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Publication numberUS3617051 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateNov 2, 1971
Filing dateApr 24, 1969
Priority dateApr 24, 1969
Publication numberUS 3617051 A, US 3617051A, US-A-3617051, US3617051 A, US3617051A
InventorsMcinerny George P
Original AssigneeOptical Scanning Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Card- and paper-handling apparatus
US 3617051 A
Abstract  available in
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent 2,191,586 2/1940 Richard;

Primary Examiner-Joseph Wegbreit Attorney-Howson and l-iowson ABSTRACT: A card feed mechanism employs a carriage on which is supported a tray from which may be picked off oneby-one from a stack by pickoff means at one end of the tray. The carriage itself is urged with constant force by spring means toward the pickoff means. Feed means movably supported on the carriage moves toward the pickoff means to hold pressure on the stack at all times as the stack grows smaller. As this feed means moves forward the spring means allows the carriage to move backward to keep the pressure constant at the pickoff means. When the carriage reaches a certain position on the frame a switch in the circuit of the motor driving the feed means is opened until the carriage, under the urging of the spring moves forward again to a predetermined position.





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CARD- AND PAPER-HANDLING APPARATUS This invention relates to a cardand paper-handling apparatus and more specifically to a mechanism for feeding, conveying, and sorting cards, preferably in accordance with information on the cards examined optically in the course of conveyance. The novel mechanism includes a novel card feed mechanism, a novel pickoff (or conveyor input means), a novel double-card detection system, a novel card-separating conveyor concept, a novel vacuum conveyor, which accurately holds cards in position to be examined, and a sorting system, which includes a novel escapement system for lowering platforms automatically as the cards received on the platform in the course of sorting fill up the space provided.

The feeding of a stack of cards into appropriate conveyor means has been the source of considerable difficulty in the past. If cards are to be presented in a stack, the conveyor input usually requires that the leading card be presented in a predetermined position and orientation when needed, despite the changing size of the stack. Furthermore, variations in the pressure urging the stack forward has resulted in sporadic and unpredictable performance and, in some situations, complete failure to operate. The present invention permits cards to be fed to the properplace and position at a correct time and always at a unifonn pressure.

More specifically, the present invention provides a card feed mechanism for sequentially feeding individual cards from a stack into a conveyor, including pickofi' means, carriage means, including means for retaining a stack of cards which is supported on the same frame as the conveyor for movement along a predetermined path toward and away from the card pickoff means. Coupling means is provided between the carriage and the frame for urging the carriage means with essentially constant force. Feed means is mounted on and movable relative to the carriage. The feed means moves generally parallel to the direction of carriage movement supports and urges a stack of cards on the carriage into the card pickoff means. Drive means between the carriage and feed means drives the feed means toward the card pickoff means in order to maintain pressure on the stack of cards, urging them into the pickoff means. Sensing means is provided to sense the relative position of the carriage and frame. The sensing means acts on means controlling the drive means to discontinue its drive whenever the carriage moves a predetermined distance away from the card pickoff means.

A problem in the prior art has been to provide pickoff or conveyor means for reliably picking cards one at a time from a stack. A frequent problem has been the feeding of two or more cards at a time into the conveyor. If a purpose of the conveyor is to permit examination of the cards one at a time, feeding more than one card at a time defeats this purpose. The present invention provides a conveyor input means for taking cards from a stack one-by-one into a conveyor which has such high reliability that even when card or paper thicknesses differ from card to card or paper to paper in a stack, the pickoff means will still select only one card or paper at a time. in this connection it should be mentioned that although card is used generically throughout this description, it is intended to include either cards or papers, or a mixture of cards and papers.

The conveyor card input means of the present invention includes a cylindrical drum rotatably mounted relative to the frame about its major axis and having a high-friction material around its cylindrical surface over at least part of that surface. Feed means on the frame supports and feeds a stack of cards generally tangentially into the cylindrical surface of the drum so that the high-friction material will engage only the top card adjacent to the drum and pull it from the stack. A hardened blade movably supported on the frame is urged toward the drum by spring means between the frame an th lad p means on the frame acts to hold the blade a predetermined distance from the drum surface. That distance is determined by the minimum thickness of paper to pass through the space between the drum and the blade and must be less than double the thickness of the minimum thickness paper. If this limitation is observed double thicknesses will be stopped by the top card pulled from the stack by the drum will urge the blade away from the drum sufficiently far to permit the card to pass as it is drawn along by the high-friction material of the drum surface. The card behind said top card, however, is not subject to the frictional pull of the drum and will be unable to overcome the spring force in order to pass the blade.

Even though the pickoff or conveyor input means is essentially foolproof so that theoretically the opportunity for error is extremely small, it is possible for one card to stick to the back of another so that it passes for one. Should such a double thickness of cards pass through the pickofi' means for this or any other reason, one of the cards can not be read and will therefore not be properly processed. The present invention provides means for detecting double-card thickness should the double thickness for any reason fail to be separated at the conveyor input. This double-card detector will generate a signal which can be used to actuate a warning light, to shut down the machine, or both.

More specifically, in accordance with the present invention, 7

the double-thickness detector consists of a lever rotatably supported on the frame. The lever has an arm extending into proximity to a reference surface over which the cards pass in position to be contacted and moved by any double thickness of cards as they pass between the reference surface and the lever element. Stop means holds the lever element against rotation toward the reference surface beyond a predetermined point. Spring means normally urges the lever element into said stop means but yields to permit movement of the lever when a double thickness of cards passes between the conveyor reference surface and the lever. Movement of the lever actuates a pair of contacts, at least one of which is movable relative to the other. The contacts are so arranged relative to the lever that movements of a magnitude sufiicient to represent a double-card thickness of cards changes the condition of the switch contacts to indicate the double thickness.

Some tolerance is necessary in order to make sure that when a variety of thicknesses of card stock are employed the thickest stock will not actuate the double-card detector. Nevertheless, a limitation on the device is that it can obviously not be applied with ranges of card thickness having a ratio of as much as two to one at the same time. On the other hand, adjustment will permit a wide range of thicknesses to be accommodated. The double-card detector is preferably built to be manually adjusted to accommodate various thickness ranges. Moreover, in accordance with the present invention a quick changeover means is provided for the very common situation where wide discrepancies in ranges are involved, as where cards and papers are used at different times and it is desirable to be able to quickly change from a preadjusted thickness range for cards to a prearranged thickness range for papers, or vice versa. One such technique, in accordance with the present invention is to employ a movable support for one of the contacts, which in this case are normally open. A preferred movable support is a pivoted beam. Stops are provided on each side of the beam to limit movement of the beam to a narrow range between the stops. Manually adjustable means holds the beam selectively against one stop or the other to provide two switch positions to accommodate different ranges of card thicknesses. Again, in discussing card thicknesses it will be understood that the term card" is used to mean cards, papers, or other materials having similar handling properties.

