US 3496695 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Feb. 24, 1970 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR FILLING AND SEALING AMPOULES 3 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed Jan. 10 l 1968 Fig. 2
Fig. 3 Fig. 4
Feb. 24, 1976 H. SICKEL 3,496,695
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR FILLING AND SEALING AMPOULES Filed Jan. 10 1968 42 43 w 37 I F1g..9
j7 :0 58 37 f I 0 4f I I 7 40 47 .1. 36 44 1 5 Sheets-Sheet 2 H. SICKEL Feb. 24, ,1970
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR FILLING AND SEALING AMPOULES 5 Sheets-sheaf. 5
Filed Jan. 10 I 1958 United States Patent O Int. Cl. A613? 5/00; 1565b 31/06, 39/12 U.S. Cl. 5322 17 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE In a method and apparatus for the filling and sealing of ampoules, each ampoule receives only once a filling tube through which the ampoule is flushed, filled, and flushed again, and flushing is continued until the ampoule is flame-sealed.
This invention relates to a method and apparatus for filling and sealing ampoules.
In such apparatus, the ampoules are passed through a series of processing stations in which they are subjected to the various required operations. Normally, these operations comprise preflushing, filling, after-flushing, and sealing. Even when the gas flushing operations are not required for the packaging of certain products, these stations are provided in most modern machines and have to be passed anyhow. Sometimes, there is an additional heating station before the ampoules are sealed.
During the enti1e conveying path, which in the socalled multiple machines may be multiplied, the ampoules are open. The conventional expensive protecting devices can reduce but not eliminate the risk of contamination of the open ampoules by dust and fiber particles suspended in the air and by other impurities or germs. This risk is increased by the turbulence imparted to the ambient air by the movement inherent in the operation of the machine.
Also the repeated insertion and removal of the tubes, needles or nozzles required for the filling and various gas flushing operations involves risks, due to the accompanying pumping action. Particles suspended in the air or present in the opening range of the ampoules may be forced into the ampoules during insertion of a tube and drawn in at each withdrawal of such tube. The same risk is present after each gas flushing. operation where contaminated air can diffuse into the uppermost layer of the protecting gas inside the open ampoule spear. This explains the often deplored imperfections of the gas flushing step.
It is a principal object of the invention to provide an improved method and machine for filling and sealing ampoules which produce filled ampoules of improved properties and particularly prevent the entry of suspended particles and germs from the air and protect readily oxidizable compositions against contact with the oxygen of the air.
Other objects and advantages will be apparent from a consideration of the specification and claims.
According to the invention, each ampoule receives filler means only once; said filler means comprises a single tube or two concentric tubes for the first flushing, filling, and second flushing whereby said second final flushing may be continued until the ampoule has been flame-sealed while the upper part is drawn off.
If a single tube is used, first flushing, filling, and final flushing are carried out through the same tube; if concentric tubes are used, it is possible to continue or to discontinue flushing through the outer tube while the ampoule is filled through the inner tube; in any case, the final flushing must start before the material remaining in the inner tube after completed filling is withdrawn so as to allow the protecting gas to displace and replace said remainder in the inner tube.
In this way it is assumed that the medicine does not come even into temporary contact with the oxygen of the air and that it is at all times surrounded by the protecting gas or enclosed between layers of such gas.
The replacement or removal of air is favored by introducing the tube for the first gas flushing deeply almost to the bottom of the ampoule and to retract it in such a manner that it opens during the filling of the medicine, above the' liquid level in the ampoule; that it opens at the beginning of the heating step directly above the heating zone, and at the heat sealing approximately at the level where the gripper grips the upper part of the ampoule; in this way, the continuing outward flow of the protecting gas prevents a fresh introduction or difiusion of air to the contents of the ampoule.
Such flushing of the ampoule by the protecting gas removes not only the air but also any contamination and germs which may have entered, and the continuing outward flow out of the ampoule prevents reliably the reentry of dust and germs so as to render unnecessary any additional expensive protective measures.
Such flushing step can also be applied to medicines which are not sensitive to oxygen; thereby, the protective gas can be replaced by any other suitable gaseous medium. For sterile filling, sterilized air can be used, otherwise normal air may be sufficient.
