US 3645305 A
Apparatus is provided for automatically and sequentially supplying uncarded wool to a plurality of carding machines, each of said carding machines having a gate effective to divert the wool from a moving conveyor to the individual machine. A control system is provided to actuate the conveyor, and includes photocell arrangements at each machine for detecting a filled condition thereof, which photocells actuate the adjacent gate eliminating further diversion into that particular machine. The control system incorporates further provision for accommodating "leftover" wool on the conveyor by diverting it to a number of machines at the end of the conveyor, which machines accept the "leftovers" sequentially as they are filled in an upstream direction of the conveyor. Override provisions are included in the control system for manually controlling the gates of said machines for feeding selected ones as desired.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Warlop 1 5] Feb..29,1972
 FEEDING SYSTEM FOR WOOL- CARlDING PLANTS AND THE LIKE  Field ofSearch ..19/l05; 214/16R, 17 CA; 222/56, 70, 415,64; 198/188, 193; 141/160, 198
3,368,933 2/1968 Wicker ..l56/498 Primary ExaminerStanley H. Tollberg Assistant Examiner-Thomas E. Kocovsky Attorney-Mandeville and Schweitzer  ABSTRACT Apparatus is provided for automatically and sequentially supplying uncarded wool to a plurality of carding machines, each of said carding machines having a gate etfective to divert the wool from a moving conveyor to the individual machine. A control system is provided to actuate the conveyor, and includes photocell arrangements at each machine for detecting a filled condition there0f,-which photocells actuate the adjacent gate eliminating further diversion into that particular  References Cited machine. The control system incorporates further provision UNITED STATES PATENTS for accommodating leftover" vvool on the conveyor by diverting it to a number of machines at the end of the con- 88l,940 3/1908 Morton ..214/ 17 CA X veyor, hi h machines accept the leftovers sequentially as Bendz they are in an upstrean direction of the conveyor Over- 2,569,01 1 1951 ride provisions are included in the control system for manually 2,689,463 9/ 1954 controlling the gates of said machines for feeding selected 2, ,3 1953 ones as desired. 3,138,408 6/1964 3,158,291 11/1964 16 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures 47 47 I f: a I 2D. 2e 2 2a 61 62 63 -10) o-H N O 49 1 49 REFILL REFILL R FILL TIM ER TIMER DELA T IMER DELAY 5| CONVEYOR REVERSE STOP CONTROL 4, 7o CONVEYOR M4 START M 5 1 PATENTEDFEBZB I972 SHEET 2 [IF 4 INVENTOR GASTON C. WAR LOP @ZLJ ATTORNEY PAIENTEDFEB29|912 3, s45 305 SHEET 3 BF 4 FIG. 3
INVENTOR. GASTON C. WARLOP M w-ZZ zjww ATTOR NEYS SHEET l BF 4 I hm T I III n m2 1 E45 2 55248 0 6528 "65 4 353E 5658 5 52; 5:; 35 53 351 Q N mm mm I P a ,8 J I ER w Y llll 5 5 mm 8 FEEDING SYSTEM FOR WOOL-CARDING PLANTS AND THE LIKE BACKGROUND OF INVENTION AND PRIOR ART As will appear from the ensuing description, the principles of the present invention have applicability in a number of environments, particularly in the textile processing industry, and perhaps even elsewhere. However, for purposes of convenience, the invention will be described herein with reference to its utilization in a wool-carding operation.
in the processing of wool, the raw wool typically is subjected to a number of preliminary treatments, including washing, scouring, drying, etc., after which the wool is given a carding treatment. Prior to carding,'the wool fiber is randomly oriented and gathered into clumps of material, and the carding operation serves to comb the fibers into a substantially unidirectional orientation and to form the wool into continuous, coherent slivers. Conventionally, the carding facility comprises a bank of a large number of carding machines, typically disposed in side-by-side relation, and the feed hoppers of the individual carding machines are serviced by a suitable conveyor system.
In the past, a variety of systems have been proposed for automatically supplying the feed hoppers of the respective cards with an appropriate amount of uncarded material, according to the demands of the individual machines. However, since the scoured wool consumption of a bank of carding machines is not precisely predeterminable, all of the automatic card feeding systems of which I am aware operate on a recirculating basis. ln other words, the supply of scoured wool to the bank of carding machines is designed to be somewhat in excess of the consumption rate of the machines, and the excess portion of the supplied material is recirculated through the system. Typical of prior art systems operating in this manner are the patented systems reflected by the Shaw U.S. Pat. No. 1,875,356, the Wildbolz, et al., US. Pat. No. 3,029,477, the Nutter, et al. US. Pat. No. 3,111,718, the Kenjihigiya, et al., US. Pat. No. 3,145,426, and the Van Doorn US. Pat. No. 3,320,640.
The recirculation of excess wool supply, as is characteristic of the prior art systems heretofore proposed, has an undesirable effect upon the recirculated material, which results in an overall reduction in the quality of the carded material. In this respect, I have observed that the uncarded wool should be handled as little as possible, and that the recirculation of the excess material results in unnecessary abrasion and breakage of the fibers.
