US 3736208 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
May 29, 1973 J A KRAFT ET AL 3,736,208
AUTOMATIC LABELING MACHINE 4 Sheets-Sheen 1 Filed Aug. 20, 1970 fil WNW wx mAw mm w 0 j: hrh; WM Q& I o .lO 1:: W 8 MW ww A 5% Q N@ w Q Q f h ,QN IIIII. m fix mvm Q ww iilIIl-illl Q ATTORNEYS May 29, 1973 Filed Aug. 20 1970 J. A. KRAFT ETAL 3,736,208
AUTOMATI C LABELING MACHINE 4 Sheets-Sheet 2 INVENTORS JACK A. KRAFT HAROLD D. KRAFT ATTOR \H'S -May29,1973 ,,A KRAFT ETAL 3,736,208
AUTOMATIC LABELING MACHINE Filed Aug. 20' 1970 INVENTORS JACK A. KRAFT HAROLD D. KRAFT May 29, 1913 KRAFT mL 3,736,208
AUTOMATIC LABELING MACHINE Filed Aug. 20 1970 4 Sheets-Sheet 4 474 464 47 "J2 /M FIG. /0
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cam/75A mam/$00052 cou/vr 001w 478 480 INVFNTORS sax 7 JACK A. RRAFT 452 HAROLD 0. KRAFT ATTORNEYS United States Patent 3,736,208 AUTOMATIC LABELING MACHINE Jack A. Kraft, 119 Elm Lane, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
11040, and Harold D. Kraft, 14714 70th Ave., Flushing, NY. 11367 Filed Aug. 20, 1970, Ser. No. 65,523 Int. Cl. B65c 3/02, 9/18, 9/36 US. Cl. 156-361 25 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A labeling apparatus for directly applying a label to an item immediately after the label is printed with a coded symbol. The labeling apparatus is provided with a master and a slave labeling unit with each capable of operating independently of the other. Each is capable of printing the same code a predetermined number of times with the slave unit generally printing the same code as the master unit. For use in medical laboratories, for instance, the master unit may label tests tubes while the slave unit labels corresponding requisition slips. An applicator is provided to carry the label after being printed to an applying position where the applicator applies the label to a test tube or the like. The applicator includes a pair of spread apart pads which are spaced apart a distance great enough to avoid obliterating the printed code on the label. In addition, the pads are capable of automatically adjusting to test tubes of varying diameters.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an automatic labeling machine, and more particularly, to an automatic labeling machine for clinical laboratory use.
Labeling machines are conventionally found and utilized in large scale commercial entities where a multitutde of labels are printed to be later applied to a series of corresponding items. Such labeling machines, because of their consumer-orientated direction, are not accurate enough for use With scientific and medical procedures. In addition, such large scale labeling machines print a label which is later applied to the item, so that there may not be a one-to-one correspondence in that the label is not directly applied after being printed.
Such prior art labeling machines are relatively complex and expensive and are often difficult to use because of their complex nature. Such prior art labeling machines are generally designed to be utilized for single size items and cannot be easily modified when used with a plurality of differently sized items. The modifications entailed are generally time-consuming and cumbersome and, frequently, do not result in satisfactory performance. This lack of versatility found in most prior art high-speed labelers detracts from their effectiveness in the scientific and medical fields.
Many prior art labeling machines utilize a hydraulic system for applying the printed label to a surface. Such hydraulic or air pressure systems, when utilized for medical or scientific purposes, are generally unsatisfactory because the air stream which fixes the label onto the surface is not carefully enough controlled to prevent contamination of the liquid carried in the test tube. Such contamination cannot be tolerated in medical laboratory procedures. When used with test tubes or the like, an air stream is directed towards the printed label causing the rear face thereof to adhere to the tube. Unfortunately, such air streams or jets tend to obliterate the identifying code or label thereby minimizing the effectiveness of these machines.
In medical or biological laboratories, frequently, it is necessary to provide a degree of versatility for the labeling procedures to be employed. For instance, it may be 3,736,208 Patented May 29, 1973 Ice necessary to label 5 test tubes which relate to a single specimen and thereafter label 3 test tubes for the next specimen. Prior art labelers fail to provide this versatility and consequently, are not readily adaptable to such laboratories. Presently, many laboratories use manual labor to mark and identify such tubes or items which is both time-consuming and relatively inaccurate. In addition, many laboratories utilize a large number of labels daily which is beyond the capacity of the manual labor em ployed for such purposes, and where the identification procedure is not continuous, significant expense is incurred while the labor force is idle.
