US 3657860 A
A machine for packing articles, particularly articles having a friable nature, includes a conveyor by which each article in turn is conveyed to a loading station. When each article arrives at the loading station it is conveyed to a collating position by a collating conveyor and each article passes through a series of collating positions until all the collated articles are transferred under gravity to a packing station. The articles are stacked at the packing station and then packed into a suitable container. Article detection means and a sequence controller causes the articles to automatically pass through the different stages.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Franklin [451 Apr. 25, 1972 Kenneth Winston Franklin, Stratfordupon-Avon, England  Inventor:
Wentcroft Engineerings Limited, Stratford-upon-Avon, England  Filed: Oct. 27, 1969 [I1] Appl. No.: 869,467
 Foreign Application Priority Data Nov. 6, 1968 Great Britain....; ..52,489/68  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS Bruce ..214/6 K X 3,280,958 10/1966 Carey et a1. ..198/33 AD X 1,659,331 2/1928 Mudd ..53/62 1,803,123 4/1931 Mudd..... ....53/l64 X 1,839,925 l/l932 McKaig ....53/164 2,549,004 4/1951 Pomeroy et al.. ..53/62 2,613,021 10/1952 Bowes ..53/62 2,969,629 l/l96l Blais ..53/62 X Primary Examiner--Robert L. Spruill Attorney-Mawhinncy and Mawhinney  ABSTRACT A machine for packing articles, particularly articles having a friable nature, includes a conveyor by which each article in turn is conveyed to a loading station. When each article arrives at the loading station it is conveyed to a collating position by a collating conveyor and each article passes through a series of collating positions until all the collated articles are transferred under gravity to a packing station. The articles are stacked at the packing station and then packed into a suitable container. Article detection means and a sequence controller causes the articles to automatically pass through the different stages.
3 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures APPARATUS FOR THE COLLATION AND PACKING F ARTICLES The invention is concerned with a method of, and apparatus for. collating and packing articles into a container such as a carton or box.
Many commodities are commonly wrapped or packaged in a uniform manner so that each package contains a predetermined amount of the commodity for sale. However, although it is an easy matter for the manufacturer to arrange for the commodities to be pre-packed in small units, the efficient handling of these units between the manufacturer and the wholesaler, and between the wholesaler and retailer, necessitates the grouping of large numbers of units into cartons or boxes each containing the same number of units. Hitherto, it is common for this packing of large numbers of small packages into larger containers to be effected by hand. In the case of hard goods, that is commodities which are comparatively rigid or are packed as a comparatively rigid unit (for instance bars of chocolate), it is relatively easy to ensure that the correct number of units are packed in each carton or box with minimal risk of damage. On the other hand with soft goods, that is commodities which are relatively soft or fragile and are packed in non-rigid wrappings (for instance packets of potato crisps), it is very difficult to achieve any degree of neatness in packing a large number of units into a large carton, and this causes difficulties in ensuring that the correct number of units are packed in each carton or box and often results in damaged goods.
An object of the present invention is to provide a method of, and apparatus for, collating and packing articles into a container with a high degree of accuracy.
According to one aspect of the invention a method of collating and packing articles into a container includes passing a series of articles to a loading station, detecting the presence of each article when it is at the station, deflecting a first article after it has reached the loading station to a first collating position, deflecting a second article after it has reached the loading station to said first collating position while simultaneously deflecting the first article transversely in the same direction to a second collating position, and subsequently moving the first and second articles from their respective collated positions to a packing station. A third article may be deflected after it has reached the loading station to said first collating position while simultaneously deflecting the first article in the same direction to a third collating position and deflecting the second article in the same direction to the second collating position. If desired, any series of articles can be deflected one by one into a series of aligned collating positions and, as soon as all of the collating positions are occupied, the collated series of articles may be moved together to a packing station.
Preferably, the packing station for each series of collated articles is arranged immediately below their respective collating positions, and the collated series of articles are allowed to fall under their own weight from their collated positions to the packing station as soon as a complete series of articles have been collated. If desired, subsequent series of collated articles may be arranged to overlie earlier series of collated articles. After a first series of collated articles have reached the packing station, they may be allowed to drop to a lower station whereby a second series of collated articles may be allowed to drop to the packing station. In this manner a plurality of layers of series of collated articles may be formed.