In order to minimize the manipulations of the open ampoules and the open-time, it is of advantage to use the gripper which draws off the severed top of the ampoule, simultaneously as centering tool to place the ampoule spear into position for receiving the filling tube.
The risks inherent in the storage and handling of open ampoules can be eliminated by opening clean closed ampoules only immedietaly prior to the insertion of the filling tube and to seal the filled ampoules while they are still being flushed through the filling tube.
The fill opening may be produced by means of a pointed flame puncturing the spear or funnel of the ampoule; immediately afterwards, the ampoule is then flushed and filled, and may be sealed by the same or another fiame with withdrawal of the spear end carrying the fill opening.
With clean closed sterile ampoules which have only a slight vacuum, the process of the invention can be carried out in a single small apparatus and ensures highest quality of the ampoule contents much more economically than the conventional methods and apparatus for cleaning, sterilizing, filling, and sealing ampoules which require much more space and manipulations.
The risk of the later introduction of glass particles when the filled ampoules are opened by the physician can be reduced by strong cooling of the ampoule and its contents prior to sealing; in this way, the finished filled ampoule is, instead of under a slight sub-pressure, under a slight super-pressure. The simplest way to accomplish this result is by strongly cooling the medicine being filled into the ampoule or/ and the protecting gas.
The above and other details and advantages will become more apparent from the following description in connection with the accompanying drawings of some illustrative embodiments of the invention.
In the drawings:
FIGS. 1-4 show, partially in front-elevational and partly in sectional views, the successive treatments of ampoules in accordance with the invention;
FIGS. 58 are similar to FIGS. l-4 but show a modification where two concentric tubes are used for the flushing and filling operation;
FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of a detail of the apparatus shown in FIGS. 5-8;
FIG. is a sectional view of a rotary apparatus ac= cording to the invention for opening, flushing, filling, after-flushing, and sealing of ampoules, along line e.-2 of FIG. 11;
FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 10; and
FIG. 12 shows diagrammatically the sequence of the various steps.
Referring now first to FIG. 1, there the gripper part of an apparatus according to the invention is shown in inoperative position above the ampoule while the sharp flame of a burner 4 is directed against the spherically enlarged tip of the spear of the ampoule. This opening procedure is described in more detail in an application filed concurrently herewith by Eberhard Christoph and this applicant. However, the fill opening may be produced in any other suitable manner, e.g., at a preceding station, or the process may be started with open ampoules, It is then necessary to keep such ampoules protected against the entry of foreign matter and germs.
The center piece 7 of my filling and sealing apparatus is supported by an arm 8 which is displaceable along vertical guide means 9. The center piece 7 carries the support sleeve Iii which is rotatably supported on a ball hear ing. At the lower end of the cylinder 10, there is supported the gripper 11 whose jaws are connected by toothed sectors 12 and are pulled into closing position by means of a spring 13. Turbine blades 14 may be provided at the upper end of the cylinder 10.
The cylinder 10 is enclosed by an axially displaceable control sleeve 15. Said control sleeve is provided below its upper end with an annular cover 16 and at its lower end with a control plate 17 which projects through a slot (not shown) into the cylinder 10. A helical spring 18 arranged in recesses of the turbine blades 14 and acting against the annular cover 16 urges the control sleeve upwardly (FIG. 3).
The upper end of the control sleeve 15 provides a flatcurved track 19 forming two sharp-edged maxima 20 and two minima 21. If the control level 22 of arm 8 is shifted downwardly, its roller 23 impinges on a point of the curved track 19 and turns the control sleeve 15 with the cylinder 10 rolling on ball bearings until the roll 23 is in one of the two points 21; hereby, the gripper 11 assumes always a position in the plane of the drawing. On further down movement of the control lever 22, the roll 23 forces the control sleeve 15 downwardly against the action of the spring 18. As a result, the control plate 17 pushes against attachments of the toothed sector 12 and moves them downwardly, thereby opening the gripper 11 against the action of the spring 13 and keeping it open.
