US 3733007 A
An article dispenser having shelves inclined downwardly toward the front for receiving a plurality of articles thereon to be dispensed, and a gate at the front of each shelf permitting removal of one article at a time. As the gate is swung up to release the front article, a rear part thereof prevents removal of the remaining articles. A control mechanism which moves the gate up and back includes first and second interconnected abutting links, the first link pivotally connected on the axis of a pin passing therethrough and spaced from the turning axis of the gate, such that the first link turns about the pin axis and orbits about the gate turning axis and the second pivotally connected to a fixed pivot axis. The gate is properly opened by applying a force to the links in a certain direction to easily turn the links about their respective axes. However, unauthorized attempts to open the gate manually will only push the abutting surfaces against each other without the turning movement necessary to open the gate.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 Ungerman 1 3,733,007 1 May 15,1973
1541 ARTICLE DISPENSING APPARATUS  Inventor: Warren J. Ungerman, Hatboro, Pa.
 Assignee: Captain International Industries, Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada  Filed: Feb. 17, 1972  Appl. No.: 227,694
 US. Cl. ..221/295, 221/301 Primary Examiner-Robert B. Reeves Assistant ExaminerThomas E. Kocovsky Attorney- Roberts B. Larson et a1.
 ABSTRACT An article dispenser having shelves inclined downwardly toward the front for receiving a plurality of articles thereon to be dispensed, and a gate at the front of each shelf permitting removal of one article at a time. As the gate is swung up to release the front article, a rear part thereof prevents removal of the remaining articles. A control mechanism which moves the gate up and back includes first and second interconnected abutting links, the first link pivotally connected on the axis of a pin passing therethrough and spaced from the turning axis of the gate, such that the first link turns about the pin axis and orbits about the gate turning axis and the second pivotally connected to a fixed pivot axis. The gate is properly opened by applying a force to the links in a certain direction to easily turn the links about their respective axes. However, unauthorized attempts to open the gate manually will only push the abutting surfaces against each other without the turning movement necessary to open the gate.
10 Claims, 7 Drawing Figures ARTICLE DISPENSING APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to article dispensing, and in particular it relates to an article dispensing apparatus of the type in which a plurality of articles are arranged on a shelf and a gate permits removal therefrom of one article at a time. 7
It is known to provide an article dispensing apparatus of the type wherein a plurality of articles are arranged on a shelf and urged to the front thereof, for example by gravity, and a normally closed gate at the front thereof is swung open to permit removal of only the front article, the gate including means for preventing the subsequent articles from being removed while the gate is opened, the next article then coming to the front as the gate closes, this next article now in position to be removed the next time that the gate is open.
Control means for controlling the operation of the gates in this type of apparatus must fulfill several requirements. Such a control mechanism must be strong to prevent unauthorized opening of the gate. In addition, it must be dependable to assure proper operation to properly release an article when the customer has selected that article in the appropriate manner, and also to assure that the apparatus cannot be manipulated while being properly operated to remove additional articles when only the first article has been paid for.
In order to satisfy these various requirements, control mechanisms for article dispensing apparatus of this type have tended to be somewhat complex. Thus, there exists a need for a new and improved article dispensing apparatus of the type described having a control mech-' anism which satisfies all of the above noted requirements and at the same time is relatively simple and economical in construction.
There is described in the Regan et al. US. Pat. No. 3,3 l0,l98, a room service article dispensing apparatus adapted to be placed in each room of a hotel, motel or the like and wherein the guest would simply turn a key, push a button to receive the selected article and the charges therefor would be automatically electrically recorded at the check-out or cashier area of the hotel, and the guest would simply pay for all of the selected articles when checking out. It is contemplated that the article dispensing apparatus of the present invention will be used in such a unit. In view of this, it is especially important that the control means be strong, dependable and simple, thus assuring correct charges are made and minimizing upkeep expenses.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Thus, it is a purpose of this invention to provide a new and improved article dispensing apparatus of the type described which is relatively simple in construction and which is also strong and dependable.