If desired, after the formation of a predetermined number of layers of series of collated articles, the entire collated pile can be deflected in a direction transverse to the pile so that a second pile of collated articles can be formed next to the first pile.
After a predetermined number of series of collated articles have been formed, transversely inwardly directed forces may be applied to the opposite sides of the assembled articles to ensure that they are closely nested together. Subsequently the collated articles are preferably discharged longitudinally from the packing station into a suitable container.
According to another aspect of the invention, a machine for collating and packing articles into a container includes means for delivering a series of articles to a loading station, a detector for determining whenever an article is at the loading station, a sequence controlling means actuated by said detector, a collating means operated by the sequence controlling means whereby the detection of the first article to arrive at the loading station will cause the sequence controlling means to operate the collating means to move the first article to a first collating position, the detection of the-second article to arrive at the loading station will cause the sequence controlling means to operate the collating means to move the first article to a second collating position whilst moving the second article to the first collating position, and the detection of a subsequent article to arrive at the loading station will cause the sequence controlling means to operate a packing mechanism for moving the collated articles from their respective collated positions to a packing station. The number of collated positions available can naturally be adjusted to suit specific requirements. The means for delivering the series of articles to the loading station is preferably a continuously moving conveyor passing through the loading station where each article is brought to rest prior to collation. Preferably the conveyor is supplied by a slower moving feed conveyor so that the articles are supplied to the loading stations at spaced intervals allowing sufficient time for the operation of the collating means. The collating means is preferably in the form of a series of indexing plates mounted on an endless conveyor which is indexed a fixed amount every time it is operated by the sequence controlling means. Preferably the indexing plates are arranged so that the loading station is disposed at or adjacent one end of the conveyor whereby the consequent separation of the indexing plates passing around the end of the conveyor enables each article to reach the loading station freely, yet subsequently to be closely confined between adjacent indexing plates. The indexing plates are preferably arranged closely above a horizontal plate defining the various collating positions, the plate is movable by an actuating mechanism to allow articles resting on it to fall to a packing station in the packing mechanism, and the sequence controlling means is arranged to operate said actuating mechanism as soon as a full series of articles are in their respective collated positions.
The packing mechanism may include a platform defining the packing station for the first series of collated articles, and the platform is movable vertically downwards under the control of the sequence controlling means as soon as the first series of collated articles have reached the packing station, whereby the tops of the first series of collated articles define a packing station for the second series of collated articles. In this manner, any desired number of layers of series of collated articles can be formed.
After a pile comprising several layers of series of collated articles has been formed, a transverse plunger may be arranged to be operated under control of the sequence con trolling means to move the pile transversely away from the packing station whilst a similar pile of collated articles is formed next to it after the transverse plunger has been returned to its initial position.
After a predetermined number of series of collated articles have been formed, the sequence controlling means may be arranged to operate the transverse plunger and an opposing second transverse plunger to apply transversely inwardly directed forces to the opposite sides of the assembled articles to ensure that they are closely nested together. Subsequently, the sequence controlling means may be arranged to operate a longitudinal plunger to discharge the collated articles between the two transverse plungers into a suitable container.
The invention is now described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which:
FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating a machine for collating and packing packets of potato crisps into a carton;
FIG. 2 is a diagram of part of a modified machine;
FIG. 3 is a side view of a part of a further modified machine, and
FIG. 4 is a view in the direction of arrow 4 in FIG. 3.
With reference to FIG. 1, a series of potato crisp packets are supplied by an unshown endless belt to a delivery point indicated by arrow A where they are picked up by an endless rubber belt 10 which passes over a pair of rollers 11 and 12. The roller 12 is driven by an unshown electric motor and causes the potato crisp packets 13 to be delivered by the endless belt 10 in the direction of arrow B. It is conveniently arranged for the belt 10 to be driven at a speed faster than the rate at which the packets 13 are delivered to position A, and in this manner adequate separation of the packets is achieved.
The packet 13 shown nearest to the roller 12 is situated in the loading station, and an unshown barrier across the belt at this point prevents the packet from being conveyed over the end ofthe roller 12.