In connection with data processing of cards, it is frequently necessary to have the cards sufficiently spaced between one another as they flow along the conveyor to enable the processing to occur with easy identification of each of the cards. Cards which overlap one another, or are too closely spaced to one another, may not be able to be identified as separate cards by equipment provided for that purpose. lt therefore becomes important to provide distinct separation between the cards. Where cards are fed manually into a conveyor there is no problem about this, but where cards are fed automatically, they may tend to be very closely spaced to one another, so much so, in fact, that individual identification by automatic means is frustrated. The present invention provides a conveyor system in which distinct separation is accomplished between cards sequentially fed to a conveyor system.

More specifically, the present invention provides such a conveyor system in which feed means is provided on the support frame for feeding cards sequentially into the conveyor system. At least two successive conveyors, and preferably more, are supported on the frame such that the previous conveyor in the direction of flow (i.e., card travel) in each case feeds cards directly into the next conveyor. Means is provided for driving the conveyors at different speeds, such that each subsequent conveyor in the direction of card travel moves cards faster than its next previous conveyor.

it is of advantage to have the conveyors driven by a common means so that despite their different speeds, card position can be predicted by monitoring the speed at any point, and, for example, generating a clock pulse chain proportional to the speed. How long it will take the cards to pass through the conveyor system to a point of examination can then be predicted by a means to sense when a predetermined part of the cards, such as the leading edge, passes a predetermined point on the conveyor system. The positioning and timing information can then be used to actuate optical scanning equipment, or other monitoring equipment for reading or accumulating data from the card.

When data is to be read optically, for example, requiring detailed scanning of symbols on the cards, it may be vital the cards be held in a very precise distance away from the scanner. The present invention provides a conveyor which is capable of holding very precisely in a plane the cards, or those portions of the cards which are to be optically examined, while conveying them along past a scanner, or similar means.

More specifically the present invention provides a card guide having a precision card-carrying surface in which a channel is formed. An endless movable conveyor supported to move relative to the same frame which supports the card guide travels over a portion of its path within the channel. The channel is of such dimensions that the exposed surface of the conveyor within the channel is essentially flush with the flat surface of the card guide. A vacuum box is supported by the same frame, is connectable to a source of vacuum, and communicates with the conveyor channel in the guide along its length such that the card near the card guide will be drawn against the card guide and conveyor and pulled along by the conveyor.

Cards carried by the conveyor may be diverted from the conveyor path by gates which are selectively opened or closed. To divert a given card, a selected gate is opened and the card deflected into one of several collection bins. In accordance with the present invention, each collection bin is provided with a movable platform which starts near the diverter selection gate and is automatically lowered as required to keep the space between the top card and the selection gate small enough to prevent cocking or misalignment of the cards and to assure neat stacking.

More specifically, in accordance with the present invention, a mechanism is provided for controlled lowering of a platform wherein a flexible connector connects the platform to an escapement ratchet. The escapement ratchet is rotatably supported on the frame and is provided with at least one stop tooth, and preferably more. The ratchet has an associated rotatable portion engaging and permitting corresponding movement of the flexible connector when the ratchet rotates, to thereby permit the platform to lower. Latch means engages and holds the at least one tooth of the ratchet and the platform against movement. This latch means is movable relative to the frame to release the ratchet to allow the platform to lower itself by gravity. Means is provided to move the latch bar on command and allow it to return to position to stop a selected tooth of the ratchet and hold the platform in a selected position. Preferably, the means to move the latch bar is a switch associated sensing means to sense when cards on the platform approach a preselected level on the frame to avoid interference with the gate. The switch, in turn, energizes a solenoid momentarily to release the latch means from the tooth of the ratchet which it is restraining and to allow it to return to engage the next ratchet tooth.

It is of advantage to have a standard-type card tray which can be used interchangeably at the input or feed end and at the output or distribution end at each of the diverter selection gates or classification points. In accordance with the present invention, a tray has been developed which permits the passage of a feed arm or the collection platform, depending on which tray location is selected. This tray presumes certain similarities in design of the feed arm and collection platform.

More specifically, the tray in accordance with the present invention is provided with a flat generally rectangular-shaped back wall having short and long edges. A long wall, generally perpendicular to the backwall is provided along a long edge of a rectangular back. A first short wall along one short edge of the rectangular backwall and connected to the long wall has at least one slot parallel to the back and extending from the end remote from the long wall sufficiently far to permit passage of the feed means of its associated machine through the short wall as it moves parallel to the long wall. A second removable short wall can be provided along the second short edge of the backs. In such case the two short walls together enable easier handling of the tray preferably by means of oppositely directed handles on each short wall generally parallel to the back. The removable wall may be latched in place by pins in holes in the long wall and a latching flange along the opposite long wall of the back, preferably with a spring-engaged retractable pin engaging the latter.

The present invention is described hereinafter in terms of a preferred embodiment which is associated with other inventions in a common system. The other inventions, all by George P. Mclnerny, are described in the following copending US. Pat. applications:


For a better understanding of the present invention, reference is made to a preferred embodiment shown in the accompanying drawings in which FIG. 1 is an elevational view of the machine as viewed from the front;

FIG. 2 is an elevational view of the machine as viewed from the rear;

FIG. 3 is a much enlarged view of that portion of HO. 1 showing the feed mechanism with the cover on the control box partially broken away to show the drive means and other structure which it houses in elevation;

FIG. 4 is a similarly enlarged view of that portion of HO. 1 showing the card feed structure and the double-card detection means, as well as parts of the conveyor system;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along line 5-5 in FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a view taken from line 6-6 in FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 8 is a further enlarged sectional view taken along line 8-8 in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a sectional view on the scale of FIG. 8 taken along line 9-9 in FIG. 7;

FIG. 10 is a further enlarged partial view of FIG. 4 showing the double-card detector with part of the structure broken away and shown in section;

FIG. 10a is a view similar of part of the structure of FIG. 10 showing action when more than a single card passes the detector;

FIG. 11 is a view taken along line 11-11 of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is an enlarged portion of FIG. 1 on the scale of FIGS. 3 and 4 showing an intermediate portion of the conveyor system;

FIG. 13 is an enlarged sectional view taken along line 13- 13 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 14 is an enlarged sectional view taken along line 14- 14 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 15 is an enlarged sectional view taken along line 15- ]5 in FIG. 1, showing the vacuum conveyor housing;

FIG. 15a is a sectional view taken along line l5a-15a of FIG. 15;

FIG. 16 is an enlarged elevational view showing structure relating to the selection gates of the conveyor partially in section;

FIG. 17 is a sectional view taken along line 17-17 of FIG. I6;

FIG. 18 is an enlarged plan view of a portion of FIG. 2 showing gate control apparatus;

FIG. 19 is a sectional view taken along line 19-19 of FIG. 16;

FIG. 20 is a sectional view taken along line 20-20 of FIG.

