US 3604436 A
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United States Patent  Inventor Julius Lipshaw 744 Central Ave., Detroit, Mich. 48210 [211 App]. No. 814,123
 Filed Apr. 7, 1969  Patented Sept. 14, 1971  AUTOMATIC TISSUE PROCESSOR 10 Claims, 7 Drawing Figs.
 U.S. Cl 134/76, 134/85  Int. Cl B08b 3/00  Field of Search 134/76, 85,
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,143,116 1/1939 Todd 134/76 2,804,840 9/1957 Dolan 2,853,084 9/1958 Lipshaw Primary ExaminerStanley N. Gilreath Assistant ExaminerWerner H. Schroeder Att0rneyBarnes, Kisselle, Raisch & Choate Control match ,SO 54 e2 .9. -P -9 J2 PM. t; 6 I; I I 10 i: :i U U 'tEz-i ,2 22 22 22 PATENTEDSEPMIB?! 3,604,436
sum 2 OF 3 Con rol Suui Ch h L \\\i w 1 1 I 26 JULIUS LlPsHAw M M M ATTORNEYS AUTOMATIC TISSUE PROCESSOR This invention relates to an automatic tissue processor and more particularly is directed to a system for successively processing tissue samples used in biopsy. In general, the tissue samples are subjected to a succession of treatments in different receptacles or closures, the samples being microsections used for biological study and the like. A basic disclosure of a processor of the general type is shown in US. Pat. No. 2,853,084, dated Sept. 23, 1958. The present invention has for its object the provision of a tissue-processing system which is especially adapted for use with a vacuum condition in the particular containers which are used for treating the particular samples. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to have the containers disposed for a relatively airtight condition and to provide means for creating vacuum in the container during the treating time for the particular container.
The present invention contemplates an apparatus wherein a particular tissue sample can be moved along a continuous processor and disposed in a particular container at which time the container is sealed and a vacuum is pulled on the atmosphere within the container. The purpose of this vacuum is, of course, to improve the impregnation of the sample and to decrease the time necessary for each particular exposure. Very often the time for completing the treatment of a specimen prior to microscopic inspection is critical due to the nature of certain diagnostic problems which may require sample treatment and inspection.
Briefly, the present invention contemplates a transport device for moving a sample from one station to another together with means for clamping a moving top over a particular container and coordinating with a vacuum system, all of which is operated by a composite mechanism.
Other objects and features of the invention relating to the principles of operation and the details of construction relative to the best mode contemplated for the performance of the invention will be found in the following description and claims.
Drawings accompany the disclosure and the various views thereof may be briefly described as:
FIG. 1, a side elevation of the apparatus showing the respective parts in one particular position. I
FIG. 2, a perspective view of a container used in the system.
FIG. 3, a plan view of a cover used for the container.
FIG. 4, an enlarged view partially in section illustrating the operating parts of the system with respect to one particular work station.
FIG. 5, a rear view of a motivating wheel for accomplishing the transfer motion and other functions of the system.
FIG. 6, a sectional view on line 6-6 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 7, a small sectional view on line 7--7 of FIG. 6. referring to the drawings:
In FIG. 1, it will be seen that the system consists of a basic frame member 10 having a base 12 and a top plate 14 (see FIG. 6). Side rails 16 and 18 are disposed along the sides of the top plate 14 (FIG. 6) to serve as a support for a transfer carrier. The space between the base 12 and the top plate 14 is divided into a plurality of openings, eleven in number, with suitable locator tracks or guides 20 positioned between each station. These guides serve as positioning elements for a plurality of drawer-type containers 22 shown in FIG. 2, each container being preferably a solid cast unit formed from a light metal such as, for example, aluminum. A handle 24 on the front wall of the container makes it convenient to move each container in and out of the various spaces provided therefor.
A plate 26, shown in FIG. 4, serves as a support for the guide strips 20 and the containers 22. It will be noted that each container 22 has a top opening and that around this opening is flat surface 32 at the sides, a similar surface 34 at the rear, and a similar surface 36 at the front so that this continuous flat surface lies in a single plane.
A cover unit shown in FIG. 3 is provided for the respective containers 22, this comprising a plate 40 having around its bottom edges a sealant material 42 such as rubber or a synthetic composition particularly designed to be chemically resistant to any fluids that may be used in the system. This material is preferably soft enough that the cover plate 40 may be pushed down on the top surfaces of the container to create an effective seal.
