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Publication numberUS3452509 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 1, 1969
Filing dateApr 11, 1966
Priority dateApr 11, 1966
Also published asDE1574092A1
Publication numberUS 3452509 A, US 3452509A, US-A-3452509, US3452509 A, US3452509A
InventorsWerner Hauer
Original AssigneeItt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Automatic sorting system for discrete flat articles
US 3452509 A
Abstract  available in
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

W. HAUER AUTOMATIC SORTING SYSTEM FOR DISCRETE FLAT ARTICLES Sheet of 7 Filed April 11, 1966 m m T U m A m mwimq m kmkcogt w R 5 w July 1, 1969 w. HAUER 3,452,509


WERNER HA 0 BY J) 7 7/ 7 Ky ATTORNEY July 1, 1969 w. HAUER 3,452,509



AUTOMATIC SORT ING SYSTEM FOR DISCRETE FLAT ARTICLE S July 1, 1969 Sheet Filed April 11, 1966 was.

. A- amam II n INVENTOR.

WERNER HAUER ATTORNEY july I, 1969 w. HAUER 3,452,509

AUTOMATIC SORTING SYSTEM FOR DISCRETE FLAT ARTICLES Filed April 11, 1966 Sheet 6 of 7 sH/Fr SHIFT \6 ma/sym' REGISTER 9 I I SHIFT sH/Fr -N "Wm/575R REGISTER I I 67 6'7 SH/F? SHIFT l REM? REA) Fag/575R REG/576R 69 BUFFER BUFFER '9 i Z 7 72 73 2a 5 02/ V'R on/ vm N 55 I 7o HAL/GN/WE/VF I I SEA/50R 72 MAGAZINE INVENTOR.

WERNER HA UER ATTORNEY y 1969 w. HAUER 3,452,509


WERNER HA UER AT TORNEY United States Patent 3,452,509 AUTOMATIC SORTING SYSTEM FOR DISCRETE FLAT ARTICLES Werner Hauer, Nutley, N.J., assignor to International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, Nutley, N.J., a corporation of Maryland Filed Apr. 11, 1966, Ser. No. 541,806 Int. Cl. B65b 19/28, 35/30, 35/50 US. CI. 5352 14 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A system requiring only one singulation and encoding of articles comprising a single array of output stations, encoding means, and a storage facility. By use of coding sensing, selected articles are ejected to discrete stations, and non-selected articles are temporarily stored. Subsequently, in successive sortations, all articles are ejected to correct stations as the stations are successively recoded to accept different groups of discrete articles.

This invention relates to systems for sorting discrete fiat articles, such as articles of mail, and particularly to an improved recycling sortation arrangement.

Known sortation systems carry mail on conveyor belts, or the like to a plurality of output stations within one installation. In these systems, coding arrangements are used to identify the individual letter destination and to enable ejection of appropriate mail to appropriate output stations. Thus, in a first array of output stations for principal mail distribution centers (i.e., New York city, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Newark, Dallas, etc.) mail destined for such enters (or environs thereof) is ejected at the appropriately designated stations. Assuming for the moment that the mail sorting system here discussed is in Philadelphia, a second sortation of the remaining mail would require the mail to be conveyed further over a second and successive array of output stations which may be designated as out-of-town distribution centers (i.e., Reading, Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, etc.). Next the mail yet remaining would be conveyed further over a third array of output stations designated as local distribution centers, a station for each community within the metropolitan range of Philadelphia (i.e., Elkins Park, Glenside, Drexel Hill, Bristol, Jarrettown, etc.). Finally, the only mail remaining is for Philadelphia proper. This last mail would receive the final sortation, over a last array of output stations, which segregates the letters according to the fifty to fifty-five ZIP Code areas or zones encompassed by the city of Philadelphia.

These known arrangements require a broad expanse of operating areas, to have the mail traverse the successive arrays of sortation stations, or a complicated management to rearrange the output station assignment pattern of the sorting machine after the first sortation and rerun the mail in the now different output station assignment pattern through the same sorting installation. More, the finally sorted and ejected mail must be stacked and bundled by hand or by accessory machinery and conveyed by containers to a central truck and/ or train loading platform. Necessarily, the code sensing the mail ejection devices must be provided in a quantity corresponding to the number of discrete sortationsperhaps 250 to 300 for major centers, 100 to 150 for minor out-of-town centers, 50 to 100 for local centers, and 50 to 100 for intown sortations. Thus, as many as 500 identical devices for code sensing and mail ejecting may be required to satisfy the full run of complete sortation. Finally, in some known systems recycled sortation is used where the number of output stations is at least as great as the largest number in one sortation. However, these arrangements require successive singulation and reading processes to set the control numbers of the machine for the successive sortations.

It is an object of this invention to provide an automatic article sorting system which employs but one singulation and one reading of each mail article, and a single array of output stations for a number or sortations which is greater than the number of output stations.

It is another object of this invention to provide an automatic mail sorting system which uses article holding devices and recycles them past a single array of output stations in a series of recurring and successive yet discrete sortations.

Another object of this invention to provide an automatic mail sorting system which accommodates the full sortation of mail in immediate adjacency to the central truck and/ or train loading platform.

It is another object of this invention to provide an automatic article bundling means for each output station of the mail sorting system.

