US 3604702 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Takeo Katagiri;
AUTOMATIC STACKER-FEEDER FOR A MAIL- HANDLING SYSTEM 4 Claims, 4 Drawing Figs.
US. Cl 271/5, 271/26, 271/68 Int. Cl B65h 3/12, B65h 29/16 Field of Search 271/87, 26, 68, 75, 76, 5, 6, 4, 7
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2/1961 Smith 271/87 X Primary Examiner-Joseph Wegbreit AttorneyMarn & Jangarathis ABSTRACT: Apparatus adapted for use in mail-handling systems is disclosed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention wherein pieces of mail are supplied by conveyor belt means to alignment means which aligns said pieces of mail to lie in a given plane, said aligned pieces of mail are delivered to rotating shaft means which stacks said aligned pieces of mail in successive order, said stacked pieces of mail are then individually removed from said rotating shaft means by feeder means and delivered to overlapping piece separation means which returns overlapping pieces of mail to said alignment means and transports stacked pieces of mail to further stages of the mail-handling system.
PATENTED SEP1 M971 SHEET 1 [IF 2 INVENTORS Takeo Koiogiri BY Kunio Hiromori ATTORNEYS PATENTED SEPI 41911 SHEET 2 OF 2 INVENTORS Tokeo Kcnogiri' Kunio Hiromori ATTORNEYS AUTOMATIC STACKER-FEEDER FOR A MAIL- HANDLING SYSTEM This invention relates to apparatus adapted for use in a postal mail-handling system, and more particularly, to ap paratus for interconnecting two processing stages in a postal mail-handling system.
A mail-handling system as commonly used in a post offices for processing mail such as envelopes, postcards, or other similar pieces of mail may comprise a mail-culling machine for separating and classifying the various pieces of mail according to size, thickness, stiffness, or other distinguishing features; an orienting canceller machine for aligning and orienting pieces of mail with postage stamps affixed thereto, and for cancelling said postage stamps; and an automatic sorting machine for sorting the pieces of mail in accordance with the forwarding addresses appearing thereon. These component parts of a mail-handling system require interconnection for continuous operation thereof. Heretofore, such interconnection has not attained a fully automated capability, and manual efforts are presently relied upon for delivering pieces of mail from one processing stage to the succeeding stage in the conventional mail-handling system.
Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide fully automated apparatus for interconnecting a plurality of processing stages adapted for use in mail-handling systems.
It is another object of this invention to provide apparatus for automatically stacking pieces of mail supplied thereto by one stage of a mail-handling system, and automatically delivering the stacked pieces of mail to a succeeding stage of a mail-handling system.
Various other objects and advantages of the invention will become clear from the following detailed description of an embodiment thereof, and the novel features will be particularly pointed out in connection with the appended claims.
In accordance with this invention, apparatus is provided for use in mail-handling system wherein pieces of mail are supplied to alignment means which aligns each individual piece of mail to lie in a given plane, transporter means acts to transport the aligned pieces of mail to stacking means which includes rotatable shaft means adapted to receive the transported pieces of mail and stack each individual piece in side-by-side relationship against support means associated with said stacking means, and feeder means removes each individually stacked piece of mail and delivers it to overlapping piece separation means which separates any overlapping pieces of mail that might appear.
The invention will be more clearly understood by reference to the following detailed description of an embodiment thereof in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top .view of the stacking and removal means of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a view of a rotatable shaft of the stacking means of the present invention; and
FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken along lines 4-4 of FIG. 2.
Referring now to the drawings, and in particular to FIG. 1, there is shown apparatus adapted for use in a mail-handling system comprising alignment means 30, stacking means comprising rotatable shaft means 9, stack-feeder means 14, and overlapping piece separation means 22. Alignment means 30 comprises conveyor belt 3 deployed around rollers 301-305 and operably positioned with respect to conveyor belt 3' which is deployed, around rollers 306-310; conveyor belt 4, deployed around rollers 401-409 and operably positioned with finned conveyor belt 5 deployed around rollers 501-503, and having fins 6a,'6b,...,angularly affixed thereto and forming pockets therewith; and conveyor belt 7 disposed beneath conveyor belts 4 and;5. Incoming pieces of mail are applied to alignment means 30 by a conveying path between conveyor belt 1 and I, and conveyor belts 2, 2'. The plane defined by each piece of mail between conveyor belts 1 and l is parallel to surface 40 of the apparatus as illustrated. Conveyor belts 2, 2 are twisted by thereby applying the pieces of mail to conveyor belts 3, 3 such that the plane defined by the pieces of mail is normal to the plane of surface 40. Conveyor belts 3, 3' cooperate with conveyor belt 4 to discharge the pieces of mail carried thereby into the pockets formed by fins 60, 6b,...spatially located on conveyor belt 5 and at acute angles therewith, and conveyor belt 5. Conveyor belt 5 delivers the now aligned pieces of mail to rotatable shaft means 9.