A moving transfer mechanism is positioned to be supported on the rails 16 and 18 so that it may move longitudinally of the array of containers. This carrier has a base plate 50 with downwardly projecting flanges 52 (see FIG. 6) which carry rollers 54 to support the carriage for sliding movement along the rails 16-18.
Also mounted in flange 52 and a secondary flange 56 is a shot pin 58 urged outwardly by a spring 60. This shot pin or locating pin has a forward end adapted to engage in openings 62 along the rail 16 so that when the carrier reaches a particular station, the shot pin can enter a locating hole 62 to position the unit at a repeatable location.
Upwardly projecting support plates 64 and 66 on the top of the plate 50 serve as supports for bearings 70 which support a rotating shaft 72 carrying a circular plate 74 at one end. On the shaft 72 is a gear wheel 76 keyed to the shaft so that it can have a driving relation thereto. At the right end of the shaft (as shown in FIG. 6) and on the rear side of the device is a lever arm 80 and a second arm 82 is mounted on a hub member 84 associated with the gear wheel 76. At the bottom of the arm 80 is a finger 85 which has a control function as will be later described.
A cam block 86 shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 is noted on the circular plate 74 and this cooperates with a cam follower 88 which controls the position of the shaft 58. Thus, as described in the previously identified US. Pat. No. 2,853,084, the system is set up so that the plate 50 will be translated along the rail 16-18 with a stop at each station during which a basket 90 shown in FIG. 4 is lowered into one of the drawer-type containers 22. After a predetermined dwell at a particular station, the baskets will be lifted up and moved to the next station. Suitable latching devices are provided for proper location at each station including the shaft 58 which serves as a shot pin relative to openings in the rail 16.
The finger 85, previously referred to, is connected to the lever arm 80 through a single directional pivot 92 arranged to secure the finger 85 as a rigid extension of lever 80 when a leading edge of the finger 85 contacts a stop 94, thus halting the progress of the moving assembly at a particular station and instituting the vertical basket motion. After a predetermined delay at this station, the arm is again rotated away from the bottom position to permit further motion. During the return trip, the joint 92 permits the finger to escape as it passes the various stops 94 when the trailing edge of the finger 85 contacts these stops.
As illustrated in FIG. 4 and as previously described, each basket 90 has a cover plate 40 with the extending flanges lined with the sealing material 42 so that when the basket lowers into the containers 22, the cover plate will overlie the edges of the container and seal with respect thereto. On the top of the plate 40 is the mechanism for lifting the plate in order that it may be elevated during the transition motion from one container to another, and also on the top of this plate is a mechanism for exerting pressure on the plate to seal it in position during the particular dwell time at a station. On each plate 40 are secured a pair of L-shaped flanges having the upstanding spaced portions extending vertically and transversely to the plate.
A small lift block 102 is positioned with a loose fit between the flanges of plate 100 and held in place by a screw 104 on each side, this screw having a loose fit in the holes of the flanges 100 to permit play. Two blocks 106 are mounted on the top of the plate 40 to limit the motion of the plate 102 so that the basket does not swing unrestrainedly as it is shifted from one station to another, but allows enough freedom of motion so that the gasket 42 will readily seal on the top surface of container 22. Mounted on one side of the upstanding plate 102 is a substantially rigid left strap 108 which has a limit plate 110 directly above plate 102 and passes through a guide 1 12 mounted on a U-shaped upstanding frame 1 14. On the top of the strap 108 is a strike plate 116 having an angled surface 118. The basket 90 supported by the plate 102 is detachably secured to the strap 108 by keyhole slots (not shown) so that it may be removed at any time.
A lift block 120 fastened to the right-hand side of the bottom end of the strap 108 is used for securing one end 122 of the elevating chain 124 which is actuated by the rotatable plate 74 where it is attached at 126. The chain rides over a sprocket 128 so that the basket 90 may be lifted up to the dotted position shown in FIG. 4 through a well opening 130 formed in the transfer mechanism. On the top of the U-shaped bracket 114 is a composite bracket 132 having one leg 134 angling upwardly and to the left carrying a solenoid 136 having a plunger 138. This solenoid is connected into an electrical circuit including wire 140 which actuates the solenoid as the cover plate 40 reaches the top of its particular drawer container 22. The solenoid extends the plunger 138 by the electromagnetic force in the coil and the plunger strikes the striker surface 118 on the plate 116. This exerts a downward driving component on the strap 108 which is transferred through the plate 102 to the top 40, thus pressing the plate securely against the flat edge of the container 22 and insuring a seal.