FIG. 21 is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 2 showing the escapement mechanism structure of the card-stacking platform lowering mechanism;

FIG. 22 is a sectional view taken along line 22-22 of FIG. 21;

FIG. 23 is a sectional view taken along line 23-23 of FIG. 21;

FIG. 24 is a sectional view taken along line 24-24 of FIG. 21;

FIG. 25 is an enlarged plan view from above of a card-handling tray with its removable end wall in place;

FIG. 26 is front elevational view of the card tray of FIG. 25;

FIG. 27 is a view from one end of the card tray taken along line 27-27 in FIG. 26, and

FIG. 28 is a view from the other end of the card tray taken along line 28-28 in FIG. 26.

The drawings illustrate a preferred embodiment of the present invention, which is capable of taking cards and/or papers of various sizes and thicknesses in a stack, feeding them one-by-one past an optical reader, in which preselected information from the cards or papers is read, and, through logic supplied by electronics, gating into the proper one of a plurality of stacks, in which other documents in the same category are collected.

The structure of the present invention is mounted on a front deck 10, shown in FIG. I, on a smaller rear deck 12, shown in FIG. 2, or between these two decks. Smaller rear deck 12 is supported from the front deck by a suitable column means which space it from the front deck. In its supported position rear deck 12 is preferably parallel to and has its edges located within the bounds of front deck 10 a preselected distance. The combined deck structure is supported on a suitable support structure above the ground at a convenient level for handling the cards and papers to be sorted by the machine. The decks and support structure together provide a support frame and mechanical reference for the rest of the structure. The front deck is preferably tilted back at a 30 angle from the vertical. Consequently cards and papers supported by surfaces perpendicular to the deck surface tend to slide into and be partially supported and held in place by the deck 10 or an interposed surface. However, the drawings show the deck 10 as though it were vertically oriented and hereafter unless the gravitational effect is considered, the description will treat structure parallel to the deck 10 as vertically oriented and structure perpendicular thereto and having horizontal elements as horizontal. Advantageously controls for the system, including the electronic logic system for controlling the various gates can be placed in chassis in racks on the support structure portion of the frame (not shown) below the deck structure 10.

In accordance with the present invention, a stack of cards or papers 14 is placed on edge against the back and a long wall of a generally rectangular shaped tray 16 which will be described hereafter in greater detail. For the sake of simplicity in description, the discussion hereafter will treat the stack 14 as cards, although it will be understood that papers, as well as cards can be handled by the apparatus. The tray 16 is loaded onto the apparatus by placing its back against a carriage generally designated 18 and its long wall upon a supporting shelf on and generally perpendicular to the carriage. The carriage is a generally planar structure paralleling the deck and movable only linearly in the horizontal direction. In this position a feed mechanism, generally designated 20, driven and controlled by mechanism in control box 22 urges the stack of cards into main drum 24, which has a frictional surface which tends to pull the cards off the stack. Cooperating with the drum 24 to provide a controlled conveyor input is a pressureplate assembly, generally designated 26, which ordinarily prevents more than one card from being pulled off the stack at a time. If more than one card passes through the pressureplate assembly 26, a double-feed detector, generally designated 28, will detect that fact and shut down the feed until the fault can be corrected. In this region, guide means 30, which closely conforms to the outer periphery of the drum and the drum 24 itself and holds the cards into the drum, completes a first conveyor means. Cards are passed from the first conveyor means 24-30 to a second conveyor means 32, and thence to a third conveyor means, generally designated 34, which carries the cards around a corner from a vertical path of travel into a horizontal path of travel. In one of these conveyors, means is preferably provided to sense the leading edge of each successive card. The third conveyor passes the card onto a conveyor means, generally designated 36. Each of the first three successive conveyors is faster than the last to effect a separation between the cards and preferably all conveyors are driven by a common means. Use of a common drive enables anticipation of when any given card will reach the optical reader. The fourth conveyor means carries a card past at least one optical reader, generally designated 38, positioned to read certain information from the cards including at least classification information. Additional scanners of similar type can also be included, if desired, at positions 38a and 38b. The fourth conveyor feeds the cards into a fifth conveyor, generally designated 40, which carries the cards past a plurality of similar gates 42a, 42b and 420. The separatable deck extension 10 enables deck 10 to be provided with fewer or additional gates as appropriate in a given installation without modifying front deck 10. In the apparatus shown gates 42a and 42b may be selectively opened and closed to divert the cards from conveyor 40 or to allow the conveyor to carry them onto the next gate in accordance with instructions from the logic responding to information obtained from the card by the optical reader 38. Gate 420 is the last gate on this particular deck extension 10 and therefore it is only left open so that in the event gates 42a and 42b are both closed the card will necessarily be diverted from the conveyor 40 by gate 42c. Cards diverted by gates 42a, 42b and 420 are collected in one of the trays 16', 16" or 16" which are like one another and like tray 16 and, therefore, interchangeable with one another. Each tray is held in position by suitable means, such as a pair of pins 44a, 44b or 44c. However, the cards do not fall freely into the trays but instead are collected on one of the platforms 46a, 46b or 460, each of which is part of one of the stacker assemblies generally designated 48a, 48b and 48c. The card sorting apparatus of FIG. I obviously could have many variations with many more sticker assemblies and many more gates to go with those stacker assemblies. This can be provided by substitution in place of deck extension 10' of a different extension having the desired number of gates and stacker assemblies.

More detailed consideration will now be given, in turn, to each active portion of the apparatus as illustrated with the understanding that this is a preferred embodiment capable of substantial variation in each of its various parts.

CARD FEED The card feed of the present invention is shown in the enlarged views FIGS. 3 and 4, which respectively illustrate the constant-pressure applying and the card pickoff, conveyor input portions of the card feed structure shown in the lower right-hand comer of FIG. 1. It should be recognized, however, that FIGS. 3 and 4 show the feed means 20 in different positions. In fact, in FIG. 4 the stack of cards 14 is shown much reduced in size and the feed means 20 is correspondingly advanced in position but shown in dot-and-dash lines which indicate the feed means is not the same position as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3.

