US 3550772 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Primary Examiner-Richard A. Schacher Atlorney-Roger A. Marrs ABSTRACT: The automatic laundry sorting apparatus disclosed herein includes a sorting platform to which one end ofa conveyor delivers soiled laundry for manual sorting and collection into a plurality of collection containers related to specific articles of laundry. Means are provided on each container for sensing the quantity of laundry collected and for releasing the laundry into mobile containers for transportation to washing machines when a predetermined weight or number of laundry pieces reaches a given amount. Disposed between the collection containers and the mobile containers, there is provided an extendable intermediate conveyor rotatably carried on the sorting platform adapted to carry soiled laundry from selected ones of the collection containers to selected mobile containers. Control means are employed for automatically dumping the laundry from selected collection containers onto the intermediate conveyor and for sequencing the advancement and retraction of the conveyor as well as the rotation thereof for proper alignment with selected ones ofthe mobile containers.
PATENTEUnEc29|9m I 3.550.772
I sum 1 OF 3 INVIENTORS l5 Dav/EA E. MEI. w/U
JOHN W PAAJDOLPH AUTOMATIC LAUNDRY SORTING APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention This invention relates to laundry sorting and classifying apparatus and, more particularly, to a novel laundry processing device for automatically handling separate categories of laundry including the distribution of separate classified laundry pieces from sorting containers to larger containers of the same category for transportation to washing machines.
2. Description of the Prior Art In the conventional practice of processing laundry articles, the articles are usually received in a commercial laundry in individual family bundles which have to be broken, classified and sorted, and then conveyed to the proper washing mechanism and, at the same time, the articles must be provided with suitable identification characters, whereby they may be collected and again formed into suitable bundles and delivered to the owners. A large amount of work is involved in properly sorting and classifying the laundry articles, and considerable difficulty has been experienced in collecting the articles after they have been sorted and classified and again packaging them to avoid loss. 7
As is well known, laundries at the present time, especially large commercial establishments, will receive a bundle of laundry from a specified customer. Each batch or bundle of laundry may contain a great variety of articles, such as shirts, blouses, and other articles of wearing apparel, and in addition thereto, articles for household use, such as towels, sheets and the like. Some portions of the laundry, such as shirts, are usually charged for by the article or piece, while other parts such as flat work covering, for example, sheets and tablecloths, towels, aprons, and the like, may be charged for by the pound.
When such a miscellaneous bundle of laundry is received, it is necessary to separate and segregate out the various articles according to class or kind and in some instances to tag or otherwise identify the same so that when the laundering operation has been completed, all of the articles and goods belonging to a particular customer may be collected for delivery. Obviously, it is exceedingly important, particularly in large commercial laundries handling thousands of pieces of goods for many different customers, to have this work of separation, distribution and subsequent collection proceed as rapidly and systematically as possible with the exercise of great care to avoid loss of pieces, or confusion of the goods of the various customers.
Therefore, by providing a laundry classifying or sorting apparatus which is automated so that reduced manual labor and handling are required to process the individual pieces or articles, a reduction in loss, confusion and time is greatly advantageous. Furthermore, an automatic or semiautomatic processing procedure for handling laundry aids in mass handling of a greater quantity of goods than can be ordinarily handled by employing a multiplicity of workers.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION sensing total article count or weight. Mobile containers are provided which are nested about the platform below the collection containers for storing several loads of classified articles which are capable of being transported to the washing area.
An intermediate conveyor means is rotatably carried on the sorting platform beneath the collection containers which is adapted to receive articles loaded into selected ones of the collection containers when a certain total count or weight has been attained. This latter conveyor means includes extendable means for advancing and retracting the conveyor means whereby the articles carried thereon may be deposited into selectedones of the mobile containers nested together around the plurality of collection containers.
Control means may be provided which operably couple a control panel to the intermediate conveyor mechanism as well as the first conveyor means so that the conveyors operate in a sequence responsive to the sensing of total count or weight of the articles loaded in the collection containers. By means of the arrangement of the mobile containers with respect to the collection containers and by means of the intermediate conveyor means, it can be seen that the laundry sorting apparatus of the present invention may be employed in a highly effective manner to deliver or deposit collected articles from one set of containers to another set of containers or bins.
