US 3712510 A
A pill and capsule dispenser consisting of a hopper from which pills or capsules are fed by gravity into a loading tube, from which they are in turn deposited one at a time in a flexible insert carried by a reciprocable slide carried in a dispenser case, the insert and slide being movable between a first position for receiving a single pill or capsule from the loading tube, and a second position in which the insert is flexibly deformed to allow the single pill or capsule to be delivered to a suitable container by gravity, and powered mechanism operable both to reciprocate the slide and insert between the first and second positions, and also to agitate the hopper to facilitate feeding of pills or capsules from the hopper to the loading tube. Interchangeable loading tubes and slide inserts permit adaptation of the device to dispense a wide variety of sizes and shapes of pills and capsules.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
[75 1' lnventor: Paul A. Llndahl, Overland Park,
 Assignee: Bi-Be-Lo, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.
 Filed: Nov. 26, 1971  Appl. No.: 202,503
 [1.8. CI ..22l/260  Int. Cl. ..B65g 60/00  Field of Search ..22l/2S3, 260, 262, 263, 216;
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,828,888 4/1958 Nicolle ..22l/263 3,298,568 1/1967 LeBrocq..... ....22l/262 X 1,940,103 12/1933 Rosen ..22ll260 1,673,030 6/1928 Weiss ..22l/2l6 2,910,211 10/1959 Brager..... ...22l/253 X 1,879,298 9/1932 Kayser ..221/260 /////,4 war/v/awnzz 247/7121,
Uillled States Patent 1 1 3,712,5l0
' Lindahl 1 Jan. 23, 1973 1 PILL AND CAPSULE DISPENSER Primary Examiner-Samuel F. Coleman Assistant Examiner-Joseph J. Rolla Attorney-John A. Hamilton  ABSTRACT A pill and capsule dispenser consisting of a hopper from which pills or capsules are fed by gravity into a loading tube, from which they are in turn deposited one at a time in a flexible insert carried by a reciprocable slide carried in a dispenser case, the insert and slide being movable between a first position for receiving a single pill or capsule from the loading tube, and a second position in which the insert is flexibly deformed to allow the single pill or capsule to be delivered to a suitable container by gravity, and powered mechanism operable both to reciprocate the slide and insert between the first and second positions, I
and also to agitate the hopper to facilitate feeding of pills or capsules from the hopper to the loading tube. Interchangeable loading tubes and slide inserts permit adaptation of the device to dispense a wide variety of sizes and shapes of pills and capsules.
10 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures PATENTEDJAH 23 I975 SHEET 1 [IF 2 PATENTEDJAN 23 mg,
sum 2 2 J0 3 424 flflfizfi 4 fl AZ n\ 48 JD 14 JD #5 d) I I I I J7 J6 4 M 20 J2 if g 24.22 .28 J0 n J 4! i i 19. 6 1.4
PILL AND CAPSULE DISPENSER This invention relates to new and useful improvemerits in dispensers for pills and capsules, and has as its high rate of speed, under closely controlled conditions,
permitting accurate counting thereof.
Another object is the provision of a dispenser of the character described in which the pills or capsules need never be touched by human hands, thus avoiding a common source of contamination.
A further object is the provision of a dispenser of the character described which is so basically simple and economical that even an average pharmacy can well afford to provide a separate dispenser for each common medication. A battery of 100 dispensers, each carrying a different medication, can fill perhaps 85 to 90 percent of all prescriptions. Thus no medication need ever pass through a dispenser which has contained any other medication, or rest on any surface, such as a pharmacists palette, which has carried other. medications. This avoids microscopic contamination of one medication by another, which as is well known can in some cases be fatal to a patient.
A still further object is the provision of a dispenser of the character described which, by the simple interchanging of only two parts, can be adapted to handle and dispense pills and capsules of many different sizes and shapes.
Other objects are simplicity and economy of construction, and efficiency and dependability of operation.
