US 3698040 A
A machine for the fabrication of cotton swabs embodying a rotating carrier or conveyor drum provided with circumferential cross slots which individually receive sticks from a vibrated hopper. The feed mechanism at the terminus of the hopper feed is formed to coact with a complementary member to assure the insertion of only one stick into each peripheral slot and to temporarily restrain the succeeding stick. The sticks are engaged by a rotating friction wheel which imparts longitudinal axial spin as the carrier advances the sticks through a glue pot station to apply adhesive to the opposite ends of the sticks. Cotton in the form of a rope is presented to the sticks at the next station, by a cotton feed mechanism whose fingers are radially adjustable for controlling the amount of cotton to be applied. The cotton adheres to the stick and is wound thereon by the spin thereof and is severed by the coaction of a plurality of rotating blades against the forward edge of a spring loaded block as the stick ends enter the first compressive die. Here, as in the successive dies, the cotton is compressed and more tightly wound thereon as the stick continues to be spun. An escapement wheel thereafter diverts the sticks from the carrier to a slotted transfer carrier belt and then to an automatic packaging unit where the sticks are counted and layered into a box tray with interlayer separators.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Mourkakos  APPARATUS FOR FABRICATION OF SWABS  Inventor: George M. Mourkakos, 39-23 57th Street, New York, NY. 11377  Filed: April 26, 1971  Appl. No.: 137,367
 US. Cl ..l9/l45.3  Int. Cl. ..D0lg 13/00  Field of Search ..l9/l45.3, 149, 145
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,154,818 11/1964 Nagle ..l9/l45.3 3,389,436 6/1968 Alden l9/l45.3
Primary Examiner-Dorsey Newton Attorney-Matthew M. Russo  ABSTRACT A machine for the fabrication of cotton swabs embodying a rotating carrier or conveyor drum provided with circumferential cross slots which individually Oct. 17, 1972 receive sticks from a vibrated hopper. The feed mechanism at the terminus of the hopper feed is formed to coact with a complementary member to assure the insertion of only one stick into each peripheral slot and to temporarily restrain the succeeding stick. The sticks are engaged by a rotating friction wheel which imparts longitudinal axial spin as the carrier advances the sticks through a glue pot station to apply adhesive to the opposite ends of the sticks. Cotton in the form of a rope is presented to the sticks at the next station, by a cotton feed mechanism whose fingers are radially adjustable for controlling the amount of cotton to be applied. The cotton adheres to the stick and is wound thereon by the spin thereof and is severed by the coaction of a plurality of rotating blades against the forward edge of a spring loaded block as the stick ends enter the first compressive die. Here, as in the successive dies, the cotton is compressed and more tightly wound thereon as the stick continues to be spun. An escapement wheel thereafter diverts the sticks from the carrier to a slotted transfer carrier belt and then to an automatic packaging unit where the sticks are counted and layered into a box tray with interlayer separators.
9 Claims, 12 Drawing Figures PATENTEDnm mm 3.698.040
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l? 1 zokazflmauem/ms PATENIEBucnmn 3.698.040 SHEEI 2 OF 5 l NVENTOR. emae/ iMouk/m/(os PAIENTEBom 11 1972 SHEET 3 OF 5 To 0/? Juan Y PKTENTEDBBI 11 m2 SHEET t (If 5 mvsmon GEORGEM MOUR/(fi/(Os APPARATUS FOR FABRICATION OF SWABS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to apparatus for the fabrication of cotton swabs which essentially consist of relatively thin sticks either of wood or plastic whose opposite ends are provided with tightly wound coils of cotton and more particularly pertains to an improved continuous motion automatic machine wherein a jam proof and fail-safe hopper feed is employed to insert the sticks onto the stick conveyor and the cotton is cut in a scissor fashion by rotating knives after having been presented thereto from an adjustable feed. The operation terminates in a novel packaging operation.