Another object of this invention is to provide an automatic mail sorting system which uses electronic memory, control and programming to convert a discrete encoding of articles of mail into an arbitrary encoding which is used to selectively cause mail to be ejected into or withheld from output stations.

A further object of this invention is to provide an automatic mail sorting system with a flexible output station arrangement having mail destination sensing facilities which are selectively alterable so as to accommodate any arbitrary arrival, docking and resultant deployment of mail trucks thereat.

Yet a further object of this invention is to provide an automatic mail sorting system with flexible mail destination sensing facilities which are selectively alterable so as to effect dispatch of mail for heavy-traffic destinations to any desired plurality of output stations.

Another object of this invention is to provide an automatic mail sorting system with facilities which respond automatically, in the event of malfunctions of, or overloads at the output stations, to establish substitute output stations.

A feature of this invention is the use of a computer controlled code converter device to read first encodings of the article holding device, encodings corresponding to the discrete destination of the articles of mail, and to write, that is, to super-impose a second encoding on computer instructions. The second encoding is a director encoding which, providing it corresponds with encoding of selectively encoded sensing means at the output stations, will cause the holding device to release the correct mail.

Another feature of this invention is the use of a closedloop conveyor system which moves the article holding device from the input means and past the output stations in first, second, and third or more successive sortations over the output stations.

Another feature of this invention is the provision of storage means for the holding device for times intervening the successive sortation passes.

Another feature of this invention is the provision of a web of continuous heat-shrinkable pouch strips, and article lofting air pressure, to automatically stack and bundle the mail as the pieces thereof are ejected at the individual output stations. I

The above-mentioned and other features and objects of this invention will become more apparent by referring to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGURE 1 is a schematic representation of an embodiment of the system in accordance with my invention;

FIGURE 2 is a diagram of the basic sequence of the system in accordance with my invention;

FIGURE 3 is a perspective view of a post ofiice layout employing my invention;

FIGURE 3A is a perspective view of output stations indexing means;

FIGURE 4 is a side elevation view of an inverter used in the inventive system;

FIGURE 4A is an end view of the inverter of FIG. 4;

FIGURE 5 is a top view of a transfer arrangement used in the system;

FIGURE 5A is a front elevational view of the transfer arrangement of FIG. 5;

FIGURE 5B is a side elevational view of the transfer arrangement of FIG. 5;

FIGURE 6 is a top view of the storage means for the system;

FIGURE 7 is a side elevation view of the automatic bundling means according to the invention;

FIGURE 7A is a front elevation view of the bundling means of FIG. 7;

FIGURE 8 is a perspective view of pouch strips used with the bundling means of FIGURE 7;

FIGURE 9 is a schematic representation of the code converter arrangement; and

FIGURE 10 is a schematic representation of the output station sensing means.

Referring now to FIGURE 1 there is disclosed a sorting system in accordance with my invention. Input 1 denotes the point of influx for the unsorted mail where operators or machine readers at a plurality of parallel positions (a, b, c, d insert the mail into holding devices and perform encoding, as will be discussed subsequently, at 2. Conveyor means 3 transports the mail to an inverter 4. Inverter 4 turns the holding devices (containing the mail) upside down and passes them on the code converter 5 under the control of computer 6. For reasons to be explained subsequently, code converter 5 performs further encoding and passes the mail on to the output stations 7 represented by numerals 1 through 300-. There, selected articles of mail are ejected from the holding devices. Next the holding devices with the non-ejected mail are conveyed on to inverter 8, which returns them to the originating upright position, and then they pass on to storage 9. The closed-loop conveyor system is represented by index numeral 10, while the return line is shown at 11.

While my inventive system can be used with different types of mail transporters, and can be adapted for use with still other types, the embodiment presented here, only by way of example, will assume the use of an article holding and dispensing magazine such as that disclosed in my US. Patent No. 3,140,767 for High Speed Automatic Mail Sorting Systems, issued July 14, 1964. More, while various encoding, inserting and ejecting arrangements for mail and transporters are known and can be employed with my invention, the manner of encoding, inserting, ejecting mail disclosed in my earlier-mentioned US. patent will be assumed for the ensuing discussion.

Synoptically, the devices, and operation of the systems disclosed in Patent No. 3,140,767 are as outlined below. This outline should facilitate an understanding of the present disclosure.

The patented High Speed Automatic Mail Sorting Systems teach the use of articles holding and dispensing magazines. The magazines are assemblies of plastic pockets, arrayed in parallel, the magazines having means for varying the depth of the pockets. Below each individual pocket is fixed a magnetic coding bar. Each magazine, with its pockets and coding bars, is maintained in a tray. Further, the magazines have drivers for each pocket which are cooperative with output station ejectors to discharge selected articles of mail from the pockets. The systems routine is as follows.

Empty magazines are conveyed to a postal clerk/operator who, after noting the addresses of the incoming mail inserts successive pieces in the successive pockets. The operator uses a keyboard to encode the coding bars to signify the destination addresses of the corresponding pocketed mail articles. The mail-laden magazines are moved to an inverter which turns the magazine upside down and positions the now-encoded coding bars at the top. The inverted magazines are moved to output stations where there are arrayed discrete sensors and ejectors for each different receiver bin. As a magazine passes through the output stations, the sensors there arrayed read the encoding on each bar of each pocket. When there occurs a correspondence between the encoded destination for a particular article of mail and a destination for which the sensor of a particular receiver bin is set, the magazine driver will be actuated. The actuated driver then cooperates with the ejectors to dispatch the mail article from the pocket.