With the advent of large scale computer usage by many laboratories, it would be desirable to provide a labeling system which can produce computer compatible symbols. Presently, such symbols are not available in most laboratories and on most machines.
An object of the present invention is to provide an improved labeling machine which may be conveniently utilized in medical and scientific laboratories.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which is versatile and easily adapted for specialized situations frequently found in such laboratories.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which may be conveniently and easily utilized by non-skilled workers.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which is capable of being used with round and fiat surfaces.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide an accurate labeling machine.
Still a further object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which directly applies a label to an item immediately after applying a code to the label.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which applies a label to a test tube or the like without contaminating the material held therein or obliterating the identifying code.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which is capable of printing computer compatible symbols.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which produces a code compatible with conventional computers to actuate a computer printing sequence in the computer.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which is capable of great versatility and is able to automatically print an identifying code a first predetermined number of times and then another identifying code a second predetermined number of times.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which may conveniently apply the same code to a plurality of requisition slips and a single or multiple corresponding test tubes substantially simultaneously.
Another object of the present invention is to provide such a labeling machine which can simultaneously print a requisition slip and carbon copies thereof.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which may be utilized with items manually loaded or loaded by an automatic hopper.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which may be conveniently utilized with either a hand or foot switch.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a labeling machine which compensates for surface irregularities upon which the label is to be placed.
Other objects, advantages, and features of the present invention will become more apparent from the following description.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the principles of the present invention, the above objects are accomplished by providing an automatic labeling machine comprising means for advancing a label to a first position, printing means actuated after the label is in the first position for applying a code to the label, applicator means for transporting the label from the first position to a second position and applying the printed label to an item by means of oppositely disposed pressure pads. The applicator lifts the printed label from a tape by suitable suction mechanism and carries or transports the label to a test tube or the like. The applicator then places the label on an item, such as a test tube by means of the applicator pads bearing against the top surface of the label causing the back surface thereof to adhere to the tube. The oppositely disposed applicator pads are separated by a distance greater than the height of the coded symbols so that the applicator pads do not touch the printed code or symbols.
The applicator further includes means for compensating for surface irregularities so that the self-adhering surface of the label will touch most portions of the irregular surface. The applicator utilizes an air stream or jet for lifting or peeling the label from a web, backing, or tape on which the label is carried. This air jet is located a significant distance from the test tube to be labeled preventing contamination thereof or undue turbulence near the top of the test tube.
In accordance with still another feature of the present invention, a slave printer or labeling unit is utilized in conjunction with the primary labeling machine. The slave unit, under control of the master unit is adapted to print a code corresponding to the code printed on the label. The code of the slave unit is applied to a requisition slip or the like which is to be utilized in conjunction with a test tube. The slave unit is capable of repeatedly printing the same code a number of times which number may be different from the number of test tubes being labeled. In addition, both the slave and master units are capable of printing consecutive numbers automatically.
The master unit is capable of printing the same code only once or repeatedly, as desired. Further after the code is printed on to a label, the applicator immediately removes the label and applies it to a test tube or the like, thereby eliminating the inaccuracies encountered in prior art high speed machines which apply the printed label to a respective item after a plurality of labels are printed.
In accordance with still another feature of the present invention, the codes or symbols utilized may be computer compatible faciliating the machines use in modern laboratories employing computers for data handling, storage, and inventory purposes.
The applicator of the present invention is suitable for use with flat or round and even irregular surfaces. Further, the applicator can apply labels to a test tube in an inclined or horizontal position and is particularly well suited for use with an automatic test tube hopper feed. In addition, where desired a V-shaped assembly may be provided for manual positioning of test tubes to be labeled.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the labeling machine of the present invention and an associated slave labeling unit.
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the applicator of the present invention taken generally along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is another sectional view of the applicator taken along lines 3-3 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary sectional view taken along lines 44 of FIG. 3.
FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along lines 5-5 of FIG. 1 showing the drive mechanism for the applicator.
FIG. 6 is a sectio al V ew taken a g n s 6-6 of 4 FIG. 5 showing the drive mechanism for the applicator.
