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Publication numberUS3662872 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateMay 16, 1972
Filing dateJul 10, 1969
Priority dateJul 10, 1969
Publication numberUS 3662872 A, US 3662872A, US-A-3662872, US3662872 A, US3662872A
InventorsNalbach John C
Original AssigneeColgate Palmolive Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus for orienting and feeding articles
US 3662872 A
Abstract
Apparatus for orienting and feeding lightweight plastic bottles or the like having a rotating bowl in which a supply of randomly arranged bottles is placed, a plurality of chutes spaced around the bowl for rotation therewith, with each chute having a bottle receiving opening at the upper edge of the bowl. A plurality of vertically reciprocable bottle pushers are mounted within the bowl and rotate therewith, each pusher being operatively associated with one of the chutes. As the bowl rotates, each pusher moves a bottle up a stationary helical discharge track from the top of which the bottles are deposited in a predetermined oriented position into the respective associated chute, with the bottle eventually being transferred onto a linear conveyor which is arranged along a tangent to the path of rotation of the bottles as they are positioned in the rotating chutes.
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United States Patent I Nalbach [451 May 16, 1972 [54] APPARATUS FOR ORIENTING AND FEEDING ARTICLES [72] Inventor: John C. Nalbach, Jersey City, NJ.

[73] Assignee: Colgate-Palmolive Company, New York,

[22] Filed: July 10, 1969 [2l] Appl.No.: 840,739

1,162,813 8/1969 Great Britain ..198/33 R Primary Examiner-Richard E. Aegerter Assistant Examiner-Douglas D. Watts Attorney-Herbert S. Sylvester, Murray M. Grill, Norman Blumenkopf, Ronald S. Cornell, Thomas J. Corum, Richard N. Miller and Robert L. Stone 57 ABSTRACT Apparatus for orienting and feeding lightweight plastic bottles or the like having a rotating bowl in which a supply of randomly arranged bottles is placed, a plurality of chutes spaced around the bowl for rotation therewith, with each chute having a bottle receiving opening at the upper edge of the bowl. A plurality of vertically reciprocable bottle pushers are mounted within the bowl and rotate therewith, each pusher being 5 References Cited operatively associated with one of the chutes. As the bowl 1 rotates, each pusher moves a bottle up a stationary helical UNITED STATES PATENTS discharge track from the top of which the bottles are 2,381,893 8/1945 Fernald ..198/33R deposited in a predetermined Oriented position ime the 3 168 186 2/1965 Young respective associated chute, with the bottle eventually being 2 930 477 3/1960 Schrader 198/168 transferred onto a linear conveyor which is arranged along a tangent to the path of rotation of the bottles as they are posi- FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS tiened in the rotating chutesl,024,730 4/1966 Great Britain ..l98/33 R 26 Claims, 13 Drawing Figures 120 2% I I grq I I I59 1 5 i 50 1 l 11 I Lg L r I i 4 I i I 62 I i l I [1. -77 I 1 24 1.

I i l a 62 64 I I \p l 1 6 '22 1 1 I I. l I3 1 f i I I 64 38a I 64 PATENTEDnmsmz 3.662.872

SHEET 1 BF 6 FIG. I

IN V EN TOR.

JOHN c. ,IVALBACH BY A TTOR/VEYS PAT'ENTEmMnr 16 1972 SHEET 2 BF 6 INVENTOR.

JOHN c. NALBA CH A TTORNE Y3 PATENTEDMAY 16 I972 swam 3 n5 6 INVZNIOR JOHN C. NALBACH BY M WZ/M ZTTORNE? mm QE successful,

1 APPARATUS FOR ORIENTING AND FEEDING ARTICLES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates generally to apparatus for automatically sorting and feeding articles in a desired orientation, and more particularly to automatic material handling apparatus for feeding articles such as lightweight, plastic bottles in a predetermined oriented upright position to a desired processing location.

In the past, the arranging of bottles into a predetermined position or orientation before feeding them to a desired location such as bottle filling station has involved a great deal of manual handling and manipulation of the bottles. Consequently, it has not been possible to uniformly orient all the bottles to the same position nor to feed them at a substantially uniform predetermined rate. Additionally, several persons have been necessarily employed to arrange the bottles in order to provide a sufiiciently high rate of feed required by'the automatic bottle filling equipment. These combined factors have produced inefficient and unpredictable production schedules and resulted in higher operating costs.

Prior attempts to solve the problems associated with manual handling systems by providing apparatus capable of automatically sorting and feeding the bottles have not been entirely especially when handling lightweight, readily bounceable plastic bottles. Known automatic feeder equipment, which usually has been quite expensive and complicated in structure, generally has been unsuitable for use with such plastic bottles because of their inability to gently handle and positively control the bottles at all times while positioning them in a predetermined orientation. Hence, the bottles are not discharged from the feeder in a uniform, properly arranged position. In addition, known bottle feeders are limited in capacity, provide only relatively low feed rates, and are not very readily adaptable for operation with various sized and shaped bottles.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Accordingly, the primary object of this invention resides in the provision of novel apparatus for automatically orienting and feeding articles in a uniformly stabilized position at a desired rate of feed.

Another object resides in the provision of novel automatic orienting and feed apparatus particularly useful with lightweight plastic bottles or the like which are initially randomly arranged, the apparatus uniformly orienting such bottles in apredetermined fashion and feeding the bottles in such uniform orientation at a high rate of feed to a desired location.

Still another object resides in the provision of a novel orienting and feed apparatus especially useful with lightweight plastic bottles, the apparatus being highly versatile and capable of gently handling bottles of various sizes and dimensions to uniformly orient and stabilize the bottles in a predetermined upright position for transfer to a desired location.

