US 3610469 A
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United States Patent  Inventors  Appl. No. 863,445  Filed Oct. 3, 1969  Patented Oct. 5, 1971 Alexander Kuckens Hamburg, Germany  Assignee by said Gehrke  Priority Oct. 4, 1968  Germany  P 18 01 185.3
 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING CONTAINERS FROM VENDING MACHINES  References Cited UNlTED STATES PATENTS 2,872,952 2/1959 Kreissler 141/174 X 2,946,480 7/1960 Farber 221/221 X 3,401,831 9/1968 Saurenmann 221/278 X 3,260,404 7/1966 Critchell 221/22 X Primary Examiner-Stanley H. Tollberg AtlorneyMichael S. Striker ABSTRACT: A method and arrangement for conveying container cups from a storage area to a filling station within vending machines. Upon actuating the machine through the insertion of a coin, for example, a holding device within a conveying chute, is released and a container cup is transported through the application of an airstream, to a filling station at one end of the chute. At the same time, a second cup within a column of stacked containers becomes separated from the stack, and is dispensed towards the holding device within the chute, where it is held until the next time that the vending machine is actuated. A bracket at the end of the chute at the location of the filling station, suspends the container cup at its upper rim, while being filled. When the cup is partially filled, the latter slips through the bracket and upon a supporting surface from which it may be taken by the consumer.
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING CONTAINERS FROM VENDING MACHINES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention resides in a method for conveying individual container cups from below a stack of containers within a feed arrangement. The method includes provision for transporting the container cup to a filling station within a vending machine. In the art of vending machines, it is known to stack individual container cups in columns within the vending machine. One or more such columns of stacked container cups are arranged adjacently either in carousel-fashion or in series within an automatic output feed arrangement. Through such design, a container cup column is always present over the output compartment of the feed arrangement. When the vending machine is actuated, a cup is stripped from the column or stack present above output compartment. This action of separating or stripping a cup from the column takes place upon the release of a contact upon actuation of the vending machine.
Upon the consumption of an entire column of stacked cups, the next column of cups within the storage area is brought over the output compartment with the aid of an electromagnetically operated drive or an electrical motor driven device. These drives place the full stack of containers over the output opening of the feed arrangement. The lowest cup within the stack or column of containers above the output compartment, is held in place through an electromechanical or electromagnetic holding or blocking arrangement, and becomes released only after the vending machine has been first actuated through a release pulse. For the purpose of assuring with reliability in operation that a single cup is fed out, wedge-shaped separating elements are provided which are rotatable and which grip, with their exterior rim sections, between the rims of the two lowermost cups. As a result of the conical-shaped container cups, the separating process is simplified and the lowermost cup is released and falls or drops into the output compartment. The dropping or falling action of the released container cup takes place through the force of gravity which acts upon the cup.
With the release of a container cup through turning action as described above, a predetermined amount of time is required. Further time loss is incurred after actuation of the vending machine, through transporting of the cup. This particular time loss is dependent upon the height of the fall or drop of the cup, and the design and construction of the output compartment. The time loss is, furthermore, dependent upon whether the cup drops directly, upon release, into the filling station at which the drinking fluid is emitted, or upon whether, for example, conveyance must first be carried out to the filling station through an incliried passage which serves as a conveying line.
If the drinking fluid is emitted directly over the filling station or out of the filling station as soon as the vending machine is actuated, it is necessary to take into account the loss in time due to the release of the container cup. This may be provided for by delaying artificially the output or emission of the drinking fluid. The individual processes can, however, be controlled in sequence, in the respect that the electrical motor drive for transporting the container columns is simultaneously used, in order to permit that a corresponding programmed mechanism is free to operate in timed control.
Although a filled drinking cup may be realized immediately upon actuating the vending machine by, for example, depressing a pushbutton or inserting a coin, such rapid completion of the operating cycle cannot be utilized. This results from the condition that a cup will first reach its filling station or filling position after a predetermined time interval from the instant of actuating the vending machine. If the drinking fluid were immediately emitted, a portion of the fluid would be lost, and the drinking cup would, furthermore, have the fluid spilled over on its exterior surfaces. The emission process of the drinking fluid can take place after selection of the particular fluid desired and, for example, insertion of a coin, corresponding to 0.5 seconds. In this manner, the output of a cup of coffee with one or more drinking components is terminated only after approximately 1.5 to 2 seconds through, for example, static pressure application. This applies to vending machines with provision for selecting different drinking substances as, for example, fruit syrups, hot chocolate or chocolate milk, cream for the coffee, etc. The emission of these drinks, in such machines, takes place directly over the filling station. In conventional machines, however, for cup and drinking vending machines, a cup is not brought to its filling position within this time interval of 1.5 to 2 seconds. Furthermore, the output time of conventional vending machines consumes, for example, when dispensing soft drinks, lemonades, coffee or chocolate drinks, more of the order of 7 seconds. Thus, in such conventional vending machines, normally 7 seconds are required for bringing a container cup into its filling position.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to improve upon the conventional methods for dispensing cups or containers out'of vending machines, and to improve these machines themselves. It is a particular object of the present invention to increase the dispensing speed of the container or cup. It is specifically intended that the dispensing time interval be less than 0.5 seconds, in order to assure that upon actuation of the vending machine, the drinking cup will reach the filling position at the filling station at the correct instant of time. In this manner, the disadvantages of the conventional methods and processes in which losses occur in the drinking fluids and spillage on the exterior surfaces of the containers, are avoided.
