US 3599789 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent  Inventor Walter J. Kurczak Chicago, Ill.
 Appl. No. 847,580
 Filed Aug. 5, 1969  Patented  Assignee Aug. 17, 1971 Mojonnier Bros. Co. Chicago, Ill.
 HIGH-SPEED CASE-SORTING APPARATUS  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,127,721 4/1964 Burton 209/74 UX 3,139,965 7/1964 Eggert...... 198/31 (A3) 3,419,128 12/1968 Leonard 198/31 (A3) 3,512,637 5/1970 Littlefield 209/111.7X
Primary ExaminerRichard A. Schacher Att0rney-Olson, Trexler, Wolters & Bushnell ABSTRACT: Apparatus for the automatic sorting of stacks of cases being transported by a conveyor system having a junction including two or more outlet branches. The stacks to be sorted are of two varieties, in that they contain either full or empty cases. The apparatus includes diverting means positioned proximate the juncture of the respective conveyor branches, and operable to direct cases entering the junction to a selected one of the outlet branches depending on the type of cases in the stack. Direction of the stacks to the outlet branches is achieved by a sensing arrangement which functions in conjunction with various control elements for the diverting means. The sensing arrangement produces a control signal dependent upon the nature of the stack entering the conveyor junction, which signal is operable through the various control elements to effect indexing of the diverting means to the position for directing the stacks to the proper conveyor outlet branch.
HIGH-SPEED CASE-SORTING APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF INVENTION The present invention relates to materials-handling apparatus. More particularly, said invention is directed to sorting apparatus for a conveyor system designed to handle stacks of both empty and filled milk cases.
Todays modern dairy-processing plants arecharacterized by the employment of efficient, mechanized material-handling systems which are designed specifically for the needs of a particular plant 'in order to achieve maximum use of the space available. In the day-to-day operation of a plant, it is necessary to handle milk cases of both .the filled and empty variety; however, due to the space limitations encountered, it is impossible, as well as economically undesirable, to provide separate and distinct conveyor systems for each type of case. Accordingly, plant designerscommonly employ systems using shunt or I junction arrangements of the T- and/or Y-type wherein stacks of cases of both varieties will be carried along a common inlet leg or branch of thesystem and, uponreaching a junction point, will be diverted or directed to one of a plurality of outlet branches. Thus, it is possible to handle stacks of cases of both types for a substantial distance on the same conveyor section. f
Prior .to the present invention the sorting or shunting of stacks of cases to one or the other of the outlet branches was a manual operation. That is to say, a dairy employeeis stationed at the shunt or point of branching, and it is his job to detect visually the condition of the cases and manually effect their diversion to the proper conveyor branch. However, in highvolume situations, this job is rather fatiguing and, like all manual sorting, gives rise to human error factors. In addition, the'volume of traffic handled is limited by the speed and dexterity of the operator, a'factor which decreases as the day wears on and the worker becomes more fatigued and bored with his. task. 1
SUMMARY-OF T'I-IE INVENTION means disposed proximate the point of intersection of said respective branches, said diverting-means being operable to direct or channel astack of cases from said inlet-branch to either outlet branch; and sensingmeans for ,providinginformation as to whether a-stack'of cases contains cases" of a full or empty nature, said sensingmearts being operably connected with the diverting means to properly position same once said detection is made, thereby to effect channeling of said cases to the desired conveyor branch.
DESCRIPTION OF TI-IEDRAWINGS FIG. I is a plan view showing the apparatus of the present invention positioned at a-junction point in a conveyor system for diverting stacks of cases to-a desired branch.
FIG. 2'is a side elevational view of the apparatusillustrated in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view of the apparatus illustrated in FIGS. l and. 2.
FIG. dis a schematic representation of thecase-sorting arrangement of the present invention in "conjunction with a hydraulic control system for operating said apparatus.
FIG. 5 is a schematic circuit diagram illustrating one form of sensing means or arrangement that may be employed to operate the control system of FIG.4.
FIG. 6 is a schematic representationof a modifiedform of sensing arrangement to be employed with the diverting means. FIG. 7 is a schematic circuit diagram illustrating how the sensing arrangement of FIG. 6 is employed to operate the control system.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS Referring now in detail to thedrawings, specifically to FIG. 1, high-speed case-sorting apparatus, indicated generally as 20, is shown positioned proximate. the junction point of a'conveyor 22. The conveyor 22 includes an inlet-branch 24 and a pair of outlet branches 26 and 28. Accordingly, during operation, stacks of cases 30 are transported along conveyor 22 in a direction indicated by arrow 32. Since the stacks 30 being conveyed contain cases of either the full or empty variety, at some point along the length of conveyor 22 it is necessary to separate or sort one from the other, and to divert the respective stacks to one or the other outlet branch. For purposes of description, it will be assumed that stacks containing empty cases will be diverted to branch 28, while the full cases are directed to the outlet branch 26. e I
To effect the aforementioned diversion of the stacks of cases to the proper outlet branch, automatic sorting apparatus 20, according to the present invention, is employed, said apparatus being positioned at a junction point in conveyor 22.