After the ampoule has been opened, the arm 8 and the entire filling and sealing device located above the ampoule (FIG. 1) is moved downwardly with opened gripper along the vertical guide means 9 until the gripper 11 comes into the range of the ampoule spear; then the control lever 22 is shifted upwardly (FIG. 3), whereby the spring 18 forces the control lever 15 also upwardly, the control plate 17 releases the extensions of the tooth sectors 12, and the spring 13 causes the gripper 11 to engage the spear of the ampoule.
Said action of the gripper centers the ampoule spear exactly in position for the filling tube 24 (FIG. 2) and said tube can now be inserted into the ampoule (FIG. 3) without contacting the walls.
Said filling tube 24 extends through the axial bore of the center piece 7 directly to the three-way cork 26 or to a tube which serves as support for the filling tube, is connected to the three-way cork, and slidably arranged .in the bore of the center piece 7. The arm 27 of the threeway cork 26 is connected to the device for metering the medicine, the other arm 28 is connected to the protective gas conduit. The three-way valve 28 with tubes 25 and 24 is supported in bracket 29 also for slidable displacement along the vertical guide means 9'.
In the position illustrated in FIG. 2, the valve plug closes the fill tube 24 against the medicine and the gas line. After the support bracket 29 has been moved to introduce the filling tube 4 close to the bottom of the ampoule, the plug of the valve 28 is first turned into gas flushing position (FIG. 4). The entering protective gas displaces the air from the bottom up of the ampoule. After removal of the air, the plug of the cork is turned into fill position (FIG. 3) and the pharmaceutical liquid composition is injected through the metering mechanism into the ampoule which is filled with protecting gas; thereby, the filling tube 24 is withdrawn in such a way that it is always above the level of the liquid in the ampoule and finally somewhat below the constriction in the neck of the ampoule (FIG. 3 The metered injection is so adjusted that the fluid volumen contained in the tubes 25 and 24 is a first not introduced, i.e., that the ampoule is filled incompletely, approximately to the level shown in FIG. 3. After the vaive has been turned again into the flushing position (FIG. 4), the protecting gas forces then the fluid remainder in tubes 25 and 24 into the ampoule, which receives in this way the correct dosage.
Subsequently, the filling tube 24 is retracted while the introduction of protecting gas is continued. As soon as the filling tube is about at the level of the sealing burner 30 (shown only in FIGS. 3 and 4), said burner is swung from its inoperative position (FIG. 3) into operative position (FIG. 4). Thereby, the drive roller 31, which may be driven, for instance, by a fiexible shaft 33, contacts the ampoule, which is supported by counter rollers 32, and rotated the same. The rotation of the ampoule is transmitted through the spear and gripper 11 to the cylinder 10; in this way, the spear portion above the softened zone can continue rotating synchronously with the ampoule so as to prevent corkscrew formation. When the ampoule is made of particularly thin glass, it may be of advantage to compensate for the frictional resistance which may be objectionable when the heated zone softens too fast; in this case, air may be injected through line 6 onto the turbine blades 14.
During the entire heating time, the filling tube 24 through which protective gas is passed, remains in the spear approximately at the level of the engaging gripping arms (FIG. 4). When the glass is sufificiently softened, the brackets 8 and 29 are raised together whereby the gripper 11 draws off the upper end of the spear from the ampoule. FIG. 4 shows the begin of this draw-off phase. When eventually the spear end is pulled oif or punctured, a further short action of the burner 30 produces a homogeneous sealing cap on the ampoule.
When the brackets 8 and 29 are being raised, the plug of the cork 26 is turned into the completely closed position of FIG. 2; and the end of the raising movement, the control lever 26 is brought into the position shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, whereby the gripper 11 opens and releases the severed part of the spear. In the meantime, the ampoules have advanced, and a new operation can start.
In the embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIGS. 5-8, not one filling tube but two concentric tubes 34 are used. The inner channel of this tube arrangement communicates through the arm 37 of the three-way valve with a metering pump, and the outer tube through arm 38 with a gas line. The outer tube is fixedly or removably secured in the head 36 while the inner movable tube is secured by the clamping nut to the head 36 in sealed relationship thereto. The head 36 is inserted in a recess of the bracket 39 and held in position by a set screw 40'.
