US 3556284 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent DISPENSING MACHINE HAVING MULTIPLE, VERTICALLY MOVABLE, HORIZONTAL PRODUCT CARRIERS 11 Claims, 1 1 Drawing Figs.
Int. Cl B65g 15/00 Field of Search 221/77 86;198/137,l38,158,(lnquired);160/197, (Conn); 160/223; 194/10', 49/213; 3l2/(lnquired), 297, 304, 306, 138, 109
Primary ExaminerStanley H. Tollberg Attorney-Schmidt, Johnson, l-lovey, Williams and Chase ABSTRACT: A general-merchandising machine employs a plurality of horizontal display carriers, each having an identical series of side-by-side product compartments. A closed loop conveyor moves the carriers upwardly or downwardly past a single, horizontally extending delivery opening in the cabinet of the machine. Each of the carriers is pivotally mounted on the conveyor, means being provided at the top and the bottom of the conveyor to prevent substantial tilting of each carrier as it changes its direction of travel. The conveyor is controlled by the customer to permit movement of the compartments of a selected carrier into registration with the delivery opening, the latter being normally closed by a horizontal series of transparent, sliding doors which mutually support one another.
PATENTEU JAN19|97| 3556284 sum 3 or 4 DISPENSING MACHINE HAVING MULTIPLE, VERTICALLY MOVABLE, HORIZONTAL PRODUCT CARRIERS Vending machines of the general merchandiser type commonly employ horizontally rotatable conveyors for advancing vertical columns of products past a delivery station. The customer is permitted to stop the conveyor at will, the selected column thus being brought into registration with a vertical series of delivery openings at the delivery station. A series of doors normally closes the delivery openings, such doors being aligned with the compartments of the column so that the customer may gain access to a selected compartment containing the desired product.
It may be appreciated that, in order to provide a large number of possible selections in a general merchandising machine of the type briefly discussed above, it is necessary to extend the series of delivery openings a substantial vertical distance to accommodate the vertically spaced compartments of each column. Manifestly, all selections cannot be located at a convenient height for customer access. Thus, the customer oftentimes is forced to reach either high or low in order to obtain the desired item. Furthermore, the height of the machine is limited as well as the vertical dimension of the delivery station, thereby placing a limitation on the capacity of the machine.
It is, therefore, an important object of this invention to provide a dispensing or vending machine of the type wherein products are conveyed past a delivery station for viewing by the consumer, and wherein access to a selected product is provided at a convenient height regardless of the compartment from which the product is selected.
As a corollary to the foregoing object, it is an important aim of the instant invention to provide a visible product dispensing or vending machine having a horizontally extending delivery station common to all of the compartments thereof.
Another important object of this invention is to provide a dispensing or vending machine as aforesaid having a product conveyor with compartmentalized product carriers supported thereon and movable upwardly or downwardly past the delivery station, and wherein the carriers are stabilized during movement in a manner to prevent tilting of each carrier as it changes its direction of travel at the top or the bottom of the conveyor.
Still another important object of the invention is to provide such a machine for vending applications which is adapted to display a variety of products of the same or difierent price in horizontal relationship with either similar or dissimilar items of the same price movable past a respective delivery door.
Additionally, numerous other aims of the invention include the provision of a conveyor which is bidirectional and drives all product carriers simultaneously, the provision of carriers which may be readily removed from the conveyor for cleaning or to permit access to components within the machine, and the provision of means for guiding the carriers as they change their directions of travel at the top and bottom of the conveyor to preclude interference with carrier movement and minimize the vertical space required at the top and bottom of the conveyor.
In addition to the foregoing objects, it is also an important aim of the invention to provide self supporting doors at the delivery opening to eliminate the use of framing, reduce the cost of the structure, and improve product visibility in applications where the doors are transparent.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a fragmentary, front general merchandiser;
FIGS. 2a and 2b comprise an enlarged, fragmentary, vertical sectional view of the merchandiser;
FIG. 3 is a perspective, detail view of one of the guide plates at the bottom of the conveyor;
view of the cabinet of a FIG. 4 is a perspective, detail view of one of the support FIG. 6 is a fragmentary, sectional view similar to FIG. 5 showing one end of the conveyor on a further enlarged scale; and
FIGS. 7l0 are fragmentary, partially diagrammatic views illustrating the sequence of movement of one of the carriers as it changes from downward to upward movement at the bottom of the conveyor.
