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Publication numberUS3587674 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJun 28, 1971
Filing dateApr 30, 1969
Priority dateApr 30, 1969
Publication numberUS 3587674 A, US 3587674A, US-A-3587674, US3587674 A, US3587674A
InventorsGlenn C Adkin
Original AssigneeGlenn C Adkin
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Fruit-packaging apparatus
US 3587674 A
Images(3)
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent lnventor Glenn C. Adkin Van Buren (gounty, Mich. (R11) #4, Box 228, South Haven, Mieh., 49090) Appl. No. 820,395

Filed Apr. 30, 1969 Patented June 28, 1971 F RUlT-PACKAGING APPARATUS 80,153, 168, l86,237,242,131-134; 198/29, 30, 34, 65, (lnquired); 222/55, 56, (lnquired); 53/202, 282, (lnquired); 259/(Knockers & Vibrators), (lnquired); 177/(lnquired);

2 l 4/(1nquired) References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 4/1963 Smith 141/134 Primary Examiner Houston S. Bell, Jr. Attorney-Woodhams, Blanchard and Flynn ABSTRACT: A carton-filling apparatus, particularly for goods such as small fruits and vegetables, having a vibratory hopper for depositing the goods into empty cartons. The empty cartons are positioned on a conveyor in a plurality of rows and move directly under the hopper opening whereby the cartons are filled with the goods. The forward end of the carton conveyor has a vibrator attached thereto for compacting the goods within the cartons and shaking excess goods therefrom. The forward end of the conveyor is further provided with a vibrating grate thereon whereupon the filled cartons are further vibrated and separated into two laterally spaced rows. The spaced rows of cartons slide from the grate onto a second conveyor which moves at a speed faster than the carton conveyor, whereon the individual cartons in each row become spaced apart to facilitate covering or wrapping of the filled carton.

FRUIT-PACKAGING APPARATUS FIELD OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to a carton-filling apparatus and, in particular, to an apparatus capable of accommodating a plurality of rows of empty cartons and simultaneously filling said rows with goods, such as small fruits or vegetables, with the apparatus then vibrating the filled cartons to settle the goods therein and shake the excess goods therefrom, whereupon the adjacent rows of cartons are laterally spaced apart and the cartons in the individual rows are separated to facilitate wrapping or covering of the filled cartons.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION There has long existed a need for an apparatus capable of rapidly and efficiently filling large quantities of cartons with small fruits or vegetables, such as cherries, blueberries or cherry tomatoes. Such fruits and vegetables are perishable and thus must be picked, packaged and delivered to retail outlets within a relatively short period of time. At the present time. most such fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, are packaged into small cartons, such as pint and quart cartons, almost entirely manually, thereby requiring that a large number of workers be employed to permit the goods to be rapidly packaged to permit prompt delivery to the consuming public. The need to employ such a large number of workers for filling or packaging purposes is obviously inefiicient and expensive, thereby making the overall cost of the goods to the consuming public undesirably expensive.

Further, the growing of such fruits and vegetables is also seasonal and thus the demand for a large quantity of workers to permit the filling and packaging of the goods exists only for a relatively short period of time during each growing season. Thus, it is often difficult to obtain the large number of parttime workers necessary to handle the goods during the peak growing seasons.

While various machines have been designed for the purpose of at least partially automating the filling or packaging process, none of these prior known machines have, the to the best of my knowledge, operated in a satisfactory manner. Machines or devices designed for filling cartons with fruits or vegetables must handle the goods without damaging same, this factor being especially critical when the machine is being used on such delicate fruits as blueberries or cherries. Further, the machine must be capable of completely filling the cartons with the desired amount of goods while at the same time providing a crown on the filled carton to give same a desirable appearance. The machine must also be capable of compacting the goods within the cartons during the filling operation so that the goods will not settle during shipping and thereby leave a void in the carton whereby the carton would then not appear completely filled and thus not be saleable. Further, such a machine must be capable of performing all of the above functions substantially automatically so as to not require a great amount of manual operation or manipulation. The prior known machines, to the best of my knowledge, have been unable to function in this desirable manner.

Accordingly, it is an object of this invention:

1. To provide an apparatus for filling empty cartons with goods, such as small fruit and vegetables.

2. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, capable of successfully filling a plurality of empty cartons arranged in a row with the filled cartons being vibrated to eliminate voids within the filled cartons and shake off excess goods.

3. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, having movable conveyor means capable of accommodating a plurality of rows of cartons thereon positioned in side-by-side relation for permitting simultaneous filling of a plurality of cartons.

4. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, having a vibratory chute or hopper disposed directly above the conveyor means for depositing the goods into the empty cartons, the vibratory chute having guide structure associated therewith for directing the goods into the cartons and for creating a desired crown or cap above the uppermost edge of the cartons.

5. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, including control structure associated with the hopper for automatically stopping the supply of goods to the hopper when the quantity of goods in the hopper exceeds a predetermined maximum quantity, or for stopping the supply of cartons to the hopper when the quantity of goods in the hopper is less than a predetermined minimum quantity. 6. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, having confinement means for preventing loose or excess goods from being thrown from the apparatus.

7. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, having a vibratory grate mounted adjacent the discharge end of the carton conveyor means for further compacting the goods and shaking off the excess thereof.

8. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, wherein a further conveyor is positioned adjacent the discharge end of the grate with the further conveyor moving at a speed greater than the speed of the carton conveyor whereby the adjacent filled cartons become spaced-apart to facilitate wrapping or covering thereof. 9. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, wherein the vibratory grate further includes a tapered diverter for causing the adjacent rows of filled cartons to become laterally spaced apart to facilitate their further handling.

10. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, wherein overflow pans are positioned under the grate and extending between the ends of the conveyors for catching the loose goods.

II. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, which can be readily adjusted to accommodate cartons of different sizes, such as quarts or pints.

12. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, which is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and maintain, and which permits the rapid and efficient filling of a large number of cartons with a minimum amount of manual operation and supervision.

