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Publication numberUS3726383 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateApr 10, 1973
Filing dateJun 21, 1971
Priority dateJun 20, 1970
Also published asDE2030515A1
Publication numberUS 3726383 A, US 3726383A, US-A-3726383, US3726383 A, US3726383A
InventorsBornfleth U, Koehn J, Lehmann F, Selonke F
Original AssigneeHauni Werke Koerber & Co Kg
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for balanced automatic transport of cigarette trays or the like along an endless path
US 3726383 A
Abstract
An endless conveyor has equidistant carriers which are transported past several cigarette making machines and past several cigarette packing machines. Each machine is associated with an automatic transfer unit which is activatable to transport cages with trays for cigarettes between the adjacent carrier and the respective machine so that the output of the cigarette making machines is transported to the cigarette packing machines and the cages with empty trays are returned to the cigarette making machines. A computer responds to signals from transfer units which are in need of cages with filled or empty trays and scans the conveyor for concentrations of unoccupied carriers, carriers transporting cages with filled trays, and carriers supporting cages with empty trays in order to activate the transfer unit in a manner to avoid excessive concentrations and excessive scarcity of unoccupied carriers or carriers transporting cages with filled and empty trays in various portions of the conveyor.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent [191 Bornfleth et al.

Inventors: Ulrich Bornfleth; Fritz Selonke, both of Hamburg; Jurgen Koehn, Hamburg-Kirchwerder; Frank-Dieter Lehmann, Wentorf, all of Germany Hauni-Werke Korber & Co. KG, Hamburg, Bergedorf, Germany Filed: June 21, 1971 App]. No.: 154,958

Assignee:

Foreign Application Priority Data June 20, 1970 Germany ..P 20 30 515.]

US. Cl ..198/20 R, 131/25, 198/38 Int. Cl ..B65g 47/00, A24c 1/10 Field of Search ..198/37, 19, 20, 38,

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 8/1965 Gorjanc ..198/38 Apr. 10, 1973 Primary Examiner-Richard E. Aegerter Attorney-Micahel S. Striker [5 7 ABSTRACT An endless conveyor has equidistant carriers which are transported past several cigarette making 4 machines and past several cigarette packing machines.

Each machine is associated with an automatic transfer unit which is activatable to transport cages with trays for cigarettes between the adjacent carrier and the respective machine so that the output of the cigarette making machines is transported to the cigarette packing machines and the cages with empty trays are returned to the cigarette making machines. A computer responds to signals from transfer units which are in need of cages with filled or empty trays and scans the conveyor for concentrations of unoccupied carriers, carriers transporting cages with filled trays, and carriers supporting cages with empty trays in order to activate the transfer unit in a manner to avoid excessive concentrations and excessive scarcity of unoccupied carriers or carriers transporting cages with filled and empty trays in various portions of the conveyor.

17 Claims, 9 Drawing Figures PATENTEI] APR 1 01975 SHEET 1 [IF 8 Nwm 5 0 PATENTED APR 1 0 9 3 SHEET 2 OF 8 PATENTEDAPRIOIQYS 3 725,3 3

SHEET 8 [1F 8 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR BALANCED AUTOMATIC TRANSPORT OF CIGARETTE TRAYS OR THE LIKE ALONG AN ENDLESS PATH BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for automatic transport of commodities along an endless path. More particularly, the invention relates to improvements in a method and apparatus for the transport of stacked cigarettes or other rod-shaped smokers products by means of a conveyor which transports such commodities along an endless path extend ing along one or more producing machines and alon one or more consuming machines.

It is already known to employ in a cigarette manufacturing plant an endless conveyor, preferably an overhead conveyor, which is provided with equidistant carriers for containers in the form of s'o-called chargers or trays serving to store predetermined numbers of cigarettes for transport to one or more consuming machines. The conveyor transports its carriers past one or more producing machines (such as cigarette rod making machines for the production of plain cigarettes or filter cigarette machines for the production of filtertipped cigarettes) and past one or more consuming machines (such as packing machines wherein arrays containing predetermined numbers of cigarettes are introduced into packs consisting of one or more envelopes). Each producing machine is provided or associated with a transfer unit which removes from carriers empty trays for transport to the respective producing machine so that the empty trays can be filled with cigarettes; such transfer unit normally further serves to transfer filled trays from the respective producing machine to an oncoming empty or unoccupied carrier. Analogously, each consuming machine is associated or provided with a transfer unit which serves to remove one or more filled trays from the conveyor for transfer of their contents of the respective consuming machine, and the same transfer unit preferably serves to return empty trays from the associated consuming machine to the conveyor. The operation of modern cigarette making machines is fully automatic, and each such machine is preferably directly coupled with a tray loading machine which introduces cigarettes into empty trays at the rate at which the cigarettes issue from the machine. The conveyor normally circulates a requisite number of empty and filled trays so that an empty tray or a group of trays can be introduced into a producing machine wherever the latter is in need of empty trays and that a filled tray or a group of filled trays can be introduced into a packing or other consuming machine whenever necessary. The aforementioned transfer units are normally designed to operate in a fully automatic way, i.e., they can remove an empty or filled tray (or a group of empty or filled trays) for introduction into the respective machine, and they can deliver filled or empty trays (or groups of filled or empty trays) from the respective machine to the conveyor.

The number of empty and filled trays which are circulated by the conveyor remains substantially constant or varies within a rather narrow range if the length of the interval which is required by the conveyor to transport an empty or filled tray along the entire endless path equals or approximates the length of that interval which is required by a producing machine to turn out a requisite number of articles for the contents of a tray. This ideal situation is very infrequent because it happens again and again that the operating speed of one or more consuming or producing machines must be changed or that one or more consuming or producing machines must be arrested due to malfunctioning, due to a pileup of articles therein, for the purposes of inspection, and/or for other reasons. Each such deviation from normal operation of a producing or consuming machine causes a change in the ratio of filled trays to empty trays on the conveyor and, furthermore, such deviations from normal operation of one or more consuming or producing machine also cause unsatisfactory or unbalanced distribution of filled and empty trays on the conveyor. For example, one or more stretches of the conveyor may carry a succession of filled trays and the remaining stretches may carry a succession of empty trays. When the conveyor comprises equidistant carriers for empty or filled trays (or for groups of two or more filled or empty trays), a reduction in the speed or a complete stoppage of one or more consuming and/or producing machines can bring about a situation where a series of unoccupied carriers (without filled or empty trays) is followed by a succession of carriers supporting filled trays, by a succession of carriers supporting empty trays and/or by a succession of unoccupied carriers which alternate with carriers supporting filled and/or empty trays. This means that a consuming machine which is in need of filled trays might receive filled trays with a delay which necessitates a slowdown or a complete stoppage of the respective consuming machine, and that a producing machine is likely to receive empty trays with a similar delay, i.e., with a delay which necessitates a temporary slowdown or a complete stoppage of the producing machines. Any slowdown, and particularly a complete stoppage of a consuming or producing machine, is highly undesirable because the articles which are being produced or processed during a slowdown or immediately prior or immediately after a complete stoppage are likely to be defective and must be discarded.

It can also happen that a transfer unit with one or more empty or filled trays which are ready to be transferred onto or otherwise secured to a carrier is unable to find an empty carrier and this, too, is likely to necessitate a slowdown or a complete stoppage of the respective consuming or producing machine. The same situation is likely to arise even if each consuming machine and/or each producing machine comprises an auxiliary magazine for temporary storage of a certain of filled or lempty trays. Such auxiliary magazines cannot accommodate large numbers of trays, especially in a production line which comprises an entire battery of consuming machines and .an entire battery of producing machines, because the total space occupied by auxiliary magazines would contribute excessively to the space requirements of the production line. It was found that the last consuming machine or machines and the last producing machine or machines, as considered in the direction of travel of the conveyor, must be operated at a reduced speed or must be brought-to a full stop when the distribution of unoccupied carriers, carriers supporting empty trays and carriers supporting filled trays deviates from an ideal or substantially balanced distribution.