Referring initially to FIGS. 1. 2a2h, 5 and 6, the cabinet or housing of the general-merchandising machine is broadly denoted by the numeral 20. the machine being illustrated herein as a cold food vender. The cabinet 20 has a front door 22 which is normally locked and is opened only by servicing personnel. The door 22 is provided with the usual coin slot 24 and a coin return lever 26. Additionally, a pair of control buttons 28 are provided for actuation by the customer, the depressing of one of the buttons 28 effecting movement of the product conveyor (to be described) in the forward direction. and the other button 28 effecting movement of the conveyor in the reverse" direction. The cabinet 20 is of double wall construction to facilitate the insulation thereof, as indicated by the insulating material 30-between the inner and outer cabinet walls.
The door 22 of cabinet 20 has a large expanse of transparent glass area 32 to permit the customer to view the products stocked in the machine. A horizontally extending delivery station 34 is located beneath the glass area 32 and is defined by an elongated, horizontally extending delivery opening 36 which permits the customer to reach into the machine and remove the desired product. Access is gained, however, only after proper credit is established and upon the opening of one of a horizontal series of transparent doors 38. Each of the doors 38 slides vertically and is provided with a handle 40 adjacent the upper edge thereof. A return spring 42 for each door 38 urges the latter toward its raised or closed position.
The horizontally extending delivery opening 36 is free from framing or other obstructions throughout its length and thus is entirely open except for the presence of the doors 38. As is particularly clear in FIG. 5, the doors 38 are mutually self supporting, adjacent pairs of doors 38 having mating edges 44 configured to form a tongue and groove connection therebetween. Thus, each door 38 is confined to vertical sliding movement, the end edges of the two end doors 38 being received by vertical guide channels 46 in the adjacent inner walls of the door 22.
A product conveyor 48 is housed within the cabinet 20 behind the door 22 thereof and extends from below the delivery station 34 vertically to near the top of the cabinet interior. The conveyor 48 comprises two horizontally spaced sprocket and chain assemblies 50 and 50a of identical construction disposed at respective sides of the interior housing structure as is clear in FIG. 5. Since each assembly and conveyor parts as sociated therewith is of identical construction, only one of the assemblies 50 or 50a will be described in detail. Corresponding components are identified by like reference numerals with the addition of the a" notation for components associated with the assembly 500.
A drive chain 52 (FIG. 5) extends from a reversible electric motor (not shown) and is operably connected to one end of a horizontal shaft 54 disposed at the bottom of the conveyor 48. The major portion of shaft 54 is hidden from view in FIG. 5 by the presence of a crossmember 56, except where the latter is broken away to reveal the shaft 54 therebelow. The crossmember 56 spans a pair of transversely channel-shaped uprights 58 and 58a associated with respective sprocket and chain assemblies 50 and 50a. A lower sprocket 60a of assembly 50a is rigidly secured to shaft 54 adjacent the end thereof coupled with the drive chain 52, and a lower sprocket 60 of assembly 50 is keyed to the opposite end of the shaft 54. As is clear in FIGS. 2a and 2b, the assembly 50 further includes'a flexible, endless element in the form of a chain 62 which is trained around an upper sprocket 64 rigid with an idler shaft 66 that extends horizontally in parallelism with the lower shaft 54. It is to be understood that, although not seen in the FIGS., a second sprocket on idler shaft 66 is disposed directly above the lower sprocket 60a with the chain 620 trained thereover.
A pair of vertical channels 68 are secured to the inner face of the sidewall of the interior housing structure in space relationship to each other and on opposite sides of the chain 62. Similarly, a pair of vertical channels 68a are positioned in the same manner with respect to the chain 620 as is best seen in the enlarged view of FIG. 6. A pair of support arms 70, 70a extend horizontally outwardly (normally either directly toward the front or the rear) from respective chains 62, 62a and are disposed at the same elevation in horizontal alignment. A number of pairs of support arms 70, 70a are provided and are spaced along the chains 62 and 620, being secured to the links thereof at their inner ends.
