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Publication numberUS3394804 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 30, 1968
Filing dateFeb 10, 1966
Priority dateFeb 10, 1966
Publication numberUS 3394804 A, US 3394804A, US-A-3394804, US3394804 A, US3394804A
InventorsRichard A Reichel
Original AssigneeRichard A. Reichel
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Article aligning and sorting apparatus
US 3394804 A
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

July 30, 1968 R. A. REICHEL ARTICLE ALIGNING AND SORTING APPARATUS Filed Feb. 10, 1966 OSCILLATOR FIXED TUNED FIXED TUNED 4 AMPLIFIER J 5 5 a s an" 2L| w 0 mfl H Q I 2 vnlv w R 0 0 0 WM .1 R T 5 3 A I 2 3 5 A a W H M m 9 3 3 a u M m n T 2 fi+ o a 7% m 3 F a I a RU TC M 7 3 A United States Patent 3,394,804 ARTICLE ALIGNING AND SORTING APPARATUS Richard A. Reichei, 324 Palm Ave., Santa Barbara, Calif. 93101 Filed Feb. 10, 1966, Ser. No. 526,423 8 Claims. (Cl. 209-73) ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A silverware sorting apparatus is provided comprising a rotary table having several radially extending passages secured to the table for passing an assorted mixture of silverware from a central area on the table to the periphery of the table. An outer wall defines an annular passage at the periphery of the table receiving silverware passing through the passages upon rotation of the table. The silverware is caused to travel around the annular passage at the periphery of the table in successive order. A sensing coil provides a signal in response to the passage of each item of silverware, this signal being different for different items and similar for like items. Several outlet means are provided and are capable of individual operation in accord with a particular signal received from the sensing coil. The silverware is thus sorted by being directed through particular outlet means opened for that particular item of silver.

This invention relates broadly to sorting apparatus and more particularly to a novel sorting device for separating into distinctive groups a mixture of physical items on the basis of their properties such as physical, chemical, optical, or other characteristics in a wholly automatic manner.

While the present invention will find wide application in various fields, the preferred embodiment will be described in conjunctionwiththe sorting of silverware.

In commercial restaurants, commissaries, and the like, silverware is automatically washed and dried along with the dishes, glasses, and other utensils in fairly large automatically controlled washing machines. After the washing and drying has been completed,.the various pieces of silverware such as the knives, forks, spoons, and the like are manually separated from each other and grouped in appropriate containers or bins, preferably all with their handle portions up. This sorting operation is not only time consuming but requires manual labor which is expensive.

In any type of automatic machine for sorting silverware, there are presented certain problems. First, the silverware itself can become entangled, particularly forks and the like, during and after washing and drying, such that feeding into a sorting machine can result in jamming of the machine. Further, unless a detecting means for controlling the proper sorting of the silverware can analyze .piece is not properly oriented; that is, with its handle, 'for example, in a consistent position, or in the event 1t is entangled with another piece, it is automatically recirculated through the machine so that it will eventually be properly sorted and positioned in a container with 1ts handle up.

It is a consequence of some of the foregoing problems that there has not been on the market up to now a practical or worthwhile machine for sorting silverware.

With the above in mind, it is accordingly a primary object of the present invention to provide a novel sorting apparatus particularly useful for sorting silverware in which the foregoing problems are overcome, all to the end that for the first time a completely automatic silverware sorting apparatus is provided.

More particularly, it is an object to provide a silverware sorting apparatus which automatically receives a random mixture of silverware such as forks, knives, spoons, and the like, disentangles the same, and then sorts them into separate groups or sets of forks, knives, spoons, etc., with the handles of each in the same orientation, all in a manner far more rapid than can be carried out manually.

Another important object is to provide an apparatus meeting the foregoing olbject including novel reentrant means for recirculating any silverware that has not been properly sorted because of incorrect orientation or entanglement with other pieces, all automatically.

Still another important object is to provide a novel silverware sorting apparatus which is rugged in construction, reliable in operation, relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and which includes means for automatically adjusting the response of the sorter to varying vogues in the design of silverware so that a high degree of versatility is realized.