In the field of cotton swab fabrication, it has been the general practice to employ prior art systems which have generally been of the intermittant motion variety but, have included continuous motion in order to increase production and reduce cost. Such devices have not proved entirely satisfactory in that the stick feed systems were subject to excessive jamming since positive separation of successive sticks could not be attained at the exact point of feed or insertion into the carrier structure. Another deficiency presently encountered is the fact that the amount of cotton applied to the stick ends could not be absolutely controlled as well as not providing a mechanism for presenting a selected portion of cotton to the stick. A third major difficulty in the production of cotton swabs is the method of severing the cotton rope after it has bonded or affixed to the stick without physically earing the cotton and thereby causing excessive pull or tension on both the cotton and the stick. Lastly, the packaging of the completed swabs in a linked continuous fashion from the fabrication device has not been adequately solved. The present invention overcomes these inherent problems and fills the void in the present art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The general purpose of this invention is to provide an automatic swab making machine that has all the advantages of similarly employed prior art devices and has none of the above described disadvantages. To attain this, the present invention provides a production type machine which employs a plurality of unique features in order to increase the rate of production and provide swabs sticks of superior quality. The sticks are vibrated in the hopper and in there travel toward the carrier and at the feed point the lower portion of the feed legs are formed with a cradle recess whose for ward edge is upwardly curved to coact with an extending lip of a spring loaded hold down member to separate successive sticks and insure only a unitary stick insertion into each carrier slot. Further, the cotton rope is fed onto the sticks via a rotating member whose fingers are radially adjustable to permit the selection of the length of cotton applied to each stick which is then severed by one of a set of rotating, synchronized knife blades whose edges bear against a stationary spring biased cutting block. Finally, the finished swab sticks are fed on to a continuous slotted belt and automatically packaged.
An object of the present invention is to provide a simple, reliable low cost, efficient, smooth and positive operating swab fabricating apparatus which is relatively jam proof and produces swabs of a superior quality at a high production rate.
A further object is to provide an improved feed system for sticks, which insures a rapid orderly, positive application of the sticks to the slotted conveyor and is capable of unattended continuous operation.
Still another object is the provision of an apparatus for applying a selected length of cotton rope tot the sticks and thereafter efficiently and cleanly severing the cotton without impeding the progression or spinning of the sticks.
Yet a further object of this invention is the inclusion of a continuous packaging system for coaction with the aforementioned swab fabricator for providing therefrom a finished package.
Other object and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will be readily appreciates as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:
FIG. 1 is a front elevation of an embodiment made in accordance with the principle of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a side elevation of the embodiment of FIG.
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken approximately along 33 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is an enlarged, detailed perspective of the unitary stick feed arrangement without the holddown assembly;
FIG. 5 is an enlarged side elevation of the feed arrangement of FIG. 4',
FIG. 6 is a side elevation taken approximately from 66 of FIG. 3;
FIG. '7 is a perspective of the cotton feed assembly and the cotton severing unit;
FIG. 8 is a side elevation of the cotton feed and severing assemblies;
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the transfer assembly from the carrier to the packaging belt;
FIG. 10 is a top view of the packaging unit;
FIG. 11 is a simplified side elevation illustrating the packaging unit; and,
FIG. 12 is a side elevation taken approximately along l2l2 of FIG. 10.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, a main source of motive power, as for example, electric motor 20 is coupled to main drive shaft 22 to which affixed a plurality of sprocket gears 24, 26, 28. Gear 24 couples to the conveyer drive shaft 30 via gear 32 which in turn couples to gear 34 to drive gear 36 and rotates shaft 38 which operates through gear 40, the pair of escapement discharge wheels 42 and 44 which are mounted on shaft 46. The motor 20 is firmly affixed to bedplate 48 that carries upstanding support legs 50, 52 which in turn support the entire structure. Conveyer drive shaft 30 carries a central disc 54 which extends radially therefrom and supports along its peripheral edge, a plurality of spaced apart inverter U" shaped members 56 (see FIG. 3) whose side walls 58 and 60 extend inwardly of the disc 54. The sticks are translated by the thrust imparted by abutting against the three edge surfaces of walls 58 and 60 and the center support 68. Thus the outer surface of the conveyer or carrier 62 consists essentially of solid strips 64 disposed crosswise of the disc 54 separated by open are as of slots 66.
