US 3261464 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
July 19, 1966 M. M. LEVY 3,261,464 I APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 18 Sheets-Sheet l M. M. LEVY 3,261,464
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APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES July 19, 1966 18 Sheets-Sheet 12 Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 M. M. LEVY July 19, 1966 APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES 18 Sheets-Sheet 15 Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 ll l m g i i: 7 g i iiiiii T1 M. M. LEVY July 19, 1966 APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES 18 Sheets-Sheet 14 Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 K lmgmm M. M. LEVY 3,261,464
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES July 19, 1966 18 Sheets-Sheet 15 Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 Maw; ae/Aie 1 v M. M. LEVY July 19, 1966 APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES 18 Sheets-Sheet 16 Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 July 19, 1966 M. M. LEVY 3,261,464
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES Original Filed Feb. 8, 1961 18 Sheets-Sheet l7 25/ 77703 Waa )-/.C. e M Le 7 July 19, 1966 M. M. LEVY 3,261,464
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES United States Patent 3,261,464 APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SORTING FLAT ARTICLES Maurice M. Levy, 208 Clemow Ave., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Continuation of application Ser. No. 87,887, Feb. 8, 1961. This application June 26, 1964, Ser. No. 384,570 7 Claims. (Cl. 209-72) This application is a continuation of application Serial No. 87,887, filed February 8, 1961, now abandoned.
This invention relates to improvements in apparatus andn method for sorting and arranging in sequence letters, cards and other articles of generally flat rectangular shape.
Sorting systems have already been developed in which the addresses on pieces of letter mail or other data on record cards are first converted into binary or other code designations borne by the letters or cards. The letters or cards are then passed individually past an electronic reader which reads each set of code markings and determines from information stored in a file computer to which sortation outlet the letter or card in question should be conveyed. A compartment is provided at each outlet to receive the letters or cards diverted thereto and to form these letters or cards into a stack for subsequent handling. In the specific form of apparatus illustrated and described below a plurality of such outlets is provided, to any one of which the system may selectively convey each letter, card or like flat article (hereinafter referred to simply as articles).
The object of the present invention is to provide improvements in the construction and operation of such apparatus, and particularly to provide apparatus that is more versatile in operation than any hitherto developed.
In particular it is an object of the invention to provide apparatus in which a series of sorting breakdowns can be performed on a single machine, the articles sorted on the first run through being automatically returned to the same sorting mechanism for a second run with a minimum of delay and a minimum of manual handling. To this end, the invention contemplates the provision of means for collecting the batches of letters deposited in the various accumulators after a first sort and transferring such batches in correct sequence to a stacker where they are formed into a stack for subsequent feeding back into the same machine, now to be sorted a second time in accordance with a different aspect of the code designations thereon.
The invention thus overcomes the disadvantages of earlier methods which have all involved immobolization of a sorter for substantial periods of time either while its accumulators are cleared by hand, or while the contents of its accumulators are individually transferred to a second sorter. When operating in accordance with the present invention, only a single sorter is needed (although any number of breakdowns can be performed) and delays in clearing such sorter are reduced so that a larger number of operating hours per day are obtained from the sorter.
Further advantages and uses for the invention will become apparent from the discussion and description of the following preferred embodiments.
For purposes of illustration and ease of understanding the invention will be discussed with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
FIGURE 1 is a map of a typical letter carriers route.
FIGURE 2a is a plan view of one end of a sorter according to the invention.
FIGURE 2b is a plan view of the other end of such sorter, being a continuation of FIGURE 2a.
FIGURE 3a is an elevation view of FIGURE 2a.
3,261,464 Patented July 19, 1966 FIGURE 31) is an elevation view of FIGURE 2b.
FIGURE 4 is an isometric view of a portion of the sorter of FIGURES 2 and 3, on an enlarged scale, showing a letter trap entering an accumulator to deposit a letter.
FIGURE 5 is an isometric view of a portion of the sorter of FIGURES 2 and 3, on an enlarged scale, showing an accumulator depositing a bundle of letters in a stacker.
FIGURE 6 is a view of generally the same parts as FIGURE 5, but including an indexing mechanism to push back the stacked mail.
FIGURE 7 is an alternative embodiment of sorter.
FIGURE 8 is an isometric view of the bundle removal mechanism of the sorter of FIGURE 7.
FIGURE 9 is a fragmentary view of a second alternative embodiment of sorter.
