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Publication numberUS3656272 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateApr 18, 1972
Filing dateSep 30, 1970
Priority dateSep 30, 1970
Publication numberUS 3656272 A, US 3656272A, US-A-3656272, US3656272 A, US3656272A
InventorsSheetz Charles E
Original AssigneeFmc Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Bin filling apparatus
US 3656272 A
Abstract
A bin filling apparatus wherein an empty bin is moved into position above a submerging tank filled with water. The tank is moved upwardly to totally submerge the bin, and apples are allowed to flow into the tank by means of a flow tube which allows the apples to be delivered beneath the surface of the water in the tank and above the bin whereby they float upwardly and are collected in a compact nested mass within a fixed fruit collector structure directly overlying the bin. When a sufficient number of apples have been thus collected the tank is lowered, and the collected fruit is deposited in the bin as a single unit without substantial disruption. The full bin is removed and replaced with an empty bin, and the process can then be repeated.
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UnitedStates Patent [1 1 3,656,272 [4 1 Apr. 18, 1972 Sheetz [54] BIN FILLING APPARATUS [72] Inventor: Charles E. Sheetz, Woodstock, Va. [73] Assignee: FMC Corporation, San Jose, Calif. 22 Filed: Sept. 30, 1970 [21] App1.No.: 76,867

[52] US. Cl. ..53/35, 53/59 R, 53/248 [51] int. Cl ..B65b 5/06 [58] Field of Search ..53/35, 59,61, 248

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,178,867 4/1965 Martin ..53/248 3,470,670 10/1969 Gorin ..53/35 3,550,347 12/1970 Coates ..53/35 3,565,250 2/1971 Borba ..53/248 FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 1,438,333 4/1966 France..- "53/248 Primary Examiner-Robert L. Spruiil Attorney-F. W. Anderson, C. E. Tripp and R. S. Kelly a [5 7] ABSTRACT A bin filling apparatus wherein an empty bin is moved into position above a submerging tank filled with water. The tank is moved upwardly to totally submerge the bin, and apples are allowed to flow into the tank by means of a flow tube which allows the apples to be delivered beneath the surface of the water in the tank and above the bin whereby they float upwardly and are collected in a compact nested mass within a fixed fruit collector structure directly overlying the bin. When a sufficient number of apples have been thus collected the tank is lowered, and the collected fruit is deposited in the bin as a single unit without substantial disruption. The full bin is removed and replaced with an empty bin, and the process can then be repeated.

22 Claims, 15 Drawing Figures PATENTEDAPR 18 I972 SHEET 1 [1F 9 ea w T I B 1 iNVENTOR. CHARLES E. SHEETZ AT TORNE YS PATENTEDAVPR '1 8 I972 2 SHEET 2 [1F 9 PATENTEDAPR 18 I972 13, 656 27 2 SHEET 3 BF 9 T'IIS EI so 28 2a PATENTEDAPR 18 m2 SHEET '4 OF 9 PATENTEDAPR 18 m2 SHEET 8 OF 9' NO. .I

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BACKGROUND OF INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention pertains to a method and apparatus for filling bins or similar containers with fruit, and more particularly, it pertains to a method and apparatus for filling containers with fruit which utilizes water as a fruit conveying medium so that there is a minimum amount of bruising or other damage to the fruit during the filling process.

2. Description of the Prior Art In the harvesting of apples or similar fruit, the apples are picked from the trees when ripe and emptied into bins which manner from the bottom of the compartment as the apples enter therein so that the apples will eventually form a nested mass within the bin received in the compartment. When the bin has been filled, the compartment is drained and means are provided for removing the filled bin therefrom. While the aforedescribed apparatus overcomes some of the problems which are present with the purely mechanical bin-filling systems, it still has several serious disadvantages. First, the apples must be brought into the water-filled compartment containing the empty bin from the top thereof while the water level in the compartment is slowly adjusted. As one layer of I apples piles on top of another a considerable amount of bruistypically may hold about 25 bushels of fruit. In. order that there will be a supply of apples throughout the year rather than just at the time of harvest, a large portion of the harvest is placed into cold storage usually in the aforedescribed bins.

The fruit can then be removed several months later for storage of apples involves considerable expense in maintaining the temperature of the storage plant at a predetermined minimum, in handling the fruit and the bins, and usually in providing some oxygen excluding means so as to retard the deterioration of the fruit. These factors make the unit cost of the storage space within the cold storage plants relatively high, and it is therefore desired that all, or practically all, of the storage space be utilized by high quality apples which are saleable in the market place at premium prices. However, a field run of fruit, i.e., the fruit within any given bin, is generally around per cent nonsaleable as apples to the ultimate consumer, i.e., around 20 per cent comprises fruit which is not useable or which can only be sold to processors for juice or apple sauce, etc. This percentage figure can sometimes rise to as high as 50 per cent which means that if such fruit is stored directly from the field in the bins in which it is harvested approximately 50 per cent of the storage space will be wasted.