The support arms 70 and 70a carry antifriction slide components 72 and 72a respectively, each of the latter being in the form of a block of low friction material such as a suitable synthetic resin. The components 72 and 72a slide within the tracks formed by the vertical channels 68 and 68a, as is particularly clear in FIG. 6. Thus, the slide components 72 and 72a provide support for the arms 70 and 700 as the latter are advanced upwardly or downwardly by the conveyor 48.
Each of the support arms 70 has an elongated slot 74 therein which normally extends horizontally either forwardly or rearwardly. Each arm 70 carries a rotatable follower 76 which is free to slide along the slot 74, the follower 76 being rotatable on a pin 78 which extends through the slot 74 and presents a threaded inner end. This construction is shown in detail in FIGS. 3 and 4.
An identical construction is provided for each of the support arms 70a for the purpose of providing a means of supporting a plurality of compartmentalized article carriers 80. Each of the carriers 80 is horizontally disposed and is in the nature of a pan or tray of rectangular configuration, elongated in a direction parallel to the length of the delivery opening 36. Each of the carriers 80 is open at the front and is provided with regularly spaced partitions 82 which divide each carrier into a series of side-by-side compartments registering with the delivery opening 36 in alignment with corresponding doors 38 when a particular carrier 80 is selected by a customer and is moved by the conveyor 48 to the delivery position.
The bottom of each of the carriers 80 at the ends thereof rests on a pair of opposed ledges 84 and 84a projecting from a pair of opposed end caps 86 and 86a secured to the pins 78 and 78a carried by a corresponding pair of support arms 70 and 70a. The pins 78 and 78a extend through the end caps at approximately the centers thereof and are provided with nuts 88 and 88a which secure the end caps to the support arms. Being of sheet metal construction, the peripheral edges of the end caps 86 and 86a have an antifriction plastic edging 90 and 90a thereon in sliding contact with uprights 58 and 58a and vertically extending angle members 92 and 92a. It should be noted that the end caps 86 and 86a provide a horizontal pivotal axis for each of the carriers 80, such axis being only slightly above the center of gravity of the carrier. Furthermore, only minimum clearance exists between adjacent carriers 80, thereby utilizing the vertical interior space within the housing to maximum advantage.
As will be fully appreciated when the operation of the machine is discussed hereinafter, each of the carriers 80 follows a defined course as it is transported at the top or bottom of the conveyor 48 from one to the other of the upright stretches of the chains 62 and 62a. This is accomplished by a guide plate 94 at the bottom of the chain and sprocket assembly 50 and an identical guide plate (not shown) at the bottom of the sprocket and chain assembly 500. The guide plate 94 is of generally rectangular configuration, the vertical edges and bottom edge thereof generally defining three sides of a rectangle having rounded lower corners. This continuous, peripheral edge of guide plate 94 defines a camming or guiding surface 96 upon which each of the followers 76 rides as the corresponding carrier 80 changes its direction of travel at the bottom of the conveyor 48. In similar fashion, a guide plate 98 is disposed at the top of thc sprocket and chain assembly 50, the guide plate 98 being identical in configuration to plate 96 but inverted with respect thereto. Guide plate 98 presents vertical and upper peripheral edges defining a camming or guiding surface 100 of the same configuration as above-described for guide plate 94. It is to be understood, of course, that guide plates of the same character are provided at the upper and lower ends of the sprocket and chain assembly 5011.
A pair of stabilizer members 102 underlie respective sprocket and chain assemblies 50 and 50a, each being in the form of a horizontal bar as is clear in FIG. 2b. The members 102 are supported on pivotal links 104 and are held in the raised position illustrated in FIG. 2!; by springs 106 bearing against one of the links 104 supporting each member 102.
A similar stabilizer arrangement is employed above the conveyor 48, one of the upper stabilizer members 108 being shown in FIG. 2a suspended by a pair of pivotal links 110. A spring 112 bears against one of the links and holds the member 108 in the position illustrated under spring pressure.
