US 3314520 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
April 18, 1967 D. vi MOLINS 3,314,520
FEEDING SYSTEMS Filed Dec. 26, 1963 Even/Tot.
United States Patent 3,314,529 FEEDENG SYSTEMS Desmond Walter Moiins, London, England, assignor to The Molins Organisation Limited, a British company Filed Dec. 26, 1963, Ser. No. 333,329 Claims priority, application Great Britain, Jan. 2, 1963, 229/63 1 Claim. (Cl. 19831) This invention relates to article feeding systems and more particularly to systems for use where a continuous stream of articles is required to be divided into batches e.g. filled into boxes, trays or the like. A typical example of the application of the invention is the feeding of cigarettes or cigarette filter plugs from a continuously operating machine on which they are made to trays or boxes in which they are to be stored or transported to a place of use.
An article feeding system for use in the circumstances specified necessarily must provide, in effect, for temporary storage of a number of articles within the system, as articles continue to arrive in the system at times When no articles are leaving it, e.g. when fillin of a box or tray has just been completed and an empty box or tray is being brought into position for filling.
It is an object of the present invention, therefore, to provide an improved article feeding system which enables a number of articles to be temporarily stored from time to time.
According to the invention, there is provided an article feeding system comprising means for feeding a succession of articles along a defined main path and means for temporarily diverting articles from a selected part of said main path along a subsidiary path of greater length than said part of the main path.
As is at present preferred, the diverting means may comprise a guide member of the nature of a bridge which serves as the said selected part of the main path and normally lies between two conveyors also servin as parts of said main path, said guide member being however movable to a position in which it guides articles received from one of said two conveyors to an additional conveyor arranged to transport the articles along the subsidiary path before delivering them to the other of said two conveyors.
it will be appreciated that, whenever the diverting means is brought into operation, discharge of articles from the system will cease for a time after the last article which passed the selected part of the main path has been discharged. The discharge of articles will recommence, at the latest, after an interval equal to the difference between the time taken for an article to traverse the subsidiary path and the time taken to traverse the selected part of .the main path. If the divertin means is only kept in operation for a period less than said difference, the interval between cessation and recommencement of discharge will be equal to the period for which the diverting means is kept in operation.
After discharge has recommenced, the rate of discharge will be higher than normal for a time as articles traversing the subsidiary path at the instant when the diverting means ceased to operate will be mixed with articles which entered the system later and have traversed the selected part of the main path; that part of the main path which lies between the selected part and the discharge end of the system must therefore be capable of handling a greater fiow of articles than the part of the main path preceding the selected part.
Immediately after the diverting means has been brought into operation, articles will be entering the subsidiary path but none will be leaving it although the articles at that instant traversing the selected part of the main part have to be allowed for; hence the system provides, in effect, for
temporary storage of the number of articles which the subsidiary path can accommodate, less the number of articles normally present in the selected part of the main path. The maximum value of this number is obviously determined by the length of the subsidiary path and this value is achieved, where the capacity of the subsidiary path in articles per unit length is equal to that of the preceding part of the main path, if each article traverses the subsidiary path at the same speed as it has arrived at the entrance to the subsidiary path; if however the subsidiary path contains a conveyor or the like which transports the articles at a greater speed then the number of articles which are temporarily stored is reduced and the interval in which there is no discharge from the system is reduced proportionately.
In many instances where a system embodying the invention is of use, it is a requirement to divide a steady flow of articles into batches each containing a selected number of articles. To satisfy such a requirement, means may be provided in the system for counting the articles passing a selected point in the main path and the counting means may be connected to the diverting means so that the latter is operated whenever the accumulated count reaches the selected number. With such an arrangement, whenever discharge from the system is commenced it ceases for a time after the selected number of articles has been discharged.
In order that the invention may be well understood, a preferred embodiment thereof will now be described, referring to the accompanying drawing which shows a feeding system embodying the invention, designed for feeding multiple filter plugs for cigarettes (which are cylindrical objects of dimensions generally similar to those of a cigarette).
The system shown forms part of an assembly or complex of machines comprising a pair of filter plug making machines, which are not shown but would be placed to the left and right of the system illustrated so as to deliver the plugs they make towards and into the system, and a tray or box filling machine which includes two feeding systems each embodying the invention and arranged to carry plugs from the plug making machines to a box or tray loader which incorporates mechanism for delivery and arranging the plugs in boxes or trays, which mechanism is the subject of British patent application No. 229/63 dated January 2, 1963.
FIGURE 1 is a somewhat diagrammatic view in side elevation of a feeding system embodying the principles of the invention; and
FIGURE 2 is an enlarged detail View of the area adjacent the righ -hand end of FIGURE 1.