Therefore, it is among the primary objects of the present invention to provide a novel laundry handling apparatus so constructed and operated as to ensure that no article will be misplaced or overlooked while at the same time ensuring that separation orsegregation of the articles may proceed systematically with great rapidity, accuracy and ease.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a novel laundry system and apparatus for classifying individual laundry articles or pieces preparatory to delivery to washing machines and to separate and classify the articles with a minimum amount of labor and at the same time with a high degree of accuracy to avoid confusion or mistakes.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a novel laundry sorting apparatus capable of automating a variety of operations which previously required performance by manual labor.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a novel laundry sorting apparatus having automatic means for distributing separated quantities of laundry articles to selected ones of a plurality of laundry bins for removal to the washing area.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a novel laundry sorting apparatus employing mechanism for delivering unsorted and soiled laundry to a sorting station where manual classification is performed, and then to collection containers for temporary storage where a predetermined quantity of classified articles are then transferred to storage bins via an expandable and rotatable conveying means.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The features of the present invention which are believed to be novel are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The present invention, both as to its organization and manner of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may best be understood by reference to the following description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of the novel laundry sorting apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the apparatus having portions broken away to expose the extendable conveyor assemblage; I
FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the apparatus taken in the direction of arrows 4-4 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is an enlarged diagrammatic view of the extendable conveyor assemblage employed in the inventive apparatus;
FIG. 6 is a sectional view of the extendable conveyor assemblage;
FIG. 7 is an enlarged cross-sectional .view of the slidable mounting for the conveyor assemblage shown in FIG. 6 as taken in the direction of arrows 7-7 thereof; and
FIG. 8 is a diagrammatic view of a control box operably connected to actuators of the apparatus for moving various components thereof. p
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring to FIG. 1, the novel laundry sorting apparatus of the present invention is illustrated in the general direction of arrow which comprises an elevated sorting platform 11 raised above the surface of a supporting floor 12 by means of beams and braces indicated in general by numerals 13 and 14, respectively. Platform 1] is employed to support a hand rail 15 and a plurality of open collection containers such as container 16 illustrated in broken lines. Platform 11 is employed to support personnel such as a sorting worker and access to the platform is arranged by means of stairs 17 extending between the supporting surface 12 and platform 11 at a suitable inclining angle. A sorting table 18 extends between the opposite sides of the platform and is elevated above the hand rail so as to be substantially waist-high to the worker standing on the platform. The working surface of the table 18 is above the opening to each of the plurality of containers 16 so that the worker has a full view of all of the containers and the top openings leading into the interior or each container.
The side of the apparatus opposite to its side provided with stairs 17 includes a feed conveyor assembly 20 taking the form of an endless belt which is rotatably mounted between rollers 21 and 22 as tensioned by an idler roller 23 which extends from a lower end up to the table 18 and across the length of the table. A suitable motor and coupling means 24 is employed to power the conveyor belt in a conventional manner via roller 22. A plurality of members, such as is indicated by numerals 25 and 26, are carried on the exterior surface of the belt in fixed spaced apart relationship so as to prevent laundry carried on the belt from slipping rearwardly as the belt is moved in the direction of an arrow 27.
Soiled and unsorted laundry, as indicated by numeral 28, is initially loaded onto the conveyor 20 from a suitable storage bin 30. The soiled clothes, linens, tablecloths, or the like are manually or otherwise removed from bin and placed onto the conveyor 20 so that soiled laundry is transported to the top of the apparatus immediately in front of the table 18. The worker on platform 11 visually inspects the laundry and visually sorts each piece or article of laundry into a particular class and when so classified, deposits the sorted article or piece into a selected collection container 16 according to the class of the article of piece. As will be described later, the segregated and sorted articles are removed from the respective collector containers 16 and deposited into selected ones of a plurality of mobile containers, such as is indicated by numeral 31. Each of the respective mobile containers are supported on wheels 32 so that the bins or containers may be transported to a washing area where the soiled laundry may be processed.
Referring now in detail to FIG. 2, it can be seen that the plurality of collection containers 16 may be of varying diameters and are disposed in close proximity on platform 11 on the side thereof opposite to its side adapted to accommodate the sorting worker. Each of the containers 16 includes a sensing device 32 adapted to detect the weight of the laundry articles or pieces loaded into the container or to sense the number of pieces or articles so that a total count is taken. For detecting weight, any suitable scale may be employed and in connection with counting, a suitable photoelectric counter may be used. Generally, the use of either a weight sensor or counting sensor is determined by the class of laundry to be loaded into the respective containers.
be nested together so as to avoid the presence of voids or s aces between adjacent ones of the bins or containers.
Disposed between the tops of the open mobile containers 31 and the underside of containers 16, there is provided an intermediate conveyor means 35 which is adapted to be advanced and retracted from the platform in the direction. of arrows 36 and adapted for rotation in the direction of arrows 37 and 38, respectively. One end of the conveyor means 35 is secured to a turntable 40 movably mounted on the underside of platform 11 while the opposite end of .th e conveyor' as indicated by numeral .1 is cantilevered beyond the perimeter of the platform portion 19 over the openings-to the respective bins 31. By means of the conveyor 35, which includes an endless belt, sorted articles of laundry loaded in the containers 16 maybe disposed onto'th'e belt of the conveyor and depositedinto" a selected one of the plurality of containers depending upon the position or location of conveyor end 4ll.'The mechanism and means for advancing and retracting the conveyor as well as for the rotation thereof will be described later with respect to further FIGS.