Sorting and diverting apparatus 22 includes generally the following; sensing means to determine whether a stack contains casesof .a fullor empty type; diverting means for effecting channeling of :a stack of cases to one or the other of the outlet branches 26 or 28; and .control means for operating the diverting means in response to said sensing means.
Considering first the diverting means, that arrangement is designated generally 40 and is best viewed with reference to F IGS. 1-,3, where itis positioned proximate a Y-type shunt or junction in the conveyor 22. Diverting means .40 is primarily comprised of deflector apparatus 41 and a guide arrangement 42, each to be described in detail hereinafter. Thedeflector apparatus 41 is operable to direct a stack of cases 30 toward one or the other of the outlet branches 26 or 28. The guide arrangement 42 is journaled for controlled movement between the respective outlet branches 26 and 28 for cooperative operation with the deflector apparatus 41 to assure that the stacks 30 are introduced or guided into the proper outlet branch. z I
Since the construction of the diverting apparatus 41 is substantially the same on both sides of the inlet branch 24 of the conveyor 22, 'for purposes ofdescription only the upper por' tion of said apparatus 41, assame-is viewed in FIG. 1, will be discussed. It is to be understood that the elements of said apparatus 41 on the opposite, or lower side of said conveyor are of substantially identical construction, these elements being designated'by the sufiix a.
Accordingly, the deflector apparatus 41 includes a frame arrangement -50, having portions thereof on opposite sides of the inlet branch 24. 'Journaled to the frame 50 for pivotal movement :is a deflector plate 52, which is adapted to be moved between the operating position illustrated in the upper portionoffFlG. 1 and-that corresponding to plate 52a, illustrated in the lower portion of said figure. in addition, the deflector plate 52 has anauxiliary armrmember 54 pivotally mounted andcarried-thereon. As can be seen in FIG. 3, the auxiliary arm 54 is of considerably less height than plate 52 and will engage only thelowermost case of a stack. Movement ofthe auxiliary arm 54 and deflector plate 52 between the illustrated positions is effected by a pair of operating cylinders "58 and 60, respectively.
'Itwill be appreciated that the operating cylinders 58 and 60, as well as others to be discussed hereinafter, may be operated hydraulically or pneumatically. For purposes of disclosure, a
hydraulic system will be described.
The hydraulic cylinder 58 associated with the deflector plate 52 is pivotally mounted to frame 50 at 62, and includes a movable rod element 64 affixed to said plate 52 by means of a bracket 66. Accordingly, upon the operation of cylinder 58 rod 64 will move outwardly of the cylinder to bias plate 52 to the operating position. [Upper portion of FIG. 1].
The hydraulic cylinder 60, which operates auxiliary arm 54 is of similar construction to cylinder 58. As can be seen in FIG. 1, the arm 54 is pivotally mounted to deflector plate 52 by means of an integral bracket portion 67 at a location designated 68. An operating rod 69 extends from cylinder 60 and is pivotally connected to bracket portion 67, such that upon reciprocation of said rod 69, arm 54 will be moved between the operating position [upper portion of FIG. 1] and the retracted position [lower portion of FIG. 1].
In addition to the deflector apparatus 41, the diverting means 40 also includes the guide arrangement 42. During operation, the deflector apparatus 41 will divert the stacks toward the outlet branches 26 or 28, however, it is the guide arrangement 42, along with the auxiliary arm member 54, which assures that said stacks are properly orientated upon entry into said outlet branches.
The construction of guide arrangement 42 is best viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2. Basically, said arrangement includes a pivotally mounted T-shaped frame 70. A roller member 72is carried by the forward end of said frame 70 by means of a pair of spaced parallel plates 74 and an axle 76. The frame 70 also has a guide rail 78 disposed on each side thereof.
As isbest viewed in FIG. 2, the frame 70 is mounted for controlled pivotal movement relative to a stationary bifurcated bracket member 80, by me'ansof a hinge-type connection, designated generally 82. Pivotal movement of the frame 70 is effected by means of a pair of hydraulic operating cylinder assemblies, 84 and 86, which are connected'to the cross portion of T-shaped frame 70 so as to work in opposition to each other. Accordingly, movement of the T-shaped frame 70 is between two positions; viz., as illustrated in FIG. 1, the roller 72 being disposed to one side of the centerline for the inlet branch 24, and in the other position, [not shown] the roller 72 being disposed on the opposite side of said centerline.