In order to eliminate this wastage, pre-grading and pre-sizing of the apples have been carried out before the bins are placed in cold storage so that only the right types of apples will be stored. This operation entails (l) the removal of trash including the very small apples, the twigs, branches, leaves, etc., which accumulate with the harvested fruit; (2) the grading of the apples by color so that the off-color apples (which are not readily saleable) will not be stored; and the sizing of the apples so that the apples may be stored by size in the cold storage plant and can be removed therefrom accordingly since the pre-sizing of apples considerably aids in the filling of orders and since larger sized apples do not store as well as the others and therefore can be removed sooner from storage. In the past, apparatus for accomplishing the pre-sizing operation and the refilling of the bins was generally mechanical in nature and usually consisted of means whereby the apples were dumped upon a conveyor wherein conventional sizing and grading operations were performed either manually or by sizing chains and similar equipment. Mechanical conveyor means were then provided for dumping the apples back into the bins. It can readily be seen that a process wherein the apples are handled by mechanical conveying systems gives rise to a considerable amount of bruising or other damage to the apples which downgrades their quality particularly since such apples are to be subsequently placed in cold storage for long periods of time.

A recent development in the field has been the use of hydrosizing and hydro-filling arrangements wherein a water conveying medium is used to handle the dumping of the bins, the conveying and sizing of the apples, and finally, the re-filling of the bins with apples. One patent which discloses a hydro-filling operation and the apparatus for accomplishing the same is the patent to Martin, Jr. 08. Pat. No. 3,178,867 wherein an empty bin is placed within a compartment which is then filled with water. A short gate at the top of the compartment is lowered toallow a single layer of apples to be floated into the compartment. Water is withdrawn in a carefully controlled packing and transportation to the market place. The cold 20 Finally,

ing and jostling occurs. Secondly, a formidable problem is encountered in funneling the apples from the compartment into the bin since the bin must obviously be of smaller transverse dimensions than the size of the compartment. This has necessitated the use of funneling mechanisms which are slow and difficult to operate to properly get all of the fruit into the bin.

the use of the aforedescribed apparatus requires constant attention by the operator who must carefully control the input of apples to the submerging compartment and the outflow of water therefrom so that the apples will move into the bin at the proper rate without piling up or without being dropped so far as to cause bruising or other skin damage. This latter factor has generally necessitated increased labor costs and has resulted in a relatively slow bin filling operation.

Another prior art method of filling a bin with apples as disclosed in the recently issued patent to Gorin U.S. Pat. No. 3,470,670. In the apparatus disclosed in this patent a waterfilled submerging tank is placed adjacent to a water-filled fruit conveyor trough and a vertical flow channel is provided for flow communication between the trough and the tank. A pump and flow conduit are connected from the lower end of the tank to the outer end of the trough so that a closed flow system is provided whereby water continuously flows from the conveyor trough to the tank and back to the trough. An empty bin is arranged to be lowered to the bottom of the tank below the outlet of the vertical flow channel so that apples which are delivered into the tank from the conveyor trough will be floated upwardly in the tank and accumulate in a mass above the bin. When a sufficient number of apples have been thus accumulated, the bin is arranged to be elevated so that the collected mass of apples will be received therein. The bin is subsequently lifted entirely out of the water so that it can be removed and replaced with an empty bin in order to reinitiate the bin filling cycle.

One of the basic drawbacks of the aforedescribed apparatus is the fact that, as with the Martin, Jr. apparatus, funneling means must be provided so that the collected mass of fruit in the tank will be properly funneled into the bin. This is necessa ry because it is obvious that the inner dimensions of the bin must be smaller than the area inside the tank in which the fruit is accumulated. The funneling action, which is provided by a funnel secured directly adjacent to the top edge of the bin, creates considerably jostling and disruption of the collected mass of apples since the mass must be squeezed into a different dimensional relationship in order to fit into the bin. Thus, the Gorin device does no more than pour fruit from one container (the tank) to another container (the bin) with the same basic bruising and abrasion problems as confronted the prior art except that such problems are alleviated somewhat by the use of a circumambient water medium during the pouring process.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION With the apparatus of the present invention a hydro-filling apparatus and method is provided which eliminates the bruising and rough handling of the fruit encountered with the prior art devices. A fruit feed trough is connected with a submergparatus of the present invention, the submerging tank is mounted for vertical movement between a lower position and an elevated position wherein an empty bin is positioned above the tank when the tank is in its lowered position and the bin is submerged at the bottom of the tank below the level of the water therein when the tank is raised to its uppermost position. With the tank in its uppermost position, the fruit is directed therein above the top of the bin so that it can collect in a compact nested mass. Means are then provided for lowering the submerging tank and the accumulated mass of apples so that the mass will settle directly into the bin without substantial disruption of the relative positions of the apples.

