US 3630242 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Original application Apr. 1, 1968, Ser. No. 717,704, now Patent No. 3,529,399, dated Sept. 22, 1970. Divided and this application Mar. 18, 1970, Ser. No. 20,782
APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATIC FILLING OF LIQUID CONTAINERS HAVING SEMIRlGlD WALLS 29 Claims, 26 Drawing Figs.
U.S. Cl 141/95, 141/114, 141/159, 141/164, 141/168, 141/183 Int. Cl B651) 1/30, B67c 3/02 Field 01 Search 141/94, 95,
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,723,069 11/1955 Shanhouse et al....l 141/114 3,082,918 3/1963 Lewis 141/168 3,177,906 4/1965 Meyer-Jagenberg 141/374 Primary Examiner-Houston S. Bell, Jr.
7 Atlorney--Mahoney & Miller ABSTRACT: This container-filling apparatus fills containers in an automatically controlled, sequential operation which assures positive control over filling of the containers with a desired volumetric quantity of the liquid. Each container is supported during the filling operation for proper orientation of the fill opening and for support of the container's sidewalls. Filling is accomplished by insertion of a liquid-dispensing nozzle through the fill opening at the initiation of a fill operation and subsequent relative separating movement of the container and nozzle at a rate which maintains the discharge orifice of the dispensing nozzle immersed in the liquid to prevent foaming of the liquid. The container is filled in accordance with volumetric capacity limits with the volume of liquid dispensed into each container being determined by a flowmeter incorporating an electromagnetic transducer thereby minimizing the possibility of liquid contamination through avoidance of direct physical contact between the liquid and external indicating components of the flowmeter.
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VD D On INVENTORS WARREN J. SCH/ESER JOH P. CONNERS ATTORNEYS tmOw GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF CONTAINER-FILLING APPARATUS although the containers are structurally self-supporting. Fonning the dispensing and fill opening at a comer of the container as in the container configurations illustrated in the several figures of the drawings is of advantage to both .filling of the container and subsequent dispensing. In filling of a container having the fill opening fonned at a comer, it is preferable that the container be oriented in a tilted position with the fill opening uppermost as this facilitates filling to minimize the air space which will be left at the top of the container. Although a single specific container structure is illustrated in the several figures of the drawings, it is to be understood that this specific structure is exemplary and the apparatus may be readily adapted to handle containers of other configurations.
The apparatus of this invention receives the unfilled containers, properly orients the containers for filling, accurately fills the containers with the desired volume of liquid, reorients the-filled container and discharges the reoriented container from the apparatus. The illustrated and described embodiment of the apparatus includes two independently operable filling stations which are supplied with empty containers through the coordinated operation of a single container infeed mechanism which transfers the empty containers alternately to the two filling stations. Each filling station includes an elongated, valved dispensing nozzle which is insertable into a container through the fill opening and a container-elevating mechanism for moving a container into association with the dispensing noule for the filling operation. The dispensing nozzle is of a length to extend nearly to the bottom of a container at the start of the filling operation to prevent excessive frothing or foaming of a liquid such as milk and the container is lowered at a predetermined rate during filling to limit immersion of the nozzle to only a marginal end portion. Exposure of the nozzle to possible contamination is eliminated to a large degree by a telescopic sleeve structure which encloses each dispensing nozzle with the sleeve being axially displaced by the relative elevating movement of the container. 'In addition to vertical support of a container in the desired tilted position for optimum filling, each elevating mechanism is provided with vertical plates for supporting the semirigid sidewalls of a container and a latch mechanism engageable with the container fill opening with these components enhancing stability of the container during the filling operations. After completion of the filling operation and preparatory to discharge of a container from the apparatus, the container is reoriented to either a vertical or horizontal configuration to place a wall surface in engagement with a supporting surface and the filled container is then ejected from the apparatus-onto a discharge conveyor.
