US 3523473 A
Abstract available in
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Gilbert F. Norcross Greensboro, North Carolina;
Fred Birdsong, Greensboro. North Carolina; Martin L. Wimbs, Greensboro, North Carolina; Homer B. Beers, Tupelo,
Inventors Mississippi Appl No. 633,274
Filed April 24, 1967 Patented Aug. 11, I970 Assignee Blue Bell, Inc.
Greensboro, North Carolina a Corp. of Delaware APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SPREADING FLEXIBLE SHEET MATERIAL 12 Claims, 14 Drawing Figs.
U.S.Cl 83/18, 83/86, 83/176, 270/30 Int. Cl B26d 7/14, B65h 29/46 Field of Search 83/86, 87;
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,259,487 3/1918 Campbell 270/31 3,083,008 3/1963 Miller 270/31 3,219,338 11/1965 Kastner, et al. 270/31 950,153 2/1910 270/30 2,587,811 3/1952 Biebcr 270/30 2,921,786 1/1960 Deichmann et al... 270/31 3,181,859 5/1965 Sayles t. 270/31 3,260,143 7/1966 Von Rudgisch et al 83/86 Primary Examiner James M. Mcister Artorney David Rabin ABSTRACT: An apparatus and method for spreading flexible sheet material such as textile fabric from a source of supply to a lay-out and cutting table in which the material is withdrawn from an accumulator and guided vertically above the table by a sheet material conveyor, control box and cutter assembly, in one direction of travel. to a predetermined location remote from the accumulator for spreading on the return travel to a predetermined location at the termination of which travel the material may be severed in a preselected length.
Patented Aug. 11, 1970 Sheet 1 of 4 INVENTORS GlLBERT F NQRGROSS FRED BIRDSONG MARTIN L. WIMBS HOMER B. BEERS at tomey Patented Aug. 11, 1970 3,523,473
Sheet 2 of 4 8 i i INVENTORS -J// GILBERT F NORCROSS 7s FRED BIRDSONG BY MARTIN L. wumss F 7 HOMER B. BEERS attorney Patented Aug. 11, 1970 3,523,473
1 \W \TORS GILBERT F. NOROROSS FRED BIRDSONG MARTIN L. WIMBS HOMER B. BEERS ottornev Patented Aug. 11, 1970 Sheet FIG. 6
FfIA-RD FIG. I4
88 BR m? O MM NR B B N T IR RwTE ERRM BFAO MH V.. B 2 mm F attorney APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SPREADING FLEXIBLE SHEET MATERIAL BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES OF INVENTION Flexible sheet material and particularly textile fabric to be cut must be spread flat. usually stacked in sheets superimposed on each other, on a lay-out and cutting table preparatory for receiving a pattern layout and subsequent cutting of the stacked layers. Presently, relatively small rolls or beams are utilized for supplying the material with significant waste loss, substantial manual labor for lay-out and cutting, and substan tial time loss during the various sequence of operations. Significant savings in labor, handling time, and material may be realized by utilizing substantially increased rolls or packages of sheet material eliminating frequent handling and transportation as well as resupplying exhausted rolls with new rolls. Additional savings may be realized with superior quality control when the spreading operation may be achieved automatically as distinguished from presently employed methods and apparatus.
Therefore, it is an objective of this invention to provide a novel method and apparatus for material handling and spread- A further objective of this invention is to provide a material spreading apparatus in which means may be provided for withdrawing the material from a stationary supply source and extending the material vertically above a lay-out table in one direction of flight of the layout apparatus to a predetermined position when the fabric is positioned on the table for spreading as the apparatus is moving in an opposite direction of travel for a predetermined length of material preparatory for cutting with the repetition of the cycle of operations for stacking individual plies of fabric one upon the other.
Still another objective of this invention is to provide a material conveyor that travels between limits for spreading the fabric between the limits of travel and cutting the fabric in predetermined lengths.
A further objective of this invention is to provide an apparatus for spreading flexible sheet material in one direction of travel between preselected limits by clamping the fabric in one position, spreading the fabric over a lay-out and cutting table, and cutting the fabric automatically at another preselected position.
Still another objective of this invention is to provide a sheet material spreader movable between predetermined limits of travel for stacking individual plies of fabric cut from an endless supply remote from a cutting table in which a spreader is provided with automatically operable cutting means for severing individual plies of fabric upon completion of an individual ply layout and in which means is provided for elevating the spreading apparatus after each cycle of operation a suitable distance for severing the next layer on the stack ofcut sheets of material.