Bracket 132 also has an extension 142 to the right supporting a vacuum pump 144, this pump having a tube 146 extending through a gauge 148 (see FIG. 1) to a suitable opening in the plate 40. Thus, at the same time that the solenoid is actuated, the vacuum pump can be actuated to start pulling a vacuum on the atmosphere at the top of the container 22. This vacuum is maintained until the dwell cycle is completed after which the vacuum is cut off and the solenoid 136 is retracted so that the translation of the specimen basket 90 to the next station can start, this translation including a lifting of the basket by reason of rotation of plate 74 and a movement of the entire transfer mechanism to the next station.
What is claimed as new is as follows:
1. In a device for automatically processing articles at a succession of processing stations including a frame, a plurality of receptacles arranged adjacent each other on said frame and positioned at the processing stations, said receptacles being shaped to contain fluids for treating articles to be processed, a carrier on said frame, a holder on said carrier for articles to be processed, each receptacle having an opening for receiving said holder, said carrier being mounted for movement in a path to carry said holders to positions adjacent said stations and having means to lower said holder into said receptacles for a processing period and to raise said holders from said receptacles at the end of said period, that improvement which comprises:
a. a cover carried by said carrier adapted to be placed on each said receptacle at one stage of the processing having a continuous peripheral flange and dimensioned to overlie a receptacle, and
b. means for selectively exerting pressure on said top to create a sealing force between said cover and said receptacle.
2. A device as defined in claim 1 in which the said holder comprises a container for articles to be processed suspended from said cover within the periphery thereof in a manner to be positioned within a receptacle when said cover is positioned on a receptacle, said container having openings for the passage of treating fluid from said receptacle to the interior of said container.
3. In a device for automatically processing articles at a succession of processing stations including a frame, a plurality of receptacles arranged adjacent each other on said frame and positioned at the processing stations, said receptacles being adapted to contain fluids for treating articles to be processed, a carrier on said frame, a holder on said carrier for articles to be processed, each receptacle having an opening for receiving said holder, said carrier being movable in a path to carry said holders to positions adjacent said stations and being adapted to lower said holder into said receptacles for a processing period and to raise said holders from said receptacles at the end of said period, that improvement which comprises a construction wherein:
a. a cover is attached to said holder for articles to be processed with portions extending outwardly from said holder on each side thereof to form a continuous flange, said flange being shaped to register with the top of a receptacle, and
b. means for selectively exerting pressure on said top to create a sealing force between said cover and said receptacle.
4. A device as defined in claim 3 in which the receptacles are formed with a top edge having a relatively flat configuration and extending continuously in a single plane.
5. A device as defined in claim 3 in which a mounting surface is provided on said frame for supporting said receptacles, said mounting surface having locating means for spacing said receptacles at predetermined intervals along the path of said carrier, said receptacles having a top edge surrounding the opening to the receptacle provided with a continuous flat surface lying in a single plane.
6. A device as defined in claim 3 in which the lower surface of the flange on the cover of said receptacle is provided with a resilient surface to have a sealing engagement with the top surface of the edge of a receptacle.
7. A device as defined in claim 3 in which the means for exerting pressure on the top of the receptacle comprises a solenoid and armature combination, the armature being mounted for projection upon energization of the solenoid to exert pressure on the top of said receptacle.
8. A device as defined in claim 3 in which the means for exerting pressure on the top of the receptacle comprises a relatively rigid strap means extending vertically from the top of said receptacle, guide means on said carrier to serve as a stabilizing guide for said strap means, a strike plate on said strap means, and a solenoid mounted adjacent said strap means having a projectable armature adapted to strike and exert pressure on said strike plate upon energization of said solenoid to transmit a downward pressure on said top to create a sealing effect against the receptacle on which said top is located.
9. A device as defined in claim 3 in which a U-shaped frame is positioned on said carrier for supporting a lifting and lowering mechanism for said receptacle, a guide means at the top of said frame, a relatively rigid strap bar extending through said guide means to the top of a receptacle, and a solenoid armature combination positioned on said frame wherein said armature is mounted for movement to exert a downward pressure on said strap to transmit sealing pressure to a top of the receptacle.
10. A device as defined in claim 9 in which a vacuum system is provided comprising a vacuum pump mounted on said frame and a tube leading through the top of a receptacle from said pump to create a lower than atmospheric pressure in a receptacle when sealed by said top.