The present disclosure, then, teaches an improved automatic sorting system, one embodiment of which is drawn from the utilization of at least the magazines, coding bars, magazine drivers, and output sensors and ejectors of my prior, patented High Speed Automatic Mail Sorting Systems (US. Patent No. 3,140,767).

FIGURES 2 and 3, respectively, present the basic operation of my invention, and an arrangement of the system in a post oflice facility. Input 1 feeds the mail to machine readers or manual operators 2. The culling, facing, reading and inserting of mail in the magazines and the encoding of the magazines, can be done by any of several known means; an example of such means is taught in my US. Patent No. 3,140,767. The operator, uses a keyboard to magnetically impress a binary code of low level magnetization (40 gauss) on the coding bar for each pocket of the magazine in accordance with the ZIP Code address of the letter inserted therein. Thus, coding bars for a letter addressed to a Baltimore, Maryland ZIP Code of 21218 will be encoded in binary-decimal:

Obviously the operator can impart any binary code representations, successively, for successive pockets of a magazine for differing ZIP Codes for different destinations: 10022, New York city; 01546, Shrewsbury, Mass; 01881, Wakefield, Mass.; 10538, Larchmont, N.Y., etc.

Assuming the post office to be in, say, Dallas, Tex., postal clerks will require that a first sortation extract only long distance mail (i.e., mail for remote and major distribution centers), leaving mail otherwise addressed for subsequent sortations. Thus, an efiicient system must be able to discern and select only mail encoded for addresses in or near New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, etc. and to leave untouched mail addressed to out of town (i.e., Fort Worth, Waco, Wichita Falls, San Antonio, etc.), local (i.e., Euless, Irving, Grapevine, Coppell, Balch Springs), and in town mail. According to my invention, this discernment and selection is accomplished as follows. The magazines are transported to an inverter 4 where they are turned upside down. Detailed discussion of the inverter mechanics will be given subsequently.

While this inversion is not necessary to the essence of my invention, it is a necessary procedure to subsequently effect mail ejection from the magazines being considered in this discussion. These are the magazines disclosed in my US. Patent 3,140,767. Of course, other mail transporters having different means of ejection which obviate any need for inversion could be used in my inventive sortation system.

Following inversion the magazines are moved to a code converter 5. Code converter 5 has read and write heads, which function in a manner well known in the art, and is coupled to computer 6 from which it receives instruction. The computer device can be any such having random read-write access ofsufficient capability, as the PhD- by Bryant Computer Products Division of the Ex-Cell-O Corporation, Walled Lake, Mich. By employing the memory of the computer and the digital logic of its arithmetic subsystem, the inventive system arrangement has the converter 5 read the 40 gauss binary code on the coding bar of a pocket in a manner which is non-destructive. This data is transmitted to the computer 6. As the read head transmits a binary representation (0001 0000 0101 0011 1000) of ZIP Code 10538 (Larchmont, N.Y.), the computer memory identifies this as synonymous with a arbitrary destination coding (used solely within the post office building) which, by way of illustration, is designated as 101 (New York city). Therefore, the computer 6 instructs the write head of the code converter 5 to superimpose the binary representation of 101 on the coding bar with a high-level magnetization (400 gauss). So also, the computer-controlled converter 5 adds the 101 (New York city) code to letters initially encoded as 10036, 500 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.; 10462, Bronx, N.Y.; 10016, Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y.; etc. Thus, the computer is programmed to remember that ZIP Codes (i.e. binary representation thereof) 10001 through 10544 call for a writing of code 101. Letters thus second-coded will subsequently be ejected to the output station 7 which is designated as 101. Likewise, the computer 6 is programmed to identify ZIP Codes 60101 through 60658 as Chicago (or environs). An arbitrary Chicago designation coding may be 102; thus, mail for Harvey, 111., 60426 thru' 60428; Bensenville, 111., 60106; and Wheaton, 111., 60187; as well as for Chicago itself, 60601 thru 60658, will be second coded 102 and consigned to an output station 7' so designated. So-called Los Angeles mail, also, having ZIP Codes 90001 through 90714 will be second-coded 103. An output station 7" so designated will collect Lennox, Bellflower, Lakewood, etc. mail having ZIP Codes of 90304, 90706, 90712 thru 90714, etc., as well as mail for Los Angeles proper having ZIP Codes of 90001 thru 90071.

The computer 6, then, will have three or four different stored programs to handle the three or four sortations. In the first sortation, which extracts the mail for the major long distance distribution centers, mail for these centers is second-coded at the converter 5 with arbitrary codes 101, 102, 103 through perhaps 350 to designate it for ejection at New York city, Chicago, Los Angeles, through Juneau output stations.

Following code conversion (second coding) the m-aga zines are conveyed to the output stations 7. In a manner similar to that disclosed in my referenced patent, mail is ejected at correct destination output stations there being an output station to collect the mail for each one of these arbitrary codes.