With these objects in view, as well as other objects which will appear in the course of the specification, reference will be had to the accompanying drawings,
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a pill and capsule dispenser embodying the present invention, I
FIG. 2 is an enlarged, fragmentary sectional view taken on line II-II of FIG. 1,
FIG. 3 is an enlarged, fragmentary sectional view taken on line III-III of FIG. 1,
' FIG. 4 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on line IV-IV of FIG. 3, with the pill slide positioned to receive a pill from the loading tube,
FIG. 5 is a view similar to FIG. 4 but showing the pill slide positioned to discharge the pill,
FIG. 6 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on line VI-VI of FIG. 3,
FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the pill slide and insert only, partially broken away, and
FIG. 8 is a sectional view taken on line VIII-VIII of FIG. 7.
Like reference numerals apply to similar parts throughout the several views, and the numeral 2 applies to a planar base above which the dispenser case or housing 4 is supported by a leg 6. Said case may be formed of molded plastic or the like, and forms a hollow passageway 8 having a horizontal section 10, and arcuately downwardly curved forward end portion 12 forming a downwardly opening spout. Said passageway is open at both ends, and is of rectangular cross-sectional contour. Mounted in said passageway for sliding movement therein is a pill slide 14 of corresponding rectangular cross-sectional contour. It is movable from a rearward position as shown in FIG. 4, in which it is disposed entirely in the horizontal section 10 of passageway 8, to a forward position as shown in FIG. 5, in which its forward portion follows the contour of and extends through spout section 12 of the passageway. To permit it to follow the contour of the spout, it is formed ,of a plastic material, such as certain types of polypropylene, which while effectively rigid in thick sections, is quite pliable and flexible when reduced to very thin sections. The rearward portion thereof, which is always disposed in the horizontal section of the passageway, is substantially solid and rigid, while the forward portion thereof, which enters spout 12, has a continuous series of transverse grooves 16 formed therein and extending to closely spaced relation from the bottom surface of the slide, thereby leaving a thin wall 18 of said slide at the bottom thereof, at the roots of said grooves, which renders the slide sufficiently pliable and flexible to follow the contour of the spout easily. At the same time, the ribs 20 of the slide intermediate grooves 16 engage the top wall of the passageway to guide the slide accurately.
Slide 14 carries a pill-receiving insert 22. Said insert consists of a very thin strip of flexible sheet plastic extending longitudinally of the slide at the top thereof, and having a longitudinal depressed trough 24 molded therein. Said trough extends rearwardly to a point just forward of the solid rear section of the slide, and is closed at itsrearward end, while being open at its forward end. The trough is accommodated in notches 26 formed in the ribs 20 of the slide, the extreme lateral edge portions 28 of the insert being supported loosely in recessed notches 30 formed in the upper edges of ribs 20 adjacent notches 26, as best shown in FIG. 8,
whereby the insert is retained entirely within the rectangular cross-sectional contour of the slide. At its rearward end, insert 22 forms a rearwardly extending tongue 32 which extends rearwardly over the solid portion of the slide, being positioned in a groove 34 recessed into the slide, and is formed at its extreme rearward end, to provide a forwardly opening hook member 36 engageable downwardly in a slot 38 formed therefor in the slide. At its forward end, insert 22 is angled downwardly and then rearwardly to form a hook member 40 which is slidably engaged in a recessed groove 42 formed therefor in the bottom surface of the slide. Hook 40 must be slidable in groove 42 longitudinally of the slide, and the insert must normally project beyond the forward end of the slide when the slide is straight,.as in FIGS. 4 and 7, since when the slide and insert enter spout 12, as in FIG. 5, the insert is curved about a greater radius than the bottom surface of the slide, and hence must traverse a longer path. Hooks 36 and 40 may be easily disengaged from the slide when the slide is removed from the case, due to the flexibility of the insert material. This permits easy interchangeability of the insert for other inserts having trough portions 24 of different configurations, when required for purposes to be described below.
The .end limits of the stroke of slide .14 may be independently adjusted by means best shown in FIGS. 3 and 6. A vertical pin 44 is affixed at its lower end in the solid rearward portion of said slide, and projects upwardly above case 4 through a slot 46 formed in the top wall of passageway 8. Said slot is elongated longitudinally of the slide to permit the maximum desired slide stroke, but either limit of said stroke is limited by the engagement of pin 44 with an adjustable screw 48 threaded in a boss 50 formed integrally with the case. The purpose of this adjustment will be described below.