13. To provide an apparatus, as aforesaid, capable of filling cartons with delicate fruits or vegetables substantially automatically without damaging same.

Other objects and purposes of this invention will apparent to persons acquainted with apparatus of this general type upon reading the following specification and inspecting the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a carton-filling apparatus according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a broken top view of a filling apparatus illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a sectional elevational view taken substantially along the line III-III of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a sectional elevational view taken along the line IV-IV of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a sectional elevational view taken along the line V-V of FIG. 2.

FIG. 6 is a sectional elevational view taken along the line VI-VI of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a sectional elevational view taken along the line VII-VII of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is an enlarged side elevational view of the grate structure as taken along line VIII-VIII of FIG. 2.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged side elevational view similar to FIG. 8 and illustrating a modified grate structure.

Certain terminology will be used in the following description for convenience in reference only and will not be limiting. The words upwardly," downardly, rightwardly and leftwardly" will designate directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The words forwardly and rearwardly" will refer to the movement direction of the goods through the device, forwardly being the normal flow direction (leftwardly in FIGS. 1 and 2). The words inwardly and outwardly will refer to direction toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the device and designated parts thereof. Said terminology will include the words above specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof and words of similar import.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In general, the objects and purposes of the invention are met by providing a first conveyor means adapted to have a plurality of empty cartons positioned thereon. The conveyor means includes side, center and upper guide rails for permitting the cartons to be positioned on the conveyor belt in a plurality of adjacent rows with the cartons in each row being disposed in abutting contact with a pair of adjacent cartons, whereby the cartons are moved underneath a vibratory hopper containing goods therein, such as small fruits or vegetables. The vibratory hopper has runners which coact with the upper edges of'the cartons to maintain same properly positioned underneath the vibratory hopper while at the same time directing the goods into the central portions of the empty cartons for filling same. The hopper preferably has automatic control structure associated therewith for controlling either the supply of goods or the supply of empty cartons to the hopper in dependence on the quantity of goods contained within the hopper. The forward end of the conveyor having the filled cartons positioned thereon is vibrated to compact the goods within the cartons. The forward end of the first conveyor further has guide members extending along the length of the conveyor belt whereby the excess goods are conveyed to the end of the belt and deposited into an overflow receptacle. The filled cartons pass from the conveyor belt onto a grate structure, which grate structure is also vibrated to further compact the goods in the cartons and remove excess goods therefrom, the goods falling through the grate structure into an overflow device. The grate structure contains a tapered diverter which causes adjacent rows of cartons to become laterally spaced apart, whereupon the spaced rows of cartons are then deposited onto a second conveyor which runs at a greater speed so that adjacent cartons within each row become spaced apart to facilitate wrapping or covering of the filled cartons.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a filling apparatus particularly suitable for filling cartons with small fruits or vegetables, such as blueberries, cherries and cherry tomatoes. For purposes of convenience, the following description will make reference to the carton-filling device for use in conjunction with blueberries. However, it will be readily apparent that the operation of the carton-filling device 10 is identical when same is utilized on other fruits, vegetables or similar goods.

The carton-filling apparatus 10 includes a vibratory chute or hopper 11 containing berries therein, which berries are deposited into empty cartons 12 which are supported on a carton conveyor means 13 and pass under the hopper 11. A vibratory grate 16 is positioned adjacent the forward end of the carton conveyor means 13 whereupon the filled cartons pass from the conveyor means 13 onto the grate 16, the filled cartons then passing from the grate 16 onto a second conveyor means 17 which runs at a faster speed than the carton conveyor means 13.

Considering the carton conveyor means 13, satne comprises a stationary frame 18 having a plurality of legs 21 which are fixedly secured, as by bolts, to a floor or other suitable support surface. The legs 21 are interconnected by longitudinally extending side rails 22. The conveyor means further includes a boxlike housing 19 having top and bottom plates 26 and 27 fixedly interconnected by opposite sideplates 28 and 29. Rails 23 are fixedly secured to the opposite edges of the bottom plate 27 and extend longitudinally therealong, the rails 23 being slideably received within the stationary side rails 22 for permitting the conveyor housing 19 to be slideably positioned relative to the frame 18 at any desired position, the housing 19 being positionable in either the solid line or retracted dotted line positions of FIG. I.

The sideplates 28 and 29 support pulley shafts 31 and 32 adjacent opposite ends of the housing 19, which shafts have rotatable conveyor pulleys 33 and 34 mounted thereon. The pulleys 33 and 34 are conventional elongated cylindrical conveyor pulleys adapted to support a flat endless conveyor belt 36, which conveyor belt extends between the pulley 33 and 34 and has upper and lower reaches 36A and 36B slideably positioned adjacent the upper and lower surfaces of the top and bottom plates 26 and 27, respectively.

The conveyor belt 36 is driven by means of the pulley 33 located adjacent the forward end of the conveyor 13, which pulley is fixedly secured to the driving shaft 31. Shaft 31 has a portion which extends outwardly beyond the sideplate 28 and has a belt pulley 37 fixedly secured thereto, which pulley is rotatably driven from a suitable power source or prime mover 38, such as a conventional electric motor, by means of an interconnecting drive belt 39.

The drive shaft 31 has a further pulley 41 nonrotatably supported thereon, which pulley is drivingly connected to a driven pulley 42 by means of a driving belt 43. Pulley 42 is nonrotatably secured to a driven shaft 46 which is rotatably supported on the frame of the conveyor means 17. Shaft 46 has a conveyor belt pulley 47 fixedly secured thereto, which pulley 47 rotatably supports anddrives a conventional flat endless conveyor belt 48. Conveyor belt 48 is positioned substantially in alignment with conveyor belt 36, the upper surfaces of conveyor belts 36 and 48 being substantially coplanar to facilitate transfer of cartons from the conveyor 13 onto the conveyor 17. The conveyor belt 48 is moved at a linear velocity greater than the linear velocity of the conveyor belt 36, which difference in velocity is achieved in the illustrated embodiment by making the pulley 42 smaller in diameter than the pulley 41.

The carton conveyor 13 and the conveyor 17 are conventional conveyor devices which are structurally and operationally well known and thus further description of the structural and operational details thereofis not believed necessary.

The carton conveyor 13 is further provided adjacent the inlet end thereof (rightward end of FIGS. 1 and 2) with a center guide rail 49 positioned substantially centrally above the upper reach 36A of the conveyor belt 36. The center guide rail 49 is supported by a pair of substantially identical support devices 51A and 51B, each of which comprise a pair of vertical support members 53 fixedly secured to and extending upwardly from the sideplates 28 and 29 (FIG. 4) and having a horizontal support member 52 fixedly extending therebetween. The vertical support members 53 are secured to the sideplates 28 or 29 by means of bolts 56, which bolts extend through elongated slots 57 for permitting the vertical support members 53 to be vertically adjusted as desired, which in turn permits the vertical position of the center guide rail 49 to be adjusted. The center guide rail 49 is fixedly secured to the horizontal support member 52 by means of a bolt 58 which extends through an elongated slot 59 formed in the support member 52 for permitting the position of the center guide rail 49 to be laterally adjusted relative to the belt 36.

The center guide rail 49 is provided for permitting a plurality of empty cartons 12 to be positioned on the conveyor belt 36 with the cartons being positioned in at least two rows, designated as rows A and B, with the rows being separated from one another by the rail 49. The rail 49 comprises a platelike member of small thickness for permitting the rows A and B to be positioned substantially adjacent one another. The empty cartons can be manually positioned on the conveyor belt 36 by means of a worker standing adjacent the inlet end of the conveyor belt of adjacent the side of the conveyor belt, such as between the supports 51A and 518, with the worker depositing the empty cartons on the conveyor belt in two rows adjacent opposite sides of the center guide rail 49, the empty cartons in the individual rows being placed in abutting contact with one another substantially as illustrated in FIG. 1. Alternately, the empty cartons can be placed on the conveyor belt 36 by means of a conventional carton or containerdenesting unit.

To properly maintain the empty cartons 12 on the upper surface of the conveyor belt 36, each row of cartons 12 pass under a stationary holddown member 61, which member 61 is stationarily positioned above the upper surface of the belt by a distance substantially equal to the height of the empty cartons,

being held in position by being secured to a pair of spaced support devices 518 and 51C, which devices are substantially identical to the support device 51A described above. The holddown members 61 are secured to the horizontal support members 52 by means of bolts 64 which extends through the elongated slots formed in the support member 52 to permit lateral adjustment of the holddown member 61 as'desired. The leading end 62 of each holddown member 61 is flared or curved upwardly to facilitate the initial movement of the empty cartons 12 as they pass under the holddown member.

The carton conveyor 13 is also provided with a pair of spaced side guide rails 63 which extend from a point spaced upstream of the hopper 11 to a position substantially adjacent the discharge end of the conveyor belt 36. The leading or upstream end 67 of the side rails 63 are each flared'or-curved outwardly to facilitate-the initial entry of the rows of empty cartons therebetween, the remaining portions of the side rails 63 being substantially parallel to one another. In the illustrated embodiment, the side rails 63 are spaced apart by a distance substantially twice the width of the cartons since the device is illustrated as simultaneously filling two rows of cartons. The side guide rails 63 are also spaced upwardly from the upper surface of the conveyor belt 36 so as to contact and extend above the upper edge of the cartons and guide same as they move linearly along the conveyor structure. The side rails 63 are fixedly secured to the spaced support devices 51C and 51D by means of bolts 66, which bolts extend through slots (not-shown) for permitting the position of the side rails 63 to be laterally adjusted as desired. The leading curved ends 67 of the side rails 63 are positioned in overlapping relationship with the trailing end of the center guide plate 49 substantially as illustrated in FIG. 1, the trailing end of the center guide plate 49 terminating upstream of the hopper 11.

The discharge or downstream end of the carton conveyor 13 (leftward end in FIG. 1) preferably extends outwardly from the nearest support leg 21 in a cantilever manner and has a vibrator 71 fixedly secured thereto, as by being mounted on the bottom plate 27. Vibrator 71 causes a vibration of the extending end of the conveyor, which vibration is preferably ofa high frequency and low-amplitude oscillation. The vibrator 71 may comprise any con entional vibrator structure, such as a high speed electric motor having a rotating eccentric weight thereon. The purpose of the vibrator 71 will be explained hereinafter.

The carton conveyor 13 is further provided with overflow rails 68 fixedly secured to the conveyor housing, such as by being fixedly secured to the sideplates 28 and 29. The overflow rails 68 are positioned adjacent the opposite edges of the upper reach of the conveyor belt 36 and extend upwardly therefrom as illustrated in FIG. 3. The rails 68 extend longitudinally along the conveyor belt from a position adjacent or slightly upstream of the hopper 11 to a position adjacent the discharge end of the conveyor belt 36. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the overflow rails 68 extend between the support device 51C and the extreme leftward or discharge end of the conveyor belt 36.

Considering now the hopper 11, same comprises converging sidewalls 76 and 77 interconnected by a downwardly inclined bottom wall 78, which walls are connected to a rectangular portion 79, which portion has a downward discharge opening 81 therein. The sidewalls 76 and 77 are each provided with an arm 82 fixedly secured thereto, which arms are pivotally interconnected, as by bolts 83, to'the upper ends of stationary upright supports 86. The upright supports 86 are fixedly secured in any suitable manner, as by being fixedly secured to the frame of the carton conveyor 13. Alternately, arms 82 can be pivotally mounted on the frame of the supply conveyor means 18 ifdesired.

The hopper 11 is supported in a desired position above the upper conveyor reach 36A by means ofa weight sensitive support device 87. The hopper 11 is provided with a bracket 88 adjacent the upper edge ofthe front wall 89, which bracket 88 is connected to one end ofa spring 91, which spring is in turn connected to the lower end ofa chain 92, the upper end ofthe chain being fixedly secured to a suitable stationary support device (not shown). The spring 91 thus permits limited pivotal movement of the hopper 11 about the bolt 83 in dependence on the weight of berries contained within the hopper 11. Alternately, the weight-sensitive support device 87 could be replaced by a telescoping device interconnected between the hopper and the frame of the carton conveyor 13, which telescoping device would contain a compression spring therein for permitting limited pivotal movementof the hopper 11 in response to the weight of berries contained therein.

Hopper 11 is provided with spaced side runners 96 and 97 and a center runner 98, all of which are provided with a curved leading edge 99. The side runners 96 and 97 are each mounted on a sidewall flap 101 which is interconnected by means of ahinge 102 to the sidewall 103 of the rectangular portion 79 of the hopper 11. The flaps 101 are each provided with a flange 106 fixedly secured thereto, which flanges I06 overlie the rear wall 107 of the hopper and are provided with arcuate slots 108 therein. The rear wall 107 of the hopper is provided with threaded fasteners (not shown) fixedly secured thereto, which fasteners extend through the slots 108 and are provided with wing nuts 109 thereon. The side runners 96 and 97 are adapted to be positioned substantially directly over the outer upper edge of the rows of cartons substantially as illustrated in FIG. 3. The side runners 96 and 97 thus maintain the cartons against the upper surface of the conveyor belt and also cause the berries to flow directly into the cartons rather than flowing outwardly over the side edges thereof. The side runners 96 and 97 also prevent excess berries from accumulating adjacent the side edges of the cartons. When the apparatus is to be utilized with cartons of a different size, such as the cartons 12C as illustrated by dotted lines in FIG. 7, then the wing nuts 109 are loosened whereupon the side flaps 101 are pivotally swung outwardly to the position illustrated by dotted lines, whereupon wing nuts 109 are again retightened so as to permit the side runners 96 and 97 to be substantially positioned over the edge of the larger cartons 12C.

The center runner 98 is fixedly secured to the front and rear hopper walls 89 and 107 and is positioned substantially directly above the innermost adjacent side edges of the two rows of cartons, which innermost side edges are in substantial abutting contact as illustrated in FIG. 7. The center runner 98 extends across the discharge opening 81 whereupon the berries being discharged through the opening 81 are divided into separate and distinct streams with the berries in one stream being deposited into the empty cartons located in row A and the berries in the other stream being deposited into the empty cartons of row B. The center runner 98 thus prevents berries from being deposited above the cartons at the interface between the two adjacent rows and also prevents excess berries from accumulating adjacent the innermost side edges.

The front wall 89 of the hopper is further provided with an adjustable front flap 111 adjacent the lower edge thereof, which front flat 111 is provided with a pair of elongated slots 113 extending therethrough for permitting the front flap 111 to be vertically adjustably positioned relative to the front wall 89 by means of wing nuts 112 received on threaded fasteners (not shown) secured to the front wall 89 and extending through the slots 113. The front flap 111 is provided with a lower edge 116 which can be adjustably positioned a selected distance above the uppermost edge of the cartons, The spacing of the lower edge 116 above the upper edge of the cartons thus controls the height ofa crown C formed on the filled cartons, which crown constitutes a quantity of berries which extends above the uppermost edge of the carton. The lower edge 116 of the front flap 111 thus functions to permit a selected crown of berries to remain on the filled cartons while at the same time the front flap 116 causes excess'berries to remain within the hopper so as to be deposited into a following car-.

ton. If desired, the lower edge 116 of the front flap 111 can be provided with a resilient lip 119 of foam material thereon, which resilient lip effectively causes excess berries to remain in the hopper while at the same time not damaging the delicate fruit.

The hopper 11 is filled with berries by any conventional means, one preferred form being the use of the conveyor means 18, which conveyor has a belt for conveying the berries from an external source or location to the hopper. Alternately, the berries can be deposited into the hopper by means of a conventional feed pipe or, if desired, the berries could be manually deposited into the hopper from large lugs or cartons. However, use of the conveyor 18 is desireable since it permits the berries to be sorted prior to there being deposited into the hopper 11. The hopper 11 is also preferably provided with a foam rubber liner 118 fixedly secured to the inner surface of the front wall 89, which liner further minimizes any potential damage or bruising of the delicate fruit.

To facilitate the flow of berries through the hopper and prevent any clogging or stoppage of same, the hopper 11 is provided with a vibrator 117 mounted thereon, preferably on the bottom wall 78. Vibrator 117 is of conventional construction, such as an electric motor having a rotating eccentric weight, and preferably imposes on the hopper a high frequency vibration oflow amplitude.

The sidewall 103 of the hopper 11 has a switch actuator 121 fixedly secured thereto, which switch actuator 12] comprises a platelike member extending transversely outwardly so as to be positioned between the actuating plungers 122 and 123 ofa pair of limit switches 126 and 127, respectively. The limit switches 126 and 127 are each fixedly mounted on a plate 128, which plate 128 is secured to the bracket arm 129, which in turn is fixedly secured to the frame of the carton conveyor 13, such as to the support device 51C. The lower limit switch 127 is a normally closed switch connected in series with the driving motor 129 for the belt of the berry conveyor 18. The upper limit switch 126 is also a normally closed switch and is connected in series with the driving motor 38 for the carton conveyor 13. The operation of these switches will be explained hereinafter.

Considering now the vibrator grate 16, same comprises a pair of spaced support plates 131, each of which are provided with a pair of mounting pins 132 and 133 thereon substantially as illustrated in FIG. 8. The mounting pins are adapted to be received within channel-shaped brackets 136 and 137, respectively, which mounting brackets are fixedly secured to the conveyor housing sideplates 28 and 29 adjacent the discharge end of the carton conveyor 13. The channel-shaped bracket 136 opens upwardly whereas the channel-shaped bracket 137 opens sidewardly for permitting the grate 16 to be fixedly but detachably mounted on the carton conveyor 13. For example, the cantilever grate 16 can be readily removed from the end of the conveyor 13 by pivotally swinging the support plates 13] upwardly (clockwise in FIG. 8) so as to cause the pin 132 to be removed from the bracket 136, whereupon the grate will then be moved forwardly (leftwardly in FIG. 8) to cause the pin 133 to be removed from the bracket 137. Mounting of the grate on the conveyor occurs in the reverse manner as described above.

The substantially parallel support plates 131 are fixedly interconnected by a pair of transverse support bars 138, which support bars have fixedly secured thereto a plurality of guide rails 141 and 142. The guide rails 141 and 142 extend between the discharge end of the carton conveyor 13 and the inlet end of the further conveyor 17. The rails 141 and 142 are preferably tubular to result in minimum sliding friction and diverge relative to one another (see FIG. 2) in the normal direction of carton movement. The upper surfaces of the rails 141 and 142 define a support plane for the cartons which is substantially coplanar with the upper surfaces of the conveyor belts 36 and 48 for permitting the cartons to be smoothly transferred from the conveyor belt 36 to the conveyor belt 48. A tapered diverter 143 is positioned between the rails 141 and 142 and extends upwardly above the upper surface thereof. The diverter is formed by a pair of extending leg portions 143A and 1438 which are interconnected at the leading edge of the diverter so as to come to a point 144, which point substantially enters into the space which exists between the two rows of cartons, whereupon the two rows of cartons are caused to move laterally apart as they slide across the vibratory grate 16. If desired, the diverter legs 143A and 1438 may be adjustable by any conventional means to permit same to be moved toward or away from one another to increase or decrease the angle therebetween, thereby permitting adjustment in the laterally spacing between the two rows of cartons as they slide across the vibratory grate 16.

The grate 16 is also provided with a pair of spaced side guide bars 147, which guide bars are mounted on upwardly extending posts 146 secured to the side plates 131 by means of bolts 150. The bolts 150 extend through elongated slots (not shown) formed in the sideplates 131 for permitting the posts 146 with the guide bars 147 thereon to be laterally moved toward or away from one another to adjust the lateral spacing therebetween. Further, the guide bars 148 can be angularly adjusted or pivoted in a horizontal plane about the vertically extending axes of the bolts 150 to permit the lateral spacing between the downstream ends of the side guide bars 147 to be adjusted as desired. The downstream end of the side guide bars 147 are laterally spaced from the downstream end of the diverter 143 by a distance substantially equal to or slightly greater than the width of the cartons so that the leading outside edge of the cartons will contact the side bar 147 when the cartons are being transferred onto the conveyor belt 48. This contact between the side guide bar and the outer forward edge of the cartons causes the carton to be angularly moved so as to again cause the filled cartons to be in straight alignment with one another when they are deposited onto the conveyor belt 48, thereby facilitating additional operations such as packaging or covering of the cartons, as by a covering device having a heat-sealing means for putting a cellophane wrapper over the top ofthe filled cartons.

The region between the adjacent ends of the conveyors l3 and 17 is further provided with a pair of channel-shaped pans 151 and 152, which channel-shaped pans are pivotally connected together by means of a pin 153, The other ends of the pans 151 and 152 are interconnected to the frames of the adjacent conveyors 13 and 17 by any suitable means. The channel-shaped pans 151 and 152 are wider than the conveyors and are also wider than the grate 16. The pans define a downward opening 156 adjacent their hinge'dly connected ends, which opening 156 is positioned directly above a collecting receptacle 157. The pans 151 and 152 serve to collect any excess berries which fall or are shaken off the filled cartons, which berries pass through the open grate 16 and fall into the pans 151 or 152, whereupon the berries are then deposited into the receptacle 157. If desired, an automatic recycling device can be provided so as to permit the excess berries deposited into the receptacle 151 to be automatically resupplied to the hopper 11.

OPERATION The operation of the device embodying the invention will be described in detail hereinbelow for a better understanding thereof.

When it is desired to operate the carton-filling apparatus 10, empty cartons 12 will be initially placed on the rearward end of the conveyor belt 36, the cartons being placed into two rows A and B adjacent opposite sides of the center guide rail 49. The cartons in each rowwill be positioned in abutting contact with one another so as to form a continuous row of empty cartons having no spaces therebetween. Energization of the conveyor 13, as by a manual control switch, will cause the empty cartons 12 to be moved forwardly toward the hopper 11, whereupon the cartons will pass between the side guide rails 63 and under the holddown members 61, which members 61 and 63 maintain the cartons properly positioned so that they may freely pass underneath the discharge opening 81 of the hopper 11.

When a pair of empty cartons 12 are positioned directly under the discharge opening 81, the hopper 11 will be supplied with berries, such as by energization of the berry conveyor 18 by means ofa manual control switch. When the conveyor 18 has supplied a sufficient quantity of berries to the hopper 11, the weight of the berries will cause the hopper to pivotally move downward a limited amount whereupon switch actuator 121 will move out of contact with limit switch 126, which limit switch will return to its normally closed position causing automatic energization of the motor 38, whereupon a continuous supply of empty cartons will move underneath the hopper 11 so as to be filled with berries as long as the weight of berries within the hopper exceeds a predetermined minimum valve. As the empty cartons move under the discharge opening 81, the runners 96, 97 and 98 are positioned directly over the edges of the cartons so that the berries will flow in individual streams into the individual rows of cartons whereupon each carton will be filled with berries. The runners 96 and 97 prevent berries from flowing over the sides of the cartons, while the center runner 98 prevents berries from accumulating over the inner upper edges of the cartons. As the cartons move out from beneath the hopper, the lower edge 116 (or the foam lip 119) will cause excess berries to remain in the hopper, the edge simultaneously permitting a predetermined crown C of berries to remain on the filled cartons.

-As the filled cartons move toward the discharge end of the carton conveyor 13,.the vibrator 71 causes the extending end of the conveyor 13 to be vibrated at a high frequency, which vibration causes a settling of the berries within the filled cartons to eliminate any voids therein.

The filled cartons, upon leaving the discharge end of the conveyor belt 36, are slideably pushed onto the grate 16, the cartons in row A being pushed onto the rails 141 while the cartons in row B are pushed onto the'rails 142, However, the leading edge 144 of the tapered diverter 143 enters into the space between the adjacent rows of cartons, which space is created due to the tapered configuration of the cartons,

whereupon the adjacent cartons in rows A and B are moved laterally outwardly from one another as they are slideably pushed across the grate structure 16. Since the grate 16 is fixedly secured in a cantilever manner on the end of the con veyor 13, the grate 16 is also vibrated by the vibrator 71, whereupon excess berries are removed from the filled cartons, which berries fall through the grate structure into the pans 151 and 152 so as to be deposited into the collecting receptacle 157.

The cartons positioned on the grate 16 are angularly rotated a small amount relative to the cartons positioned on the conveyor belt 36 due to the fact that the cartons on the grate 16 contact and are guided by the sidewalls of the diverter 143, which sidewalls extend at a small angle relative to the longitudinal direction of the conveyor belts 36 and 48. Accordingly, in order to reorient the cartons so that they will be aligned with the longitudinal direction of movement of the conveyor belt 48, the trailing edge of the diverter 143 is spaced from the side guide rails 147 by a distance substantially equal to or slightly greater than the width of the cartons, whereupon the outside forward edge of each carton contacts the side rail 147 as the filled carton is leaving the downstream end of the grate 16. The contact between the leading outside edge of the filled carton and the side rail 147 causes the carton to be again angularly rotated, this time in the reverse direction, so that the cartons when deposited on the conveyor belt 48 are again substantially aligned with the longitudinal direction of movement thereof. However, the adjacent rows of cartons are now laterally spaced from one another to facilitate the further handling thereof. Further, since the conveyor belt 48 runs at a speed which is greater than the conveyor belt 36, such as twice as fast, the filled cartons in each row become spaced from one another as they are deposited onto the conveyor belt 48, whereby the filled cartons can then be easily handled by other suitable apparatus capable of wrapping or applying a cellophane cover thereto.

If atany time during the above-described operation the quantity of berries within the hopper 11 exceeds a predetermined maximum weight, then the weight of berries will cause the hopper to pivot downwardly in opposition to the urging of spring 91 so that switch actuator 121 will contact plunger 123 and cause limit switch 127 to open, whereupon the drive motor 129 for the berry conveyor 18 will be deenergized and thus prevent the supply of any further berries to the hopper 11 until the weight of berries within the hopper again drops below the predetermined maximum, whereupon hopper 11 pivots upwardly and limit switch 127 recloses and thereby again energize the conveyor 18. Similarly, if the weight of berries in the hopper 11 falls below a predetermined minimum value,

' spring 91 will cause hopper 11 to pivot upwardly and cause limit switch 126 to open, whereupon conveyor motor 38 will be deenergized, thus preventing the further supply of empty canons to the hopper until the hopper is again properly filled with berries.

If during operation of the device the empty cartons supplied to the hopper are not positioned in abutting contact with one another, then a space is created between adjacent cartons within the row, which space permits berries to be deposited onto the upper surface of the conveyor belt 36. These berries will be closely confined and maintained on the upper surface of the conveyor belt 36 by means of the overlfow rails 68, whereupon the berries will move with the conveyor belt and fall off the end thereof through the opening formed in the grate 16, whereupon the berries will then be deposited into the receptacle 151.

In the event that it is desired to use the device with different-size cartons, such as quarts rather than pints, then the machine can be readily adjusted to accommodate such larger cartons by adjusting, if necessary, the positions of the runners 96 and 97, the center guide rail 49, the holddown members 61, the side guide rails 63 and side guide bars 147 so as to ac-- commodate the different-sized cartons. Further, if necessary, the spacing between the hopper discharge opening 81 and the upper surface of the conveyor belt 36 can be adjusted by pivotally raising or lowering the hopper by adjusting the effective length of the weight-sensitive supporting device 87, which device may contain a turnbuckle therein for permitting adjustment ofthe length thereof.

Further, while the device has been illustrated and described as utilizing two adjacent rows of cartons, it will be apparent that more than two rows of cartons could be simultaneously filled by providing a plurality of spaced center guide rails 49 and by providing a plurality of center guide runners 98 in correspondence with the desired number of rows. Alternately, the device can be readily adapted for filling only a single row of cartons merely be removing the center guide rail 49 and the center runner 98 and by adjusting the side guide rails 63 and side guide bars 147 as necessary to accommodate therebetween the single row of cartons. However, use of the present device with at least two adjacent rows of cartons is preferred since the production rate and efficiency of the filling apparatus is obviously greatly increased.

The present apparatus is also desirable in that it is adaptable for filling large lugs or containers if desired. For example, in the event that it is desirable to fill large lugs or containers, rather than small individual cartons, then the grate 16 is removed from the end of the conveyor 13. Further, the latch mechanism 159 which extends between the rails 22 and 23 is released to permit the conveyor 13 to be slideably moved rearwardly on the rails 22 to the retracted position as illustrated by dotted lines in FIG. 1. In this retracted position, the discharge opening 81 of the hopper 11 is spaced outwardly from the end of the conveyor belt 36, whereupon large lugs or containers can be supported on the floor directly underneath the discharge opening 81 so as to be filled from the hopper 11, the

hopper 11 being supplied with berries from an external source by means of the interconnecting berry conveyor 18.

MODIFICATION FIG. 9 illustrates therein a modified vibratory grate 16A which is substantially identical to the grate 16 as described above (and as illustrated in FIG. 8) except that the modified grate 16A utilizes a modified support rail structure. Specifically, each of the support rails 141 and 142 of the grate 16 (FIG. 8) is replaced by a pair of short stationary rail portions 161 and 162 having a driven conveyor belt 163 positioned therebetween. The endless conveyor belt 163 is of a narrow width so as to substantially correspond with the width of the rail portions 161 and 162 and is supported by a pair of rotatable pulleys 166 and 167. One of the pulleys 166 and 167 is drivingly interconnected in a conventional manner to either the carton conveyor, 13 or the further conveyor 17 so that the belt 163 will move at a velocity substantially equal to the linear velocity of the conveyor belt 48. Accordingly, in this modified grate structure, the filled cartons in each row will become spaced from one another as they pass onto the grate structure due to the fact that the conveyor belt 163 moves at a linear speed slightly greater than the linear speed of the conveyor belt 36. By causing the cartons in each row to become spaced from one another while on the grate structure I6A, any excess berries which are positioned directly over or adjacent the abutting edges of adjacent cartons fall off the cartons as the cartons become separated on the grate structure, which excess berries then freely fall downwardly through the grate structure into the pans I51 and 152 so as to be deposited into the collecting receptacle 157. Accordingly, by the time the filled cartons are deposited onto the conveyor belt 48, almost all excess berries will have been removed from the cartons and thus the problem of berries falling onto the conveyor belt 48 is substantially eliminated.

The modified grate 16A illustrated in FIG. 9 is desireable when the device is being operated at relatively high speeds so as to result in a large volume operation.

As the above operational. description indicates, the cartonfilling device of the present invention thus permits large number of cartons to be filled rapidly and efficiently with small goods, such as small fruits or vegetables, while at the same time the device insures that the cartons will be completely filled and have a desirable crown thereon to result in a pleasing and saleable appearance. Further, the device is able to fill the cartons without damaging the goods so that the goods upon reaching the consumer will be in a desirable and wholesale condition.

The device of the present invention is preferably provided with means, such as variable speed motors or adjustable pulley drives, for permitting the speed of all conveyors to be selectively and independently adjusted so as to result in the most desirably filling rate and operation.

Although a particular preferred embodiment of the invention has been disclosed above for illustrative purpose, it will be understood that obvious or equivalent variations thereof are fully contemplated.

The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed as defined as follows:

I claim:

1. An apparatus for filling cartons with goods, such as fruits or vegetables, comprising:

first conveyor means for receiving empty cartons thereon,

said conveyor means including frame means and an endless conveyor member movably mounted on said frame means, said conveyor member having a substantially horizontal upper reach adapted to have said empty cartons positioned thereon;

hopper means disposed above the upper reach of said con' veyor member intermediate the ends thereof, said hopper means being adapted to receive a quantity of goods therein and having a discharge opening adjacent the lower portion thereof for permitting goods to be discharged from said hopper means into said empty cartons, the discharge opening of said hopper means being spaced upwardly a substantial distance from the upper reach of said conveyor member, said distance being at least equal to the height of said empty cartons;

said hopper means further including tubular funnellike guide means surrounding said discharge opening and coacting with the upper edges of said empty cartons for causing said goods to be deposited into said cartons while maintaining excess goods within said hopper means;

stationary carton guide means associated with said conveyor means and positioned adjacent the upper reach of said conveyor member for positioning and guiding said cartons on said conveyor means as said conveyor member causes said cartons to move under said discharge opening ofsaid hopper means;

grate means disposed closely adjacent and in alignment with the discharge end of the upper reach of said conveyor member for receiving the filled cartons thereon, said grate means including means defining a substantially planar support surface with openings extending downwardly therefrom; and

vibration means interconnected to one of said grate means and said conveyor means for vibrating the filled cartons to settle the goods within the cartons and to remove the excess goods therefrom.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1, further including second conveyor means disposed adjacent the discharge end of said grate means, said second conveyor means including a movable conveyor member having an upper reach disposed in alignment with and adjacent to the support surface of said grate means whereby filled cartons are moved from said grate means onto the upper reach of said conveyor member, said first and second conveyor means including drive means for moving the conveyor member of said second conveyor means at a linear velocity greater than the linear velocity of the conveyor member of said first conveyor means.

3. An-apparatus according to claim 2, wherein the support surface of said grate means and the upper reaches of the conveyor members of said first and second conveyor means are substantially coplanar.

4, An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said carton guide means includes a center guide member disposed above the upper reach of saidconveyor member and positioned on the inlet side of said hopper means for permitting at least two rows of empty cartons to be disposed on the upper reach of said conveyor member in adjacent side-by-side relation; and

said grate means including diverter'means secured thereto and extending upwardly from the support surface thereof, said diverter means extending longitudinally of said grate means and diverging in the direction of carton movement for causing the two rows of cartons to become laterally spaced apart as they move over the grate means.

5. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein said grate means is fixedly secured to the frame means of said first conveyor means in a cantilever manner, said vibration means causing vibration of said grate means and the discharge end of said conveyor means for settling the goods within the filled cartons and for removing the excess goods therefrom; and

overflow means for collecting the excess goods which fall from the filled cartons, said overflow means including members disposed below said grate means and adjacent the discharge end of said conveyor means for catching the excess goods.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1. further including a vibratory device connected to said hopper means for causing vibration thereof to insure free flow of goods therethrough.

7. An apparatus according to claim 6, wherein said hopper means includes lip means disposed adjacent the forward edge of the discharge opening with said lip means being disposed a selected distance above the upper edge of said empty cartons for permitting the goods within the filled cartons to extend a predetermined height above the upper edge of the cartons, said front lip causing any excess goods to remain within the hopper means.

8. An apparatus according to claim 6, wherein said hopper means includes sidewalls having lower portions adjustably movable in a lateral direction for permitting said sidewalls to accommodate cartons of different widths, the lower edges of said portions being provided with runners thereon adapted to be disposed directly above the upper edges of the cartons for guiding the goods into the cartons and preventing the goods from flowing over the sidewalls of said cartons.

9. An apparatus according to claim 1, further including a second conveyor means for supplying said goods to said hopper means, said second conveyor means having a portion disposed at an elevation above said first conveyor means and having a movable conveyor member adapted to have goods positioned on the upper reach thereof with thedischarge end of said upper reach being positioned adjacent said hopper means for depositing said goods therein.

10. An apparatus according to claim 9, further including first motor means for driving the conveyor member of said first conveyor means and second motor means for driving the conveyor member ofsaid second conveyor means; and

control means automatically controlling the energization of said first and second motor means in relationship to the amount of goods contained within said hopper means.