Briefly, these and many other objects and advantages of this invention are attained by providing a housing structure having an enlarged upper opening for receiving a mixture of items such as silverware to be sorted. A baffle means in turn is disposed under the receiving opening of the housing and is so designed that entangled silverware will tend to separate and work downwardly towards a central opening in the baflie means. In this respect, there are provided vibrating means for shaking or vibrating the baffle means such as to tend to disentangle the silverware into separate pieces.

Disposed below the batfie means is a rotary means in the form of a table having a central receiving area and including a plurality of generally radially extending passages having eXit ends at the periphery of the table. A motor rotates this table such that silverware or other items received in the central receiving area are caused to move through the passages by centrifugal force to the outer periphery of the table. The rotational speed of the table is sufficiently fast so that during each revolution only one piece of silverware is likely to move through each passage; therefore, the pieces become individualized.

A casing structure within the housing includes an outer wall surrounding the periphery of the table and defining with at least a part of the periphery of the table an annular passage which receives the silverware from the exit ends of the table passages. The pieces of silverware have imparted to them a fairly high speed as a consequence of rotation of the table and further are caused to pass along the annular passage successively. In other words, the annular passage serves to confine and guide the silverware in such a manner that individual pieces will move therealong in successive order.

The casing structure and part of the annular wall include a plurality of outlets incorporating guide means which, upon actuation, will intercept certain ones of the silverware passing along the annular passage and divert the same to the exterior of the passage. These guide means are actuated, in turn, by a control means including a sensing means disposed in the passage before the outlet means.

The sensing means, in the preferred embodiment of the invention, takes the form of a tuned electrical circuit which is caused to be de-tuned whenever a piece of silverware passes close to the tuned circuit. The degree of detuning depends upon the physical and electrical characteristics of the particular item of silverware passing along the annular passage and thus a characteristic signal is provided for each type of silverware such as a spoon, fork, etc. These signals are in the form of given voltage values which, in turn, are properly channeled by a suitable control circuit to actuate the appropriate guide means and pass a corresponding piece of silver out a particular outlet means from the annular passage.

Suitable collecting bins or trays may then be provided exterior of the sorting apparatus for receiving from the respective outlets the sorted groups of like pieces of silverware.

There is also provided a re-entrant passage for recirculating silverware in the event that none of the guide means which would ordinarily divert pieces from the passage are operated. Such would occur, for example, if the item had its handle incorrectly oriented. In addition, the sensitivity of the control circuit for actuating the various outlet guide means may properly be adjusted in accordance with the types or style of silverware to be sorted.

A better understanding of the invention will be had by now referring to a preferred embodiment thereof as illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGURE 1 is a perspective view showing the sorting apparatus as embodied in a device for sorting silverware in accordance with the present invention;

FIGURE 2 is an exploded perspective view of certain of the basic components within the housing of FIGURE 1 useful in explaining the general operation of the device and also including in diagrammatic form a block diagram of the control circuit; and,

FIGURE 3 is a more detailed electrical diagram of the control circuit shown in FIGURE 2.

Referring first to FIGURE 1, there is shown a housing in the form of a box having an upper opening 11 for receiving a mixture of items to be separated into distinctive groups. There is visible in FIGURE 1 through the opening 11 part of a bafile means including a cone surface B and a baffie member 12. Items received through the opening 11 onto the cone B and baffie member 12 are processed through the machine and separated out into individual groups by passing the items through a plurality of outlet means such as indicated at 13, 14, and 15. For example, in sorting silverware, there is illustrated pieces of silverware such as a fork 16, a knife 17, and a spoon 18 passing into the upper opening 11 onto the baffle means. These items are separated and passed, respectively, through the outlets 13, 14, and into suitable collection bins or baskets 19, 20, and 21. The process is entirely automatic and the machine may be disposed at the end of a dishwashing apparatus for receiving automatically the silverware as soon as it is washed. The action of the machine will automatically dry the silverware so that wet silverware may be directly sorted.