A pair of endless chains 14 pass over respective pairs of chain sprockets l and 16 and support a number of equally spaced indexing plates 17 which are arranged generally parallel to each other and extend transversely between the two chains 14. The assembly of indexing plates 17 and chains 14 are arranged so that it extends transversely across the belt at the loading station whereby the indexing plates 17 can sweep each packet 13 reaching the loading station on to a fly plate 18 defining four collating positions 19, 20, 21 and 22.
On the side of the indexing plate assembly 17, 14 remote from the roller 12 there is arranged an unshown photo-electric cell which counts each packet 13 as it passes the photo-electric cell and accordingly arrives at the loading station. The photo-electric cell is arranged to operate an unshown electronic sequence controlling means which is arranged to co-ordinate the operation of the various machine functions. In particular, the electronic sequence controlling means is arranged to operate an unshown mechanism for indexing the indexing plates sequentially across the loading station and the collating positions 19, 20, 21 and 22. To ensure accurate indexing, an electro-magnetic brake can be applied to any of the chain sprockets or 16.
Whenever the photo-electric cell detects that a packet 13 has reached the loading station, the indexing plates are actuated so that the first'packet 13 is swept transversely off the belt 10 to the collating position 19, the second packet 13 arriving at the loading station will again cause the indexing plates to be operated so that the first packet is transferred to collating position whilst the second packet is transferred to collating position 19. When the third packet 13 reaches the loading station, the indexing mechanism will again be operated to move the first packet to collating position 21, the second packet to collating position 20 and the third packet to collating position 19. On the arrival of the fourth packet 13 at the loading station, the indexing plates will again be operated conveying the first packet to collating position 22, the second packet to collating position 21, the third packet to collating position 20 and the fourth packet to collating position 19. As soon as this fourth indexing movement has been completed, the electronic sequence controlling means is then arranged to operate an unshown actuator which rapidly pulls the fly plate 18 to the chain dotted position shown, thereby allowing the series of four collated packets 13 to fall vertically downwards. As soon as the collated series of packets has had time to fall below the level of the fly plate 18, its actuating mechanism is reversed to return the fly plate 18 to the full line position as shown in the drawing. The indexing plates 17 then continue to operate as the packets l3 successively reach the loading station, until a second series of collated packets rest on the fly plate 18.
A platform 23 is movable vertically upwards and downwards by an unshown actuator controlled by the electronic sequence controlling means. At the time that the first collated series of packets begins to fall, the platform 23 is in the chain dotted line position indicated by arrow 24 and defines a packing station. The electronic sequence controlling means is arranged so that, as soon as the fly plate 18 has been returned to the full line position, the platform 23 is lowered to the position indicated by chain dotted line 25 so that the uppermost portions of the first layer of collated packets constitute the packing station. As soon as the second series of collated packets have been assembled on the fly plate 18, they are allowed to fall on to the first layer of packets, and the electronic sequence controlling means is arranged to lower the platform 23 yet again. The indexing process together with the co-ordinated withdrawal of the fly plate 18 and the co-ordinated lowering of the platform 23 continues until sixlayers, each formed of a series of four packets 13, is resting on the platform 23 which is in the full line position as shown. It should be noted that only four layers of packets 13 are shown, and it should be understood that the remaining two layers would be in the positions indicated by chain dotted lines 24 and 25.