Rotatable shaft means 9 comprises rollers shafts 10a, 10b and 11, the axes of rotation of which are normal to the plane of the aligned pieces of mail. The axes of shafts 10a and 10b are parallel and in the same plane. The axis of shaft 11 is parallel to the last-mentioned axes and disposed at a higher elevation therefrom for a purpose subsequently explained. The end portions of the shaft 10a, 10b and 11 have spiral ridges threaded thereon as illustrated in FIG. 1. The spiral ridges of shafts 10a and 10b are threaded in the same sense, and the shafts rotate in the direction indicated by the arrow shown in FIG. 1. The spiral ridges of shaft 11 are threaded in the reverse sense and shaft 11 rotates in an opposite direction as shown by the arrow in FIG. 1 associated therewith. The spiral ridges threaded on to the end portions of shaft 10a, 10b and 11 are made gradually larger as shown in detail in FIG. 3. It is noted that the ridges illustrated in FIG. 3 are threaded onto shaft 11 in a right-hand sense, and, therefore the ridges threaded onto shafts 10a and 10b have a left-hand sense. This enables pieces of mail, such as 13, shown in FIG. 3, to advance from right to left in the rotatable shaft means 9 so that they are stacked in space 12 between the threaded portions of roller shafts 10a, 10b and 11, and stack-feed means 14.
Stack-feed means 14 is slidably mounted on rotatable shaft means 9 and comprises main air suction chamber 16, auxiliary air suction chamber 15, and perforated conveyor belt 17. Main air suction chamber 16 may be a well-known air evacuation chamber causing articles to cling to the faceplate thereof because of reduced air pressure therein. Auxiliary air suction chamber 15 is of similar design. The face of chamber 16 is provided with regularly spaced slots and the perforations of the perforated conveyor belt 17 are at spaced intervals and designed to pass over the faceplate of chamber 16. The faceplate of auxiliary chamber 15 is also provided with regularly spaced slots having a total area less than the area of the slots of chamber 16 so as to produce a suction force weaker than that produced by chamber 16. As the perforations of perforated conveyor belt 17 come into spatial coincidence with the regularly spaced slots of the faceplate of chamber 16, the pieces of mail stacked in space 12 are forced against belt 17 in succession because of the suction pressure created by chamber 16. Belt 17 carries each individual piece of mail forced thereagainst to conveyor belts 18, 18'. Auxiliary chamber 15 captures and temporarily holds the succeeding piece of mail to prevent overlapping of two or more pieces of mail on perforated conveyor belt 17. However, since the suction force produced by main chamber 16 is greater than that of auxiliary chamber 15, the piece of mail temporarily held by chamber 15 is forced against belt 17 after the preceding piece of mail has been removed to conveyor belts, 18, 18', and the perforations of perforated conveyor belt 17 again coincide with the spaced slots of the faceplate of chamber 16. As aforesaid, stack-feed means 14 is slidably mounted on rotatable shaft means 9 and is displaced in a left-hand or right-hand direction in accordance with the amount of mail pieces stacked in space 12 in a manner now described.
FIG. 2 shows in greater detail .the stacking means of the present invention comprised of rotatable shaft means 9 and stack-feed means 14. FIG. 2 additionally shows the cooperating portions of alignment means 30, i.e., finned conveyor belt 5, conveyor belt 7, and conveyor belt 4, and the cooperating portions of overlapping piece separation means 22, i.e., conveyor belts 18, 18'. Stack-feed means 14 is slidably mounted on rotatable shaft means 9 so that as the number of pieces of mail 13 being stacked in space 12 by roller shafts a, 10b, and 11 exceeds the number of pieces of mail being removed by perforated conveyor belt 17 per unit time, the largest ridges threaded onto the end portions of shaft 10a, 10b and 11 force the stack of pieces of mail to the left, thereby sliding stackfeed means 14 to the left. Stack-feed means 14 may slide to the left until it reaches end stop of rotating shaft means 9. End stop 20 is shown in greater detail as an L-shaped member in the sectional view thereof illustrated in FIG. 4. Shaft 11 is located in the position shown so as to act as a supporting member for the stack of pieces of mail. When stack-feed means 14 reaches end stop 20, the entire rotating shaft means 9, with stack-feed means 14 mounted thereon, moves as a whole in the left-hand direction against the spring action of coil spring 19 so as to accommodate an increase in the stack of pieces of mail 13. Rotating shaft means 9 may move to the left until end stop 20 reaches position 21. If the number of pieces of mail being removed by stack-feed means 14 exceeds the number of pieces of mail being stacked in space 12 by rotating shaft means 9, spring 19 forces rotating shaft means 9 to slide in the right-hand direction until end stop 20 reaches the position illustrated in FIG. 2. When this point is reached, stackfeed means 14 continues to slide to the right on rotating shaft means 9 because of the force exerted thereon by additional spring means, not shown, thereby compensating for the decrease in the stack of pieces of mail 13.
