to enter into supply section 17. Only one entry port 25 is illustrated in FIG. 3. It is recognized that supply section 17 includes entry ports 25 corresponding in number and location with a respective supply cassette 17 a- 17 c.
Provided within supply section 17 is a transport assembly 27 which is rotatable to a plurality of positions to mate with each of the media entry ports 25 which correspond to each of the supply cassettes 17 a, 17 b and 17 c. A pair of drive rollers 30 convey the web of photosensitive material into transport assembly 27, where a further arrangement of drive rollers 33 transport the web of photosensitive material through transport assembly 27. As indicated above, transport assembly 27 is rotatable between each of the entry ports 25 so as to selectively accept media from each of the supply cassettes 17 a, 17 b, 17 c. Therefore, during use, after photosensitive material has been emptied from a particular cassette (17 a, 17 b, 17 c), transport mechanism 27 is simply pivoted or rotated about point 29 to the next appropriate position having a cassette (17 a, 17 b, 17 c) with a supply of photosensitive material.
A feature of the present invention with respect to the rotatable transport assembly 27 is the creation of a vertical twist at an angle of between 0-90 degrees and preferably approximately ±30 degrees about a vertical axis in the photosensitive web. More specifically, as illustrated in FIGS. 2-6, transport assembly 27 includes a roller 35 which is gimballed. Referring to FIG. 6 which illustrates one mounting example for gimballed roller 35, it is seen that roller 35 can be mounted on a roller support 35 a so as to be rotatable with respect to transport assembly 27 about a longitudinal axis 35 b of a media span approaching roller 35. This is one example of mounting a roller in a gimballed manner and it is recognized that other methods of mounting a roller in a gimballed manner are possible within the context of the present invention. This arrangement creates a first web span of media which extends from supply roll 23 to gimballed roller 35. With the arrangement of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 5, a lateral position 110 of the span of media from supply roll 23 to gimballed roller 35 is derived by supply roll 23, while an angular position 115 of the media from supply roll 23 to the gimballed roller 35 is derived by gimballed roller 35. As further illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5, supply section 17 includes a guiding shoe or plate 37, which helps guide the photosensitive material toward gimballed roller 35.
With the arrangement of the present invention, and as illustrated in, for example, FIG. 2, when the media is being first supplied from cassette 17 a, gimballed roller 35 will pivot to accommodate the twisting of the web. Gimballed roller 35 guides the web or material through an approximately 90 degree bend and then in an upward vertical direction into printing section 21 as illustrated in FIGS. 2-4. Printing section 21 can include a guiding plate or shoe 39 (FIG. 4) which changes the conveying direction of the web, and a drive and pressure roller arrangement 41. Therefore, the span of the photosensitive material between roller 35 and drive and pressure roller arrangement 41 defines a second span of the photosensitive material passing through printing apparatus 15. With the arrangement of the present invention, gimballed roller 35 essentially acts as a hinge between the span of photosensitive material between supply roll 23 and gimballed roller 35, and the span of photosensitive material between gimballed roller 35 and drive and pressure roller arrangement 41. This is conceptually illustrated in FIG. 5 of the application. Gimballed roller 35 which rotates as a unit with transport assembly 27 will pivot with respect to transport assembly 27 in accordance with the twist of the web between roller 35 and plate 39 as transport assembly 27 is rotated between supply cassettes 17 a- 17 c.
Printing section 21 can be part of a known laser printer. However, the present invention is not limited thereto and other types of printing systems are possible within the context of the present invention. After the photosensitive web enters printing section 21, as illustrated more particularly in FIG. 3, the material can sequentially pass through a first slack loop 43, through a paper punching/marking section 45, through a second slack loop 47, over a print drum 49 where the material can be laser scanned in accordance with image information (obtained separately by scanning a processed film strip), through a third slack loop 51 and into take-up section 19.
Like supply section 17, take-up section 19 includes a pivotable or rotatable transport or take-up assembly 53 which is rotatable about point 55, so as to be in mating engagement with a corresponding media exit opening or ports 57 provided on the take-up section 19. As described with reference to supply section 17, take-up section 19 includes the plurality of exit openings 57 which correspond in number and location with take-up cassettes 19 a, 19 b, 19 c. Take-up cassettes 19 a, 19 b, 19 c are provided at openings 57, so that the web of photosensitive material is supplied directly to the take-up cassettes. When a take-up cassette (19 a, 19 b, 19 c) is full of exposed material, transport assembly 53 is rotated about point 55 to the next take-up cassette (19 a, 19 b, 19 c).
Referring particularly to FIG. 7, at the exit area of printing section 21, a combination of a shoe or plate 59 and a lateral guide 61 is provided to guide the web towards the exit of printing section 21. At the exit of printing section 21, a gimballed roller 63 is provided. Roller 63 guides the web through an approximately 90 degree bend and is mounted as previously described with respect to gimballed roller 35 and illustrated in FIG. 6. After the media passes over gimballed roller 63, it is conveyed in a substantially vertical direction within take-out section 19, and to rotatable transport or take-up assembly 53. Rotatable transport assembly 53 includes a castered roller 65 and a castered and gimballed roller 67. The specifics of castered roller 65 are illustrated in FIG. 9. As shown in FIG. 9, castered roller 65 is pivotally mounted on links 65 a which pivot about points 650, 651 and are mounted on support 652. The axes of links 65 a intersect at a point 654 which defines an upstream pivot or caster axis for roller 65. Thus, roller 65 rotates about rotational axis 653 and due to the interaction of links 65 a rotates about an axis through point 654 which is spaced from and perpendicular to rotational axis 653. This enables roller 65 to self-align to the web.