The carriage 18 is a rectangular plate which extends parallel to the front support deck I from within the control box 22 to a position somewhat short of the main drum 24. Its rear edge 18a extends within the control box as seen in FIG. 3 and is movable from a rear position shown in dot-and-dash lines against a back stop 52, supported on deck 10, to a position somewhat to the right of that position shown in full lines in FIG. 3. The carriage preferably has an integral flange 1812 which provides a shelf support for the long wall of tray 16 and provides the bearing surface which rests atop three similar rollers 54a, 54b and 54c, which rotate about axes perpendicular to the front deck 10. The structure of the rollers may be appreciated by reference to FIG. 7 which shows roller 54c spaced from deck 10 by a standoff column 53c. Similar standoff columns are provided for each of the rollers 54a, 54b and 54c and each of these is rigidly fixed to the deck 10 at one end and to a roller support rail 55. The structure thus formed is quite rigid and the columns provide tubular bearing support for the shafts supporting the rollers. Since the front deck is tilted back at about 30 from the vertical, the main rectangular surface of the carriage also rests against rollers 56a and 56b along its top edge and 58a and 58b along its bottom edge. Each of these four rollers has an axis of rotation in the plane of the front deck, or parallel thereto, and each of the axes is parallel to the others and lies in a vertical plane. The combination of rollers 54a, 54b and 540, 56a and 56b and 58a and 58b, permit low-friction linear movement of the carriage in the horizontal direction. Movement permitted is very small, for reasons which will appear, but it is also quite significant in its importance. The rollers 54a, 54b and 540, are partially enclosed by a skirt 60 which is attached to the shelf flange 18b of carriage l8. Skirt 60 extends downwardly parallel to deck 10 from flange 18b to which it is attached by a narrow flange and extends back toward deck 10 from a point below the rollers 54a, 54b and 54c to provide an enclosure for the rollers.

The feed assembly, generally designated 20, consists of a feed arm 62 which, in turn, is divided into flanges 62a, 62b and 620. It is these fingers which actually bear against and supply pressure to a stack of cards 14 in a tray 16 on shelf 18b of the carriage 18. FIG. shows these fingers and also shows some detail about the slide structure to which the feed arm is attached and by which it is moved. As seen in FIG. 5, slide 64 is a generally U-shaped member with the U horizontally oriented with one of its legs 64a serving as the top, the other leg 64b, serving as the bottom, and a narrow piece 640 joining the two legs to the U. The slide 64, in turn, rides on a split track 66 arranged generally perpendicular to the front support deck and extending parallel thereto. The track is supported from the carriage at the end adjacent the control box on a suitable bracket 68 and at its opposite end as seen in FIG. 4, on a similar bracket 70. Bearing strips 72 are inserted into the slide portions 64a and 64b to ride at widely distributed points both above and below the track 66 on the track, in order to reduce friction.

As best seen in FIG. 5, a threaded shaft 74 is located between the split sections of the track 66. This threaded shaft 74 is advantageously the extended shaft of motor 76, which is mounted on the carriage 18. It can be geared or otherwise connected to motor 76. Shaft 74 as shown is supported at the motor 76 in the motor bearings. At its opposite end, as seen in FIG. 4, it is supported by a bearing in bracket 70. When the feed arm assembly 20 is to be driven the motor 76 is energized causing shaft 74 to rotate and engagement of the slide 64 with that shaft causes the feed arm assembly to move in such direction as to urge the cards toward the main drum 24. Slide 64 engages the screw drive through a laterally removable threaded nut segment 80 which extends through upper slide wall 64a into the slot between the tracks to engage the threaded shaft 74.

The laterally removable nut 80 is fixed to a finger-operated lever 82 at the remote end from the finger-operating point, as seen in FIG. 5. Near the midpoint of the lever are a pair of tabs 82a downwardly directed from each side of the lever and engaging a pivot pin 84 through a block 86 fixed to slide 64 in a suitable manner. Block 86 also retains a helical compression spring 88 within a recess so that the spring 88 extends between the slide 64 and the lever 82, in position to urge the releasable nut 80 into engagement with the threaded shaft 74. By pressing downwardly on the free end of the lever 82 against the force of the spring, the lever is rotated around the pin 84 to release the nut 80 from the threaded shaft 74, at which time the slide 64 may be moved freely along the track 66 to any position desired.

As can be seen from FIG. 3, when a tray 16 is placed onto the shelf 18b the feed arm assembly 20 must be slid back toward the control box 22 in order to allow the tray to be placed in the position shown. Thereafter, as viewed in FIG. 3. the slide may again be released and moved laterally to the right until it engages the card stack 14, as shown in FIG. 3. In order to do this it will be appreciated that the fingers 62a, 62b and 62c of the feed arm 62 must pass through the tray 16. As previously described, a support wall is provided along one long edge of the backwall of the tray. The front of the tray opens for easy access to the cards. In the tray shown in FIG. 3, only the rectangular backwall 16b of the tray and the wall along one of the longer edges (providing the bottom support in FIG. 3) are imperforate. One end of the tray is partially closed by slotted end wall 16c along a short side of the rectangular backwall. The other end is open although as seen in FIGS. 25-28 a removable wall for handling is preferably provided and will be discussed later. A strengthening and latching flange 162 is provided along the long edge at the top of the carriage. The slotted nature of end wall 160 is seen in FIG. 5 to accommodate the fingers 62a, 62b and 62c Flange 16d on wall 16c serves as a handle to facilitate the handling of the tray. The fingers 62a, 62b and 620 can move through the slots in wall 16c. The feed arm 62 is permitted to contact or almost contact the main drum 24. A positive stop between the feed arm assembly 20 and the front deck 10 is provided screw 90 threaded through a flange 64d on the slide 64 and engaging the stop shoulder 92 on the front deck 10. The screw 90 is adjusted to hold the arm 62 barely out of contact with the main drum 24 when screw 92 contacts stop 90. The screw adjustment of member 90 also can allow for a change in tolerance, if necessary, in the event that a wide thickness range of stock is being handled by the apparatus.

Also shown in FIGS. 4 and 6 is structure which aids in keeping the cards 14 properly aligned for feed. Guide plate 94 is rotatably supported on shaft 96, which has a snug telescopic fit with tube 98. Tube 98 is rigidly fixed in position between the front and rear decks l0 and I2. Shaft 96 can be pulled out to adjust the plate 94 at the edge of the card stack to aid in holding the lateral edges of the cards in proper position. The

size of the guide plate is such that it reaches only the first few cards. Associated with the guide plate 94 is a roller 100, which acts as a stop to limit fanning" of a stack of cards squeezed at the bottom between the feed fingers 62a and drum 24. Without the roller 100 cards would fan out to a point where the front card leans past vertically toward the drum and portions of the card above the effective bottom area would contact the drum and impair effective operation. Roller 100 is supported by a radial link 102 from a sturdy pin support 104 anchored in both front and rear decks l and 12. As seen in FIG. 4 the position of roller 100 is established by a screw 106 through link 102, the end of which screw bears against the tubular support 98 and acts as a stop for the lever 102 and its supported roller 100 limiting their approach to drum 24. An adjustment of this screw 106 positions the roller closer to or further away from the card in the stack being fed into the drum 24 as needed depending on card flexibility. As can be seen in FIG. 6 the roller is here a double-roller structure with similar parts on each side of link 102 and of sufficient width to be effective over a substantial part of the width of any cards or papers being fed to the drum 24.