'In a first sortation, then, all magazines are conveyed past an array of 250 to 300 (as required) output stations and eject only the mail destined for the major national distribution centers. The ejected mail, in a manner to be disclosed subsequently, is automatically bundled and ready for trucking or railroading for delivery. The magazines with the remaining (non-ejected) mail are conveyed on to storage 9 to await a second sortation. Operation of the storage 9 facility will be discussed subsequently. From storage 9 the magazines follow the conveyor means 3 back to the converter 5. As can be seen in FIGURE 3, the closed loop conveyor path 10 is maintained in this proposed layout of the system.

After all sortations are completed, return path 11 provides a means for the return of the empty magazines to the operators or machine readers 2. Again, with reference to FIGURE 2, code reader 12 represents such means well known in the art, employed in machine readers. At manual reader stations, code reader 12 would be represented by an operator. The magazines 13 are shown surmounting an encoder 14 which imparts the initial binary equivalent of the ZIP Code. The magazine inverter 4 is shown adjacent to code converter 5. Writing and reading heads 15 and 16 are shown within code converter 5. Sensor 17 and actuator 18 of the output station 7 represents those elements the nature and functioning of which, as disclosed in my referenced patent, are used, respectively, to respond to the high level second encoding on the magazine coding bars and to the eject mail.

Transfer devices 19, discussed in connection with FIG- URE 5 subsequently, and represented in FIGURE 3, can be manually operated to insure a closed-loop traverse by the magazines 13. Obviously, the transfer devices 19 can also be computer controlled to actuate before and following each sortation program.

Interofiice transport containers 20 collect the ejected and bundled mail for truck 21 or railroad packaging and handling.

FIGURES 4 and 4A represent an embodiment of an inverter used in the system. Pairs of fixed arms 50, disposed radially about a hub 51, are revolved in clockwise fashion between adjacent branches of conveyor means 3. The arms 50 are rotated, by drive means 52, within parallel belts 53 and 54 of conveyor means 3. Thus, the inverter accepts successive magazines 13 from parallel belts 53, lifts them and inverts them, and deposits them on belts 54. Inverter 8, shown in FIGURES 1 and 3, operates in similar fashion, except that it accepts inverted magazines 13 and returns them to an upright attitude.

FIGURES 5, 5A and 5B represent an embodiment of transfer devices (19, FIGURE 3) used in the system. Conveyor track 55 represents a portion of the major conveying path, and conveyor track 56 represents a shunt path to or from storage 9. When it is desired to transfer magazines 13 from the conveyor track 55 to storage 9 via conveyor track 56, it is only necessary to interrupt track 55 and have track 56 take over magazine movement. Thus, position sensors 57-60 (such being well known in conveyor systems art) are used to signal optimum times for track interchange. Sensor 57, as magazine 13 impinges thereagainst (having travelled in the direction of the arrow shown), will operate a solenoid arrangement (not shown) to drop conveyor limbs 55 and 55" about pivot points 61. Magazine 13, then, will be resting on the parallel extensions 62 of conveyor track 56 and will be moved to storage 9. The dropping of conveyor limbs 55' and 55" is of timed duration; both limbs return to normal disposition when the magazine 13 directed to storage has cleared the path of track 55. Sensor 58 is used to interrupt the conveyance of successive magazines until a foremost magazine has traversed the transfer point. Sensor 59, just contrary to the function of sensor 57, is used to actuate solenoid means to raise conveyor limbs 55' and 55", to accept a magazine just moved out from storage 9. Sensor 60 is used to lower limbs 55 and 55" until a magazine moving out from storage impinges against sensor 59. Sensor 60 also interrupts the outward (from storage) conveyance of successive magazines until a foremost magazine has traversed the transfer point.

FIGURE 6 illustrates, in a plan view, an embodiment of a storage arrangement used in the inventive system. Storage facility 9 has a plurality of rows (designated A through S) in which a number of magazines 13 can be stored between mail sortation cycles. Conveyor ramps 91 are arrayed across either sides of the storage facility 9 to receive (or dispatch) magazines 13 from (or to) slewable conveyor arms 92. Sensors 93 and 94 serve to signal drive means (not shown) for arms 92 when itis timely to move the arms from one row 90 to another. In accordance with meanswell known in the art, sensors 93 and 94 are coupled to sense a filled capacity for row 90; in this, sensor 93 serves a counting function. Sensor 94 has means to subtract from the count to sensor 93 when, as will sometimes be necessary, it is required to pass all or some magazines 13 directly through the storage facility 9 without halt. Thus, the count of sensor 93 will not reach capacity and the row 90 will be presented as an open passageway. Finally, sensor 94 has stop means to halt conveyor belt movement in row 90 unless an arm 92 is addressed to and interfaced with output ramp 91 of the row.