A particularly advantageous feature of the invention resides in the fact that the collected mass of apples is achieved by letting the apples flow inwardly into the tank wherein they will float up into a compact nested arrangement. Then, contrary to the prior art devices, this nested arrangement is not disrupted as the water level in the tank is lowered and the apples are delivered directly into the bin. In order to accomplish this latter operation without substantial disruption of the individual apples, a fruit collector is fixedly mounted above the bin for receiving the fruit within the outer walls of the submerging tank with the fruit collector having interior dimensions the same as or slightly smaller than those of the bin.

Another important and advantageous feature, not recognized by the prior art, is the fact that a closed flow system is provided wherein fruit is passed into the elevated submerging tank along a flow path which is directed across the top of the submerged bin so that the fruit will be propelled in a stream out over the center of the bin and then allowed to rise vertically. This assures a better compacted mass than could be achieved by a prior art device such as that shown in the aforedescribed Gorin patent since the fruit is directed generally toward the center of the accumulating mass and distributed to fill up the sides of the mass in a uniform manner. The horizontal underwater current along the underside of the first collector also agitates the water in the fruit collecting area so that each individual fruit will be forced to nest into the overlying apples in a manner so as to prevent voids from being formed in the mass and so as to more evenly distribute the load upon each individual fruit due to the overlying layers of fruit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the bin filling apparatus of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a longitudinal section through the bin filling apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged plan taken in the direction of arrows 3-3 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a horizontal section taken along the line 4-4 of FIG. 2 particularly illustrating the means for mounting the submerging tank for vertical movement.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged vertical section through the apparatus of the present invention similar to that of FIG. 2 but showing the submerging tank in its elevated position with a' bin received therein and illustrating the manner in which the fruit is delivered to the tank.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged section taken along the line 6-6 of FIG. 3 illustrating the position of the weir when the bin is filling.

FIG. 7 is a section similar to FIG. 6 but illustrating the weir in its alternate position when it is blocking the flow into the submerging tank.

FIG. 8 is a side elevation of the means for mounting one of the pumps to the fruit collecting member with portions thereof being broken away for the purpose of clarity.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged isometric view of the check valve for the pump intake shown in FIG. 8.

FIGS. 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are operational views sequentially illustrating the steps of filling a bin with fruit with the apparatus of the present invention.

FIG. 15 is a schematic diagram of the electrical control circuitry for the apparatus of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring first to FIG. 2 of the drawings, the bin filling apparatus 20 of the present invention will be seen to generally comprise a fruit conveyor tank 22 which is adapted to be partially filled with water as shown. A plurality of buoyant fruit, such as apples, may be accumulated on the surface of the water therein which fruit are delivered to the tank by means of a conventional chain conveyor 24 having its discharge end immersed in the water at one end of the tank. The other end of the tank is positioned adjacent to a vertical frame structure which includes a submerging tank 26 mounted for vertical travel upon a set of upright tubular frame members 28 with the tank being shown in its lowered position in FIG. 2. A suspended bin support platform 30 is positioned directly over the submerging tank when the tank is in its lowered position and is adapted to support a bin B which is formed of spaced slats so that it is porous whereby water will readily drain therefrom. Mounted directly above the bin is a generally tubular shaped fruit collector member 32 which is open at the bottomand the top thereof. A pair of pumps 34 (one only being shown in FIG. 2) are mounted adjacent to the exterior of the fruit collector member with the intake to the pumps being provided by flow connections near the lower end of the fruit collector member. Also connected to the fruit collector member for communication therewith is a downwardly inclined flow tube 36 which is connected to the fruit collector member at the lower end thereof directly opposite from the position of the pump intakes.

With the apparatus in the inoperative position shown in FIG. 2, an empty bin B is arranged to be rolled from a supporting track structure 40 onto the support platform 30. The submerging tank 26 is then elevated so that it surrounds the bin, the pumps 34, and the flow tube 36 with the bin being received at the bottom of the tank so that a substantial quantity of water lies thereabove The fruit is then caused to be conveyed from the conveyor tank 22 down the flow tube 36 to enter into the water in the tank which has filled the interior of the fruit collector member 32 to a predetermined level. The fruit is discharged into the fruit collector by the stream created between the flow tube and the pumps and it is caused through its natural buoyancy to float upwardly to be collected in a mass within the fruit collector. A float switch 42, which senses the top of the fruit in the collector as it accumulates, is designed to be actuated when a sufiicient mass of fruit has been thus accumulated to cause the submerging tank 26 to be lowered which thereby causes the accumulated mass of fruit to be lowered into the bin B with the water rapidly draining therefrom back into the tank. The filled bin can be manually moved forwardly off of the support plateform and onto a discharge conveyor section 44 to be transported to storage or other processing facilities.