Castered and gimballed roller 67 is illustrated in detail in FIG. 10. As shown in FIG. 10, roller 67 is mounted on a support 672 so as to be rotatable about rotational axis 670. Roller 67 and support 672 are mounted as a unit on a further support 673 such that roller 67 and support 672 pivot as a unit about pivot point or caster axis 674 relative to further support 673. Pivot point 674 is spaced from and perpendicular to rotational axis 670. Roller 67 is further rotatable as a unit relative to transport assembly 53 about pivot point or gimbal axis 675 which extends along a longitudinal axis of a media span at roller 67. FIGS. 9 and 10 respectively illustrate examples of mounting rollers in a castered and castered and gimballed manner. It is recognized that the present invention is not limited thereto and that other methods of mounting the rollers in a castered and castered and gimballed manner are possible within the context of the present invention.
With the arrangement as illustrated in FIG. 7, as the web is vertically led in a downward direction from roller 63 to roller 65, based on the position of transport assembly 53, for example, when feeding photosensitive material to either cassettes 19 c or 19 a, the web is twisted at a specific angle.
After being conveyed by castered and gimballed roller 67, which self-align to the web, the web can be upwardly conveyed to a shoe and lateral guide arrangement 69, and thereafter fed by feeding roller 71 to an appropriate take-up cassette 19 a- 19 c.
In a feature of the present invention, a third span of the photosensitive material is defined between lateral guide 61 and gimballed roller 63 In this span, as illustrated in FIG. 8, a lateral position 300 is derived by lateral guide 61, while an angular position 303 is derived from gimballed roller 63. A further span is defined between guide arrangement 69 and take-up roll 90. In this further span, a lateral position 305 is derived from guide arrangement 69, while an angular position 307 is derived from take-up roll 90 in take-up cassette (19 a- 19 c). Therefore, as conceptually illustrated in FIG. 8, the span of the web from roller 63 to guide arrangement 69 essentially acts as a hinge as transport assembly 53 rotates, which permits the feeding of photosensitive material without appreciable lateral tracking of the photosensitive material. Essentially, roller 67 is castered and gimballed so as to act as a hinge and provide zero constraint, while roller 67 is castered so as to provide zero constraint.
Thus, as transport assembly 53 rotates between take-up cassettes 19 a- 19 c, the web will be twisted about a vertical axis at an angle of between 0 and 90 degrees, for example, at an angle of ±30 degrees between roller 63 and roller 65, which pivot relative to transport assembly 53 to accommodate the twisting while minimizing web tracking variation. In a further feature of the present invention, and referring specifically to the supply side and more specifically to transport assembly 27 at supply section 17, as illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, a splicer 75 is provided on rotatable transport assembly 27. Thus, splicer 75 and gimballed roller 35 are rotatable as a unit together with transport assembly 27. The arrangement of the present invention permits splicer 75 to be pivotable from one cassette 17 a to another cassette 17 b to a further cassette 17 c. This provides for a straight thrust of the web from each cassette (17 a- 17 c) such that the span from the supply cassette (17 a- 17 c) is always straight.
Further, the web can be twisted about vertical axis 500 (FIG. 4) between gimballed roller 35 and plate or shoe 39 without appreciable tracking error because the web is two dimensionally stiff at twist angles of less than 90 degrees. Splicer 75 serves to splice the end of the material from an empty cassette to begin the paper of a next full cassette. With reference to the diagrams of FIGS. 5 and 8, reference numeral 83 schematically illustrates the twisted web span entering the printing section 21, while reference numeral 85 schematically illustrates the twisted web span exiting the printing section 21. Each of the web spans are respectively twisted about vertical axis 500 (FIG. 4) and vertical axis 501 (FIG. 7).
In a further feature of the present invention, and specifically relating to take-up section 19 and more specifically to transport assembly 53, a known cutter 77 is provided on transport assembly 53. Cutter 77 along with castered roller 65 and castered and gimballed roller 67 are rotatable as a unit with transport assembly 53. The cutter is utilized on the take-up side to cut the paper an appropriate length, at the termination of the roll. Thereafter, transport assembly 53 can be rotated to the next empty take-up cassette (19 a- 19 c).
Control of rotatable transport assemblies 27 and 53 can be by way of a computer and/or microprocessor provided in printing apparatus 15, which control a moving mechanism such as a motor and are responsive to signals with respect to, for example, the amount of paper in the cassettes, the position of the web, etc. For example, a supply cassette can include sensors which communicate with sensors within the printing section, to indicate when a supply cassette is empty or full, and similarly, a take-up cassette can include sensors to indicate the amount of paper in the take-up cassette. As a further feature, a sensor such as a counter can be provided along the web path, to count the amount of paper, and utilize this as a reference with respect to the amount of paper within a specific cassette.
Accordingly, the present invention provides for a printing apparatus that permits a connection of a plurality of supply and take-up cassettes through a controlled path geometry and controlled constraints. The web path through the printing apparatus undergoes two approximately 90° bends at each end. At each pair of bends the web is pivoted and undergoes a twist about a vertical line or a line which is colinear to the pivot axis. This pivot motion permits the web to be routed to and from a plurality of supply and take-up cassettes so as to merge multiple paper paths into one central path. The pivot motion also creates straight feed paths to a splicer and from a cutter and eliminates the need for a complex shuttle mechanism or complicated paper handling.
The invention has been described in detail with particular reference to certain preferred embodiments thereof, but it will be understood that variations and modifications can be effected within the spirit and scope of the invention.