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Publication numberUS3078629 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateFeb 26, 1963
Filing dateJan 8, 1960
Priority dateJan 8, 1960
Publication numberUS 3078629 A, US 3078629A, US-A-3078629, US3078629 A, US3078629A
InventorsPaul J Besemer, Long Richard M De
Original AssigneeUpjohn Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method for sealing hard filled capsules
US 3078629 A
Abstract  available in
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Feb. 26, 1963 P. J. BESEMER ETAL METHOD FOR SEALING HARD FILLED CAPSULES 3 SheetsSheet 1 Filed Jan. 8, 1960 INVENTORS PAUL J. BESE'MEP 9/5/1490 M 05 1011/6 ATI'OPA/EV Feb. 26, 1963 P. J. BESEMER ETAL 3,078,629

METHOD FOR SEALING HARD FILLED CAPSULES Filed Jan. 8, 1960 3 Sheets-Sheet 2 INVENTORS PAUL J. BESEME/P PICA/4E0 M DE 104 6 ATI'OEWEV 1963 P. J. BESEMER ETAL 3,073,629

'METHDD FOR SEALING HARD FILLED CAPSULES Filed Jan. 8, 1960 3 Sheets-Sheet 3 ii HVVENIURS PAUL BESE/I/[E 9/0/4490 M. 06' z 0/va States Unite This invention relates in general to a method for filling and sealing two-piece capsules and, more particularly to a type of method which is especially adapted for use w th an ingestible capsule comprised of a cup member whlch is snugly and telescopically receivable into a cap.

The invention to which this application relates has developed out of a need which has long existed in the pharmaceutical industry in the packaging and dispensing of certain types of medicaments. Accordingly, much of the following description is in terms which are characteristic of the pharmaceutical industry, and such terms are well suited to a full disclosure of the invention. However, it will be understood that such specific disclosure is for convenience and illustrative purposes only and is not intended to limit the scope of the invention. Persons acquainted with the subject of packaging will recognze that at least the broader principles of the invention may be applied also to other packaging fields and will still meet most, if not all, of the objects of the invention.

Some types of medicaments are most advantageously administered orally in the form of small granules or a powder. In order to provide an accurate dosage, it is necessary to place such medicament in small ingestible capsules. One form of such capsules which is commonly used is comprised of a pair of similar cup-shaped members which are substantially cylindrical and arranged so that one of said members, which usually contains the medicament, is telescopically and snugly receivable into the other member, which serves as a cap. In order to provide a capsule of maximum ingestibility and minimum size, it has been customary to fabricate the capsules from a fragile material, such as a water soluble gelatin.

in an effort to reduce the cost of filling and closing such capsules, it has been necessary to use production pro cedures whereby a large number of such capsules can be simultaneously filled and closed by means of machinery. However, insofar as we are aware, no successful method or apparatus has been developed for simultaneously sealing or bonding the two separable parts of a large number of such capsules as a part of the filling and closing operation. This is due in part to the fragile nature of said capsules as Well as to the fact that contamination is a serious problem in the handling of medicaments.

Some attempts have been made to seal capsules of this nature by applying heat to the capsule after it is filled and closed. However, certain types of filling materials, such as some medicaments, are adversely afiected by the application of heat. Moreover, this procedure, at least to the extent of its present development, requires individual handling of each capsule. Clearly, the limitations of such handling render the resultant product uncompetitive with similar products which can be provided in large quantities by production procedures.

According to the existing practice in by far the majority of cases, filled capsules are bottled and marketed in the unsealed condition and this produces many problems which are well recognized in the industry. For example, the filled capsules must be handled verycarefully ,so that they will not be accidentally opened and dumped while they are being cleaned, counted, packaged or used. The medicament, particularly if a pcwder, tends to seep out of the capsule and thereby cloud the interior of transparent containers in which they are often marketed.

atent Such seepage also tends to change the dosage. Moreover, the capsule can be easily opened so that the medicament therein can be tampered with or contaminated, which can produce very serious results. Numerous other problems, which develop either directly or indirectly from the fact that most of these capsules are presently unsealed, are well known among persons who are ac quainted with the preparation and marketing of such capsules.

Accordingly, a primary object of this invention has een the provision of a method for filling and bonding together the two parts of an ingestible capsule wherein the parts are telescopically joined and contain a pow dered or granular medicament.

A further object of this invention is the provision of a method, as aforesaid, whereby the bonding, or sealing, operation can be performed upon a very large number of capsules simultaneously without contaminating the contents thereof, without changing any of its characteristics and without materially changing the existing high production procedures presently used for the purpose of filling such capsules.

A further object of this invention has been the provision of a method, as aforesaid, which can be performed automatically, which requires no exercise of judgment on the part of the operator, which holds the two halves of the capsule tightly together after the sealing thereof so that they can be handled without special care or attention during cleaning, counting, packaging and other operations thereon associated with their marketing and use, and which can be so handled without any fear of the halves coming apart and losing the contents of the capsule.

A further object of this invention has been the provision of a method, as aforesaid, which does not impair or change in any way the ingestibility of the capsule and its contents, and which can be easily integrated into existing methods and machines for filling and closing capsules without modifying these functions or theirexisting structures 1n any way.

Other objects and purposes of this invention will become apparent to persons acquainted with this type of equipment upon reading the following specification and examining the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGURE 1 is a front elevational view of a machine including the appartus of the invention.

FIGURE 1A is a sectional view taken along the line IAIA in FIGURE 1.

FIGURE 2 is a sectional view of said machine taken along the line 11-11 in FIGURE 1.

FIGURE 3 is a broken fragment of that part of said machine embodying the invention.

FIGURE 4 is a fragment of a top plan view of a capsule-holding annulus.

FIGURE 5 is a-sectional view V-V in FIGURE 4.