The problem is further aggravated if the conveyor transports its carriers along producing machines which are designed to turn out two or more different brands of articles (such as cigarettes) and along consuming machines each of which is designed to process a certain brand of articles. In such production lines, certain carriers must be unoccupied, certain carriers must support empty trays, certain carriers must support trays which contain a first brand of articles, and certain carriers must support trays which contain one or more additional brands of articles. Therefore, the likelihood of unbalanced distribution of various types of carriers is even more pronounced.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION ficiently balanced or uniform to prevent undesirable slowdown or complete stoppage of one or more machines.

Another object of the invention is to provide a novel and improved method of transporting containers for stacks of cigarettes or like rod-shaped smokers" products between batteries of producing and consuming machines in such a way that each producing machine is assured of timely reception of empty containers and that each consuming machine is assured of timely reception of filled containers.

A further object of the invention is to provide a method of the just outlined character according to which the removal of filled containers from the conveyor, the delivery of filled containers to the conveyor, the removal of empty containers from the conveyor and the delivery of empty containers to the conveyor take place in response to automatic monitoring of the conveyor for eventual undue concentrations of filled and empty containers.

An additional object of the invention is to provide a novel and improved automatic apparatus for balanced transport of smokers products and/or other commodities between plural stations which are adjacent to the endless path defined by a conveyor and in such a way that each station can receive commodities or can be relieved of commodities in good time to avoid slowdown or interruptions in the production and/or processing of commodities and that the distribution of commodities is at least substantially balanced in each portion or at least in the major part of the endless path.

Still another object of the invention is to provide the apparatus with novel and improved controls for transfer units which are employed to deliver commodities to the conveyor from one or more producing machines and to remove commodities from the conveyor for delivery to one or more consuming machines.

Another object of the invention is to provide an apparatus of the above outlined character which is especially suited for the transport of one or more brands of plain or filter-tipped cigarettes, cigars or cigarillos between batteries of producing machines and batteries of packing or other processing machines for such products.

tribution of commodities on the conveyor remains suf- The method of the present invention is resorted to for regulating the distribution of smokers products (such as plain or filter cigarettes, cigars or cigarillos) or other commodities which are transported by a conveyor defining an endless path extending along at least one first transfer station at which the commodities are delivered to the adjacent portion of the conveyor and along at least one second transfer station at which the commodities are removed from the conveyor. The method comprises the steps of monitoring (preferably by means of an automatic computer) the distribution of commodities in various portions of the conveyor (especially in those portions which are located upstream of the first and second transfer stations) to detect portions containing relatively high and relatively low concentrations of commodities, delivering at the first transfer station or stations commodities to conveyor portions which contain relatively low concentrations of commodities (preferably to conveyor portions containing minimum concentrations of commodities), and removing at the second transfer station or stations commodities from the conveyor portions containing relatively high concentrations of commodities (preferably from portions containing maximum concentrations of commodities) to thus prevent excessive concentrations and excessive scarcity of commodities in such conveyor portions.

The endless path which is defined by the conveyor preferably extends along several first transfer stations at which the commodities are automatically delivered to adjacent conveyor portions, and along several second transfer stations at which the commodities are automatically removed from adjacent portions of the conveyor. Such delivery and removal of commodities can take place in response to signals which are generated in the course of the monitoring step. The commodities may be stored in and transported with containers (e.g., in so-called chargers or trays serving for temporary storage of cigarettes or the like); the delivering step then comprises delivering containers with commodities therein at the first transfer station or stations and the removing step comprises removing filled containers from the conveyor at the second transfer station or stations.

The commodities may be empty containers which are automatically delivered to the conveyor at the first transfer station or stations and are automatically removed from the conveyor at the second transfer station or stations. The transfer of commodities to and/or from the conveyor can be accompanied by automatic generation of signals which are temporarily stored and/or permanently recorded for evaluation by supervising personnel. The arrangement is preferably such that the monitoring step is started in response to signals which are produced at the first station or stations to indicate the need for delivery of commodities from the first transfer station or stations to the conveyor and/or tribution of commodities upstream of the first and second stations and producing signals which are indicative of the distribution of commodities in the scanned conveyor portions; the method may comprise the additional step of altering the signals which are produced in the course of the monitoring step to account for changes in the distribution of commodities upon completed delivery and removal of commodities at the first and second transfer stations.

It is further desirable that the monitoring operation include the step of producing signals which are indicative of the distribution of commodities in the conveyor portions upon completed delivery and upon completed withdrawal or removal of commodities at the first and second stations, i.e., the method can be resorted to for advance calculation of the distribution ofcommodities in conveyor portions subsequent to completed delivery of commodities to conveyor portions at the first transfer station or stations and/or subsequent to removal of commodities from conveyor portions at the second transfer station or stations. This allows for advance planning of the distribution of commodities in order to avoid that the delivery of commodities to a conveyor portion containing a relatively low concentration of commodities would result in conversion of such conveyor portion into a portion with excessive concentration of commodities, and vice versa.

The novel features which are considered as characteristic of the invention are set forth in particular in the appended claims.

The improved apparatus itself, however, both as to its construction and its mode of operation, together with additional features and advantages thereof, will be best understood upon perusal of the following detailed description of certain specific embodiments with reference to the accompanying drawing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. I is a diagrammatic plan view of an apparatus which embodies the invention and comprises six producing machines for smokers products and four consuming or processing machines for such products;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged fragmentary elevational view of the conveyor in the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a view as seen in the direction of arrow B shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a transfer unit which serves to transport commodities between the conveyor and a producing or consuming machine;

FIG. 5 (composed of FIGS. 5a and 5b) is a diagram of that portion of the computer which controls the transfer of commodities between the conveyor and a battery of consuming machines;

FIG. 6 is a diagram of a register unit in the structure of FIGS. 5a and 5b; and

FIG. 7 (composed of FIGS. 7a and 7b) is a diagram of that portion of the computer which controls the transfer of commodities between the conveyor and a battery of producing machines.

' DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring first to FIG. 1, there is shown an endless conveyor KFA, for example, an overhead conveyor, which is provided with carriers II (hereinafter called hooks for short) including empty or unoccupied hooks IIL, first occupied hooks HGL which support and transport groups of empty containers known as chargers or trays and serving for temporary storage of stacked rod-shaped smokers products 8 (FIGS. 2 and 3) here shown as constituting filter cigarettes, and second occupied hooks I-IGV which support groups of filled trays 9 (FIGS. 2-4). The conveyor KFA is assumed to comprise one hundred fifty preferably equidistant hooks which travel along an endless path. FIG. 1 further shows a producing assembly ZA including a battery of six composite producing machines ZEl ZE2, 2E3, 2E4, ZES, ZE6 which form a row along one stretch of the conveyor KFA and respectively comprise cigarette rod making machines ZMl ZM2, ZM3, 2M4, ZMS, ZM6, filter cigarette making machines FAl, FA2, FA3, FA4, FA5, FA6 and tray loading machines CCl, CC2, CC3, CC4, CCS, CC6. Each of the cigarette rod making machines ZM1-ZM6 is of the type known as GARANT produced by Hauni-Werke, Koerber & Co. K.G., of Hamburg-Bergedorf, Western Germany, and each of these machines turns out plain cigarettes of unit length which are fed to the respective filter cigarette making machine. Each of the filter cigarette making machines FA1-FA6 is of the type known as MAX produced by the Hauni-Werke. These machines are designed to assemble pairs of plain cigarettes with filter plugs of double unit length to form filter cigarettes of double unit length which are thereupon severed midway across the respective filter plugs to yield pairs of filter cigarettes 8 of unit length which are fed to the respective tray loading machines. Each of the tray loading machines CCl-CC6 is of the type known as CASCADE produced by the I-Iauni-Werke; these machines are provided with equipment which assembles layers or rows of filter cigarettes and loads such rows into empty trays to convert the empty trays into filled trays 9. During loading, and empty or partially filled tray descends stepwise along a loading station to receive a requisite number of rows or layers of filter cigarettes 8. The loading machines CCl-CC6 are respectively associated with automatically operating transfer units SZl, S22, S23, S24, SZS, 826 which serve to transfer groups of four filled trays 9 each to oncoming unoccupied hooks HL and to thus convert the hooks I-IL into occupied hooks HGV. The transfer stations where the units SZl-SZ6 deliver groups of four filled trays 9 each to the hooks HL of the conveyor KFA are'respectively denoted by reference characters SAGI, SAG2, SAG3, SAG4, SAGS, SAG6. The transfer units SZl-SZ6 are of the type known as SL produced by the I-Iauni-Werke.

