US 3746211 A
There is provided a vibratory quantifying or counting apparatus which includes a vibratable receptacle for parts or individual items of common geometrical configuration and a discharge opening leading from the receptacle to a chute system composed of a pair of chutes. Counting means are provided for coaction with one of the chutes. Gate means operative in response to the counter means are provided for diverting any excess over a predetermined quantity to the other of said chutes.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Burgess, Jr.
[ VIBRATORY QUANTIFYING APPARATUS  Inventor: Warren C. Burgess, Jr., 31922 Lake Road, Avon Lake, Ohio 44012  Filed: Dec. 6, 1971  Appl. No.: 205,266
 US. Cl. 221/7, 133/8 R, 221/13,
221/200  Int. Cl. B65g 51/42  Field of Search 221/2, 9, 10, 12,
221/13 X, ZOOX,156-l61,163,167,168,l3, 7; 133/8; 194/1 H, 10, 16, 9
[5 6] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,386,618 6/1968 Gilbert.... 221/12 2,904,162 9/1959 Simer 221/157 X 2,725,971 12/1955 Clark 221/159 X l lul I  3,746,21 l 1 July 17, 1973 Clark 221/157 Merrill 221/9 X Primary Examiner-Robert B. Reeves Assistant ExaminerThomas E. Kocovsky Attorney-Harold F. McNenny, Robert A. Sturges et al.
 ABSTRACT There is provided a vibratory quantifying or counting apparatus which includes a vibratable receptacle for parts or individual items of common geometrical configuration and a discharge opening leading from the receptacle to a chute system composed of a pair of chutes Counting means are provided for coaction with one of the chutes. Gate means operative in response to the counter means are provided for diverting any excess over a predetermined quantity to the other of said chutes.
19 Claims, 9 Drawing Figures Patented July 17, 1973 3,746,211
4 Sheets-Sheet l Patented July 17, 1973 3,746,211
4 Sheets-Shoot 2 Patented July 17, 1973 3,746,211
4 Sheets-Sheet 4 H fimmfo METER) *T X r 1 VIBRATORY QUANTIFYING APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND PRIOR ART The present invention relates to apparatus for determining a numerical quantity of items or articles of similar geometric configuration. More specifically, the present apparatus finds specific utility as a means for counting drugs in the form of pills or capsules. The invention will be discussed, therefore, in reference to this particular utility although it will be clearly understood that the principles of this invention are applicable as well to the counting of parts such as transistors, washers, bolts, other mechanical devices, closures, etc.
In the dispensing of pills or capsules pursuant to order or prescription, the druggist or pharmacist is familiarly seen pouring a quantity of the pills or capsules from a supply container into a counting tray provided along one marginal edge with a semi-cylindrical depression having a funnel-shaped portion at one extremity thereof and a closure at the opposite end thereof, and a hinged cover for mating coaction with the plate. When the hinged portion is closed, a closed tubular body is formed having a funnel portion at one extremity. In using the device, a quantity of pills in excess of that desired is poured onto the plate portion and with a knife or other suitable instrument, the pharmacist counts out the desired number of pills and moves them into the semi-cylindrical depressed portion of the tray. When the desired number is reached, the hinged portion is closed over the pills confined in the depression, the balance of the unused pills then being returned to the supply container by pouring over a suitably formed lip on the opposite marginal edge of the tray. Thereafter, the tray is inverted and the counted pills discharged through the funnel portion of the tube into a prescription bottle or container. While this operation is simple enough in itself, when performed many times in the course of the day, it becomes excessively timeconsuming.
The present invention provides an automatic, accurate and rapid means for dispensing a predetermined quantity of pills or capsules (or other parts having a uniform configuration) as well as a means for counting such items as will be explained hereinafter.