The drum 24 requires pressure of the card stack in order for the frictional surface of the drum to be effective. Therefore, in order to assure uniform input, it is necessary to provide means to maintain pressure of the cards relatively constant within tolerable narrow limits. In accordance with the present invention this constant pressure is supplied by spring means urging the carriage 18 toward the drum 24. Since the feed assembly 20 is supported on the carriage 18, spring 108 urging the carriage 18 toward the drum 24, as can be seen in FIG. 3, will supply the relatively constant force to urge the carriage toward the drum when the feed assembly is not being driven and will allow the carriage to retreat from the drum as necessary when the drive means is functioning in order to maintain spring pressure constant. Spring bracket 180 is affixed to the carriage to extend backwardly in the direction away from the drum at the rear edge of the carriage 180. A spring of coil-tension type is attached between the rear end of this bracket 18c and an upward extending arm 1100 of a sort of crank lever 110 supported on the front deck 10 in a position closer to the drum than bracket 180. The crank lever is a one-piece sheetmetal member generally horizontally oriented and having the arm 1100 to which the spring 108 is attached bent out of the plane of an actuating lever arm 1101;. The crank lever 110 is pivotally supported to rotate about a post 112 supported on the sidewalls of housing 22. Lever 110b extends through a canted cam slot 114 in the housing. The cam surface acts to hold the lever 110b in selected positions against the action of the spring 108. By adjusting the position of the lever 11% the tension of the spring can be adjusted within narrow limits to make its effect greater or less. Wider adjustment of the spring tension is accomplished by lengthening or shortening bracket 180, a two-piece structure having slidable interfitting pieces connected together by a screw. One of the pieces is slotted to permit effective lengthening or shortening of the bracket and thereby increasing or decreasing the tension of the spring accordingly. Whatever the spring force selected, the tension spring 108 tends to urge the carriage constantly toward the drum 24 with that amount of force.

Cam 114 is provided on the carriage in a position to actuate a microswitch 116 at some preselected position of the carriage relative to the front deck. The normally closed contacts microswitch 116 keeps motor 76 energized, causing the threaded shaft 74 to rotate and drive the feed arm assembly into the cards. Were the carriage not movable this movement of the feed arm could at times generate additional pressure. However such additional pressure is immediately relieved by the carriage 18 moving backward so that the pressure is constantly maintained at its predetermined level. Thus the'motor 76 in effect drives the carriage away from the cards whenever the pressure exceeds the predetermined level. When the car riage moves back to the position in which the cam 114 allows the microswitch 116 to open, the motor 76 is deenergized. As

cards are taken from the stack, the carriage then moves forward again under the urging of the spring 108 until cam 114 permits the contacts of switch 116 to close and energize the motor. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the feed means of the present invention thereby provides a servosystem for sensing and maintaining at the preset spring tension constant pressure on the cards being fed to the drum 24.

SINGLE-CARD FEED The present invention is arranged to permit only one sheet at a time to be fed into the conveyor system. The structure will function even though the sheet thicknesses may vary one from another provided the cards are not stuck together in some way.

Feed is based primarily on the main drum 24, which as seen in FIG. 7 is preferably a hollow drum 118, having an outer facing 120 of material with a high coefficient of friction, such as polyurethane. Other materials can be used but polyurethane has proved particularly desirable because of good wear propenies. As can be seen in FIG. 4 the drum is preferably mounted with its axis of rotation slightly above the feed surface. In one structure having a 5-inch diameter drum the feed level was about one-fourth inch lower. In this position the cards tend to be squeezed by the feed means 20 into the drum surface over a short distance at least corresponding to the amount of offset of the drum axis. The pressure applied in this manner is used to generate the frictional pull by the frictional drum surface on the contacting card.

FIG. 7 also shows that the drum is ball bearing mounted to the front and back decks by a suitable shafi 122. The bearings 124 are preferably located within a thick-walled tubular member 126 extending between the front and rear decks 10 and 12. The shaft is continued on through the back deck and is provided on its back side with a timing pulley 128, which accepts a drive timing belt 130. The same shaft is terminated in a Warner brake 132 which enables stopping of the main drum 24, even if the rest of the conveyor system is not stopped. Referring to FIG. 2 it can be seen that the belt is driven off the double pulley 134. Another timing belt 136 extends between the other sheave of double timing pulley 134 and another double timing pulley 130. Timing belt 140 extends between the other sheave on pulley 138 and timing pulley 142 on common motor 144, which provides drive for all of the conveyors of the apparatus.

Returning to FIGS. 4, 7 and 8, it will be observed that blade 146 is positioned close spaced to the surface of friction cover 120 of drum 24. The spacing is usually no more than the thickness of the thinnest paper or card to pass through the Space between the blade and the drum. As best seen in FIG. 8, the blade 146 is preferably provided with a carbide tip 146a. The blade appears to provide a wedge shape generally radially directed toward the drum. The upper surface of the blade is a ramp down which the cards move in the course of feeding. If the ramp is too flat it blocks the cards from sliding down; if too steep it tends to allow multiple cards to jam through. An angle of approximately 45 to the tangent or generally radial direction of movement seems to be nearly ideal. Variations up to 10 either side of this angle provide satisfactory results. However, larger variations beyond this are less and less satisfactory. The wedge must be kept sharp to be effective and for this reason it is best to make it a 90 point. Changes in the angle of the bottom of the wedge will not change its effect but as the angle is reduced the wear will occur faster. The blade is guided from above to maintain its horizontal attitude directed toward an element of the cylindrical drum surface. Guiding is provided by a surface along the front under edge of housing 148 of general L-shaped cross section having strengthening webs transversely interconnecting the parts of the L. The blade 146 is preferably fixed to a cylindrical core 150 of a ball bushing assembly 152. A bracket 153 for the ball bushing 152 is, in turn, fixed by screws 154 and 156 to the housing 148, on a surface parallel to blade direction. Screw 154 is conventional, but screw 1S6 passes through and holds an adjustment eccentric bushing which enables angular adjustment of the bracket 153 about screw 154 and of the position of the blade 1460 until its leading edge is parallel to the surface 120 at the drum 24. Core 150 advantageously has a coaxial threaded shank 150a which passes through a hole in wall 153a of the bracket 153 against which a nut 158 on shank 150a provides a shoulder which abuts wall 153a to limit forward motion of the blade 146 toward the drum facing 120. Adjustment of nut position on shank 150 permits adjustment of the spacing at rest between tip 146a and drum cover 120. Compression spring 160 between housing 148 and nut 158 urges the blade 146 toward the drum until the nut 158 abuts wall 153a. The force of the compression spring 160 is also adjustable because it abuts the housing in a threaded recess which contains pressure adjusting screw 161 which is movable toward and away from the spring to increase and decrease spring pressure respectively. Thus the blade is able to move away from the position fixed nut 158 against the action of the spring 160. It will readily do this to permit passage of a single sheet of paper thicker than the spacing between drum and blade as that paper is pulled along by the frictional surface 120 of the drum 24. However, a second piece of paper not stuck to the first will be held or blocked by the blade because the friction between the adjacent pieces of paper is small compared to the friction between the first piece of paper and the drum surface 120. The drum surface is selected with this property in mind, and the larger the difference in frictional effects at the two interfaces, the better the blade functions to prevent passage of more than one card at a time.