As soon as this pile of twenty four packets has been formed,
the electronic sequence controlling means is arranged to operate two further actuating mechanisms controlling transverse plungers 26 and 27. These plungers are moved together across the top of platform 23 and the top of a base 28 until transverse plunger 27 is occupying the position indicated by chain dotted lines 29, and the transverse plunger 26 occupies the position originally occupied by the transverse plunger 27. It will be appreciated that this co-ordinated movement of the transverse plungers 26 and 27 carries the pile of 24 packets off the platform 23 on to the right-hand portion of the base 28. As soon as the packets have been deposited in this position, the electronic sequence controlling means is arranged to withdraw the transverse plunger 26 to its original position, and to move the platform vertically upwards to the position shown by chain dotted line 24. In the meantime, the collating sequence has been continued by the operation of the indexing plate 17 and a fresh series of collated packets-l3 is ready to drop on to the platform 23. In this manner, a second pile also containing 24 packets is formed next to the first pile so that the first pile is resting on the right-hand portion of the base 28 and the second pile is resting on the platform 23. As soon as both piles have been formed, the electronic sequence controlling means is again arranged to operate the actuating mechanisms of the two transverse plungers 26 and 27 which move so that the transverse plunger 27 moves leftward from the chain dotted position 29 to the plain dotted position 30, and the transverse plunger 26 moves from the position shown to the original full line position occupied by the transverse plunger 27. It will accordingly be appreciated that the first pile of collated packets is moved to the left-hand side of the base 28 and, as the overall distance between the two transverse plungers 26 and 27 in their new positions is substantially less plunger 26 which is in the full line position originally occupied by the transverse plunger 27.
Having consolidated the two piles of 24 potato crisp packets into this closely nested relationship, the electronic sequence controlling means is then arranged to operate a longitudinally acting plunger 31 to discharge the consolidated 48 packets in a direction of arrow C into the open mouth of an appropriate container which is held on its side in alignment with the gap between the base 28 and the two transverse plungers 26 and 27. As soon as the longitudinally acting plunger 31 has discharged the consolidated 48 packets, it is quickly returned to its original full line position, and the transverse plungers 26 and 27 are returned to their original full line positions, and the platform 23 is again moved up to the position shown by chain line 24 in readiness to catch the next series of collated packets which has just been formed.
It will be appreciated that this machine provides a method in which packets which are very ditficult to handle are neatly and economically packed into containers. In practice, I have found that the machine operates much faster than the optimum capability of a manual packer, and the result is that the 48 packets have been packed together in a much neater manner than has hitherto been possible, no damage has been caused to the contents of the packets, and it has been possible to pack the 48 packets into a container of substantially less volume than has hitherto been necessary.
It should be noted that the manner in which the indexing plates 17 tend to separate as they pass around the rollers is particularly useful in that it provides a gap at the loading station which is larger than necessary for accommodating the packets 13. However, as soon as the indexing plates 17 on either side of the packet at the loading station have moved to the first collating position 19, the indexing plates 17 have again moved together and closely embrace the packet thereby minimizing the spacing of the packets in their collated positions 19, 20, 21 and 22.
Although the invention has been specifically described with reference to the packing of soft items, it should be appreciated that the machine is readily adaptable for packing hard items such as bars or boxes of chocolate, wrapped butter or any other hard or soft packed commodity.
Although the invention has been specifically described with reference to packing two piles of 24 articles into a single container, it should be appreciated that the number of piles packed into any container can be altered according to specific requirements, and that also the number of layers of packets in each pile and the number of packets forming each collated series can also be varied as required to suit individual requirements. If desired, the principles I have taught can be used for packing a container with just a single layer ofcollated packets. In this extreme case, the platform 23 would permanently occupy the position as shown by chain dotted line 24, the trans verse plungers 26 and 27 would be held permanently in their full line positions, and the longitudinally acting plunger 31 would be arranged to operate in the space defined between the now fixed transverse plungers 26 and 27, the fixed platform 23, and the fly plate 18.
It will be appreciated that various techniques can be utilized to operate and control the various functions of the machine and circuits utilizing electronic, fluidic or other techniques may be applied as desired, and any convenient mechanisms can be utilized for providing the indexing movement of the sprockets l5 and 16 and the movements ofthe fly plate 18, the platform 23, and the plungers 26, 27 and 31.
Although the machine in FIG. 1 has been described as being arranged to load a carton from one end of the base 28, it will be appreciated that the carton can be loaded from the opposite end of the base 28. Moreover the base 28 could be located on the opposite side of the platform 23 to that shown. As a further alternative the packets could be discharged from the base 28 into a carton by sideways movement of the stack off the base or by falling vertically after the base 28 is removed from underneath the stack of packets.
Referring now to FIG. 2 an alternative form of the invention is shown in which the fly plate 18 is replaced by a two-part fly plate 32, 33. In FIG. 2 the arrangement is otherwise similar to that shown in FIG. 1 and the same parts have the same reference numerals.