The automatic bundling means of output stations 7 is illustrated in FIGURES 7 and 7A. There is shown ramp 28, disposed beneath an output station number 7, with orifices 28A. Air rack 29, with ports 30 receives pressured air from source 31. A web 32 of heat-shrinkable perforated pouch strips 33 is fed over both said air rack 29 and ramp 28 from reel 33a. Air line 34 is joined to source 31 and vents out nozzle 35 at the bottom of ramp 28. Heating means 36 are contained in the air line 34. As articles of mail are ejected from the magazine 13, air forced through the ports 30, orifices 28A, and perforations 42 in the pouch strips 33, causes each piece to loft downward in an attitude perpendicular to ramp 28. A guide 37 holds the pouches 38 closed until preceding pouches are sufficiently filled and have moved downward toward the containers (20, FIGURE 3). As each successive pouch 38 falls open, lofted mail comes to rest therein and collect. As the loaded pouches 38 pass nozzle 35, the flow of heated air from air line 34 causes the material of the pouch 38 to shrink and securely clasp the mail enclosed therein. As can be seen in FIGURE 8, the upper end 39 of each pouch strip 33 is interfolded with the lower end 40 of each succeeding pouch strip. Thus, as one pouch strip 33 moves downward via means discussed in connection with FIG. 10, it unreels the succeeding pouch strip.

FIGURE 9 schematically illustrates the means for conversion of the low-level (40 gauss) magnetic encoding of ZIP Code addresses into high-level (400 gauss) magnetic encoding of an arbitrary code for'selective mail article ejection. The inverted magazine 13 with parallel, mail article pockets 63 is shown with coding bars 64 for each pocket. Read-out devices 65, which utilize Hall effectsubstrates (indium antimonide), are components of the code converter (5, FIGS. 1, 2, 3). Alignment sensor 66 detects correct orientation of magazine 13 under devices 65 and energizes the read-out process at the correct instant. As many as seventy-two bits can be read out, as seventytwo read-out devices 65 are there arrayed along the coding bars 64. Normally a maximum of twenty-five data bits (viz, 00110 00000 00110 00001 00011, for ZIP Code 60613, Chicago, 111.) for example will have to be read out. The extra coding area on the coding bar can be used to enter more extensive encoding when and as mail trafiic warrants, or can be used to enter more extensive encoding (than the five decimal ZIP Code requires) for checks, vouchers, etc., when the inventive system here described is used in banking, insurance, warehousing, etc. applications rather than in post offices.

The read-out bits of data are acquired by and stored in the read buffers 67 and offered to the magnetic drum 68 of the computer (6, FIGS. 1, 3). The program (stored on the drum under which the computer is controlled 1st, 2nd, or 3rd sortation program, etc.) will determine the processing instruction for the mail article being read. If, as earlier suggested, the post office is in Dallas, Tex., the computer will, on a first sortation, set forth instruction for an extraction of all mail having ZIP Codes which do not commence with the numeral seven. Therefore, on reading a ZIP Code of 10022 (New York city), the computer (via its magnetic drum 68) will translate this into binary bits 00001 00000 00001 (i.e., arbitrary code 101) and uses shift registers 69 and drivers 70 to induce this code, via high-level magnetization (400 gauss), onto the coding bar 64 for that New York city mail article when the magazine has moved to where the pocket 63 and coding bar 64 for that mail article is directly beneath the write heads 71. Sensor 72, like sensor 66, serves an alignment function; cooperative with singleshot multivibrator 73, it enables the writing function only when the coding bar is properly aligned under the write heads. The read buffers 67, shift registers 69, drivers 70, write heads 71, multivibrator 73, and sensors 66 and 72 are, like read heads 65, components of the code converter (5, FIGS. 1, 2, 3). In this embodiment, fifteen write heads 71 are used, these being adequate to encode the binary representation of the 3-digit arbitrary codes (10l-New York city, 102-Chicago, etc.) for the output stations (7, FIGS. 1, 2, 3).

FIGURE 10 schematically illustrates the means for the output station (7, FIGS. 1, 2, 3) code sensing ejection, and pouch supply web movement. Coding bar 64 carries the 3-digit arbitrary code which read-out sensors 74 will discern. As each digit of the arbitrary code will have five binary bits, a total of fifteen sensors 74 are provided. Each group of five is coupled to an AND gate circuit 75 and a NAND gate circuit 76 as well, the outputs of both circuits being coupled to another AND gate circuit 77. The redundancy of AND and NAND read-outs is provided, as is commonly done in digital logic art, to insure that a logic one or zero is correctly discerned. Dial switches 78 can be of any known electro-mechanical means to facilitate the alteration of the sensors arrangementto enable responses for altered coding. Normally, each output station will be set up for and maintained at one arbitrary code (101, 102, 407, or 269, etc.). However, when mail loading requires it, output station arbitrary codes can be changed, switched, or voided by dialing different coding (for sensing) or by dialing three zeroes; this feature is discussed further in following text.

The output of AND gate circuit 77 is coupled to single shot multivibrator 79. The output pulse multivibrator 79 is coupled to counter 80, AND gate circuit 81 and amplifier 82. The output of amplifier 82 enables the solenoid driven actuators 83 (on each side of magazine 13), causing the actuators 83 to move the driver 84 downward to a lower position within the pocket (preparatory to ejection of the mail article). The recurring outputs of multivibrator 79 to AND gate circuit 81 are of no effect until one such output coincides with an output from counter 80. Counter can be set for 25, 30, 35 inputs before providing an output. The setting thereof will be determined by the capacity of the pouches (38, FIGS. 7, 8) for articles of mail. Coincidence of counter 80 and multivibrator 79 outputs will cause AND gate circuit 81 to step the web escapement 85. Stepping of the web escapement 85 causes the pouch supply web 32 to further unwind from reel 33A.