If desired, a utility table 42 may be provided on the platform 1 1 adjacent rail 15 which may be of convenience to the sorting worker. Also, the present invention contemplates that a control means or console 43 may be employed which contains suitable circuitry and control apparatus for sequencing and providing remote operation for the conveyor 20 as well as the conveyor means 35. Also, the control means may include suitable switches for activating the counting or weight sensors attached to each of the collection containers or for selectively opening the bottom of a selected container 16 by the operator.
Referring now to FIG. 3, it can be seen that the forward portion 19 of platform 11 includes a circular wall about its periphery as indicated by numeral 44. The plurality of collection containers 16 are located within the confines of the wall 44. Furthermore, it can be seen that the intermediate conveyor means 35 is disposed between the bottom of the containers l6 and the openings at the upper end of containers 3!. The end 41 of the conveyor is readily disposed over a selected one of the containers 31 whereby classified or sorted laundry from a selected bin becomes deposited on the endless belt of the conveyor and topples from end 41 into a selected mobile container. Motor means 45 may be employed for powering the conveyor means 35 about turntable 40 while power means 46 may be employed for powering the endless belt of the conveyor.
Referring now to FIG. 4, it can be seen that the turntable 40 comprises a ring carried on the top side of the conveyor means and includes an inner periphery provided with gear teeth in mesh with teeth carried on a pinion gear 47. The pinion gear is carried on the underside of platform 11. In this fashion, as the ring and pinion gears are rotated relative to each other, the conveyor means 35 will turn accordingly so as to rotate in the direction of arrows 37 and 38, as shown in FIG. 2.
Additionally, it can be seen that the supporting surface 12 carries a plurality of guide members 48 which radiate outwardly from the center of the apparatus. By this radiating con struction, a tapered space is provided between adjacent ones of the guides and at least a pair of the mobile bins 31 may be disposed in the space between adjacent guides. The contour of the containers or bins 31 are tapered so as to be nested between the guide members as shown in broken lines. When it is desired to move the mobile bins from the apparatus, the bins may be pulled out of the open end at the widest dimension between guide members, as indicated by numeral 50.
In FIG. 5, it can be seen that the plurality of collector containers 16 are fixedly secured to the platform portion 19 and that the bottom of each container is adapted to open by means of pivoting doors 51 and 52 associated with each container. In their closed position as shown in solid lines, the doors support the classified load of laundry within the container. However, when the doors are pivoted to their broken line position, such as in response to the sensor or detector 32, the laundry load supported in the container will drop downwardly onto the belt of conveyor means 35.
and sealing means to the platform 11 as indicated by numeral 54. The motor 45 is fixed beneath the platform 11 and is coupled in driving relationship to the pinion 47 via a gear box 49 so as to rotate the pinion accordingly. Since the peripheral teeth of the pinion gear are in mesh with the inner peripheral teeth of the ring'gear, the ring'gear carrying the conveying means 35 will be rotated in accordance with the rotation of the pinion relative to the platform 11. t
The conveyor means 35, as shown in' FIGS. and 6,"includes a pair of piston and cylinder assemblages 55 and 55' operating in tandem having one end fixed to the extension 53 and the opposite end terminating in an'extendable piston 56 and 56'. The ram or piston is secured to a front telescoping portion 57 of the conveyor means so that when the ram extends from' the cylinders 55 and 55', the portion 57 will be moved outwardly to the position shown in broken lines.
The motor 47 is operably coupled to a drive roller 58 about i which an endless belt60 is trained in driving relationship can be seen that as the piston andjcylinder assemblage 55, 56
actuates the telescoping portion 57 to move outwardly, the overall length of the endless belt 60 will be accommodated as the telescoping portion 57 moves awayffrom the fixed extension portion 53. In FIG. 7, the telescoping relationship is illustrated between the opposite sides of the telescoping portion 57 and the fixed portion '53 which comprise nested channel sections arranged in sliding supporting relationship.
if desired, the control means 43'maybe 'operably connected between the motors, assemblage 55 and 55 and sensors 32 'so that the sequencing and operation of the device may be automatically controlledor may be remotely controlled by the operator on the platform 11.