To some extent, recirculation of excess unprocessed material can be minimized by completely shutting down the conveyor system whenever none of the processing machines are calling for renewed supplies of material. Such an arrangement, which is suggested in, for example, the Shaw US. Pat. No. 1,875,356, does not, however, eliminate the undersired recirculation of material in an installation where more than one machine is being fed from a single conveyor. lndeed, where, as is typically the case, a substantial number of machines are being supplied by a single conveyor facility, substantial quantities of excess material are required to be recirculated, even though the conveyor system is completely stopped during intervals when all machines are satisfied. In this respect, it will be appreciated that a lengthy conveyor system, for supplying a large number of machines, may be completely filled with material after having just supplied the last machine of a series. Subsequently, the system may call for the feeding of material to the first machine of a series. Thereupon, in a conventional system, all of the bypassed material which is in transit" downstream of the first machine of the series is required to be recirculated. in the random feeding of a large number of machines, substantial quantities of material will, of course, be bypassed" whenever the system completes the feeding of one machine and subsequently commences the feeding of a machine upstream thereof, along the conveyor.
SUMMARY or lNVENTlON In accordance with the present invention, a novel and improved card feeding system is provided, which incorporates a unique control system, enabling an extensive series of carding machines to be supplied by a single feed conveyor apparatus, and wherein the recirculation of excess feed material has been completely eliminated. in the system of the present invention, a supply conveyor is arranged in relation to any desired number of carding machines and is provided with diverting gates adjacent the respective machines for deflecting unprocessed wool off of the conveyor and into the feed hopper of a selected machine. When the conveyor is in operation, scoured wool is conveyed along its length and is deflected into the feed hopper of a machine calling for feed material by actuation of the appropriate gate to an angular position extending across the conveyor.
A particularly important and novel feature of the present invention resides in the provision of a feedback control arrangement associated with a selected number of carding machines at the downstream extremity of the conveyor system which enables all of the left over or bypassed material to be delivered in a controllable manner to these terminal machines, so that none of this material is required to be recirculated back to the upstream end of the conveyor system.
As with more conventional, prior art systems, the system of the present invention supplies material to the individual carding machines on the basis of demand reflected at the machine. Accordingly, in a continuously functioning system, the machines are fed more or less at random. in accordance with the invention, however, the terminal machine at the downstream extremity of the feeding conveyor is provided with a fixed or constantly closed deflector gate. Accordingly, any material which is bypassed when the system completes the feeding of one machine and commences the feeding of a machine upstream thereof, is deflected into the feed hopper for the last or terminal machine. in addition, of course, this last machine is able to call for a supply of material on a regular demand basis, if its supply becomes normally depleted.
A specific advantageous feature of the invention resides in the provision of control means effective to automatically transfer or feed back the receiving capacity for bypassed" material, so that, in no instance, will the amount of bypassed material exceed the capacity of the system for handling it. To this end, control facilities are provided for sequencing in an upstream progression from the last or terminal machine whereby, if the hopper of the terminal machine is completely filled, the deflecting gate for the second-to-last machine closes and remains closed, and all of the subsequently bypassed" material is deflected into the hopper of the second-to-last machine. This upstream progression may continue to whatever extent is necessary to accommodate all of the bypassed" material without overfeeding of any of the machines. in practice, in a system in which a dozen or so carding machines are supplied by a single conveyor, there typically is ample capacity in the last two or three machines supplied by the conveyor to handle all of the bypassed material without overfeeding any of the machines. In any given installation, the number of machines required to be controlled to receive bypassed" material may be easily determined on an empirical basis by observation of the system in operation, and additional machines may be connected to receive the bypassed material if necessary. In this respect, it will be understood that the performance of a given system in respect of the amount of material bypassed is a function of a large number of variables, such as the rate at which the material is fed, the size of the feed hoppers for the individual machines, the extent of consumption of the feed hoppers before replenishment is called for, etc. Nevertheless, the system of the invention may easily be adapted to meet the specific requirements of any installation.
Other and more specific aspects of the invention include the provision of advantageous control features on the individual carding machines and in conjunction with the raw material supply source whereby, in a continuous production operation, optimum product quality and optimum equipment efficiency may be realized.
For a more complete understanding of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description and to the accompanying drawing.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a schematic top plan view of a typical commercial wool-carding system utilizing a large number of carding machines and being supplied with raw material by means of a feeding system according to the invention.
FIG. 2 is an elevational view of the system of FIG. 1 illustrating, among other things, the facilities provided for supplying the raw material to the feeding system.
FIGS. 3 and 4 are enlarged, fragmentary top plan and elevational views, respectively, of an intermediate portion of the conveyor apparatus utilized in the system of the invention, illustrating details of the deflector gate and related mechanisms.
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken generally along line 55 of FIG. 4.
FIG. 6 is a simplified, schematic representation of the control system according to the invention for operating the system of FIG. 1.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION Referring now to the drawing, and initially to FIGS. 1 and 2 thereof, the reference numeral 10 designates generally a typical wool-carding plant for the commercial production of carded wool. The illustrated plant includes a duct system 11 constituting the discharge portion of an air duct conveyor. This conveyor delivers preprocessed wool, after such conventional operations as washing, scouring, etc. The incoming wool is discharged by the duct 11 into an enlarged separating chamber 12, which separates the wool from the conveying air and causes the wool to be deposited upon a reversing con veyor 13. The reversing conveyor 13 is adapted for operation in either of two directions, for depositing the incoming wool in either of two principal supply storage hoppers l4, 15. The respective supply hoppers 14, 15 supply material to separate banks of carding machines, designated generally by the reference numerals l6, 17. In the illustrated arrangement, the separate banks l6, 17 of carding machines are simply duplicate, parallel installations and, for the purposes of describing the present invention, duplicate reference numerals will be used to designate corresponding elements of the respective machine banks.