As discussed earlier, magazines 13 are conveyed to storage 9 after a first sortation. The storage means can be of a type such as that discussed in connection with FIG. 6, or it can be any of several types well known to those skilled in the art, types having racks and elevators and appropriate drive and moving means. Also, the release of all magazines 13 from storage 9 for successive sortation runs can be manually controlled or controlled by the computer 6 with initiation of the successive sortation programs. Additionally, the conveyor means 3 has an interruptable drive which can be operatoror computer-controlled.

My system permits the dispatch of all sorted mail at one loading platform. Thus, trucks 21 (FIGURE 3) will pick up New York city mail at the output station 7 designated 101, Chicago mail at the output station designated 102, etc., after the first sortation, receiving the bundled mail in containers 20. (Obviously the movement of the containers 20 can be automated in response to timing means or the effects of a given weighted capacity.)

So also, other trucks 21 will pick up out of town (Texas) mail for Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waco, Beaumont, Wichita Falls, etc., at the same output stations 7, after the second sortation. This time a station designated 101 will have Lubbock mail, and 102 Fort Worth mail, and so on. This is so because on the second sortation the second program of the computer 6 instructs the convertor to second encode the magazines, on reading discrete ZIP Codes, as follows:

79401 through 79416=101 (Lubbock); 76101 through 76135=102 (Fort Worth); 76701 through 76711=l03 (Waco);

77701 through 77708=104 (Beaumont); etc.

Thus, mail for large out of town distribution centers will be sorted out in the second sortation. Mail ZIP coded 75060 thru 76501 will not be sorted out. This is a ZIP Code group for Dallas proper and its surrounding com- 10 Tex., post ofiice.

Sortation Output station Arbitrary Distribution ZIP Code Mail address 1st 2nd 3rd 4th code center 82002 Cheyenne, Wyo X 171 Cheyenne. 13225 Hancock Field, N.Y X 117 Syracuse. 19045 Jarrettown, Pa X 105 Philadelphia. 97223 X 213 Portland. 90304 X 180 Los Angeles. 13215 X 117 Syracuse. 76705 Bellmead, Tex X 117 Waco. 79097 White Dear, Tex X 118 Amarillo. 75145 Kleberg, Tex X 127 Kleberg. 75127 ruitdale, Tex- X 101 Fruitdale. 75223 Dallas, Tex 101 Dallas. 76689 Valley Mills, Tex 117 Waco. 97148 amh Oro 213 Portland. 92373 Redlands, Calif X 180 Los Angeles. 75019 Coppell, Tex X 119 C ntra 82050 Albin, Wyo X 171 Chey munities. Mail for those surrounding communities (Euless, Irving, Grapevine, etc.) this being local mail, Will be sorted out at the third sortation. Second coding for these may be as follows:

76039=101 Euless; 75060: 102 Irving; 76051=103 Grapevine; etc.

Final sortation of mail for Dallas proper, mail ZIP coded 75201 thru 75247, will exhaust the magazines 13. It is then that the magazines are conveyed along return path 11 (FIGURE 3) for the collection and subsequent sortation of the next influx of mail.

It will be evident that the sensing means of the output stations 7 and the ejecting means responsive thereto can be set once to the arbitrary codes 101 through 350 (or more as required), and left unaltered. Also, it is evident that these means can be alterable to inhibit them, to void codes 101, or 127, or 265 or whatever, as when mail destined therefore is inordinately heavy. Setting and alteration of the setting is accomplished by indexing means 41 (FIGURE 3) (including dial switches 78, FIG. 10) at output station 7; indexing means 41, shown indexed to arbitrary code 101, is connected to sensor 17 (FIGURE 2) to control the response thereof. Indexing means 41 can be manually or computer-controlled to set or alter the indexing thereof. Then a separate sortation can be run for the 101, 127, 265 mail, using ten, twenty, or-more output stations for these destinations, by further dividing the ZIP Code destinations. In this, using the computer capability in an unscheduled program the converter 5 would second encode the magazines as follows:

79401 through 79404=101, Lubbock; 79405 through 79408=102, Lubbock; 79409 through 79412=103, Lubbock; 79413 through 79416=104, Lubbock; 76101 through 76105=105, Fort Worth; etc.

In this manner, four, ten, or twenty times the normal volume of mail for given destinations can be handled Obviously, the computer 6 capability affords my inventive system a wide flexibility. For instance, in the event that long-haul truck and railroad facilities are delayed, and arrive untimely to receive long-distance and outof-town (1st and 2nd sortations) mail, the postal operators can call up 3rd and 4th sortation computer programs. Thus, local and intown mail can be processed, and dispatched via short-haul trucking, while the delayed facilities (which are normally given priority) are awaited. So too, in the event of output station malfunction or overload, the indexing means (41, FIGURE 3A) of the affected output station, where such are computer controlled, can be voided and'spare output stations substituted therefor.