Briefly, the novel method and apparatus for spreading sheet material withdraws material from a source of supply which may be fabric rolled on a beam or other suitable package to present the material to a layout and cutting table. A sheet material accumulator may be provided in advance of the layout and cutting table in which accumulator means may be provided for drawing the sheet material from the supply source, as required. An overhead conveyor frame having guide rails is supported over the lay-out and cutting table for supporting sheet material supporting members that are guidably movable along the conveyor rails for retaining the sheet material vertically spaced above the lay-out and cutting table before layout. A sheet material conveyor, control box and cutter assembly is also guidably movable between predetermined limits on the conveyor rails between limits of travel with guide rollers being provided in the assembly for feeding the material through a feed chute to the table after the material has been withdrawn from the accumulator and suspended in flight vertically spaced from the table. On the return movement of the as sembly, the sheet material will be withdrawn through the delivery chute after being releasably clamped to the table at a remote distance from the accumulator with the material being spread flat on the table as the assembly travels in the lay-out stroke of the cycle. Upon reaching a preselected position of sheet material length, the assembly will terminate its lay-out and a cutter mechanism may be actuated for severing the sheet material transversely thereby completing one cycle of operation before commencement of the next cycle to form a stack of sheets. A mechanism is provided for elevating the sheet material layout assembly incrementally in response to the thickness of the stacked plies of cut sheet material.
Other objectives and many of the attendant advantages of this novel method and apparatus for spreading and cutting sheet material will become more readily apparent to those skilled in this art upon considering the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which like characters of reference designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
DRAWING DESCRIPTION FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a sheet material spreader apparatus with an intermediate portion removed illustrating the traveling sheet material conveyor assembly in its extreme right position and an intermediate lay-out position:
FIG. 2 is a vertical elevational view of the sheet material spreader assembly taken substantially along the plane of section line 2-2 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is an end elevational view taken substantially along the plane of section line 3-3 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a partial side view of portions of the activating and de-activating switches and cams on the conveyor rail and traveling spreader assembly,
FIG. 5 is a partial perspective view of one end of the lay-out and cutting table illustrating the releasable sheet material clamping means and the material discharge chute of the con veyor assembly;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged partial sectional view illustrating the material clamping pins of the clamping means of FIG. 5;
FIG. 7 is a slightly enlarged top plan view of the cutter and cutter supporting means of the spreader conveyor assembly of FIGS. 2 and 3'.
FIG. 8 is a schematic illustration of the incremental hydraulic elevating mechanism for the spreader discharge chute and cutting assembly on the spreader conveyor assembly;
FIG. 9 is an enlarged partial perspective view of the spreader conveyor assembly drive mechanism;
FIG. 10 is a front elevational and partial sectional view ofa sheet material supporting member guidably movable in the conveyor rails;
FIG. ll is an enlarged partial perspective view of a sheet material supporting member and guide rollers;
FIG. l2 is a partial end clevational view of a modified mechanism for withdrawing sheet material from the spreader assembly;
FIG. 13 is a partial top plan view of FIG. l2 illustrating only the drive connection for the feed rollers in the bottom of the spreader assemblies; and
FIG. 14 is a schematic electrical diagram of the spreader apparatus.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring to the drawings and particularly to FIGS. l 2 and 3, there is illustrated a preferred embodiment of the sheet material spreading apparatus of this invention in which used when textile fabric is the sheet material to be spread. The material I2 is fed to an accumulator 13 through a plurality of guide rollers 14 and over the driven roll I which is driven by the motor and gear drive 16 through the connecting link I7 with the material passing between the upper roller 18 and the driven roller in its path of travel to the U-shaped accumulator 13 formed by the spaced apart U-shaped plates 19 and 20. The sheet material I2 fed into the accumulator 13 will be loosely folded in a random pattern 21 by means of the projecting lobes 22 on the driven roller 23 at the entrance to the accumulator I3 by means of the link 24 that is driven from the driven roller IS. The sheet material 12 is removed, as needed, from the accumulator 13 by being fed over the exit roller 25 and the roller 26 that is driven by the belt 27 that is trained over the pulley 28 driven by the motor 29 mounted on the horizontal support 30.