The occupied hooks HGV transport commodities in a counterclockwise direction, as viewed in FIG. I (see the arrow PFl), and into the range of automatic transfer units SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4 forming part of a consuming or processing assembly PA which further includes four packing machines PMI, PM2, PM3, PM4 and four magazine filling machines MMl, MM2, MM3, MM4. Each of the packing machines PMl-PMd is of the type known as KDW produced by the I-Iauni- Werke, and each of the magazine filling machines MMl-MM4 is of the type known as MAGOMAT produced by the I-Iauni-Werke. The construction of the transfer units SPl-SP4 is preferably identical with that of the transfer units 821-826, and they are respectively mounted at transfer stations SANl, SAN2, SAN3, SAN4. Each of the packing machines PM I-PM4 forms with the respective magazine filling machine MMl-MM4 a composite consuming machine PEl, PE2, PE3, PE4. The purpose of the transfer units SP 1-SP4 is to remove groups of four filled trays 9 from oncoming occupied hooks HGV and to thus convert such hooks into unoccupied hooks HL. The filled trays 9 are fed to the respective magazine filling machines MMl-MM4 which serve to evacuate the contents of filled trays 9 (i.e., filter cigarettes 8) into the magazines (not specifically shown) of the respective packing machines PMl-PM4. The packing machines PM l-PM4 are assumed to form packseach containing, for example, filter cigarettes 8 in the customary formation, namely, two outer layers of seven cigarettes each and a median layer having six cigarettes which are staggered with reference to the cigarettes of the outer layers. Each pack may comprise a single envelope or two or more envelopes, for example, an inner envelope of tinfoil and an outer envelope of paper, cardboard or synthetic plastic material. The output of the packing machines PM 1-PM4 can be fed to one or more additional packing machines (not shown) which provide the packs with envelopes consisting of transparent synthetic plastic material and preferably embodying customary'tear strips.

The transfer units SP1-SP4 preferably perform the dual function of transferring filled trays 9 to the respective magazine filling machines MMl-MM4 and of transferring groups of four empty trays from the respective magazine filling machines to the conveyor KFA to thereby convert oncoming unoccupied hooks.

HL into occupied hooks HGl which differ from the occupied hooks HGV in that they carry groups of empty trays. The hooks HGL transport groups of empty trays in the direction indicated by the arrow PF2, namely, toward the producing assembly 2A. The transfer units S21-SZ6 in the producing assembly 2A also perform the dual function of delivering filled trays 9 into the range of oncoming unoccupied hooks HL and'of accepting groups of empty trays from occupied hooks HGL for transfer to the respective tray loading machines CCl-CC6. The transfer units S2l-S26 remove groups of empty trays from the occupiedhooks HFL in the event that such empty trays are required by the respective loading machines CC1CC6, and the same holds true for the transfer units SP1-SP4 which remove groups of filled trays 9 from the occupied hooks HGV when such filled trays are needed in the associated magazine filling machines MMl-MM4. It will be seen that, at each of the transfer stations SAGl-SAG6, filled trays 9 are transferred in a direction toward the oncoming unoccupied hooks HL of the conveyor KFA and empty trays are transferred to the opposite direction (toward the respective loading machine 2M l-ZM6). Also, at each of the transfer stations SAN1-SAN4, filled trays 9 are transferred from occupied hooks l-lGV to the respective filling machines MMl-MM4 and empty trays are transferred from the filling machines MM1-MM4 to unoccupied hooks HL of the conveyor KFA.

The hooks of the conveyor KFA are provided with identifying elements 11 which cooperate with control elements K21, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26 of control units U21, U22, U23, U24, U25, U26 of the transfer units 821-826 at the respective stations SAGl-SAG6. The control elements KZl-K26 can be activated or rendered operative by way of signals transmitted by conductor means L21, L22, L23, L24, L25, L26 connected to activating devices A21, A22, A23, A24, A25, A26 which are controlled by a computer RA. Each of the activating devices AZl-A26 may constitute a logical circuit of the type known as AND-gate. As shown, the. conductor means L2l-L26 transmit signals from the computer RA to the respective AND- gates which, in turn, activate the respective control elements KZl-K26. The signals transmitted to the AND- gate All-A26 serve to insure that the control elements KZl-K26 can discriminate between hooks HL, HGL, l-IGV to thus guarantee that the corresponding transfer units SZl-S26 will invariably remove groups of empty trays from oncoming occupied hooks HGL and deliver groups of filled trays 9 to oncoming unoccupied hooks HL. It will be noted that the improved apparatus is designed to insure decentralized transfer of empty and filled trays at the transfer stations SAG 1SAG6 of the producing assembly 2A.

The transfer units S21-S26 can transmit signals to the computer RA by way of conductor means B21, B22, B23, B24, B25, B26. Such signals are traNsmitted when the supporting platforms 37 (see FIG. 4) of the transfer units SZl-S26 are held in readiness at the transfer stations SAGl-SAG6 for delivery of groups of filled trays 9 to oncoming unoccupied hooks HL and for subsequent reception of groups of empty trays from oncoming occupied hooks HGL. Analogously, the transfer units SPl-SP4 can transmit to the computer RA signals by way of conductor means BPl, BPZ, BP3, BP4 when their supporting platforms 37 are held in readiness at the transfer stations SAN1-SAN4 for reception of groups of filled trays 9 from the oncoming occupied hooks HGV or for transfer of groups of empty trays to oncoming unoccupied hooks HL. Thus, the signals furnished by conductor means BZl-B26 and BP1-BP4 are indicative that filled trays 9 should be removed from the platform 37 of transfer units S21-SZ6, that the platforms 37 of transfer units S21-S26 should receive groups of empty trays, that the platforms 37 of transfer units SP1SP4 should receive groups of filled trays, or that the platforms 37 of transfer units SPl-SP4 should be relieved of groups of empty trays.

The transfer units SZl-S26 are further connected with the computer RA by conductor means M21, M22, M23, M24, M25, M26 to transmit signals which are indicative of completed transfer of groups of empty trays to the respective supporting platforms 37 (from oncoming occupied hooks l-lGL) or of completed transfer of groups of filled trays 9 to the oncoming unoccupied hooks HL. Analogously, the transfer units SPl-SP4 are connected with the computer RA by way of conductor means MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4 to transmit to the computer RA signals which are indicative of completed transfer of groups of filled trays 9 from the oncoming occupied hooks HGV to the respective supporting platforms 37 or of completed transfer of groups of empty trays from the respective platforms 37 to oncoming unoccupied hooks HL.

The computer RA is electrically connected with an input circuit RE and with an output circuit R6; the purpose of the circuits RE and RG will be explained hereinafter.

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 illustrate the details of the conveyor KFA, one of the transfer units SZl-SZ6 or SPl-SP4, one of the hooks I-IL, I-IGL or I-IGV, and one of the control elements KZl-KZG or KP1-KP4.