It will be evident that the inventive system here disclosed can be used with a single computer program to verterS. In this arrangement, the first digit of the second coding (the arbitrary code) will signify the sortation during which the ejection of the mail is to be effected. An explanation of this is best understood with reference to the preceding chart. The first three digitsof the ZIP Code will signal to the appropriately programmed computer 6 that the article so addressed in long distance, out-of-town, local, or in-town mail. Thus, it will cause the code converter 5 to second-code the coding bar for each article withan initial digit signifying the sortation; the other two digits of the second coding will signify the output station 7. Therefore, mail for Albin, Wyo. ZIP coded 82050 will be second-coded: 171. The initial 1 will signify the first sortation, and that digit, together with 71 will signify output station 171 (Cheyenne, Wyo.); mail for Bellmead, Tex. (ZIP Code 76705) will be secondcoded 217; the 2 will signify the second sortation; joined with the 17 it will signify output station 217 (Waco). Finally ZIP Code 75019 will evoke a second-code of 519 in this the 5 signifies the 3rd sortation, and that together with 19 denotes output station 519 (Coppell,

TeX.); ZIP Code 75223 will evoke a second-code of 701, where 7 signifies the 4th sortation; joined with 01, it will long-distance, hence, first sortation mail. In the manner already discussed, the code converter and the computer 6 will cooperate to discern the correct output station 7 for such articles by reading the remaining discrete digits of the ZIP Code. On discerning an article ZIP coded with initial digit of 7, the computer 6 will be programmed to recognize this as other than long distance mail. Therefore, the code converter 5 will read successive digits of these ZIP Codes. On reading a 76X)Q(, or 79XXX, or 77XXX, or 78XXX, or 74XXX, etc., by the code converter 5 the coding bar of the article concerned will be given a sortation digit (i.e., the first digit of the second coding) of 2. Articles thus second coded will be sorted out in the second sortation. Code converter reading of 751XX, or 753XX, or 754XX, etc., will evoke a sortation coding of 3. ZIP Codes of 75201 to 75247 is mail for Dallas proper. Thus, articles of mail thus ZIP-coded will be given a sortation digit of 4.

In this usage of the inventive system, use of a single computer program to etfect all sortations, it may be desirable to transpose the positions of inverter 4 and code converter 5. With reference to FIGURE 1, then, code converter 5 would be more proximate to the operators or machine readers 2, and inverter 4 would be placed beyond the code converter 5. Both the code converter 5 and inverter 4 would be out of the closed-loop system 10, being disposed in advance thereof. Also inverter 8 would be placed beyond the closed-loop system 10, being disposed along return line 11. With reference to FIGURE 2, the code converter 5 would be at the left and would be disposed below conveyor means 3, and inverter 4 would be at the right. The purpose in this repositioning would be to avoid the necessity of first inverting and then righting the magazines 13 on each successive sortation. This rearrangement, facilitated by the code-conversion of all mail articles prior to the first sortation, allows the one-time inversion of the magazines 13 and accommodates their maintenance in this attitude throughout all sortations and storage; thus, possible damage to the magazines from excessive or repeated inversion and re-righting can be avoided.

Any sortation digits, or combinations thereof, can be used, such as 0 and 1 for a first sortation, 2, 3, and 4 for a second sortation, 5," and 6 for a third, and 7, 8, and 9 for a fourth. The computer 6 can remotely alter the indexing means 41 (FIGURE 3), with the initiation of each successive sortation, or the re-setting can be done manually, to change the indexing from 001 through 199 (for a first sortation), to 201 through 499 (for a second sortation), etc.

I have described two methods for the use of computercontrolled code conversion in my inventive system.

It will be evident, however, that, in lieu of a flexible, dynamic computer, the ends of the inventive system can be effected with less complex arrangements having known and appropriate digital logic. In this embodiment, direct employment of the ZIP Code is made. That is, the lowlevel binary encoding of the ZIP Code address is not converted to an arbitrary output station binary encoding. Rather, the binary representation, initially encoded on the coding bar of mail for, by way of example, Chicago, Ill., ZIP coded as 60613 (binary, low-level coding: 00110 00000 00110 00001 00011) will be retained in processing through the code converter (5, FIG. 1). After passage through the code converter, the coding bar will have the same ZIP Code number binary encoding, but now it will be a high-level (40 gauss) encoding.

In this embodiment of my inventive system, the digital logic devices are coupled to the output station read-out devices (65, FIG. 9) and will be configured to discern significant digits of the high-level, ZIP-Code number, binary encoding. In a first sortation, then, the logic devices are responsive to binary representations of ZIP Codes having initial digits of 0 through '6 and 8 and 9. The output station dial switches (78, FIG. 10) are coupled to the logic devices to establish their response, to establish output station sensing codes 000 through 699' and 800 through 999. Thus, an output station, perhaps the 116th in an array of two hundred or more, will have a sensing code of 606. This, then, is the output station that will receive the Chicago mail ZIP-Coded @13.

Following the first sortation the output station dial switches (78, FIG. 10) are manually or remotely changed to establish output station sensing codes complementary to the second sortation. These second sortation codes also are direct extractions of successive digits of the ZIP Codes for out-of-town mail (the long-distance, major cities mail having been ejected from the magazines). These sensing codes, for Fort Worth, Waco, Wichita Falls, San Antonio, etc. mail, are 000 through 499 and 700 through 999. This is so because 3rd and 4th sortation mail is ZIP-Coded 75%0 through 7Q1 (Dallas proper, and surrounding communities). The digital logic and the output station switching means is configured to ignore the initial ZIP-Code digit 7, now, because all mail remaining in the magazines is so identified. The digit 7, then, doesnt help the subsequent discernment. The second, third, and fourth ZIP-Code digits, now, are significant. As the Dallas-area mail embraces the significant second, third, and fourth Zip-Code digits 506 through 650, output stations will not have sensing codes for 500 through 699 in this second sortation.