Slide 14 is provided with a rearward extension 52 of such length that it projects outwardly from the rearward end of case 4 in both the forward and rearward positions of the slide. It need to be flexible as portions of slide 14 must be, and hence can be formed of a less expensive material. It is provided at its forward end with a tongue 54 which engages with tight friction in a socket 56 formed therefor in the rearward end of slide 14. To the rearwardly extended end of extension 52 there is pivoted, as at 58, the forward end of a link 60. Affixed to the rearward end of said link is a coaxially extending tube 62 the ends of which are closed, and through which a crank pin 64 extends laterally, said pin projecting through longitudinally elongated slots 66 formed in the tube. A pair of compression springs 68 are carried within tube 66, bearing respectively against the opposite closed ends of said tube, and against opposite sides of pin 64. Crank pin 64 is fixed to a disc 70 mounted on and driven by the drive shaft 72 of an electric motor 74, parallel to but eccentrically offset from the rotational axis of the disc. Motor 4 is mounted on a bracket 76 carried by base 2. Thus when disc 70 is rotated, slide 14 is reciprocated in passageway 8. The throw of crank pin 64 is such as to provide the maximum desired stroke of the slide, but if the slide stroke is shortened by the setting of adjusting screws 48, any excess movement of the crank pin is absorbed by springs 68.
Pills 78, or capsules, are fed into the top of case 4 by a loading tube 80 of such internal configuration that pills or capsules will be contained loosely therein in stacked relation as shown. In order that the device can be adapted to handle pills of different sizes, it will be apparent that loading tubes having different internal diameters must be provided for round, flat pills of different diameters, and that in the case of capsules, the internal configuration of the loading tube must be generally rectangular, with rounded ends, and that these different tubes must be interchangeable. To provide this interchangeability, the lower end of the tube is permanently affixed in a vertically cylindrical plug 81 which is frictionally but removably fitted into a socketed boss 82 formed integrally with case 4 at the top thereof. The loading tube extends through said plug and into a hole 84 formed in the top wall of passageway 8, terminating in very closely spaced relation from the top surface of slide 14, or slide insert 22. This spacing must be less than the thickness of the thinnest pill or capsule to be dispensed. The loading tube extends upwardly from the case, and is inclined rearwardly as shown. It projects into a hopper 86 into which pills 78 may be poured in random positions, and which has at its bottom a tubular neck 88 which is freely slidable on the loading tube. A link 90 is pivoted at its lower end at pivot 58 of slide extension 52, and at its upper end to hopper 86, as at 92. The position of the lower end of the loading tube is of course transversely centered over the trough section 24 of the slide insert, and so related to the reciprocal movement of the slide that when said slide is in its rearmost position as in FIG. 4, it will deposit one pill or capsule in the rearmost portion of trough 24.
Thus, in operation, it will be seen that each time slide 14 is moved to its rearward position, as shown in FIG. 4, the bottom pill or capsule in the stack carried by the loading tube drops into the trough 24 of slide insert 22, and that each time the slide is moved forwardly, the bottom pill is moved forwardly by the trough, with the stack of pills in the tube then being supported on the top of the slide. When the slide reaches its forwardmost position, the flexible portion of the slide will have moved into and through spout 12, including the insert 22 thereof, as shown in FIG. 5, and the resultant downward inclination of the trough will cause the pill to continue through and be discharged from the lower end of the spout by gravity. It will be noted that the trough carries the pill to this discharge position, and does not merely slide it frictionally along a surface. This eliminates a common cause of abrasion powdering of pills. The reliable discharge of each pill is further insured by the velocity and momentum imparted thereto by the forward movement of the slide. Thus the pills are discharged one at a time from spout 12, and may be received in a cup, bottle, or other container 94 carried beneath said spout by a suitable support 96. Absolute accuracy in the number of pills dispensed can be had by controlling the number of revolutions of crank disc 70, and indicated by a counter, not shown but standard and well known, recording the number of revolutions thereof. The dispensing speed may be regulated easily by controlling the rotary speed of disc 70, which can be accomplished easily by using a motor 74 of variable speed, or by variable speed reducers.