An overhead conveyor 31 is illustrated as being supported by means of downwardly extending rods 32 that are securely fastened to the ceiling at longitudinally spaced intervals although it will be readily apparent that the conveyor 31 may be supported above the lay-out and cutting table 33 by means of vertically extending stanchions mounted to the floor or to the table at suitably spaced intervals. The conveyor 31 is provided with laterally spaced apart guide rails 34 and 35 in which the rods 32 may engage with the upper rail portions 36 and 37. The spreader assembly guide track 38 has a side opening with uniformly spaced sprocket teeth-receiving openings 39 therein. A pair of inward guide tracks 40 and 4l serve as rails for guidably supporting a plurality of sheet material supporting members 42 that are movable along the rails 40 and 41 to support the sheet material a suitable vertical distance above the lay-out and cutting table 33.
The sheet material supporting members 42 are provided with rail-receiving wheels 43 from which depend supporting member guide hangers 44 for receiving at the terminal ends thereof the shaft 45 that is threadably secured at the ends thereof. A rotatable sleeve 46 is bearingly supported on the shaft 45 for rotation with adjustable guide flanges 47' adjustably mounted thereon for restricting lateral movement of the sheet material. As shown in FIG. I l, the depending hanger 44 is articulated by securing two angle members together and retaining them through the threaded bolt 45. A pair of wheels 43 is mounted rotatably on the upper portion 44 while the material supporting member 46 is retained on the lower portion member 44". Holes 47 are drilled in the plate of the upper portion 44' for receiving flexible cord links 48 which will limit the travel of each material supporting member from adjacent material supporting members as shown more clearly in FIG. I. As is illustrated in FIG. l, in the right portion, the cords 48 are extended limiting the travel between adjacent material supporting members 42 while in the left portion of FIG. I, the flexible cord members 48 are shown in the return stroke as the material is partially spread on the lay-out table.
A sheet material conveyor, controlled by box and cutter assembly 50, depends downwardly from the conveyor rails 31 by means of the support wheels 51 that are cooperatively received in the track or rail 38. An additional rail 52 is provided in which the wheel 53 will be supported as an overhang or extension from the rails 38 for supporting the extending spreader conveyor assembly motor 54, the gear reducer 55 driven by motor 54 and the sprocket drive wheel 56 driven by the gear reducer 55. The radially projecting teeth on the sprocket wheel 56 will engage with the openings 39 in rail 38, in one direction or the other, to move the conveyor assembly 50 in the desired direction of travel. Bus bars 55 are provided between the rails 34 and 35 from which electrical power is obtained for driving motor 54 and other electric motors to be described hereafter, with power being conveyed through the flexible connection 56 from the bus bars to motor 54. The upper portion of conveyor assembly 50 is provided with a header plate 57 to which the wheels 5l are rotatably mounted with the motor 54, gear reducer and sprocket 56 being supported thereon also.
A pair of side frame members 59 depends from the plate 57 and at the lower portion thereof a lower vertically movable carriage 60 is guidably constrained by means of the spaced apart guide rollers 61 that are rotatably supported in the frame members 59. Laterally projecting shoulders 62 on the carriage 60 engage with the upper rollers 61 limiting the downward travel of carriage 60. The sheet material from the material supporting members is fed over the vertically spaced apart rollers 63. 64, 65, 66, and 67 mounted on the spreader conveyor to guide the material 12 between the material feed or discharge chute plates 68 and 69 that are securely mounted in the lower carriage 60 and extending transversely across the spreader conveyor as shown in FIG. 2. Upper and lower discharge plates 68 and 69 each have upwardly extending portions that diverge from each other for receiving the sheet material therethrough with the lower portions being substantially parallel and spaced from each other. Upper plate 68 is provided with a plurality of spaced apart wheel receiving openings 70. Ecccntrically-mounted material gripping wheels 71 are mounted on the angle bar 72 through the projecting boss 73. The sheet material may be withdrawn from the discharge chute between the plates 68 and 69 as the conveyor assembly 50 moves from right to left in FIG. 1, but as the conveyor assembly 50 moves from left to right, the material in the discharge chute will be releasably clamped by the eccentrically mounted wheels 71.