The present invention combines in a unique manner the principles of a vibratory parts feeding apparatus, digital counting means, preferably of electronic operation, and novel chute and gating means. Vibratory parts feeders utilizing a fabricated or cast vibratable receptacle formed, for example, of a generally circular bowl having upstanding walls and a spiral track leading from the bottom upwardly along the wall surface to a discharge point are well known. In general, these devices are mounted upon a plurality of leaf spring elements which serve to support and guide the receptacle for vibratory movement along a path. Vibration may be induced by electromagnetic means or by pneumatic means, or by mechanical means. A typical example of a pneumatically driven vibratable receptacle of the type described is shown in my U.S. Pat. No. 2,985,280 dated May 23, l96l. A further example of a bowl-type parts feeder utilizing, however, an electromagnetic drive means is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 2,799,383.
Solid-state electronic predetermining counters are well known and readily available on the market. While the structure of these devices forms no part of the present invention and the details thereof will not, therefore, be discussed, the location of the counting means after the gating means is believed unique in unit-counting devices.
The chutes and their arrangement in the present invention are novel in combination with the gate means for diverting parts or items or pills after a predetermined figure has been reached. Also, there is provided a novel bowl exit having a sloped side delivery to provide controlled initial start of the items or pills into the chute structure. To control the discharge of items or pills a novel notch in the spiral track is provided having a geometry able to reduce the items or pills to a single file over a substantial range of part diameters or shapes, e.g. disc-type pills and capsules over the size ranges in which each type is currently available.
BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE INVENTION Briefly stated, the present invention is in a vibratory quantifying apparatus which comprises in combination a vibratable receptacle, means for counting associated with a discharge chute, and gate means responsive to the counting device for diverting any excess over a predetermined quantity to another chute. More particularly, the vibratable receptacle includes means for supporting and guiding the receptacle for oscillatory movement. Means are provided for inducing vibration of the receptacle whereby items deposited in the bottom of the receptacle are moved along a path to a discharge point. In the course of movement along the path, novel notch means are provided to assure a single file of parts to be counted. The discharge leading from the vibrating receptacle is located with respect to a pair of stationary chutes disposed for selective operative communication with the discharge opening. Gate means coact between the chutes and in response to the counter means located after the gate means so that when the predetermined figure set in the counter has been reached, the gate is actuated and any excess over the predetermined quantity is diverted into the second chute. In the case of the dispensing of pills, the first chute may lead to the prescription bottle, and the second chute diverges and leads to the supply bottle.
In a preferred embodiment, thechutes are in superimposed relationship for at least a part of the pathway, and they are desirably of generally U-shaped crosssectional configuration having upstanding sidewalls and flat bottom surfaces. The gate is a plate-like member disposed between the chutes and forming a movable bottom portion of the upper chute way. An opening is provided in the movable plate such that when the plate is moved laterally in response to the electronic counting apparatus, the movable bottom portion of the upper chute is withdrawn, and the pills are allowed to fall through the opening into the second chute.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is an illustration in perspective of a counting apparatus in accordance with the present invention showing an arrangement suitable for use in counting pills or capsules. The chutes are shown leading first to one container and secondly to a supply container.
FIG. 2 is an illustration of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1 with the cover and electronic counting apparatus removed and showing the details of the vibratory parts feeding apparatus, the discharge opening, the pair of chutes, and the gate apparatus coacting therebetween.
FIG. 3 is a front view of the gating and counting apparatus shown in FIG. 2 and showing a preferred disposition of the chutes for best results.
FIG. 4 is a top view on an enlarged scale of the apparatus shown in FIG. 2.
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4 as it appears in the plane indicated by the lines 5-5 in FIG. 4.
FIG. 6 is a fragmentary elevation of a portion of the trackway as it appears in the plane indicated by the line 66 in FIG. 4.
FIG. 7 is a fragmentary cross-section through the discharge opening showing the transition from the vibratory bowl to the stationary track.
FIG. 8 is a fragmentary portion of a trackway show ing the mode of determining notch geometry.