During the time that a particular pair of support arms 70. 70a are traversing either the top or the bottom of the conveyor 48, such arms remain supported other than by their attachment to the chains 62 and 62a. This is effected by continuations of the tracks formed by the vertically extending channels 68 and 68a. An arcuate recess 114 is formed in the inner face of guide plate 94 which communicates at its ends with the lower terminations of the channels 68. Each of the slide components 72 rides in the recess 114 and has an arcuate section 116 complemental to the curved edge defining the outer margin of the recess 114. As may be understood from viewing FIG. 3, as the slide component 72 changes from rectilinear to curvilinear travel the arcuate section 116 thereof rides on the outer edge of the recess 114 and a pair of feet 118 are brought into engagement with a ridge 120 formed in the recess 114, the ridge 120 being of arcuate configuration and sufficiently closely spaced from the outer edge of the recess 114 to present a surface upon which the feet 118 are forced to ride as the component 72 completes the turn at the bottom of the conveyor. It will be understood that the top guide plate 98 is formed in like manner to provide a continuation of the track between the upper terminations of the channels 68.
OPERATION It should be understood that, in practice, the merchandiser would be provided with suitable coin controlled apparatus responsive to the deposit of coinage in the coin slot 24. Credit would be established by the apparatus in accordance with the amount of the deposit, and the value of the established credit would determine which of the products of the machine are available for vending. It may be noted in FIG. 1 that price indicia appear on the front of the machine adjacent the bottom of respective doors 38, indicating that all of the products (which may be dissimilar) aligned with a given door sell for the same price. Therefore, for example, if 25cents is deposited, the customer may choose from all of the doors 38 except the 30 cents door. Change is paid back by the coin controlled apparatus in the event that the customer does not have the exact change and is forced to make an excess deposit.
Either before or after the appropriate coinage is deposited, the customer may actuate either of the push buttons 28 to effect forward or reverse movement of the conveyor 48 as desired. Thus, the various product carriers 80 move either upwardly or downwardly past the delivery opening 36. This bidirectional movement capability enables the customer to rapidly shift a selected product into alignment with the delivery opening 36, it being understood that the push buttons 26 operate switches which, in turn, actuate the reversible conveyor drive motor through appropriate control circuitry. The selected product is removed by lowering the corresponding door 38 to its open position (see the broken line illustration in FIG. 2b) and reaching through the delivery opening 36 into the product compartment. As is conventional in vending machines of this general type, electromechanical means (not shown) permits operation of onlyv a single door to obtain a product of an equivalent or lesser price than the established credit.
As the conveyor 48 advances, the carriers at the top and the bottom of the conveyor 48 reach the upper and lower limits of the path of travel thereof and must move around the top and bottom of the conveyor. Movement around the bottom of the conveyor 48 is illustrated in FIGS. 710 where it may be seen that the carrier 80 there illustrated is maintained in a horizontal attitude without substantial tilting at all times while undergoing the change in its direction of movement. In the this respect, note that the pivotal axis defined by the pin 78 (and the corresponding pin 78a) extends centrally through the carrier 80 and is thus adjacent its center of gravity. Therefore,
tilting of the carrier 80 could readily occur unless some means is provided to positively prevent any substantial rotation of the carrier 80 about the axis therethrough, while at the same time permitting the support arm 70 (and the corresponding support arm 70a) to swing through a l80 arc;
As the carrier 80 in FIGS. 7 I0 approaches the lower limit of its path of travel, the follower 76 (and the corresponding follower 76a) engages the guide surface 96 and begins to shift outwardly along the slot 74 (compare FIGS. 7 and 8). The carrier 80 thus is compelled to move vertically downwardly until it fully clears adjacent components of the conveyor 48 before commencing movement along a rectilinear, horizontal course (FIG. 9). Finally, the carrier 80 completes the turn (FIG. 10)
after being held in the horizontal course until clear of adjacent conveyor components.
Referring again to FIG. 8, it may be seen that the bottom of the carrier 80 is intercepted by the stabilizer member 102 as the carrier 80 approaches its lowerlimit. The upward bias on member 102 holds the latter in pressure engagement with the bottom of the carrier 80 to positively prevent substantial tilting thereof as the carrier traverses the horizontal course depicted in FIG. 9. It is to be understood that an analogous action is obtained at the top of the conveyor 48, both as to guiding of the carrier and stabilization thereof as just discussed.