A motor driven sheet material cutter assembly 75 is mounted on the travel plate 76 which plate 76 is rcciprocated laterally or transversely across the spreader conveyor through the link chain 77 that is trained over the sprocket 78 rotatably mounted to the inwardly projecting support member 79 with the drive sprocket 80 for the link chain 77 being supported on the shaft 81 driven by motor 82 that in turn is supported to the carriage on the projecting boss 83. The material cutter assembly 75, when actuated as described hereafter, will be moved across the carriage by the link chain 77 driven by the motor 82 from left to right as shown in FIG. 7 enabling the motor-driven disk blade 84 to sever the sheet material in which it comes in contact. As the blade 76 is driven to the right in its cutting stroke contact will be made with the rollermounted lever 85 on switch 86 which will activate the conveyor drive motor 54 for its forward stroke. However, the link chain 77 and the connected plate 76 will continue to return from its position to the right of the travel in FIG. 7 to the starting position at the left when contact will be made by plate 76 with switch 87 to shut off power to motor 82 and the cutter assembly 75. A manual on-off switch 88 is provided for motor 82 in the event that manual sharpening of the blade 84 may be desired.
Incremental elevation of the carriage 60 may be required after each layer or ply of material is spread or after a series of layers or plies are spread. An hydraulic carriage elevating mechanism 90 is mounted on one of the side walls 59. The vertically slidable lower carriage 60 is suspended by the link chain 91 that is fastened at one end by suitable means to the carriage 60 through the connecting pin 92. The chain 91 extends over the rotatable sprocket 93 that is mounted on the shaft 94 which extends and is supported for rotation in the side wall plates 59. As shown in FIG. 3. the other end 95 of the link chain 91 is secured to an hydraulic piston rod 96 which extends vertically from the hydraulic piston 97 that is mounted on the side wall plate 59 with the piston movable vertically within the cylinder 97 as will be described hereafter. A jack cylinder 98 is secured on the header 57 and is provided with a spring-biased plunger 99 that engages with the pivotally supported lever 100, one end I0] is pivotally secured to the header 57 and the free end is provided with a cam-engaging roller 102 with movement of the lever being constrained by the strap I03. Engagement of the cam-engaging roller I02 with a track-mounted cam 104 will cause the lever to depress plunger 99 thereby incrementally elevating carriage 60 as will be described hereafter. An hydraulic reservoir 105 is supported on the wall 59 directly above the distributing valve 106 which also communicates with the manually operable reversing valve 107. Hydraulic lines 108, I09, 110, 111, I12, I13 and 114 conduct the fluid in the system for elevating and lowering carriage 60 as will be described in conjunction with the schematic diagram of FIG. 8 taken in conjunction with FIG. 3. Fluid fills the system 105 and at the commencement of spreader conveyor operation, the carriage 60 is in its lowered position elevating the piston 115 in cylinder 97 to its highest position with valve 107 in the closed position, as shown. As the plunger 99 contacts cam I04 through roller 102, the plunger 99 will force fluid through line 110. through valve 106, into line I11 and into the top of cylinder 97 above piston I15 urging piston IIS and rod 96 downwardly thereby rotating sprocket 93 counterclockwise and transmitting an upward force to the carriage through link chain 91. As fluid enters the top of cylinder 97 above piston I15, fluid will be discharged from the bottom of piston 97 through line 112, valve 106, through line 108 into the top of cylinder 98. Each time the spreader conveyor passes from left to right as shown in FIG. 3, plunger 99 will be depressed causing an incremental elevation in the lower carriage 60 through the hydraulic system until the carriage 60 is elevated to its uppermost position. It will be apparent that each incremental elevation may be adjusted to the thickness ol the sheet material or a plurality of sheets, as desired. When the carriage 60 is fully elevated, the manual valve 107 may be placed in its flow con dition, and by virtue of the weight of the carriage 60, piston [15 will be raised forcing fluid from cylinder 97. Fluid will be forced from the top of cylinder 97 through line 111, line II4, valve 107, line 113 into the bottom of cylinder 97. and fluid will also flow from the line 113 into line 112 and through valve 106 into line 109 for entry into the bottom of cylinder 98 to force the plunger 99 upwardly. When cylinder 98 is full, excess fluid will flow through one 110, through valve I06 and into line 114 to pass through valve I07 into line 113 and ultimately through line 112 to cylinder 97. Recharging cylinder 97 to elevate piston 115 to its elevated position will lower the carriage 60 to its lowermost position for commencement of new cycles of spreader conveyor reciprocation. It will be readily apparent that other means may he employed for incrementally elevating carriage 60, if desirable, other than the hydraulic system depicted which is simply a preferred w0rkablc embodiment. Only one hydraulic elevating system 90 may be employed as shown in FIG. 3 mounted on the left wall 59 shown in FIG. 2 as the shaft 94 will rotate and transmit rotation to the sprocket 116 opposite from sprocket 93 transmitting similar motion to link chain 117 as link chain 9]. One free end of chain 117 is suitably secured to carriage 60 in a manner similar to chain 91, but the other end of the chain may he secured to its sprocket 116 (not shown). Obviously, duplicate hydraulic systems may be employed depending upon the weight of the carriage 60.