Another object resides in the provision of a novel orienting and feed apparatus which gently handles and positively controls movement of the bottles while orienting and transferring them in a stabilized upright position onto a linear transfer conveyor.

A further object resides in the provision of a novel orienting and feed apparatus especially useful with lightweight, plastic bottles comprising a rotating hopper or bowl into which a random supply of bottles is placed, a plurality of discharge chutes spaced around the bowl for rotation therewith, a plurality of bottle pushers connected to the bowl for rotation therewith, the pushers being mounted for vertical reciprocation relative to the wall of the bowl, and stationary, peripherally arranged, helical discharge tracks providing a discharge path for bottles from the bowl. As the bowl rotates, each pusher may move a bottle up a track and deposit it bottom-end down into an associated chute.

The apparatus further includes a linear conveyor arranged underneath the chutes along a tangent to the circular path of movement of the bottles in the chutes for receiving the bottles and transferring them to the desired location. To insure stabilizafion of the bottles, the rotational speed of the bowl and chutes and the linear speed of the transfer conveyor are synchronized to provide a smooth and steady transfer of the bottles away from the feed apparatus.

Still another object of the invention resides in the provision of the above described apparatus in which each of the bottles moved up the discharge track is properly deposited bottomend down into a chute, regardless of whether'its neck or bottom end engages the pusher moving it up the track.

A still further object of the invention resides in the provision of the above described apparatus in which the bottles from one of the discharge tracks after being deposited in the chutes is moved completely around the apparatus before being placed on the linear conveyor to insure stabilization of the lightweight bottle during transfer onto the conveyor.

Another object resides in a provision of the above described apparatus including a novel chute structure having separate compartments therein selectively receiving a'bottle from one or the other of the discharge tracks, and an adjustable cam operated, pivotable diverter flap selectively positioned as the chute rotates with the bowl to direct a bottle received from each of the tracks into a selected one of the chute compartments.

Still another object resides in the provision of the above described apparatus including common variable speed drive means for the bowl and linear conveyor, the drive means causing the velocity of the linear conveyor and the tangential velocity of the bottles within the chutes to be equal so that the bottles can be gently transferred to the linear conveyor in a steady stabilized condition. The variable drive means also enables the apparatus to sort and feed the properly oriented bottles at a variable rate depending upon the requirements of the process equipment to which they are eventually transferred.

Other objects and advantages will become more readily apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiment as related to the accompanying drawings. However, the description is given for illustrative purposes only and without any intent of limiting the invention to the specific details shown or described therein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a generally perspective view of the orienting and feed apparatus of the invention;

FIG. 2A is a fragmentary section elevation viewtaken along line 2A2A of FIG. 3 illustrating the rotating bowl, bottle pushers, and discharge chutes and their relation to the stationary discharge tracks positioned within the bowl;

FIG. 2B is a fragmentary section elevation view illustrating the drive assembly for rotating the bowl and moving the linear transfer conveyor;

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary plan view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 2A;

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary plan view taken long line 4-4 of FIG. 2B;

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary rear elevation view taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 3 and illustrating the compartmented chute and the article diverter flap and its cam operated mechanism;

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary section elevation view taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged perspective view of the bottle-engaging head portion of the bottle pushers shown in FIG. 2A;

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary side elevation taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 3 and illustrating the transfer station including the linear transfer conveyor;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary view taken along line 9-9 of FIG. 3 illustrating the cam mechanism for moving the article diverter flap within the chute to one of its end positions;

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary view taken along line l010 of FIG. 3 illustrating the cam mechanism for moving the article diverter flap within the chute to its other end position;

FIG. 11 is a schematic perspective view illustrating deposition of a bottle bottom-end down into a chute from a discharge track, the bottle having been moved up the track with its larger bottom end engaging the pusher; and

FIG. 12 is a schematic perspective view similar to FIG. 11, with the bottle, however, having been moved up the track with its narrow neck portion received within the pusher.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Referring now to FIG. 1 of the drawings, the orienting and feed apparatus of the invention comprises a rotating cylindrical hopper assembly into which a random supply of bottles is placed by dump mechanism 12, with hopper assembly 10 being operative to orient and discharge the bottles in an upright position at transfer station 13 onto a linear endless belt conveyor 14 which delivers the bottles all uniformly arranged in a predetermined upright position to a further processing station such as a bottle filling machine, now shown.

As shown in FIG. 2A, hopper assembly 10 comprises bowl 16 formed by cylindrical side wall 18 and conical bottom wall 20 terminating at its lower end in annular plate 22, the upper surface of which is inclined to coincide with the slope of cone 20 and has a series of annular grooves 23 for a purpose to be described. Wall 18 and plate 22 are mounted on circular support ring 24 mounted on crossbeams 26 resting on upper mounting plate 28 centrally welded to the lower end of an upper hollow rotating shaft 30 and bolted to lower mounting plate 32 which is centrally welded to a lower hollow rotating shaft 34.

Shaft 34 is bearing supported within a cylindrical casing 36 that is fixedly mounted on stationary circular base plate 38 having cutout section 38a in the area of transfer station 13, the base plate being supported from the floor by a main frame 39 including a plurality of spaced upright posts 40. A lubricant fitting 42 is provided for lubricating the bearing supports for shaft 34.

The upper end of cone 20 is connected to the upper end of shaft 30 for rotation therewith.

The lower end of shaft 34 has spur gear 44 keyed thereon, with gear 44 being driven through pinion gear 46 by drive assembly 48 illustrated in FIGS. 28 and 4.

A stationary cone shaped member 50 (FIGS. 2A and 3) having opposed sections 51 with smoothly inclined forward edges 52 overlies a part of rotating cone 20 and is fixed to the upper end 54 of stationary shaft 56 which is centered within rotating shaft 30 by bearings 55 and extends downwardly through rotating shafts 30 and 34 and is fixed at its lower end 58 to main frame 39 (FIG. 2B).