The bracket 39 for the filling tube, the bracket 42 supporting the gripper and bracket 47 supporting the gripper opening means are non-rotatably secured for slidable vertical displacement along guide pillar 41.
The gripper bracket 42 supports on a ball bearing the sleeve 43 to the lower end of which the jaws of the gripper 44 are pivotally secured. The control plate 45 is vertically 1y displaceable on the sleeve 43 and is forced downwardly by spring 46 against rear lugs of the jaws 44.
The gripper opening means 47 consists essentially of a ring which is vertically displaceable along the pillar 41; when moved upwardly, the ring lifts said backwardly extending lugs of the gripper jaws 44 against the pressure exerted by the spring 46 on the control plate and thereby opens the gripper.
For supporting the ampoules, e.g., funnel ampoules, of different sizes a base support 48, whose vertical position is adjustable, and additional supports 49 and 50 are provided. An endless band or cord 52 rotates a grooved roller 51 and thereby the ampoules when the rollers are advanced into operational contact with the ampoules (FIGS. 5 and 8).
The sealing burner 55 is pivotally mounted on the pillar 41. FIG. 5 shows the inoperative and FIG. 8 the operative position.
If the ampoule is to be opened by a fine-pointed flame, a burner 54 is pivotally mounted on the pillar 41 by means of a holding ring 55. 54 shows the inoperative position.
Also slidably supported on pillar 41 is a pump plunger drive 56 for actuating the metering pump.
The parts of the apparatus described hereinabove are shown in FIG. 5 in the position immediately after a new sequence of operations has started. By shifting the grooved rollers in operative position, the rotating cord 52 has engaged and rotates the ampoule or series of ampoules supported by the forks 49 and 50. The opening burner 54 has swung into operative position and punctured 'with its fine-pointed flame the tunnel of the ampoule spear; the flame then enlarges the produced hole. When now the burner is returned into its inoperative position 54', the lowered filling tube 34 can enter the ampoule after the closing gripper 44 has centered the ampoule spear (FIGS. 6 and 7).
The jaws of the gripper 44 are closed by lowering the opening means 47 farther down than the gripper supporting means 42 whereby the fingers 44' of the gripper jaws are urged by the spring-pressured control disc 45 into gripper-closing position.
The fill tube assembly 34 is introduced deeply, about to the level of the fork support 49, into the ampoule, and protecting gas is injected through the nipple 38 and the outer channel of the tube assembly until all the air has been displaced. If a protecting gas atmosphere is not required, it is recommended to use, for reasons set forth hereinabove, another gas.
Beginning lowering the pump plunger 56 starts the introduction of the fluid through the nipple 37 and the inner channel of the tube assembly 34. During the filling operation, the tube assembly 34 is raised so as to be at all times above the level of the liquid in the ampoule. FIG. 7 shows the position after the filling operation has been terminated. During said operation, the gas flushing can be continued, reduced, or interrupted.
Up to the sealing step, the tube assembly 34 is retracted with continuing gas flushing about to the level of clamping contact of the gripper jaws (FIG. 8) and remains, for the time being, in said position. After placing the grooved rollers 51 in operative position and having the cord 52 engage the ampoule or set of ampoules, rotation is started which is taken up by the gripper 44, which is supported in ball bearings. The sealing burner 53 is pivoted into operative position. As soon as the pointed flame of the burner has sufiiciently softened the impinged area of the spear, the rising gripper 44 starts drawing oh the upper part of the ampoule spear (FIG. 8) and severs it finally from the ampoule which is simultaneously sealed. The gas flushing is continued up to that time.
After severing and sealing, the ampoule whose spear is held by the fork support 50 continues rotating and is still touched for a short time by the flame of the burner 53 to produce a smooth evenly rounded bead. When the various parts of the apparatus return into the starting position of FIG. 5, the gripper 44 opens also to release the drawn off end of the spear into a discharge chute (not shown).