Referring now to FIGURE 2, the manner in which the bafile means and remaining portion of the sorting apparatus cooperate to effect the desired sorting will be understood. The bafl le member 12 in FIGURE 2 includes an undulated upper surface defining a plurality of generally radially directed ribs 22 defining valleys 23 therebetween, the same sloping inwardly and downwardly to merge into a central opening 24. A vibrating means such as indicated by the vibrator 25 is connected to the baffle member 12 to impart a vibration or shaking action thereto which will tend to cause the silverware or other items received to become disentagled and slide down the upper portion of the rib surfaces and the floors of the valleys into the central opening 24. The member also includes a re-entrant opening 26.

Beneath the bafile member 12, there is provided a casing structure including an annular wall 27 surrounding a rotary table 28. The rotary table 28 has a central receiving area 29 arranged to receive items from the central batlie open; ing 24- from which extend generally in a radial direction a plurality of passages 30. These various passages preferably follow a spiral path as indicated by the dotted lines and open out exit ends at the periphery of the table 28. This peripheral portion of the table defines with the annular wall 27 an annular passage 31. The entire table is caused to rotate within the casing such as in the direction of the arrow by a motor 32 schematically illustrated at the bottom portion of FIGURE 2.

The various outlet means 13, 14, and 15 described in FIGURE 1 include guide means in the form of small trap doors such as indicated at 33, 34, and 35 in FIGURE 2. These doors are arranged to be opened such as to divert any silverware passing about the annular passage 31 through the corresponding outlet to the exterior of the housing. As indicated in FIGURE 2, the various doors 33, 34, and 35 may be actuated by rotary type solenoids 36, 37, and 38, respectively. These solenoids in turn are controlled by individual signals from a control means including a control circuit 39 and a sensing means including a coil means 40 and ferrite core 41. It will be noted that the core 41 and coil means 40 are positioned in the annular passage 31 such that silverware passing along this passage will pass between the poles of the core 41.

The circuit also includes a suitable means such as a photo-electric device 42 which will provide a control gate signal whenever a piece of silverware reaches a given position relative to the coil core to allow for the correct identification of the piece.

The annular passage 31 includes a tangentially extending re-entrant passage 33 exiting at a point 44 arranged to register with the re-entrant opening 26 in the baffle member 12 when the components are assembled. In the event none of the doors 33, 34, or 35 opens, silverware passing about the annular passage 31 will pass up the reentrant passage 43 and be recirculated through the apparatus. This allows all sorted silverware to be collected with their handles up.

Referring now to the more detailed circuit of FIGURE 3, details of the control circuit 39 of FIGURE 2 will be described. As shown, the arrangement includes a fixed tuned oscillator 45 providing a given output which is amplified by a fixed tuned amplifier 46 to excite the coil 47 constituting part of the coil means 40. Whenever a piece of silverware or other item passes between the poles of the core 41, the coil 47 is detuned a given amount, depending on the physical shape of the item and its electrical characteristics, resulting in a change in the voltage in the coil 47. This voltage change is detected by a sensing coil 48 constituting another part of the coil means 40 described in conjunction with FIGURE 2. The AC. voltage in the coil 48 is converted to a corresponding DC voltage by the amplifier 49. In other words, a knife passing between the poles of the core will cause a given amount of detuning of the tuned circuit which will be reflected in the voltage from the amplifier 49. A spoon, on the other hand, which is of a different physical shape from the knife will result in a different voltage being sensed in the coil 48 and thus in a different output voltage from the amplifier 49. Similarly, for a fork or other shaped items, different characteristic voltages will be provided.

The output from the amplifier 49 is passed along a lead 50 to the emitter terminals of a plurality of transistors indicated at Q1, Q2, and Q3. These transistors essentially activate proper high speed switches between the coil means and the various solenoids. Thus, as shown, the collector terminals for the transistors connect through D.-C. blocking condensers C1, C2, and C3 to amplifiers 51, 52, and 53, the outputs of which connect to the solenoids 36, 37, and 38, respectively.