A plurality of 12 bottle discharge chutes 60 are equally spaced around the outer edge of wall 18 and have vertically spaced, aligned upper and lower chute sections 62 and 64 which are connected together by inside bracket 66, the upper end of which is connected to support ring 24 for rotation therewith by bolt assemblies 68.

As illustrated in FIGS. 2A, 5 and 6, chute section 62 is formed by a pair of side panels 70 and 72 which extend above the top edge of wall 18, a back panel 74, and a curved front panel 76 the upper edge of which is fixed adjacent to and aligns with the top edge of wall 18. An adjustable plate 77 is mounted on wall 18 for sliding movement in front of the upper edge of side panel 70 and has an inner edge 78 which along with the upper edges of panels 72 and 74 define a front opening 79 through which bottles are deposited into the chute.

Upper section 62 has a pivotal diverter flap 80 centrally pivotally supported therein from the lower end of panels 74 and 76 by hearing pins 82 and 84 and also has a fixed central plate 85 extending between panels 74 and 76 vertically below the pivot axis of flap 80 to the open bottom of section 62. A T- shaped cam follow 88 is fixed at 90 to the outer end of bearing pin 84 and includes a pair of cam rollers 92 and 94 actuated respectively by downwardly sloping cam 96 (FIGS. 3 and 10) and upwardly sloping cam 98 (FIGS. 3 and 9) to selectively position flap at one of its end positions and thereby direct a bottle through one or the other of passages 86 or 87 at the sides of plate 85. An over-center tension spring 95 is connected at one end 96' to follower 88 and at the other end 98' to side panel 70 and functions to snap flap 80 to its end position when follower 88 has been cam actuated a predetermined distance.

Lower chute section 64 includes a pair of sidewalls 100 and 102, an innerwall 104 and central divider plate 106 vertically aligned with plate 85 to provide two compartments 108 and 110 within section 64. The outer face 112 of section 64 is open to permit transfer of the bottles in compartments 108 and 110 onto conveyor 14 at transfer station 13. However, as shown in FIGS. 2A and 3, a stationary upright circular closure plate 113 fixed to base plate 38 extends around the outside of sections 64 to enclose the bottles therein, with the plate being discontinued throughout the cutout section 38a of base 38 in the area of transfer station 13 to permit the bottles to be transferred off base 38 onto conveyor 14. A pair of spaced, inwardly facing grooves 114 and 116 are provided in sections 64 to assist in orientation of the bottle during transfer of the bottles from compartments 108 and 1 10 onto conveyor 14.

With continued reference to FIGS. 2A and 3, removal of bottles from bowl 16 is accomplished by a plurality of twelve pushers 120 each located immediately adjacent a chute 60, with the pusher rotating with bowl [6 and also reciprocating vertically relative to walls 18 and 20, each pusher comprising a lower guide portion 122 spaced from an inclined hollow head portion 124, with the guide and head portions extending outwardly through a vertical slot 126 in wall 18 and being connected to bearing sleeve 128 vertically slidably mounted on rod 130 fixed at its upper end 131 to bracket 132 mounted on support ring 24 and at its lower end 134 to channel ring 136. Ring 136 is suspended from support ring 24 by interconnected channel members 138, 140 and 142.

Guide 122 and sleeve 128 reciprocate in slot 144 extending through support ring 24 and annular ring 22, the guide having its upper end inclined parallel to the spaced lower end of pusher head 124 to provide an inclined groove 146 generally coinciding with the slope of cone 20.

As shown in FIG. 7, the hollow pusher head portion 124 has a front opening 148 defined by the surrounding wall face 150 and dimensioned to receive the narrow cap or neck portion A, (FIG. 8) of a bottle but not large enough to receive any part of the enlarged body portion "8" of the same bottle. As is evident in FIG. 3, front wall face 150 is aligned with the edge of panel 72 of upper chute section 62. Also, the spacing between adjacent pusher heads 124 is sufiicient to permit only a single bottle lying in a proper horizontal position to be located therein.

In order to convey the bottles from the lower periphery of bowl 16 into chutes 60, a pair of identical stationary discharge stations 152 and 154 are provided, with the stations spaced approximately 180 from each other around the bowl. As shown best in FIGS. 2A and 3, each station comprises a stationary track 156 which, at its lower end, has a plurality of fingers 158 riding in ring grooves 23 and extends helically upwardly in engagement with wall 18 for approximately 120 to an upper discharge platform 158 having an outer wall 159 and an inner edge level with the top of wall 18. Platfonn wall 159 is connected by bracket 160 to stationary frame members 162 and 164. Track 156 and platform 158 have a thickness less than the height of groove 146 and are sloped toward wall 18 so that the bottles are pushed up the track in a horizontal position by pusher heads 124 in engagement with wall 18 and, when they reach platform 158, are deposited by gravity into chute 60 associated with the respective bottle pusher.

Each pusher 120 includes at its lower end a cam follower roller 166 which rides on a 360 cam 168 designed to vertically reciprocate pusher 120 and enable it to move the bottles up track 156 at each of stations 152 and 154. As shown in FIG. 2A with respect to discharge station 154, the contour of pusher cam face 170 follows the contour of track 156 and causes the pusher to rise, with track 156 being positioned within groove 146 as shown with respect to pusher heads 124a and 124b moving up the track. Upon passing the discharge platform 158, the pusher will drop rapidly on cam face 170 to its lowermost position shown at the left of FIG. 2A in which it is again ready to rise when it reaches station 152.