In the arrangement illustrated in FIG. 2, the reversing conveyor 13 is initially set for operation in one direction, to feed all of the incoming wool into, say, the supply hopper 14. The bottom of the hopper 14 is formed by conveyors l8, 19, which are operated very slowly and gradually advance the bulk material in the hopper 14 toward the discharge end of the hopper.
At the discharge end, the end wall of the hopper is, in effect, formed by a spike apron 20. The material engaged by the spike apron is conveyed upwardly thereby. Near the upper extremity of the spike apron 20, there is a reciprocating leveler 21 which combs off the material to a relatively uniform level on the spike apron. The leveled material, indicated at 22 in FIG. 2, then proceeds around the top of the spike apron, where it is engaged by a doffing wheel 23 and dropped onto the upstream end of a supply conveyor 24.
In the supply source apparatus shown in FIG. 2, the conveyor l8 advantageously is driven at a slow speed by a motor M2 under the control of a photocell 25. The reversible conveyor l3, driven by a motor Ml, discharges raw material into ble for subsequent processing.
the entry end of the hopper 14, and, whenever this discharged material is heaped up sufficiently to break the light beam to the photocell 25 for a short period (e.g., a period of a few seconds duration, at least) the motor M2 is energized to advance the conveyor 18, urging the accumulated material in the t hopper 14 toward the discharge end thereof. The conveyor 19 and spike apron 20 are driven by motors M3 and M6, respectively, and these motors desirably are energized when the delivery conveyor 24 is activated. The latter advantageously is driven by motors M4, M5 arranged at the upstream and downstream extremities of the conveyor. The conveyor 19 and spike apron 20 are provided with variable speed control arrangements, either in the form of means for varying the speed of the motors M3, M6 or, more typically, in the form of mechanical transmission arrangements which provide for suitable speed variation. Typically, the motors M3, M6 may act through reciprocating ratchet and pawl feeder mechanisms (not shown), such that the conveyor and spike apron are advanced intermittently through controllable distances determined by the throw of the reciprocating mechanism, which is variable. Such mechanisms are conventional and form no part of the invention.
Advancement of the conveyor 18, being under the control of the photocell 25, is independent of the rate of material consumption, as reflected by the take away of material on the delivery conveyor 24. Accordingly, if the input of material to the hopper 14 is greater than the consumption therefrom, the material will tend to build up at the discharge end of the hopper. When this buildup is sufficient to break the light beam to a photocell 26, the motor Ml of the reversing conveyor 13 is stopped and reversed, and the incoming raw material from the duct 11 is thereafter discharged into the hopper 15. In a typical installation, the capacity of the hoppers 14, 15 is sufficient for several hours of operation, to provide substantial flexibility in the processing of the material upstream of the conveyor duct 11.
Referring now to FIG. 1, there are shown two banks l6, 17 of carding machines generally designated by the numeral 27. In each bank, there are 13 machines (although the number of machines is only representative), the several machines being designated 27a-27m, with the machine 27a being located at the upstream end of the supply conveyor 24 and the machine 27m being located at the downstream end. Each of the carding machines is provided with a hopper 28, adapted to contain a supply of the raw material to be carded. Typically, a supply of an hour or two of material, at typical rates of consumption, may be retained in hoppers 28.
As indicated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the supply conveyors 24 are disposed above the banks of machine hoppers 28, which are arranged in a line, in side by side relation. The supply conveyors are provided with discharge openings 31, located above the respective machine hoppers 28. Deflector gates 32 are also provided on the conveyor 24, located opposite the discharge openings 31 and arranged, when actuated to closed positions, to divert the incoming raw material into the various hoppers 28. The material is then processed by the carding machines 27, which converts the clumps of random-oriented fiber into a thin, filmy coherent web of material, in which the fibers are aligned more or less longitudinally. The webs are then gathered into slivers 29 and deposited on discharge conveyors 30. The slivers from the several carding machines are carried by the discharge conveyors 30 to suitable windup facilities (not shown) which gather the slivers into form suita- As shown particularly in FIGS. 3-5, the supply conveyors 24 comprise a conveyor belt 33 which is constructed of a suitable fabric of woven construction, coated on one side with a plastic material to provide a low-friction surface. The belt 33 is appropriately supported between two channel beam members 34, 35 to lie substantially flat. The channel beam members 34, 35 provide structural support for the supply conveyor assembly, and also extend upward vertically from the surface of the conveyor belt 33 to provide confining sidewalls for the conveyor system. At locations corresponding to the several machine hoppers 28, the channel beam 35 is provided with a cutout discharge opening 31 through which incoming raw material is diverted into the hopper. An apron plate 36, of curved configuration, extends outward and downward from the lower edge of the discharge opening 31, to guide diverted material away from the conveyor assembly and into the center portion of the machine hopper 28.
At each discharge opening, there is a diverting gate 32, in the form a large plate pivoted at one end 37a, at or adjacent the channel beam 34, and movably supported at its free end by means of a roller 37b resting on a cross beam 370. A fluid actuator 38 is pivoted at 39 on a mounting bracket 40, and has its rod end 41 pivotally attached to a bracket 42 extending upwardly from the diverting gate. When the fluid cylinder is extended, the gate 32 is moved to a position close to the channel beam 34, where it permits the incoming raw material on the conveyor 33 to pass by without significant obstruction. In dealing with uncarded wool, as is specifically contemplated herein, it is unnecessary to provide a closure for the discharge opening 31, as the unprocessed material has sufficient coherency that there is no substantial tendency for the material to fall out of the discharge opening of its own accord.