With reference to FIG. 8; control means 43' is illustrated having a plurality of pushbuttons arranged in rows and columns such as pushbuttons in rows 70 and'7 1. The operator may depress a selected pushbutton which will cause the pivotal doors associated with a'selected collection container 3:1 to open in order to dump a load of sorted andclassified laundry onto the intermediate conveyor 35. Arranged in the midsection of the control panel are buttons'72 and 73 for automatic and manual operation of the intermediate conveyor means and an automatic sequence of operation may be controlled by an on-off selector button ofthe flush-toggle type as indicated by numeral 74. The feed conveyor may be turned on and off by means ofpushbuttons 75 and .76 while the intermediate conveyor may be manually switched on and. off by means of buttons 77 and 78. For rotating the turntable carrying the intermediate conveying means 35, pushbuttons 80 and 81 may be selectively depressed. For adjustment of the detector or sensors 32, a rotary switch82 may be employed. It is to be understood that although all of the pushbutton switches shown on the panel may be manually operated to the exclusion of other controls, may be set, such as the load cell adjustment 82 and the sequence button 74, so that the operation of the apparatus is programmed'and doesznot require individual operation of switches by the operator. In such an event, a computer 83 may be utilized having a suitable source of power 84. I
In view of the foregoing, it can be seen that the novel laundry sorting and handling apparatus of the present invention provides a system and mechanism for processing laundry in an economical and expeditious fashion. A minimum number of workers are employed and normally, sorting can be readily achieved by a single worker. The soiled laundry is automatically delivered to the sorting station adjacent the table 18 via feed conveyor 20 and once the bins or containers 16 have been loaded, automatic dumping onto the intermediate conveyor 35 is achieved. End 41 of the intermediate conveyor meansmay be readily positioned over a selected mobile container 31 for storage of the sorted laundry preparatory to introducing the soiled laundry to suitable washing machines.
While particular embodiments of the'presentinvention have been shown and described, it.will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from this invention in its broader aspects, and, therefore, the aim in the appended claims is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of this invention. I
1. A laundry sorting apparatus comprising:
an elevated platform; i
a plurality of sorting .containers carried on said platform in a clustered group; each of said sorting containers being adapted to receive and hold a predetermined class of laundry and provided with a releasable bottom adapted to unload the laundry held therein through said bottom when released;
a plurality of storage bins arranged adjacent to each other and grouped together about said platform below said plurality of sorting containers; and
means movably carried on said platform between said storage bins and said sorting containers for receiving unloaded laundry from said sorting containers and having a cantilevered end for depositing the laundry into selected ones of said storage bins.
2. The invention as'defined in claim 1 including means for sensing the quantity of laundry held in each of said sorting containers.
mounted on said platform.
'4- The invention as defined in claim 3 wherein said con- -veyor mechanism includes a fixed portion carried on said platform and an extendable portion slidably carried on said fixed portion.
The invention as'defined'in claim 1 including:
means operably coupled to said mbvable means for selectiv ely advancing and retracting said movable means from and to said platform and for rotating said movable means about said platform; and
-saidlast mentioned means being adapted to position said cantilevered end over a selected one of said bins.
1 6. Theinvention as defined in claim 5 wherein:
said storage bins are arranged in rows and columns in a predetermined order; 7
each of said storage bins being movablydisposed so as to be withdrawn from said order; and
guide means for maintaining said storage bins in said predetermined order.
"7. The invention as defined in claim 5 including control means operably connected to said sorting containers and to said movable means for automatically and selectively unloading said sorting containers in response to a predetermined'program.
8. Theinvention as defined in claim 5 including:
a piston and cylinder assemblage operably connected between saidplatform and said movable means foreffecting said advancement and retraction; including a ring and pinion gear arrangement connected between said movable means and said platform for effecting rotation of said movable means.
9. The invention as definedin claim 5 wherein:
said movable means comprises an extendable conveyor having an endless belt; and
power means for driving said belt.
10. The invention as defined in claim 9 including resiliently biased tension means carried on said conveyor and being yieldably bearing against said belt so as to take up slack of said belt during advancement and retraction. thereof.
11. The invention as defined in claim 9 including a second conveyor having an endless belt adapted to transport unsorted and soiled laundry to said platform preparatory to sorting.
beneath said platform; and means movably carried on said platform disposed between said bins and said rear platform portion for selectively receiving the contents of said sorting containers and for depositing the contents into selected ones of said bins.
13. The invention as defined in claim 12 wherein said movable means includes an elongated conveyor means having an endless belt.
14. The invention as defined in claim 13 wherein said conveyor means is extendable and retractable so as to selectively vary its length 15. The invention as defined in claim 14 wherein said conveyor means includes a portion fixed to said platform and an extendable portion slidably carried on said fixed portion having a selected end cantilevered over said bins.