The conveyor KFA comprises two fixed U-shaped guide rails 1a, lb which define an endless channel for pairs of coaxial rollers 3a (only one shown in FIG. 3). The rails la, 1b are secured to the ceiling in a manufacturing plant by supporting brackets 2. The shafts of the rollers 3a are secured to the links of an endless chain 4 which is continuously driven in the direction indicated by arrow PF (same as the arrows PFl, PF2 in FIG. 1). The chain 4 further supports one hundred fifty downwardly extending supporting arms 6 each of which supports a carrier or hook H. The hooks H are bolted, screwed or otherwise securely affixed to the respective arms 6. Each of these hooks is provided with coupling means for releasably supporting a receptacle or cage 7 for four empty trays (not shown) or for four filled trays 9.

Each hook H is further provided with a lever 11 which is pivoted against the opposition of a spring 12 whenever the hook carries a cage 7 and irrespective of whether the cage contains four filled trays 9 or four empty trays. Thus, the lever 11 constitutes an identifying element whose position is indicative of whether the respective hook I-! does or does not support a cage 7. Each cage 7 has a coupling shaft 13 supporting two axially movable identifying elements 14, 16 in the form of rolls or disks.

Each supporting bracket 2 carries a strip-shaped holder 17 for a further holder 18 and the latter supports three profiled brackets 19, 21, 22 which are secured thereto by screws or the like. The brackets 19, 21 and 22 respectively support signal generating members here shown as electric switches 23, 24 and 26. The switches 23, 24, 26 are respectively actuatable by the identifying elements 11, 14, 16 which thus constitute trips and can cause the respective switches to transmit signals which are to bring about the operation of the respective transfer unit SZ or SP. The actuation of the switch 23 by the lever 11 of an oncoming hook H is in dicative that the respective hook carries a cage 7. The actuation of the switch 24 by the disk 14 of the cage 7 on the oncoming hook I! can indicate that the respective cage contains four empty trays, and the actuation of the switch 26 by the disk 16 of the cage 7 on the oncoming hook H can indicate that the cage contains four filled trays 9. The signals which are produced by the switches 23, 24, 26 (or the absences of such signals) enable the respective transfer unit SZ or SP to perform.

a desired operation by delivering a cage 7 with four filled or empty trays to an oncoming hook III. or by removing a cage 7 with four empty or filled trays from an oncoming hook HGL or HGV.

The construction of one of the transfer units SZ or SP is shown in FIG. 4. This transfer unit is mounted at one of the transfer stations SAGl-SAG6 or SANl-SAN4 and comprises an upright column 31 of polygonal (e.g., rectangular or square) profile supports a crank drive 32 for movement up and down toward and away from the adjacent portion of the conveyor KGA. The means for moving the crank drive 32 up and down comprises an endless chain 34 which is driven by a reversible electric motor 33 mounted, at the base of the column 31. The crank drive 32 has a crank arm 36 for the respective supporting platform 37 which can support a cage 7 with or without four filled or empty trays. A transfer member or pusher 38 serves for transfer of empty trays from the cage 7 into a station 391 for empty trays or for transfer of filled trays 9 from the cage 7 into a station 39p for filled trays 9. Each of the tray loading machines CCl-CC6 is provided with a station 39z and each of the magazine filling machines MMl-MM4 is provided with a station 39p. Furthermore each of the tray loading machines CCl-CC6 is provided with a station 41z for filled trays 9, and each of the magazine filling machines MM1-MM6 is provided with a station 41p for empty trays.

If the transfer unit of FIG. 4 constitutes one of the transfer units 821-826 in the producing assembly ZA, its platform 37 can be moved adjacent to the respective station 41z so that the pusher 38 can introduce into the cage 7 on the platform 37 a group of four trays 9 which were filled with filter cigarettes 8 by the respective one of the tray loading machines CC l-CC6, and the motor 33 is thereupon started to lift the crank drive 32 (and hence the platform 37 with a cage 7 containing four filled trays 9) to a raised position of readiness adjacent to the path of hooks H on the conveyor KFA. The cage 7 is thereupon transferred onto an oncoming unoccupied hook HL in response to a signal which is initiated by an electric switch 42 and is transmitted by way of the respective conductor means BZl-BZ6. The switch 42 is actuated by the crank drive 32. If the transfer unit 52 is released for operation in response to a signal from the computer RA by way of the respective one of conductor means LZ1-LZ6 to the associated activating device AZl-AZ6, the control element KZ transmits a signal to the crank drive 32 in response to detection of a selected oncoming unoccupied hook I-IL which is in a position to accept the cage 7 with four filled trays 9 therein. The crank drive 32 then causes its am 36 to turn along an endless path 43 (shown in FIG. 4 by phantom lines) whereby the cage 7 is transferred onto the selected oncoming unoccupied hook HL. The platform 37 then continues to dwell in a position of readiness adjacent to the conveyor KFA until after the reception of a releasing signal from the computer RA by way of the conductor means LZ and activating device AZ. The signal which is produced by the control element KZ then starts the crank drive 32 which causes the platform 37 to again perform a movement along the endless path 43 and to accept a cage 7. with four empty trays therein from an oncoming occupied hook l-IGL.

If the transfer unit of FIG. 4 is one of the transfer units SP1-SP4 in the consuming assembly PA, its platform 37 can be moved adjacent to the respective station 41p for empty trays and the pusher 38 transfers into the cage 7 on the platform 37 a group of four empty trays. The motor 33 is started to lift the crank drive 32 by way of the chain 34 so that the platform 37 with a cage 7 containing a group of four empty trays comes to a halt in a position of readiness adjacent to the conveyor KFA. The crank drive 32 actuates the switch 42 when the platform 37 assumes its position of readiness whereby the switch 42 transmits to the computer RA a signal (by way of the respective conductor means BP) indicating that the platform 37 of the transfer unit SP should be relieved of the cage 7 with four empty trays therein. The transfer unit SP is released for operation in response to transmission of a signal from the computer RA by way of the respective conductor means LP and the respective activating device AP. The control element KP then starts the crank drive 32 in response to detection of a selected oncoming unoccupied hook HL whereby the drive 32 causes the platform 37 to perform a movement along the endless path 43 and to transfer the cage 7 with four empty trays therein onto the unoccupied hook I-IL which is then converted into an occupied hook I-IGL because the cage 7 pivots the respective lever 11 against the opposition of the associated spring 12. The carriage 37 remains in its position of readiness until the corresponding activating device AP receives from the computer RA a signal by way of the respective conductor means LP. The control element KP is then free to start the crank drive 32 in response to detection of a selected occupied hook HGV supporting a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 therein. The crank drive 32 causes the platform 37 to perform a second movement along the endless path 43 and to accept the cage 7 with four filled trays 9 for transport to the station 39p of the corresponding magazine filling machine MMl, MM2, MM3 or MM4.

When the platform 37 of the crank drive 32 in a transfer unit SZ supports a cage 7 with four empty trays therein, or when the platform 37 of the crank drive 32 in a transfer unit SP supports a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 therein (i.e., upon completed transfer of such cage from a hook l-IGL or HGV), the motor 33 is started to move the crank drive 32 downwardly and to place the platform 37 adjacent to the station 39z of the respective tray loading machine CC or to the station 39p of the respective magazine filling machine MM. The pusher 38 is then operated to transfer empty trays from the cage 7 into the station 3% or to transfer filled trays 9 from the cage 7 into the station 39p.

The crank drive 32 can actuate a signal generating switch 44 which transmits to the computer RA a signal by way of the respective one of conductor means MZl-MZ6 or MP1-MP4 to indicate the fact that the crank arm 36 has completed a revolution and has moved the platform 37 along the endless path 43, i.e., to indicate that the platform 37 in a transfer unit SZ has transferred a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 onto an oncoming hook HL or that such platform has received from an oncoming hook HGL a cage 7 with four empty trays, or to indicate that the platform 37 in a transfer unit SP has transferred a cage 7 with four empty trays onto an oncoming unoccupied hook HL or that such platform has received a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 from an oncoming hook HGV.

FIGS. a, 5b and 6 illustrate the details of that portion of the computer RA which contains the elements for controlling the activation of transfer units SPl-SP4 in the consuming assembly PA. The computer RA comprises a discrete register unit R1, R2, R3 R150 for each of the hooks H. The register units Rl-Rl50 are connected with each other to form a complete chain not unlike a ring counter.