FIG. 9 is an edge view from the inboard side of the trackway of the portion shown in FIG. 8.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Referring now more particularly to FIG. 1, there is here shown a pill-counting apparatus embodying the principles of the present invention. There is illustrated a cover 10 formed of sheet metal or plastic, for example, having an opening 12 adapted to display the selector and number-exhibiting panel 14 of a commercially available electronic predetermining counter 16. The cover 10 may be provided with a hinged clear plastic or glass cover 18 having a wide mouth funnel 20 positioned therein for admission of items to be counted into the vibratable receptacle just beneath the funnel 20. The hinged glass or plastic cover when opened allows ready access to a bowl 30 for cleaning purposes. The cover 10 and funnel 20 are optional. Emerging from the forward wall of the cover 10 is an upper chute 22 and a lower chute 24. Upper chute 22 has disposed in pill-receiving positiona suitable container 26, for example a graduated container withmarkings indicating the size of the prescription bottle required. The chute 24 is positioned above another container 28, which may be a supply container. Chutes 22 and 24, as will be explained in greater detail hereinafter, are isolated from each other.
FIG. 2 is a further illustration in perspective with the shroud or cover 10 and funnel 20 removed along with the electronic counting device 16 to reveal a parts feeder bowl 30 of generally cylindrical configuration having a conically shaped bottom 32 and a spiral trackway 34 leading from the bottom 32 upwardly along an upstanding wall 36 toward a discharge opening 38 adjacent thetop marginal edge 40 of the upstanding wall 36. The bowl 30 is integral with or secured to a mounting base 42. The mounting base 42 is supported on a plurality of spaced, circumferentially located springs such as spring 48 which serves as means for supporting and guiding the receptacle or bowl 30 for oscillation along a given path. The springs 48 are of conventional design and secured to the mounting base 42 and to a base 50 by conventional means, such as a mounting lug 52. Usually there are provided four spring stations composed of lugs, such as lug 52, integrally cast with or secured on the mounting base 42 and on the base 50 at 90 intervals. The springs are bolted to the lugs which are sloped (as shown in FIG. 2) a suitable angle such as 75 to the horizontal. In designing this apparatus, it is desired that weight be minimized insofar as possible. Thus, integrally cast spring mounting lugs are preferred, for example.
To achieve accurate counting, it is desired that the items to be counted are presented at the discharge outlet 38 in single file. To the achievement of this objective, the trackway 34 is provided with tooling whereby the succession of items moving along the track is reduced to a single file. Such tooling may be very inexpensive as is the novel notch 1 l8 hereinafter described.
The novel discharge opening 38 and its configuration is important if it is desired to minimize undue bouncing of the parts as they leave the vibrating bowl in single file, or one at a time, and enter into a relatively stationary chute portion. As is best shown in FIG. 4, the upstanding wall portion 36 is desirably flared outwardly adjacent the opening 38 to facilitate the transition movement of the parts, for example pills 54, from a circular path to a linear path. It is desired to prevent extraneous unstable movement. of the parts 54 beyond the flared portion before entry onto a stationary slide portion 56 which is secured to or integral with the chute 22. If on leaving the vibrating bowl the pills 54 impact against any obstacle such as the vibrating edge 58 (FIG. 7), an instability may be imparted to the pill 54 that may interfere with the accuracy of the count. As shown in FIG. 7, the stationary discharge slide portion 56 is desirably tangential to the downwardly curved trackway portion 39 which in use is vibrating. The lip or edge 41.is desirably located such that it is even with or slightly above (0.0000 to 0.002 inch) the leading edge 43 of the stationary bottom portion 56 of chute 22.
Also shown in FIG. 2 are the pair of chutes 22 and 24 which are disposed for selective operative communication with the discharge opening 38 and the stationary slide portion 56 (FIG. 7). Chutes 22 and 24 are sloped downwardly at an angle to the horizontal as best shown in FIG. 5. This angle is desirably approximately 22.5. The angle itself is not critical except insofar as it is capable of causing acceleration of the parts 54 as they move downwardly along the chute. For most purposes, an angle of from 15 to 45 is useful. The parts as they leave the discharge opening 38 are often quite close together, and for purposes of accuracy in detection for counting purposes, it is desirable that the parts 54 be spaced farther apart. A 225 slope has been found to be satisfactory for this purpose.