Each fly plate 32 and 33 has its own actuating mechanism and forms a longitudinal half and the plates are moved laterally in opposite directions when a series of collated packets are located on the plates 32, 33 to allow the packets to fall vertically downwards. The plates 32, 33 move to the chain line positions indicated by 32a and 330 respectively. The plates 32 and 33 are spaced apart in their supporting position as shown and this reduces surface contact with the packets. When the plates 32, 33 are moved apart both ends of the packets are released simultaneously thereby ensuring that the packets are dropped straight. When the packets drop in this position the spacing of the plate 23 below the fly plates 32 and 33 is less critical and the plate 23 can be a comparatively large distance below the fly plates.
Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, in which similar parts to those in FIGS. 1 and 2 are given the same reference numbers, an alternative arrangement for transferring the packets 13 from the loading station is illustrated. In this arrangement the roller 12 is located at one end of the indexing plates 17 so that the belt 10 only passes a short distance under the plates 17. A receiving plate 35 is located beyond the roller 12 in alignment with the upper rim of belt 10 and the plate 35 has an integral vertical plate 37 (omitted in FIG. 3 for clarity) for arresting forward movement of the packets 13.
The plate 35 is formed with slots in which are located rods 34 which are pivotable to a position shown by 340 in the drawing. The rods 34 are carried on a common rotatable shaft 36 which is operable by unshown drive means to pivot the rods 34 reciprocally in accordance with the operation of the sequence controlling means.
In the elevated position the rods 34 can be accommodated in respective slots 38 formed in each of the plates 17 so that the indexing of the plates 17 can take place with the rods in the position 34a.
An air jet 39 is located adjacent the plate 34 to assist in transferring packet 13 from the plate 34 to between the indexing plates 17. The air jet 39 is directed towards the path of travel of the plates 17, and such a jet 39 may be also provided in the arrangement of FIG. 1 to assist in moving the packets from the conveyor belt 10.
The arrangement of FIGS. 3 and 4 is especially suited to the collating and packing of relatively heavy packets but can also find application with light packets.
In operation of the arrangement of FIGS. 3 and 4 the packets 13 pass in turn from the belt 10 onto the plate 35. When the presence of a packet at the loading station is detected the rods 34 are raised to the position 34a and in this position the plates 17 engage the packets and move them from the rods 34 towards a collating position, the rods 34 being located in the slots 38 in the plates 17 as the plates move through a series of positions as indicated by 17a, 17b and 17c in FIG. 3. When a packet 13 has been carried away by the plates 17 the rods 34 are lowered to their initial position so that a further packet can be received on the plate 35. These actions are then repeated, other aspects of the operation of the system being the same as described in relation to FIG. 1 or FIG. 2.
What I claim as my invention and desire to secure by Letters Patent of the United States is:
1. A machine for collating and packing articles comprising,
feed means for feeding successive articles to a loading station,
collating means for conveying the articles from the loading station to a series of collating positions, to thereby form a set of articles,
discharge means defining a support surface over which the collating means conveys the articles,
a receiving surface beneath the support surface and defined by a vertically incrementally movable plate to which the set of collated articles pass from the support surface by operation of the discharge means and which is movable downwardly one increment of movement after receiving a set of collated articles to thereby form a stack of articles in two or more layers on the receiving surface,
and a transverse plate arranged to be moved over the receiving surface after a stack of articles has been assembled on the receiving surface to move the stack transversely away from the receiving surface for a similar stack of articles to be formed on the receiving surface after the transverse plate has been returned to its initial position,
the collating means including an endless conveyor carrying members spaced along the conveyor for engaging successive articles and conveying them along the support surface to their collating positions.
2. A machine according to claim I wherein a further transverse plate is movable towards said transverse plate when the required stacks of articles have been assembled to ensure that the articles are nested together and a longitudinal plate is surface by operation of the discharge means,
the collating means including an endless conveyor carrying members spaced along the conveyor for engaging successive articles and conveying them along the support surface to their collating positions,
and the endless conveyor members defining slots and the loading station including rods which are movable to be located in the slots, the articles being received at the loading station on the rods, the rods being moved into the slots, and the conveyor members moving the articles to said collating positions.