As can be seen in FIG. 4, the housing 148 is preferably made flush with the shelf 18b of the carriage in order to avoid a discontinuity in the cardor tray-supporting surface.

Cards fed past the blade 146 are carried on around the drum 24 by that drum because of the presence of formed sheet metal guides 162 and 164 which hold the cards against the drum. As best seen in FIG. 4 the drum and guides 162 and 164 constitute the first conveyor section. To minimize friction along this conveyor at the said edge a conveyor space plate 166 is interposed between the front deck and each of the first three conveyors. The surface of the plate is preferably plated to provide a low-friction surface which is flat and true as a guide for the card edges. Guide 162 is fixed to plate 166 and thereby to deck 10. Guide 164 also provides idler rollers 165 rotatably supported on and extending through guide 164 to help lessen friction as the card or paper is transported by drum 24. The guide 164 is hinged by hinge 168 to a frame 170 constituting a part of the second conveyor 32. This hinging permits the guide 164 to be swung away from the drum so that access may be had to clear away any card or paper which becomes inadvertently trapped between the drum and the guide.

DOUBLE-FEED DETECTOR The guide 162 supports the double thickness feed detector 28, which is best seen in FIGS. 10, a and 11. In the unlikely event that a double thickness of paper is able to pass the blade 1460, it will be detected by the double-feed detector to produce an alarm or stop the drive to permit retrieval of the offending cards.

The double-feed detector is illustrated in FIGS. 10, 10a and 11. The detector frame 174 for the double-thickness detector may be mounted directly on the guide 162 as here or on the spacer conveyor plate 166 on front deck 10. The detector frame 174 is rigidly supported and does not move or change position during operation of the device. The crank lever 172 on the other hand tends to rotate around the pin 176 supported in portions of the detector frame 174. As can be understood from FIG. 10, sensing is done by a crank lever 172 which has a hardened tip or surface 172a which projects through an opening in the guide 162. A single card 14a can pass through the space between the lever 172 and the reference surface of the drum opposite the tip 172a or will rotate the lever too little to produce a signal. A double thickness, on the other hand causes clockwise rotation of the crank lever 172 as viewed in FIGS. 10 and 10a. Arm l72b of crank lever 172 bears against stop pin 178 and holds arm 172 a a predetermined minimum distance from the drum. Clockwise rotation of lever 172 causes the other arm 1720 to bear against a plate 180 of insulation. Plate 180, in turn, urges resilient spring conductor 182, and its supported contact 182a toward conductor beam 186, which provides the other contact of a normally open pair. A single card, as seen in FIG. 10, will not make contact 182a complete a circuit to beam 186. However, two cards 14a and 14b stuck together, as seen in FIG. 10a is enough to complete the contact to either activate an alarm circuit or shut down the machine drive until the double thickness is removed.

It will be observed in FIG. 10 that beam 186 is totally supported from a portion of the housing structure 174 at a pivot point 188 parallel to pin 176. Beam 186 carries an adjustable threaded stop 190, which acts on pin 178. On the other side of the pivot but the same side of beam 186 a screw threaded into the frame provides an adjustable stop 192 against which the beam 186 is urged by the toggle lever 194, in the position shown. Toggle lever 194 is a compound member having a sliding head 194a contacting the beam 186 on the side of pin 188 toward stop 192 and spring urged into the beam to urge the beam into the stop. Stop 192 determines the position of beam 186 and its spacing from the contact 182a. The absolute position of the beam relative to the frame 174 can be adjusted by stop 192. Such adjustment will not change the spacing between contacts as the change in beam position will be reflected in a change of position of lever 172 through pin 178 thus moving contact 182b an amount corresponding to the change in beam position. Spacing of contacts can be changed by adjustment screw 190.

As can be seen in FIGS. 10 and 11 the toggle lever 194 is overcenter device having a compressing spring 196 which urges the head 194a away from the main body 194 of the lever. This lever construction produces an overcenter toggle device having stable positions into which the lever tends to move at the limits of lever movement where spring 196 is least compressed and the head 194a lies on one side or the other of pivot pin 188. If the lever 194 is switched from the position shown in FIG. 10 to the other side of the pivot 188, the beam 186 will move against adjustable stop 198, which is adjustable in and out away from and toward the beam by manual adjustment knob 200. Stop 198, like the lever 194 is threaded through the casing 17411 of the housing 174 to enable its adjustment. Casing 174b encloses the mechanism of the device to keep it free from dirt and dust and to avoid accidental operation of the device.

In the latter position, with the beam 186 against stop 198, it is clear that the switch contacts are no further separated, but that tip 172a will not be urged into moving by documents thicker than those which moved in the position of FIG. 10 because the contacting surface 1720 in this position is further from the drum surface 120. Therefore, consequently in this position a greater card thickness can pass without closing the contacts.

From the above discussion it will be appreciated that the toggle lever 194 enables an adjustment which, for example, may be used to change quickly from card to paper tolerances, if it is common to run both cards and paper of fairly standard thickness through the machine. In passing, it will be noted that the toggle lever 194 is inserted as an assembly with the spring 196 under compression. It is held in place by a cap 202, which permits the passage of the lever 194 through the cap and provides an annular shoulder 202a, which opposes and holds in place a rounded shoulder 194a formed by an enlarged diameter portion of lever 194.

Each of the conveyors 32 and 34 share guide 204 which is of channel form. The rollers are located within the channel and extend through slots in the guide 204 toward conveyor belts.

The guide 204 is channel shaped to lend rigidity and to enable ease in handling. The guide 204 and rollers 206 can be moved as a whole away from the conveyor by rotating the whole structure about a pivot 208, seen in FIG. 12, in order to give access to the cards or the card space between the guide and one of the conveyor belts. Since hinge 168 is connected to guide 204, guide 164 will move away from the drum 24 when guide 204 is moved. It is preferably opposed by fixed plate sections 210a, 210b and 210s in operating position parallel to guide 204, each of the sections being fixed to the front deck or conveyor spacer plate 166. The plates 210a, 210k and 210s are slotted to pennit the passage of narrow conveyor belts 212 and 214 providing the movable elements, respectively, for conveyors 32 and 34. I

As seen in FIG. 4, conveyor belt 212 passes over pulleys 216 and 218, which rotate in a direction shown by the arrows and beneath an idler pulley 220. Idler pulley 220, supported on an arm 22, is fixed in a position between the pulleys 216 and 218 to take slack out of conveyor belt 212. As seen in FIG. 4, a card leaving the drum 24 is prevented from following the drum 24 around by a pair of fingers 226, which extend from the guide section 2100 into grooves in the friction surface 120 of the main drum 24. These fingers 226 direct the card away from the drum and guide it upwardly between guide 210a and rail 204 until it enters the nip between the lowermost of the rollers 206 and the conveyor belt 212 as it passes around pulley 216. The conveyor belt 212 is made of material having a high coefficient of friction which tends to engage and carry a card upwardly past the series of rollers 206, past a photocell 228a and ultimately past the last pulley 218.