The primary support structure for the bin filling apparatus includes the upright tubular frame members or posts 28 which are secured together by frame members 50 and 51 (FIG. 1) at the bottom ends thereof. The upper ends of the two posts 28 at the corners of the supporting structure mount inwardly extending brackets 53 while the posts adjacent to the conveyor tank 22 each support a channel shaped bracket 55 with the brackets 55 being directed inwardly in opposed relationship. Each pair of adjacent brackets 53 and 55 serves to support a tubular conduit 60 one end 60a of which is connected to the discharge of one of the pumps 34 and the other end of which extends the length of the conveyor tank 22 to direct the flow from the pumps into an enlarged portion 62 (FIG. 2) at the rearward or fruit input end of the conveyor tank. As shown in FIG. 1, the conveyor tank is mounted in its elevated position by the conduits 60 with the sides 63 of the tank being welded or otherwise rigidly secured to the exterior surface of the conduits.

each corner of the tank in the manner shown in the detailed view of FIG. 4. Each roller is rotatably secured to a mounting bracket 66 which, in turn, is mounted upon an angle member 67 that is bolted onto an inverted channel-shaped mounting plate 68 rigidly secured to the comer of the submerging tank. Each mounting plate 68 and angle member 67 provide a deformable support for the guide rollers in the event that a bin or other obstruction is placed in the way of the submerging tank when it is lowered or elevated so that destruction of the tank or the supporting frame structure will not occur.

' The submerging tank 26 is provided with vertical movement by means of a pair of hydraulic cylinders 70 and the pistons 71 (FIG. I) mounted adjacent opposite sides of the tank with the upper end of each piston including a clevis 73 which is attached to a mounting block 74 securing together the upper ends of a pair of braces 75 which extend downwardly in diverging relationship and are rigidly secured to the adjacent side of the submerging tank. Conventional hydraulic circuitry (not shown) operated by a two-position solenoid-actuated spring-return control valve is utilized to lift the pistons from the cylinders and thereby elevate the submerging tank in a manner to be explained in more detail hereinafter. Each corner of the tank at the outwardly flared upper edge thereof is provided with a rectangular frame structure 78 which rotatably supports a plurality of short rollers 79 in the plane of the top of the tank. The rollers as seen in FIG. 1, are positioned directly adjacent to the infeed supporting track structure 40 and to the discharge conveyor section 44 when the submerging tank is in its lowermost position so as to assure a smooth transfer of the bins onto and off of the support platform 30. It will also be noted (FIG. 1) that both the infeed supporting track structure 40 and the discharge conveyor section 44 are comprised of two laterally spaced roller conveyor sections 40a and 44a, respectively, with catwalks 80 being provided therebetween so that the operators may stand at an elevated position adjacent to the top of the submerging tank to push the empty bins into the position above the tank and to remove the filled bins therefrom.

The bin support platform 30 is adapted to be suspended from theconduits 60 at the top of the structure by means of four support posts 82 (FIG. 1) which are attached to the sides of the platform at the corners thereof and which are rigidly secured to the underside of the conduits 60. It will be noted that the support platform 30 generally comprises a pair of spaced roller conveyor sections 83 interconnected by a frame structure 84 with the conveyor sections 83 being arranged for alignment with the rollers 79 on the upper edge of the submergingtank to provide a smooth conveying surface for the movement of the bin into and out of filling position.

The conduits 60 are also arranged to support the fruit collector 32 in its position directly above the bin while the bin is being filled. This supporting means is provided by a plurality of mounting blocks 86 attached to the upper end of each of the support posts 82 (FIG. 3) and extending inwardly to secure the sides of the fruit collector. The fruit collector is generally rectangular in shape including four opposed wall members 87 which are interconnected at the comers of the structure. As shown in FIG. 5, each of the walls 87 is inclined slightly to the vertical so that the tubular fruit collector structure tapers outwardly slightly from top to bottom. This taper, which has been exaggerated somewhat in FIG. 5 for illustrative purposes, is provided so that the discharge of the fruit from the fruit collector during the lowering of the submerging tank will be accomplished without undue disturbance to the proper nested condition of the fruit due to the rubbing of the fruit on the sides of the tank wherein the nested mass can be delivered intact into the underlying bin. In order to further prevent the bruising or scufiing of the fruit as they are delivered into or out of the fruit collector the opposed faces of the walls 87 may be provided with a suitable protective liner such as a coating of Teflon or the like.

