US 3741369 A
A belt conveyor wherein containers are transported between successive stations. The containers and the stations are provided with a primary address system comprising a predetermined destination selected for the discharge of the containers. Empty containers are distributed by a method comprising providing the containers with a second address, continuously circulating the empty container on the conveyor and providing at least some of the stations with selectively operable means for sensing the second address. The sensing means being operated in response to the selected need of certain stations. Apparatus is also provided to effect the actuation of the secondary address system cooperatively with the primary address system.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
I United States Patent 1 1 3,741,369
Schneider June 26, 1973  CONVEYOR ADDRESS SYSTEM 3,643,784 1/1972 Kretzschmar 198/38  Inventor. 2211c; :rgl'lnelder, Wresensterg, Primary Examiner Edward A sroka Attorney- Richard Low and Murray Schaffer  Assignee: Organisation Ralfs KG, Wiesensteig (wul'tt), Germany 57 ABSTRACT Filed; g- 1971 A belt conveyor wherein containers are transported be-  Appl. No.: 172,527 tween successive stations. The containers and the stations are provided with a primary address system comprising a predetermined destination selected for the Foreign Application Priority Data discharge of the containers. Empty containers are dis- Sept. 1, 1970 Germany P 20 43 254.6 tributed y a method comprising Providing the containers with a second address, continuously circulating the  U.S. Cl. 198/38 mp y n in r n he onveyor and providing at least [5 1 1 Int. Cl. B65g 43/08 m of h ion with electively operable means for  Field of Search 198/38; 214/11; sensing the second addresshe. Sensing mea s eing 243/16 operated in response to the selected need of certain stations. Apparatus is also provided to effect the actuation 56] References Cit d of the secondary address system cooperatively with the UNITED STATES PATENTS Primary address system 2,667,260 1/1954 Pyles .Q 198/38 9 Claims, 3 Drawing Figures oooOo O O O O CONVEYOR ADDRESS SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF INVENTION The present invention relates to conveyor systems and in particular to a method and apparatus for distributing containers to predetermined selected destinations and for simultaneously distributing empty containers to other selected stations.
In the co-pending applications, Ser. Nos. 17,242, 17,476 and 59,148 filed respectively on Mar. 6, 1970, Mar. 9, 1970 and July 29, 1970, there is disclosed a belt conveyor system for carrying open ended box-like containers between successive stations. The distribution of full containers from an initiating station to a discharge station is accomplished by providing a container with indicia denoting a destination address and by providing the discharge stations with means for sensing the indicia. The address and sensing means being prearranged so that the container may be delivered at a predeter-,
mined station. In conventional conveyor systems, once the conveyor reaches the destination and is emptied, it is readdressed by the recipient and returned to the initiating or sending station. This presents a problem in that the sending station is not necessarily in need of empty containers. The empty container being thereafter required to be moved a second time from the sending station to station needing them, where it can again be used. This places an unnecessary burden upon the transport of empties, which are in facttwice conveyed by the system; once from the recipient station back to the initiating station and then from the initiating station to the station of need. This method places many empty containers out of use for long periods of time and does not provide for the uniform distribution of empty containers where they are most needed. An additional disadvantage arises because of the additional time required for the recipient of the container to readdress the container for return to the initiating station.
In some belt conveyor arrangements, an attempt has been made to solve this problem by forwarding empty containers to a central collecting station. By this method, empty containers are directed from the individual recipient stations to given collecting stations where they are stored and where they remain until they are required and called for by needy stations. This system also entails at least a double burden for the conveyor system in that the containers are first shipped from the recipient station to the collecting station and from the collecting station to the station of need. Furthermore, the conveyor remains out of use for a considerable length of time while it is being transported to and from the collecting stations. Additionally, collecting stations create a burden in that provisions must be made for the storage and maintenance of perhaps a large number of containers.
It is the object of the present invention to provide a uniformdistribution system for containers in a belt conveyor system.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus for a conveyor system which simply and easily distributes the containers between successive stations.
These objects, as well as numerous advantages, are set forth in the following disclosure.