When the fluid actuator 38 is retracted, the diverting gate 32 is drawn into a position disposed at a substantial angle to the channel beams 34, 35, and it extends diagonally entirely across the width of the conveyor belt. Desirably, the length of the diverting gate 32 is such, in relation to the width of the conveyor, that the diverting gate may be disposed at an angle not substantially greater than about 30 when in its closed position. In this position, the free end of the gate may project slightly through the discharge opening 31, near its downstream end. In a typical installation, where the opening 31 may be on the order of 48 inches in length, the free end of the closed gate may be located about inches or so upstream of the downstream extremity of the opening.
As the uncarded wool is carried on downstream along the conveyor belt 33, it engages a diagonally disposed gate 32 and is diverted laterally out through the discharge opening 31 into an associated machine hopper 28. The plastic surface coating of the conveyor belt fabric facilitates the lateral diverting of the material, as will be understood. In this connection, however, it is advantageous to utilize a plastic-coated fabric belt, rather than an all-plastic or all-metal belt, for example, as the fabric belt has superior tracking characteristics and has a desirable surface texture for specific use contemplated herein.
For the handling of uncarded wool, it is particularly advantageous that the lower edges 32a of the diverting gates be spaced somewhat above the surface of the conveyor belt. In a typical commercial installation, this spacing (designated S in FIG. 5) should be at least about three-eighths of an inch and probably not more than about five-eighths of an inch, with three-eighths to one-half inch being optimum. The provision of such a spacing prevents fibers and small clumps of the uncarded wool from becoming jammed between the gate and the conveyor surface. Within the ranges indicated, only a negligible quantity of usable wool passes under the diverting gate. However, the spacing does readily accommodate the passage of fine matter, such as exceedingly short (and therefore undesirable) fibers, vegetable matter, such as straw, etc., (which is often present in the uncarded wool and constitutes an undesirable impurity). Indeed, it is contemplated that, in the system of the invention, there will be provided at one or more locations along the conveyor, desirably adjacent the upstream end, electric vibrating devices V underneath the conveyor belt 33. The vibrators are arranged to be actuated concurrently with operation of the conveyor, and serve to shake the uncarded wool as it is being conveyed, to cause undesirable matter to be sifted downward to the surface of the conveyor. Because of the slight irregularities in the plastic coated conveyor belt surface, resulting from the surface texture of its woven construction, the small foreign matter tends to be carried along on the belt, passing under the closed gates, while the uncarded wool is diverted laterally.
In accordance with the invention, the machines supplied by a conveyor 24 are fed on a demand basis, and during intervals when all of the machines are adequately supplied with raw material, the supply system will be dormant. When a particular machine calls for raw material, as indicated at machine 27f at the upper bank 16 in FIG. 1, the diverting gate 32 for that machine is actuated to its diagonal or closed position and the conveyor 24 for that bank of machines is started into operation. The raw material will be supplied continuously by the conveyor until, by means to be described, a control signal is derived, reflecting that the machine hopper 28 for the machine 27f has been filled. The gate 32 for the machine 27f will then be actuated to its open position and if all other machines in the bank 16 are adequately supplied at this time, the conveyor 24 will be stopped. If, however, during the supplying of the machine 27f, a machine downstream thereof, say machine 271', calls for a further supply of material, its diverting gate 32 will be actuated to a closed position. No feeding will take place with respect to machine 27i, however, as all of the material is being diverted off the conveyor at an upstream location, at machine 27f. But when the machine 27f has been filled, its diverting gate 32 will open, and the conveyor 24 will remain in operation to carry material down to the gate for machine 27i, where the material will be diverted into the hopper for that machine.
If, during the supplying of carding machine 27f, but prior to completion of the filling thereof, a machine upstream thereof, for example machine 27d, calls to be supplied with material, its diverting gate 32 will close upstream of the gate for machine 27f. This will, for a time, divert all material into the hopper for machine 27d, until that machines requirements are satisfied. In the meantime, the diverting gate for machine 27f remains closed, and calling for more material. Accordingly, as soon as the machine 27d is filled, and its diverting gate 32 actuated back to an open position, the supply of material to machine 27f is resumed.
Upon any occasion where the system calls for the delivery of material to a machine upstream from the machine last filled, there will be a body of raw material on the conveyor, between the two machines, which will be advanced by the conveyor 24, but there will be no machine calling for that material. l-Ieretofore, such material has been recirculated, which is very detrimental to the character of the fibers. In accordance with an important aspect of the present invention, however, the last machine of the bank, machine 27m, is provided with a permanently closed diverting gate 32a. Accordingly, any raw material which is bypassed when the system changes from feeding a selected machine to the feeding of a machine upstream thereof, is ultimately delivered to the machine 27m at the downstream extremity of the system, whether or not that machine is calling for more supplies at that time. Under typical conditions, in a system of the general arrangement illustrated in FIG. 1, the flow of materials can be 7 regulated so that the bypassed material, in total, is less than the average consumption of the machine 27m, so that all of the bypassed material will be taken up by that machine, and the machine may even have to call for further supplies of raw material from time to time. However, since the feeding of the carding machines is a random function, provision must be made for occasional extreme swings in the average operation of the system. To this end, control arrangements, to be described, are provided such that when a machine 27m at the downstream extremity of the conveyor system is completely filled with raw material, the diverting gate for the machine 17 I located next upstream therefrom will close and remain closed until the machine 27m again has capacity to receive bypassed material. Thus, from time to time, the machine 27! functions, as the machine 27m, to accept all of the bypassed material, whether or not it is actually calling for material at that point in time.