A sheet material releasable clamping mechanism 120 is secured to one end 121 ofthe lay-out and cutting table 33. A releasable clamping mechanism 120 is provided with a vertically slidable gate 121 guidably mounted in the recessed chan nels 122 that are vertically supported adjacent the edges of the table 33. A centrally located post 123 is secured to the table at the ends thereof for pivotally supporting the activating lever 124 that is secured to the connecting link 125 that is fastened to the clevis joint I26 mounted on top and intermediate the gate 121 with a connection being formed between the free end 127 and the upwardly extending end of link 125. A solenoid actuatable air cylinder is pivotally mounted on bracket 129 that is supported to the top of table 33 through the bracket I29 and has a vertically extending plunger rod I36 that is connected to the intermediate portion of the activating lever 124.
A series of sheet material, spring-biased pins 130 is mounted along the lower edge 131 of gate 121 with each of the pins 130 being provided with an exposed pointed end slidably movable through the bottom plate I32. Each of the pins 130 is provided with a head 133 that fits into a spring recess I34 in the gate 121 with a spring 135 resiliently urging the pin outwardly. During a cycle of operation, to be described in more detail hereinafter, the air cylinder 128 operated by a solenoid valve (not shown) will, when actuated, draw the plunger rod 136 downwardly along with the counectcd lever I24 thereby moving the gate 121 downwardly against the sheet material 12 positioned thcrcbeneath enabling the pins 130 rclcasably to clamp the sheet material 12 in position on the table against relative displacement. The pins 130 will engage with a protruding strip of material 137 that extends beyond the leading edges I38 and 139 of the discharge chute plates 68 and 69.
Individual switches 140 through 143 are supported on the header plate 57 ofthe spreader conveyor in spaced relation to each other for performing certain functions to be described hereafter, In addition. two additional switches I44 and 145 are mounted on the conveyor track or rail 38 for limiting spreader conveyor travel. Motor slow-down cams I46 and 147 are situated on conveyor rail 38 in advance of switches I44 and 145, respectively. Clamp release and motor stop cam 148 is positioned, as shown in FIG. 4. at the left of header plate 57 on the spreader conveyor while a clamp actuator and spreader motor reverse and stop cam 149 is positioned at the right of header 57.
As the spreader conveyor 50, shown in FIG. 4, travels from the position shown therein from right to left, switch 141 will engage cam 146 slowing down the motor 54 in the sheet material lay-out stroke for continuation of the stroke until switch 140 engages cam I50 thereby shutting off the drive motor 54 and turning on the cutter motor assembly 75 and the cutter travel motor 82. Clamp release cam 148 will engage switch I44 to release the sheet material clamping gate 121 by dc-actuating an electrical solenoid to permit the air cylinder to elevate the gate 121. As the motor 82 moves the carriage 76 through link chain 77 carrying the cutter assembly 75 transversely across the material, cutter blade 84 will revolve cutting the material positioned above the lifting jaw 151 in the cutter assembly. Upon completion of the cutter assembly stroke from left to right shown in FIG. 7, switch 86 will be activated turning on drive motor 54 to commence the spreader conveyor 50 travel from left to right shown in FIG. 4 at full speed until switch 142 contacts the slow-down cam 147 for motor drive 54. As the spreader conveyor 50 continues its travel to the right, in the slower travel, switch 143 will engage the stop motor cam I52 positioned adjacent to switch 145. Cam 149 will engage with switch 145 to actuate the releasable clamping mechanism 128 to position the gate 121 against the sheet material and commence the return lay-out stroke of the spreader conveyor 50.