With the deflector apparatus 41 and the frame 70 of guide arrangement 42 positioned as illustrated in FIG. 1, it can be seen that the stacks 30 being conveyed will be shunted to outlet branch 28. Further, it is apparent that in order to divert a stack of cases to outlet branch 26, it is necessary to index or reverse the position of guide arrangement 42 and deflecting apparatus 41 of the diverting means 40. That is to say, frame 70 is pivoted so that roller 72 lies on the opposite side of the inlet conveyor centerline, and the deflector plate assembly 52 in the upper portion of FIG. 1 is retracted, while the lower assembly 52a is extended.
Movement of diverting means 40 between the two operating positions is effected by the control means of the overall system, which means are activated by a signal from the sensing means upon the determination of whether or not a stack 30 approaching the junction contains full or empty cases.
Turning then to the sensing means, same is shown somewhat schematically in FIG. 1 and designated generally 90 for descriptive purposes. Sensing means 90 is positioned just forward of the deflector apparatus 41, and at the juncture of inlet branch 24 with the respective outlet branches 26 and 28. The sensing means may take various formsand its positioning adjusted accordingly, however, in the preferred, illustrated embodiment a photoelectric eye arrangement is used. In this regard, light source 92 is positioned on one side of the conveyor 22 and a photoelectric cell 94 is mounted on the opposite side of said conveyor in alignment with said lightsource 92. The
photoelectric cell 92 is associated with the control means for operating the diverting means 40, in a manner to be detailed hereinafter in conjunction with FIGS. 4 and 5.
Briefly turning to a consideration of the general operation of the present device, as can be seen in FIG. Linitially the deflector plates 52 will be positioned so that stacks of cases 30 traveling along the conveyor 22 and entering the inlet branch 24 will be diverted to the outlet branch 28. For purposes of illustration, it is assumed that said branch 28 handles stacks of empty eases. Accordingly, when no 'siacks are being conveyed, or when empty cases are traveling along the conveyor, the light from source 92 will strike the photoelectric cell 94, said cell producing control to maintain the diverting means 40 in the illustrated position. However, when a stack of full cases startsto pass between light source 92 and photocell 94, it will break the light beam and actuate the photoelectric cell to produce a control signal which indexes the diverting means 40 to channel the stack of cases to outlet branch 26.
To assure against inadvertent operation of the sensing means by the wire frame of empty cases, the sensing means may include a pair of spaced light sources 92 and photoelectric cells 94. Accordingly, with such an arrangement, the output of said photocells would be connected to the control means by a two-pulse trigger such that only simultaneous disruption of the light beams will activate the control apparatus, simultaneous interruption occurring only when the cases are full.
Turning attention now to FIGS. 4 and 5, the control means for diverting apparatus 40 are illustrated in FIG. 4, while in FIG. 5 the operable relationships between sensing means and certain electromechanical actuating devices are shown.
Considering first, and quite briefly, FIG. 5, photocell 94 is operably interconnected with a pair of switches and 102, which are of a normally closed type and a normally open type, respectively. Upon the output of a signal from photocell 94, which in the illustrated arrangement of the'invention occurs when the light beam from source 92 is broken by a stack of full cases, the switches 100 and 102 will be operated, viz., switch 100 will open, while switch 102 is biased to a closed position.
Each of said switches 100 and 102 is in circuit with a pair of solenoids, designated A and A for switch 100, and B and B for switch 102. As will be detailed with regard to the discussion of FIG. 4, these solenoids operate a pair of valve arrangements which control the flow of actuating fluid to the hydraulic operating cylinder for the diverting means 40.
Before considering FIG. 4 and a detailed description of the operation of the entire system, attention is invited to the fact that the operation of diverting means is controlled by a plurality of hydraulically actuated operating cylinders, as discussed previously. Specifically, with regard to guide arrangement 42, opposed cylinders 84 and 86 are used. As to the deflecting apparatus 41, the upper deflector plate 52 and auxiliary arm 54 are controlled by operating cylinders 58 and 60 respectively, while the lower deflector plate 52a and auxiliary arm 54a are operated by cylinders 58a and 60a. Also, it should be noted that all of these operating cylinders are double acting, in that both extension and retraction of the respective operating rods requires the application of actuating fluid to one or the other of the cylinder chambers.
To control the distribution of actuating fluid, the control means arrangement of FIG. 4, utilizes a pair of dual-position valves 104 and 106, valve 104 determining the operation of the guide arrangement 42, while valve 106 performs the same function for the deflector apparatus 41. Each valve has four external ports, which are utilized as follows; one external port of each valve ispermanently connected to a sump, 108 and 110; another is connected to an actuating fluid inlet line, 112 and 114; and the'remaining two ports are associated with a pair of fluid lines leading to the apparatus to be operated, and are adapted to function as fluid supply and return ports depending on the position of the valve. In this regard, the valves 104 and 106 each includes an internal member that has a pair of passages formed therein, and is movable relative to the valve body and the external ports between two distinct positions. Thus, taking valve 104 for example, in the first, illustrated position, one of the external ports associated with the guide arrangement 42 is connected with the sump 110, while the other is connected to the actuating fluid supply line 114. Upon operation of the valve 104 to the second position, the connection to sump 110 and supply line 114 is reversed.