The drawing shows one of the feeding systems, generally indicated at F, and the box or tray loader generally indicated at L.
Starting at the right of FIGURE 1, filter plugs from one of the filter plug making machines (not shown) are delivered by a fluted roller 1 onto one end of a conveyor belt 2 carried on support rollers 3 and having a tensioning roller 4. Around part of the circumference of the fluted roller 1 is a guide plate 5 which is normally in the position shown in full lines but is movable to an alternative position shown in chain-dotted lines. The plate 5 may be mounted in any convenient manner to permit such movement eg it may be carried on arms pivoted coaxi'ally with the roller 1. In either position part of the plate 5 serves to prevent plugs dropping out of the flutes of the roller 1 While said flutes are in downwardly-facing positions. With the plate 5 in its normal (full-line) position, the plate 5 terminates just past the lowermost point of roller 1, and the plugs carried by roller 1 are therefore permitted to drop onto the belt 2 and are carried on said belt to the left, and ultimately discharged to the loader L as the belt 2 passes over its left-hand support roller 3.
Closely adjacent to the fluted roller 1, and to its left, is a support roller 6 carrying a fluted endless conveyor belt 7 which extends upwardly and to the left to a second support roller 8, the belt 7 being driven in an anticlockwise direction at the same linear speed as the belt 2 which in turn travels anticlockwise at the same linear speed as the periphery of the fluted roller 1. The belt 7 is enclosed in a casing 9 which surrounds the belt 7 so closely that plugs resting in the flutes of the belt 7 are retained therein and must therefore travel with the belt 7. The lower part of the left-hand wall of the casing 9 is flared outwardly to increase the rigidity of said casing but a guide plate 10 provided within the flared portion of said casing is arranged in close relation to the adjoining (descending) run of the belt 7 so that the plugs in the flutes of this part of belt 7 are maintained therein.
At the bottom of the descending run of the belt 7, stationary plates 11 are mounted, one at each edge of said belt; the width of the belt 7 (measured at rightangles to the plane of the drawing) is somewhat less than the length of the plugs to be carried thereby, and the plugs therefore project at each edge of the belt and their projecting portions are engaged by the deflector plates 11 as the plugs reach the bottom of the descending run of the belt 7 and are compelled to leave the flutes of belt 7 and fall onto belt 2.
When the plate 5 is moved to its alternative position, it will be seen that it terminates just clear of the belt 7, as the latter passes round the roller 6 to commence its ascending run. Furthermore, the right hand wall of easing 9 terminates, at its lower end, just clear of the fluted roller 1.
In operation, with the guide plate 5 in its normal (full-line) position, plugs arriving at the top of fluted roller 1 are received in the flutes of said roller and travel with it within the guide plate 5 until the lower end of the latter is reached; here the plugs drop onto belt 2 and are carried to the left until they are discharged to the loader L, this path being the normal or main path provided by the system. However, the plugs can be prevented from traversing that part of this main path extending from the lower end of guide plate 5 (in its normal position) to the far (left) edge of deflector plates 11, simply by moving the guide plate 5 to its alternative (chain-dotted) position. When this is done, the plugs travel along a longer subsidiary path to reach the far (left) edge of deflector plates 11, as they are restrained by plate 5 from leaving the fluted roller 1 until they reach a position where they are embraced by a flute of the fluted roller 1 and a flute of the belt 7 simultaneously. While so embraced, each plug is lifted a short distance and then, as the flutes holding it separate, encounters the lower edge of the right-hand wall of easing 9 and is constrained to remain in a flute of belt 7 and travel with said belt; this situation lasts while each plug travels the whole length of the ascending run of the belt 7, with the belt 7 over roller 8 and then down the descending run of belt 7, although in the lower part of the descending run it will be appreciated that the plate 10 serves, in place of the casing 9, to keep the plugs in the flutes of the belt.
If the plate 5 is kept in its alternative position until after the first plug diverted along the subsidiary path, i.e. to belt 7, reaches the belt 2, then there will be a maximum pause in the delivery of plugs to the loader L which lasts for a time equal to the time taken by a plug to traverse the subsidiary path (from plate 5 to plates 11) minus the time taken to travel directly (on belt 2) between the same points. Should the plate 5 be returned to its normal position before the first diverted plug reaches the belt 2, then the pause will be equal to the time the plate 5 is allowed to remain in its alternative position. The number of plugs which would normally have been delivered during the pause will be temporarily stored on the belt 7.