Accordingly, the effectiveness of the vending machine, in accordance with the present invention, is considerably improved.
The objects of the present invention are achieved by providing that a first container cup is conveyed from a released blocking device, to the filling station. This blocking device lies between the cup output dispensing or feed arrangement and the filling station. A second cup is, thereupon, conveyed from the cup dispensing arrangement to the blocking or holding device, where it is held in place until the next operating cycle of the vending machine.
In order to realize high conveying speed, the present invention provides that the first and second cups or containers be conveyed through a common airstream. When describing that the first cup from the dispensing arrangement is subjected to the airstream upon its release, it is implied that the conveying force applied upon the cup through this airstream is superimposed upon the force of gravity through which the falling motion of the first cup is realized. The second cup, upon its fall from the dispensing arrangement, can be taken along with the airstream and can be, thereby, deflected in a conveying line, at the end of which is the filling station. ln order to apply the airstream fully to the first cup upon its release from the blocking or holding device, for purposes of conveying the cup, it has been found advantageous that the second cup is to be first released after the beginning of a further conveying phase of the first cup. The holding in place or blocking of the cup dispensing arrangement for the second cup is first actuated preferably after the release of the blocking device for. the first cup. 3
It has been found particularly advantageous when the second cup becomes deflected so that the bottom of the cup leads in the conveying direction. When a conveying line is provided in which the interior cross section is only somewhat larger than the largest diameter of the container cup being conveyed, then the airstream will grasp the cup within the conveying line in a uniform dropping manner and with only a relatively amount of air pressure. The action will be similar to that of a pneumatic tube for conveying material therein. In view of the lightweight of the cup, high conveying speed is realized to the extent that a cup may be transferred from the blocking device and into its filling position at the filling station within, for example, 0.3 seconds.
It has been further found to be advantageous when the airstream is directly initiated upon release of the blocking device. In this manner, the release of the device is not subject to the applied pressure resulting from the airstream. At the same time, the cup may be directly transferred to the filling station with substantially high conveying speed upon actuation of the vending machine which causes the release of the blocking device for the first cup. The actuation of the blocking device is realized in an advantageous manner, by applying the pulse for the release of the first cup to release first the blocking device and then relock it immediately thereafter. As a result, the freely released first cup may be conveyed to the filling station and, at the same time, the second cup which has been freed from the cup dispensing arrangement is then held by the blocking device until the next actuation of the vending machine. The conveying line for the cups is preferably designed, in accordance with the present invention, in the form of a tube. At one end of this tube, the filling station is situated, whereas the other end of the tube may be provided with a blower for generating an airstream. The conveying line is, furthermore, arranged to have an upper opening which is situated below the cup dispensing arrangement. The blocking device is advantageously directly located on the conveying line, and can be controlled through electromagnetic means. In such a blocking device, a lever is preferably provided which is rotatably held at one end and has a bent-over portion at the other end. This bent-over portion grips into or underneath the rim of the first cup. For the purpose of releasing the blocking device, the electromagnet attracts the lever which rotates, thereby, about its pivoting point at the end of the lever. Through such rotational action of the lever, the blocking end of the lever thereby drops out of contact with the cup.
At the end of the conveying line, at which the filling station is located, a receiving device is preferably provided in accordance with the present invention. With this receiving device, the upper rim portion of the cup is grasped, and the cup is thereby supported or suspended by this receiving device. After having been partially filled, the cup then slips out of the receiving device and drops below to a supporting surface. The action through which the cup slips out of the receiving device, may be realized on the basis that the elasticity of the rim of the cup when the latter, for example, is filled halfway,is not sufficiently large too further hold the cup in place. Thus, the rim of the cup after having been partially filled, is bent inward, and the cup drops downward and out of the region of the receiving device. This has the advantage that the cup may be taken from the filling station without having to overcome the resistance offered by this receiving device.