Movement of the internal members for the valves 104 and 106 is achieved by means of a pair of opposed solenoids; solenoids A and B, for valve 104 and A and B foqvalve 106. These solenoids correspond to those illustrated in and discussedwith regard to FIG. 4, and are selectively energized by the switches 100 and 102.
Considering now a detailed description of the apparatus of the present invention, and the interaction of the diverting means 140 in conjunction with the sensing means 90 and the control means, attention is invited to FIGS. 4 and 5.
Assuming that the light beam from source 92 is uninterrupted, switches 100 and 102 are disposed as illustrated in FIG. 4. For this condition, the solenoids A, and A are ener' gized, while solenoids B and B are maintained in a deenergized state due to the open nature of switch 102. With reference to FIG. 4 and the valves 104 and 106, it can be seen that when energized said solenoids A, and A will bias valves 104 and 106 to the illustrated dispositions, which in turn is effective to index the diverting means 40 to the illustrated positioning, for channeling stacks of cases to the outlet branch 28.
More specifically, with regard to the illustrated position, and the operation of the guide arrangement 42 and the deflector apparatus 41, actuating fluid is supplied from a source 120 to the inlet lines 112 and 114. From the inlet lines 112 and 114 fluid will be directed by valves 104 and 106 to the operating cylinders, as detailed immediately hereinafter.
With reference to valve 104, actuating fluid flows through the valve 104 into fluid line 122 and enters the right-hand chamber 86' of cylinder 86 and the left-hand chamber 84' of cylinder 84 to bias frame 70 to a position wherein the roller 72 is disposed slightly above the centerline of the inlet conveyor 24. Upon the introduction of fluid into chambers 84' and 86',
the movement of the respective pistons for the operating cylinders 84-and 36, causes fluid to be discharged or displaced from the opposed chambers, 84" and 86", which are connected to fluid line 124. In this instance, line 124 functions as a return line, with the actuating fluid passing through valve 104 into the sump 110.
Upon the reversing of the condition of switches 100 and 102, solenoid A, is deenergized while solenoid E, is energized to index valve 104 to the right, which reverses the disposition of lines 122 and 124 with respect to sump 110 and supply line 114. That is to say, in the second position [not illustrated] actuating fluid from line 114 is directed into line 124, and from there into chambers 84" and 86". The net result is a reversal of the operation discussed above so that the guide arrangement 42 is indexed to a position for directing stacks of cases to conveyor outlet branch 26. correspondingly, in this instance fluid is displaced from chambers 84 and 86' such that the fluid line 122 acts as a return line, being now connected with the sump 110.
Accordingly, from the preceding, it is believed clear that by the selective operation of the solenoids A, and T5,, the position of the guide arrangement 42 can be controlled for the guiding of stacks 30 to either outlet branch.
Turning then to the deflecting apparatus 41, the operation of valve 106 and the control of actuating fluid are substantially identical to that of valve 104 discussed hereinbefore. Briefly, valve 106 is operated by solenoids A and B which are selectively energized and deenergized via switchesltitl and 102. A pair of fluid lines 126 and 128 are coupled to the external ports of said valve 106. As can be seen in FIG. 4, the line 125 is operably connected to the cylinder chambers 58' and 60' for the deflector plate 52 and auxiliary arm 54, and the corresponding cylinder chambers 58a and 60a for the plate 52:: and arm 54a. Accordingly, in the illustrated position valve the supplies actuating fluid from source i213 to line 126, which is functioning as a supply line, and will actuate the respective operating cylinders to extend the deflector plate 52 and arm 54, while retracting plate 52a and arm 54a, so that stacks 351 will be deflected or channeled to the outlet branch 28. As was the case with the guide arrangement 42, the line 128, in the situation under discussion will function as a return line so that any fluid displaced from the cylinder chambers designated by a double prime notation will be expelled to the sump 108 via fluid line 128 and valve106. j
When valve 106 is indexed to the right by solenoid B line 128 is connected to the actuating fluid supply line 112, while line 126 is associated with sump 108. Accordingly, the actuating fluid will now enter the piston chambers 58", 60", 58a and 60a" via line 128 to extend the deflector plate 52a and arm 540, while retracting plate 52 and arm 54. As can be appreciated from this description, the deflector apparatus 41 is now in position to divert stacks 30 to the outlet branch 26.