Since each member 56 is individually, centrally connected to the disc by support 68, the depression between strips 64 is in excess of the thickness of the member 56 and provides a longitudinal recess. Thus, the entire carrier assembly is rotated by the motor which also is coupled through gears 26 and 28 to side gears and 72 via bearing assemblies 74, 76 to rotationally drive left and right friction discs 78, 80 that extend radially out short of the inner surface 82 of the member 56 and are provided with peripheral friction surfaces 84, 86 below surface 82 a distance sufficient to have disposed therebetween a swab stick 88 in the slot 66. [t is clear that by imparting a greater rotational speed to the friction wheel than the carrier, the friction wheel will cause the sticks to rotate with their slots. The conveyer drive shaft 30 also drives gear 90 and, via gear 92, right angle gear box 94 to drive the left and right cotton feed wheels 96, 97 and left and right cutting blade wheels 98, 99 in synchronization with the carrier (dependent on the number of blades 100).
Having now described the motive drive arrangement for the apparatus attention is directed toward the operational structure which commences with the hopper 102 wherein is stored a quantity of paper, wood or plastic sticks 88. The lower portion of the hopper is f formed with a narrow longitudinal slit-like opening 104 through which only one stick at a time can pass. Motor 106 provides vibratory motion to the hopper via eccentric gear 018 and to forward guides 110 (coupling not shown) so as to insure proper movement of the sticks as they progressively travel downwardly between the guide legs 110 and the feed legs 112 thus defining a guide or path 111. Located at the lower terminus of the hopper feed is a positive unitary feed arrangement 114 which is shown in detail by FIGS. 4 and 5. The sticks 88 progress downwardly in the guide path defined by the separation between the guide legs 110 and feed legs 112. The guide leg 110 terminates short of the upper surface of the strip 64 while the feed leg extends downwardly along the outer side faces 60 to approximately the lower edge thereof and is provided with a forward portion 116 which is formed at its upper end with a depressed cradle 118 having a generally semicircular depressed cutout 120 for retaining therein the sticks and a forward raised curved lip portion 122. Coacting therewith is a biased stick hold back assembly 124 supported proximate thereat by shaft 126 that is affixed to the fixed support member 128 and carries bolt 130 which passes through a slide fit aperture therein and is threaded into the stick holddown member 132 for support thereof. Spring or biasing means 134 resides therebetween and is retained in oppositely disposed openings in each of members 128 and 132 to opposingly and resiliently bias the members. The lower surface 136 of the holddown member 132 is spaced from but proximate the lip portion 122 with the opening therebetween being smaller than the diameter of the stick 88. The inner corner edge facing the feed leg cradle 120 is formed with an outwardly extending curved lip flange 138. Since the side wall 140 defining the curved lip and the lip 138 itself is downwardly angled, the lip portion defines, when in motion, a path down and toward the feed leg as the holddown member I32 moves linearly down. It should now be noted that the upper surface 64 of member 56 forwardly diverges so that the leading edge 142 lies above the trailing edge 144 and is relatively in line with or slightly above the top of a stick supported in the cradle 120. This spatial relationship is clearly illustrated in FIG. 6 and does not require further explanation. At some particular selected time during operation, a lowermost stick rests against the upper surface 64 of member 56 intermediate its edge as the carrier rotates and provides sliding relative motion between the stationary stick and the member 56 until the stick 88 is disposed just above the trailing edge 144 whereupon, as the member 56 progress, the stick will fall into and be supported by the cradle 120 when the slotted portion 66 is aligned therewith as illustrated in FIG. 5. At this point the forward upper edge 148 of the moving member 56 bears against the tick and pushes it forward, up the incline of the cradle and against the bottom portion of the lip 138. Thus, the stick is driven or carried forward by the carrier, and downwardly by the hold-down member 132 so that it is positively and firmly injected into the slot 66. The biasing action on holddown member 132 permits the forward moving stick to pass between he lower surface 136 and the guide leg raised portion 122 and comittantly allows the next succeeding stick in the guide 111 to drop into the cradle. As the carrier moves the stick past portion 122, the holddown member 132 returns to its normal or unbiased position (as illustrated) and interposes lip 138 between the succeeding (now cradled) and the following