Returning now to FIG. 1, overlapping piece separation means 22 is operably positioned adjacent stack-feed means 14. Overlapping piece separation means 22 comprises conveyor belt 18, conveyor belt 18' deployed about rollers 181-183, main air suction chamber 24, perforated conveyor belt 27, auxiliary air suction chamber 25, perforated conveyor belt 26, conveyor belts 28, 28, conveyor belt 4, and conveyor belt 4' deployed about rollers 410-413. Main air suction chamber 24 may be of the type described with reference to main air suction chamber 16 of stack-feed means 14, and includes a curvilinear faceplate of convex design. Auxiliary air suction chamber 25, which may be similar to the aforedescribed auxiliary air suction chamber 15, is positioned at a predetennined angle to chamber 24, as shown in FIG. 1. The curvilinear faceplate of chamber 24 is provided with regularly spaced slots having a total area greater than the regularly spaced slots of the flat faceplate of chamber 25, thereby producing a suction force greater than that produced by chamber 25. It is also seen from FIG. 1 that main chamber 24 is disposed such that it exerts a force on pieces of mail transported by conveyor belts 18, 18' prior to any effect on the pieces of mail by auxiliary chamber 25. Thus, if two partially or wholly overlapped pieces of mail are guided into the vicinity of the two air suction chambers 24 and 25 by a guide plate, not shown, and conveyor belts 18, 18', perforated conveyor belt 27 will carry one piece of mail to conveyor belts 28, 28' when the perforations of conveyor belt 27 coincide with the regularly spaced slots of the curvilinear faceplate of chamber 24, thereby creating a suction force on that piece of mail in closes proximity to conveyor belt 27, and forcing it against conveyor belt 27. As the overlapped pieces of mail advance through the interspace between main chamber 24 and auxiliary chamber 25, a suction force is exerted on the overlapping piece of mail in closest proximity to perforated conveyor belt 26 when the perforations of conveyor belt 26 coincide with the regularly spaced slots of the faceplate of auxiliary chamber 25. That overlapped piece of mail is carried by conveyor belt 26 to conveyor belt 4, deployed about rollers 401-409, and conveyor belt 4, deployed about rollers 410-413, where it is redeposited into alignment means 30 at the intersection of conveyor belts 3, 4 and 5. If only a single piece of mail is removed to overlapping piece separation means 22, it is readily apparent that the greater suction force exerted by main chamber 24 more than compensates for the suction force exerted by auxiliary chamber 25, and the single piece of mail is delivered to conveyor belts 28, 28'. It is here noted that overlapping piece separation means 22 is mounted on a plate so as to form a unitary assembly therewith, rotatable about an axis coincidental with the axis of rotation of roller 23, so that overlapping piece separation means 22 maintains the proper position with respect to stack-feed means 14 as stack-feed means 14 is displaced in accordance with the size of the stack of pieces of mail.
Operation of the apparatus of H0. 1 will now be described in greater detail. Individual pieces of mail are supplied to alignment means 30 by conveyor belts 1, 1 from a prior stage, not shown, in the mail-handling system. The plane defined by each piece of mail between conveyor belts l and 1' is parallel to the plane of surface 40. Conveyor belts 2,1,2 rotate the pieces of mail by such that the plane of each piece of mail is now normal to the plane of surface 40. Each piece of mail, whose plane is normal to surface 40, is transported from conveyor belts 2, 2' by conveyor belts 3, 3' and deposited on conveyor belts 4 and 7. The lower edge of each piece of mail rests upon and is driven by belt 7. Conveyor belts 4 and 7 are driven at velocities substantially exceeding the velocity of finned conveyor belt 5. The excessive velocities of belts 4 and 7 and the frictional forces between these last-mentioned belts and the pieces of mail deposited thereon, drive the individual pieces of mail into the pockets formed by fin portions 6a, 6 b,...and conveyor belt 5, shown in FIG. 1. A more detailed explanation of the operation of finned conveyor belt 5 and conveyor belts belts 4 and 7 may be found in copending application Ser. No. 820,456, filed Apr. 30, 1969. The pieces of mail are securely carried by finned conveyor belt 5 to rotatable shaft means 9 where the spiral ridges mounted on the end portions of shafts 10a, 10b and 11 stack the pieces of mail against stack-feed means 14 and in the space 12 interposed between the end portions of shafts 10a, 10b and 11, and stack-feed means 14 in the above-mentioned manner. Perforated conveyor belt 17 cooperates with main suction chamber 16 and auxiliary suction chamber 15, as described above, to remove successive pieces of mail stacked in space 12 to conveyor belts 18, 18'. Conveyor belts 18, 18' deliver the removed pieces of mail to overlapping piece separation means 22 where perforated conveyor belt 27 cooperates with main suction chamber 24 to carry the piece of mail in closest proximity thereto to conveyor belts 28, 28 and perforated conveyor belt 26 cooperates with auxiliary suction chamber 25 to carry the overlapped piece of mail in closest proximity to conveyor belt 26 to conveyor belts 4, 4. As stack-feed means 14 is displaced to the left or right in FIG. 1 by the increasing or decreasing size of the stack of pieces of mail in space 12, overlapping piece separation means 22 rotates about an axis coincidental with the axis of rotation of roller 23 to maintain the proper alignment between conveyor belts 18, 18 and perforated conveyor belt 17.