The construction of one of the register units R is shown in FIG. 6. This register unit comprises seven sections r1, r2, r3, r4, r5, r6, r7. The first section r1 contains information pertaining to the address A of the register unit; the second section r2 contains information pertaining to the number k of the corresponding hook H', the third section r3 stores information pertaining to the condition of the respective hook H (i.e., x represents an unoccupied hook H1, y represents an occupied hook HGL which carries a cage 7 with four empty trays, and z represents an occupied hook HGV which carries a cage 7 with four filled trays 9); the fourth section r4 contains information yl or 1:1 pertain- 'ing to a first intended condition whereby yl denotes a hook HGL and x1 denotes a hook HL; the fifth section r5 contains information representing the number spl (1 4) of that one of the transfer units SPl-SP4 which is associated with the first intended condition; the sixth section r6 contains information y2 pertaining to a second intended condition (denoting a hook HGV); and the seventh section r7 contains information pertaining to the number sp2 (l 4) of that one of the transfer units SPl-SP4 which is associated with the second intended condition. The just discussed information is preferably stored in the respective sections rl-r7 in digital form. Such information can be transported from the sections rl-r7 of the illustrated register unit R into the corresponding sections rl-r7 of the next-following register unit with the aid of pulses furnished by conductor means TLP in synchronism with movements of hooks H along the endless path defined by the conveyor KFA. The pulses are furnished by a source TG (FIG. 5a) which comprises a timer disk TS receiving motion from the drive for the chain 4 of the conveyor KFA and a pulse generating element JS which generates a pulse whenever a hook I-I covers a distance equaling that between two neighboring hooks. The element JS can constitute an electromagnet which generates a pulse whenever it is bypassed by one of several (e.g., four) magnets on the periphery of the timer disk TS. It will be seen that the chain formed by the I50 register units Rl-R150 is a replica of the endless path defined by the conveyor KFA.

The reference character ALP denotes in FIGS. 5a and 6 a group of conductors which are connected with the sections r3-r7 of the register units R for transmission of interrogating signals. An interrogating signal which is transmitted by conductors ALP effects that the information stored in the sections r3-r7 of the register units R is transmitted by way of conductors LPr3, LPr4, LPr5,LPr6, LPr7. The character ELP denotes a group of conductors which are connected to the sections r3r7 of the register units R in order to change the nature of information which is stored therein.

The information which is stored in the sections of a register unit R must be change or updated upon completed transfer of a cage 7 with empty trays to a hook H or upon completion of transfer of a cage 7 with filled trays 9 from-a hook H to the platform 37 of the circuit SWP are further connected with the inputs a of four corrective or updating circuits KRPl, KRPZ, KRP3, KRP4. The purpose of signals from the outputs c of the circuits KRPl-KRP4 is to shift information in the associated register units R15, R9, R5, R1 in response to signals from the respective outputs a to d of the central control circuit SWP in the following way: The information which is stored in the sections r3-r7 of the register units R15, R9, R5, R1 is transmitted to the respective corrective circuits KRPl-KRP4 by way of the inputs b of the circuits KRPl-KRP4. The information stored in the section r4 is shifted into the section r3 (see the arrow u43 in FIG. 6); and the information which is stored in the section r6 is shifted into the section r4 (see the arrow u64 in FIG. 6); and the information which is stored in the section r7 is shifted into the section r (see the arrow u75 in FIG. 6). When such shifting of information is completed, the outputs c of the circuits KRP1-KRP4 transmit fresh information to the sections r3, r4, r5 of the corresponding register units R15, R9, R5, R1.

FIG. 5b further shows four interrogating or monitoring circuits FPl, FPZ, FP3, FP4 having outputs c which are connected with the activating devices (AND-gates) APl, AP2, AP3, AP4 by way of conductor means LPl,

LP2, LP3, LP4 (see also FIG. 1). As explained before, the activating devices AP1-AP4 transmit signals to the control elements KPl-KP4 of the respective transfer units SPl-SP4 in the consuming assembly PA. The interrogating circuits FPl-FP4 seek information which is stored in the sections r5 of the register units R15, R9, R5, R1. These interrogating or monitoring circuits FPl-FP4 transmit output signals whenever they detect the number of the respective transfer unit.

That portion of the computer RA which detects deviations of distribution of hooks HL, I-IGL and I-IGV from a desirable distribution in that portion of the endless path defined by the conveyor KFA which extends upstreamto the transfer stations SANl-SAN4 comprises the following components:

FIG. 5b shows a circuit SPA which has an input a receiving signals from the output e of the central control circuit SWP and serves to periodically scan the information stored in signal storing circuits BSPl, BSP2, BSP3, BSP4, always in response to a signal at its output a. The signal storing circuits BSP1-BSP4 store information pertaining to the needs of the transfer units SPl-SP4 in the consuming assembly PA. The information which is furnished to the scanning circuit SPA by the outputs of the storing devices BSPl-BSP4 is transmitted to the input f of the central control circuit SWP by the output b of the circuit SPA. The signal storing circuits BSP l-BSP4 receive information from the switches 42 (FIG. 4) of the transfer units SP1-SP4. A range selector circuit BWP (FIG. 5b) has an input a connected with the output g of the central control circuit SWP and an output b which transmits signals to the conductors ALP and to the input a of a counter ZPi. When the range selector circuit BWP is energized, it initiates the following sequence of operations:

It is assumed that the switch 42 of one of the transfer units SPl-SP4 has transmitted a signal to the respective signal storing circuit BSPl-BSP4. The circuit SPA detects the signal on reception of a signal at its input a and causes the circuits SWP to transmit a signal to the range selector circuit BWP. The latter transmits interrogating signals seriatim to the register units which happen to be located in the portions b1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6 of the endless path defined by the conveyor KFA and the sections r3-r7 of such register units transmit information to the conductors'LPr3-LPr7. The interrogating signals from the range selector circuit BWP are transmitted by way of interrogating conductor means ALP. In the illustrated embodiment, a selected portion b1, b2, b3, b4, b5, or b6 of the endless path embraces nine register units and it will be noted (see the upper parts of FIGS. 5a and 5b) that the portions b1-b6 partially overlap each other. The first portion b1 begins at the register unit R5 which is associated with the transfer unit SP3 and embraces the register units RS-Rl3; the portion b2 embraces the register units R9-Rl7; and the portions b3, b4, b5, b6 respectively embrace the register units R13-R21, R17-R25, Rue-R29, R25-R33. The six portions b1-b6 of the endless path defined by the conveyor KFA together form a so-called regulating or monitoring zone zbm. In this zone, the computer RA controls the distribution of hooks I-IL,- HGL, HGV so as to insure a desirable distribution of all three types of hooks, i.e., to prevent undesirable prevalence of one or two types of hooks over the remaining type or types. The zone zbm is long enough to insure that a hook HL, HGL or I-IGV at one end of such zone (e.g., at the register unit R33) can reach in time that transfer unit SP which has signaled the need for a particular hook (e.g., the transfer unit SP3). For example, the switch 42 of the transfer unit SP3 might have transmitted a signal indicating the need for a hook I-IL for deliverythereto of a cage 7 with four empty trays (whereby the hook BL is converted into a hook I-IGL) and the need for a hook HGV with a cage 7 containing four filled trays 9 (whereby the hook HGV is converted into an unoccupied hook IIL). If the hook which is associated with the register unit R33 is an unoccupied hook HL, there is still enough time for such empty hook I-IL to reach the transfer unit SP3 without necessitating a stoppage of the corresponding composite consuming machine PE3. This is due to the presence of stations 39p and 41p (FIG. 4) which are provided for each magazine filling machine MM and can accommodate certain numbers of filled trays 9 (stations 39p) and empty trays (stations 41p) to thus insure undistributed operation of the composite consuming machine PE3 as long as an unoccupied hook I-IL happens to be located in the zone zbm.