stick to prevent jamming and multiple feed. In order to positively retain the sticks within the slots 66 and impart spin thereto there is provided a fixes carrier holddown unit 150 sup ported in a position whereby its lower face 152 abuts the stick 88. The holddown unit 150 extends between the hopper guide structure and the first forming die 186 After passing feed point below the hopper guide, the stick carried in the slot 66 proceeds to the glue pot station 154 where the projecting ends of the stick are provided with a layer of glue or suitable adhesive. Automatic glue pots as well as adhesives are well known in the art for various types of machines. The stick with glued ends then continues it circumferential path to the cotton application station 156 whose operation and structure is best detailed by reference to FIGS. 7 and 8. Cotton 157 in the form of a rope or elongated fibers is available commercially and is stored proximate the machine and carried via cotton feed tube 158 to the cotton feed member 160. One cotton feed assembly has been illustrated for simplicity but it is clear that an identical unit is positioned on the other side of the stick to likewise apply cotton thereto. The feed member 160 includes a pair of disc plated 162 joined, for example at their hubs, and referred to as a rotary hub and mounted for rotary movement thereabout while being driven by the aforementioned motive system. Affixed to each of the plates 162 are pairs of radially extending feed fingers l64'which are radially adjustable by lock screws 166. The fingers are joined laterally by cotton support cross pieces 168 so as to form an H structure. The system is readily synchronized so that as the fingers cross the carrier the slots and the sticks 88 are centered therebetween. The cotton rope 157 follows a path between the fingers 164 and bears against the support cross pieces 168 which serve to pull the cotton and thereby provide feed. Assuming that the machine is in operation, and since the fingers and the cross piece when crossing the path of the carrier extend beyond or below the level of the stick, the approximate center of the cotton between the fingers will contact the stick. The adhesive on the stick end will adhere to and bond with the cotton, thus locking the two together and the spin of the stick will wind the cotton therearound. The amount of cotton available or applied to each stick is dependent on the radial position of the fingers (and cross pieces) due to the fact that the stickbonds at the cotton center and the distance between the fingers or length of cotton is a function of the radial support distance. Additionally, since the stick is above the cross piece when it is centered between the fingers, it pushes the cotton upwardly thereby also increasing the quantity of cotton. This feature of fabricating or applying selectable amounts of cotton permits the manufacture of swabs for various specialized purposes on one machine as well as providing a unique form of quantity control.
Coupled to and coacting with the feed assembly 160 is a cotton severing or cutting unit 70 which includes a plurality of radial knives 172 mounted for rotation on a shaft 174 which is driven in synchronization with the system by the aforementioned motive drive. Although the number of knives employed has not been specified as in the case of the cotton feed finger pairs, it is clear that once having selected a specific number, it merely requires the determination of the proper synchronization speed by simple design. The knives are rotated in a plane perpendicular to the path of the cotton. it has been found that where the cotton is severed simply by a straight knife cut, the condition of the severed end, as well as the quantity of cotton are not consistent or of repeatable quality. in order to overcome these inherent limitations, there is provided, in addition to the knife assembly, a cutting block unit 175, which is fixedly supported below the cotton path at a point such that upper end 176 of the cutting edge 178 is directly in the knife path whereby the edge of the knife and the cutting edge coact to effectively result in a scissoring action in place of direct cutting. For this purpose the cutting block member 180 is mounted for longitudinal sliding motion within the block carrier 182 and is biased, as by spring (183') loading. The cutting edge 178 is downwardly angled so as to form an upper edge with the knife blade to initially slice the cotton rope. Although now shown in FIG. 7, there exists a cutting holddown block 184 proximate the blade path and intermediate the point at which the cotton is bondedto the stick and the positioning die 186. The die 186 and the block 184 serve to properly position the cotton rope for cutting. Additionally, the die 186 initially starts to form the cotton on the stick by the compression applied, as well as the stick spin, which action further serves to firmly hold the cotton and apply tension thereto, while it is being severed.