FIG. 7 is an exploded view of the applicator.
FIG. 8 is a rear exploded view of the vacuum plate chamber and inserted adjustable shaft portion of the applicator.
FIG. 9 is a fragmentary view, partially in section of the vacuum plate chamber and shaft shown in FIG. 8.
FIG. 10 is a sectional view taken along lines 10--10 of FIG. 3.
FIG. 11 is a block diagram of the electronic apparatus controlling the number of repeat printings of the same code by the master and slave labeling units.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION Referring to the drawings and, in particular, to FIG.
1, there is shown a master labeling unit 10 and a slave labeling unit 12 which is controlled by the master unit 10. The master unit is used to label such items as test tubes 14, petri dishes and like equipment found in a medical laboratory. As an example, a plurality of test tubes may be filled with blood samples taken from a person and such tubes require labels to properly identify the sample. The same code is printed on a predetermined number of labels and directly applied to the respective plurality of test tubes. Frequently, requisition sheets 16 must be used which correspond to the samples in the test tubes. When such requisition slips are required the slave unit 12 is activated and under control of the master unit prints the same code on a selected number of requisition sheets. There may be more of such sheets than test tubes, and the master unit is capable of simultaneously controlling the two separate printing or labeling operations.
A display panel 18 is located at the front of the master labeling machine 10 and is provided with a plurality of switches or tabs 20 which control selected functions in the machine. A counter display device 22 is provided on the display panel for indicating the number of repeat print operations to be performed. Swith 24 controls the power supplied to the machines while push button 26 when depressed causes a single print or label and apply operation to be performed. Switches or tabs 26', 28, 30, 32 and 34 control a plurality of modes of operations of the machine. Switches 36- through 46 control the number of repeat printing operations in the master labeling unit 10 while a similar group of switches (not shown) control the number of repeat printing operations in the slave unit 12.
The master labeling machine is built with a modular concept permitting access to various portions of the machine. For instance, the front display panel is easily removed from the labeling machine 10 as is its associated electronics. The switches or tabs on the front panel generally control solenoids or relays or other type switches which are housed within the labeling machine and are not shown.
The labels 48 to be printed are carried on a tape or web 50 supplied from a feed roller 52 which rotates on a shaft 54 projecting from the front of the machine. The tape or web 50 passes over a pair of guide pins 5555 and moves horizontally along a projecting platform 56. and under a label position sensor and adjustor 58. The sensor 58 is capable of determining whether or not the tape and labels are in the proper positions and whether there is a label on the tape. Suitable microswitches (not shown) are housed within the sensor. If a signal is produced indicating a misalignment or a missing label, the operations of the labeling machine may be interrupted.
The tape is moved horizontally along the platform and under a print unit 60. The print unit has a plurality of coded discs 62 rotatable on a shaft 64. After a number is printed, the wheel or print unit is indexed by one to print the next sequential number. When desired, this automatic indexing operation is dispensed with by controlling a lever 66 which prevents the index g 9 mtion. In addition, the lever permits the skipping of the next sequential number.
When a label is in a first position, that is, under the print unit, a coded symbol is printed on the label. After the label is printed, the web is driven to the end of the platform to a sharp-edged block 56 having a projecting knife edge 69 with a radius of approximately .015 inch. The knife edge peels the label from the web. As the label is peeled, an air assist nozzle 70 directs a stream of air towards the label assisting the peeling function. The label is moved in a horizontal direction as it is peeled While the web or tape is moved in a downward direction. An applicator 68 assists the peeling operation when in a first address position tape by suitable suction means, to be described hereinafter and then carries or transports the label to a second position where the label is then applied to a test tube 14, or the like. These transporting and applying functions will be described in more detail below.
The tape is then carried between two friction rollers or wheels 72 and 74 and supplied to a take-up reel or spool 76 which rotates on a frontwardly projecting shaft 78. After all the labels on the tape or web have been printed, the take-up reel 76 is removed from its shaft and new feed and take-up reels are supplied.