The latter can be designed in the form of a U-shaped bent member or bracket. In order to convey or transfer the cup to the receiving device with high velocity through the applied airstream, a guide track may be provided at the free end of the conveying line. This guide track serves to direct the bottom of the cup downward, and directs, in turn, the cup into the receiving device. g
The method of the present invention may be carried out with numerous variations and still remain within the frame of the present concept. Thus, the first cup may be transferred from a waiting station, for example, which is located at the blocking device, and blown downward after the blocking device has been released. Such action of the blower may be that the cup is blown directly downward in a vertical manner. Furthermore, the conveying line can be inclined downward as well as the horizontal or directed at any desired angle. Insofar as advantages may be realized therefrom, the cup may also be conveyed from below in an upward direction. In order to also achieve the desired dispensing time with such a preceding arrangement, it is essential to match the intensity of the airstream to the required conditions. Aside from being driven through electromagnetic means, the blocking device can also be driven through electrical motors or through mechanical media. While the position of the blocking device is not strategic or of consequence, it is preferably separated by only a small space from the filling station. Since the required height or fall for the transport of the cup is no longer an issue, the apparatus can be arranged at any location which is found to be advantageous from the constructional point of view. A further attractive feature through this arrangement is realized due to the condition that the location at which a customer takes the filled cup or container, is sufficiently high, so that the customer need not bend down in order to remove the container from the machine. The additional equipment required for the blower which may be in the form of a simple ventilating unit or a tangential blower, may be made substantially small or negligibly small in size for the purpose of achieving the advantages and objects of the present invention. The short time interval required for dispensing the container cup may be utilized in the installation of vending machines in quick-service shops and, for example, for purposes of serving personnel during coffee breaks.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION A method and apparatus for conveying containers within a vending machine in which columns of stacked containers are held within a storage area. The columns of stacked containers are progressively moved to a dispensing device which separates the containers individually from their stacks and permits them to be conveyed to a holding device. Upon actuation of the vending machine through, for example, the insertion of a coin, the holding device becomes released and an airstream transports the container through a tube and into position beneath a filling station. A bracket at the filling station, suspends the container at its upper rim. When the container becomes partially filled, it slips through the bracket and drops onto a supporting surface below the bracket from which the filled container may then be removed. Once the vending machine is actuated, so that the holding device becomes released, a new container from the column of stacked containers is dispensed to be subsequently held by the holding device, after the previously held container is freed to be conveyed to the filling station.
The novel features which are considered as characteristic for the invention are set forth in particular the appended claims. The invention itself, however, both as to its construction and its method of operation, together with additional objects and advantages thereof, will be best understood from the following description of specific embodiments when read in connection with the accompanying drawing.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. I is a schematic elevational view of the arrangement for conveying container cups in vending machines, in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a plan view taken in the direction of II of the arrangement in FIG. 1; and
FIG. 3 is a partial plan view taken in the direction of III in FIG. 1 and shows the arrangement of the present invention without the presence of the cup dispensing device and the drinking fluid filling mechanism.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring to the drawing, FIGS. 1 and 3 show a blower l which directs an airstream 1' so as to affect a container 2. The latter is held in place through an electromagnetic blocking device 4 within a tube of pipe constructed as a conveying line 3. In front of this conveyor line 3, is a container feed arrangement outlined in dash-dot lines. A funnel fountain 6 for emitting the drinking fluid is arranged at the back end of the conveying line 3. The container feed arrangement or container output arrangement 5 has a storage unit of six columns 7 of stacked container cups. A U-shaped bracket serving as a receiving device 8 is located at the end of the conveying line 3, adjacent to the fluid funnel output device 6 for delivering the drinking fluid. The receiving device 8 serves to hold the drinking cup in place for filling with fluid from the funnel 6. A guide track 9 is mounted above the receiving device 8, at he same end of the conveying line 3. This guide track 9 deflects the container cup with its bottom downward and not of its conveying direction denoted by the arrow 11. Thus, the guide track 9 aids in properly deflecting the container cup so as to be seated in the receiving device 8. The container cup is held within the receiving device 8, through its curled-over rim 12. A supporting base surface 13 is spaced below the bottom 10 of the container cup held within the receiving device 8. This supporting surface 13 serves to retain or hold a filled container cup.