The sticks with the cotton thereon now proceed in their slots, while spinning, through a plurality of tip forming dies. The dies consist essentially of a curved plate approximately coaxial with the carrier peripheral surface so as to form a channel therebetween and in operative relation with the sticks. Each die is gradually convergent with the carrier surface and the entrance aperture sufficient to readily allow the cottoned stick end to enter. The stick is then forced down or inwardly into positive engagement with the frictional surfaces 84 and 86 of the friction wheel 54 so that during this tip forming process each stick is rotated under maximum rotational energy transfer (wheel turns faster than carrier). By continuous rotation of the stick in each die or shaping shoe 190, 192, a cotton tip of the desired shape is wound, and, by varying the cross-sectional dimension of the path in the die, other desired shapes may be obtained with progressive shaping from the entrance of the first die through the second die. As is well known in the art, chemical agents are introduced to the cotton prior to or during forming, to retain the final tip shape and to prevent spotting and mildewing as well as to aid in compression during tip forming. Such agents are commercially available for is purpose, one such liquid is a water soluble cellulose gum sold under the tradename Mcthocel" manufactured by the Dow Chemical Company. The apparatus for this purpose has been deleted from the drawings sine its inclusion would not be useful in view of its detailed availability in the art.
Die 192 terminates at the lowermost point in the carrier path where, escapement wheel 44 transfers the finished cotton swabs into individual groove 194 of carrier belt 196, as shown in FIG. 9. Support leg 198 holds a dual track-like holddown discharge unit 200 for positive positioning of the swab sticks in the grooves of the escapement wheel 44 which is rotated by gear 202, via shaft 46, journalled into the upright leg 204. The swabs then continue their travel on carrier belt 196 to a counting wheel 206 where the sticks are counted and pushed onto an inclined ramp 208 which is properly positioned by base support 210. An upper guide rail 212 holds the swabs against the inclined plane and when the counting wheel 206 has counted the number of swabs for one tray layer, it provides a signal to piston cylinder slide arrangement 214 which causes it to retract the piston arm 216 to the right and carries with it fingers 218. This piston arrangement is also connected via arms 220 to a moveable tray divider support 222 which moves in the same direction with the fingers 218. A tray divider 224 is disposed on the support 222 so that as the fingers and the support move, the swabs will fall on to the divider with the whole combination until it is positioned over a tray 226. The paper dividers are initially stored in a magazine 228 (see FIG. 10) between the swab line and a push slide 230 which is activated by a drive 232 and so electrically controlled to insert a divider on the support 222 when it is positioned as shown. The support 222 is provided with a pair of stops 234 at the far end thereof to prevent the swabs from falling off the divider and support since the divider is intermediate the stops. With the support above the tray 226 the overhead piston-cylinder arrangement 236 is activated to lower the piston 238 and the carrierholder 240 to engage the divider 224 (with swabs). The divider is releasably held thereby and, after the support has moved out of the way, the holder descend and deposits the swab and divider layer into the open tray below. Such releasable mechanisms are well known as well as the electro-mechanical synchronization of the packaging system components. The tray feed system includes a chain driven belt type tray carrier 242 on It should be understood, of course, that the foregoing disclosure relates to only a preferred embodiment of the invention and that numerous modifications or alterations may be made therein without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.