An article dispensing apparatus with which the present invention is concerned has at least one shelf, but preferably a plurality of shelves, each arranged to receive a plurality of articles such as cans, bottles or the like and means such as gravity (inclining the shelves downwardly forwardly) to urge the articles to the front. Each shelf has a gate and a control therefor. The gate moves between a closed position where it prevents removal of the front article to an open position where it permits removal of the front article, the gate including a rear part which comes down when the gate itself is opened to prevent removal of the second and subsequent of the plurality of articles. When the gate is then closed, this rear part moves out of the way to permit the next article to move to the front, this article now in position to be removed the next time the gate is opened.
The purpose of the present invention is achieved by providing a new and improved control mechanism for a gate of the type described below. The control mechanism includes a pair of links mounted on the side wall of the apparatus adjacent the gate. These links abut each other at ends thereof and are interconnected on a common pivot axis. The link members are also turnable about separate pivot axes. The first of these links is mounted on and pivotable about a pivot pin passing thcrethrough, said pin being connected to and spaced from the pivot axis about which the gate swings when it is opened whereby the first link orbits about the gate turning axis. The second of these links is mounted on and tumable about a fixed axis. An unauthorized attempt to open the gate by manually lifting it will only urge the first link against the second link, but since the two links already abut each other, no relative movement is possible and hence the gate will not open. On the other hand, authorized opening of the gate is provided by an operating means which urges the abutting ends of the link members in a direction generally parallel to the plane on which they abut, thus easily turning the links about their said separate pivot axes, this movement opening the gate in the manner described above. In a preferred arrangement, solenoids are operated for turning the links to open the gates and a suitable spring means returns the links to their normal position. If the dispensing apparatus is used in a hotel room service apparatus, the electrical lines to the solenoids may include a master switch for turning all units on or off and a line to the cashier or check-out area for recording the charges of dispensed articles.
These link members may each comprise U-shaped channel members abutting at their ends, the said operating means comprising a rod engaging both said link members at one end thereof and forming the said common pivot thereof and being connected at its other end to a solenoid, the said gate pivot axis being spaced below the first link member and then curved around to engage this first link member and the said return spring being located in the elongated channel formed through the two U-shaped channel members and engaging the common pivot axis portion of the rod. Alternatively, the operating means may comprise a rotary solenoid connected directly to the said fixed pivot axis of the second link member.
Thus, it is an object of this invention to provide a new and improved article dispensing apparatusof the type described which is dependable, strong and relatively simple.
It is another object of this invention to provide an article dispensing apparatus of the type described, particularly suitable for use in room service apparatus in individual rooms of the hotels, motels or the like.
It is another object of this invention to provide a control mechanism for the gate of an article dispensing apparatus of the type described comprising a pair of abutting links arranged such that unauthorized attempts to manually open the gate will merely urge the links together in a direction generally perpendicular to the plane on which they abut while a suitable operating means acts on these links in a direction generally parallel to the plane of abutment to operate these links in a simple manner for authorized opening of the gate.
Other objects and the advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description to follow, together with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS There follows a detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention which is provided for purposes of illustration and which is to be read together with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of an article dispensing apparatus but with the control mechanisms removed for purposes of simplicity.
FIG. 2 is a sideelevational view of FIG. 1 with all of the control mechanisms and structures shown.
FIG. 3 is a plan view taken along line 33 of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is a partial sectional view taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3.
FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of one element of the invention.
FIG. 6 is a partial elevational view similar to FIG. 2 but showing a modification.
FIG. 7 is a horizontal sectional view showing a portion of FIG. 6.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS:
Referring now to the drawings, like elements are represented by like numerals throughout the several views.
Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the article dispensing apparatus 10 includes a right side wall 11 and a left side wall 12. Extending between these side walls is a top plate 20, an upper shelf 21, a middle shelf 22, and a lower shelf 23. In a preferred arrangement, all of these shelves are constructed of sheet metal turned down at their sides as shown at 24 and 25 for the shelf 23 in FIG. 1, these turned down flanges 24 and 25 being secured to their respective side walls 11 and 12 by suitable means such as riveting or the like. These shelves are inclined downwardly towards the front of the apparatus. This of course serves to move the articles such as cans on the shelves towards the front by gravity. At the front end of shelves 21, 22 and 23 are provided gates 13, 14 and 15, respectively. All three of these gates are identical and therefore only the upper gate 13 will be described in detail, and for this purpose reference is made also to FIG. 3. The gate includes a front bar 16 which is generally U-shaped and includes at its ends pivot members 17 and 18 loosely mounted in side walls 11 and 12, respectively. The pivot member 18 has an upwardly and forwardly hook shaped end 51 which is shown in FIG. 1 for the gates 13 and 14 but broken off from the gate (to reveal another element more clearly as will be explained below).
Referring to FIG. 2, each of the gates 13, 14 and 15 has associated with it a gate control mechanism 30, 35 and 40, respectively. An operating rod 31 having a hook shaped upper part 50 is guided by a guide slot 32 and at its lower end it is connected at articulated joint 33 to a solenoid 34. Similarly, the control mechanism 35 has associated with it an operating rod 36 having an upper hook shaped part 50 (which is broken ofi in FIG. 2 to show other elements more clearly) and at its lower end it is connected at joint 38 to solenoid 39. Similarly,
the control mechanism 40 has an operating rod 41 having an upper hook part 50, is guided in a slot 42 and is connected at its lower end by articulated joint 43 to a solenoid 44. The elements 41-44 are, shown in FIG. 1 which also shows more clearly the hook shaped part 50.
The three control mechanism 30, 35 and 40 are identical and for this reason only the upper control mechanism 30 will be described in detail. However, like numerals are used for like parts in the other control mechanisms 35 and 40. Referring now to FIGS. 2-5, this upper control mechanism includes a rear channel shaped link member 53 having an outer leg 54 and an inner leg 55. The inner leg 54 has a loading tab 56 extending rearwardly from it. Aligned apertures 57 in the two legs receive a pin 52 for free rotation about it, this pin being fixedly connected at its inner end to the side wall 12. At its forward end, the legs 54 and 55 include ears 59 and 60 having aligned apertures 61 which receive therethrough the upper horizontal part of the hooked shape part 50 of operating rod 31. Beneath the ears 59 and 60, there is provided an abutment surface 62.
The control mechanism includes a second link member which is precisely the same element as element 53 but turned 180. Therefore, for this front element the same numerals 53-60 are used, but raised by 100. As is therefore evident from the figures, the aligned apertures 161 in the front channel shaped link member 153 also receive therethrough the top of hook shaped part 50 of operating rod 31. The front apertures 157 of the member 153 receive the upper part of hook shaped part 51 of the pivot member 18. Thus, the link 53 is mounted to pivot around the pin 52 while link member 53 is arranged to pivot about the axis of the top part of part 51 and concurrently orbit about the gate turning axis 18 via its connection with pivot member 18 through the hooked end 51.
A spring 65 turns once about the upper part of element 50 and extends to the upper part of element 51 and to the element 52. Consequently, this spring tends to urge the center of the control mechanism'including the part 50 upwardly to the extent limited by the abutment of abutment surfaces 62 and 162.
The invention operates as follows. A plurality of articles such as cans 66, 67 and 68 would be loaded on the shelf 21. The gate 13 would prevent removal of the front can 16 and the apparatus would of course be constructed so that one could not reach in above the control mechanism and pull out subsequent cans. To obtain the can 66, one would either deposit a coin or, if the device were used in a room service apparatus, depress a switch transmitting current through lines 70 energizing solenoid 34 to pull the rod 31 downwardly. This would turn the two link members about their respective pivot axes passing therethrough, the link 153 also orbiting about the axis of gate pivot member 18,
the members assuming precisely the position shown for' the control mechanism 40 in FIG. 2. In this position, it will be seen that the front bar 16 has been raised, this position permitting removal of can 66, while the rear bar 19 has moved downwardly to a position which would prevent removal of subsequent cans 67 and 68 at this time. The solenoid then releases the rod which is moved back to its original position by spring 65, at which time the next can 67 moves into position against the front bar 16 to be removed during the next cycle.