As shown in FIG. 1, the walls 63 of the fruit conveyor tank 22 are inwardly inclined at 63a and terminate in short section 63b which results in a narrowingof the fruit conveying channel and thereby an increase in the conveying speed of the fruit 5 just prior to its discharge into the submerging tank so as to achieve a certain spacing of the fruit delivered to the tank to further lessen the probabilities of collisions between the individual fruit during the transfer into the tank. The flow tube 36 is attached directly to the conveyor tank 22 at the end of the wall sections 63b so as to form an extension thereof whereby fluid will continuously flow from the tank into the flow tube. As shown in FIG. 5, the flow tube comprises an upper wall 90 and a lower wall 91 said walls extending across the entire narrowed outlet of the conveyor tank so that the fruit will flow naturally from the conveyor tank down the flow tube. The upper wall 90 is provided with a sponge rubber lining 93 and a Teflon covering 94 to prevent bruising of the fruit when itis conveyed down the tube. The lower wall 91 is similarly provided with a sponge rubber lining 95 to lessen the possibility of damage to the fruit. The lower end of walls 90 and 91 are provided with short horizontal extensions 90a and 91a, respectively, which are attached directly to one of the walls 87 of the fruit collector 32. The aforesaid wall of the fruit collector is apertured as at 97 so that the output of the flow tube will be directed into the interior of the fruit collector along its lower edge thereof. A rubber flap 98 is mounted on the interior of the aforesaid wall of the fruit collector directly above the aperture 97 so that it will close the aperture when water is not moving down the flow tube (FIG. 2) to thereby prevent any fruit from moving into the flow tube when the submerging tank is lowered. When the pumps are actuated and the underwater stream is directed across the bottom of the fruit collector from aperture 97 to the pump intake connections, the flap will be pushed outwardly into the position shown in FIG. 5 to aid in preventing the fruit from rising vertically directly adjacent to the inlet and directing such fruit toward the center of the accumulating mass in order to achieve a uniform distribution of fruit in the mass.

A pair of apertures 99 are provided in that wall 87 which is directly opposite from the wall which receives the output of the flow tube 36 and in the same plane as the discharge aperture 97 with the apertures 99 providing the intake to the pumps 34. It will be appreciated therefore that during operation of the bin filling apparatus 20 there will be a continuous flow of water down the flow tube and across the lower edge of the fruit collector into the pumps 34, as shown by the arrows in FIG. 5. Each of the pumps is of the propeller type which is energized by a solenoid-actuated motor 100 that drives a vertically extending shaft 101 and a propeller 102 attached to the end of the shaft (FIG. 8). It will be noted that each of the conduits 60 terminate in a vertically extending portion 600 the upper end of which serves to axially mount one of the propeller shafts 101 by means of a conventional stufiing box structure 104. Each of the propellers 102 is thereby adapted to rotate within the lower end of its associated conduit section 60a to provide a suction force upon the water in the fruit collector forcing it back into the associated flow conduit 60. A suction manifold 106 is attached to the lower end of each of the conduit sections 60a, and the lower end of each of the suction manifolds is provided with a check valve structure 108 which is shown in detail in FIG. 9 of the drawings. A short, generally horizontal tubular section 1 10 is utilized to connect each of the pump inlet apertures 99 in the bottom of the fruit collector with the associated check valve structure so as to provide for the passage of water to the pumps. Each check valve structure 108 comprises a pivotable valve member 112 secured by means of a resilient member 113 so that it may pivot upwardly under the pressure of the water entering the pumps to provide a flow passage. When the pumps are shut off, the valve member 112 will be seated to close the flow passage and prevent the loss of water from the suction manifold thereby keeping the pumps primed so that flow will commence when they are again turned on. y

As previously outlined, the operation of the pumps 34 is controlled by the float valve 42 located at the upper end of the fruit collector 32. As best seen in FIG. 5, the float valve includes a sponge rubber pad 120 which is pivotally mounted at one end of a curved support rod 122 the other end of which is pivotally connected to the upper end of the wall 90 of the flow tube 36. The pad 120 is adapted to contact the surface of the fruit as it is accumulated in the collector. Since the accumulating fruit will displace the water in the tank, the water level in the collector will continuously rise as the fruit is collected therein with the natural buoyancy of fruit such as apples being sufficient to lift the uppermost layer thereof almost completely out of the water. As the support rod 122 moves upwardly when the pad 120 is elevated, it is adapted to engage a limit switch LS-2 which is mounted above the mouth of the conveyor tank 22 by means of a support angle 124 extending laterally between the conduits 60 and being rigidly secured thereto (FIG. 1). By means to be explained presently, the closing of limit switch LS-2, which occurs when the accumulated mass of fruit in the fruit collector equals the capacity of the fruit bins, serves to both turn off the pumps 34 and to initiate the lowering of the submerging tank 26.

In order to achieve a clean cut-off when the proper amount of fruit has been accumulated in the fruit collector, a weir 130 is provided to efr'ect a valve action between the fruit conveyor tank 22 and the flow tube 36 so that individual fruit will not dribble down the flow tube as the water is removed therefrom. The weir structure and its manner of operation is particularly well shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 of the drawings. A pair of mounting plates 132 are fixedly positioned in spaced relationship (FIG. 1) atop the laterally extending support angle 124 and the upper edge of the outer wall 90 of the flow tube. Each of the mounting plates pivotally supports a pair of pivot arms 134. One end of each of these pivot arms is pivotally connected to a vertically extending support plate 135 and the other end of each of the pivot arms is pivotally connected to a vertically extending support arm 136 the lower end of which is provided with an abutment plate 138 adjustably attached thereto. The lower end of the support arms 135 are interconnected by means of a rod 140 which slidably supports the underside of a pivotally mounted weir member 142 of arcuate configuration. One end of the weir member is pivotally mounted by means of a supporting rod 143 that is rotatably mounted to the end wall sections 63b of the fruit conveyor tank. The other end of the weir member is free for vertical movement about the end of the conveyor tank where the tank is attached to the downwardly inclined flow tube (as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7). The upper surface of the weir member is provided with a protective sheet 145 of Teflon or similar material to minimize bruising or other damage to the fruit which pass over the weir with the sheet extending past the weir member and down into the flow tube (FIG. 7). In operation, the abutment plate 138 at the lower end of the support arms 136 is adapted to be engaged by the upper edge of the submerging tank 26 as it reaches its uppermost position. Engagement of the abutment plate 138 will cause the weir to move from the position of FIG. 7 to the position of FIG. 6 as the support arms 135 move downwardly to lower the weir member and permit the passage of water into the flow tube.

Since each bin filling operation will result in a certain loss of water from the closed flow system, means are provided for replenishing the water so that the system will maintain a constant volume of water therein, said constant volume of water being necessary in order to insure the proper operation of the float switch 42 which must sense the accumulation of a given quantity of fruit. For this purpose, a conventional float switch FS-l (FIG. 1) is provided on the exterior surface of the fruit collector structure 32. If a suflicient quantity of water is present in the system the float switch will be actuated when the submerging tank 26 is brought to its elevated position. By means to be presently explained, failure to actuate the float switch when the submerging tank is up because of loss of water from the system will cause the actuation of a solenoidactuated valve SL-5 which will cause water to be delivered from a supply tank 146 to the conveyor tank 22 (FIG. 2).

In order to stop the submerging tank 26 in its upper and lower positions, a limit switch 15-1 is provided atop one of the posts 28 for contact with the top edge of the tank in its uppermost position (FIG. 5) and a limit switch LS-3 is provided for contact with the inclined side of the tank when it is in its lowermost position (FIG. 2).

Operation of the electrical circuitry of the present invention can be described particularly with reference to the schematic diagram of FIG. 15 showing a conventional electrical power supply on input lines L1 and L2. With the submerging tank in its lowered position, the normally open limit switch LS-3 is held closed. When an empty bin has been moved into position above the submerging tank the operator pushes the push button contact PB-1 to close a circuit through a relay R3 which closes the normally open holding contact R3-A and the normally open contact R3-B to energize a solenoid SL-4 which activates the valve in the hydraulic circuitry to move the pistons 71 upwardly in their hydraulic cylinders 70 and thereby elevate the submerging tank. When the submerging tank reaches its uppermost position it closes the normally open limit switch LS-l to energize relay R1. This opens the normally closed contact R1-B to break the circuit to the solenoid SL4 and thereby stop the movement of the submerging tank. Relay R1 also closes the normally open contact R1-A to provide power for solenoids SL-l and SL-2 which activate the motors for the pumps 34. Finally, relay R1 closes the normally open contact Rl-C which is in series with the float switch FS-1 and a relay R5. If, at the time the submerging tank reaches its uppermost position, the float switch is opened by the water in the tank, the relay R5 will not be energized. However, if there is insufficient water in the submerging tank to move the float switch FS-l out of its normally closed position, the relay R5 will be energized to close contact RS-A and provide actuation of the solenoid valve SL-S on the spigot from the supply tank 146 so that water will be continuously supplied to the system until the float switch FS-l is again opened. When a sufficient quantity of fruit has been accumulated this condition is signaled by the closing of limit switch LS-2 by the float switch 42 which results in energization of relay R2. This opens the normally closed contact R2-A to de-energize solenoids SL-l and SL-2 to stop the pumps. Energization of relay R2 also closes the normally open holding contact RZ-B and closes the normally open time delay contact R2-C to provide a circuit to energize a solenoid SL-3. The latter solenoid is connected to the valve controlling the hydraulic circuitry and serves to reverse the position of the valve from that provided by solenoid SL-4 so as to cause the pistons 71 to move downwardly in the cylinders 70 and thereby lower the submerging tank. The relay contact R2-C will not close, however, until after a short time delay of about 2 seconds. Consequently, the pumps will shut ofi before the submerging tank beings its downward travel which will permit the water to neck down slightly over the weir structure to achieve a sharper cut off as the weir is raised so that fruit will not gravitate down the flow tube while the tank is being lowered. The submerging tank is lowered to the bottom of the structure where it closes limit switch LS-3 to energize relay R4 which opens contact R4-A to break the circuit to the solenoid SL-3 thereby stopping the travel of the submerging tank. The circuitry is then set for another cycle which is initiated when the operator pushes the start button PB-l.

The operation of the apparatus of the present invention can best be described particularly with reference to the operational FIGS. 10 through 14. In the starting position of FIG. 10, the submerging tank 26 is in its lowered position and a bin can be placed on the support platform 30 directly above the submerging tank. The weir 130 is up and the pumps 34 are off and therefore no fruit will flow from the fruit conveyor tank 22 down the flow tube 36. Once the empty bin is in place over the submerging tank, the operator of the apparatus pushes the start button PB-l and the submerging tank, which is filled with water, isbrought up into surrounding engagement with the empty bin as shown in FIG. l l. When the submerging tank gets to its top position the weir structure 130 is lowered so that fruit flows downwardly through the flow tube and up into the fruit collector structure 32 to accumulate in a mass therein. Since the flow of the water in the circulating system is directly across the lower end of the fruit collector the fruit will be carried outwardly and caused to rise in the center of the fruit collector structure so that an even accumulation of fruit layers will result. When a full supply of fruit has been collected in the fruit collector, the float switch 42 is actuated to raise the weir and to initiate the lowering of the submerging tank as shown in FIG. 12. As the submerging tank lowers the accumulated mass of fruit, which is moving with the descending water level, is deposited directly into the bin as shown in FIG. 13. Once the submerging tank reaches its lowermost position, the filled bin, which rapidly drains its excess water into the underlying submerging tank, may be moved outwardly of the apparatus as shown in HG. l4 and replaced by an empty bin. Thus, the apparatus is ready for a new cycle.

From the foregoing description it will be appreciated that a bin filling method and apparatus have been provided which permit the filling of a bin with an accumulated supply of fruit such as apples with a minimum amount of bruising or other damage to the fruit. A particularly important feature of the method is the fact that the fruit is collected in a nested mass which mass is substantially undisturbed as it is transferred from the fruit collector structure to the empty bin. Furthermore, the means for floating the fruit upwardly into the mass at about the center thereof provides for the achievement of the proper nested fruit relationship so that the individual fruit are not piled upon one atop another in columnar form as would very likely result if the fruit were dumped or funneled into the bin from the top thereof.

Although the best mode contemplated for carrying out the present invention has been herein shown and described, it will be apparent that modification and variation may be made without departing from what is regarded to be the subject matter of the invention.

What is claimed is:

l. A bin filling apparatus comprising a tank adapted to hold a large quantity of water, means mounting said tank for movement from a lowered position to a second position elevated above said lowered position, means for receiving an empty bin above said tank in its said lowered position, said tank enclosing said bin in said elevated position with said bin being received below the water level in the tank, means for moving a plurality of fruit into said tank above said bin, means for collecting said fruit in the water in a compact mass above said bin, and means for moving said tank from said lowered to said elevated position to permit said fruit to be collected in said mass and for thereafter moving said tank from said elevated position to said lowered position to cause said mass to be deposited within said bin.

2. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said means for moving said fruit into said tank comprises a flow tube extending into said tank below the level of the water therein wherein said fruit is discharged below said water level and caused to float upwardly into said mass.

3. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 2 wherein said means for collecting said fruit comprises a tubular structure open at the bottom and having transverse dimensions substantially corresponding to the transverse dimensions of said bin.

4. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 3 wherein said tubular structure is of slightly larger transverse dimensions at the bottom end thereof than it is elsewhere.

5. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 1 including means for sensing the size of said mass of fruit as it is accumulated for stopping said means for moving said fruit into said tank and for causing said tank to move from said elevated position to said lowered position when said mass corresponds substantially to the capacity of said bin.

6. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 2 wherein said means for moving said fruit into said tank comprises a waterfilled fruit conveyor, said fruit conveyor being mounted for communication with said flow tube, and a pump fixedly mounted above said bin in a position wherein the intake thereof is arranged to be submerged! in said tank when said tank is in its elevated position, the discharge of said pump being directed to said fruit conveyor wherein a closed flow system is provided for bringing said fruit from said conveyor through said flow tube to said tank.

7. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 6 wherein said means for collecting said fruit comprises a tubular structure open at the bottom and having transverse dimensions substantially corresponding to the transverse dimensions of said bin, said flow tube being provided with an outlet mounted for com munication with said tubular structure near the lower end thereof, and said pump intake being mounted for communication with said tubular structure in generally the same horizontal plane as said flow tube outlet but on the opposite side of said tubular structure therefrom.

8. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 7 including a weir blocking the passage of fruit from said fruit conveyor to said flow tube when said tube is in said lowered position, and means for lowering said weir when said tank is moved to said elevated position.

9. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 7 including a float operated switch actuable when the surface level of said fruit in said tank reaches a predetermined level to stop said pump and to cause said tank tobe moved from said elevated position to said lowered position.

10. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 7 including a check valve positioned in the intake to said pump near its connection to said tubular structure.

11. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 7 including a flap valve positioned at said outlet of said flow tube, said flap valve extending outwardly into the interior of said tubular structure for a substantial distance when said flow tube is passing fruit whereby said fruit is directed toward the center of said tubular structure.

12. A bin filling apparatus according; to claim 1 wherein said means for receiving said bin above said tank includes a platform comprised of a plurality of rollers, and means for suspending said platform from the top of said bin filling apparatus whereby said tank is arranged to enclose said platform and said suspension means when said tank is in said elevated position.

113. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 6 including means for sensing the quantity of water in said flow system when said tank is moved to said elevated position, and means for adding additional water to said system when said quantity drops below a predetermined amount.

114. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 7 including a pair of tubular conduits each being connected at one end thereof to said pump discharge and at the other end thereof to said fruit conveyor, frame means for mounting said conduits at an elevated position, said conduits extending in parallel spaced relationship and serving to suspend said fruit conveyor therebetween, said one end 'of each of said conduits serving to suspend said tubular structure for collecting said fruit.

15. A bin filling apparatus comprising an elevated support structure, a water-filled fruit carrying trough suspended from said support structure, a water-filled tank mounted for vertical movement between a lowered position and an elevated position, means suspended from said support structure for supporting an empty bin in a position directly overlying said tank in its lowered position, means for moving said tank to its elevated position wherein it encloses said bin with said bin being received beneath the water level in said tank, flow means for delivering said fruit from said trough to said tank in its elevated position and for releasing said fruit in a position above said bin but below the water level in said tank, and means for collecting said fruit in a compact mass above said bin whereby the lowering of said tank will cause said mass to 18. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 15 including a pump suspended from said support structure and having its intake positioned within said tank when the tank is in its elevated position and with the output of said pump being directed to said trough, and means actuatable when said tank reaches said elevated position to turn said pump on to thereby create a closed flow system from the pump to the trough to the tank and back to the pump.

19. A method of filling bins with fruit comprising the steps of moving an empty bin onto a support platform, elevating a water-filled tank about said platform and bin so that said bin is totally submerged in said tank, delivering a plurality of fruit into said tank and collecting them in a nested mass above said bin, and lowering the tank to cause the mass to be deposited in said bin as a single unit substantially without any rearrangement of the fruit therein.

20. A method of filling bins with fruit according to claim 19 wherein said fruit is delivered to said tank below the water level therein directly above saidbin and allowed to float upwardly into said mass.

21. A method of filling bins with fruit according to claim 20 including the step of agitating the water in the fruit collecting area of the tank above said bin whereby each individual fruit is forced into a nested position with respect to the overlying fruit.

22. A bin filling apparatus according to claim 2 including means for continuously removing water from said tank and a discharge conduit connected to said tank and to said last named means whereby an underwater stream is formed between the discharge of said flow tube and said discharge conduit, said stream serving to agitate the water in the fruit collecting area thereabove so as to cause said fruit to accumulate ina nested mass.

t i i mg? I UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION Patent 3,656,272 'Dated April 18, 1972 Inventofls) I Charles E eetz It is certified that-error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent are hereby corrected'asshown below:

Column- 2, line 57 change "considerably" to -considerable. Column 4, line 54 change "plateform" to -,-platform--. Column 8, line 56 change "beings" to --begins--.

. Column l0,line 24 ,change "tube" (second occurrence) to --tank-.

Signed and sealed this 5th day oi December 1972.

(SEAL) Attest:

EDWARD M.FLETCHER,JR. Y ROBERT GOTI'SCHALK Attesting Officer- Commissioner of Patents

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4051645 *Oct 26, 1976Oct 4, 1977Aaron James WarkentinComestible packaging apparatus
US4807422 *Mar 30, 1988Feb 28, 1989Societe Montalbanaise De Constructions MecaniquesApparatus for filling boxes with objects notably fruits, floating in water
US4959936 *Feb 13, 1989Oct 2, 1990Sanyo Shokuhin Kabushiki KaishaApparatus for packing bean curd pieces
US7159373Mar 21, 2005Jan 9, 2007Material Pour L'arboriculture FruitiereInstallation for hydraulically filling crates with floating objects such as fruits and having a single double-acting pump
US7303060 *Mar 20, 2007Dec 4, 2007Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd.Material conveying system without dust rising
US9073707Feb 22, 2011Jul 7, 2015De Greef's Wagen-, Carrosserie-En Machinebouw B.V.Buffer system for fruit such as apples
US20050210831 *Mar 21, 2005Sep 29, 2005Philippe BlancInstallation for hydraulically filling crates with floating objects such as fruits and having a single double-acting pump
US20070259086 *Apr 4, 2007Nov 8, 2007Materiel Pour L'arboriculture FruitiereDevice for treating fruit
US20070284221 *Mar 20, 2007Dec 13, 2007Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd.Material conveying system without dust rising
EP2149518A1 *Jul 7, 2009Feb 3, 2010Unitec S.p.A.Apparatus for the separation of fruits
WO2011105895A1Feb 22, 2011Sep 1, 2011De Greef's Wagen-, Carrosserie- En Machinebouw B.V.Buffer system for fruit such as apples
WO2015030595A1 *Sep 2, 2014Mar 5, 2015De Greef's Wagen-, Carrosserie- En Machinebouw B.V.Filling device and method for filling a container with products floating and/or suspended in an aqueous liquid
Classifications
U.S. Classification53/473, 53/493, 53/248
International ClassificationB65B25/04, B65B25/02
Cooperative ClassificationB65B25/045
European ClassificationB65B25/04C