Inviting attention again to FIG. 5, it can be seen that when a main operating switch 130 is closed, the guide arrangement 42 and deflector apparatus 41 will be indexed to the illustrated position, due to the normally closed disposition of switch 100 and the normally open condition of switch 102. Accordingly, as cases pass from inlet branch 24 to the juncture with branches 24 and 28 they are diverted toward branch 28. This disposition of the diverting means 40 is maintained by the sensing means and switches and 102 so long as the light beam source 92 falls upon the photocell 94, which occurs when either no stacks are being conveyed, or when the stacks being conveyed are empty, wherein said stacks enter branch 28.
When a stack 30 of full cases enters the juncture it is initially directed toward the outlet branch 28; however, when said full stack breaks the light beam, the photocell 94 will be actuated to reverse the conditions of switches 100 and 102 such that solenoids A and A are deenergized, while solenoids B and B. are energized. Recalling then the discussion of the operation of valves 104 and 106, the energization of solenoids B and B indexes both valves 104 and 106 to the second position, such that lines 124 and 128 now become fluid supply lines while lines 122 and 126 are connected to sumps 108 and 110 and function as return lines. The net result is that the operation of the various double-acting operating cylinders is reversed, with guide arrangement 42 and deflector apparatus 41 being indexed to engage and divert the stack of full cases to outlet branch 26. The diverting means 40 will remain in a position for directing cases to branch 26 so long as the succeeding cases are full and interruption of the light beam is continued; however, upon a reestablishment of the uninterrupted condition for the light beam, the sensing means and control means will index the diverting means 40 to the illustrated condition.
From the preceding it can be seen that in order to reorient a stack of cases before it progresses past roller 72 the operation or indexing of the diverting means 40 must be effected quite rapidly. Also, it can be appreciated that this rapid change in orientation of the cases tends to impart a twisting or turning moment to the stack which, if not checked, would hinder substantially smooth entry of the stack into the outlet branch. Accordingly, it is in this regard that the auxiliary arms 54 and 54a serve their primary purpose.
Considering for example the illustrated disposition, it should be noted that the auxiliary arm 54a is retracted from its operating position with respect to deflector plate 52a. The purpose for this is that during reorientation, movement of the auxiliary arm 54a to the operating position is delayed somewhat. Thus, the initial redirection of a stack 30 is effected by the deflector plate 52a, with the auxiliary arm 54a engaging said stack 30 only after a major portion of the reorientation movement has taken place. Taking into account the fact that case 30 is advanced along the conveyor during this period or reorientation, it is possible to time the operation of auxiliary arm 540 such that it engages the stack 30 somewhere between the leading edge and the midpoint thereof. The result of this delayed engagement is that any twisting moment created during initial reorientation is cancelled, and the stack 30 will enter the outlet branch 26 in proper alignment. The operation of auxiliary arm 54 is the same as that herein discussed forarm 540.
In order to effect this delayed extension of the auxiliary arms 54 and 540, each of the secondary fluid lines linking chambers 60" and 60a to their respective main fluid lines include a flow control member 132. Recalling the operation of the respective operating cylinders 60 and 60a, it will be noted that these secondary branches and the main fluid lines function as fluid return lines during extension of the deflecting ap paratus. Accordingly, during the extension operation, control members 132 are employed to restrict the flow of actuating fluid from chambers 60" and 60a so that movement of the auxiliary arms 54 and 54a to the operating position is delayed with respect to the deflector plates 52 and 52a. However, control members 132 are designed to restrict fluid flow in only one direction and only upon displacement of fluid from chambers 60 and 60a, so that upon retraction of the arms 54 and 54a, which requires that actuating fluid enter said chambers, no delay is encountered.
Considering now FIGS. 6 and 7, there is illustrated a modified form of sensing arrangement which may be employed to control the operation of the diverting means 40. Briefly, it will be recalled that the sensing means of the embodiment of FIGS. l will maintain the diverting means 40 in a position to divert the cases to the left, that is to say, to outlet branch 28; and that said means is only indexed to the deflect-right position, i.e. to outlet branch 26, upon breaking of the light beam of the photocell arrangement 90 by a stack 30 of full cases. However, once the full stack passes sensing means 90, the light beam is reestablished and the deflector apparatus 41 and guide arrangement 42 are indexed back to their normal, deflect-left position. Accordingly, where a series of full stacks are to be conveyed, a certain amount of unnecessary indexing of the diverting means 40 takes place. With the arrangement illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, a holding circuit means is employed in conjunction with an additional photocell, disposed rearwardly of the aforementioned photocell arrangement 90. In this instance, the additional photocell senses the nature of the next succeeding case and, depending thereon, will maintain the diverting means 40 in the deflect-right position, or permit said diverting means 40 to index back to the deflect-left position.