It is a feature of the invention that the locking action of these gates is such that they cannot be manually and fraudulently raised for the authorized removal of goods. If one attempts to raise the bar 16 it will exert a force on link member 153 urging it rearwardly against link member 53, this force being transmitted through abutment surfaces 162 and 62 and having an insufficient or no component of force in the downward direction tending to turn the link members about their axes, which movement would be necessary to open the gates. This locking action is far superior to any arrangement in which the gate relies on a spring force to prevent unauthorized gate opening. In that case, the spring would have to be so strong that it would require great force to open the gate for authorized vending. The unauthorized opening force with the present invention is quite distinct from the authorized opening force, i.e. the
downward movement of the operating rods, the main component of which is in the direction necessary to turn these links about their axes. The precise angular orientation of these link members 53 and 153 would be carefully controlled. In the illustrated embodiment, they are perfectly aligned. For maximum safety, the abutment surfaces 62 and 162 could be cut back slightly so that in the normal position the channel members extend slightly so that in the normal position the channel members extend slightly from their pivot axes upwardly. In this case, an unauthorized opening force on bar 16 would exert at the abutting surfaces 62 and 162 a force having a component in the upward or gate closing position.
In practice, it is also possible to arrange these link members 53 and 153 so that they form a slightly downwardly pointed V. In this case, it is true that a force tending to turn the bar upwardly would exert at the abutting surfaces 62 and 162 a force having a slight downward component in the opening direction. However, such a slight force might be incapable of overcoming the upward force of spring 65 and any force in the solenoids 34 urging its armature upwardly such that in practice such a force could not possibly open the gate.
When this apparatus is used in a room service apparatus of the type described above wherein the control mechanism would be operated by closing the circuit through lines 70, there may be provided a master switch 71 at a central area in the hotel for turning off all solenoids 34 in all rooms, for example at certain hours if liquor is sold on the top shelf 21. Of course all three solenoids 34, 39 and 44 of all rooms can be connected to the same master switch. However, on occasion, it may be desirable to place on some shelves articles such as alcoholic beverages, which must be turned ofi on certain hours or on certain days and other food articles on the other shelves, there being no need to turn off the control mechanism for these other shelves during such hours or days.
Another feature of the invention is that the gate control mechanism does not rely on gravity for its opera tion or to prevent operation. Keeping in mind that the present invention may be utilized on a relatively small vending unit which would be light enough to be picked up, this feature would mean that one could not pick up the vending machine and turn it sideways or upsidedown to release a gate. Although this feature is of general importance, it may be especially important when the present invention is used in a room service apparatus in a hotel, motel or the like where a person with fraudulent intent would have the privacy of his own room in which to manipulate the device.
A modification of the invention is shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. While this modification is shown for the top control mechanism 30, it can of course be applied to any of the gate control mechanisms. In this modification, the solenoid 34 and its rod 31 are eliminated. In lieu thereof, there is provided a rotary solenoid attached by a suitable bracket 71 to the side wall 12 and having projecting outwardly therefrom a rotary armature 72 which terminates in a U-shaped clevis which is connected to pivot pin 52 by a pin 73.. This pin 52 is fixed to the link member 53 for rotation therewith by any suitable means such as a key 74, and this pin 52 is loosely mounted in the side plate 12 by fasteners 75 for rotation relative to the side wall 12. Like the solenoid 34 and the rod 31, this rotary solenoid 70 through its connection to the link member 53 will exert a force on the link members in a direction generally parallel to the abutment plane, thereby easily turning the link members from the gate closed to the gate opened position. The solenoid arrangement of FIGS. 1-5 has the advantage of taking up less space laterally, but where this is not a factor, the embodiment of FIGS. 6 and 7 may be preferred.