ln operation of the arrangement shown in FIGS. 1 to 3, the automatic vending machine for drinking fluids becomes actuated through the insertion of a coin. Once the vending machine becomes thus actuated, the blocking device 4 becomes briefly released, and the blower 1 become directly switched on. Prior to release of the blocking device 4, the latter held in place the first container cup 2 at its upper rim 12. With the blower 1 turned on, the container cup 2 becomes transferred to the position 2" in the receiving device 8, as a result of the directed airstream 1' which is moved along the direction of the arrow 11. The cup in the position 2", is shown by dash-dot lines. As soon as the container cup has assumed its filling position, the drinking fluid is emitted from the funnel device 6. After filling substantially one-half of the container cup, the rim 12 be comes deformed through the weight of the drinking fluid, and as a result the container cup slips out of the receiving device 8 and onto the supporting base surface 13, from which the filled cup may be directly taken. As soon as the blocking device 4 becomes released, the container cup 2' at the output of the feed arrangement 5 becomes released through an arrangement not shown in detail, so that the cup 2' is permitted to fall freely downward and into the airstream 1 through which it is carried into its position at the blocking device 4. An intermediate position of the cup on its way to this blocking device 4 is shown through dash-dot lines. With the release of the container cup feed arrangement 5, the separating device, not shown, is set into operation simultaneously for the purpose of separating the lowermost container cup from the adjacent cup within the stack of cups. When the lowermost cup is separated from the column or stack of cups, this separated cup falls or drops into the output compartment, where it is held in place until the next operational cycle of the vending machine.
It will be understood that each of the elements described above, or two or more together, may also find a useful application in other types of constructions differing from the types described above.
While the invention has been illustrated and described as embodied in vending machines, it is not intended to be limited to the details shown, since various modifications and structural changes may be made without departing in any way from the-spirit of the present invention.
What is claimed as new and desired to be protected by Letters Patent is set forth in the appended claims.
1. A method of conveying containers from a stack of containers to a filling station of a vending machine comprising the steps of holding a first container in a predetermined position at a location between said stack of containers and said filling station; releasing upon actuation of said vending machine said first container; directing an airstream against the released first container so as to transport said first container from said location to said filling station; dispensing a second container from said stack into the path of said airstream td'thereby move said second container to said predetermined position at said location; and holding said second container in said position at said location ready to be transported to said filling station upon each actuation of said vending machine.
2. A method as defined in claim 1, wherein said containers are held at said location in a position inclined to the vertical, wherein said second container is dispensed from said stack of containers in substantially vertical direction and wherein the step of moving said second container to said predetermined position at said location includes the step of deflecting said container from the vertical to the inclined position.
A method as defined ll'l claim 2, wherein the step of deflecting said second container is carried out so that the bottom of said second container leads during the subsequent transportation thereof to said filling station.
4. The method as defined in claim 1 including the step of initiating the application of said airstream upon release of said first container.
5. An arrangement for transporting containers to a filling station of a vending machine comprising, in combination, storage means within said vending machine for storing a plurality of containers; a column of stacked containers in said storage means; container dispensing means at one end of said column for dispensing therefrom containers individually from said column of stacked containers; filling means spaced from said dispensing means for filling said containers at least partially with a predetermined medium; container conveying means for conveying said container between said dispensing means and said filling means; holding means in said conveying means for holding a first container from said dispensing means; and release means operatively coupled to said holding means for releasing when actuated said first container from said holding means to be conveyed to said filling means, a second container stacked next to said first container when in said column being transported to said holding means upon release of said first container through actuation of said release means, said second container being held by said holding means until subsequent actuation of said release means.
6. The arrangement as defined in claim 5 including airstream generating means for applying a stream of air against said containers for conveying said containers within said conveying means.
7. The arrangement as defined in claim 6 wherein said airstream deflects said second container upon being dispensed from said dispensing means so that the bottom of said second container leads in the conveying direction of said second container, said dispensing means being above said conveying means.
8. The arrangement as defined in claim 5 wherein said conveying means comprises a tube.
9. The arrangement as defined in claim 6 including means for actuating said vending machines, said holding means, dispensing means, and airstream generating means being simultaneously actuated with actuation of said vending machine, said holding means opening said conveying means upon actuation of said vending machine and thereafter reclosing said conveying means.
10. The arrangement as defined in claim 5 including electromagnetic means for controlling said holding means.
11. The arrangement as defined in claim 5 including receiving means at said filling means for receiving a container after being conveyed through said conveying means and transported through said filling means, said receiving means suspending said container at the upper rim of said container, said container slipping through said receiving means after being at least partially filled by said filling means.
12. The arrangement as defined in claim 11 wherein said receiving means comprises a U-shaped bracket member.
13. The arrangement as defined in claim 11 including guide means in proximity of said receiving means for guiding a container into said receiving means so that the bottom of said container is directed downward when entering said receiving means.
14. The arrangement as defined in claim 13 wherein said guide means comprises a guide track arranged above said receiving means.