The slave labeling or printing unit 12 receives electrical control signals on an electrical cable 80 which is connected to the master unit 10. The slave unit is provided with a printing platform 82 located below a printer 84 which has a plurality of coded wheels 86 rotatable on a shaft 88. A requisition slip or the like is placed on the platform and when the printer 84 is actuated, a coded symbol is printed which will correspond to the symbol printed on the master unit. An indexing sytsem (not shown) is utilized with the slave unit to sequentially change the code number printed thereby, and such indexing device or means may be rendered inoperable when the same code is to be repeatedly printed.
The applicator 68 is capable of applying a label to rounded, flat, and irregular surfaces. For purposes of i1- lustration, a V-holder 90 is illustrated in FIG. 1 holding a test tube 14, the holder being connected to the front of the master panel of the labeling unit by means of a suitable plate 92. The applicator is capable of printing on test tubes which are inclined as shown in FIG. 1 and on test tubes in a horizontal position. A slot or groove 94 is provided in plate 92 for adjusting the inclined position of the test tube held thereon. The applicator is capable of being used with an automatic hopper which places a test tube to be labeled in a proper print position. The hopper can be controlled by the master unit to automatically supply a test tube after a previous one has been labeled.
From a review of the foregoing, it may be seen that the present invention provides a printer a labeling unit which directly applies an automatically printed label to a test tube or the like directly after being printed. Such a direct application of a label is not found in prior art automatic printing labeling machines embodying the features of the present invention. In addition, a slave unit is provided which is controlled by the master unit to print or identify items such as requisition slips as the test tubes are being labeled. It should be noted that the coded wheels or discs used in the master and slave labelers may carry computer compatible symbols, and the master unit may provide electrical signal indicative of its operation to a suitable computer for use by it. Further, the sensor which detects the proper position and presence of labels increases the accuracy of the automatic labeling machine of the present invention, which is desirable in medical, pathological, and biological laboratories. The labeler is also provided with the ability to sequentially number, skip numbers or repeatedly print the same number.
FIGS. 2-10 are more detailed views of the applicator of the present invention. The applicator is moved from an address position 100 to an application position 102. When in address position 100, the applicator is about two inches from the edge of the platform and by suction means (to be described) assists in peeling the label from the web or tape.
The applicator is driven from its address position to its application position by a sliding rod assembly 104, more clearly seen in FIGS. 5 and 6. The sliding rod assembly is housed within the master labeling unit with the end thereof projecting out from the unit to control the movement of the applicator. When the applicator is to be moved, suitable electrical motors are energized. Such electrical motors are not shown but may be conventional such as a shaded pole gear type having a brake associated therewith. A circular cam or crank arm 106 having a large diameter is attached to the output shaft 108 of such a motor. As the motor turns, the cam 106 also is rotated. One end 110 of a connecting rod 112 is pivotally connected to the cam 106 by means of a bolt 114, preferably a shoulder bolt. The other end 116 of the connecting rod is connected to a sliding rod 118 by means of a suitable bolt 120, preferably a shoulder bolt. The sliding rod 118 is moved in and out of the housing by the drive cam 106. In particular, a block 122 is provided having an axial bore 124 therethrough. Bushings 126 and 128 are located at either end of the bore and the sliding rod is passed through the bore 124 and aligned bushings 126 and 128. The block completely encloses the sliding rod 118 and therefore, a slot 130 is provided in the block to permit the shoulder bolt 120 to be pivotally connected to rod 118. As may be clearly seen, as the drive cam is rotated, the sliding rod moves in and out by means of the connecting rod. By using shoulder bolts, the sliding rod is prevented from twisting.
In addition to the sliding rod being moved in and out, the rod also moves in a vertical position because the label to be applied may be placed in either a horizontal or inclined surface. To that end, one end 132 of an arm 134 is connected to the top of the block 122 while the other end 136 is pivotally connected to the housing of the master unit by means of a pivot pin 138, or the like. One end 140 of a second arm 142 is connected to the bottom of the block 122 While the other end 144 is provided with a shaft 146 and ball bearing 148 rotatable thereon. The ball bearing abuts or rides on an eccentric cam 150 which rotates with a motor shaft 152. When the applicator is to be moved in an up or down manner, eccentric cam 150 will be rotated, thus causing sliding rod 118 to be carried down by means of block 122 being moved in a down direction.