Although the invention has been described in considerable detail with respect to a preferred embodiment, it will be apparent that the invention is capable of numerous modifications and variations apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
1. An article dispening apparatus of the type in which a plurality of articles of a predetermined size are arranged on a shelf, and urged towards the front of the shelf to be removed therefrom one at a time, comprismg:
a gate at the front end of the shelf, said gate having a front part and a rear part, said front and rear parts being fixed together for movement as a unit, said front part in a closed position preventing removal from the front end of the shelf of the front and subsequent of said plurality of articles, and said rear part in said closed position permitting movement by it of said articles of predetermined size, said gate including a pivot member mounted for turning movement about axis for turning the gate to an opened position at which the front part permits removal of the said front article and the rear part prevents removal of the next and subsequent of said plurality of articles, and for returning the gate to its closed position, whereat the front part prevents removal of the said next article, which has now become the front article, and the rear part moves out of the path of the subsequent articles,
a control means for moving said gate between the closed and opened positions to thereby open the gate to permit removal only of the front of said plurality of articles, and then to close the gate,
said control means including first and second link members pivotally connected together, said link members mounted for turning movement about axes between a gate closed position in which abutment surfaces of the link members abut each other in an abutment plane, and a gate opened position in which the abutment surfaces are spaced from each other, said gate pivot member connected to the said first link member to turn the gate between said gate closed and gate opened positions as the link members turn about said axes between said closed and opened positions,
the connection of the gate pivot member to the first link member being such that turning of the gate pivot member to move the gate from said closed to said opened position exerts a force on the first link member urging the same towards and generally perpendicular to the said abutment plane, and
an operating means connected to said link members for exerting a force on them in a direction generally parallel to the abutment plane to turn the link members from the gate closed to the gate opened position to thereby open the gate and means for returning the gate from said opened position to said closed position.
2. An article dispening apparatus according to claim 1, the first link member being pivotable about a pivot axis passing therethrough, said pivot axis being spaced from and connected to and generally parallel to the axis of said gate pivot member, whereby the first link member is mounted to orbit about the axis of said gate pivot member.
3. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 2, the pivot axis of the second link member being fixed.
4. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the two link members overlap between their respective pivot axes, an operating rod connected to the overlapping parts of both link members, said rod arranged to exert a pulling force on the link members in a direction parallel to the abutment plane to turn the link members about their respective pivot axes and thereby move the link members from the gate closed position to the gate opened position.
5. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 4, wherein said means for returning the gate comprises a spring means urging the link members back to the gate closed position.
6. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 5, including an electrically operated solenoid for moving the operating rod to move the link members from said gate closed position to said gate opened position.
7. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 6, said apparatus comprising a side wall and a plurality of vertically arranged shelves, each shelf having a said gate and said control means therefor, the solenoids of all gates being horizontally aligned with each other and arranged along the bottom of the side wall, each operating rod extending from its control means to its respective solenoid.
8. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 4, each link being an elongated channel of U-shaped cross-section, the ends of the channels adjacent each other forming overlapping ears, said operating rod extending through all of said ears and forming the pivot connection of the two link members, those facing ends of the channel which form the bottoms of the U-shapes thereof abutting each other and forming said abutment surfaces.
9. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 8, wherein said means for returning the gate to the closed position comprises a spring located in the channels formed between the legs of the U-shaped crosssections, said spring engaging the portion of the operating rod extending thereacross.
10. An article dispensing apparatus according to claim 3, including a pin on said fixed pivot axis of the second link member, said pin being connected to said second link member for rotation therewith, said operating means comprising a rotary solenoid connected to the said pin for rotating the pin to'exert said force on the link member generally parallel to the said abutment plane.