Each of the stations 152 and 154 may include suitable sorting devices such as a plow 172 and/or air nozzle 174 to insure that only bottles arranged in a predetermined horizontal position on discharge track 156 are allowed to pass to platform 158. The inner end 176 of plow 172 is spring biased into contact with wall 18 and curves outwardly over track 156. The other plow end 178 is connected to a feed screw 180 mounted on frame member 162. The plow is normally vertically adjusted by screw 180 above track 156 to permit only one bottle engaged by a pusher 124 and lying in the predetermined horizontal position to pass thereunder. If bottles should become stacked one upon the other, plow 176 will direct all but the lowermost bottle off track 156 and back into bowl 16.

As shown in FIGS. 2A, 3, and 8, the bottles which are deposited bottom-down into one side of upper chute section 62 at discharge station 154 do not pass'directly down into lower chute section 54, but rather land on a stationary circular smooth surface shelf 182 supported on closure plate 113 and extending between the upper and lower chute sections in the region of transfer station 13. The use of shelf 182 functions to sufficiently steady and stabilize the bottles from station 154 before they are placed on conveyor 14. For example, if shelf 182 were not employed, the lightweight bounceable bottles would be deposited directly into lower chute section 64 from platform 158 of station 154 and would only be moved with bowl 16 through an angular distance of about 60 before being transferred to conveyor 14. Such limited annular movement for practical sized machines has been found to be insufficient to stabilize the bottles. Hence, shelf 182 causes these bottles to be moved through an angular distance greater than one revolution of the bowl, since the bottles are first moved across shelf 182 to shelf end 184 from whence they drop into a compartment 110 of lower chute section 64 and are then moved across the smooth surface of base 38 around the machine as the bowl and chutes rotate until they are placed on conveyor 14.

However, the bottles discharged from bowl 16 at station 152 drop directly through upper chute section 62 down into lower section 64, since these bottles will travel across base 38 around the machine through an angular distance of about 250 before reaching conveyor 14. This distance of angular travel has been found to be sufficient to stabilize and position the bottles before transfer.

At transfer station 13, the bottles in the lower chute section 64 are transferred onto linear conveyor 14 which moves underneath the chute section along a path tangent to the circular path of movement of the chutes and the bottles therein. As shown in FIGS. 2A, 3, and 8, and as mentioned above, base 38 is cut away at section 38a to permit transfer of the bottles therefrom onto the upper section of the conveyor belt. Belt 14 is guided and steadied in a channel track 186 and is positively driven by sprocket 188 from drive assembly 48 so that its linear velocity is substantially equal to the tangential velocity of the bottles within chute section 64 to provide a smooth transfer of the bottles onto conveyor 14. To assist in this transfer, a stationary part-circular guide rail 190 extends into groove 114 and a stationary brush 192 extends into groove 116, the rail and brush being mounted on base 38. These elements urge the bottles in chute section 64 to the outermost portion of the chute while at the same time uniformly orient all the bottles in the same position on conveyor 14.

Referring now to FIGS. 2B and 4, drive assembly 48 mounted on frame 39 comprises a variable speed motor 194 connected to gear reducer 196 by belt 198. Reducer 196 has one output shaft 200 connected through overload clutch 202 to a right angle drive gear box 204 having an output shaft 206 on which is keyed pinion gear 46 which drives the spur gear 44 to rotate bowl 16, chutes 60and pushers 120 together.

Reducer 196 has a second output shaft 208 having an end sprocket 210 chain drive connected to sprocket 212 mounted on a frame post 40, sprocket 212 being further chain drive connected to a sprocket 214 fixed on one end of shaft 216, on the other end of which the main conveyor drive sprocket 188 is fixed.

The drive assembly 48 and respective drive elements are sized and adjusted so that the linear speed of transfer conveyor 14 is substantially equal to the tangential velocity of the bottles in lower chute sections 64 as described above.

The invention will be best understood from a description of a typical operation of the bottle orienting and feed apparatus.

Initially, plate 77 of each chute 60 is adjusted so that the length of opening 79 is substantially equal to the length of the body portion B of the bottles being handled, i.e., as shown in FIG. 8, the total length of the bottle minus the narrow neck or cap portion A on which a closure cap is ordinarily placed. Drive assembly 48 is also adjusted to provide a desired rate of feed of the bottles.

In operation, bottles are dumped from the dump mechanism 12 into the bowl 16 in random orientation, and will fall by gravity down the conical walls 20 and 51 to the lower peripheral edge of the bowl. As bowl 16 is rotated, in the region of sections 51 each pusher head 124 will engage a bottle and move it around a circular path to one of the discharge stations 152 and 154. Assuming a pusher head 124 and a bottle engaged thereby are approaching station 154, when the lower end of track 156 is reached, the pusher roller 166 will begin to ride up the cam surface 170 so that pusher head 124 and the bottle begin to move up track 156 which then will be positioned within groove 146. If the bottle is properly oriented, that is, it is lying on its front or back in a horizontal position on track 156 with its side in engagement with wall 18 and with either its narrow neck received within pusher head opening 148 or its bottom end contacting the head wall face 150 as shown, for example, against pusher head 124a in FIG. 3, the bottle will pass underneath plow 176 up track 156 to discharge platform 158 from which it falls by gravity into front opening 79 of the associated chute section 62 in a bottomend-down position. As indicated above, pusher head 124 and plate 77 cooperate to insure that the bottles are deposited into the chute in a bottom-down position regardless of whether the bottle has its neck received within pusher head 124 or its bottom end engaging pusher face 150 as it is moved up track 156.

As illustrated schematically in FIG. 1 1 in which the bottom end of the bottle engages pusher face 150, as the bottle reaches discharge platform 158, the narrow neck portion will be lying in engagement with the inside face of plate 77 and, due to the inclination of platform 158, the bottle will pivot about plate edge 79, thus causing the bottom end to fall by gravity into the chute.