Whenever the plate 5 is restored to its normal position, for a period equal in duration to the pause created in the discharge to loader L there will be a doubled loading of belt 2, as plugs will still be discharging from the belt 7 as well as plugs arriving on belt 2 direct from the fluted roller 1. As both the roller 1 and belt 7 are fluted, but the belt 2 is plain-surfaced, the latter should accommodate the temporarily enhanced flow of plugs without difliculty but if it is desired to ensure there is no piling of plugs on the belt 2, said belt may be driven at a greater linear speed than belt 7 and roller 1.
While the position of the plate 5 may be controlled by any desired means, it is noted that where the system is to be used to provide interruptions in the supply of plugs to the loader L which are so timed that each separate batch of plugs delivered contains a predetermined num ber of plugs, a sensing device such as a photo-electric cell and'lamp (as indicated diagrammatically at SD) may be fitted at a convenient point around the fluted roller 1 and connected to a counter C and arranged in any suitable or conventional manner to cause operation of the plate 5 whenever a selected number of plugs has passed the sensing device. For example, the counter C may be arranged to energise an electromagnet S which then attracts an armature system X connected to the plate 5. 7
Turning now to the loader L, this has a support 20 along which "boxes 21 can slide. An endless horizontallyextending chain 22 provided with spaced projecting pushers 23 is carried on sprockets 24 alongside the support 20, V
the spacing of successive pushers 23 along the chain being slightly greater than the length of a box 21 and the whole length of chain 22 is a whole-number multiple of said spacing. The chain 22 is driven ina clockwise direction by one or both of the sprockets 24, its upper run being above and its lower run :below the support 2t). -It is readily seen that whenever a box is loaded on to the left-hand end of the support 20 so that its rear, i.e. lefthand, end is past the point at which the upper run of the chain 22 commences the next pusher 23 to appear on the upper run of the chain will engage the said rear end of the box and push it to the right for the whole length of said upper run; thereafter the box stops as the pusher disengages from it as the pusher is carried round the right-hand sprocket 24 and remains stationary until a further box is pushed along by one of the pushers 23, at which time the leading or front end wall of the second box engages the rear end wall of the. first box and pushes the latter further along the support 20; a third box will engage the second box later and push both the second and first boxes and so on until each box in turn reaches the right-hand end of support 20 (not shown) and is removed by any convenient means, irrelevant in this description.
Substantially at the centre of the drawing, there is an opening 25 between the belt 2, previously mentioned, and a similar belt 2a (of which part only is shown) which occupies the place of the belt '2 in the second feeding system which is identical with the system F already described, save that it feeds'from left to right. A slidable horizontal closure plate 26 normally occupies a position (shown in full-lines) under the left-hand end of the belt 2, but may slide horizontally to the position shown in chain-dotted lines so as to close the gap 25.
A distributor member in the form of an endless belt 27 carried on rollers 28 has a normal position shown in full lines and an alternative position shown in chain-dotted lines. The belt 27 always has its two straight runs between the rollers 28 lying in parallel plane slightly inclined (e.g. at 5) to the vertical (its upper end being further to the left than its lower end) and its width extending at right-angles to the direction of travel of the boxes 21 and the belts 2, 2a. In the normal position of the belt 27 its lowermost part, around the lower roller 28, barely clears the bottom of a box 21 below the gap 25, while its uppermost part, around the upper roller 28, is closely adjacent to and at the same level as the discharge (righthand) end of the belt 2a, a fixed bridge-piece 29 of approximately triangular-section bar serving to fill the gap between the adjoining curved portions of the belts 27, 2a so that plugs fed to the right may readily pass over said bridge-piece 29 and over the top of the belt 27 to drop through the gap 25 on or near the surface of the belt 27.
When in its alternative position, the lowermost portion of the belt 27 is slightly above the level of the upper edges of boxes 21 but below the level of the belt 2a and bridgepiece 29. Means (not shown) are provided to drive the belt 27 in a clockwise direction.
Considering the operation of the loader, the drawing shows the parts in the positions they occupy when a box is nearly half filled. Plugs are being fed along belt 2 and falling through the gap 25 into the box; plugs are also feeding along belt 2a, over bridge-piece 29 and the top of belt 27, and falling along or near belt 27 through gap 25 into the box. The belt 27 is travelling clockwise, therefore as it is the part of the box to the right of the belt 27 which receives the falling plugs, the right-hand run of the belt 27 tends to pack the fallen plugs more closely in the box as in that run the belt 27 is descending, and the movement of the belt 27 continually pushes the plugs downwards, thus tending to prevent bunching which would otherwise occur, giving rise to uneven packing; the belt 27 does not however propel the plugs positively, but only by frictional engagement and therefore damage to the plugs, e.g. squashing, is avoided.