What is claimed is: l. A cotton swab fabricating machine for operationally combining sticks and cotton from a cotton rope including a series of work stations, which machine includes:
a rotary stick carrier having a plurality of spaced U" shaped members defining transverse slots therebetween and having the upper surface of each of said shaped members inclined in the direction of rotation to form a forward edge shoulder,
a friction wheel disposed to rotate sticks positioned in said slots,
a first work station stick feed mechanism for feeding said sticks from a hopper to said carrier which comprises:
a pair of spaced feed legs straddling said carrier, extending from said hopper and each having a forwardly extending lower operating end,
a pair of spaced guide legs extending from said hopper forward of said feed legs but terminating short of said carrier to define said path between said feed and guide legs.
a depressed cradle formed in said operating ends proximate the upper surface of said friction wheel.
a forward curved lip formed on said operating end and directed outwardly of said upper surface of said shaped member,
a holddown member supported for biased movement lengthwise of said path and provided with a depending curved lip portion approximately opposite said forward lip and directed toward said guide legs,
whereby said sticks will linearly progress downwardly from said hopper along said path, fall into said cradle, thereafter be contacted by said forward edge of shaped member, pass between said lips, positively downwardly inserted into one of said slots while the next succeeding stick is temporarily held back by said curved lip portion.
motive means coupled to said wheel and said carrier for rotating the same, and said sticks in said slots,
a cotton feed station which comprises:
a rotary hub carrying,
a plurality of spaced apart pairs of radially extending and adjustable feed finger, opposing pairs of said fingers being joined together by crosspieces intermediate the ends thereof to form an H" shape,
means for directing said cotton rope along a cotton feed path.
said hub supported for rotation in line and intermediate said cotton feed path and defining the ends of said sticks extending beyond said carrier,
said cotton feed path including said crosspieces so as to direct said cotton rope into contact with said stick end,
a cotton cutting station which comprises:
a plurality of radially extending knife blades supported for rotation transverse said cotton path for striking said cotton rope intermediate the stick on which said cotton is wound and the succeeding stick,
a cutting block assembly disposed in the path of said blades and having an edge for coacting with said blade to scissor cut said cotton therebetween.
2. The machine, according to claim 1, further including means for adhering said cotton to said stick and,
tip forming means for receiving said stick with said cotton adhered thereto for forming said cotton thereon into a tip of predetermined shape to provide a cotton swab.
3. The machine, according to claim 2, wherein said block assembly includes a cutting block member including said edge biasingly carried thereby for limited movement toward said blade path and wherein the surface defining the edge in the direction of said blade diverges from said blade path.
4. The machine according to claim 3 further including:
synchronizing coupling means for applying motive power to said rotary hub, said knife blades and for synchronizing their rotation and that of said carrier.
5. The machine, according to claim 4 further including packaging means which comprises:
transfer means for removing the finished cotton swabs, from said carrier and conveying them to a first packaging station,
means for individually supplying a tray divider below said first packaging station,
means for positioning a selectable quantity of cotton swabs on said tray divider,
means for supplying trays below a second packaging station,
releasable gripping means for supporting said try divider and said sticks carried thereon and lowering the same into a tray,
counting means for sensing the quantity of sticks at said first packaging station and providing an electrical signal for controlling both said means for supplying tray divider and means for supplying trays.
6. The machine according to claim 5 wherein said transfer means includes an escapement wheel disposed adjacent said carrier and a transverse slotted carrier belt.
7. The machine according to claim 6 wherein said means for positioning a selectable quantity of cotton swabs includes:
an inclined ramp on which said swabs are disposed in series,
tray divider support means for supporting said divider forward of and below said ramp,
finger means for pushing said swabs onto said supported divider.
8. The machine according to claim 7 wherein said means for supplying trays comprises: