US 3608895 A
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United States Patent  Inventor Alex E. Kalven Somerville, NJ.  Appl. No. 863,138  Filed Oct. 2, 1969  Patented Sept. 28,1971  Assignee GAF Corporation New York, N.Y.
 ELECTROPNEUMATIC FLAT PRODUCT SHUFFLING AND PACKAGING SYSTEM 4 Claims, 6 Drawing Figs.  U.S.CI 27l/74, 198/20, l98/76  Int. Cl B65h 29/32  Field of Search 271/74,
DIG. 4; 198/20, 38, 76; 53/233  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,158,973 12/1964 Monaghan 53/233 X 3,476,241 11/1969 Ungerer 271/74 X 3,477,558 11/1969 Fleischauer 271/74 X 3,527,460 9/1970 Lopez 198/20 X To finished Vacuum Conveyors 20 Product one per Lune Warehouse Primary Examiner-Joseph Wegbreit Assistant lixamim'r Bruce H. Stoner, Jr.
Attorneys-(ieorge L. Tone, Walter G. Hcnsel and Martin Smolowitz ABSTRACT: As flat products such as lloor tiles leave a production conveyor in transverse rows and longitudinal lanes, they are picked up by an accelerator conveyor travelling in the same direction under vacuum conveyors which hit the tiles and carry them over transverse conveyors which the tiles are selectively deposited by the operation of unique air pressure valves which act to positively break the vacuum supporting the tiles over selected ones of the transverse conveyors, so as to mix the tiles from different lanes, for subsequent packaging thereof. The air pressure valves are built into the vacuum housing associated with each vacuum belt, and each is provided with an air pressure inlet for breaking the vacuum supporting the tiles when a selected one is directly over the selected transverse conveyor. A control circuit provides for automatic operation of the air pressure valves in the desired sequence Sealing and Compression Unit Packager Accelerator Section I Accumulator I 8 Takeaway I i Conveyors PATENTED 8EP28 I97! SHEET 3 OF 3 INVENTOR.
Alex Kolven ATTORNEY ELECTROPNEUMATIC FLAT PRODUCT SHUFFLIING AND PACKAGING SYSTEM This invention relates to electropneumatic flat product shuffling and packaging systems, and more particularly to the mixing of plastic floor tiles for packaging as lanes of the tiles are discharged in transverse rows from a common production conveyor.
Floor tile is cut four or five abreast across an endless longitudinally travelling sheet of synthetic material such as plastic. There, variations in gloss, color, size, thickness, texture and design can occur from one side to the other of such sheet.
It is advantageous and the primary object of this invention to mix tiles from the different lanes emerging from the production conveyor so that the resulting packages contain a reasonably uniform blend from each area across the sheet. This prevents undesirable contrast of applied areas from one carton with that of another.
Another object of the invention is to provide an electropneumatic system for automatically taking similarly shaped flat products such as tile from a moving conveyor and dropping them off in sequence on several cross conveyors, to achieve a mixing or shuffling effect when the products are packaged, that is simple in construction and operation, easy and inexpensive to maintain and service, and relatively gentle with respect to the products that are so mixed or shuffled.
A further object of the invention is to provide an electropneumatic flat product-shuffling machine that is capable of continuously handling the entire output of high speed production lines in which the products are near one another both transversely and longitudinally on the common production conveyor from which they are discharged.
According to the invention the closely spaced flat products on a moving common producu'on conveyor that have been cut into similar squares from a common sheet, are discharged by such a conveyor on to a transfer conveyor which accelerates movement of successive rows of products away from the production conveyor. For each lane of products on the production conveyor there is provided an individual vacuum conveyor with the input end portion thereof disposed directly above the output end portion of the transfer conveyor for picking up the flat products delivered thereunder by the transfer conveyor.
Each vacuum conveyor comprises an endless belt composed of material which may be porous or nonporous, a length of which belt passes under an in contact with an elongated perforated plate forming the bottom of a vacuum housing. A unique air pressure valve is located in each vacuum housing, which consists of an elongated chamber which extends along the major end portion of the vacuum housing, in the form of an inverted elongated box having openings in communication with the vacuum housing, and an air pressure inlet in the top thereof. Thus, when air under pressure is supplied to such inlet, the vacuum which supports a flat product under the belt, is positively by air under pressure broken, causing such product to drop at any selected point along the path thereof.
Arranged under the vacuum conveyors are an equal number of transverse conveyors upon which the products are selectively dropped from the belts. Such transverse conveyors carry the products dropped thereon to a counter-stacker unit, from which accumulator and take away conveyors move the stacks to a packager comprising a sealing and compression unit from which the packages are moved by a suitable conveyor to the finished product warehouse.
As products carried by each vacuum conveyor pass under a fluidic sensor, a signal is generated. By means of a suitable control circuit which may be electronic or fluidic such signal actuates a counter, and programmer which selects the appropriate drop off point, and opens an air valve associated with such point. This results in air under pressure being supplied to the air pressure inlet of the corresponding air pressure valve, changing the pressure condition in the chamber from negative (vacuum) to positive, causing the product to drop on the selected cross conveyor therebelow. The next product on the vacuum conveyor that passes a sensor moves the counter to the next programmed position and so on.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a fragmentary top plan flow diagram illustrative of a flat (tile) product shuffling, counting and packaging system embodying the invention.
FIG. 2 is a similar diagram in side elevation of such system.
FIG. 3 is a fragmentary view in cross section of a vacuum conveyor illustrative of the invention.
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary view in vertical longitudinal section of such conveyor.
FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of an air pressure valve.
FIG. 6 is a simplified fragmentary circuit diagram of the control circuit of the invention, showing four cross conveyors.
As shown in FIG. ll four parallel vacuum conveyors l0, 12, M, 16 are positioned directly above four cross or transverse conveyors 18, 20, 22, 24; and in line with corresponding lanes 26, 28, 30 and 32 of flat products 34, such as square floor tile composed of plastic for example. The tile 34 are cut from a common sheet (not shown) which moves continuously in the direction of a common production conveyor 36 on which the tile 34 are inspected and discharged in transverse rows 38, in this case four abreast, onto a transfer conveyor 40. Such transfer conveyor is moved faster than the conveyor 36 to accelerate movement of successive tile rows 38 away from the conveyor 36, and delivery of such tile 34 under an overhanging input end portion 42 of the corresponding vacuum conveyor 116, FIG. 2.
The vacuum conveyor ll6 then piclts up such tile 34 on the bottom reach or length 44 thereof and drops it on a selected transverse conveyor 20 for example when a unique vacuum valve 46 in the vacuum conveyor, FIGS. 3, 4, 5, is operated. The cross conveyor 20 then carries to a counter-stacker unit 47, FIG. ll. From such unit 47 the resulting stacks 48 are carried byaccumulator and take away conveyors 50 and 52 to a packager 54 comprising a sealing and compression unit 56 which delivers the resulting packages 58 to a conveyor 60 leading to the finished product warehouse (not shown).
As shown in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, each vacuum conveyor is provided with an elongated housing 62 having a bottom 64 provided with an opening which is covered by a perforated plate 66 under which the belt 68 of the conveyor moves in sliding contact. The interior of the vacuum housing 62 is connected to a vacuum source 70 by an air outlet 72 in the top thereof. Within the housing 62 is a vacuum valve consisting of an inverted boxlike chamber 74 located in the bottom of the hous' ing and extending longitudinally thereof above the cross conveyors, so that when the valve 46 operates the tiles drop on any selected one of such cross conveyors.
The valve 46 includes an inverted pan 76 having transverse slots 78 in the top near the ends thereof, as well as shorter transverse slots 80 near the center thereof. Generally triangular plates 82,82 are mounted on the top of the inverted pan 76, and enclosed by a cover 84 having downturned end flanges 86,36, a central air pressure inlet 83, and short transverse slots 90,90 near such inlet on either side thereof. The air pressure inlet is connected to a suitable source of air under pressure by a pipe 92 which extends through an opening provided therefor in the side of the housing 62.
In the off condition with no compressed air flowing to the valve 46, outside air is free to flow through slots 78, 80 and and into vacuum space 94, thus allowing tiles 34 on the moving belt by vacuum to continue under the valve 46 as the vacuum at that time is the same as the rest of the housing 62. The slots in the valve 46 are proportioned so as to offer only negligible pressure drop for the air to flow through.
The valves 46 are located close to the desired product drop off points under the vacuum conveyor, depending on the speed of the belt 44, and the sensing systems response time. After a predetermined sequence, compressed air is supplied to the valve 46 through inlet 88. It then flows to air passage 96 where it expands and flows through slots 90, 80 and 78 at high velocity, thus cutting off the flow of air from chamber 74 to the space 94. Air then travels further to slots 78 thus creating a positive air pressure which drops the product 34 off the vacuum belt 44 and on to the selected cross conveyor below.
If compressed air is allowed to continue flowing into the valve chamber 98, it will continue under positive pressure, and anything supported under the belt will drop off when it reaches the valve area.
The valve can also be made to operate on a short burst of compressed air which momentarily cuts off the airflow through slots 90,90 until it has expanded and been overcome by the vacuum in the space 44. This allows the valve 46 to be turned on" for a very short period of time. The advantage of this feature is that objects on the belt can be close together and still be dropped off selectively.
in general, by varying the size of the various openings in the belt, the plate and the ports, and also controlling the air and vacuum pressures a great number of conditions can be satisfied as to the operation of this device.
The advantages of this device are that it has no internal moving parts and thus has a low inertia of operation. Vacuum, which due to low pressure differential requires large ducts or pipes which, in turn, require large valves or dampers for control. Large mechanical valves also are heavy, costly and have high inertia factors that prevent rapid operation and thus limit their usefulness.
As shown in FIG. 6 compressed air from a common source 100 is connected by a manifold 101 to branch conduits 103, 105 and 107 to corresponding air valves 109, 111 and 113. The air valves, in turn, control the flow of air under pressure to pipes 92 each of which is connected to inlet 88 of each of the air pressure valves 46, three in this illustration, associated with vacuum conveyor porous belt 44. Fluidic sensors 115, 117 and 119 are located adjacent the leading edge of each valve 46, directly above the belt 44, for operating a fluidic counter and programmer control circuit 121 through suitable connections when a tile 34 reaches a selected position with respect to the cross conveyor belts 102, by operating a solenoid 125 associated with the corresponding air valve.
As floor tiles 34 carried by vacuum conveyor pass under a fluidic sensor, a signal is generated. This signal actuates the counter and programmer 121 which selects the appropriate drop off point and opens the air valve associated with that point. The air valve opens and admits air to the vacuum valve 46. This changes the pressure condition of that chamber from vacuum to positive, thus dropping the floor tile off the vacuum conveyor and onto the cross conveyor below. The next tile on the vacuum conveyor that passes a sensor moves the counter to the next programmed position and so on.
The invention has been found quite suitable in a system which operates automatically to pick up floor tiles off a moving conveyor by means of a vacuum belt and dropping them off in sequence on several cross conveyors, thus achieving a mixing or shuffling effect when the tiles are packaged to eliminate tiles to be packaged in lanes that always come from the same area of the web. The high speed of the lines and the closeness of one tile to the next makes the present invention highly suitable for such use. The system provides tile cut four or five abreast across an endless travelling sheet. Variations in gloss, color, size, thickness, texture and design can occur from one side to the other. It is advantageous to mix tile from the different lanes emerging from the production conveyor so that packaged cartons contain a reasonably uniform blend from each area across the sheet. This prevents contrast of applied areas from one carton with that of another.
According to the present invention the same principle could be employed on other flat objects or units where removal and positioned release from a travelling conveyor are desired.
1. An air pressure valve for critically controlling the drop off point of a flat product being carried by the belt of a vacuum conveyor having an elongated vacuum housing located directl above such belt, comprising:
an elongate inverted flat boxllke pan mounted m the bottom of said housing;
generally triangular flat plates mounted on said pan;
a cover having downturned end flanges mounted on said triangular plates and forming oppositely extending horizontal air expansion passages, said pan top having long transverse slots adjacent the ends of such air expansion passages, and short transverse slots equally spaced from but near the longitudinal center thereof; and
said cover having a central air pressure inlet, and short transverse slots near but spaced from such inlet; whereby as long as a vacuum is maintained in the housing, air flows through said slots and air passages, and thus preserves the product supporting vacuum of the belt under said valve, but
as soon as air under pressure is supplied to said inlet, the resulting high-velocity airflow and expansion in such air passages first effectively closes the short transverse slots in top of said cover and pan immediately, breaking the vacuum, and then flows into the chamber under the pan, creating a positive pressure there which not only causes the product to be released from the belt but effectively blows the product downwardly away from the belt.
2. The invention as defined by claim 1, including a source of air under pressure;
pipe means comprising a normally closed valve for supplying air under pressure to said air inlet for operating said air pressure valve; and
separate means acting to continuously maintain the vacuum in said housing.
3. The invention as claimed by claim 2 in which a plurality of transverse conveyors are located under said belt for receiving the flat products released therefrom by said valve means.
4. The invention as claimed by claim 3 in which a plurality of similar vacuum conveyors are provided, each vacuum conveyor including said air pressure valve, and the length of the valves extend above the transverse conveyors such that the flat products carried by and under each vacuum belt can be selectively released directly above any one of a number of transverse conveyors to drop thereon and thereby be conveyed transversely under and away from the vacuum belts.