Link 90, due to its angularity relative to loading tube 80, causes hopper 86 to be oscillated gently up and down on the loading tube. The resultant agitation of the pills at the upper or entry end of the loading tube insures that the pills will reliably enter the tube and keep it filled, and that they will not wedge in the hopper and bridge over the entry to the tube. Furthermore, under these conditions, even flat, circular pills will nearly always stack themselves neatly as shown, and will not stand on edge, which would interfere with their proper entry into trough 24. However, an occasional pill may still stand on edge, and its position must be corrected to avoid jamming of the slide or slicing of the pills when the slide moves forwardly. For this purpose, loading tube may be transparent as indicated in FIGS. 3-5, in order that incorrect positioning of any pills can be visually detected, and provided with a slot 98 along its forward edge, through which a human operator may insert a probe to correct any misalignment. With capsules, which are generally cylindrical with hemispherical ends, there are virtually no problems of this type.
If the pills are to be reliably dispensed one at a time as described, it will be apparent first that the contour of loading tube 80 mustbe of a size and shape to insure accurate stacking of the pills therein. This requires a different loading tube for each pill of different size and shape. Such different tubes can be provided and easily interchanged with the structure shown. Also, it is necessary that the depth and breadth of trough 24 of insert 22 be such, and that the horizontal area of the trough exposed beneath the lower end of tube 80 be such, as to admit one pill or capsule only, but no more, when the slide is fully retracted as in FIG. 4. The depth and breadth requirements can be met by interchanging slide insert 22 for others having different trough proportions, such changes being easy and rapid with the structure shown. The depth and breadth of the trough is limited only by the depth and breadth of notches 26 in slide ribs 20. However, exposure of the correct horizontal trough area to the loading tube may require variation in the end limits of the slide' stroke, as permitted by adjusting screws 48. For example, pills of larger diameter may require the slide to be retracted farther than in the case of smaller pills, to properly regulate the exposed trough area at full retraction of the slide, and larger pills may require further forward movement of the slide to insure that the pill in the trough will be carried far enough into the spout curvature to fall by gravity, although for the latter reason it is generally desirable that the slide be moved as far forward as possible on every stroke. Screws 48 permit easy, independent regulation of both end limits of the slide stroke, with any difference between the slide stroke and the throw of crank pin 64 being absorbed by springs 68. Disassembly of the device to permit easy interchanging of both loading tubes and slide inserts may be accomplished by removing pin 58, which may be of a quick-release type for this purpose. With this pin removed, hopper 86 may be lifted free of the loading tube to permit changing thereof, all of the tubes having identicalmounting plugs 81 for insertion in socketed boss 82, and slide 14 may be slid rearwardly free of the case for easy replacement of insert 22.
Since the dispenser as shown is very simple and inexpensive, even an ordinary pharmacy can well afford a battery of such dispensers, each handling only one type of medication. This avoids microscopic cross-contamination between difierent medications, which often occurs in present systems inwhich different medications are handled in the same dispensers or otherwise rub against or contact common surfaces, and which of course can be dangerous to patients receiving the medication. A battery of 100 dispensers could handle perhaps 85-90 percent of all common prescriptions. Another contemplated usage of such a dispenser battery would be in hospitals, nursing homes, and the like to place all of the medications prescribed for an individual patient in a single container. In that case, the dispensers as shown could be arranged in side-by-s'ide relation, each with its own individual drive and hopper, and the support 96 for container 94 could constitute a conveyor movable horizontally in a direction to cause any container 94 thereon to pass successively beneath the spout 12 of each dispenser, in sequence. Suitable automated or computerized controls could then be provided both for the conveyor, and for the motor 74 or other drive mechanism of each dispenser, whereby each container 94 is caused to pause beneath each dispenser from which the patient for whom that container is destined is to receive medication, said container being labelled withthat patients name and other medical data, and the dispenser drive actuated to dispense the prescribed number of pills or capsules. Many patients of course are being treated simultaneously with several different medications, and this can cause confusion to both doctors and nurses. Consequently, medical staffs everywhere live in constant dread of doing irreparable harm to patients by the accidental administration of incorrect medications. A
system as described could do much to alleviate this concern by virtually eliminating human error, and also greatly reduce the cost of the handling of medications.