During transport of an unoccupied hook I-IL (whose address is recorded in the register unit R33) to the transfer unit SP3 (the duration of such transport equals the duration of transport of information from the sections of the register unit R33 to the sections of the register unit R5), the packing machine PM3 would receive filter cigarettes 8 from filled trays 9 in the station 39p of the respective magazine filling machine MM3. At the same time, the station 41p of thefilling machine MM3 receives those empty trays whose contents were' transferred into the magazine of the packing machine PM3 during transport of an unoccupied hook I-IL toward the transfer unit SP3.

In the absence of satisfactory distribution of books HL, I-IGL, l-IGV in the zone zbm, it could happen that the delivery of a required hook (e.g., an unoccupied hook I-IL) to the transfer unit SP3 would be delayed to such an extent that the station 41p of the filling machine MM3 would be without filled trays 9 and that the packing machine PMS would have to be arrested due to exhaustion of the supply of filter cigarettes 8 in its magazine.

The programming of the range selector circuit BWP is such that its output b first transmits interrogating signals to the register units R5-R13 in the first portion bl, thereupon to the register units R9-Rl7 in the second portion b2 and so on to finally transmit interrogating signals to the register units R25-R33 in the portion b6.

'FIG. 5a shows a switchover circuit RAP having an input a serving to receiving signals from the output in of the central control circuit SWP. The circuit RAP connects cyclically the sections r6, r4, r3 of the scanned register units R with the inputs a of decoding circuits DPx, DPy, DPz in response to each interrogating signal from the range selector circuit BWP in such a way that the circuits DPx, DPy, DPz are connected first with the section r6, thereupon with thesection r4 and finally with the section r3. A transfer of information or of a signal indicating the absence of information from the section r6 into the section r4 (arrow u64) takes place only if the section r6 does not contain any information; a transfer of information from section r4 to section r3 (arrow u43) takes place only if the section r4 does not contain any information. The output b of the decoding circuit DPx, DPy or DPz transmits a signal when the scanned section respectively contains the information at (resp. x1) or y (resp.y1) or y2 (resp. z). The outputs b of the decoding circuits DPx, DPy, DPz are connected with the inputs a of counters Zx, Zy, Zz and the outputs b of these counters are connected with two differential circuits Dzy and Dzx in the following way: The output b of the counter Zx is connected with the input a of the circuit Dzy and with the input b of the circuit Dzx; the output b of the counter Zy is connected with the input b of the circuit Dzy; and the output b of the counter 22 is connected with the input a of the circuit Dzx. The input a of the differential circuit Dxy (and the input b of the differential circuit Dzx) thus receives a signal which is indicative of the sum sx of unoccupied hooks I-IL (information x in the section r3) within a scanned portion b of the endless path. The input b of the circuit Dxy receives a signal which is indicative of the sum sy of hooks I-IGL (information y in the section r3) in the scanned portion b, and the input a of the circuit Dzx receives a signal which represents the sum sz of hooks HGV (information z in the section r3) in the scanned portion b.

The circuit Dxy furnishes at its output d a signal which represents the difference between sx and sy, and the output d of the circuit Dzx furnishes a signal which represents the difference between sz and sx. The outputs d of the differential circuits Dxy and Dzx transmit such signals in response to reception of signals at their inputs 0; such signals to the inputs 0 are transmitted from the output b of the counter ZPi. The counter ZPi is set for a number i which corresponds to the number of register units R in a portion b of the zone zbm. In the illustrated embodiment, i equals nine. The output b of the counter ZPi transmits to the inputs c of the differential circuits Dxy and Dzx a signal in response to completed counting of nine register units R in the portion bl, b2, b3, b4, b5 or b6. The output c of the counter ZPi transmits a signal to the input a of a further counter ZPb which is set to produce a signal (at the output b) in response to reception of b signals from the counter ZPi whereby b equals the combined number of portions bl-b6, i.e., six.

The outputs d of the differential circuits Dxy and Dzx are respectively connected with the inputs a of switchover circuits Uxy and Uzx. As mentioned before, the signals at the outputs d of the circuits Dxy and Dzx respectively indicate the differences between the numbers of hooks I-IL, HGL, I-IGV counted by the counters Zy, Zx and Zz, Zx. The circuits Uxy and Uzx transmit signals in response to reception of signals from the output b of the counter ZPi. Each of the circuits Uxy, Uzx has six outputs c, d, e,f, g, h (only the outputs c, d and h are shown in FIG. 5b) and the outputs ch of the circuit Uxy transmit signals seriatim to the inputs a of signal storing'circuits Xxyl, Sxy2, Sxy3, Sxy4, Sxy5, Sxy6 of which only three are shown in FIG. 5b. The outputs c-h of the circuit Uzx' transmit signals seriatim to the inputs a of signal storing circuits Szxl, Szx2, Szx3, Szx4, SzxS, Szx6 (only three shown in FIG. 5b). The outputs b of the signal storing circuits Sxyl-Sxy6 and Szxl-Szx6 respectively transmit signals to discrete inputs a of signal comparing circuits CPxy and CPzx. The transfer of information from signal storing circuits Sxyl-Sxy6 and Szxl-Szx6 into the signal comparing circuits CPxy and CPzx takes place in response to signals which are transmitted by the output b of the counter ZPb to the inputs b of the circuits CPxy and CPzx. The circuits CPxy and CPzx determine that maximum-intensity signal (among those furnished by the signal storing circuit Sxy and Szx) which is indicative of a certain number or ratio of hooks HL, I-IGL, HGV in the scanned portions bl-b6, and their outputs c transmit appropriate signals to the inputs 1 and k of the central control circuit SWP. The signals to inputs i and k indicate the satisfactory path portions for transfer of cages 7 with empty trays onto the hooks HL of the conveyor KFA and for removal of cages 7 with filled trays 9 from the hooks I-IG of the conveyor.

The arrangement which pinpoints a satisfactory or required hook within a selected portion b1, b2, b3, b4, b5 or b6 comprises the following components:

FIG. 5a shows two signal comparing circuits VP4 and VP6. The input a of the circuit VP6 is connected with the output a of a zero signal indicator circuit NP and the input b of the circuit VP6 is connected with the output c of the switchover circuit RAP which is a selector circuit for the sections of register units R. The circuit RAP receives information from sections r6 of selected register units R. The output 0 of the signal comparing circuit VP6 is connected with the input I of the central control circuit SWP; this output c emits a signal when a comparison of signals at the inputs a and b of the circuit VP6 indicates that the signal at the input b is zero. The output d of the circuit VP6 is connected with the input c of the range selector circuit BWP; in response to reception of a signal at its input 0, the output b of the circuit BWP transmits a signal by way of the interrogating conductor means ALP to thus initiate the scanning of information stored in a register unit R, namely, in that register unit which is adjacent to a register unit detected by the central control circuit SWP in response to signals from the signal comparing circuits CPxy and CPzx. The circuits CPxy and CPzx transmit signals which indicate the optimum portion(s) bl, b2, b3, b4, b and/or b6 for a particular type of hooks. For example, the circuit SWP may indicate that the desired hook is located in the first third of a selected portion b.

The signal comparing circuit VP4 has an input a which is connected with the output a of the zero signal indicator circuit NP, an input b connected with the output d of the switchover circuit RAP, and output c which is connected with the input m of the central control circuit SWP, and an output d connected with the input v of the central control circuit. The input'b of the circuit VP4 receives signals indicating the nature of informa- A tion contained in the section r5 of a register unit R which is selected by the central control circuit SWP. The signal at the output c of the circuit VP4 appears when a comparison of signals at the inputs a and b indicates that the signal at the input b is zero. The signal at the output d of the circuit VP4 indicates that the signal at the input b is not a zero signal.