SUMMARY OF INVENTION According to the present invention, there is provided a method for distributing empty containers in a belt conveyor wherein full containers are transported between successive stations, the containers and the stations being provided with cooperating address and sensing means whereby a predetermined destination can be selected for discharge of a given container. The method comprises providing the container with a second circulation address unrelated to any given station. At least some of the stations, however, are provided with sensing means selectively operable to sense the second address. An empty container is thereby permiteed to circulate continuously on the conveyor until the selectively operable sensing means is actuated by a needy station to cause the container to be discharged thereat.
Preferably, the second address is arranged cooperatively with the primary address so that the two are mutually exclusive. The method includes a counting device associated with each station whereby the selectively operable sensing means is operable in response to the need determined by the counter. In order to more uniformly distribute the containers between the respective stations, the system is provided with by-pas's conveyors enabling the-container to be shifted directly to a needy station without passing certain successively arranged stations.
Further, according to the present invention a conveyor having successive entry and discharge stations is provided with apparatus for distributing the containers between the stations. The apparatus comprises cooperative primary address indicia and address sensing means respectively located on each of said containers and at said stations. The address indicia and address sensing means are adjustable to predetermine the destination of each of the containers. A secondary or circulation address means is provided comprising a contact interposed between the primary address indicia and sensing means. The contact is selectively operable to be moveable into a first position rendering the primary address complete and a second position rendering the primary address incomplete. The, address sensing means includes a contact sensor which is selectively operable to sense the contact in its first and second positions. The apparatus includes means for discharging the container at a selected station on sensing said completeprimary address and on sensing said contact when it is in its second position. The apparatus is thus capable of predetermining the destination of the container or permitting the container to be continuously circulated on the conveyor until the sensing means is selectively operable to sense the contact in the second position.
Preferably, the contact sensing means is caused to operate in response to the-need for containers at selected stations. To this end, each station is provided with a counting device or other mechanism for determining the need of a container thereat.
In the preferred form the circulation address contact comprises'a bridge having a slide moveable above and same inoperable. In still another embodiment, the contact may be located on an opposed face of the con tainer.
Full details of the presentinvention in all its aspects are set forth hereinafter. In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawing which forms a part thereof.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING In the drawing:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the container showing the primary destination address and the secondary circulation address;
FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a conveyor showing the path of movement and the stations therein; and
FIG. 3 is a circuit diagram of the sensing means associated with each station.
DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION Before turning to a description of the invention as embodied in the figures, it will be understood that the figures themselves are in schematic form. Omitted therefrom are the conventional and well-known details of a belt conveyor system of the type described, for example, in the aforementioned copending patent applications. Since the details of such conveyor systems are well-known, it is believed unnecessary to burden the drawings and the description with their details. In general, however, conveyors of the type under discussion, comprise a belt or series of belts on which goods are transported in upwardly open containers. The belts are driven by meansof driven rollers powered by motors or other drive means. The conveyor path is laterally bound by side walls guiding the containers. The path is closed and constitutes a self-circulating and return path for the conveyors. Generally, the conveyors run in horizontal planes, but they may extend over several planes I which are connected by oblique or radial stretches.
A plurality of individual stations are arranged along the conveyor path. Each station consists of an entrance and a discharge zone. The discharge zone being provided with an associated sensing or read-out head which scans the surface of the container. The sensing mechanism may be electrical, mechanical, optical or magnetic. Each of the containers has means comprising an address located on its face which cooperates with the sensing head to provide a predetermined destination for the container. The sensing head operates a switch or other discharge mechanism by which the container-may be discharged from the conveyor in response to sensing the predetermined address.
The containers are basically rectangular and carry the destination address on the outer wall. Preferably, the destination address comprises a contact bridge member on which a moveable slide is located, according to the number of stations. The sensing means, preferably located on the outside wall of the conveyor channel is also adjustable- The goods to be transported are i inserted into the container by the sender who thereafter sets the slide to correspond to the predetermined destination ofthe container. Thecontainer is thereafter introducedinto scanned by each scanning head at'the discharge zone of each of the intermediate stations. Whenthe container reaches the predetermined destination' station,
the scanning head and the address means cooperate to provide a signal for the discharge of the container; the container is then discharged into the discharge zone where it is received by the recipientfAfter removing the goods, the recipientreturnsthe container tothe conveyor and in accordance with the present invention by the means hereinafter set forth and shown in FIGS.