Bearing in mind that it is necessary, from time to time, to take machines out of service temporarily for routine maintenance and repair, the system of the invention advantageously includes three of four machines at the downstream end of the system, which can function to receive bypassed material, if necessary. This arrangement also gives the system an enormous capacity to handle bypassed material, in the event that the random feeding sequence did, on occasion, produce an extraordinary amount of bypassed material, in relation to the material fed into machines calling for replenishment. A significant aspect of the invention, in this respect, resides in the provision of novel control arrangements for successively feeding back" in an upstream direction the open capacity to receive bypassed material. In other words, as the machine 27m becomes filled to capacity, the machine next upstream therefrom, machine 271, automatically assumes the role of receiving all of the bypassed material. If both machines 27m and 271 should become filled, the availability to receive bypassed material is again shifted upstream, to machine 27k, and so on. By so adapting the last three or four machines, say, in a bank of 12 to 13, virtually all contingencies may be accommodated, including the temporary taking out of service for repair and maintenance of any one of the machines providing capacity to receive bypassed material.
Referring now more specifically to FIG. 6, each of the machine hoppers 28 is indicated to have a control, consisting of a photocell 47 in the light source 48, for establishing the maximum level to which the hopper may be filled with material. Desirably, the photocell 47 is associated with a thermally actuated delay relay 49, which may be of a conventional type such as that commercially available under the trademark designation Amperite. The delay relay 49 accommodates momentary breaking of the light beam from the source 48 without initiating a control function. This is desirable, since it is more than likely that the light beam will be momentarily interrupted from time to time as a hopper 28 is being filled from the supply conveyor 24. However, when there is a sustained interruption of the light beam, as for example for a period of 3 seconds or so, this signifies that the hopper 28 is filled to the level of the light beam, and a control function is initiated by the delay relay 49.
The control function thus initiated includes thefollowing: A gate control 50 is actuated to move the diverting gate 32 from its closed to its open position, preventing the further diverting of raw material into the filled hopper. In addition, a conveyor stop control 51 is conditioned for actuation, subject to there being no other machine hoppers calling for raw material. In other words, if any one or more of the remaining hoppers are calling to be supplied, the controls for those hoppers will override the conveyor stop control 51, and the conveyor will remain in operation. Otherwise, the control 51 will deenergize the conveyor motors M4, MS, as well as the feeder motors M3, M6.
Desirably, when the conveyor 24 is brought to a stop, additional timers are actuated for controlling a short reverse movement of the conveyor. The first of these timers actuates a reverse control 52, after a time period sufficient to enable the conveyor to coast to a stop. A second timer controls the duration of the reversing period. This is a very short period, sufficient merely to backup the conveyor a distance of, for example, 4 or 5 feet. This is desirable in order to avoid, either by drawing back up on the conveyor or by dropping off, the presence of unsightly loose ends of material which tend to hang down from the discharge openings 31 after completion of a feeding operation.
Advantageously, each of the diverting gates 32 is provided with a plurality of frustoconical air jet openings 53 spaced in a row about one-half inch or so above the lower edge of the gate. An airtube 54 extends along the backface of the gate and has small nozzles 54a projected into the openings 53. The airtube 54 is connected by means of a flexible tube 54a to a solenoid valve 55 associated with each gate. When the conveyor motors M4, M5 are reversed to effect a short reversal of the conveyor at the end of the feeding operation, the solenoid air valve 55 may be energized to direct blasts of air away from the face of the diverting gate, to clear away any uncarded wool which otherwise might tend to snag on the gate. If desired, the
energization of the solenoid air valve 55 may be conditioned upon the gate being in a closed position.
Desirably, there is a third timing device associated with the conveyor stop and reverse controls 51, 52, which serves to prevent restarting of the conveyor in a forward direction until a sufficient time has passed to permit the conveyor to coast to a stop in the reverse direction. As will be understood, all of the timing devices associated with the conveyor stopping and reversing and restarting arrangements may be conventional devices, such as the Amperite-type device previously mentioned.
For controlling the refilling of the machine hoppers 28, the system of the invention advantageously includes a timing device 56 associated with each hopper and arranged to call for a renewed supply of raw material a predetermined time afier filling of the hopper has been completed. The timers 56, which may be referred to for convenience as refill timers, are arranged to be actuated in response to the filling to the desired level of the associated hopper. Advantageously, the refill timer commences its timing period upon reestablishment of the light beam to the photocell 47, following a filling operation.
Typically, the refill timers 56 may be clock-type timers of a conventionally available type, with arrangements for easy adjustment of the timing period. As will be understood, the timing period of the refill timer should be correlated with the average consumption rate of its associated machine. However, as will be fully understood, the timer will operate independently of the actual instantaneous consumption rate to call for refilling of the hopper a predetermined time after the previous filling operation has been completed. A somewhat similar function could, of course, be accomplished by providing in the hoppers a second level sensing system, such as a second set of photocell and light source facilities. However, the utilization of adjustable timing means 56 in accordance with the invention is significantly advantageous over such arrangements in that it facilitates adjustment and regulation, enabling the overall operation of the system to be optimized, and it also facilitates adjustment as necessary where the system is to be used for processing materials of different types, which perhaps draw off different processing times, etc.