The base terminals of the respective transistors are provided with distinctive voltages by means of individually variable resistances R1, R2, and R3, respectively, connected to one side of a battery 54. Also, the base terminals of these transistors are provided with alternating current from an oscillator 55 coupled to the base resistances R1, R2, and R3 as shown.

The photo-electric cell system 42 provides a gate signal along a line 56 to the various amplifiers rendering these amplifiers operative only when the gate signal is received. This gate signal is received only when a piece of silverware or other item reaches a given position between the poles of the core 41 to intercept the light beam in the photo-cell system.

The circuit is designed such that any one of the transistors will only conduct when its emitter voltage substantially equals its adjusted base voltage made up of the D.-C. component and A.-C. component from the battery 54 and oscillator 55 respectively. When the emitter voltage corresponds to the base voltage, the transistor functions as an A.-C. amplifier and passes a signal through its corresponding collector terminal to one of the various amplifiers 36, 37, or 38. On the other hand, if the emitter voltage is different from the base voltage, the transistor either does not conduct or becomes saturated so that in either of these latterevents there will be no signal to the various amplifiers and relays.

With the foregoing description of the basic components making up the sorting apparatus in mind, the overall operation will now be described.

Initially, a random mixture of silverware such as knives, forks, and spoons is dumped into the central opening 11 to fall onto the top of the cone B which spreads the silverware on the bafile member 12. As stated, the cone and baffle member 12 are caused to vibrate by the vibrator as described in FIGURE 2 and thus any silverware that is tangled together will tend to become separated and be vibrated towards the central opening 24.

The silverware dropping through the opening 24 will be received in the receiving area 29 of the rotary table 28. The rotation imparted to this table will cause various pieces to pass down the radially extending passages 30 and a high speed will be imparted to the individual pieces of silverware as they leave the radial passages and travel about the annular passage 31.

As each piece of silverware passes between the poles of the core 41, a characteristic voltage signal will be sensed by the sensing coil 48 described in FIGURE 3, and this distinctive voltage will be amplified and applied to all of the emitters of the transistors Q1, Q2, and Q3. However, only one of these transistors will function as an AC. amplifier since only one will have a base voltage adjusted to correspond to the particular given voltage applied to the emitter.

As a specific example, assume that the fork 16 of FIG- URE 1 after passing through the battle and rotary table passes between the poles of the core 41. Assume also that the transistor Q1 has its base voltage adjusted by means of the variable resistance R1 to a voltage which corresponds to the voltage that would result from the amplifier 49 only at the time a fork passes between the poles of the core 41 in a given orientation such as tines first and reaches a position to intercept the beam to the photocell. In this event, only the transistor Q1 will amplify the AC. signal when the fork passes the core, thereby resulting in a signal passing through the condenser C1 and amplifier 51 to the solenoid 36.

The amplifier 51, as described heretofore, is gated to an on condition by a signal 56 from the photocell structure 42 only when the fork has reached a given position in the core 41. This arrangement is necessary in order that only one correct signal is developed for each piece in a given orientation. Otherwise, an initial detuning as the fork gradually passes between the poles of the core could occur which might trigger some of the other transistors or a different signal could result if the orientation were reversed. Since the gating signal is not provided until the item is in a given position relative to the core poles,

no false measurements are made as the item approaches or leaves the core. The amplifiers are biased to an Off condition until the gating signal is received.

The resultant signal from the amplifier 51 enengizes the solenoid 36 to throw the door '33 to the open position such as illustrated in FIGURE 2, thereby diverting the fork through the outlet 13 and into the bin 19 described in FIGURE 1.

If the next item is a spoon, one of the other transistors will be appropriately triggered. to conduct and the corresponding door will open for the spoon.

In the event that the item is reverse oriented such as handle-first or in the event two pieces of silver should still be stuck together so that they pass substantially at the same time between the poles of the core 41, a signal different from any of the base signals will be applied to the emitters of the transistors and none of them will operate with a result that none of the doors will open. Thus, the incorrectly oriented item or two pieces of silver tangled together will simply pass along the re-entrant passage back through the baffle 12 and thence through the rotary table 28 at which time they will be shaken apart or at least there will be a better chance that the items will become physically separated and properly oriented so that they can be sampled one at a time.