The applicator is carried to its application position and applies a label to a test tube or the like without obliterat ing the printed code. FIG. 7 presents an exploded view of the elements of the applicator and will be described hereinafter. The applicator includes three main blocks 152, 154 and 238 which form its frame. Upper block 152 is provided with bores 158 and 160 adapted to carry guide pins 162 and 164, respectively and With a bore 166 adapted to receive a threaded bolt 168 which is utilized to adjust the vertical position of-the applicator to align it with the plane of the platform feeding the printed label. Three air conduits or tubes 170, 172 and 174 are integrally formed with support block 152, project upwardly therefrom and are provided with ridged outer ends to provide a friction fit at one end of air tubes, hoses or conduits 176, 178 and 180, respectively. An air channel or conduit 182 is formed within block 152 by an enclosed bore 184 and three feeder bores 186, 1 88 and 190 which communicate with air tubes 172 and 174, respectively. The air channels or conduits form a path for a suction type air pressure system which lifts the label to be printed from the web or tape. In particular, a vacuum motor (not shown) is provided within or without the housing of the labeling machine and such air suction pressure is carried from hose through the internal conduit 184 to hoses 176 and 178 Hoses 17-6, 178 and 180 preferably are flexible in nature and may be made of a transparent plastic material or rubber. The other end of air tubes 176 and 178 are connected to the ridged orifice ends of conduits 186 and 1 88, described in more detail hereinafter.
Upper block 152 is connected to support block 154 having a frontwardly projecting portion 192 by means of threaded bolt 1-68. A threaded recess 194 is provided in the top portion of support block 154 and is axially aligned with bore 166. A spring member 196 is placed between the upper and support blocks and rides on the stem of bolt 168. Recesses 198 and 200 are provided in the top of support block 154 which axially align with bores 158 and 160, respectively, and are adapted to receive guide pins 162 and 164, respectively. Guide pins 162 and 164 are fixed in place with respect to the upper block by means of set screws 202 and 204, respectively, adapted to communicate with the guide pins through bores 206 and 208, respectively provided in the upper plate. Guide pins 162 and 164 are positionally fixed with relation to the support block by means of set screws 210 and 212, respectively, to bear against the guide pins.
The remaining members of the frame of the applicator communicate with a main shaft 218 having a flat 220 at one end. The shaft is provided with grooves 222, 222 and 224 suitable for receiving rings 226 and retaining ring 228, respectively, the functions of which will be described hereinafter. The shaft passes through axially aligned bores 230 in support block 154, 232 in an L-shaped block 234 and 236 in a swivel block 238. The fiat 220 is fixedly positioned with respect to support block 154 by means of a set screw 240 passing through a bore in support block 154 with the distal end thereof bearing against the flat. The set screw 240 serves to adjust the position of the applicator to be centrally located over the test tube. Rings 226 which are placed on shaft 218 serve to locate and separate L-shaped block 234 from support block 154 to prevent the surfaces thereof from binding. L-block 234 is maintained in a fixed positional relationship with respect to the shaft by means of a ring 242 located in a slot, groove or depression 244 in the shaft which bears against the inner surface of the block 238.
The L-block is capable of rotating on shaft 218 while support block is maintained in a fixed position with respect thereto. When these two blocks are assembled on the shaft a side surface 248 of the block faces an oppositely disposed side surface 250 of projecting portion 192. A set screw 252 passes through a bore 254 in the L- block and bears against surface 250 which permits the angular position of the L-block to be adjusted in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction by turning the set screw.
The swivel block 238 is also rotatable on shaft 218, with the shaft passing through the bore 236 in the swivel block. Bushings 256 and 258 are located at the opposite ends of bore 236 and permit shaft 218 to pass therethrough. Ring member 242 separates swivel block 238 from the L-bloc-k and prevents binding between their facing surfaces. Ring member 228 is attached to an end 260 of the shaft to fix swivel block in position with respect thereto.
With particular reference to FIG. 10, there is shown the shaft 218 passing through swivel block 238. A pair of oppositely biased spring members 262 and 264 are fixed at one end thereof to the shaft and are fixed with relation to each other by means of their opposite bias. A pair of oppositely disposed washers 266 and 268 are placed on the shaft on the near opposite ends of spring members 262 and 264, respectively. A ring member 269 is placed in a slot of the shaft between the washers and bears against the opposite faces of the washer. This arrangement maintains a fixed positional relationship between shaft 218 and swivel block 238 because as the block is moved in one direction; for instance compressing spring member 262, spring member 264 expands, and the natural action of the springs causes the swivel block to return to as initia p sition, thereby selt-cente ng the swivel block.