Third and fourth sortations follow the same principles. In the third sortation, the sensing codes at the output stations are 500 through 519 and 530 through 699. This sortation will extract 7&9 (Euless), 75%0 (Irving), 7&1 (Grapevine), etc., mail and leave only mail for the city of Dallas in the magazines. In the fourth and final sortation mail ZIP-Coded 7520 1 through 75237, the Dallas mail, will be accepted from the magazines by means of the once more re-established or changed output station sensing codes which, in the final sortation, look for encodings of 200 through 299. Here the last three digits of the ZIP Code are significant, for all the mail in the magazines, all Dallas mail, has 75 as initial ZIP Code digits. As these do not contribute to discriminating sortation, they are neither sensed nor used in the final sortation.

While I have described above the principles of my invention in connection with specific apparatus, it is to be clearly understood that the description is made only by way of example and not as a limitation to the scope of my invention, as set forth in the objects thereof and in the accompanying claims.

I claim:

1. An automatic article sorting system comprising;

means for the input of the articles;

output stations for the receipt of sorted articles; means intermediate said input means and said output stations to handle the articles therebetween, said handling means having means to move the articles from said input means said output stations in sortation passes, means cooperative with said output stations to release only selected articles to said output stations during each sortation pass, and storage means for the storage of other than selected articles following each sortation pass; said handling means further including article holding magazines, said magazines having article destination coding devices; and said input means comprising means to stack input articles, means to single out successive topmost articles, means for inserting said topmost articles into said article holding magazines, and means for initial encoding of said coding devices so as to signify thereby the discrete nature or destination of the articles inserted in said magazmes.

2. An automatic sorting system, according to claim 1, wherein:

said output stations are less in number than the number of sortations.

13 3. A sorting system, according to claim 1, wherein: said output stations have means to sense which of the articles are correctly receivable therein. 4. A sorting system, according to claim 1, wherein said magazines further have means for ejecting articles held therein, said ejecting means being cooperative with said releasing means to discharge said selected articles from said magazines to said output stations. 5. A sorting system, according to claim 1, wherein said moving means comprise a conveyor system, said conveyor system defining a closed-loop path from a given point removed from said input means, along said output stations, and back to said given point. 6. A sorting system, according to claim 5, wherein said handling means further have code converting means, positioned adjacent to said conveyor system and intermediate said given point and said output stations, to discern the initial encoding of said coding devices and to add a second encoding thereto. 7. A sorting system, according to claim 6, wherein said handling means further have control means, remote from and coupled to said code converting means, to cause said code converting means to add said second encoding to said coding devices as a discrete coding having a correspondence to the discrete nature of the articles. 8. A sorting system, according to claim 7, wherein: said control means causes said code converting means to add said second encoding to said coding devices as a discrete coding having in part a coding symbol signifying in which of the sortation passes the articles are to be discharged from said magazines. 9. A sorting system, according to claim 7, wherein: said control means causes said code converting means to add said second encoding to said coding devices only on discernment by said code converting means of a first range of said initial encoding of said coding devices, and causes said code converting means to add said second encoding only on discernment of successive ranges of said initial encoding. 10. A sorting system, according to claim 1, wherein:

said output stations further have means for the automatic bundling of articles there ejected, said bundling means including means for aerodynamically lofting said articles in free fall, means for stacking the lofted articles,

means to envelop successive groups of the stacked articles, means to tighten said enveloping means about said successive groups, and means to release said tightly enveloped groups to receptacles. 11. A sorting system, according to claim 10, wherein said stacking means comprise a ramp disposed beneath said output station, said ramp having ports defined therein along the length thereof to permit the passage of air therethrough; an air rack, disposed along and adjacent to that surface of said ramp which is opposite said output station, said air rack having orifices defined therein, along the length thereof, on that surface most proximate to said ramp, said orifices being disposed immediately opposite said ports; and a source of pressured air joined to said air pipe. 12. A sorting system, according to claim 11, wherein: said enveloping means comprise a supply web of heatshrinkable pouch strips, and a reel secured at the upper end of said ramp on which said supply web is maintained and from which reel said supply web of pouch strips is fed downward over the surface of said ramp which is opposite said air pipe. 13. A sorting system, according to claim 12, wherein: said tightening means comprise an air line connected to said source of pressured air at one end and venting across the lower end of said ramp at the opposite end, and means for heating the air passed through said air line. 14. A sorting system for discrete, fiat articles, according to claim 13, wherein:

said pouch strips on said reel are interfolded, at mating ends thereof, to insure the down feeding of successive pouch strips in a continuous supply web as foremost pouch strips disengage, due to the weight of an adequate capacity of articles, and fall into receptacles.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,184,061 5/1965 Levy 20972 FOREIGN PATENTS 971,373 9/1964 Great Britain.

TRAVIS S. MCGEHEE, Primary Examiner.

U.S. Cl. X.R.

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U.S. Classification53/52, 53/531, 209/900, 53/266.1
International ClassificationB07C3/02
Cooperative ClassificationB07C3/02, Y10S209/90
European ClassificationB07C3/02
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Effective date: 19831122