Coordinated operation of the several components of the apparatus for a filling operation is effected by fluid actuators of the pneumatic type which are primarily controlled by an electrical control system. Fluid actuators are utilized throughout the apparatus and effect the mechanical movement of the components from infeed of the unfilled containers to discharge of the filled containers. The electrical control system includes limit switches which are responsive to the operation and positions of the components to effect the coordinated and sequential filling operation. A -f lowmeter incorporating an electrical transducer is included in the liquiddispensing means and provides an electrical signal for control of the volume of liquid dispensed into each container. Utilization of an electrical transducer provides a flow control system in which direct mechanical communication of the liquid and measuring apparatus is avoided and thus enhances the sanitary operation of the apparatus and this feature is of great importance in the milk industry. Although the illustrated embodiment of the apparatus comprises two filling stations which are concurrently operable for maximum capability, the electrical control system may be set up through appropriate operation of manual selector switches for automatic operation of only one selected filling station. Single-station operation is particularly advantageous for limited or small quantity production runs and single-station capability is also of advantage in large production runs in that it permits continued operation at reduced capacity in the event that jamming or malfunctioning may occur with respect to one station. This permits continuation of the filling operationwhile the mal function is being cleared.
These and other objects and advantages of this invention will be readily apparent from the following detailed description of an embodiment thereof and the accompanying drawings.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a filling machine for dispensing containers and which embodies this invention.
FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the filling machine as viewed at the right side of FIG. I.
FIG. 3 isa fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 2 showing the container-supporting platforms onan enlarged scale with the right platform elevated to the initial filling position.
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3 showing the mechanism for infeed of an empty container. 7
FIG. 5 is a vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 3 but showing a container on the left platform being elevated to the initial filling position and a container on the right platform being capped.
FIG. 6 is a vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 3 but showing the left platform elevated to initial filling position and transfer of containers relative to the right platform.
FIG. 7 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6 showing the container tilting and pushoff mechanism.
FIG. 7a is a fragmentary vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 7 but showing the filled container being pushed off into the discharge conveyor.
FIG. 8 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 6 showing the actuating mechanism for the container-tilting mechanism.
FIG. 8a is a fragmentary vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 8 but showing the container-tilting mechanism actuated to a position for discharge of a filled container.
FIG. 9 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 9-9 of FIG. I showing the left container-supporting platform,compress-plate mechanism and latch plate mechanism on an enlarged scale with the platform in its lowermost positron.
FIG. 10 is a fragmentary top plan view taken along line 10- 10 of FIG. 9 showing the latch plate mechanism.
FIG. 11 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view on an enlarged scale taken along line 11-11 of FIG. I showing the container fill valve mechanism.
FIG. 12 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view on-an enlarged scale taken along line 12-12 of FIG. I showing the internal structure of the flowmeter.
FIG. I3 is a vertical sectional view taken along line I3- I3 of FIG. 12.
FIG. 14 is a schematic diagram of the fluid operating and control circuit of the filling machine.
FIGS. 15, a and 15b schematically illustrate the electrical control circuit of'the filling machine with the interconnecting conductors between the portions of the circuit shown on the separate sheets of drawings designated by the same numeral.
FIG. 16 is a fragmentary sectional view showing a modified construction relative to the container tilting and push off mechanism.
FIG. 17 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view taken along line 17l7 of FIG. 16 showing the container tilting and pushoff mechanism with a filled container disposed at the pushofi station.
FIG. 17a is a fragmentary vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 17 but showing the container partially tilted to a vertical position as a consequence of operation of the pushoff mechanism.
FIG. 17b is a fragmentary vertical sectional view similar to FIG. 17 but showing the container tilted to a vertical position as a consequence of operation of the pushoff mechanism.
FIG. 18 is a schematic diagram of the fluid operating and control circuit for the modified construction of the apparatus shown in FIG. 16.
FIGS. 19a and 19b are schematic diagrams of modifications of the electrical control circuits as shown in FIGS. 15a and 15b for the modified construction of the apparatus shown in FIG. 16 with the modified portions of the respective circuits being that below the lines l9a19a and l9bl9b in the respective Figures.