FIGURE 10 is an isometric view of the stacking mechanism of the sorter of FIGURE 9.
FIGURE 11 is a fragmentary view of a third alternative embodiment of sorter.
FIGURE 12 is an isometric view of the stacking mechanism of the sorter of FIGURE 11.
FIGURE 13 is a fourth alternative embodiment of sorter.
FIGURE 14 is a section view taken on line A-A of FIGURE 13.
FIGURE 15 is a multiple layer storage mechanism for use with the various embodiments of sorter illustrated.
FIGURE 16 is a fragmentary view of a fifth alternative embodiment of sorter, showing a moving stacker instead of moving accumulators and showing the stacker with the near side removed.
FIGURE 17 is an end View of the stacker of FIG- URE 16.
FIGURE 18 is a plan view of a letter holder or trap for use with the apparatus of the earlier figures.
FIGURE 19 is an end view of the letter trap of FIG- URE 18.
FIGURE 20 is a plan view of a portion of the letter trap of FIGURE 18.
FIGURE 21A is a diagram demonstrating the essential moving parts of this letter trap in a first position.
FIGURE 21B is a diagram similar to FIGURE 21A showing the parts in a second position.
FIGURE 21C is a further similar diagram showing the parts in a further position.
FIGURE 21D is yet a further similar diagram showing the parts in final position.
FIGURE 22 is a cut-away perspective view demonstrating the action of the letter trap of the preceding figures.
FIGURE 23 is a plan view of the cam structure.
FIGURE 24 is a view taken on the line XXIV-XXIV in FIG. 23.
The invention will be discussed first with regard to the preferred form shown in FIGURES 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b. The articles to be sorted in the example will be assumed to be letters, but it is to be understood that the device is suitable for use with other flat articles as above mentioned.
A letter feeder mechanism 3 (FIGURES 2b and 3b) feeds letters 4 which have each been marked with a binary code marking according to the address thereon. Such feeder 3 forms no part of the present invention and will not be further described in detail herein. Suffice to say that this feeder will be of a type adapted to feed individual letters with a predetermined periodicity between passage of successive leading edges of the letters past a given point.
Feeder 3 delivers the letters 4 to an endless chain or conveyor belt 5 carrying a series of spaced letter-holders 6, referred to also as letter-traps. The construction and detailed operation of these letter-holders or traps is described below in connection with FIGURES 18 to 24. At this stage in the description it is suflicient to state that each letter trap serves to receive an individual letter from the feeder 3 and to convey such letter to a selected stacker or accumulator to deposit such letter in the selected accumulator in the manner later described.
The belt 5 carries each letter trap 6 with its letter 4 past an electronic reader 7 which reads the code markings and determined from the information stored in a file computer (not shown) the outlet (accumulator 8) to which the letter is to go. The file computor will select the required accumulator to which each letter 4 scanned by the reader 7 is to be conveyed, and, at the correct time in the sequence of the letter traps 6 will actuate one of the movable setting cams for actuating the letter traps. These parts (reader and associated computor) form no par-t of the present inventive advance and consequently will not be further described in detail. For further information concerning the manner of such operation of such parts attention is directed to Automation in Post Offices, volume XI, Proceedings of the National Electronics Conference, October 1955.
The belt 5 is carried on pulleys 10 and 11 (FIGURES 2a and 2b) and is driven by electric motor 12 through drive 13. Since two sides of the belt 5 are available, a second feeder 3a, reader 7a and row of accumulators 8a are provided to speed sorting and make use of space which would otherwise be wasted. This second set of equipment which will not be separately described has been shown in FIGURES 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b, with the parts numbered the same as the first set except for the addition of the sufiix a to each numeral.
The accumulators 8 which receive the letter-s from the letter traps 6 are best shown in FIGURE 4. The manner in which the letter traps 6 are activated to deposit the letters is described below. It will be sufficient here to state that a signal from the computer causes activation of a solenoid to place a cam in the path of the letter trap 6 to cause it to project laterally from its carrying belt 5 on its arm 41 and so pass between fingers 31 of the accumulator 8. Another cam opens the jaws of the trap 6 to permit the letter 4 to remain in the accumulator 8.