However, as shown schematically in FIG. 12 in which a bottle moving up track 156 has its neck received through opening 148 within hollow pusher head 124, upon reaching the inclined discharge platform 158, the bottle will pivot about pusher head 124 and will fall bottom down into chute section 62.

Any bottles which are not properly positioned on track 156 as above described will be removed from the track by plow 172 and nozzle 174 and deposited back onto the conical members 20 within the bowl and again picked up by other pushers. It should be noted at this point that the stationary conical members 51 do not extend over cone 20 within the general region of plows 172 so that any bottles redeposited back into the bowl immediately contact rotating cone 20 and are carried away from the discharge stations 152 and 154 to prevent any undesirable bottle buildup within the bowl in these areas.

At station 154, with the flap member first positioned as shown in FIG. 3 and in full in FIG. 5, the bottle will pass downwardly through chute section 62 through passage 87 and will land on the top surface of stationary shelf 182. As the bowl and chutes continue to rotate, this bottle will be moved across shelf 182 over the transfer station 13 until shelf end 184 is reached at which point the bottle will drop down into compartment 1 10 of lower chute section 64.

As soon as pusher head 124 leaves discharge platform 158, it drops rapidly along cam surface 170 to its lowermost position shown in the left in FIG. 2A where it again engages a bottle and moves it toward discharge station 152.

When the bottle from station 154 has dropped down into lower compartment 1 l and, with the bowl and chute continuing to rotate, diverter flap 80 will be moved from its first end position wherein it engages side panel 72 to its other end position in engagement with side panel 70 by contactive engagement of follower roller 94 with cam 98 as shown in FIGS. 3 and 9 and with subsequent aid of over-center spring 95. As the chute then passes discharge platform 158 of station 152, a bottle will be deposited through opening 79 of chute section 62 with its bottom down in the same manner described above. This bottle however will pass downwardly through chute passage 86 of upper chute section 62 and will drop directly down into compartment 108 of lower section 64 onto the surface of base plate 38. As the chute continues to rotate with bowl 16, the bottles in compartments 108 and 110 will be moved across base plate 38 to transfer station 13. However, before the chute again reaches discharge platform 158 of station 154, diverter flap 80 will be returned to its first end position when cam roller 92 engages the bottom cam surface of cam 96 as shown in FIGS. 3 and 10. The operation of cams 96 and 98 insures that the bottles deposited into chutes 60 from station 154 will always pass downwardly through passage 87 of upper chute section 62 and eventually into lower chute compartment 110, while those from station 152 pass through passage 86 into compartment 108.

As shown in FIGS. 2A, 3, and 8, when lower section 64 reaches transfer station 13, the bottles contained in compartments 108 and 110 gently slide off base 38 onto linear conveyor 14 which, as indicated previously, has a linear velocity substantially equal to the tangential velocity of the bottles contained within section 64. As the bottles are placed on conveyor 14, they are also engaged by guide rod 190 and brush 192 which properly orient and uniformly position them on the conveyor so that all the bottles will be in substantially the same position as they are carried off on conveyor 14 to the bottle filling station.

As the emptied lower chute section 64 continues to move in a rotational path and leaves transfer station 13, it is then ready to again receive in compartment 110 a bottle from the shelf end 184 and subsequently to receive a bottle in compartment 108 from the platform 158 of discharge station 152.

It is apparent that the above described embodiment of the invention provides a bottle feeding and orienting mechanism capable of feeding bottles to a desired location at a high and predictable rate of feed with all of the bottles being properly arranged in a predetermined uniform orientation. For example, apparatus constructed in accordance with the invention can reasonably be expected to feed about 170 bottles per minute to a filling station. Furthermore, another variation of the invention in which two identical machines feed onto a common linear transfer conveyor such as conveyor 14 can approximately double this rate of feed to about 350 bottles per minute if such a rate is required.

Among the significant features contributing to the rates of feed which may be obtained with the apparatus of the invention is the fact that a bottle may be discharged from each platfonn 158 in the desired bottom-down position irrespective of whether or not the bottle has ascended track 156 with either its neck or its bottom end facing pusher head 124.

Also, the provision of a pair of discharge stations within a single bowl l6 and the novel structure of chutes 60 aid in obtaining increased rates of feed, since with each revolution of rotation, lower chute section 64 is able to simultaneously transfer two bottles onto the linear take-off conveyor 14 and thereby effectively double the rate output over a machine which did not employ these features.

Because the bottles, after being deposited in chutes 60, travel through a sufficient angular distance around the machine before they are transferred onto conveyor 14, they are resting in a stable upright position when placed on conveyor l4 and carried away to the next work station. The smooth bottle transfer from the surface of the base 38 onto the conveyor at transfer station 13 is readily accomplished because of the linear conveyor speed maintained equal to the tangential velocity of the chutes, and also because of the action of elements 190 and 192 which function to orient all the bottles in substantially the same position on conveyor 14.

it is also evident that the bottles are positively controlled from the time they are engaged by pusher heads 124, deposited in chutes 60, and transferred to conveyor 14, thereby insuring stabilization of the bottles.

Furthermore, the apparatus of the invention is readily adaptable to handle various sized and shaped bottles merely by adjusting the plate 77 according to the length of the bottle as described above and also by readjusting the position of plow 172 adjacent tracks 156.

Various modifications and additions to the above described embodiment may be employed without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, it is contemplated that a limit switch assembly may be positioned adjacent the path of rotation of pusher and particularly cam roller 166 to shut off the machine if one of the pushers should become jammed in its uppermost position and fail to drop after it passes the discharge stations 152 and 154, thereby preventing any damage to the machine.

The invention may be embodied in other specific fonns without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics thereof. The present embodiment is therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description, and all changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are therefore intended to be embraced therein.

What is claimed and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is:

1. Apparatus for orienting and feeding lightweight bottles comprising a rotating bowl into which a random supply of bottles is placed, chute means connected to said bowl for rotation therewith and having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said bowl, bottle moving means mounted on said bowl for rotation therewith, discharge means mounted interiorly of said bowl and providing a stationary track along which a bottle may be moved from the bottom to the top of said bowl, whereby upon rotation of said bowl a bottle within the bowl may be moved by said moving means along said track to the top of said bowl and deposited into said chute means for discharge to a desired location, and cooperating means on said bottle moving means and adjacent said chute means opening for turning a bottle arriving along said track to descend only bottom down through said chute means regardless of its orientation upon arriving at said opening.

2. Apparatus particularly useful for orienting and feeding lightweight bottles comprising a rotating bowl having bottom and side walls into which a supply of randomly arranged bottles is placed, a plurality of bottle discharge chutes spaced around said bowl and connected thereto for rotation therewith, each of said chutes having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said side wall, a plurality of bottle moving means connected to said bowl for rotation therewith and being vertically movable along said side wall, each of said bottle moving means being operatively associated with a respective chute, a discharge track mounted adjacent said bowl and providing a discharge path for bottles from said bowl, and means driven in timed relation with rotation of said bowl for controlling vertical movement of said bottle moving means and causing said bottle moving means to follow said discharge path, whereby upon rotation of said bowl each of said bottle moving means may slidably move a bottle from the bottom of said bowl upwardly along said discharge track and deposit it into the opening of its respective associated discharge chute.

3. Apparatus particularly useful for orienting and feeding lightweight bottles or the like each having a body portion and a narrow neck portion comprising a rotating bowl having bottom and side walls into which a supply of randomly arranged bottles is placed, a plurality of bottle discharge chutes spaced around said bowl and connected thereto for rotation therewith, each of said chutes having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said side wall, a plurality of bottle moving means connected to said bowl for rotation therewith and being vertically movable along said side wall, each of said bottle moving means being operatively associated with a respective chute, and a discharge track mounted adjacent said bowl and providing a discharge path for bottles from said bowl, whereby upon rotation of said bowl each of said bottle moving means may move a bottle from the bottom of said bowl upwardly along said discharge track and deposit it into the opening of its respective associated discharge chute, each of said discharge chutes comprising adjustable means for varying the size of said bottle receiving opening to correspond to the length of said body portion, and said bottle moving means comprising hollow head means dimensioned to receive the narrow neck portion of said bottles, said chute adjustable means and said head means cooperating to deposit a bottle into the chute in a desired oriented position regardless of the position of the bottle in which it is moved up said track.

4. Apparatus as defined in claim 3, said bowl having a cylindrical side wall, said track being stationary and of generally spiral configuration extending from its lower end positioned adjacent the intersection of said bottom and side walls upwardly along said side wall to its upper end operatively positioned adjacent the chute openings around said side wall, said track being sloped inwardly toward said side wall, and means for moving each of said bottle moving means upwardly along said spiral track to thereby cause a bottle to be moved from said bowl and deposited into the respective associated discharge chute,

5. Apparatus as defined in claim 4 comprising a pair of said stationary discharge tracks an gularly spaced around said bowl, each of said chutes having pivotable diverter means to direct a bottledeposited therein downwardly along one or the other side of said chute, cam follower means connected to said diverter means, and cam actuating means positioned angularly adjacent each of said discharge tracks for actuating said follower means as said chutes rotate and thereby position said diverter means in a selected position to cause said bottles to pass to one or the other side of said chute.

6. Apparatus as defined in claim 5, a transfer station including a linear transfer conveyor arranged tangential to the rotational path of movement of said chutes for receiving properly oriented bottles and transferring them to a desired location, said transfer conveyor being located at an angular position around said bowl between said discharge tracks, each of said chutes comprising upper and lower spaced connected sections, said diverter means being positioned within said upper section, and a stationary shelf extending from a first of said discharge tracks through said transfer station and positioned between said upper and lower chute sections, whereby as said how], chutes, and bottle moving means rotate together, a bottle may be deposited from said first discharge track into the upper section of each of said chutes and moved across said stationary shelf through said transfer station and subsequently dropped along one side of said lower chute section, whereupon said diverter means is cam actuated to its other selected position so that a bottle deposited in each of said chutes from the second discharge track may pass downwardly from said upper chute section directly into the lower chute section along the other side thereof, with the two bottles in said lower chute section then being rotated around to said transfer conveyor and deposited thereon for transfer to the desired location.

7. Apparatus as defined in claim 6, each of said lower chute sections having an outwardly facing open side and inwardly facing groove means, bottle positioning means located at said transfer station for entering said groove means as said lower chute sections rotate through said transfer station to thereby properly orient said bottles on said linear transfer conveyor as they exit from said lower chute section through said outwardly open side onto said linear conveyor.

8. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles or the like having a body portion and a relatively narrow neck portion, comprising hopper means into which a random supply of bottles is placed, a plurality of discharge chutes mounted upon and around said hopper means for receiving bottles therefrom, means defining a stationary track interiorly of said hopper means, relatively movable bottle moving means within said hopper means for sliding said bottles along said track to said discharge chutes, and cooperating means on said bottle moving means and adjacent the opening of each of said chutes for turning a bottle arriving at the chute to enter the chute only bottom down to insure that a bottle deposited in and descending each of said chutes is disposed in a predetermined upright orientation regardless of whether the bottle is moved toward said chute with its neck portion or base portion facing the chute.

9. Apparatus as defined in claim 8, said hopper means comprising a rotating bowl having a bottom wall and cylindrical side wall, said discharge chutes being rotatable with said bowl, and said bottle moving means comprising a stationary upwardly inclined discharge track located within said bowl and a plurality of bottle moving elements rotatable with said bowl and vertically reciprocable along said side wall, each of said elements being operatively associated with a respective chute, whereby, upon rotation of said bowl, said chutes and said bottle moving elements, each of said elements may move a bottle up said track and deposit it into its respective chute in said predetermined orientation.