Swivel block 238 is rotated with the L-block by means of a pin 265 which is held in a recem 267 in the swivel block and rides on top of the horizontal leg 270 of the L- block. Thus, as the L-block is rotated, the swivel block follows such motion and is also rotated.
A pair of side plates 272 and 274 are connected to opposite sides of swivel block 238. Side plate 272 is provided with a pair of slots or holes 276 and 278 which axially align with a pair of threaded recesses 279 and 280, respectively, which are located in one side 282 of the swivel block. Slot 276 is somewhat elongated, the function of which will be described below. A pair of screws 284 and 286 are placed through spacers 288 and 290, respectively which fit into slots or holes 276 and 278, respectively. The screws 284 and 286 are threaded onto washers 291 and 292, respectively, and into recesses 279 and 280 connecting side plate 272 to one side of the swivel block. In a similar fashion, side plate 274 is attached to the opposite side of the swivel block by means of screws 293 and 294, spacers 296 and 298, washers 300 and 302, and recesses in the side of the swivel block which are aligned with slots 304 and 306 in side plate 274.
A pair of applicator plates 308 and 310 are connected between side plates 272 and 274. Side plate 272 is generally irregularly shaped with a pair of oppositely disposed downwardly extending portions 312 and 314 while side plate 274 is provided with similar downwardly extending portions 316 and 318. Pins 320 and 322 are placed through bores 324 and 326, respectively which are located in portions 312 and 314, respectively. The pins are placed through the bores and into recesses 328 and 330 which are in the side of applicator plates 308 and 310, respectively, securing side plate 272 to the applicator plates. In a similar manner, pins 332 and 334 are placed through bores 336 and 338, respectively, located in extending portions 316 and 318, respectively, and into axially aligned recesses in the side of applicator plates 308 and 310. In this fashion, the applicator plates are firmly held between the opposite side plates and under swivel block 238.
Orifices or air tubes or conduits 337 and 339 are axially aligned with bores 340 and 342, respectively, in swivel block 238 and axially aligned recesses or conduits 344 and 346, respectively in applicator plates 308 and 310, respectively. The bottom of conduit 337 bears against a spring member 348 the bottom of which bears against the tops of an insert or spacer 350. Insert 350 is placed in bore 340 and forms an air tight assembly. Conduit 339 is directly inserted into bore 342. Recesses 344 and 346 communicate with internal conduits 356 and 358, respectively, which carry the vacuum pressure to a pair of a plurality of orifices 360 and 362, respectively. Applicator pads 364 and 366 are adhesively secured to the bottom of applicator plates 308 and 310, respectively and are provided with a plurality of bores 368 and 370 which align with orifices 360 and 362. The applicator pads preferably are T-shaped as shown and are made of a soft material, such as neoprene. When the applicator moves to its address position, a vacuum is created at bores or orifices 368 and 370 in the applicator pads which aids the label while being peeled from the tape or web on which the label is carried.
One end of a spring member 372 is fixedly connected to the rear surface 374 of the swivel block by means of a screw 376 which is screwed into a threaded recess 378 in the rear surface 374. The other end of spring member 372 is attached to the vertical leg 380 of the L-block by means of a screw 382 which communicates with a threaded recess 384 in the side surface 386 of the L-block. Spring member 372 maintains the top of the L-block biased against pin 265 to aid the rotating of swivel block 238 as the L-bloek or plate rotates.
One end 386 of a spring member 388 is attached to a side surface 390 of the bottom leg of the L-plate or block by means of a screw 392 which communicates with a threaded recess 394 in surface 390. The other end 396 of spring member 388 is secured to a side su face 398 of support plate or block 154' by means of a screw 400 communicating with a threaded recess 402 in side 398. Spring member 388 maintains an upward force on the tension L-plate causing set screw 252 to bear against surface 250.