As seen in FIG. 2, the pulley 218 is mounted on the same shaft as pulley 134 and is thereby driven by motor 144 through that pulley 134, belt 138,pulley 138, belt 140 and pulley 142.

The conveyor system 34 as seen in FIG. 12 employs pulleys 230 and 232 over which pass the conveyor belt 214 which is similar to belt 212. Pulley 232 is larger than pulley 230, and on the order of the size of main drum 24, and like the main drum serves to carry a card around the corner without unduly bending it. Belt 214 is kept taut by idler pulley 234, which is from post 238 supported on positionable arm 236 fixed in a selected position between pulleys 230 and 232.

In addition to the straight card guide 204 there is a curved card guide section 240 which follows the belt 214 as it moves around the pulley 232. This guide provides a pair of rollers 242 similar to rollers 206. Opposed to guide 240 is a guide extension 243 having its end curved corresponding to the curvature of the pulley 232, extending from the end of fixed guide section 2100 along the side of the pulley. This extension is similar to the fingers 226 extending from the fixed guide section 210a and serves essentially the same card guiding function. At the point where the guide extension 243 is discontinued an extension 246a extends along opposed to guide 240. At its end, guide 240 is fixed to the vacuum box 250 of the fourth conveyor 36, which will be hereafter described.

Drive for the conveyor belt 214 is supplied through pulley 232 (see FIG. 12) by way ofa timing pulley 252 on a common shaft but on the opposite side of decks 10 and 12. As seen in FIG. 2 pulley 252 is driven by timing belt 254 from a timing pulley 255 of a double-sheaved pulley and also passes around a tensioning pulley 258. The other sheave 257 of pulley 256 is driven through belt 260 from double-sheaved pulley 142 on motor 144. Between the sheaves 256 and 258 is a clutch which is actuated by control 262 to disengage conveyor 214 from drive motor 142.

As seen in FIG. 12, cards are drawn upwardly by conveyor 34 until they reach the curved guide 240 and they are directed around the curve defined by that guide and the conveyor belt 214. Guide 240 directs the cards to conveyor 36 into the nip of the belt 262 and the belt 214. Enough of the rollers 206 and 242 at selected locations are narrow canted rollers of highfriction material to urge the edges of cards into the conveyor spacer plate 166 so that all cards will be urged into spacer plate 166 and have their edges aligned by plate 166 by the time they reach conveyor 36. The belt 262 of conveyor 36 as seen in FIG. 1 runs between pulleys 266 and 268 and over a position adjustable intermediate pulley 270, which is used to remove the slack from belt 262. Belt 262 passes beneath the vacuum housing 250 in a closely conforming groove provided therefor in the precision card-carrying surface of the card guide 248 provided on the lower surface of vacuum housing 250. The nature of the groove in card guide 248 is best seen in FIG. 15 and its purpose is described in somewhat greater detail below.

The manner in which the belt 262 is driven is seen in FIG. 13. The shaft connecting the drive pulley 252 to conveyor pulley 230 carries a gear 272 within the space between the front and back decks 10 and 12. Meshing with gear 272 is another gear 274 of the same size mounted on a shaft also extending between front and back decks 10 and 12 and through back deck 12 to a pulley 276 and a brake 278 which has its brake element supported on the rear deck 12. As is seen in FIG. 2 as well as FIG. 13, pulley 276 drives belt 280, which passes over pulley 282 and positions adjustable pulley 284. Pulley 282 is on a common shaft with pulley 266 for belt 262 (see FIG. 12). As seen in FIG. 13, pulley 282 also shares a common shaft with gear 284, which meshes with a gear 286, which in turn drives an encoder 288. Encoder 288 is supported on a suitable platform spaced away from the back deck 12. It will be understood by inspection of FIG. 2 that the gears 272 and 274 function to reverse the direction of drive of drive belt 280 from the direction of other belts and from the direction of rotation of drive motor 144. This, in turn, drives conveyor belt 262 in the opposite direction from belts 212 and 214.

Directions of rotation of conveyors 214 and 262 can be seen in FIG 12 from the directional arrows shown on pulley shivs 232 and 266, respectively, by the arrows. The location of conveyor 262 outside of the conveyor loop, instead of inside of the loop as with the other conveyors, makes rotation in this direction mandatory to continue card feed in the same direction. It will be observed that the belt for the next conveyor 40 (see FIG. 1) is also outside (above) the conveyor loop and driven from another shiv of pulley 268.

The conveyor system has been designed overall with several things in mind. First there is the need for card separation so that cards will be distinctly separated from one another at the reader 38. Second it is desirable to employ drive means which enables correct indexing and prediction of when a given card will reach the reader and thereafter when it will reach sorting means.

As to card separation, the technique employed is to drive successive conveyors in the direction of card flow at successively higher speeds. Cards fed into the system at drum 24 tend to follow directly upon one another with little or no space between them, but without actually overlapping. In order to read the cards it is necessary to index the material to be read relative to certain parts of the card. Preferably lengthwise indexing is done on the leading edge of the card. Such indexing is accomplished by one or more photocells 2280 (FIG. 4) and 228!) (FIG. 12) at a precisely predetermined location along the conveyors so that the flow of cards changes photocell condition depending upon whether any part of the cards is opposite from the photocell. The leading edge of each card will therefore change the photocell condition precisely when the leading edge reaches the photocell, which card location information is provided to the system location.

It is also desirable to be able to predict just how long it will take for a card at a given photocell to reach the reader. In this system the separate conveyors used to achieve separation complicate the situation. However, the common drive motor 144 assures that the system will all have a related speed so that, knowing the speed and card location, one can predict just when a given card will reach a reader and/or selection gate means. Should slight variation in speed from time to time be a problem it is possible to provide clock means which regardless of speed variations determines when the card should be at a predetermined location. This is the function of the en- The conveyor 36 uses vacuum to draw the cards into a precision card-carrying surface of card guide 248 a precise distance above the vertically upwardly directed optical reader 38. Vacuum is also used in addition to friction of the conveyor belt 262 to move the cards along the card guide 248 whose precision card-carrying surface is composed of a low-friction material. Vacuum is supplied to the vacuum box 250 by a conduit, including a header 290, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 14. As seen in FIGS. 14 and 2 suitable hose 292 connected to a tubular portion of the header 290 by conventional clamp means passes through the front and rear decks l and 12 and along the back of the rear deck 12 supported by suitable brackets. It will be understood that the hose 292 is connected to a conventional vacuum source (not shown).