As the plugs are falling and the belt 27 packing them compactly, the box 21 being filled is moving to the right at a suitable speed to give a desired level of plugs in the box. Shortly before the rear end of box 21 becomes disengaged from the pusher 23 which is advancing it, the upper edge of the rear end of the box is about to engage the left (ascending) run of belt 27. Drive means (which is not illustrated in detail since it forms no specific portion of the present inventive concept) therefore commences to raise the belt 27 to its alternative position, the speed of raising being such that a minimum clearance is maintained between the upper edge of the rear wall of the box and the ascending run of belt 27. As belt 27 is raised, it continues to travel clockwise on its support rollers 28, and plugs continue to fall from belt 2, but the belt 27 as it rises stops feed of any plugs which may still be travelling on belt 2a. However, no great number of plugs (or none at all, if timing is absolutely correct) collects at the end of belt 20, and on the bridge-piece 29, because at the time the belt 27 starts to rise, or a little earlier, the guide plate 5 of the left-hand feeding system (not shown) has been moved to its alternative position, giving rise to a pause in the delivery of plugs along belt 2a in the manner previously explained. The feed of plugs from belt 2 continues however until the belt 27 has reached its alternative position, or even a little longer, to ensure complete filling of the box; at a suitable time the guide plate 5 of the right-hand feeding system is moved to its alternative position, giving rise to a pause in delivery of plugs by the belt 2 as explained, and the closure plate 26 is also moved to its alternative position when the belt 27 ceases to rise, or a little later.
Correct relative timing of the various movements may be obtained in a variety of ways; it has already been explained that a sensing device and counter may be included in the feeding system to control movement of the plate 5, and the other movable parts, i.e. belt 27, plate 26, and belt 22, may also be connected to this counter; with two feeding systems as described, it will be understood that if separate counters are used to control the two plates 5 then the two counters will need to be interconnected if they are to control the other parts specified. However, direct control of the said other parts is not essential, but an indirect control may be obtained, if desired, by providing further sensing devices, such as photo-electric cells, at the discharge ends of belts 2, 2a. Such further sensing device may be arranged to detect the pauses in supply of plugs which are created by operation of plate 5 and to operate the said parts, 22, 26, 27 at suitable times in relation to such pauses. With such an arrangement, it is of course necessary to provide some measure of synchronisation between the two feeding systems and the machines supplying them to ensure that the pauses in discharge from belts 2, 2a, overlap sufiiciently for the proper operation of the parts 22, 26, 27 to bring a fresh box below the gap 25.
Whatever control arrangements are made, with a twin installation such as that described it is of advantage to provide for combined operation at times when one or other of the machines supplying plugs is inoperative, thus where two counters are used it is desirable that they should be settable to allow delivery of twice the normal number of plugs in each batch.
An article feeding system comprising, in combination, a first conveyor in the form of a fluted roller, a second conveyor in the form of a substantially horizontal conveyor belt, and an additional conveyor, said first and second conveyors together defining a main path along which articles may be sequentially fed, said fluted roller being disposed adjacent to one end of said belt so as to permit articles carried in the flutes of the roller to drop on to the belt, a relatively stationary guide plate arranged around part of the circumference of said fluted roller so as to prevent articles leaving said flutes while being carried around said part, means to move said guide plate between a normal position, in which it terminates just past the lowermost point of said roller so as to permit articles to drop directly on to the conveyor belt, and a diverting position, in which it prevents articles leaving the flutes until they have been conveyed to a transfer position beyond said lowermost point, the additional conveyor being arranged to receive articles from the fluted roller at said transfer point and carry them to the second conveyor by an indirect route constituting a subsidiary path of greater length than a portion of the main path thus bypassed, said additional conveyor comprising upper and lower rollers, a fluted endless conveyor belt carried by said upper and lower rollers, and a casing around said fluted belt above the lower roller, said lower roller being located adjacent to the transfer position and the casing being so disposed as to retain articles received in the flutes of the belt except at the level of the lower roller.
References Cited by the Examiner UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,707,630 5/1955 Molins 131-22 2,730,223 1/1956 MacLean 193-40 2,826,883 3/ 1958 Pollrnann 53-236 2,998,687 9/1961 Lenz 53-236 3,019,574 2/1962 Johnson et al 53-236 X 3,137,110 6/1964 Boinnard 53-236 EVON C. BLUNK, Primary Examiner.
GRANVILLE Y. CUSTER, JR., SAMUEL F. COLE- MAN, Examiners.
R. E. AEGERTER, Assistant Examiner.