10. Apparatus as defined in claim 9, comprising a linear transfer conveyor located beneath said chutes along a tangent to the rotational path of said chutes, the linear velocity of said conveyor being substantially equal to the tangential velocity of the bottles within said chutes so that said bottles are transferred onto said conveyor in a steady, stabilized condition.

11. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles or the like comprising a base having a cut-out region; a bowl having a bottom wall and a generally cylindrical side wall rotatably mounted above said base; a plurality of chutes spaced around the outside of said bowl and rotating therewith, each of said chutes having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said side wall and an open lower end adjacent said base; a stationary discharge track located within said bowl and providing a discharge path along which a bottle may be moved from the bottom to the top of said bowl; a plurality of vertically reciprocable bottle moving means rotating with said bowl and having a bottle engaging portion located within said bowl, and means driven in timed relation with rotation of said bowl for controlling vertical movement of said bottle moving means and causing said bottle moving means to follow said discharge path; a transfer station including a movable linear transfer conveyor located adjacent said base in said cut-out region and arranged along a tangent to the rotational path of said chutes, whereby, as said bowl rotates, each of said bottle moving means may move a bottle up said track and deposit it into its respective associated chute whereupon the bottle is then supported on said base while in said chute and moved thereacross to said transfer station at which it is placed on said linear conveyor and carried away to a desired location.

12. Apparatus as defined in claim 11, comprising a drive assembly for driving said transfer conveyor at a linear velocity substantially equal to the tangential velocity of the bottles within said rotating chutes so that the bottles are transferred onto said conveyor in a steady, stabilized condition.

13. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles or the like comprising a base having a cut-out region; a bowl having a bottom wall and a generally cylindrical side wall rotatably mounted above said base; a plurality of chutes spaced around the outside of said bowl and rotating therewith, each of said chutes having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said side wall and an open lower end adjacent said base; a plurality of bottle moving means rotating with said bowl and having a bottle engaging portion located within said bowl, said bottle moving means being vertically reciprocable along said side wall; at least two stationary discharge tracks located in angularly spaced relation within said bowl and each providing a path along which a bottle may be moved from the bottom to the top of said bowl; a transfer station including a linear transfer conveyor located adjacent said base in said cut-out region and arranged substantially along a tangent to the rotational path of said chutes, whereby, as said bowl rotates, each of said bottle moving means may move a bottle up one of said tracks and deposit it into its respective associated chute whereupon the bottle is then supported on said base while in said chute and moved thereacross to said transfer station at which it is placed on said linear conveyor and carried away to a desired location, a pivotable diverter means in each of said chutes to direct a bottle deposited therein downwardly along one side or the other of said chute, cam follower means connected to said diverter means, and cam actuating means positioned angularly adjacent each of said discharge tracks for actuating said follower means as said chutes move along their path and thereby position said diverter means in a selected position to cause a bottle to pass to one or the other side of said chute.

14. Apparatus as defined in claim 13, said transfer station being located at an angular position around said bowl between said discharge tracks, each of said chutes comprising upper and lower spaced, connected sections, said diverter means being positioned within said upper section, and a stationary shelf extending from a first of said discharge tracks through said transfer station and positioned between said upper and lower chute sections, whereby as said bowl, chutes, and bottle moving means rotate together, a bottle may be desposited from said first discharge track into the upper section of each of said chutes and moved across said stationary shelf through said transfer station and subsequently dropped along one side of said lower chute section, whereupon said diverter means is cam actuated to its other selected position so that a bottle deposited in each of the chutes from the second discharge track may pass downwardly from said upper chute section directly into said lower chute section along the other side thereof, with the two bottles in said lower chute section then being rotated around to said transfer conveyor and deposited thereon for transfer to the desired location.

15. Apparatus as defined in claim 14, each of said lower chute sections having an outwardly facing open side and inwardly facing groove means, bottle positioning means located at said transfer station for entering said groove means as said lower chute sections rotate through said transfer station to thereby properly orient said bottles on said linear transfer conveyor as they exit from said lower chute section through said outwardly open side onto said linear conveyor.

16. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles or the like having a body portion and narrow neck portion, comprising hopper means into which a random supply of bottles is placed, a plurality of discharge chutes mounted in spaced relation around the outer periphery of said hopper means for receiving bottles therefrom, and bottle moving means within said hopper for conveying said bottles to said discharge chutes, said hopper means comprising a rotating bowl having a bottom wall and a side wall, said discharge chutes being rotatable with said bowl, and said bottle moving means comprising a stationary upwardly inclined discharge track located within said bowl and a plurality of bottle moving elements rotatable with said bowl and vertically reciprocable along said side wall, each of said elements being operatively associated with a respective chute, whereby, upon rotation of said bowl, said chutes and said bottle moving elements, each of said elements may move a bottle up said track and deposit it into its respective chute in predetermined orientation, means at each of said discharge chutes for adjusting the size of its bottle receiving opening to correspond to the length of the body portion of said bottles, and a hollow head on each of said elements adapted to receive the narrow neck portion of said bottles, said adjusting means and said hollow head cooperating to deposit a bottle into the chute in said predetermined orientation regardless of the position of the bottle as it moves up said track.

17. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles or the like having a body portion and narrow neck portion, comprising hopper means into which a random supply of bottles is placed, a plurality of discharge chutes mounted in spaced relation around the outer periphery of said hopper means for receiving bottles therefrom, and bottle moving means within said hopper for conveying said bottles to said discharge chutes, said hopper means comprising a rotating bowl having a bottom wall and a side wall, said discharge chutes being rotatable with said bowl, and said bottle moving means comprising a plurality of stationary upwardly inclined discharge tracks located within said bowl in angularly spaced relation and a plurality of bottle moving elements rotatable with said bowl and vertically reciprocable along said side wall, each of said elements being operatively associated with a respective chute, whereby, upon rotation of said bowl, said chutes and said bottle moving elements, each of said elements may move a bottle up one of said tracks and deposit in into its respective chute in predetermined orientation, a plurality of compartments in each of said chutes, and means for directing a bottle received from one of said discharge tracks into a respective one of said compartments, said chutes and said bottle moving means being constructed to cooperate with each other and insure that a bottle is deposited in each of said chutes in said predetermined orientation regardless of whether the bottle is moved toward said chute with its neck portion or base portion facing the chute.

18. Apparatus for orienting and feeding bottles of the type having a body portion and a narrow neck portion comprising a base having a cut-out region; a bowl having a bottom wall and a generally cylindrical side wall rotatably mounted above said base; a plurality of chutes spaced around the outside of said bowl and rotating therewith, each of said chutes having a bottle receiving opening adjacent the top of said side wall and an open lower end adjacent said base; a plurality of bottle moving means rotating with said bowl and having a bottle engaging portion located within said bowl, said bottle moving means being vertically reciprocable along said side wall; a stationary discharge track located within said bowl and providing a path along which a bottle may be moved from the bottom to the top of said bowl; a transfer station including a linear transfer conveyor located adjacent said base in said cut-out region and arranged substantially along a tangent to the rotational path of said chutes, whereby, as said bowl rotates, each of said bottle moving means may move a bottle up said track and deposit it into its respective associated chute whereupon the bottle is then supported on said base while in said chute and moved thereacross to said transfer station at which it is placed on said linear conveyor and carried away to a desired location, each of said discharge chutes comprises adjustable means for varying the size of said bottle receiving opening to correspond to the length of said body portion, and said bottle moving means comprises hollow head means dimensioned to receive the narrow neck portion of said bottles, said chute adjustable means and said hollow head means cooperating to deposit a bottle into the chute in a desired oriented position regardless of the position of the bottle in which it is moved up the track.

19. Apparatus for feeding lightweight plastic bottles from random assembly to predetermined orientation on a conveyor comprising a rotatable hopper for receiving bottles randomly discharged thereinto, a stationary bottle lift and feed track defining a discharge path extending upwardly within the hopper from the bottom of said hopper to the hopper upper end, at least one discharge chute rotatable with the hopper and having an opening near the upper end of said track, means efiective during rotation of the hopper for sliding a bottle upwardly and in the direction of its length along said discharge path toward said chute opening comprising bottle pusher means on the rotating hopper mounted for substantially vertical sliding movement on said hopper and drive means for reciprocating said bottle pusher means in timed relation with rotation of the hopper and causing said bottle pusher means to follow said discharge path, means adjacent said chute opening permitting an entering bottle to descend said chute only in bottom down orientation, and an opening in the lower end of said chute through which an oriented bottle may pass to said conveyor.

20. In the apparatus defined in claim 19, means within said chute and effective over an angular displacement of said hopper for intercepting and stabilizing a descending bottle before permitting passage of that bottle to the conveyor.

21. In the apparatus defined in claim 19, cooperating means on said bottle pusher means and adjacent said chute opening for turning a bottle arriving at said opening to enter said chute bottom down regardless of which end of the bottle arrives first at said chute opening.

22. Apparatus for insuring a desired orientation of lightweight bottles of the type having a neck region at the top that is appreciably smaller than the body comprising a chute having an opening, means for moving bottles in succession in the direction of their length to a transfer station adjacent said chute opening comprising a pusher device having a recess of a size such as to admit said neck in one position of orientation of a bottle but such as not to admit the bottom of the body in the opposite position of orientation, and means adjacent said chute opening cooperating with said pusher device for turning each successive bottle about its neck region to move angularly with respect to said direction for transferring each bottle into said chute only in such orientation that it descends the chute bottom down.

23. The apparatus defined in claim 22 wherein said bottle turning means comprises an abutment at said station adapted to engage the neck region of a bottle being pushed neck foremost into said station by said pusher device.

24. In the apparatus defined in claim 22, said chute being mounted on a continuously rotatable receptacle into which bottles are deposited in random orientation and said means for moving bottles to the top of said chute comprising a stationary track disposed interiorly of said receptacle, and means for reciprocating said pusher device in a direction parallel to the axis of rotation of said receptacle for enabling said pusher device to push bottles up said track during rotation of said receptacle.

25. In apparatus for orienting lightweight bottles of the type having a neck appreciably smaller than the body, a chute having an open top, and means for introducing a bottle moving in the direction of its length into a transfer station at the open top of said chute comprising a pusher device having a recess sized to admit a bottle neck but not to admit the bottom of said bottle, means defining an inclined surface at said station sloping downwardly to the open top of said chute, means defining a lateral opening at said station at the upper end of said inclined surface, the first and second successive side edges of said opening being so spaced in the direction of bottle movement that when a bottle enters the station bottom foremost with its neck in the pusher recess its bottom will be clear of said second side edge to turn in one direction to slide bottom first down said surface when the pusher reaches the first side edge of said opening, and when a bottle enters the station mouth foremost its neck will be in operative engagement with said second side edge of the opening when its bottom passes the first side edge so that its bottom will turn in the opposite direction to slide bottom first down said surface.

26. In the apparatus defined in claim 25, means for adjusting the spacing between said side edges.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification198/397.5, 198/400
International ClassificationB65G47/14
Cooperative ClassificationB65G2201/0244, B65G47/1457
European ClassificationB65G47/14B4D