A modification of the control disc 45 and gripper opener 47 of FIGS. 6 and 7 is shown in FIG. 9; the left hand side shows the arrangement in closed position of the gripper 44, and the right hand side in open position. The difference over the construction of FIGS. 6 and 7 is essentially that the control disc 45 is provided with a flat cam track 57 which, similarly to the cam track 19 of FIG. 1, has two opposite sharp-edged maxima (like 20) and two opposing minima (like 21) but is directed downwardly instead upwardly. Two opposite control pins are on the gripper opener 47. When the latter is raised, said two control pins 58 contact the cam track 57 and turn it together with the gripper 44 into the predetermined position in which the gripper which opens on further rising of the opener 47 remains. Such adjustment of the opened gripper to a definite position is not required when the gripper is guided from above through the ampoule spear to be gripped.
In FIGS. 10 and 11, there is shown a continuously rotating apparatus in which, during rotation, funnel ampoules supplied in the closed state are successively opened by the flame, flushed with protecting gas, filled, and sealed under continued flushing.
A stationary hollow pillar 61 is embedded in the base 60 and supports the stationary cam drum 62. The support sleeve 63 is mounted in ball bearings for rotation on said pillar 61. A worn gear 64-65 continuously rotates the sleeve 63. The support plate 66 is fixedly secured to the rotating sleeve 63 while the base plate 69 is secured thereto for vertical adjustment by means of pinion 67 and toothed rack 68.
The support plate 66 carries twelve guide pillars 41 corresponding to those of FIGS. 58. Their upper ends are connected with each other by the prop ring 70. On each pillar 41, there are mounted for vertical displacement the members illustrated in FIGS. 5-8, i.e. the pump drive means 56, the filling tube support'39, the gripper support 42, the gripper opening means 47, and also entrainment means 71 for the burner, which will be described later. The movements of said five displaceable members are controlled by rollers running in the cylinder cam 62 and attached to the respective member.
On the support plate 66, there are provided holders 73 for the twelve metering pumps 72; plates 75 and 76 are secured to the supporting plate 66 and base plate 69, respectively, and provided with recesses 74 to give lateral support to the ampoules and their spears.
The protecting gas is admitted to the nipples 38 of the twelve filling tube headers 36 through the stationary line 77 and through a rotating distributor boX 78, which is provided with a stationary sealing gasket, into twelve gas conduits 79 and the connecting hoses 80.
The twelve gas conduits 79 form a basket held together only by a ring; the basket is suspended in the rotating prop ring 70 and rotationally entrains the distributor box 78. The outer lip of the sealing gasket which is arranged in the distributor box and firmly secured to the stationary tube 27, is shortened for a portion of its periphery (right side in the drawing); this causes successive clearance of the passage to the individual gas conduits 79 for the time required for the respective gas flushing step when the distributor box 78 rotates.
The basket formed by the gas conduits 79 and rotating inside the stationary cylinder cam 62 receives the storage container 81 which rotates with said basket. The storage vessel is closed by a distributor ball 83 connected to the standpipe 82. From this distributor ball, there pass twelve hoses 84 to the lower admission ends of the metering pumps 72. Filling hoses 85 connect the nipple 86 at the 7 head of the metering pumps to the medicine nipple 37 of the filling tubes 34.
Air entering the storage vessel 81 is filtered by the sterile filter 87. Nipple 88, which can be closed by a valve, is provided for replenishing the storage container 81.
The burner frame 89 is arranged for rotary movement around the stationary pillar 61. It supports an opening burner 90 (similar to opening burner 54 of FIG. if desired an enlarging burner 91, then a sealing burner 92 (similar to the sealing burner 53 of FIG. 8), and, if desired, a second sealing burner 93. Spring 94 holds the burner frame in one end position.
The opening burner 90 is coupled with a stop 95. When the appartus rotates, one of the fingers 71 engages the stop 95 and entrains the burner frame 89 with the burners against the pull of the spring 94. After a twelfth revolution, the finger 71 moves downwardly and releases the stop 95; pulled by the spring 94, the burner frame swings back until the stop 95 is engaged by a finger 71 which is in raised position, whereupon the burner frame is again carried along for a twelfth of its total rotating path. Therefore, after each backswing, the burner 90 travels from a to b, the burner 91 from b to c, the burner "92 from k to l, and the burner 93 from I to m.