The pieces of mail delivered to conveyor belts 28, 28' by perforated conveyor belt 27 transport the pieces of mail to the succeeding stage, not shown, of the mail-handling system; whereas, the overlapped pieces of mail delivered to conveyor belts 4, 4 by perforated conveyor belt 26 is returned to finned conveyor belt 5 of alignment means 30. The returned pieces of mail are carried by conveyor belts 4, 4' to conveyor belt 7 where the returned pieces of mail join the incoming pieces of mail and are driven into the aforementioned pockets formed by fins 6a, 6b,...and conveyor belt 5, where the alignment and stacking operation is repeated.
Overlapping piece separation means 22 is not essential to the embodiment described and shown in H6. 1 and is needed only when the rate of occurrence of overlapping exceeds 0.5 percent. In addition, the spiral ridges threaded onto the end portions of shafts 10a, 10b and 11, shown in H6. 3, may be replaced with a helically wound wire or other equivalent means.
While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to a specific embodiment thereof, it will obvious to those skilled in the art that the foregoing and various other changes and modifications in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. it is, therefore, the air of the appended means being operative in combination with said first conclaims to cover all such changes and modifications. veyor belt means such that said stacked pieces of mail 1. Apparatus for regulating the movement of individual contiguous ith id slidably mounted means are inpieces of mail inamail-pr ing ys m c mpri ing: dividually carried by said first conveyor belt means to conveyor belt means adapted for translating said individual 5 mean f successively removing said stacked pieces of Pieces of mail Positioned a Plane from said Plane mail from said slidably mounted means, and successive to a given I and for transporting Said individual stacked pieces of mail are temporarily detained by said pieces of mail aligned in said given plane to finned confi t auxiliary i Suction h b veyor means having finned Projections Spatially 2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means for succeslocaied thereon; 10 sively removing said stacked pieces of mail comprises means further conveyor belt means operably positioned adjacent f separating overlapped pieces f y Said finned f y means for driving Said aligned 3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said means for separat- P of Securely into Pockets formed by Said finned ing overlapped pieces of mail comprises second main air sucprojections of said finned conveyor belt means; and
stacking means for stacking aligned pieces of mail delivered thereto by said finned conveyor belt means in successive order, said stacking means comprising rotatable shaft means disposed normally to said given plane, and means slidably mounted on said shaft means and responsive to the number of stacked pieces of mail to change its position on said rotatable shaft means, said shaft means having member means mounted thereon for urging said aligned pieces of mail into stacks continuous with said slidably mounted means and said shaft means including end stop means and means for applying a force to said end stop means such that said rotatable shaft means in displaced in a direction normal to said given plane when said slidably mounted means is positioned adjacent said end stop means; said slidably mounted means comprising:
first main air suction chamber means and first conveyor belt means operably associated therewithin a plane parallel to said given plane, and first auxiliary air suction chamber tion chamber means, second conveyor belt means operably associated with said second main air suction chamber means, second auxiliary air suction chamber means, and third conveyor belt means operably associated with said second auxiliary air suction chamber means such that said second conveyor belt means removes stacked pieces of mail carried by said first conveyor belt means and forced into juxtaposition with said second conveyor belt means by said second main air suction chamber means, and said third conveyor belt means removes overlapped stacked pieces of mail drawn thereto by said second auxiliary air suction chamber means.
4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said means for separating overlapped pieces of mail further includes means for returning said overlapped pieces of mail removed by said third conveyor belt means to said finned conveyor belt means, and means for transporting said pieces of mail removed by said second conveyor belt means to further means.