MECHANICAL STRUCTURE AND OPERATION The container-filling apparatus illustrated in the several Figures of the drawings and which embodies this invention is designed for the concurrent or simultaneous filling of two containers although the apparatus may be operated to perform a filling operation with respect to only one container at a given time. Since the apparatus includes two filling stations which are independently operable, the mechanisms associated with each filling station will be seen to be identical and the descrip tion of one filling station and the mechanism therefor will be applicable to the other filling station although distinctive reference numerals are utilized wherever appropriate. The filling stations are designated as either left or right as determined by viewing the apparatus from the front as illustrated in FIG. 1. Some specific mechanical structure details as well as fluid conduits and electrical circuit conductors have been omitted from the Figures showing the mechanical structure of the apparatus for clarity of illustration. These omitted mechanical structure details, fluid system conduits and electrical circuit conductors as well as their physical or mechanical arrangement in the apparatus are well known and, therefore, it is not considered necessary to illustrate or describe these in detail.
The containers C for which the illustrated embodiment of the apparatus is designed are clearly shown in several Figures of the drawings. The container may be generally described as being of rectangularly shaped, block-form which is preferably fabricated from a thermoplastic, synthetic resin that is of a type that, even with a relatively thin-wall construction, the container will be semirigid and substantially self-supporting when either empty or filled. One comer of the container is formed at an angle and is provided with a filling or dispensing opening A that is adapted to receive a closure which may be a cap V of the valved dispensing type. A container C is received by the apparatus in an unfilled, vertically oriented condition without a closure cap V applied to the fill opening with the cap subsequently applied during the filling operation as specifically described in our copending application. Because of the angled corner orientation of the fill opening A which facilitates dispensing of liquid from the container, it is necessary that the container C be oriented during the filling operation to place the fill opening uppermost and thus prevent formation of excessive air spaces within the container as would be occasioned should the container merely be oriented as illustrated in FIG. 4 prior to tilting to the preferred orientation which is also illustrated in FIG. 4. Prior to discharge from the apparatus, the container is reoriented to again place one sidewall in contacting engagement with a supporting surface in either a horizontal orientation as shown in FIG. 7a or in a vertical orientation as shown in FIG. 17b.
Referring specifically to FIGS. 1 and 2, it will be seen that the several mechanisms of the apparatus are assembled on a structural framework designated generally by the numeral 20. This structural framework 20 is preferably fabricated from tubular steel members that are welded together into a unitary rigid structure. Preferably, the structural framework 20 is provided with suitable leveling devices 21 at the base portion thereof which may be adjusted to accommodate any irregularities or unevenness in a floor or surface S on which the apparatus is to be supported. In addition to the main structural framework 20, the apparatus is seen to include a supply conveyor indicated generally at 22 and a discharge conveyor in dicated generally at 23. Each conveyor 22 and 23 also comprises its respective supporting framework which, in the case of the supply conveyor, includes an upstanding bracket 24 positioned at each end of the conveyor. One end of the discharge conveyor 23 is supported by an upstanding bracket 25 while the opposite end is carried by the structural framework 20. Each of the upstanding brackets 24 and 25 is also preferably provided with vertical adjustment means 26 to compensate for irregularities in the supporting surface S. Suitable equipment enclosures or housings are also mounted on the structural framework for protection of the electrical components and some of the control mechanisms and valves of the fluid system. These enclosures include a large cabinet 27 mounted on the upper, rear portion of the structural framework 20 and which houses the majority of the electrical system components along with a main control valve assembly that is of a manifold type. This apparatus is provided with two independent operator control stations with each station provided with the necessary electrical control switches. These switches are mounted in a respective filling station control cabinet 28 or 29. These station control cabinets 28 and 29 are mounted on the upper portions of the structural framework 20 at the front of the apparatus for convenience of an operator.
The right filling station, having reference to FIG. 1, is seen to comprise container-elevating means, indicated generally at 35, and liquid-dispensing means, indicated generally at 36. The container-elevating means 35 includes a container-supporting platform 37 and an elevator-actuating mechanism 38 which effects vertical displacement of the platform between a lowermost position, as illustrated in the case of the right filling station, and a relatively elevated position, as is illustrated with respect to the left filling station. The liquid-dispensing means 36 comprises an elongated discharge nozzle 39 which incorporates a filler valve (not visible in FIGS. 1 and 2), a filler valve actuating mechanism 40, and a flow-responsive device 41 for determining liquid flow through the discharge nozzle.