Considering first FIG. 6, there is illustrated schematically diverting means 40 employing the modified sensing arrangement; however, for purposes of disclosure only the deflector apparatus 41 is shown, it being understood that a guide arrangement 42 is employed which functions in the same manner as described hereinbefore. The elements functioning similar to those discussed with regard to FIGS. l--S are designated by the identical reference characters employed previously, even though they may differ somewhat in general construction.
More specifically, this embodiment includes frame member 51) that has the deflector arms 52 and 52a journaled thereto for pivotal movement. It should be noted that for purposes of clarity the operating cylinders 58 and 58a are not shown, as is the case with the deflector arms 54 and 54a and their respective operating cylinders. The photoelectric sensing arrangements of this embodiment include three photoelectric devices, designated 141, 142 and 143, which in turn establish the light beams 141', 142 and 143', respectively. As illustrated, the first two light sources, 141 and 142, are disposed slightly downstream of the forward end of the deflector plates 52 and 52a as was the case with the prior embodiment, while the third photoelectric device 143 is positioned upstream of said devices 141 and 142. The spacing or distance between the third photoelectric device 143 and the first two devices 141 and 142 depends upon the nature or size of the cases being conveyed, and may be adjusted.
As was discussed briefly hereinbefore, the photoelectric devices 141 and 142 sense whether a stack 30 contains cases of a full or empty variety, and will index the diverting means 40 accordingly. The purpose of the third sensing element, photoelectric device 143, is to sense the condition of a succeeding stack so that once the diverting means 40 has been indexed to the deflect-right position, i.e., to outlet branch 26, it will remain in, that position so long as stacks of full cases are being introduced to the conveyor juncture. To facilitate maintenance of the diverting means 40 in this position a limit switch 145 is utilized, which is operated by the deflector arm 52. The function of limit switch 145 will be detailed hereinafter with regard to the electrical diagram of FIG. 7.
For a better understanding of this operation, attention is invited now to the schematic circuit diagram of FIG. 7, which will be considered in conjunction with the general operation of the diverting means 40 illustrated in FIG. 6.
Briefly, this embodiment employs control means similar to that of FIG. 4 such that indexing is controlled by two pairs of solenoids, which are designated A-1 and A-2, and B-1 and 3-2, respectively. As indicated in FIG. 7, the solenoids A-1 and A-2 will index the diverting means 40 to a deflect-left position, i.e., to outlet branch 28, while the solenoids B-1 and 8-2 will index the diverting means 40 to a deflect-right position, i.e., to outlet branch 26. The elements of the sensing means circuit are illustrated in the condition realized upon closing of the main control switch to establish the light beams 141', 142 and 143'.
Accordingly, considering now the overall operation, upon the closing of the main switch 130, the photocell arrangement 141, 142 and 143 will be energized to establish the light beam 141, 142' and 143'. In addition, the ganged switches 100 and 102 assume the illustrated position which, due to the closing of switch 100, energizes the solenoids A-1 and A-2 to index the diverting means 40 to a deflect-left position, the solenoids B-l and B-2 remaining deenergized due to the normally open condition of switch 102.
The operation of switches 100 and 102 is controlled by a time delay relay designated 146 which is in circuit with two pair of normally closed contacts, designated C2 and CR-l, respectively. The contacts C-2 are associated with the photocell arrangement 142 and are normally closed upon the establishment of the light beam 142'. The contacts CR-l are associated with a control relay 148, the purpose of which will be discussed hereinafter, and are closed upon initial energization of the system.
Further, additional pairs of contacts C-1 and C-3 are pro vided, which are opened or closed by the photocell arrangements 141 and 143, respectively. As illustrated, these contacts assume a normally open condition upon the establishment of the light beams 141 and 143.
The above-described condition of the sensing means circuit and the diverting means 40 is maintained as long as the light beams 14], 142', 143' remain unbroken during conveyance of stacks of empty cases or during periods when no stacks are being conveyed. However, when stacks 30 of full cases are being conveyed, it is necessary to index the diverting means 40 to the deflect-right position. With reference to FIG. 7, the sequence of operation in this instance is substantially as follows:
As a stack 30 of full cases breaks the light beam 143', the contacts C-3 close; however, due to the fact that the limit switch 145 remains opened until engaged by arm 52, the control relay 148 is not energized. The full stack 30 continues, and subsequently interrupts the light beam 142, to open the contacts C-2 associated therewith, and deenergize the time delay relay 146, which in turn causes the switches 100 and 102 to be operated and assume an open and closed position, respectively. The opening of switch 100 deenergizes the solenoids A-1 and A-2, however, the solenoids B-1 and 8-2 will not be energized immediately, even though switch 102 is closed, due to the fact that the contacts C-l are still in the normally open condition; this being occasioned by the fact that the light beam 141' has not as yet been interrupted. As a stack proceeds into the conveyor juncture, it will break the light beam 141' which now closes contacts C-l, thus energizing the solenoids B-l and B-2 to index the diverting means 40 to the deflect-right position.