Side plates 272 and 274 are slaved to the swivel block or plate by means of their fixed connection thereto, but pivot through their respective slots with the elongated slots serving as stops to this pivoting action. Such pivoting action also causes the swivel block or plate to follow this swivel motion because of its connection to the side plates. In particular, one end 404 of a spring member 406 is hooked into a bore in the top of side plate 272 while the other end 408 is attached to the swivel block by means of a screw 410 which communicates with a threaded recess 412 in the side 414 of the swivel block. Similarly another spring member 416 is connected between side plate 274 and the opposite side 418 of the swivel block. These springs 406 and 416 pull down their respective side plates when the surface to be printed is somewhat uneven. Such an action tends to compensate for the uneven or irregular printing surface. It may be understood that spring loaded member 350 associated with bore 344 compensates for such motion while maintaining an air tight connection between the conduit 337 and its associated bore 344.
A pair of spring members 420 and 422 maintain the wrapper or applicator plates 308 and 310 in a horizontal position. In particular, one end 424 of spring member 420 is connected to side plate 272 by means of a screw 426 which communicates with a theaded bore 428 in the side plate, while the other end 430 of the spring 420 is connected to a side 432 of the front applicator plate by means of a screw 434 communicating with a threaded recess 436 in the side 432. Similarly, one end 438 of a spring member 422 is attached to the side plate 272 by means of a screw 440 communicating with a threaded bore 442 in the side plate, while the other end 444 of the spring member 422 is connected to the rear wrapper or applicator plate by means of a screw 446 communicating with a threaded recess 448 in a side 450 of the rear applicator plate.
As may readily be understood, the applicator of the present invention is capable of applying a label to test tubes of varying diameters since the applicator plates and pads are capable of spreading or swiveling as they bear on and press against the test tube surface. Further, the pads and plates are spaced apart or separated by a distance in excess of the height of the printed symbol, thereby preventing the printed symbol from being obliterated as the label is applied. Conventional self-stick adhesive labels are employed which easily adhere to the surface of the item being labeled.
FIG. 8 is a rear exploded view of a portion of the vacuum plate chamber or upper block 152 illustrating a horizontal adjustment mechanism for the applicator. In particular, an extended slot or recess 452 terminating in a cylindrically shaped member 454 is made in the rear portion 456 of the upper block 152. The block is provided with threaded bores 458 and 460 adapted to receive threaded screws 462 and 464, respectively. A shaft 466, cylindrical in shape, having a projecting arm 468 is adapted to be inserted in the recess 452 with the arm 468 adapted to be disposed in the recess. After the shaft is placed in the recess, screws 462 and 464 are tightened permanently fixing and securing the shaft with respect to the upper block. A pair of threaded bores 470 and 472 aligned above and below the resting point for the projecting arm or pin 468, are capable of receiving threaded set screws 474 and 476, respectively. These set screws abut the arm or pin and rotate the block 152 when the screws are adjusted providing for a rotational adjustment of the applicator.
As the applicator bears down on the test tube or item to be printed, an upward force is exerted on the upper block or vacuum chamber 152 which might tend to rotate 10 the block. The pin or arm 468, being held rigidly in place, prevents serious rotation thereof.
FIG. 11 illustrates one embodiment of the electrical apparatus controlling the number of repeat printing operations to be performed. In particular, a number is supplied by a numbering device 477 and is preset into an up-down counter 478 which causes an electromagnetic transducer 480 to be operated so long as a digital code representative of a non-zero condition is present. The electromagnetic transducer controls the printing operations of the master and slave units. Each time a label is printed a signal is generated in a count-down signal generator 482 which causes counter 478 to count down to a zero condition thereby disabling the repeat print condition in the machine. Other arrangements may be provided to control the number of repeat print operations, and the block diagram illustrated in FIG. 11 is only exemplary.
The master and slave units may be operated by a hand switch or foot switch (not shown) and as can clearly be seen may be operated by an unskilled worker.
The present labeling invention may be used with a hopper which automatically feeds tubes to be labeled or may be used with a manual feed, such as shown with the V holder in FIG. 1 and as a labeling operation is completed another test tube is placed in the holder after the labeled one is removed. The labeler is capable of successively automatically printing and labeling or may be controlled to print and label only once with a manual actuation required each time an operation is to be completed.
The printer and labeler machine is capable of dispensing a blank or even a printed label without applying it to an item, such as a test tube. In this manner consecutive or repeat printed labels may be produced individually for application to surfaces unable to be accommodated by the applicator. The labeling machine is capable of dispensing blank labels Where desired by merely inhibiting the printing operation.