Typically, in a commercial scale system, incorporating 12 or 13 carding machines in a bank, serviced by a single supply conveyor, and wherein the hoppers to the respective carding machines are capable of retaining a 2 hours supply of material at average consumption rates for the machine, the refill timers may be set to call for refilling of the hoppers every 20 to 25 minutes. By this means, variations in the head" of material in the hoppers 28 is minimized. This in turn minimizes variations in the carded material resulting from changes in the head of material in the hopper, and therefore improves the overall quality of the output.
In the system of FIG. 5, assuming that the conveyor 24 was at rest, and the hoppers 28 of all the machines in the illustrated machine bank 16 were within the desired limits, the system would be brought into operation by the timing out of one of the refill timers 56. This would actuate a conveyor start control 57, energizing the conveyor motors M4, M5, and also the feeder motors M3, M6. The refill timer simultaneously would actuate the gate control 50, so that the diverting gate 32 would be moved to its closed position.
If, during the refilling of any machine hopper, the refill timer for any other machine times out and calls for materials to be supplied, the diverting. gate for that hopper will, of course, be actuated to its closed condition. For any machine downstream of the one then being fed, there will be no immediate response, as all the material will be diverted off of the conveyor belt at an upstream location. however, if any one or more gates close upstream of the machine then being fed, all of the material will be diverted into the upstream most hopper calling to be fed, until the requirements of that hopper are satisfied, as determined by interruption of the light beam to its photocell 47. Of course, if the feeding of a downstream machine is interrupted by the calling for material of an upstream machine, feeding of the downstream machine is resumed as soon as the requirements of the upstream machines have been satisfied.
By appropriate control of the rate at which material is fed onto the conveyor 24 by the spike apron 20, it is possible to maintain a desirable balance between the time required for refilling a hopper 28 and the time required for the material to be consumed. Thus, in a bank of 12 or 13 machines, operating on a refill cycle of 25 minutes, it is desirable to supply raw material to the conveyor 24 at a rate which will enable the refilling of a hopper to be completed in, say, a minute and a half. Under these conditions, the conveyor 24 will be in operation approximately 60-70 percent of the time when the carding machines are in operation. This provides for an ample reserve capacity of the conveyor to accommodate statistical abnormalities of a random feeding sequence while at the same time avoiding overburdening of the machines at the downstream end of the system, which receive the bypassed material.
In the normal operation of the system, as will be understood, any time the feeding of machines shifts from a downstream machine to an upstream machine, a certain amount of material on the conveyor will be bypassed, and this material will be diverted by the permanently closed gate 320 into the hopper for the machine 27m. If, on the average, the bypassed material exceeds somewhat the average rate of consumption of the machine 27m, the hopper 28 for the machine 27m will fill up to the desired maximum level and obscure the light beam to the photocell 47. When the beam has been obscured for a time sufficient to indicate that the hopper for machine 27m is filled, the delay relay 49 for that machine is actuated. This actuates the gate control 50 for machine 271 next upstream, through a normally closed switch 58. For as long as the light beam at the machine 27m is obscured, the diverting gate 32 for the machine 271 will be closed, regardless of the condition of the refill timers 56 for that machine, such that all bypassed material will be diverted into the hopper for machine 27l. This condition remains for only so long as the light beam at the machine 27m does remain obscured, however, so that as soon as there is any reserve capacity in the latter, the circuit through the switch 58 is opened, and feeder bypassed material is again discharged into the downstream machine 27m.
In the illustrated arrangement, provisions are made for the machines 271 and 27k to successively pass upstream the burden of receiving bypassed material, through circuits including normally closed switches 59 and 60, under the same conditions as the burden is passed from the machine 27m to the machine 271. Thus, under statistically unusual conditions, where there was an unusual and excessive amount of bypassed material, the capacity to receive the bypassed material is provided by four machines 27j-27m. Moreover, as will be readily understood, by relatively simplified electrical control arrangements, the capacity to receive bypassed material may be successively passed in an upstream direction as far as necessary to accommodate the requirements of any given system.
If the average amount of bypassed material is somewhat less than the consumption rate of the downstream machine 27m, or if by a statistical abnormality an unusually low amount of bypassed was available for a period of time, the supply of material in the hopper of the machine 27 would become depleted from time to time. Accordingly, the machine 27m is provided with a refill timer 56 connected to actuate the conveyor start control 57. This particular refill timer is not, however, connected to a gate control, as the gate 320 for the last machine 27m is permanently closed. Thus, on occasions where the photocell 47 remains exposed to its light beam for the full period of the refill timer 560, this timer will time out and set the conveyor 24 in operation. Assuming that no other machines are calling for supplies, the material will be delivered down the full length of the conveyor and discharged into the hopper for the last machine 27m. It will be understood, however, that the refill timer 560, (like the other refill timers 56) is reset to its zero" position in response to actuations of the delay relay 49. Thus, if the refill timer 56a is partially timed out, and the machine 27m receives a sufficient amount of bypassed material to fill the hopper, and interrupt the beam to its photocell 47, the refill timer 56a will reset to zero and will restart its timing period only when the light beam to the photocell 47 is reestablished. Thus, for the machine or machines regularly receiving bypassed material, the refill timer may only infrequently have occasion to run its full time period.