Also firmly secured to the stationary hollow pillar is a drive roller frame 96. This frame carries the drive and guide rollers 97 to 99 for the endless cord to rotate the ampoules during the opening step and the corresponding rolls 101 to 103 to rotate the ampoules during the sealing step.
An endless conveyor chain 105 and below said chain an endless conveyor belt are provided for the feed and discharge of the ampoules. The movement of the conveyor chain 105 is so adjusted that each finished ampoule is lifted out of its supporting recess 74 and transferred to the conveyor belt 106. The vacated recess is then at once filled by a fresh ampoule transferred from the other run of the conveyor chain.
Said freshly supplied ampoule, when starting its cycle, contacts after a short travel at a the cord 100 which revolves in opposite direction and causes the ampoule to rotate on its travel from a to c.
At the start of this travel, at a, when the stop 95 0f the backswinging opening burner 90 strikes the finger 71 which is just arriving at a, the burner 90 is positioned exactly above the funnel of the rotating ampoule and burns during the ensuing joint travel a hole into the top side of the funnel. Arriving at b, the finger 71 is moved downwardly; this results in a return swing of the burner frame 89 with all its burners until the stop 95 strikes the next finger '71. Thereby, the enlarging burner '91, which is similar to the burner 90 but has a less pointed flame, arrives above the ampoule and enlarges on the travel from b to c the hole burned into the funnel.
When arriving at c, the enlarging burner 91 swings back; as will be seen from the lines of FIG. 12, the filling tube support 39, the gripper support 42, and the gripper opening means 47 are all moved downwardly at the same time. After the latter has moved still somewhat farther down, the gripper closes as depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7. This centers the ampoule spear in position for the filling tube 34 which on further down movement enters the ampoule through the hole produced in the funnel and moves down close to the bottom (right side of FIG.
On rotation of the distributor box 78, the gas conduit 79 associated with said filling tube 34 has now reached the area where the outer lip of the sealing gasket becomes shorter (right side of distributor box 7 8 in FIG. 10), and clears the passage for the protecting gas coming from the admission pipe 77.
After the ampoule on its way from d to f has been freed, by means of the protecting gas, from air oxygen and any entered foreign matter and germs downward movement of the pump drive means 56-starts at f the actuation of the metering pump 72 which introduces the pharmaceutical preparation through the hose and the inner channel of the filling tube 34 into the ampoule. Shortly prior to the begin of the filling operation, the filling tube support 39 starts rising to ensure that the opening of the filling tube 34 is always above the level of the liquid in the ampoule. When the filling operation is terminated at i, fresh liquid starts to be drawn in from the storage container 81 by the action of the spring of the metering pump 72. However, before that, a returnflow valve provided in the metering pump efiects return of the liquid composition retained in the filling tube 34, which is replaced by following protecting gas.
Under continuing introduction of protecting gas, the filling tube support 39 continues rising on the path from i to k until the opening of the filling tube 34 is approximately at the level of the point of engagement of the jaws of the gripper 34 (see FIG. 8). At k, the ampoule comes into the range of the cord 104, by which it is put into rotation, and of the sealing burner 92, which joins the travel of the ampoule until I and which is replaced, after the burner frame 89 has been pulled back in the manner described above, by a second sealing burner 93 which accompanies the ampoule to m.
After the zone of the ampoule spear impinged by the flame of the burner has softened, and with still continuing introduction of protecting gas, the filling tube support 39, gripper support 42, and gripper opening means 47 rise jointly. Thereby, the upper end of the ampoule spear is first drawn out (see FIG. 8) and then severed; after the gripper opening means 47 has risen further (see FIG. 12) and thereby the gripper 44 has been opened, said severed ampoule end is released and falls into a discharge chute (not shown) disposed in the range of m in FIG. 11. The ampoule which has been sealed in the severing step continues to be touched by the flame of the burner 93 and receives thereby an evenly rounded domed top. The finished ampoule is transferred by the conveyor chain to the belt 106 which conveys it to a collecting container.
As at every revolution of the apparatus twelve ampoules are filled and sealed, the small apparatus as illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11 allows of producing a considerable output. It should be noted that the apparatus does not present sensitive moving mechanisms as all operative movements are derived from the stationary cylinder cam.