In those instances when the sheet material is desired to be fed under positive control through the spreader conveyor 50, a modified feed is illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13. A rack is mounted on one side at least of table 33 to receive the pinion 161 rotatably supported in the triangular plate 162 for rotation with a pair oiwheels I63 mounted in the base of plate 161 to engage and roll along the bottom surface 164 of rack 160. A sprocket 165 is mounted on the pinion shaft 166 for driving the chain 167 which in turn drives the sprocket 168 mounted on shaft 169 on which shaft gear 170 is supported in driving connection with driven gear 171 that is mounted on driven shaft 172 bcaringly supported in the side walls of carriage 60. Gear 171 will drive gear 173 that is supported on shaft 174 that in turn is bearingly supported also in the carriage 60 at both sides thereof. A pair of cooperating sheet material feed rollers 17S and 176 are supported, respectively, on shafts 172 and 174 for feeding the sheet material 12 through the upper and lower plates 68 and 69 forming the sheet material discharge chute.
In operation. the sheet material 12 is .removed from beam 1] as motor 16 is turned on placing the material into the accumulator 13 which is threaded orguided over roller 26 when motor 28 is actuated with the sheet material passing over a plurality of spaced apart sheet material supporting members 42 with all of such members being positioned adjacent to each other closer than the spaced apart intervals shown to the left in FIG. 1 with the sheet material also being fed through the upper portion of spreader conveyor 50 over guide roller 63 that is rotatably mounted in the upper header plate 57. The sheet material 12 is extended downwardly over roller 64, 65, 66 and 67 to extend through the plates 68 and 69. As the spreader conveyor 50 is activated, it will move from left to right as shown FIG. I traveling at high speed until contact is made with cam 147 that will slow down the carriage drive motor 54 until switch 145 is contacted. At the end of the com veyor travel, the sheet material clamping mechanism 120 will be activated to clamp the sheet material I37 extending from the discharge between plate 68 and 69 prior to the commencement of the return lay-out stroke of conveyor 50 when the sheet material will be spread flat on the table 33. As the conveyor 50 moves from right to left, as shown in FIG. 1, the sheet material will be spread and the conveyor 50 will move at high speed until contact is made with cam 146 which will slow down motor drive 54. Conveyor 50 will continue to travel to the left until it reaches switch 144 when it will stop and the cutter assembly 75 and cutter assembly travel motor 82 will be activated to move the cutter assembly across the sheet materialto sever it by means of the rotating blade 84. Contact of the microswitch 86 by plate 76 will activate the conveyor drive motor 54 to commence spreader conveyor 60 travel from left to right drawing sheet material from the accumulator 13. It will be readily apparent that the eccentric rollers 71 will exert a clamping action on the sheet material 12 as the sheet material is withdrawn from the accumulator 13 substantially horizontally above the lay-out and cutting table 33. During the travel of the conveyor 50 from left to right, the cutter assembly 75 will move from right to left, as shown in FIG. 7 in outline form, until it is returned to the left position contacting switch 87 which will de-activate motor 82 and the cutter drive assembly 75.
Hydraulic mechanism 90 will be activated to elevate car riage 60 on each stroke or return from left to right raising car riage 60 incrementally depending upon the thickness of the sheet material to be cut as described above.
Reference will now be made to the schematic wiring diagrams of FIG. l4 for the sequence of operations relating to the spreader conveyor 50 and also the releasable clamping mechanism. The cycle of operation commences with the spreader conveyor 50 adjacent to the sheet material slack accumulator or scray 13 with the selector switch 180 being placed in the automatic position which will in turn condition the cutter assembly motor and the cutter drive motor in the start position. The cutter assembly 75 will traverse across the spreader conveyor 50 as the link chain 70 moves the cutter assembly 75 transversely with the spreader conveyor 50 in a stationary position. As the cutter assembly traverses across the spreader conveyor 50 switch 86 will be closed starting the spreader conveyor travel to the right at high speed. The cutter motor and cutter drive motor continue operating until plate 76 will return the cutter assembly 75 to the starting position at the left side of the carriage shown in FIG. 7 by contacting and opening switch 87. The conveyor 50 continues its travel to the right on the overhead conveyor at high speed until switch 142 strikes cam 147 which in turn slows the speed of conveyor 50 to a slow speed. Conveyor 50 continues to travel to the right in FIG. I until the stop actuator 152 is contacted closing switch [43 which stops spreader motor 54 which has an eddy current clutch type drive such as manufactured and sold as an Eaton Adjusto-Speed drive motor, and at the same time switch actuator 149 closes switch 145 which activates air cylinder clamping mechanism 120 to engage a projecting portion 137 of the sheet material. The spreader conveyor motor 54 is reversed using a time delay relay signalled by the closing of switch 143. The spreader conveyor travels at high speed in the reverse direction to the scray or slack accumulator 13 until switch I4! engages cam I46 which drops the spreader conveyor to a slow speed. The spreader conveyor continues its travel to the left as shown in FIG. 1 until the stop actuator [50 is engaged which closes switch that stops the spreader drive motor 54 and starts the cutter assembly 75 and the cutter drive motor 82. At this station, actuator I48 opens switch 144 for de-activating the solenoid operated valve for the air cylinder to release the clamping mechanism [20 thereby completing one cycle of operation and laying one ply of sheet material on table 33. The operation of the spreader conveyor may continue automatically be repeating the cycle ofopcrations.