It will be evident from the circuit described in FIGURE 3 that the base voltages of the transistors may be individually adjusted. With this ararngement, it is only necessary to adjust these base voltages to correspond to the measured emitter voltages that occur when a distinctive piece of silverware is passing in proper orientation between the poles of the coil 41 to detune the same. Once this adjustment has been made, only that appropriate outlet means or door will operate when the corresponding silverware passes through the poles of the magnet.

From the foregoing description, it will thus be evident that the present invention has provided a novel sorting apparatus particularly suitable for sorting silverware. By providing a plurality of radial passages in the rotary table 28 as indicated, many pieces of silver may be processed in any given amount of time so that even though the silver is confined to an annular passage to pass one at a time or succesively past the sensing means, they will be traveling at high speed with only a small space between successive pieces of silverware with the result that a very rapid sorting can take place.

While, as mentioned heretofore, the preferred embodiment of the invention has been described in conjunction with the sorting of silverware, the principles are clearly applicable to any situation in which it is desired to separate various items into distinctive groups in accordance with their physical characteristics. The invention, accordingly, is not to be thought of as limited to the one embodiment set forth merely for illustrative purposes.

What is claimed is:

1. A sorting apparatus for separating a mixture of sets of items having different characteristics comprising, in combination: rotary means defining a central receiving area for said mixture; a plurality of passage means fixed to said rotary means for rotation therewith and extending from said receiving area to the periphery of said rotary means so that rotation of said rotary means moves said items by centrifugal force through said passage means from said central receiving area to said periphery; means defining with said periphery a passage along which said items pass after exiting from said passage means; and electronic control means for sensing and separating individual items passing along said passage means from each other in accordance 'with their respective characteristics.

2. A sorting apparatus according to claim 1, in which said mixture comprises silverware including sets of forks, knives, and spoons.

3. A sorting apparatus for separating a plurality of different items from each other, comprising, in combination: a rotary table having a central receiving area; bafiie means disposed above said rotary table for receiving and tunneling items to said central receiving area, said table including a plurality of passage means extending from said receiving area to the periphery of said table; an outer wall means surrounding and defining with at least a part of the periphery of said table an annular passage; a plurality of outlet means communicating with said annular passage and adapted upon actuation to pass an item moving along said annular passage to the exterior of said outer wall means; means for rotating said table; and means positioned ahead of said outlet means for sensing the passing of given ones of said items and connected to said outlet means for actuating certain ones of said outlet means in response to passing of said given ones of said items, respectively, whereby said given ones of said items are separated from the remaining ones of said items.

4. A sorting apparatus according to claim 3, including a re-entrant passage means connecting said annular passage after said outlet means with said receiving area for recirculating items passing along said annular passage in the event none of said outlet means is actuated.

5. A silverware sorting apparatus for separating forks, knives, spoons, and the like comprising, in combination; a housing having an opening for receiving an arbitrary mixture of said silverware; a baflie member disposed in said housing and including an undulated inwardly sloping surface defining generally radially directed ribs and valleys merging inwardly to a central opening; a rotary table disposed beneath said baffie member and having a central receiving area registering with said central opening and a plurality of passages extending radially from said receiving area to open out in exit ends at the periphery of said rotary table; a stationary casing surrounding said table to define with the periphery thereof an annular passage for receiving silverware passing out said exit ends of said passages; a plurality of outlet means successively provided in the outer wall of said casing for communicating with said annular passage, each of said outlet means including guide means adapted to be moved into a position upon actuation to intercept a piece of silverware moving in said annular passage and pass the same to the exterior of said casing; means for vibrating said bafiie member; means for rotating said rotary table; and control means positioned at said annular passage before said outlet means to sense passing along said passage towards said outlet means individual pieces of said silverware for actuating individual ones of said outlet means in response to a given piece of silverware passing said control means, whereby a given guide means is actuated in response to passing of a given piece of silverware to thereby separate said given piece of silverware from the rest of said silverware.