In addition, it will be appreciated that the apparatus of the invention may also be provided with suitable means for covering or coating the label either before or after it is applied to the test-tube or other object, such as a microscope slide. The covering or coating should be clear when applied so that the information on the label is legible, but the primary function of such a cover or coating is to preclude chemicals from attacking, dislodging or obliterating the label should same be immersed in processing solution, such as microscope slides are subjected. Of course, a secondary function of the cover means or coating is to prevent aging.
It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above, among those made apparent from the preceding description, are efficiently attained and, since certain changes may be made in the above article without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawing shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.
1. Automatic apparatus for applying printed labels to articles, a plurality of said labels being carried on a movable tape, said apparatus comprising means for printing predetermined coded symbols on said labels, a transport system for moving said tape and labels past said printer means, said printer means being automatically actuated to print said predetermined symbols on said labels, label removing means being located after said printer means with respect to the movement of said tape for removing said labels from said tape, one at a time, applicator means being disposed to hold each of said labels as said labels are removed from said tape, said applicator means transporting each of said labels from said label removing means to said article and applying said label to said article, said applicator means comprising a pair of applicator pads, and means for adapting the direction of movement of said applicator means to be normal to the surface of said article upon which said label is placed, positioning means capable of positioning said article at any position between horizontal and vertical positions.
2. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said means for adapting comprises a swivel block rotatable about a horizontal axis, said swivel block being attached to said applicator pads.
3. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said applicator pads are spaced apart by a distance at least as great as the height of the printed symbol so that the label is held by the applicator pads without the printed symbols on the labels being touched by the applicator pads.
4. An a automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said transport system includes a sensing means placed in the path of movement of said tape, said sensing means being capable of sensing the absence of a label from said tape.
5. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said printing means is provided with a plurality of coded wheels.
6. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 5, wherein said coded wheels are provided with said symbols for printing on said label, said symbols being computer compatible.
7. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, including means for preventing said printing means for applying a code to said label.
8. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, including means to print consecutive codes on consecutive labels.
9. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, including means for controlling said printing means to reprint the same code on a predetermined number of consecutive labels.
10. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, including a master and a slave labeling unit, said master unit adaped to label articles with labels carrying predetermined coded symbols and said slave unit adapted to print corresponding coded symbols on corresponding requisition slips or the like.
11. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 10, wherein said master unit includes means for printing consecutive coded symbols on consecutive labels and said slave unit includes means for printing correspond ing consecutive coded symbols on consecutive requisition slips or the like.
12. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 10, wherein said master unit includes means for placing a coded symbol on a first predetermined number of labels and said slave unit is capable of placing a corresponding coded symbol on a second predetermined number of requisition slips or the like.
13. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 12, wherein said first and second predetermined number of labels and requisition slips or the like are equal.
14. Anautomatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 10, including means for controlling said slave unit from said master unit.
15. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said removing means includes a sharp edged instrument for peeling said label from said tape after said label passes said printing means.
16. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 15, wherein said removing means includes an air block, said air block directing a stream of air towards said label as it is removed from said tape.
17. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said labeling apparatus includes means for applying a label to a curved surface.
18. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said printing means includes means for automatically consecutively printing on a plurality of labels.
19. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said applicator means includes vacuum means for removing said label from said tape and holding said label.
20. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 19, wherein said applicator means is provided with vertical adjustment means for vertically adjusting said applicator.
21. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said pads are made of a soft material.
22. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 21, wherein said soft material is neoprene.
23. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said applicator means is provided with means for swiveling said applicator pads to conform to the size of said item being labeled.
24. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said applicator means is provided with means to prevent said applicator from rotating as a label is applied to an item.
25. An automatic labeling apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said applicator means is provided with means for self-centering said applicator means with respect to the article being labeled.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,468,739 9/1969 Schrotz 156361 3,240,652 3/ 1966 Lamers 156-361 2,168,525 8/1939 Howard 156-489 2,636,435 4/1953 Goodbar et al. 101-93 R 3,464,350 9/1969 Shoup et al. 101-90 1,988,904 l/1935 Krell 101-93 R 3,427,214 2/1969 Voigt 156-361 DANIEL J. FRITSCH, Primary Examiner U.S. Cl. X.R.