The holding circuit means for the deflect-right position of diverting means 40 is provided by the limit switch 145 and the control relay 148. In this regard, it will be noted that the control relay l48'has two pair of associated contacts CR-l and CR-2, which remain in the illustrated position-until said relay is energized. However, it should be noted that the control relay 148 is in series with the normally open contacts C-3 and the limit switch 145, thus it can be energized only when the light beam 143 is interrupted to close said contacts, and limit switch 145 is closed by deflector arm 52. With this fact in mind, the operation of the system'will be considered assuming that 'a series of stacks of full cases are being conveyed.
Accordingly, whenthesucceeding stack 30 is full, and the deflector arms 52 and'52a are in the deflect-right position, the limit switch 145 is closed and the light beam 143" is interrupted to close the contacts C-3. When this happens, control relay 148 is energized to open the contacts-CR-land close the contacts CR-Z. The opening of contacts CR-l disables the time delay relay 146 so that itcannotbe energized to index the switches 100 and 102 to their normal condition, irrespective of the condition of. contacts C-2. The contacts CRT-2 which are now closed are in parallel with closed, normally open switch 102 such that the'solenoids-B-l andB-Z can be energized' by way of either. the circuit line containing. contacts CR-Z or that of switch '1021Accordingly, after the succeeding stack 30-passes photocellarrangement: 142i and beam l42' is reestablished,'the closed contacts CR-Z provide a-holding action which maintains solenoids/B4 and 8-2 energized until the'light beams l41"and 142' are subsequently broken by said succeeding stack. Thus, so long as 'the limit switch 145' is closed and the stacks 30 being=conveyed include'cases of the full variety the diverting, meansdo'willremainin the deflectright position. i
Considering now-theoperation'once empty cases-are being conveyed or the conveyanceof fullzcases ceases, it can be seen that the light beam 143 will'bereestabli'shed and the contacts C-l and C-3 will open, while theconta'ctsrC-Z close. When the contacts C-3 open'control relay 148 is deenergized to close the coritactsCR-l and open-the contacts CR2. Accordingly,'with the' closingof the'contactsC-Z and CR-l the time delay relayl46= is again energizedto. index the switches 100 and 102 back to their normally openand normally closed conditions, respectively. This indexing of the switches Iand 102 will deener'gize the solenoidsB-l-andB IWhile'energiZ- ing the solenoidsA- l and A-2, thus positioning the diverting means 40 for deflectionvto the left. I i
From the foregoing, it can be seen that the: sensing arrange ments of FIGS. 6zand 7'prov-ide certain advantages over" that as discussed with regard to FIGS. Speciflca'lly it does'awaywith unnecessary indexing'of the diverting means 40 when. stacks of full cases are being conveyed, suchz-that. operational wear on the components of the assembly isminimized.
In view of the fact that the present invention is described herewith in conjunction with the preferred and illustrated embodiments, it is understood that those-skilled in the art could effect various changes and substitutions without departing from the spirit'and'scope of the invention-For example, various alternate forms or types of sensing"arrangements-may be employed in place of the type'illustrated;also-the construction of the control means,-i;e., the control valves,'-and operating cylinder, could be varied,while maintaining-the general mode of operation disclosed.
The invention lclaim'is asfollows:
1. Automatic case-sorting apparatusfor use with a c system of the type having a branched section whic an inlet branch and at least two outlet brancheg' paratus including: diverting means adapted to be drsp ed proximate the point'oi' intersectionof inletrand outle veyor branches and-positionable to channela stack 0 from'an inlet branch to a selected outlet "branchysensing means for providing information asto' whether astack ofcases I contains cases of a full or empty'nature, said sensing means being operably connected with said diverting means to effect proper positioning thereof. in order to direct said stack to the desired outlet branch; said diverting means including a pair of deflector panels positioned on opposite sides of said conveyor inlet branch, and pivotal guide means disposed intermediate said outlet branches, said deflector panels being selectively movable to engage and channel a stack of cases to the desired conveyor outlet'branch, said guide means r'i'cx'aperating with said deflector panels in said engagement and channeling of a stack of cases in blocking passage to the other outlet branch.
2. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein said guide means includes a piv'otally mounted frame of a generally triangular configuration, said frame having a roller at the apex portion thereof and dispbsed with said roller in position to engage stacks of cases as they pass from said'inlet branch to the desired outlet branch, and drive means operably connected to the base portion of said' triangular frame to effect proper positioning thereof, said drive means being operated selectively by said sensing means.
3. Case-sorting-apparatus as defined in claim 1, further including deflector arms'associated with each said deflector panel, said arms being of substantially less height than said panels whereby they increase the effective length of .said panels tofacilitate diversion of said stacks of cases.