1 3, the container is provided with a circulation address whereby the previously used destination address becomes effective and the container is circulated continuously on the conveyor until such time as the container is needed at any of theother particular stations.
Turning now to the drawings, there is seen in FIG. 1 a container 11 formed in the shape of an upwardly open rectangular box. The container 11 is provided with destination address means 12 comprising a bridge member having a plurality of contact positions 1 10 located thereon. The bridge member which may be of insulating material, is provided with a metallic slide 13 which is adjustably fixed into any one of the ten positions shown. Of course, the bridge may have more than ten positions but it preferably has a number corresponding to or a multiple of the number of stations in the system. Located on the face of the container is a secondary address or circulation system comprising a second bridge having contact halves l5 and 16. The circulation bridge 15 16 is arranged along an axis perpendicular to the primary destination address slide 12 and it too contains a metallic slide 14 adjustably moveable above and below the central plane between a first position corresponding to contact 15 and a second position corresponding to contact 16. The slide 13 is provided with a wire or circuit connection 12a (FIG. 3) be tween the contact halve 15 but isinsulated from the contact position 16. Therefore, the slide 13 and the contact 15 areiin electrical series with each otherand make a complete address. On the other hand contact 16 does not make an address with slide 13. I i
shown at position 4). A scanner, sensing head or other sensing means 20 comprising, for example, a fixed contact 21 and an adjustable contact 22 is arranged to bridge contact slides 13 and 15. The contact 22 is movable to assume a position in agreement with anyone position 1 10 on address means 12, (i.e. located at the address corresponding to the selected predetermined stations). The sensing head may be a micro-switch, photo cell or other device adapted to sense indicia of the slide 13 and slide 14 when they pass by and is capable of completing a circuit path between any one of the selected contacts 1 10, and the contact 15. The slide 13 corresponds to the zero contact or the counter contact for the destination contacts 1 10. A suitable source of electrical power is supplied. a In the illustrated embodiment, the slide 13, for example, is set in position 4 which corresponds to the destidress on the bridge element 12 and the contact 14 when positioned at the part 15. A circuit is completed through a control device such as a pulse generator 18 which creates a current pulse passed to a switch 19, adapted to cause the discharge of container 11 at the station 4 as described, for example, in the aforementioned applications. The switch 19 is a mechanical or electro-mechanical device adapted to physically turnout or move the container from the path of the conveyor.
Asseen further in FIG. 3, the contact 16 is itself in electrical circuit with a key contact 17 which is in series with the control device and is arranged parallel to the contacts of slides 13 and 14. When the slide 14 is placed in the position 16 it is no longer in circuit with the primary destination address system and this system thereafter becomes ineffective and the container no longer follows the control order of the slide 13, no matter at what position it is placed; therefore the container can be considered as having no destination address. On the other hand, the position of the slide 14 on contact 16 may be said to constitute a circulation address since the container will continue to be circulated by the conveyor until such time as the sensing means is caused to sense the contact 14 and the key 17. The container is thus'ordered to circulate past each of the stations until such time as a particular station reacts to its position. The reaction of each particular station to the position of the slide key 14 at the contact 16 is controlled by the call key 17 which key may be placed at any or all of the positions and may be manually or electromagnetically operated (i.e. with a suitable solenoid control), so as to allow the sensor 20 to complete the circuit between the contact 16, and the control element 18 to provide a pulse for switch mechanism 19. Under such condition the container is caused to discharge from the appropriate station just as if its destination address had been read by the scanning or sensing means.
The call key 17 may be provided with a suitable counting device or computer 23, which is adapted to count the number of containers at its associated stations. The callkey 17 may be automatically actuated by the counter after it has determined the presence of less than a maximum number of containers at the station and may be deactivated by the counter 23 after it has determined a sufficient number of containers located at the station.
Reference to the aforementioned applications can be made for full structure and function of the conveyor system as earlier described.
In FIG. 2 the conveyor path is shown indicating, with arrows, the circuit taken from a station 1 to a station 10. Arrows leading perpendicularly from each of the stations are provided to depict by-pass paths by which the conveyor may be interconnected between other than adjacent stations. This figure illustrates the possibility of locating scanners or sensing means for sensing the circulation address (i.e. slide 14 when at the contact 16) at less than all of the stations of the conveyor and for shifting and shuttling conveyors between nonadjacent stations rather than through successive stations. In this manner, empty or full containers may be shifted directly from one station to another station without making a long circuitous run and without passing fully occupied stations.