6. A silverware sorting apparatus according to claim 5, including a re-entrant passage tangentially passing from said annular passage after said outlet means and exiting at said bafile member whereby silverware passing along said annular passage is recirculated by said reentrant passage in the event it is improperly oriented so that none of said guide means is actuated.

7. A silverware sorting apparatus according to claim 5, in which said control means includes magnetic coil means; a fixed tuned oscillator energizing said coil means, passing of a piece of silverware adjacent to said coil means detuning said coil means; and circuit means coupled to said coil means and responsive only to given degrees of detuning to provide given signals; and solenoid means connected to said circuit means and said guide means to actuate said guide means only in response to reception of said given signals, respectively.

8. A silverware sorting apparatus according to claim 7, in which said circuit means includes a plurality of switching transistors having their emittencollector terminals connected respectively between said magnetic coil means and said solenoid means; and individual bias means connected to the base terminals of said transistors for providing given voltages on said base terminals corresponding to the voltage on an associated emitter when a given one of said silverware passes said coil means, whereby said transistors will only conduct when the voltage on said emitter terminals corresponds to the voltage on said base terminals to provide said given signals.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,988,200 6/1961 De Koning 20973 X 3,204,765 9/1965 Adcox 209111.7 X 3,247,858 4/1966 Kraeft 134-63 X 3,301,397 1/1967 Stutz 20973 M. HENSON WOOD, 1a., Primary Examiner.

R. A. SCHACHER, Assistant Examiner.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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US3204765 *Dec 30, 1963Sep 7, 1965L D AdcoxSorting machine for potatoes and the like
US3247858 *Feb 25, 1964Apr 26, 1966Robert W KraeftMachine for cleaning and assorting table silver and control mechanism therefor
US3301397 *Sep 23, 1964Jan 31, 1967Roger A StutzSilverware sorting device
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3486939 *Oct 17, 1967Dec 30, 1969Charles P PinckardApparatus for classifying,cleaning and collecting culinary items
US3655040 *Apr 24, 1970Apr 11, 1972William E GayTableware sorting system
US4485927 *Jan 4, 1982Dec 4, 1984Corsmeier Jr Joseph WFlatware sorter
US4572378 *Sep 24, 1984Feb 25, 1986National Research Development CorporationSeparation method and apparatus
US5469688 *Jul 26, 1993Nov 28, 1995Michael D. DunbarMethod for wrapping silverware in a napkin
US5804772 *Oct 4, 1996Sep 8, 1998Batching Systems, Inc.Apparatus and method for dispensing batches of articles
US5829600 *May 16, 1996Nov 3, 1998Premark Feg L.L.C.Method and apparatus for identifying different, elongated metallic objects
US6237779Jan 19, 2000May 29, 2001Jay M. BoyerUtensil sorting apparatus
US6460707Apr 3, 2001Oct 8, 2002Jay M. BoyerUtensil sorting apparatus
US6799684 *Oct 15, 2002Oct 5, 2004Batching Systems, Inc.Multi-head portioning system
DE19518328C1 *May 18, 1995Jul 18, 1996Premark Feg CorpEquipment for sorting long metallic objects esp. cutlery
DE19518329A1 *May 18, 1995Nov 21, 1996Premark Feg CorpVerfahren und Vorrichtung zur Identifizierung von unterschiedlichen, lšnglichen metallischen Gegenstšnden, insbesondere von Besteckteilen
WO1997008052A1 *Aug 23, 1995Mar 6, 1997Dunbar Michael DMethod for wrapping silverware in a napkin
WO2011080251A1 *Dec 27, 2010Jul 7, 2011Rofobox GmbhFolding device for folding limp material parts
U.S. Classification209/570, 209/926, 209/920
International ClassificationB07C5/08, A47L21/02
Cooperative ClassificationA47L21/02, Y10S209/926, Y10S209/92, B07C5/086
European ClassificationB07C5/08B, A47L21/02