The accumulator consists of a forked stem 29 bolted or otherwise fastened at 30 to an endless chain 9, two fingers 31 secured at 32 to the arms 33 of forked stem 29, and two spring steel backing members 34 each secured at one end to the stem 29 and each bearing with its free end aginst an inside surface of a finger 31. As the letter trap 6 enters the accumulator 8 to pass between the fingers 31, the letter 4 pushes back the spring members 34 and comes to bear against the arms 33. As the trap 6 leaves the accumulator 8, the spring members 34 press the letter 4 against the back of the fingers 31 to hold it in upright position. As additional letters are deposited the previously deposited letters are pushed back by the resilient face plate 6b which each letter trap possesses, the totality of stacked letters being always held by the spring members 34 to produce orderly stacking. The fingers 31 have integral curved extensions 35 projecting beyond arms 33 for a purpose which will be explained later.
The accumulators 8 are carried at spaced intervals on an endles chain conveyor 9 which in turn is mounted on sprockets 14 and 15 (FIGURES 3a and 3b). Drive for the chain 9 is obtained from an electric motor and reduction gear unit 16 through chain 17 on sprockets 26 and 27. The upper span of the chain 9 is supported by four angle iron guide rails 4-2 arranged to form corners of a track as best shown in FIGURES 4 and 5. The lower span of the chain is supported on skid 42'. The crossmember 9' of the chain 9 have mounted on each end a flanged wheel 43 which rides on the rails 42. The upper and lower rails 42 are spaced at a distance slightly greater than the diameter of the wheels 43, so that the wheels rest on the lower rails and turn freely, but will be restrained from leaving the track or tipping out of a horizontal plane by the upper rails when loads are applied to the accumulators 8. Alternatively, the crossmember 9' of the chain 9 can slide directly on a longitudinally extending bar which may conveniently be constructed of nylon. The width of such a bar would be only slightly less than the inside spacing between the links of the chain 9 to guide the chain. As found necessary a continuous or a series of discontinuous similar bars may be spaced above the crossmembers 9' to limit upward movement of such crossmembers.
In order to maintain the letters more securely in position in the accumulators 8 a smooth endless belt 18 is mounted with its upper span a spaced distance below the accumulators and parallel to the chain 9. The lower edges 21 of the letters rest on the upper surface 22 (FIG- URE 4) of the belt 18 and are supported thereby. The belt 18 is mounted on pulleys 19 and 20, pulley 19 being driven from sprocket 24 through chain 23 and sprocket 28, and sprocket 24 being mounted on the same shaft 25 as sprocket 27 to rotate therewith. Belt 18 may be stationary while the accumulators 8 are being filled, or it may be moved slowly or fast in the same direction as the traps 6 so that friction between the letters and the belt 18 keeps the letters firmly in place against the arms 33. If it is desired that the belt 18 should move while the accumulators 8 are being filled, a clutch or ratchet system (not shown) will be provided on shaft 25 such that sprocket 24 can be turned without turning shaft 25, a separate drive (not shown) for pulley 19 being provided. The essential requirement is that, when chain 9 is put in motion, the belt 18 is also placed in motion at the same or slightly greater linear speed to keep the letters properly urged forward in the accumulators 8.
Belt 18 is convenient, but not essential. Each accumulator could have a flat bottom to support the letters.
If desired, to guard against overcrowding of the accumulators, they may each be fitted with a safety switch (not shown) positioned to be closed by a spring member 34 when a predetermined thickness of letters has been received and such spring member has been forced back as far as the design permits. Such switches which would be of known type could be mounted on the framework of the machine or on the accumulators themselves. Closing a switch would signal the computor to send any additional letters to a second accumulator or to a reject bin for later sorting. I
The sorting operation described up to this point is a preliminary sorting stage and is essentially the same in fundamentals as the methods described in the various prior applications above referred to. This preliminary stage is the same for all types of articles. The exact nature of the succeeding stages depends, however, upon what is being sorted and the method chosen. As a first example, sorting of mail for a letter carriers walk will be explained.
FIGURE 1 is a map of a typical mail carriers walk designated by the numeral 1. The walk which starts at S and finishes at F is formed of several portions, defined between breakpoints 2 which occur whenever a change is made from one street to another or from one side of a street to the other. One way of facilitating handling of the mail is to arrange it for the carrier in groups, each of which groups corresponds to a portion of the walk between two successive breaks. The groups should be arranged in sequence according to the sequence of the corresponding portions of the walk, and the letters in each group should be arranged in sequence according to the delivery order in that portion. 1
There are two methods by which sorting for a walk to provide this sequencing may be accomplished. The first to be discussed will be the information card method.