The left filling station comprises the same components as that described for the right filling station with these components comprising containerelevating means 45 and liquiddispensing means 46. The container-elevating means includes a supporting platform 47 and elevator-actuating mechanism 48 which is selectively operable to displace the platform between the two vertically spaced positions. Included in the liquid-dispensing means is a discharge nozzle 49, a filler valve actuating mechanism 50 and a flow-responsive device 51.
Unfilled containers are supplied to the two filling stations by infeed means 55 which transfers the containers from the supply conveyor 22 to an infeed station 57 located between the two container elevating means 35 and 45. The infeed means 55, as can be best seen in FIG. 4, receives containers C from the supply conveyor 22 at the rear of the apparatus and displaces the containers thus received forwardly relative to the apparatus to the infeed station 57. Included in the infeed means 55 is a reciprocal displacing mechanism 56 which is selectively operable to displace the containers along a horizontal path toward the front of the apparatus to the infeed station. The infeed station 57 is located between the two filling stations which are seen to be laterally spaced apart in FIG. 1. Thus, containers C received at the infeed station 57 are subsequently laterally displaced in either direction onto the respective container-supporting platforms 37 or 47 preparatory to initiation of a filling operation.
Stepwise transfer of the containers C from a receiving station to the infeed station 57 is effected by selective operation of the displacing mechanism 56 to horizontally push the containers as they reach the receiving station from the conveyor 22 onto a horizontal supporting surface 58 and subsequently to the infeed station 57. Container C, which is supported by the conveyor 22 is considered as being at the receiving station of the apparatus. The horizontal surface 58 is mounted on the structural framework by suitable means (not shown) and comprises a flat plate having an upper surface over which the containers will readily slide and which extends between the conveyor 22 and the infeed station 57. This horizontal surface plate 58 forms the bottom of an inverted U-shaped housing 59 that protects the unfilled containers from liquids that may be inadvertently spilled by the apparatus or from other falling debris which may contaminate the containers.
The reciprocal displacing mechanism 56 comprises a vertically disposed pusher plate 60 which is carried by a pair of horizontally extending guide rods 61. The guide rods 61 are slidably supported in a guide bearing 62 secured to the structural framework 20. As can be best seen in FIGS. 2 and 4, a vertically disposed plate 63 also rigidly secured to the structural framework 20 extends the width of the supply conveyor 22 at one side of the container-receiving station and thus forms a stop for the containers transferred to the receiving station by the conveyor. Reciprocating movement of the pusher plate 60 is effected by a fluid actuator which comprises a cylinder 502 fixedly supported by the guide bearing 62 and having a piston rod 502R which is secured to the pusher plate. Extension of the piston rod 502R from the illustrated retracted position of FIG. 4 will operate to displace the pusher plate 60 to the left of the Figure into contacting engagement with a container C1 at the receiving station and the stroke of this actuator is of sufficient length to permit displacement of this container from the conveyor 22 onto the horizontal supporting surface 58 to the position of the container C2. The pusher plate 60 is preferably provided with a vertically disposed shroud plate 69 which is movable into blocking relationship to the conveyor 22 to prevent infeed of a container while the displacing mechanism is being actuated. The shroud plate 69 will extend across the conveyor when the pusher plate 60 has been displaced to the left in FIG. 2.
Subsequent operations of the displacing mechanism 56 to push succeeding containers from the conveyor 22 will move the containers in successive steps from the position C1 to C2 and to the position C3 immediately prior to transfer of a container to the infeed station, such as container C4. At the time of transfer of a container to the infeed station 57, the infeed means 55 also accomplishes orientation of the container to the desired tilted configuration necessary for the filling operation. The infeed station 57 comprises a supporting bracket 64 having a V-shaped upper surface adapted to receive a comer of a container as is illustrated in the case of container C4. The bracket 64 is secured to and carried by a member of the structural framework 20 in longitudinal alignment with the horizontal supporting surface 58 but at a relatively lower elevation such that displacement of the containers from the surface 58 as in going from position C3 to position C4 will result in tipping of the container to this desired orientation due to the effect of gravity.