Advantageously, all of the diverting gates 32 are provided with manual control switches, including normally closed switches 5860 and normally opened switches 61-63, in the case of the downstream gates associated with machines 271, 27k and 27j, and normally closed and normally opened switches 64, 65, respectively associated with each of the machines 27a-27i. This provides manual control over opening and closing of the gates, which is desirable for various reasons. Thus, where any machine is to be taken out of service for maintenance, repair or other reason, the normally closed switch 58-60 or 64 associated with its gate control is opened, so that the gate associated with the disabled machine cannot be closed. In the case of the downstream machines 27m-27j, providing capacity for receiving bypassed material, a normally opened switch 61 may be closed, to permanently close the diverting gate 32 for the next upstream machine 271, while the machine 27m is out of service. Where the machine 271 is to be taken out of service, for example, the switch 58 leading to its gate control is opened, and a switch 66 is closed enabling the bypass receiving capacity to be transferred from the machine 27m, when it is full, up to the machine 27k. Likewise, if the machine 27k is to be taken out of service, the switch 59 is opened, and a switch 67 is closed, so that the capacity to receive bypassed material is transferred directly from machine 271 up to 27].
' The system of the invention achieves many advantageous results in the handling of materials in a wool carding plant, for example. One of the important achievements resides in minimizing the handling of the wool fiber prior to carding, so that the fiber is subjected to the least practicable amount of abrasion and breakage, which tends to reduce the quality of the output product. This result is realized by providing an automatic feeding system for the carding machines, in which bypassed material is not recirculated, but is fed into one or more machines at the downstream extremity of the delivery conveyor. A key factor in the ability of the system to operate in this manner is the provision of novel control arrangements, enabling the capacity to receive bypassed material on the delivery conveyor to be transferred successively upstream, from machine to machine. By this means, sufficient bypass capacity can be provided for to accommodate any foreseeable abnormalities in the random feeding pattern for the machines.
The system of the invention also has significant practical advantages in connection with changeover of the system from processing one type of fiber to another. ln this respect, it may be desirable to completely segregate separate batches of fiber, as where different types of fibers are to be processed, or where successive batches being carded on a commission basis are the subject of separate ownership. In the system of the present invention, each of the control gates is provided with a manual override control, whereby the diverting gate for any machine hopper may be manually opened or closed irrespective of the functioning of the automatic controls associated therewith. Thus, as a processing run nears the end, the operator of the system may effect a manually controlled distribution of the final portions of the uncarded wool. This is accomplished by manually controlling the delivery conveyor 24, as by a control 70, and by manually controlling the diverting gates 32 for the respective carding machines. The operator, in this instance, visually observes the level of the raw material in the hoppers for the respective carding machines and manually controls the delivery of further raw material in a manner calculated substantially to equalize the level of raw material in all the hoppers. ln this manner, all of the machines will eventually run out of material at approximately the same time, so that some of the machines are not kept idle while others still have substantial quantities of material to be consumed.
Likewise, in the start up of processing of a new batch of material, the operator may, initially, effect a manually controlled distribution of material, so that all of the machines may be put into operation as quickly as possible. Thereafter, the system may be switched over to automatic operation. In this respect, it will be understood, that, under purely automatic operation, with all of the machine hoppers 28 starting out in an empty condition, the automatic system would successively fill each of the hoppers to its maximum level, starting at the upstream end of the conveyor and working, one machine at a time, down to the downstream extremity. During this startup phase, many of the machines would remain idle waiting for their initial supply of material. With the system of the invention, by accommodating manually controlled distribution at start up, the operator may quickly distribute to all the machines a small startup quantity of material, sufiicient to sustain operation of the machine during a subsequent period, during which the machine hoppers are completely filled through automatic control. Thereafter, feeding of the machines is entirely automatic until such time as the batch is about to be completed, when the operator can again takeover manual distribution to expedite completion of processing of the batch.
Experience in a typical commercial size installation indicates that, with the system of the invention, as much as an hour's production time may be saved, during the changeover from one batch of material to another, as compared to changeover times utilizing conventionally available feeding systems.
As will be appreciated, the system of the invention may be economically installed and operated. It requires minimum change in the way of apparatus, as compared to more conventional feeding systems. The control facilities which constitute what is perhaps the most significant aspect of the invention, are readily assembled using commercially available control components. It should be understood, however, that the specific form of the invention herein illustrated and described is intended to be representative only, as certain changes may be made therein without departing from the clear teachings of the disclosure. Accordingly, reference should be made to the following appended claims in determining the full scope of the invention.