The output w of the central control circuit SWP is connected with the input a of a further signal comparing circuit VPS having an input b which is connected with the conductor LPrS by way of a gate circuit TPS. The input a of the gate circuit TPS is connected with the output n of the central control circuit SWP to receive signals which cause the circuit TPS to either transmit or block signals to the input b of thesignal comparing circuit VPS. The latter circuit determines whether or not the number of the transfer unit SP (e.g., the number three in the case of the transfer unit SP3) is smaller or greater than the number spl in the section r5 of a register unit R which was selected by the central control circuit SWP in response to a signal from the signal comparing circuit CPxy or CPzx. If the transfer unit number is smaller than the number spl, the transfer unit SP which has transmitted a signal indicating the need for a particular type of hook is located ahead of the transfer unit (SP1) whose number (spl) is stored in the respective section r5, as considered in the direction of transport of the hooks. The output d of the circuit VPS then transmits a signal to the input c of the range selector circuit BWP which sends an interrogat' ing signal to the next-following register unit R. If the number (three) of the transfer unit SP3 is greater than the number (spl) in the section r5 of the selected register unit R, the output 0 of the circuit VPS transmits a signal to the input a of a gate circuit TP6 which has a second input b connected with the conductor LPr4 and an output 0 connected with the input bl of a signal comparing circuit VP3. The input b2 of the circuit VP3 receives signals from the output e of the switchover circuit RAP; such signals are indicative of information stored in the section r3 of the register unit R selected by the central control circuit SWP. If the input bl of the circuit VP3 receives a signal indicating the nature of information in section r4, the signal at bl prevails over the signal at b2. Otherwise, the signal at the input b2 is effective in the following way: The input a of the circuit VP3 is connected with the output 0 of the central control circuit SWP to receive signals indicating the nature of requirements of the transfer unit which signals the need for a hook (i.e., the information x or z BSP4 and proceeds toward the-circuit BSPl. The outstored in the section r3 of the selected register unit R). If the circuit VP3 detects that the signals at its inputs a and bl or a and b2 are not identical, the output d transmits a signal to the input c of the range selector circuit BWP. However, if there is an identity of signals at the inputs a and b1 or a and b2 of the circuit VP3, the output 0 of this circuit transmits a signal to the input p of the central control circuit SWP; the output q of the circuit SWP then transmits a signal to the conductor means ELP which records the number of the signaling transfer unit SP3 in the section r5 of the selected register unit R. The circuit SWP further causes entry of the information yl or x1 in the section r4 of such register unit (when the input b2 of the circuit VP3 receives a signal). The circuit SWP further enters the number of the signaling transfer unit SP in the section r7 and the information y2 in the section r6 if the input bl of the circuit VP3 receives a signal. The inputs r, s, t and u of the central control circuit SWP are connected with the switches 44 of transfer units SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4 by way of conductor means MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4.

The operation of the apparatus will be described with reference to functions which are performed by the computer RA in connection with the regulation of activation of a transfer unit SP wherein the platform 37 supports a cage 7 with four empty trays for .transfer onto an unoccupied hook HL and which must deliver a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 to the station 39p of the corresponding magazine filling machine MM.

It is assumed that the switch 42 of the transfer unit SP3 has transmitted a signal by way of the conductor means BPS and that such signal has been received by the signal storing device BSP3 of FIG. 5b. The crank drive 32 of the transfer unit SP3 dwells in its upper end position adjacent to the path of hooks H on the conveyor KFA and the platform 37 on the arm 36 of such crank drive supports a cage 7 with four empty trays therein. The crank drive 32 cannot transfer the cage 7 with four empty trays onto the first oncoming unoccupied hook l-lL; it must await a signal which is transmitted from the computer RA by way of the conductor means LP3. The computer RA selects the unoccupied hook HL with a view to prevent undue accumulation of unoccupied hooks l-lL, occupied hooks HGL and/or occupied hooks HGV in certain portions of the endless path. Such accumulationsnecessarily entail undesirable absence or scarcity of hooks HL, HGL or HGV in other portion or portions of thepath.

The circuit SPA serves to scan the signal storing devices BSPl-BSP4 in response to periodically transmitted signals fromthe output e of the central control circuit SWP. The scanning takes place counter to the direction of transport of information from're'gister unit to register unit, i.e,, it begins at the signal storing circuit put b of the scanning circuit SPA then transmits to the input f of the circuit SWP a signal indicating that the transfer unit SP3 is in need of an unoccupied hook HL for transfer of the cage 7 with four empty trays and of an unoccupied hook HGV with a cage 7 containing four filled trays 9. i

The output 3 of the central control circuit SWP then transmits a signal which initiates a search for such portions of the endless path which are best suited for transfer of a cage 7 with empty trays onto an unoccupied hook HL and for removal of a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 onto the platform 37 of the transfer unit SP3 without undesirably affecting the distribution of all types of hooks in such portion or portions. The searching or monitoring operation for an unoccupied hook HL is carried out with a view to avoid unbalanced distribution of hooks HL and also with a view to avoid unbalanced distribution of hooks HGL since an unoccupied hook HL which receives from the transfer unit SP3 a cage 7 with four empty trays is thereby converted into an unoccupied hook l-lGL. In other words, the computer RA must prevent undesirable concentrations and undesirable scarcity of hooks HL and must simultaneously prevent uneven distribution of hooks HGL. Thus, the search for an unoccupied hook l-lL involves a search for a hook HL which is sufficiently close to the transfer unit SP3 and the conversion of which into-a hook HGL will not unduly affect the distribution of hooks l-lGL along the endless path. Furthermore, the search must be carried out with a view to avoid undue scarcity of hooks HGV in one or more portions of the path since a hook HGV from which the platform 37 of the transfer unit SP3 receives a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 will be converted into an unoccupied hook HL with attendant reduction in the number of hooks HGV in the corresponding portion of the path and with attendant increase in the number of unoccupied hooks-HI. in such portion.

The output 3 of the central control circuit SWP transmits a signal to the input a of the range selector circuit BWP whereby the output b of the circuit BWP transmits an interrogating signal by way of conductor means ALP to the first register unit R in the portion bl of the zone zbm. The information which is stored in the section r6 or r4 or r3 of the register unit R5 (whichever of these sections contains information) is then transmitted to the corresponding input of the switchover circuit RAP and to the inputs a of the decoding'circuits DPx, DPy, DPz. The output b of the circuit DPx transmits a signal to the input a of the counter Zx if the signal to the input a of the circuit DPx is indicative of the presence of information in the section r3 or r4 of the register unit R5 (namely, the information x or x1). The output b of the decoding circuit DPy transmits to the input a of the counter Zy a signal when the signal transmitted thereto by the switchover circuit RAP is indicative of the presence of information y or yl (sections r3 and r4 of the register unit R5). The output b of the decoding circuit DPz transmits to the input a of the counter Z: a signal when it receives from the switchover circuit RAP a signal indicating the presence of information z in the section r3 of the register unit R5.

Upon completion of the just described operations, the input a of the range selector circuit BWP receives a signal from the central control circuit SWP to transmit a signal at its output b. Such signal is transmitted to the next-following register unit R6 via conductor means ALP. The information stored in the section r6 or r4 or r3 of the register unit R6 is transmitted to the switchover circuit RAP and thereupon to the decoding circuits DPx, DPy, DPz and counters Zx, Zy, Zz in the same way as described above. The input a of the range selector circuit BWP receives from the central control circuit SWP a succession of signals each of which results in transmission of information to the counters Zx, Zy, Zz in response to scanning of sections r6, r4, r3 in successive register units R7, R8, R9, R10, R11, R12, R13 in the first portion bl of the zone zbm. Upon completion of such scanning cycle, the counters Zx, Zy, Zz contain information which indicates the frequency of information I (inclusive of x1), the frequency of information y (inclusive of yl and 2) and the frequency of information 1, in the sections of the register units R5-R13. When the scanning of information in the last register unit R13 of the portion bl is completed, the output b of the counter ZPi transmits a signal to the inputs c of the differential circuits Dxy, Dzx so that the circuit Dxy furnishes a signal which is indicative of the difference between sx and sy whereas the circuit Dzx furnishes a signal which is indicative of the difference between sz and sx. The counter ZPi further transmits a signal to the inputs a of the switchover circuits Uxy and Uzx so that the signals furnished to the circuits Uxy and Uzx by the outputs d of the circuits Dxy and Dzx are transmitted to the inputs a of the signal storing circuits Xxyl and Szxl.