While I have shown and described a specific embodiment of my invention, it will be readily apparent that many minor changes of structure and operation could be made without departing from the spirit of the invention.
What I claim as new and desire to protect by Letters Patent is:
l. A pill and capsule dispenser comprising:
a. a case defining a passageway having a horizontal portion and a downwardly curving spout portion interconnected smoothly with said horizontal portion at the forward end thereof,
b. a slide carried slidably in said passageway for movement from a rearward position substantially within the horizontal section of said passageway to a forward position in which a portion thereof enters and traverses the spout portion of said passageway, the portion thereof entering said spout being flexible to conform to the contour of said spout, said slide defining an upwardly and forwardly opening trough substantially coextensive with the flexible portion thereof,
. a loading tube adapted to contain pills or capsules in stacked relation therein and opening downwardly into the passageway of said case, the lower end thereof being disposed directly above the rearmost portion of said trough when said slide is in its rearward position, whereby to receive therein the lowermost pill from said loading tube,
and a means operable to reciprocate said slide between its forward and rearward positions, whereby in its forward position it carries -a pill or capsule disposed in said trough into said spout and said pill falls through said spout by gravity.
2. A dispenser as recited in claim 1 wherein the flexible section of said slide is longitudinally grooved along its upper surface, and wherein said trough portion thereof constitutes an insert formed by a thin strip of flexible material extending longitudinally of said slide and formed to present a trough extending longitudinally of said slide and contained in said groove, and having edge portions disposed for sliding movement longitudinally of the slide between the top of said slide and the wall of said case defining the top of said passageway. I
3. A dispenser as recited in claim 2 wherein said trough insert is detachably connected to said slide, whereby to be interchangeable with other inserts having troughs of different depths and breadths to accommodate pills of different sizes and shapes.
4. A dispenser as recited in claim 2 wherein said insert is formed to present a pair of hooks at respectively opposite ends thereof, said hooks being flexible and disposed in opposed, confronting relation, said hooks being releasably engaged with said slide to permit detachment of said insert from said slide for in- .terchangeability thereof with other inserts having longitudinally fixed relation thereto, and the hook at the forward end of said insert engaging said slide for sliding movement longitudinally of the latter.
5. A dispenser as recited in claim 1 wherein saidloading tube is detachably connected at its lower end to said case, whereby to be interchangeable with other loading tubes having internal bores of different crosssectional contours to accommodate pills and capsules of different sizes and shapes.
6. A dispenser as recited in claim 1 wherein said loading tube is transparent to provide for visibility of the pills therein, and is provided with a narrow slit extending longitudinally thereof to permit the insertion of a probe to correct the alignment of any misaligned pill.
7. A dispenser as recited in claim 2 wherein said slide insert and loading tube are detachably mounted to provide interchangeability thereof with other inserts or tubes proportioned to handle pills or capsules of different sizes and shapes, and with the addition of means operable to adjust the rearward limit of the reciprocal stroke of said slide, whereby to gauge the horizontal area of said trough exposed beneath said loading tube, at the rearward limit of slide travel, to receive therein only one pill or capsule at a time from said tube.
8. A dispenser as recited in claim 2 wherein said slide insert and loading tube are detachably mounted to provide interchangeability thereof with other inserts or tubes proportioned to handle pills or capsules of different sizes and shapes, and with the addition of a pair of adjustable stops carried by said case and operable respectively to variably limit the forward and rearward limits of the travel of said slide, said slide reciprocating means including a power driven means reciprocable in a stroke of fixed length at least great enough to provide the maximum desired travel of said slide, and a link connecting said power-driven means and said slide, said link being resiliently extendable and retractable in length.
9. A dispenser as recited in claim 1 with the addition of:
a. a hopper for pills and capsules mounted slidably on said loading tube above said case, said tube extending upwardly into and terminating within said hopper, and
b. means operable to reciprocate said hopper oscillatably along said loading tube.
10. A dispenser as recited in claim 9 wherein said hopper reciprocating means includes an operating connection between said slide and said hopper, whereby said hopper is reciprocated by reciprocation of said slide.