1. An automatic system for supplying fibrous raw materials to a bank of carding machines or the like, which comprises a. a raw materials delivery conveyor extending successively adjacent the feed hoppers of each machine of the bank thereof,
b. said conveyor having a discharge means for each feed hopper and a controllable diverting gate associated with the discharge means for each feed hopper upstream of the last hopper,
c. said conveyor being arranged for effecting discharge into the last hopper of any raw materials carried by the conveyor past the discharge opening for the next-to-last hopper,
d. raw material control means including sensing means associated with each of the feed hoppers for closing the diverting gate to a hopper and thereby causing material to be discharged into such hopper by said conveyor at controllable times,
e. the sensing means for each hopper being operative, when calling for the discharge of material to actuate said delivery conveyor,
f. the sensing means for upstream hoppers being additionally operative to close the diverting gates for the respective hoppers, whereby raw materials are diverted into such hoppers, and being operative to sense when a hopper is filled and in response thereto to open the control gate for said hopper,
g. controllable means for feeding raw materials onto the gate for the second-to-last hopper and cause all raw material conveyed past the third-to-last hopper to be discharged into the second-to-last hopper. 2. An automatic feeding system according to claim 1, further characterized by a. said control means for the second-to-last hopper and certain hoppers located successively upstream thereof relative to said delivery conveyor, being additionally operative to close the diverting gates for the hopper successively next upstream and cause all raw material reaching such gate to be diverted into the hopper associated therewith. 3. An automatic feeding system according to claim 1, further characterized by said raw material control means comprising a. photocell and light source means for sensing the presence in a hopper of raw material at a predetermined maximum level, and b. timer means actuated by said photocell and light source means for timing the period during which raw material is consumed from the hopper. 4. An automatic feeding system according to claim 1,
further characterized by v a. said photocell and light source means including delay relay means, whereby the presence of raw material at a maximum level is sensed only by sustained interruption of the light source for a predetermined period of time, and b. said timer means is actuated by reestablishment of said light source following said sustained interruption thereof. 5. An automatic feeding system for supplying fibrous raw material to a bank of carding machines or the like, which comprises a. a delivery conveyor disposed adjacent successive machines and adapted to supply raw materials to said machines,
b. means for actuating said conveyor when a carding machine requires resupplying,
c. controllable means for feeding raw materials onto the delivery conveyor upstream of the carding machines on a substantially continuous basis whenever said delivery conveyor is in operation,
d. said delivery conveyor having a delivery capacity at least equal to the consumption capacity of said machines,
e. gates associated with said delivery conveyor for each of said machines upstream of the last machine,
f. said gates being operable in random sequence to closed positions for diverting raw materials from said conveyor into hoppers associated with said machines,
g. said conveyor being operative to discharge into the hopper for the last machine all materials conveyed past the machine next upstream thereof, and
h. control means associated with said last machine operative, when and for as long as the hopper for said machine is filled to predetermined capacity, to close the gate for the second-to-last machine independently of said random sequence. 6. An automatic feeding system according to claim 5, further characterized by a. said second-to-last machine, and a predetermined number of machines next upstream therefrom, having control means operative, when and for as long as all hoppers downstream thereof are filled to predetermined capacity, to close the gate for the machine next upstream thereof.
7. An automatic feeding system according to claim 5,
further characterized by a. said delivery having a delivery capacity substantially in excess of the consumption capacity of said machines,
b. control means associated with each machine and operative to activate said conveyor when any machine calls to be supplied and to deactivate said conveyor when no machine is calling to be supplied.
8. An automatic feeding system according to claim 7,
further including a. a main supply hopper upstream of the delivery conveyor,
b. means for feeding raw material into said main supply hopper,
c. conveyor means forming at least a portion of the bottom of said main supply hopper and operative to controllably advance material toward one end thereof,
d. a spike apron forming said one end of the main supply hopper and operative to controllably convey material from said hopper to said delivery conveyor, and
e. means to activate and deactivate said spike apron along with said delivery conveyor.
9. An automatic feeding system according to claim 5,
further characterized by a. supply control means associated with each machine for controlling the reserve supply of raw material in the hoppers of said machines,
b. said supply control means including (i) means for sensing when the material reaches a predetermined maximum level in the hopper and operative in response thereto to discontinue feeding of raw material to the hopper, and (ii) means for timing the consumption of material from the hopper and, after a predetermined consumption period, for resuming the feeding of raw materials to the hopper.
10. An automatic feeding system according to claim 9,
further characterized by a. the means for sensing comprising a light beam and photocell system and a delay relay responsive to the sustained interruption of the light beam for a predetermined period, and
b. said means for timing being operative in response to the operation of said delay relay and the subsequent reestablishment of said light beam to commence a predetermined timing period. 11. An automatic feeding system according to claim 5,
further characterized by a. said delivery conveyor comprising a conveyor belt and a pair of structural elements forming conveyor sidewalls,
b. said sidewalls having openings formed therein opposite the respective machine hoppers,
c. said gates being mounted on said sidewalls for swinging movement between open positions, generally parallel to the conveyor, and closed positions, disposed diagonally across the conveyor with the downstream extremities of the gates being disposed adjacent said openings for diverting material off of the belt and out of the openings. 12. An automatic feeding system according to claim 14,
further characterized by openings to clear away loose, hanging material. 13. An automatic feeding system according to claim 11,
further characterized by a. the length of said gates being such, in relation to the width of said conveyor, that said gates make an angle not significantly greater than about 30 when in their closed position.
14. An automatic feeding system according to claim 13,
further characterized by a. said gates having a plurality of air jet openings adjacent their lower edges, and
b. means being provided for ejecting air under pressure through said openings in an upstream direction relative to said conveyor.
15. An automatic feeding system according to claim 14,
further characterized by a. the lower edges of said gates being spaced above the upper surface of the conveyor by at least about threeeighths inch but not more than about five-eighths inch.
16. An automatic feeding system according to claim 15,
further characterized by a. said conveyor comprising a belt formed of a woven fabric provided with a surface coating of plastic material.