11. An apparatus according to claim 10, further including means mounting said hopper means for limited pivotable movement in a vertical plane;

spring means coacting with said hopper means for permitting limited pivotable movement of said h'opper means in correspondence to the weight of the goods contained within said hopper means; said control means including first and second normally closed switch means interconnected with said first and second motor means, respectively, for controlling the energization thereof;

said control means further including switch actuator means adapted to coact with said first and second switch means for controlling the actuation thereof, one of said first and second switch means and said switch actuator means being interconnected to said hopper means for movement therewith, the other of said first and second switch means and said switch actuator means being stationarily positioned adjacent said hopper means;

said spring means permitting said hopper means to pivotally move downwardly whereby said switch actuator means contacts said second switch means when the weight of goods in said hopper means exceeds a predetermined maximum so as to cause opening of said second switch means and the deenergization of said second motor means, thereby preventing the supply of goods to said hopper means; and

said spring means causing said hopper means to pivotally move upwardly whereby said switch actuator means contacts said first switch means when the weight of goods in said hopper falls below a predetermined minimum so as to cause opening of said first switch means and the deenergization of said first motor means, thereby preventing the supply of empty cartons to said hopper means.

12. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said carton guide means include a pair of spaced side guide rails disposed above and extending longitudinally of the upper reach of said conveyor member, said side guide rails being adapted to coact with the upper side edges of said cartons for guiding same, and said side guide rails extending longitudinally from a point located upstream of said hopper means to a point substantially adjacent the discharge end of the upper reach of said conveyor member;

said carton guide means further including a center guide rail disposed above the upper reach and spaced between said side guide rails, said center guide rail being positioned only on the upstream side of said hopper means;

said carton guide means also including a pair of elongated holddown members extending longitudinally along the upper reach of said conveyor member adjacent the inlet side of said hopper means, each of said holddown members being disposed between said center guide rail and one of said side guide rails and spaced upwardly from the upper surface of the upper reach of said conveyor member by a distance substantially equal to the height of the empty cartons for coacting with the upper edges of said empty cartons for maintaining same properly positioned on said conveyor member; and

said carton means further including means adjustably mounting said center and side guide rails and said holddown members on said frame means for permitting the positions thereof to be selectively varied.

13. An apparatus according to claim 1, further including overflow means disposed adjacent the discharge end of said conveyor means for collecting and catching excess goods which fall off the filled cartons, said overflow means including a collecting receptacle disposed adjacent the discharge end of said conveyor means beneath said grate means for catching any goods which fall through the openings of said grate means; and

confinement means coacting with the upper reach of said conveyor member adjacent the discharge end of said conveyor means for causing goods which fall onto the upper reach of said conveyor member to be transported to the discharge end of said conveyor member whereby the goods fall through the openings in said grate means into said collecting receptacle, said confinement means including a pair of elongated confinement members disposed adjacent opposite sides of the upper reach of said conveyor member and extending longitudinally therealong from a point adjacent the hopper means to a point adjacent the discharge end ofsaid conveyor means.

14. An apparatus according to claim 1, further including means disposed adjacent the discharge end of said conveyor means for causing the individual filled cartons within a row to become spaced apart relative to one another.

15. An apparatus according to claim 13, wherein said grate means includes a plurality of spaced elongated raillike members with the upper surfaces of said members defining said planar support surface, said members being spaced from one another to define openings therebetween, and said grate means further including an elongated diverter means fixedly and centrally secured thereto and extending upwardly from said support surface, said diverter means diverging in the normal direction of carton movement for causing two rows of cartons disposed adjacent one another to become laterally spaced apart as the two rows of cartons move across the grate means.

16. An apparatus according to claim 1, further including second conveyor means for supplying goods to said hopper means;

third conveyor means disposed adjacent the discharge end of said grate means for receiving the filled cartons thereon, said third conveyor means including a conveyor member having an upper reach on which is positionable the filled cartons with said conveyor member of said third conveyor means moving at a linear velocity at least slightly greater than the linear velocity of the conveyor member of said first conveyor means for causing the cartons in each row to become spaced apart;

said grate means including an elongated diverter member secured thereto and extending longitudinally thereof, said diverter member diverging in the direction of carton movement for causing adjacent rows of filled cartons to become laterally spaced apart as the cartons move across the grate means;

overflow means disposed beneath said grate means and extending between the adjacent ends of said first and third conveyor means for catching excess goods which fall from said filled cartons; and

a vibratory device interconnected to said hopper means for causing a vibration thereof to insure free flow of the goods through said hopper means.

17. An apparatus according to claim 16, further including control means for controlling the operation of said first and second conveyor means, said control means including first means operably interconnected to said first conveyor means for interrupting the operation of said first conveyor means and preventing the supply of empty cartons to said hopper means when the quantity of goods within said hopper means falls below a predetermined minimum value, and said control means further including second means operably interconnected with said second conveyor means for preventing operation thereof whenever the quantity of goods in said hopper means exceed a predetermined maximum value so as to prevent the supply of additional goods to said hopper means.

18. An apparatus according. to claim 1, further including control means operatively interconnected to said conveyor means for interrupting the movement of said conveyor member and preventing the supply of empty cartons to said hopper means whenever the quantity of goods within said hopper means falls below a predetermined minimum value.

19. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said grate means includes a plurality of endless driven conveyor belts disposed adjacent one another substantially in side-by-side relation.

20. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said grate means includes a plurality of spaced elongated raillike members disposed substantially in side-by-side relation with the upper surfaces of said raillike members defining said planar support surface, said elongated raillike members being spaced from one another to define said openings therebetween, and the upper surfaces of said raillike members being relatively smooth so as to result in minimum sliding friction for enabling the cartons to be freely slideably moved along said members.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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Classifications
U.S. Classification141/78, 198/575, 141/237, 198/606, 198/954, 198/533, 198/461.2, 141/134, 141/153
International ClassificationB65B61/28, B65B1/22
Cooperative ClassificationY10S198/954, B65B1/22, B65B61/28
European ClassificationB65B1/22, B65B61/28