A toggle switch 88 is provided on the cutter drive motor 82 to cut-off the cutter drive motor so that the cutter motor can be operated to sharpen the cutter blade 84 periodically as it may contain a self-sharpening blade. A toggle switch (not shown) is also provided for the releasable clamping mechanism circuit to raise manually the clamping gate 121.
It will be readily apparent that many modifications and variations may be made to the specific mechanisms and assemblies without departing from the purpose and spirit of the invention and such modifications and variations are contemplated within the scope of the appended claims.
l. An apparatus for spreading sheet material from a supply source to a lay-out and cutting table comprising a sheet material supporting conveyor means mounted horizontally above said lay out table, a sheet material spreader means movable between limits on said conveyor means for positioning and laying out the sheet material fed through said spreader means on said table, and means intermediate said supply source and siad spreader means mounted for horizontal displacement along said conveyor for supporting said sheet material being delivered to said spreader means.
2. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 1, and sheet material cutting means for cutting the sheet material at one end of spreader means travel.
3. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 1, and means for releasably clamping the sheet material at one end of spreader means travel.
4. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 3, and sheet material cutting means on said spreader means for severing the sheet material at the end opposite from the releasable clamping means when the sheet material is layed out on the lay-out table.
5. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 1, and a sheet material slack accumulator positioned at one end of said table for supplying sheet material to said conveyor means and said spreader means.
6. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 5, said slack accumulator having means for controlling the supply of sheet material to and from said accumulator.
7. An apparatus for spreading sheet material from a supply source as claimed in Claim 1, said sheet material conveyor means having means for incrementally elevating said spreader means.
8. An apparatus for spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 2, and means for incrementally elevating said sheet material cutting means.
9. An apparatus for spreading sheet material from a source of supply to a lay-out table comprising. in combination, a sheet material supply source, a sheet material accumulator having means for drawing sheet material from a supply source. a sheet material lay-out cutting table extending longitudinally adjacent said accumulator, an overhead conveyor frame having spaced apart rails, a plurality of sheet material supporting members guidably movable along said rails for retaining the sheet material vertically spaced above said table before layout, a sheet material conveyor, control box and cutter assembly guidably movable between limits on said rails. means on said assembly for guiding sheet material thercthrough in one direction of travel while feeding sheet material therethrough in an opposite direction of travel supported on said sheet material supporting means, cutting means on said assembly for severing sheet material fed therethrough actuatablc' after a lay-out cycle, means for releasably clamping an end of sheet material adjacent one end of said table remote from the accumulator upon supply of sheet material from the assembly to said clamping means, and means for elevating said assembly sheet material guide means incrementally responsive to the thickness of stacked plies of cut sheet material spread on the table.
10. The method of spreading sheet material from a source of supply comprising the steps of controllably withdrawing sheet material from a source of supply and suspending said withdrawn sheet material in spaced relation to a lay-out surface along a predetermined path of travel releasably clamping the free end of the material at a predetermined position remote from the source of supply and at the end of sheet material travel, spreading the withdrawn sheet material in flat extended condition on a lay-out surface for a predetermined length.
II. The method of spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim [0. and applying sufficient tension to the sheet material while releasably clamped at one end thereof to remove wrinkles from the sheet material permitting the sheet material to lie flat on a surface.
[2. The method of spreading sheet material as claimed in Claim 10, and applying tension to the sheet material during lay-out, and cutting the sheet material at a predetermined length remote from the clamping position.