In the preferred embodiment the primary destination address bridge 12 is located on one outer wall of the container with the secondary circulation address system 14 located on the same wall. It is possible, however, to arrange the secondary destination system on the opposite wall and in this case, the sensing system must be divided into two parts so that one part senses the presence or absence of the slide 14 on the other face.
In another embodiment, (illustrated in dotted lines in FIG. 1) the container 11 may be provided with a pivotable flap 24 arranged between the second portion 15 of the primary destination address and the secondary circulation address 16 so as to be moveable to cover one or the other, selectively. In this'embodiment it will, therefore, be unnecessary to provide the slide 14 since the secondary circulation address 16 may be in fixed contact position and by simply covering the second part of the primary destination address or the secondary circulation address selectively, the two conditions of operation are provided, the conveyor may be transported to its selected designation.
It will thus be seen that the present device operates in a very simple manner. After removal of the goods, the container is adjusted so that the secondary circulation address is operative and the previously used primary destination address'becomes ineffective, (i.e. either by a sliding slide 14, covering contacts 15 and 16, or reversing the position of the container 11 in the conveyor channel). The container is now returned to the conveyor where it is transported by the belt. The container will circulate indefinitely until it is called for by selectively operating the call key 17 and the sensing means.
The calling station (i.e. the station needing an empty container) may be coupled to a counter by means of which the empty containers may be discharged to it automatically. The counting device may be conventional in nature and may comprise a micro-switch coupled to a counting element, a mechanical counter or even a linear measurement device. The counter may be used to close the switch 17 when any number, less than a maximum number of containers is located at the calling station. When all of the maximum number of containers are located at the calling station, the counting device will not be caused to actuate the switch 17.
' Empty containers may also be called from the circulation path by manually operating the switch 17 or by automatically operating the switch 17 from a remote station. It is thus possible for one station to anticipate the needs of another station and to thereby actuate the switch 17 in advance of the positioning of an empty container at a primary recipient station. The by-passing technique illustrated in FIG. 2 also makes it possible to automatically maintain a desired backlog of empty containers at any particular station and allowing other empty containers to bypass this relatively full station.
The counting device 21 will be understood to count not only the empty containers delivered to an individual station but also the full containers delivered to that station since after removal they too become empty."
It will thus be seen that according to the present invention there is achieved a holding of empty containers in constant circulation in the conveyor system. The containers are provided with a special circulating address and have no particular destination address. The special circulating address is adapted to cooperate with a sensing means selectively operable to call the container from the conveyor to any desired station and to guide ihem aniom atically t0 the discharge zone associ ateddwithj that station or 10 another idischarge zone of bnt thenurnber offcircula ti ng ernpjty containers is lirnited sincethe actual"royalnun'iber cifgiitii'ltainers.1needed uniform distribution eficqntainerel Only a few rnan i i i the primary destinationadcires s ineffectiveandtqplro yide the containerwifliw the: secondarylcitcnlafingyad is required is) readdre ssm rc on taiiner wi ih arrwma n" predetermined destinationz These del /ante i i i the bther advantages, enumerated inthein this descriptidn andthenn irneroue cbje "herein are fully mi Nnrnerq is modi f in thefforegoing des criptionfThis wililbeeoine rea fdre't heintention pf the present disclose trat ive enly and n o tlimitingjn any manner oflthe sscppe cfihepresentinyentien. 5 i
ported between :suc'ce sive st a 1 I said stations being rqyid i with ic oegerating iddrees means whereby a predetermined deetrriatib i the method of distributing empty container Yvvitha second addressgoperable in eombinatibn wii l least some of said means for sensing selected" station rei i are caused wd is 'nm i p lj f r y histti w we menfp u in j the number of empty cent aifn r sfatsai ulatingk the Operation of said selected sensing meqns i 1 r and dischargingfempty containers response thereto].
3. The method according to claini li inrcluding; the I githecqunting define. Theemp tyl for; any pnrticular system:rneyj berdneed Bythe more" obvious to those skilled infthef presenr artyT It is tlif tions as needed cbmpris irjig providingwsaid jconfeine s aid primary address; cqntinucusl y Ineansqin; r
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