With reference to FIGS. 5 and 6, it may be seen that the ledges 84 and 84a projecting from the end caps 86 and 86a support the carriers 80 as discussed above, and yet permit the carriers 80 in'the front of the machineto be easily removed when the door 22 is open. This facilitates cleaning of the carriers 80 and provides ready access to the interior of the conveyor structure.
1. In a dispensing machine: .j
a plurality of horizontally disposed carriers, each having a number of side-by-side product compartments;
means defining a generally horizontally extending product delivery station;
, a conveyor for moving said carriers along a closed path of travel extending in upward and downward directions and in succession past said delivery station;
means mounting said carriers on said conveyor and defining a generally horizontally extending pivotal axis for each carrier respectively for relative movement of the conveyor and the carriers as the latter sequentially change the direction of movement thereof upon advancement of the conveyor; i
structure engageable with the carriers for preventing substantial tilting thereof during said change in the direction of movement; v
said conveyor including a pair of movable, horizontally spaced, flexible, endless elements each having a pair of upright stretches corresponding to the upward and downward directions of said path of travel, and a plurality of pairs of support arms attached to respective elements and extending outwardly therefrom;
. said mounting means securing each of said carriers to a corresponding pair of said arms inspanning relationship thereto and for movement of each carrier along the arms inwardly and outwardly with respect to said elements transversely of its pivotal axis;
a pair of guides associated with each of said elements respectively and disposed adjacent upper and lower limits of said path of travel for guiding each carrier as it changes its direction of movement;
a pair of followers coupled with each of said carriers respectively and engaging corresponding guides at said upper or lower limits to cause the respective carrier to shift transversely of its pivotal axis and follow the guides during changing of its direction of movement;
said structure including a pair of shiftable stabilizer members disposed adjacent said upper and lower limits of said pathof travel respectively, and yieldable means biasing each of said members toward a position in intercepting relationship to a-moving carrier approaching the respective limit;
each of said members shifting away from an approaching carrier upon engagement thereby and against the action of said yieldable means to force the engaging carrier to maintain a substantially horizontal attitude as it changes its direction of movement and, at said lower limit,.to hold the followers of the engaging carrier against the lower guides.
2. In a machine as claimed in claim I each of said carriers being adapted to display the products in the compartments thereof;
said path having a segment extending in one of said directions adjacent said delivery station;
the carriers in said segment being arranged with corresponding compartments thereof in substantially vertical alignment.
3. In a machine as claimed in claim 2, said conveyor being reversible to move the carriers in said segment either upwardly or downwardly past said delivery station.
4. In a machine as claimed in claim l,'each of said pivotal axis being adjacent the center of gravity of the respective carrier,
5. In a machine as claimed in claim 1, said guides defining a substantially rectilinear, generally horizontal course for the carriers between the upward and downward directions of movement thereof.
6. In a machine as claimed in claim I,'there being antifriction means supporting said arms during advancement of said elements, including a track in closely spaced relationship to each of said elements respectively and coextensive therewith, and a slide component on each of said arms respectively in engagement with said track.
7. In a machine as claimed in claim 1, each of said carriers presenting a pair of opposed ends proximal to respective elemerits, said mounting means including a pair of end supports for each of said carriers respectively carried by the corresponding pair of said arms and receiving the respective carrier thereon, whereby to permit the carriers to be readily removed from the conveyor for access and to permit cleaning of the carriers.
8. In a dispensing machine:
a plurality of horizontally disposed display carriers, each having a series of side-by-side product compartments;
a housing having a generally horizontally extending product delivery opening;
a conveyor in said housing supporting said carriers for movement along a closed path of travel extending upwardly and downwardly and in succession to a position where the compartments of a selected carrier are in register with said delivery opening;
a horizontal series of doors normally closing said opening and mutually supporting one another; and
each of said doors being individually shiftable to an open position to permit access to a corresponding compartment of the selected carrier.
conveyor readily visible.
11. In a machine as claimed in claim 9, each pair of said mating edges defining a tongue and groove connection therebetween.