As previously indicated, control of the operation of the apparatus is accomplished by an electrical control circuit which is responsive to the successive positioning of the containers during their progress through the apparatus in performance of a filling operation. Detection of the containers at the selected positions in the filling operation is accomplished by mechanically actuated limit switches which are connected into the electrical control system which will be subsequently described in detail. With respect to the container infeed means 55, a limit switch LS1 is provided to detect the positioning of a container C1 at the receiving station and thus initiate operation of the displacing mechanism 56 only when a container is at this position. This limit switch LS1 is provided with an actuating element which projects through an opening 66 formed in the stop plate 63 and is positioned to be engaged by a surface of the container Cl and actuate the switch LS1 when the container reaches the receiving station. A limit switch LS2 is similarly provided at the infeed station 57 for detecting the presence of a container C4 on the bracket 64. This switch is supported by the structural framework 20 and is provided with an actuating element 67 which is adapted to extend through an opening 68 formed in the bracket 64. When LS2 is not actuated, the element 67 will be in the broken line position; however, the presence of the container C4 supported by the bracket 64 will result in angular rotation of the element 67 to the illustrated position and result in actuation of limit switch LS2.
As can be best seen in FIGS. 2 and 4, the supply conveyor 22 is disposed in orthogonal relationship to the container infeed means 55 and transfers unfilled containers C in sequential manner to the receiving station. In this embodiment of the apparatus, the receiving station is actually the marginal end portion of the conveyor 22 with the containers merely resting upon the conveyor. This conveyor which is of a well-known construction comprises, in general, an'elongated endless belt 71 which is continuously driven when the apparatus is in operation to assure positive and rapid feeding of containers to the receiving station. The supply conveyor belt 71 is trained about two pulleys 72 and 73 that are journaled for rotation inhorizontally spaced relationship on the upstanding brackets 24. These brackets are interconnected by an intermediate framework 74 which maintains the proper spacing of the two pulleys 72 and 73 and is preferably provided with additional means for supporting the upper run of the belt 71 in a substantially horizontal plane. The intermediate framework 74 may be interconnected with the structural framework 20 to further enhance the structural rigidity of the apparatus. Revolving movement of the belt 71 is produced by an electric motor 701 which is mounted on the intermediate frame 74 and is drivingly connected to an axle 75 of the pulley 72 through a suitable gear-reduction unit. Horizontally disposed container guide bars 76 are supported in upwardly spaced, longitudinally relationship to the conveyor belt 71 on suitable brackets 77 and 78 at each side of the conveyor. Carried on vertical extensions of the bracket 78 is an elongated, inverted, V-shaped channel 79 which projects over thebelt 71 and extends substantially the length of the conveyor 22. This channel 79 provides protection for the fill openings A of the containers C as they progress along the conveyor to the receiving station in that falling contaminants will be prevented from entering the containers.
Subsequent to transfer of a container to the infeed station 57, the apparatus is functional to sequentially and alternatingly transfer the container from the infeed station to the selected container-supporting platform, 37 or 47. Container transfer means, indicated generally at 85, is provided for this purpose with this transfer means being most clearly shown in FIGS. 3, 4, 5 and 6. Displacement of a container C at the infeed station in either direction is effected by a shuttle plate 86 which is disposed in a vertical plane and parallel to the longitudinal axis of the infeed and which is supported for movement laterally or transversely of the infeed of containers to the infeed station 57. Supporting the shuttle plate 86 for this lateral movement are a pair of horizontally disposed guide rods 87 and 88. These guide rods 87 and 88 are also oriented transversely to the direction of infeed of the containers and are supported at each end by suitable mounting brackets 89 which are secured to the structural framework 20. The shuttle plate 86 is preferably of a configuration as shown in FIG. 4,