The apparatus performs the operation of almost all ampoule stages of a pharmaceutical plant and eliminates the expensive separate cleaning, drying, and sterilizing machines including the required transport devices.
The main advantage of the invention, however, consists in the qualitative improvement of the finished ampoules and in the increased assurance that each ampoule remained free of germs and entry of oxygen.
It will be understood that various modifications of the described details can be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. For instance, if open ampoules are used instead of closed ampoules, the members 90, 91, and 97-100 can be omitted or left unused.
1. In the process of treating ampoules in a succession of stages including a filling stage, at least one gas flushing stage, and a flame-severing and sealing stage, the improvement which consists in introducing a filling means into the ampoule in the first of said treatment stages and maintaining said filling means in the ampoule at least through the gas flushing stage immediately preceding the sealing stage.
2. The process as claimed in claim 1 comprising two gas-flushing stages, the first of said stages preceding the filling stage and the second of said stages following the filling stage.
3. The process as claimed in claim 1 comprising passing a flushing gas through said filling means so as to maintain in all stages a gas flow out of said ampoule.
4. The process as claimed in claim 2 comprising introducing said filling means in the first gas flushing stage close to the bottom of the ampoule, retracting the filling means during the filling'stage so as to maintain it in the ampoule always above the level of the introduced liquid, and finally retracting it in the sealing step above the flame-heated spear area of the ampoule.
5. The process as claimed in claim 1 comprising gripping the upper end of the ampoule spear for centering the same in position to receive the filling means without contact therewith and for Withdrawing said upper end after severing.
6. Apparatus for filling and sealing rotatable ampoules provided with a spear comprising filling tube means arranged above the ampoule for slidable displacement in axial direction of the ampoule, means adjustably controlling the depth of introduction of said filling tube means into the ampoule, means gripping said spear, means controlling the gripping and releasing action of said gripping means dependent on the relative position of said filling means to said ampoule, and burner means suitable to direct a flame against said spear.
7. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 wherein said filling tube means is a single tube and a three-way valve for alternate connection with a gas line and a source of a liquid to be filled into the ampoule.
8. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 wherein said filling tube means are concentric tubes, the inner tube being connected to a source of a liquid to be filled into the ampoule and the outer tube is connected to a gas line.
9. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 wherein said gripping means when gripping said spear aligns said spear with said filling tube means.
10. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 wherein said gripping means is mounted for rotational movement.
11. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 comprising a cylinder mounted for rotational movement on said filler tube means as its cylinder axis, said cylinder carrying at its lower end said gripper means, spring means in said cylinder urgin said gripper means into gripping position, and opening means urging said gripper means into open position against the action of said spring means.
12. An apparatus as claimed in claim 11 wherein said opening means is a control sleeve which is axially displaceable inside said cylinder between a position acting on said gripper means and an inoperative position.
13. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 comprising additional burner means to burn an open end into the spear of closed ampoules.
14. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 comprising rotating means and means placing said rotating means in contact with the ampoule when said fiame is directed against the spear of the ampoule.
15. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6 comprising a rotatable frame, means rotating said frame, a plurality of ampoule holding members, said ampoules, said filling tubes, said control means, said gripping means, mounted on the periphery of said frame; a liquid container rotating with said frame; and metering means and supply lines between said metering means and said filling means.
16. An apparatus as claimed in claim 15 comprising a support rotatable around said frame and carrying said burner means, means coupling said support to said frame for intermittent partial rotation therewith, means uncoupling said support when the ampoules in the respective stations have been heated, and spring means pulling the uncoupled support in the direction opposite the direction of rotation of said frame until it is again engaged by said coupling means.
17. An apparatus as claimed in claim 15 comprising inside said rotatable frame provided with cam tracks and means associated with each of said filling tubes, control means, gripping means, and means controlling said gripping means, and controlled by said cam tracks to operate said various means in predetermined sequence.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,896,381 7/1959 Lange 53112 X 2,908,124 10/1959 Hagen .53112 TRAVIS S. MCGEHEE, Primary Examiner US Cl. X.R.