The central control circuit SWP then starts the next cycle which results in scanning of sections r6, r4, r3, in the register units R9-Rl7 located in the portion b2 of the zone zbm. The information isstored first in the counters Zx, Zy, Zz and these counters transmit information to the differential circuits Dxy, Du which in turn transmit information to the switchover circuits Uxy, Uzx in response to a signal from the output b of the counter ZPi upon completed scanning of the last register unit R17. The information is stored in the circuits Sxy2 and Szx2. The third cycle involves the scanning of sections in register units Rl3-R21, the fourth cycle the scanning of sections in register units Rl7-R25 and the last or sixth cycle the scanning of sections in register units R25-R33. The corresponding information is stored in the circuits Sxy3, Szx3 (not shown) Sxy6, Szx6.

The output b of the counter ZPb then transmits a signal to the inputs b of the signal comparing circuits CPxy and CPzx whose inputs a receive the information from signal storing circuits Sxyl-Sxy6 and Szxl-Szx6. The circuits CPxy and CPzx determine those portions of the zone zbm wherein the differences between various types of hooks are the greatest and their outputs c transmit corresponding signals to the inputs i and k of the central control circuit SWP. This completes the search for the optimum portions of the endless path for transfer of a cage 7 with four empty trays to an unoccupied hook HL and for reception of a cage 7 with four filled trays 9 from an occupied hook HGV.

In the just described example, the zone zbm for the scanning of register units RS-R33 for the presence of an unoccupied hook HL coincides, for the sake of simplicity, with the zone of search for an occupied hook HGV. This is not necessarily the optimum procedure since the search for an appropriate occupied hook HGV can begin only upon completed detection of a satisfactory unoccupied hook HL which is to receive the cage 7 with four empty trays from the transfer unit SP3 and after completed transfer of such cage onto the selected unoccupied hook to convert the latter into an.

occupied hook HGL. The scanning zone for the appropriate occupied hook l-IGV is preferably shifted upstream of the zone zbm, as considered in the direction of transport of hooks HL, HGL and HGV (arrows PFl and PF2in FIG. 1). Alternatively, the zonewhich is scanned for the presence of an appropriate occupied hook HGV can be longer than the zone zbm by extending upstream beyond the portion b1. i

Once the detection of the optimum portions of zone zbm for unoccupied hooks HL and occupied hooks HGV is completed, the apparatus must begin the search for an unoccupied hook HL within the detected optimum portion of the zone zbm. Such search for a hook BL is carried out as follows:

The output g of the central control circuit SWP transmits a signal to the input a of the range selector circuit BWP so that the latters output b transmits an interrogating signal by way of conductor means ALP to a selected register unit located in the optimum portion b1, b2, b3, b4, b5 or b6 of the zone zbm as determined by the signal circuit CPxy. Such selected register unit is preferably located in the first third of the optimum portion of the zone zbm. The signal appearing at the output c of the switchover circuit RAP (such signal is indicative of the nature of information stored in the section r6 of the selected register unit in the optimum portion of the zone zbm) is transmitted to the input b of the signal comparing circuit VP6 whose input a receives a signal from the zero signal indicator circuit NP. If the circuit VP6 detects that the section r6 of the selected register unit did contain information, its output d transmits a signal to the input c of the range selector circuit BWP whereby the latters output 0 transmits an interrogating signal to the register unit R which is adjacent to the selected register unit in the optimum portion of the zone zbm.

if the section r6 of the selected register unit does not contain any information, the output 0 of the signal com.-

paring circuit VP6 transmits a signal to the-input I ofthe central control circuit SWP.

The signal comparing circuit VP4 thereupon determines whether or not the section r4 of the selected register unit contains any information. ln the absence of information, the output c of the circuit VP4 transmits a signal to the input m of the central control circuit SWP.

- situations:

If the section r4 contains information, the output d of the circuit VP4 transmits a signal to the input v of the central control circuit SWP. The output w of the circuit SWP transmits to the input a of the signal comparing circuit VPS a signal which is indicative of the number (three) of the transfer unit (SP3) which is in need of an unoccupied hook HL. The input b of the circuit VPS receives from the conductor LPrS a signal representing the number (spl) of the transfer unit which is recorded in the section r5 of the scanned register unit R. Such signal is transmitted by the gate circuit TPS because the latters inputa receives a signal from the output n of the circuit SWP. If the circuit VPS determines that the number (three) of the transfer unit SP3 is smaller than the number (spl) which is stored in the section r5, the output d of the circuit VPS transmits a signal to the input c of the range selector circuit BWP so that the latters output b transmits an interrogating signal to the register unit which is adjacent to the previously scanned register unit in the same portion (b) of the zone zbm. If the circuit VP5 detects that the number of the transfer stored in the section r4 of the scanned register unit.

The input b2 of the circuit VP3 receives a signal which is indicative of information stored in the section r3, and the input a of the circuit VP3 receives from the output 0 of the central control circuit SWP a signal which is indicative of the information x. In the first stage of its operation, the circuit VP3 determines whether the signal at its input bl corresponds to the signal at the input a; if such is the case, the output c of the circuit VP3 transmits a signal to the input p of the central control circuit SWP. If the signals at the inputs b1 and a of the circuit VP3 are different, the output d of the circuit VP3 transmits asignal to the input 0 of the range selector circuit BWP. If the section r4 of the scanned register unit is devoid of information, the circuit VP3 determines whether the signal at its input b2 corresponds to the signal at the input a; if such as the case, the output 0 of the circuit VP3 transmits a signal to the input p of the central control circuit SWP. If the signals at the inputs a and b2 of the circuit VP3 are different, the output d of the circuit VP3 transmits a signal to the input 0 of the range selector circuit BWP whereby the output d of the circuit BWP transmits an interrogating signal to the next-following register unit. Thus, the output b of the range selector circuit BWP transmits to the next-following register unit signals in the following a. if the section r6 of the scanned register unit R contains information;

b. if the section r4 of the scanned register unit R contains information and if the number (spl) stored in the section r5 of such register unit is greater than the number of the transfer unit (SP3) which has reported the need for a hook HL;

c. if the signal at the input b1 or b2 of the signal comparing circuit VP3 deviates from the signal at the input a, i.e., if the characteristic (unoccupied, occupied with a cage containing empty trays or occupied with a cage containing filled trays) of the hook H associated with the corresponding register unit R is not the characteristic expected from that hook (HL) which is to accept a cage 7 with four empty trays from the platform 37 in the crank drive 32 of the transfer unit SP3.

If one of the just enumerated situations (a), (b), '(c) arises, the search for a hook BL is continued in that portion of the zone zbm which contains an optimum distribution of hooks for'conversion of an unoccupied hook HL into an occupied hook HGL. The search is terminated when the computer detects a hook with the desirable characteristic. The central control circuit SWP then transmits a signal by way of its output qand such signal is conveyed by way of conductorrneans ELP which records the number of the transfer unit SP3 in the scanned register unit R. The entry takes place in the sections r7 and r6 if the sections r4 and r3 already contain information, or in the sections rd and r3 if the

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Classifications
U.S. Classification198/358, 131/282, 198/349.95
International ClassificationA24C5/352, B65G47/50, A24C5/00
Cooperative ClassificationA24C5/352, B65G47/50
European ClassificationB65G47/50, A24C5/352
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 1, 1987ASAssignment
Owner name: KORBER AG
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNORS:HAUNI-WERKE KORBER & CO. KG (MERGED INTO);KORBER GESELLSCHAFT MIT BESCHRANKTER HAFTUNG (CHANGED TO);REEL/FRAME:004889/0874;SIGNING DATES FROM 19870617 TO 19870713