FIGURE 5A is a fragment of FIGURE 5 with a closed capsule therein.

FIGURE 6 is a sectional View taken along the line VIVI in FIGURE 2.

FIGURE 7 is a sectional view substantially as taken along the line VIIVII in FIGURE 2 and showing a taken along the line modified construction.

as appearing in FIGURE 1. The terms inner, outer and derivatives thereof will have reference to the geometric center of the capsule-sealing apparatus, to which the invention relates, and parts associated therewith.

General Description The objects and purposes of the invention, including those set forth above, have been met by providing a capsule sealing apparatus which embodies the invention and can be placed in operable association with a capsule filling machine of a substantially conventional type. In one preferred embodiment, for example, the capsule filling machine includes a first hopper containing a plurality of closed and empty capsules of identical size, each capsule consisting of a cap portion and a cup portion telescopically received into said cap portion. The filling machine is capable of depositing said capsules in a predetermined upright attitude into a plurality of uniformly disposed openings in an annulus which is itself comprised of a pair of similar and superimposed fiat rings. Suitable mechanism, preferably suction apparatus, is provided for separating the cups from the caps as they are deposited in the annulus so that the cups are moved into one ring of the annulus and the caps remain in the other ring thereof. The cap containing ring is then moved to the apparatus of the invention so that a suitable sealing material, such as an adhesive or a solvent for the capsule material, can be applied to the caps therein.

The cup containing ring is placed under a second hopper associated with the filling machine, whereby a desired filling substance is placed in said cups. The two rings are then again placed together and moved to suitable apparatus which will urge the cup portions of the capsules firmly into the cap portions whereupon the sealing occurs and, thereafter, the closed capsules are discharged from the annulus into a receptacle.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the sealing apparatus is comprised of a liquid reservoir supported upon a pedestal. The reservoir has a top plate supporting a plurality of spaced and parallel cylinders, which extend into said reservoir. A plurality of substantially parallel and vertical pistons are mounted upon support structure within said reservoir for reception into said cylinders. The upper ends of said cylinders, which have sidewardly opening outlets, are slidably receivable into the cap portions of capsules disposed in the cap supporting ring. The liquid within the reservoir is forced by said pistons through the outlet openings in each cylinder when the support structure is moved, in any convenient manner, toward the cylinders, and said liquid is thereby deposited upon the inner side walls of the cap portions of each capsule. The movement of the pistons can be controlled manually or automatically in response to a particular operation of the filling machine.

The method of the invention consists broadly of arranging the cups and the covering caps of a plurality of capsules so that the caps can be moved separately with respect to the cups for the purpose of performing separate operations thereon. That is, the cup portions are filled with a desired filling substance and the cap portions are placed upon an apparatus by which the sealing or bonding material can be simultaneously applied to the inner surfaces of all of said cap portions. Said cup por tions are then simultaneously urged into the cap portions so that the sealing material can eifect a bond between the cap portion and cup portion of each capsule. Thereafter, said capsules are discharged in their sealed or bonded condition from their holding means into a receptacle. It will be recognized that this method can be carried out by a variety of different structures, two of which will be hereinafter described in detail.

Detailed Description A preferred embodiment of the structural aspects of the invention has been selected and will be described for illustrative purposes and to disclose both the method of the invention and one specific form of device whereby the method can be practiced. More specifically, and as shown 4 in FIGURES 1 and 2, the sealing apparatus 10 of the invention is disclosed in combination with a capsule filling machine 11 which includes a capsule positioning device 12, a capsule loading device 13 and a capsule discharging device 14, all of which are preferably, but not necessarily, supported upon the table structure 17.

The capsule positioning device 12 (FIGURE ,1) 1s, excepting for the annulus mentioned hereinafter, of known construction but will be described briefly for convenience in reference. It includes a hopper 18 sup ported upon a pedestal 19 and connected to a capsule positioning head 20. The annulus 28 is rotatably supported by means of a circular support member 34 upon the upper surface 33 of the table 17. The member 34 is located on the table 17 with respect to the pedestal 19 so that the lower end of the positioning head 20 (FIG- URE 2) covers a portion of the upper surface of the upper ring 26. Thus, a plurality of capsules 22 (FIG- URE 5A) may be quickly and accurately oriented with and inserted into the axially aligned capsule receivingopenings 23 and 24 of the upper and lower rings 26 and 27 (FIGURES 1 and 5A), respectively, of the capsule holding annulus 28. Each capsule 22 is comprised of a lower cup portion 29, in which a medicament is placed, and an upper cap portion 30 into which the cup portion is slidably received. The circular member, with the annulus 28 thereon, can be rotated manually or automatically in a known manner in response to the deposit of capsules into the annulus by the head 20.

Each cap opening 23 has a portion 32 (FIGURE 5A) of reduced diameter near its lower end which engages the lower edge of the cap 30 around the opening therein. The cup opening 24 has a portion 31 of reduced diameter which engages and supports the lower, closed end of the cup 29 therein. Appropriate means, such as a suction mechanism 35 is arranged in the table structure 17 directly below the head 20 for the purpose of separating the cup portions 29 from the cap portions 30 by moving said cup portions downwardly into the lower ring 27 againstthe shoulder produced by the reduced portion 31.

The rings 26 and 27 both have a pair of similar lugs' 49 and 50, respectively (FIGURE 5), which are integral with and extend radially inwardly from diametrically opposite sides of their inner edges. The lugs 50 on the lower ring 27 each has upwardly extending pins 52 secured thereto which are received into the openings 53 in the lugs 49 for the purpose of preventing relative rotation between said rings and accurately aligning with each other the capsule openings 23 and 24 therein. At least one of the lugs 50 has a pin opening 54 in its lower side into which a pin 60 on the circular support member 34 is slidably received.

The loading device 13 (FIGURE 1) is also largely conventional and includes a hopper 38 which contains medicament and is supported upon a pedestal 39 mounted upon the upper surface 33 of the table 17. The loading device 13 also includes an annular support 42 (FIGURE 2) rotatably mounted upon the upper surface 33 of the table 17 whereby the lower, cup containing ring 27 can be rotatably supported beneath the hopper 38. The annular support 42 can be arranged in a known manner for manual operation or for automatic rotation of the ring supported thereon as desired in synchronization with the operation of the remainder of the loading device.

The discharge device 14 (FIGURE 1) also largely conventional includes a discharge head 43 (FIGURES 1 and 1A), which is supported by axially slidable shaft 40 upon an upright support structure 44 mounted upon the table structure 17. A guide funnel 46 is disposed directly below the discharge head 43 and is directed downwardly into a capsule receiving cabinet 47. The funnel 46 has a pair of horizontal, spaced and parallel rods 41 (FIGURE 1) upon which an annulus 28 (FIGURE 1A), containing a plurality of capsules 22, the cup portions of which are filled with a medicament, are supported adjacent to the discharge head 43. Thus the discharge pins 48 on said discharge head 43 can be directly aligned with the cup opening 24 in the lower ring 27 by rotating the annulus. The back-up plate 51 is pivotally supported upon the support structure M for movement between its FIGURE 1 and FIGURE 1A positions.

The structure including the positioning device 12, the loading device 13 and the discharge device 14 comprises one type of already known capsule filling and closing machine 11 with which the sealing apparatus 16 (FIG- URES 1 and 2) may function, but since it is by no means the only apparatus of this nature with which my sealing device can function, its presentation here should be understood as illustrative only.

The sealing apparatus 11) (FIGURES 1 and 3) has a rigid mounting structure 55 which is adjacent, and may be secured to the table structure 17. Said mounting structure 55 includes a substantially horizontal support plate 56 having a central opening 57 (FIGURE 3), through which the cylindrical guide casing 53 is slidably received. An annular locking collar 59 which is secured to the upper surface of the support plate 56 adjacent to and coaxial with the opening 57, has a set screw opening 62 through which a set screw 63 is threadedly received for engaging the guide casing 53 and holding same in position with respect to the mounting structure 55. The guide casing 56 has an annular, external flange 64 at its upper end upon which the bottom wall 66 of the cupshaped, liquid reservoir 67 is secured by means of the bolts 68 (FIGURE 3). The reservoir 67 has a substantially cylindrical side wall 69, in this particular embodiment, with an external annular flange 72 at its upper edge.

The bottom Wall 66 has a central opening 73 which is coaxial with, and equal in size to, the counterbore 74 in the upper end of an opening 76 extending through the guide casing 53. Packing 77 is disposed in the counterbore 74 around the actuating post 78 which is reciprocably held within the casing 5'3 so that it extends from the upper and lower ends thereof. A packing gland 79 is secured to the bottom end 66 by bolts 82 so that it engages the packing 77 in a conventional manner.

The lower end of the post 78 is pivotally secured to the upper end of the piston rod 83 (FIGURE 1) of pressure fluid operated cylinder 34 which is connected to a source of pressure fluid (not shown) by means of the conduits 86 and 87. Accordingly, the power cylinder 84 effects upward and downward movement of the post 78.

A control plate 82* is secured to the post 73 near its lower end and extends radially outwardly therefrom. One or more control screws 89' are threadedly received through the control plate 88 and extend upwardly therefrom for engagement with the lower end of the guide casing 58. The vertical position of the control screws 89 can be adjusted by rotation thereof and then secured by the lock nuts 92.

A pair of spaced, horizontal piston plates 94 and 95 (FIGURE 3) are disposed, one above the other, within the reservoir 67. Said piston plates 9 and 95, which are preferably circular, have axially aligned central openings 90 and 91, respectively.

The upper end of the post 78 has a reduced portion 93 which slidably and snugly extends through said central openings 90 and $1 in the piston supporting plates 94 and 95. The eupper piston plate 94 has a plurality of piston openings 97 (FIGURE 6) through which the pistons 93 slidably extend upwardly. Each piston 98 has an enlarged head 99 disposed between the plates 94 and 95. Bolts 162 are slidably received through smooth openings in the lower plate 95 and threadedly engage threaded openings 104 in the upper plate 94. A bolt 166 (FIGURE 3) which is threadedly received into a threaded opening 167 in the reduced portion 93 of the post 78, has a head which overlies the upper piston plate 94 for holding the plates 94 and 95 upon the post 78.

A fluid inlet pipe 198 (FIGURE 3) communicates with the reservoir 67 through the bottom wall 66 thereof.

A fluid outlet pipe 109 also communicates with said reservoir through the bottom wall 66 but extends upwardly into the reservoir a suflicient distance to maintain a constant level of fluid 112 therein. Appropriate openings are provided in the piston plates 94 and for slidably receiving therethrough the upper end of the fluid outlet pipe 10?. Accordingly, the plates 94 and 95, and the pistons 98 held thereby, are movable upwardly and down wardly within the reservoir 67 by operation of the power cylinder 84. The post 78 has a lengthwise slot 110 into which a guide pin 111 is slidably received, said guide pin being secured to said casing 58 to prevent relative rotation between said post and said casing.

The reservoir 67 has a circular top wall 113 (FIG- URES 3 and 6) which is secured to the flange 72 of the side wall 69 by means of bolts 114. Saidtop wall has a central opening 116 (FIGURE 6) which is covered by a removable inspection plate 117 secured to the top wall by cap screws 118. The top wall 113 has a plurality of spaced, cylinder openings 119 which are axially aligned with and directly above the pistons 98 when the top wall 113 is secured to the flange 72. A plurality of fluid discharge cylinders 122, each having an annular external flange 123 between the ends thereof, are slidably and respectively received into cylinder openings 119 so that the flanges 123 thereof bear against the upper surface of the top wall 113. Each cylinder 122 has a chamber 124 into which a piston $8 is snugly and slidably receivable. Each cylinder 122 has a discharge passageway 126, which communicates at its lower end with the chamber 124 and its upper end with an outlet opening 125 through the side wall of said cylinder 122 adjacent to the upper end thereof. Each cylinder 122 has at least one inlet opening 127 through the side wall thereof which communicates with the chamber 124 at a point just above the upper end of the piston 98 disposed therein, when said piston is in its retracted or lowest position, in this particular embodiment.

A plurality of limit bolts 128 (FIGURES 3 and 6) which have smooth shanks 129 substantially throughout the lengths thereof, are slidably received through smooth openings 132 in the piston plate 94 for threaded engagement at their upper ends with appropriate threaded openings in the top wall 113. The lower piston plate 95 has openings 133 which are axially aligned with the openings 132 but of larger diameter for clearance reception of the heads 134 on the limit bolts 128. Thus, engagement of the upper plate 94- with the heads 134 on the limit bolts 128 positively limits the downward movement of the upper piston plate 94. Accordingly, because the pistons 98 are held with respect to the plate 24 by the plate 95, the limit bolts 123 also limit the downward movement of the pistons '98 in the cylinders 122.

An annular clamping plate 136 (FIGURES 3 and 6) is secured, as by means of the bolts 137, upon the upper surface of, and concentric with, the top wall 113 of the reservoir 167. Said clamping plate 13-6 has a plurality of cylinder openings 13%; through which the upper ends of the cylinders 122 are slidably but snugly received, the flanges 123 on said cylinder 122 being clamped between the plate 136 and the upper surface of said top wall 113. Upwardly extending locating pins 139 are secured to the clamping plate 136 and extend upwardly for slidable reception into the pilot openings 53 in the lugs 49 of the upper ring 26. Resilient bumpers 14-2 are mounted upon the upper surface of the clamping plate 136 for spacing the ring 26 therefrom.

Operation The sealing apparatus 1% (FIGURES l and 2) is capable of support and operation completely independent of the filling and closing machine 11, with which it is illustratively associated in this particular embodiment of the invention. However, for convenience in disclosing the method of the invention, said sealing apparatus 10 7 is closely associated in structure and operation with the capsule filling and closing machine 11. Moreover, and also for convenience of description, the sealing apparatus 10 is arranged and constructed for operation with a capsule supporting annulus 28 which is specifically designed for use with the capsule filling machine 11. However, it will be understood that the limitations in the construction and operation of the sealing apparatus 10, which are imposed by the annulus 28, are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention or applicability of the sealing apparatus 10 with respect to other types of capsule filling and/or closing machines, and particularly those presently in use. Briefly, with respect to operation, the empty capsules 22 are properly positioned in the capsule openings in the annulus 28 by the positioning head 20, the cap and cup portions of each capsule being separated from each other into the rings 26 and 27, respectively. Thereafter the upper ring 26 is placed upon the sealing apparatus 10 where a sealing material, such as water or aqueous solutions in the case of water soluble gelatin capsules, is applied to the inner surface of each cap portion at the same time that the cup portions 29 are being filled by the hopper 38 with a medicament. Thereafter the upper ring 26 is rejoined with the lower ring 27 and the two are mounted together upon the discharge device 14 so that the capsules 22 can first be closed and then discharged from the annulus 28 into the capsule containing cabinet 47.

The operation of the capsule filling machine 11, including the sealing appaartus 10, which is now considered in detail, normally commences by mounting an annulus 28 upon the support member 34 with the cap supporting ring 26 on top of the cup supporting ring 27. The pins 52 on the lugs 50 of the lower ring 27 are slidably received into the openings 53 in the lugs 49 of the upper ring 26 to effect a driving engagement between the two rings with their capsule openings axially aligned. This is accomplished by arranging the annulus 28 upon the center member 34 so that the pin 60 is received into the pin openings 54- in the lug 50 on the lower ring 27. Rotation of the annulus 28 by the support member 34, which may be controlled either manually or mechanically by the machine 11, causes the upper ring 26 to move under the positioning head 20 in which capsules 22 are disposed. The positioning head 20 then effects placement of the capsules 22 into the capsule openings 23 in the upper ring 26 so that the cup portions 29 of said capsules will move down into the capsule openings 24 in the lower ring 27.

Means such as a suction device 35 (FIGURE 1) (not shown) may be provided in the table structure 17 preferably below the positioning head 20 for drawing the cup portions 29 (FIGURE 5) of the capsules 22 downwardly into the openings 24 in the cup supporting ring 27. The portions 32 of reduced diameter in the openings 23 engage the lower open edge of the cap portions 30 and prevent them from moving downwardly with the cup portions when such suction is applied thereto. Thus, the suction means also serves to separate the cup portions from the cap portions within the annulus 28.

After the annulus 28 has been completely rotated at least once beneath the positioning head 26, thereby filling the annulus with capsules, the capsules are inspected for proper arrangement. The upper ring 26, which contains the cap portions 30 of said capsules 22, is lifted away from the lower ring 27 and placed upon, and concentric With, the annular clamping plate 136 on the upper surface of the sealing apparatus 10. The ring 26 is quickly and properly located with respect to the clamping plate 136 by means of the pilot pins 139 on said clamping plate 136, which are slidably received through the openings 53 in the lugs 49 on said ring. In this way, the upper ends of the cylinders 122 are aligned with, and slidably received into, the lower ends of the openings 23 8 in said ring 26, hence into the cap portions 30 of said capsules 22. The lower ring 2'7, which contains the cup portions of the capsules 22, is normally placed upon the annular support 42 immediately after the upper ring 26 is removed therefrom.

The sealing apparatus 10 can be arranged so that its operation is manually controlled at the will of an operator, or is responsive to a function of the machine 11, such as a complete rotation of the annular support 42 with the lower ring 27 thereon. The sealing material 112 (FIGURES 3 and 6) is applied to the cap portions 30 of the capsules 22 within the ring 26 by operating the power cylinder 84, whether automatically or manually, so that it effects upward movement of the post 73 within the guide casing 58, and therefore, simultaneous upward movement of the pistons 98 within their respective cylinders 122. As upward movement of the pistons 28 commences, the level of the liquid 112 in the chambers 124 will be the same as the level of such fluid within the reservoir 67, because of the inlet openings 127 in the side walls thereof. Accordingly, by carefully selecting the location of the openings 127 and by controlling both the level of the liquid 112 within the reservoir 67 and the upward stroke of the pistons 93, a predetermined amount of said liquid can be caused to how through the discharge passageways 126 and then sprayed outwardly through the outlet openings 125 where it is deposited upon the inner surfaces of the cap portions 30 adjacent to their lower open edges.

During the time the upper ring 26 is in operating position on the sealing apparatus 10, the lower ring 27 is rotated, either manually or automatically, by the annular support 42 so that the lower end of the hopper 33 moves along the upper surface of the lower ring 27 and fills each cup portion 29 with the medicament in said hopper. When the filling operation is completed, the hopper 38 is moved sidewardly away from a position above the lower ring 27. The upper ring 26 containing the cap portions 30 is now removed from the sealing apparatus 10 and placed upon the lower ring 27 so that the pins 52 on the lugs 50 of the lower ring 27 are slidably received into the openings 53 in the lugs 49 of the upper ring 26. In this manner, the cap portions 30 in the upper ring are placed in proper registry with the cup portions 29 held in the lower ring 27.

The back-up plate 51 on the discharge device 14 is now moved upwardly into its FIGURE 1 position. The annulus 28, now occupying its broken line position on the support 42 as appearing in FIGURE 1, is removed from the annular support 42 and mounted in an upright position upon the rods 41 in the funnel 46 so that the lower surface of the lower ring 27 is facing the discharge head 43 and the discharge pins 48 thereon are aligned with the capsule openings 24 in said lower ring. The back-up plate 51 is then moved downwardly into its position as shown in FIGURE 1A where it substantially covers the adjacent surface of the upper ring 26. The discharging device 14 is operated so that the head 43 moves righ-twardly as seen in FIGURE 1A whereby the discharge pins 4-8 on the discharge head 43 move first through the openings 31, thence through the cap sule openings 24 in the lower ring 27. Thus, the capsule parts are urged against the back-up plate 51 once the cup portions 29 are slidably moved into the cap portions 39, as shown in FIGURE 5A. The softened parts of the cap portions thereby come into contact with the outer surface of the cup portions to form a bond etween the associated cap and cup portions. The head 43 is then returned leftwardly (as appearing in FIGURE 1A) to the position shown in FIGURE 1A and the annulus 28 is manually moved leftwardly against the pins 48. The pins 48 move the capsules out of their respective openings 23 and 24 from whence they fall downwardly through the guide funnel 46 into the capsule receiving cabinet 47.

The sealing material may effect a bond between the cap and the cup portions of the capsules 22 either quickly or slowly depending upon the nature of the materials involved. Moreover, the bonding may occur at one or more than one point between the overlapped cap and cup portions of the capsule or, under some circumstances, may be substantially continuous, whereby a substantially complete seal is formed. Obviously, these variations may be provided by appropriate arrangement of the outlets 125 from the discharge passageway 126 through the upper ends of the cylinders 122.

When the capsules 22 have been thusly discharged from the annulus 28, said annulus may be rel loved from the discharge device 14 and placed upon the support member 3 for re-engagernent thereby so that the complete filling and sealing cycle can be repeated and in the same manner as set forth above.

It will be apparent that after the sealing liquid has been applied to the caps 35 by the sealing apparatus 1% the power cylinder 8-4 can be operated to move the pistons 98 downwardly within their respective cylinders 122 so that liquid can enter through the inlet openings 127 and refill the chambers 124. The sealing liquid thus moved from the reservoir 27 into the cylinders 122 is replaced by the inlet pipe 1118 until the level of fluid in the reservoir 67 returns to the level of the upper end of the overflow pipe If it becomes desirable to examine the contents of the reservoir 67, such can be quickly and easily accomplished by removing the cap screws 118 (FTGURE 6) whereby the inspection plate 117 can be removed from its position covering the inspection opening 116 in the top wall 113. By removing bolts 114 in the edge of the top wall 113 and the bolt 166 (FIGURE 3), which can be easily reached when the inspection plate 117 is removed, the entire piston and cylinder assembly including the piston plates 94 and 95, the top wall 113 and the clamping plate 136 can be removed as a unit from within and upon the reservoir 67. By removing the bolts 1112, the lower plate 95 can be removed from the upper plate 9 4, after which all of the pistons 93 can be removed by sliding them through the openings 97 away from their respective cylinders 122. The piston plate 94, either with or without the pistons Q8 and plate 95, can be disconnected from the top wall 113 by removing the limit bolts 128 therefrom.

If it is desirable to examine the cylinders 12?. only, such can be effected by removing the bolts 137 (FIGURE 6) so that the clamping plate 156 can be removed from the top wall 113. Thereafter, the individual cylinders 122 can be lifted upwardly from the top plate 113 while sliding through the cylinder openings 119 therein. This arrangement permits quick and easy removal of a cylinder 122 which is not operating properly. Moreover, it provides a means of permitting the cleaning of the cylinders and their outlet openings from time to time to insure uniform operation thereof without necessitating the disassembly of the entire sealing apparatus.

The amount of fluid moved through the discharge passageway 126 and thereby dispensed from each cylinder 122 can be controlled by controlling the level of the sealing liquid within the reservoir 67, hence, by controlling the position of the upper end of the outlet or overflow pipe 1119 within the reservoir 67. The amount of sealing liquid dispensed from each cylinder 122 can also be controlled by the stroke of the pistons 8, particularly above the inlet openings 127 in the side walls thereof, which combine with the liquid level in the reservoir to determine the amount of fluid trapped in the cylinder for discharge through the passageway 126. The stroke of the pistons can be changed by adjustment of the control screws 89, which are secured to, and control the upward movement of, the post 78, hence of the pistons 93, with respect to the casing 53 and cylinders 122, respectively.

Alternate Construction The modified sealing apparatus 151 (FIGURE 7) includes a cup-shaped reservoir 152 having a bottom wall 153 and top wall 154-, which may be rigidly secured with respect to the flanged side wall 156 in substantially the same manner as set forth above with respect to the corresponding parts in the sealing apparatus 11 The bottom wall 153 and top wall 15-4 have central, concentric openings 157 and 158 through which a guide casing extends in snug, sealed relationship. A post 162 is slidably disposed Within the casing 159 for movement lengtl wise thereof by any suitable means, such as the power cylinder 184- shown in FIGURE 1.

The top wall 154 (FIGURE 7) of said reservoir 152 has a plurality of cylinder openings 163 in each of which is disposed an upwardly opening cylinder 164 which extends downwardly into the liquid 166 within the reservoir 152. An outlet or overflow pipe 167 maintains a constant level of the liquid 166 within the reservoir 152 which fluid enters the reservoir through the inlet pipe 168. Each cylinder 164 (FIGURE 8) has an inlet opening 169 through the side wall thereof spaced somewhat below the upper level of the liquid 166 in the reservoir.

A piston 171 (FIGURE 8) is slidably disposed within each cylinder 164 and has an annular external flange 172 between the upper and lower ends thereof. Resilient means, such as the spiral springs 173, is slidably disposed around each piston 171 between the flange 172 and the upper, flanged end of the cylinder 164 associated therewith. The piston 171 has a central discharge passageway 174 which communicates at its lower end with the chamber 175 in the cylinder 164 and extends through the side wall of the piston 171 near the upper end thereof. Thus, as the piston 171 is moved downwardly into the chamber 175, sealing liquid disposed therein is forced upwardly through the discharge passageway 174 and thence outwardly through the sidewall of the piston 171 near the upper end thereof.

A piston actuating plate 176 (FIGURE 7) has a plurality of piston openings 177 therethrough for receiving simultaneously the upper ends of all of the pistons 171 sup-ported upon the top wall 154 of the reservoir 152 by means of the springs 173. A plurality of limit bolts 17S are slidably received through bolt openings 179 in the piston actuating plate 176 and threadedly engaged with threaded openings in the top wall 154. The bolts 178 have heads 181 which engage, and limit the upward movement of, the actuating plate 176 against the contrary urging of the springs 173 which are held under compression by and between the plate 176 and the top wall 154. The springs 173 are selected so that they are under compression at all times when the limit bolts 178 are properly adjusted with respect to the top wall 154.

A support plate 182 (FIGURE 7), which is secured to the upper end of the post 162 by the bolt 1253, is arranged for engaging the upper surface of the actuating plate 176 and elfecting downward movement thereof with respect to the guide casing 159 in response to downward movement of the post 162.

A pair of pilot pins 134 are supported upon, and extend upwardly from, the support plate 182 for reception into pin openings 186 in the lugs 187, which extend radially inwardly from the cap supporting ring 188 of an annulus, such as that shown at23 in FIGURE 1. The cap supporting ring 183 may be substantially identical in structure and operation to the cap supporting ring 26 of the annulus 23. That is, it has a plurality of openings 18? into which cap portions 39a of ingestible capsules, such as the capsule 22 shown in FIGURE 5A, are received and supported. Accordingly, when the lugs 187 on the cap ring 188 are engaged by the pilot pins 184, the cap openings 189 in said ring 188 are exactly and accurately aligned with the upper ends of the pistons 171,

1 1 which upper ends extend above the upper surface of the piston actuating plate 176.

The thickness of the support plate 182 is preferably selected so that said support plate engages the upper surface of the actuating plate 175 when the upper ends of the pistons 171 are properly inserted into the caps 30a disposed within the cap openings 189. Accordingly, subsequent downward movement of the post 162 operates through the support plate 182 to drive the actuating plate 176 downwardly, which results in simultaneous downward movement of all of the pistons 171. Such downward movement of the pistons 171 causes the sealing liquid trapped within the chambers 175 below the pistons 171 to move up the discharge passageway 174 and thence sidewardly above the actuating plate 176 against the inside wall of the caps 30a held by the cap ring 188.

Generally speaking, the operation of the modified sealing apparatus 151 is similar to that set forth above with respect to the sealing apparatus 10. That is, a cap ring 188 having a plurality of capsule caps 30a supported therein is mounted upon the support plate 182 so that the pilot pins 184 extend through the pin openings 186 in the lugs 187, thereby properly aligning said caps with the upper ends of the pistons 171. The post 162 is then moved downwardly so that the upper ends of the pistons 171 are slidably received into the cap portions 300 after which the pistons 171 are moved downwardly into the chambers 175, against contrary urging by the springs 173. The sealing liquid 166, which is trapped within the chambers 175 (FIGURE 8) below said pistons, moves upwardly and outwardly through the discharge passageway 174 against the inside surface of the caps 30a adjacent to their lower open ends. The cap ring 188 is then removed from the support plate 182 and placed upon means, such as the cup supporting ring 27 (FIGURE in order to perform further operations, substantially as set forth above with respect to the annulus 28.

The apparatuses and 151 have both been designed for the purpose of applying a liquid sealing material to the caps and 30a, respectively. However, both of said apparatuses can be modified to apply sealing materials in other forms, such as gases or powdered solids, to said caps for the purpose of effecting the bond between the caps and cups. Moreover, it may be acceptable under some circumstances, particularly in the broader method aspects of the invention, to apply such sealing materials to the outer surface of the cup in addition to or instead of the inner surface of the cap.

Throughout the foregoing description and in the following claims the terms sealing material or bonding material has been freely used. It should be clearly recognized that insofar as either the method or machine is concerned, it does not matter whether such sealing material is an adhesive or is a solvent for the capsule material, as water for a gelatin capsule. Hence, either of said terms and derivatives thereof shall be understood as including all acceptable materials or agents, whether adhesives, solvents or other, for causing said capsule parts to adhere together.

It will be recognized from the above description of selected embodiments of the invention that the method of the invention can be practiced by a variety of different specific sealing apparatuses. Moreover, the mechanical improvements of the invention can be embodied in a variety of different structures. Thus, although selected embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail above for illustrative purposes, it will be understood that variations or modifications of such disclosure, which lie within the scope of the appended claims, are fully contemplated.

What is claimed is:

1. In a process for filling with a substance and sealing a Plurality of capsules, each capsule having a cup portion and a cap portion into which said cup portion is telescopically receivable, the steps including: supporting a plurality of said cup portions in upwardly opening position; supporting a plurality of said cap portions in downwardly opening position and in exact geometrical correspondence to said cup portions; filling said cup portions with said sub stance; introducing a sealing material applicator simultaneously into each of said cap portions and therewith applying sealing mateiral to the inner surface of said cap portions; separating said cap portions and said applicators; aligning the filled cup portions and the treated cap portions and causing said cup portions to enter said cap portions, the sealing material on the inner surface of each cap portion contacting the outer surface of the corresponding cup portion, whereby said cap portion and said cup portion are secured with respect to each other.

2. In a process for filling with a substance and completing the assembly simultaneously of a plurality of similar capsules, each capsule having a cup portion and a cap portion into which said cup portion is telescopically receivable, the steps including; supporting a plurality of said cup portions in upwardly opening positions with the rims of said cup portions closely adjacent to a substantially horizontal plane; locating a supply of said substance adjacent to and above said plane, efiecting movement of said substance in separate increments into said respective cup portions; supporting a plurality of said cap portions in downwardly opening positions, the relative locations of said cap portions being in the same pattern as the relative locations of said cup portions; simultaneously causing said cap portions to cover respectively a plurality of sealing material applicators; and thereby applying sealing material to the inner surface of each cap portion near the lower edge thereof; separating said cap portions from said applicators; axially aligning said filled cup portions below respective ones of the treated cap portions and causing said cup portions to enter said cap portions, the sealing material on the inner surface of each cap portion contacting the outer surface of the corresponding cup portion, whereby said cap portions and said cup portions are secured with respect to each other.

3. In a process for filling with a substance and cornpleting the assembly simultaneously of a plurality of similar capsules, each capsule having a cup portion and a cap portion into which said cup portion is telescopically receivable, the steps including: supporting a plurality of said cup portions in upwardly opening positions with the rims of said cup portions closely adjacent to a substantially horizontal plane; locating a supply of said substance adjacent to and above said plane, effecting movement of said substance in separate increments into said respective cup portions; supporting a plurality of said cap portions above said plane in downwardly opening positions, the relative locations of said cap portions being in the same pattern as the relative locations of said cup portions; simultaneously causing said cap portions to telescope respectively a plurality of sealing material applicators and utilizing said applicators simultaneously for applying sealing material to the inner surface of each cap portion near the lower edge thereof; separating said cap portions from said applicators; moving said cap portions relative to said cup portions and parallel with said plane for axially aligning said filled cup portions below respective ones of the treated cap portions and then moving one of said cup portions and said cap portions axially for causing said cup portions to enter said cap portions, the sealing material on the inner surface of each cap portion contacting the outer surface of the corresponding cup portion, whereby said cap portions and said cup portions are secured with respect to each other.

4. In a process for filling with a substance and completing the assembly simultaneously of a plurality of similar capsules, each capsule having a cup portion and a cap portion into which said cup portions is telescopically receivable, the steps including: supporting a plurality of said cup portions in upwardly opening positions with the rims of said cup portions closely adjacent to a substantially horizontal plane; locating a supply of said substance adjacent to said above said plane, efiecting movement of said substance in separate increments into said respective cup portions; supporting a plurality of said cap portions in downwardly opening positions, the relative locations of said cap portions being in the same pattern as the relative locations of said cup portions; simultaneously causing a plurality of sealing material applicators to telescope, respectively, one plurality of said said portions and utilizing said applicators simultaneously for applying sealing material to a surface of said portions in said one plurality near the rim thereof; separating said one plurality of portions from said applicators; axially aligning said filled cup portions below respective ones of said cap portions and then moving said portions axially toward each other for causing said cup portions to enter said cap portions, the sealing material on the surface of said one plurality of said portions contacting adjacent surfaces of the other plurality of said portions whereby said cap portions and said cup portions are secured with respect to each other.

5. In a process for filling with a substance and sealing a plurality of capsules, each capsule having a cup portion and a cap portion, said cup portions and said cap portions being open at one end, the steps including: supporting a plurality of said cup portions separate from a corresponding number of said cap members with said cup portions and said cap portions being arranged in the same geometrical pattern; filling said cup portions with said substance while said cup portions are maintained in said pattern; applying a sealing material onto the inside wall of said cap portions adjacent the open end thereof while said cap portions are maintained in said pattern; axially aligning said cup portions and cap portions with their open ends facing each other and then telescoping same on each other so that the portion of the side wall of each of said cap portions on which said sealing material has been placed is disposed adjacent and opposing the side wall of the corresponding cup portion whereby said cap portions become secured to said cup portions.

6. In a process for filling with a substance and sealing simultaneously a plurality of capsules, each capsule hav- 14 1 ing a cup portion and a cap portion which are open at one end of each, the steps including:

supporting a plurality of the cup portions in upwardly opening positions and in a predetermined relative arrangement, so that their open ends are substantially adjacent a substantially horizontal plane;

filling said cup portions with said substance while said cup portions are maintained in their predetermined pattern;

supporting a plurality of cap portions in the same pattern as said relative arrangement of said cup portions, said cap portions being positioned with their open ends facing in the same direction and for substantially simultaneous engagement with said cup portions;

applying a sealing material onto the side wall of each cap portion adjacent the open end thereof While said cap portions are maintained in said pattern and sepa rated from said cup portions;

axially aligning said cup portions and said cap portions with their open ends facing each other;

elfecting simultaneous relative movement of said cap portions and said cup portions toward each other, during which said substance remains in said cup portions, so that the portion of the side wall of each cap portion on which said sealing material has been placed is disposed adjacent to and in overlapping relation with the side Wall of the corresponding cup portion whereby said cap portions become secured to said cup portions.

References Cited in the file of this patent UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,098,857 Buckingham Nov. 9, 1937 2,322,169 Smith June 15, 1943 2,349,303 Pelosi May 23, 1944 2,449,478 HerZOg Sept. 14, 1948 2,495,328 Harrison Jan. 4, 1950 2,924,920 Margolis Feb. 16, 1960 2,936,493 Scherer May 17, 1960

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3162000 *Jun 4, 1962Dec 22, 1964Cooper Tinsley Lab IncMethod of sealing two-piece gelatin capsules
US3242638 *Dec 4, 1962Mar 29, 1966Hoffmann La RocheApparatus for capsule filling
US3273309 *Oct 1, 1962Sep 20, 1966Hoefliger & KargApparatus for filling and sealing twopiece capsules and the like
US3653500 *Jul 11, 1969Apr 4, 1972Lilly Co EliFilled capsules
US3675390 *Jul 31, 1970Jul 11, 1972Ansaks Ind IncCapsule filling apparatus
US3978640 *Sep 10, 1974Sep 7, 1976Manesty Machines, Ltd.Hard-gelatin capsule filling machines
US4403461 *Feb 19, 1981Sep 13, 1983Automatisme Et TechniqueDevice for sealing hard gelatin capsules and for packing a liquid product dose in the thus sealed capsule
US4522666 *Nov 9, 1982Jun 11, 1985Warner-Lambert CompanyApparatus and method for sealing capsules by application of vacuum and steam thereto
US4543138 *Jul 7, 1983Sep 24, 1985Eli Lilly & CompanyCapsule-sealing method and apparatus
US4609417 *Mar 26, 1984Sep 2, 1986Microdry CorporationCapsule sealer and method of sealing
US4615165 *Sep 28, 1984Oct 7, 1986Mg 2 S.P.A.Product capsuling plant, particularly for pharmaceutical products
US4656066 *Feb 22, 1984Apr 7, 1987Warner-Lambert CompanyApparatus and method for sealing capsules
US4756902 *Jul 25, 1986Jul 12, 1988Warner-Lambert CompanyCapsule sealing process and product
US4861415 *Apr 22, 1988Aug 29, 1989Mg 2 S.P.A.Machine for moistening a cover to be fixed onto a base filled for example with a pharmaceutical product
US4899516 *Oct 7, 1988Feb 13, 1990Robert Bosch GmbhSealing device for two-piece capsules
US4940499 *May 23, 1989Jul 10, 1990Warner-Lambert CompanyMethod and apparatus for sealing capsules containing medicaments
US4959943 *Mar 10, 1989Oct 2, 1990Nippon Elanco Kabushiki KaishaCapsule charging apparatus
US5317849 *Aug 7, 1992Jun 7, 1994Sauter Manufacturing CorporationEncapsulation equipment and method
US5321932 *Feb 26, 1992Jun 21, 1994Professional Compounding Centers Of America, Inc.Capsule handling system
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US5609010 *Dec 7, 1995Mar 11, 1997Warner-Lambert CompanyEncapsulation method
US5617710 *Sep 16, 1996Apr 8, 1997Warner-Lambert CompanyProcess and apparatus for producing closed sealed capsules
US5795588 *Oct 14, 1994Aug 18, 1998Warner-Lambert CompanyEncapsulated product
US5836141 *Mar 14, 1994Nov 17, 1998Professional Compounding Centers Of America, Inc.Capsula handling system
US5930984 *Aug 28, 1997Aug 3, 1999Shionogi & Co., Ltd.Method for forming a band seal on a capsule
US6546702 *Oct 30, 2001Apr 15, 2003Nutricia Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc.Method and apparatus for preparation of capsule with improved closing/ejection pins
US6834475 *May 12, 2003Dec 28, 2004I.M.A. Industria Macchine Automatiche S.P.A.Capsule filling machine
US7637080 *Jul 24, 2006Dec 29, 2009I.M.A. Industria Macchine Automatiche S.P.A.Intermittent motion capsule filling machine
US20040163365 *May 12, 2003Aug 26, 2004Roberto TrebbiCapsule filling machine
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Classifications
U.S. Classification53/471, 53/141, 53/282, 53/485, 53/900, 53/137.2, 118/317, 53/284.5
International ClassificationA61J3/07
Cooperative ClassificationA61J3/072, Y10S53/90
European ClassificationA61J3/07B1