4-.-Case-sor,ting apparatusas definedin claim 1, wherein said diverting means is positioned initially to direct stacks of cases 'to oneof said outlet branches, and said sensing means comprises a photoelectric eye arrangement, which, upon the detection of a stack of cases of a particular nature, produces a signal elTective to indexsaid divertingmeans to aposition for directing said stack to the other of saidoutlet branches.
5. Case-sorting apparatus as defined'in'claim 4, said sensing means comprising circuit means for producing said signal and including said, photoelectric eye arrangement, said circuit means also including means for dctectin g the natureof a succeeding stack and operable when the succeeding stackis of said-particular natureto maintain the diverting means in said position. I I
6. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim l, further including control. apparatus operable to effect the desiredpositioning of said diverting means, said control apparatus being .operatively coupled to and activated by said sensing means.
7. Case-sorting apparatus as defined inclaim 6, said sensing means including circuit means producinga control signal effective to operate said control apparatus. I
'8. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim 6,,wherein said circuit means includes: .means maintaining the diverting means in an initial position for direction of a stack to one said outlet branch; and means for monitoring the nature of the stack of cases entering said 'branchedsection and producing a control signal upon the detection of a stack of aparticular nature, which signal is effective to index said divertingmeans to asecond' position for directing saidstack to the other said outlet branch.
t 9. Case-sorting apparatus-as defined in claim 8, wherein-said .circuit means further include holding means to maintain said diverting means in said. second position when a succeeding stack is of said particular nature.
'10. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim 9, saidholding means comprisingz-additional monitoring .means for detectingthe'nature of said succeeding stack of cases, and switch 'meansoperated by said diverting meansuponindexing thereof to said'secondposition; and control relay means in circuit with said switch means and said additional monitoring means adaptedwhen energized to maintain said diverting means in said second position, whereby'said relay-means will beenerg'ized only when said switch means is closed and said succeeding stack is of said particular'nature.
ll. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim 6, wherein said sensing means include a'pair of alternately operable switch elements, each adapted upon the closing thereof to effect positioning of the deflecting means for directing a stack of cases. to one or the other of said outlet branches.
l2. Case-sorting apparatus as defined in claim 6, wherein said control apparatus includes a pair of alternately operable position said diverting means for channeling a stack of cases to oneor the other of said conveyor outlet branches, one said pair being a normally closed switch while the other is a normally opened switch, and said control apparatus with said switches in their normal condition positioning the diverting means for channeling a stack of cases to one of said conveyor outlet branches, and said sensing means upon detection of a stack of cases of a particular nature being effective to open said normally closed switch while closing said normally open switch, thereby to position said diverting means for channeling a stack of cases to said other outlet branch.
,13. In combination; a conveyor arrangement for transporting stacks of cases, said arrangement being of the type having a branch section which includes an inlet branch and at least two outlet branches; and automatic stack-sorting apparatus, said apparatus comprising case-diverting means disposed proximate the point of intersection of said respective conveyor branches, said diverting means being operable to channel a stack of cases from said inlet branch to either said outlet branch; and sensing means for detecting whether a stack contains cases of a full or an empty variety, said sensing means being operably connected with said diverting means to effect proper positioning of same for channeling said stack to the desired conveyor outlet branch; said diverting means including a pair of deflector panels positioned on opposite sides of said conveyor inlet branch, and pivotal guide means disposed intermediate said outlet branches, said deflector panels being selectively movable to engage and channel a stack of cases to the desired conveyor outlet branch, said guide means cooperating with said deflector panels in said engagement and channeling of a stack of cases in blocking passage to the other outlet branch.
14. The combination as defined in claim 13, further including control-apparatus which provide said association between the deflecting means and the sensing means, said control apparatus normally maintaining the deflecting means in a posi tion to channel a stack of cases to one of said outlet branches, and said control means being operable upon reception of a signal from said sensing means to position said deflecting means for channeling a stack of cases to the other of said outlet branches.
15. Automatic case-sorting apparatus for use with a conveyor system of the type having a branched section which includes an inlet branch and at least two outlet branches, said apparatus including: diverting means adapted to be disposed proximate the point of intersection of inlet and outlet conveyor branches and positionable to channel a stack of cases from an inlet branch to a selected outlet branch; sensing means for providing information as to whether a stack of cases contains cases of a full or empty nature, said sensing means being operably connected with said diverting means to effect proper positioning thereof in order to direct said stack to the desired outlet branch; said diverting means including a pair of deflector panels positioned on opposite sides of said conveyor inlet branch, said deflector panels being selectively movable to engage and channel a stack of cases to the desired conveyor outlet branch, and deflector arms associated with each said deflector panel, said arms being of substantially less height than said panels whereby they increase the effective length thereof to facilitate diversion of said stacks of cases.