As seen in FIG. 14, the header communicates with a pair of parallel channels 250a and 25% in vacuum box 250. FIG. shows a typical cross section of channels 250a and 250b which extend the length of the vacuum box. Throughout the length the channels are provided with communicating slots 29 40 and 294b, connecting the vacuum channels to the edges or sides of the channel for the belt 262. The channel is kept to approximately the thickness of the belt 262 by a low-friction plate 296, which is not quite the full width of the channel, but is wide enough to provide a bearing surface for the belt 262, which also does not fill up the complete width. Within the channel are provided a pair of side low-friction face-plates 298a and 298b at opposite edges of the low-friction plate 296. The side face-plates extend along the channel along at least the tops of the opposite edges of the belt 262, and terminate at the channels 294a and 294b, respectively. The bottom of the vacuum box 250 provides the card guide 248 along which the cards are moved while held in place by vacuum. Low friction plates, the side face-plate 300 and the outer face-plate 302, extend along on each side of the channel and together provide a precision card-carrying surface. The vacuum along the edges of the belt tends to pull the cards into the precision card-carrying surface where they lie a precise distance from the optical reader.

As seen in FIG. 150 the conveyor belt 262 is a timing belt with periodic notches at equal intervals along its inside (top) surface. These notches 262a mate with corresponding teeth in a heavy timing pulley 268 in order to give positive drive to the belt and to overcome any tendency to be held in place by the vacuum of vacuum box 250. The vacuum along the edges of the belt draws the cards to and flat against the precision cardcarrying surface. Periodic notches, or grooves, 26212 laterally across the bottom (outside) of the belt 262 are for the purpose of permitting the vacuum to extend across the bottom side of the belt above the cards to hold the cards in place. This added vacuum effect also moves with the belt and tends to insure that in addition to the frictional properties of the belt, the vacuum effect seeming to move with the belt will act upon each card and drag it along. The plates 300 and 302 are of low-frictional material in order to insure good sliding over the card-carrying surface as the cards are moved along by the belt.

Beneath the conveyor are a series of spaced pullout trays 248 and 306 which are seen in FIG. 1 from the outer edge. These trays are of shallow channel-shaped form, one downturned sidewall providing a handle 3060, as seen in cross section ofFIG. 15.

The pullout trays 306 and 248 are supported from the front and back decks 10 and 12 by telescoping support members best seen in FIG. 15. The outer tubular member 308 is fixed between the decks 10 and 12 and extend forwardly to a point just inside the handle 306a when the tray is in its closed position, shown in full lines in FIG. 15. Snugly fitting within each tubular member 308 is a slide rod 310 which is connected by a screw or suitable means to the handle of the tray 306a. A pair of these telescoping guide means are used for each tray and enable the tray to be pulled out as shown in the dashed lines of FIG. 15. The tray is capable of being pulled out beyond the position shown until the back flange 306k strikes the shoulder provided by snapring 308a. Tray 248 differs from trays 306 only in the guide finger 246 on the leading edge of tray 246 extending outside of the pulley 232, for the purpose previously described. By contrast the leading edges of the other trays 306 are bent slightly away from the conveyor belt 262 to catch the leading edges of cards being conveyed should they tend to droop. The trays all enable lateral removal of cards from the conveyor 36 when the vacuum is released by simple lateral withdrawal of the trays.

Just before the last of the pullout trays is an optical reader 38, which may be a type described in the US application of James S. Bauer and John C. Bouton Ser. No. 19,042, filed Mar. 12, 1970, for Optical Character Recognition System and Method, and assigned to the assignee of the present invention. This device reads letters, numerals, or symbols at a predetermined location on the cards being fed by the conveyor. After the reading is completed, classification in accordance with the information read is accomplished by opening one of the three diverter gates 42a, 421; or 420, which effectively sort the cards by diverting each into a selected one of three stacks. As earlier explained it is possible to have more classifications than three, but the mechanical principal is the same. Furthermore, it is possible to have more than one reader. For example, readers may be provided as well in the places designated 38a and 38b.

CARD CLASSIFICATION AND COLLECTION The last conveyor 40 consists of a belt 312 driven by a second sheave on pulley 268 through belt 262 and its previously described connection back to motor 144. The belt path along the card-flow conveyor path terminates at its other end at pulley 314. Belt 312 rotates in the same direction as belt 262 in order to continue movement in the same direction since it is on the same side of the card path. Vacuum is no longer necessary to hold the card in a precision position and friction is relied upon to carry the cards together with means described below which hold the cards into the belt.

As seen in FIG. 1 three sturdy narrow platforms 318 are spaced along the conveyor, extending perpendicular to deck extension 10' and generally horizontally. As best seen in FIGS. 16 and 17 each of these platforms, in turn, supports a roller 320 which bears on the top of the conveyor belt 312 to urge it downwardly and hold it in place against another roller 313 supported by a suitable bracket from deck 10'. Rollers 313 lie between fixed guide plates and movable gate plates. Moving along the conveyor in the direction of card flow are successively a short guide plate 322 with a downturned leading edge which directs cards into the conveyor 40. It should be noted that the platform 318 opposed to guide plate 322 has a downcurved edge along a V-shaped front which tends to aid in directing cards into conveyor 40. The next guide plate 326a pivotally supports a forked gate plate which in the closed position shown has its forked end resting on reduced diameter shoulders on opposite sides of roller 313. Gate plate 324a is movable about its horizontal pivot into open position against platform 318 and into the notch provided in that platform. Gate plate 324b hinged to guide plate 3261; is shown in FIG. 16 in such open position with its closed position shown in phantom. Gate plate 324c and guide plate 3260 are similar to their predecessors. The gate plates 324a, 32% and 324c are hinged at their following edge so that the leading edge can be moved upwardly as seen in FIG. 16 from the lower closed position of gate plate 324a or the dashed line position of gate plate 3241) to the upward open solid line position of gate plate 324b. Each of the platforms 318 is notched so that in the open gate position the leading edge of the gate plate is hidden behind the notch and only the flat tilted diverting surface of the

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2191586 *Apr 23, 1938Feb 27, 1940Johnson Automatic Sealer Co LtCarton feeding mechanism
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4216952 *Jan 16, 1978Aug 12, 1980Technitrol, Inc.Feed mechanism for sequentially separating documents, sheets, coupons and the like
US4328962 *Dec 19, 1980May 11, 1982Bell & Howell CompanyMail sorting machine
US5284335 *Oct 6, 1992Feb 8, 1994Roll Systems, Inc.High capacity sheet feeders for high volume printers
U.S. Classification271/149
International ClassificationG06K13/10, G06K13/02
Cooperative ClassificationG06K13/10
European ClassificationG06K13/10