In a preferred embodiment as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the chutes 22 and 24are in superimposed. relation, one above the other. Chutes 22 and 24 preferably, although not essentially, have a generally U-shaped cross-section with a flat bottom. Thus, in chute 22 the channel is formed by upstanding parallel walls 60 and 62 joined along their lower marginal edges by a flat bottom portion 64. In like manner, the channel of the lower chute 24 is formed by upstanding walls 66 and 68 joined together by bottom portion 70. It has also been found that the lower chute 24 should be somewhat deeper than chute 22 to minimize the chances of any parts or items falling through the gate (hereinafter described) and bouncing back up into chute 22. While the paths of chutes 22 and 24 adjacent the discharge opening 38 coincide with one another, they diverge approaching their distal extremities indicated at 72 and 74, respectively. The extent of divergence is, of course, optional; but it must be sufficient to enable separate collection of the counted parts or pills 54 and those to be returned to the supply.
The chutes 22 and 24 are supported from a base plate 76 by means of a bracket 78. The base plate 76 also underlies the base 50 on which the vibratable receptacle 30 is supported. As indicated above, the chutes are relatively stationary with respect to the vibrating receptacle. Because the base 50 is of finite mass, it will move slightly in response to vibratory impulses imparted to the vibratable receptacle 30 by the vibratory drive means, be they pneumatic, electromagnetic, or mechanical, or any combination thereof. Thus, slight movement of the base 50 will be transmitted through the base plate 76 to the bracket 78. The stationary slide portion 56 is an extension of the bottom portion 64.
FIG. 5 shows in cross-section the chute assembly including superimposed chutes 22 and 24. The bottom 70 of chute 24 is continuous from a position spaced from and beneath the vibrating slide portion 56 to the distal extremity 74. The bottom 64 of chute 22 is continuous for only a portion of the pathway from the distal extremity 72 toward the discharge opening 38. A portion 56 of bottom 64 is a continuation thereof and is tangential to the trackway portion 39 as above described. An intermediate portion of the bottom 64 is cut out to pro vide an opening 80 (FIGS. 2 and 3). This portion is replaced in a preferred embodiment with a sliding gate 82 which is also provided with an opening 84 of substantially equal size to the opening 80. Gate 82 is operated by means of conventional solenoids 86 and 88 mounted upon a suitable plate 90 by means of brackets 92 and 94, respectively. Suitable guideways, such as gibs 96 and 98 fastened to each other by a suitable plate 100, control the path of movement of gate 82. Such gibs may be stamped from the plate 100 itself as a convenient mode of fabrication of this part. Solenoids 86 and 88 operate in opposing relation and are secured to the gate 82 by any suitable means such as pins 104 and 106. When solenoid 86 is energized, solenoid'88 is simultaneously deenergized and the normal position of the gate is as shown in FIG. 4 during the counting operation. When the predetermined number dialed into the predetermining counter 16 is reached, solenoid 88 is activated and solenoid 86 deactivated, holding the gate to the position shown in dotted lines in FIG. 4 and disposing the opening 84 fully across the space between the upstanding walls 60 and 62 of upper chute 22. Pills 54 then fall through the opening 84 into the lower chute 24 for return to a supply vessel 28. As is best shown in FIG. 4, the disposition of the gate 82 during the counting operation is desirably fully closed. The combination of a properly designed trackway 34 with tooling as later described and a slope in the discharge surface 39 sloping from tangent to track surface 34 to tangent to the slope of chute surface 56 provides reliable counting. Generally, such slope is in the range of from 5 to The purpose of these design parameters is to ensure spacing with precise acceleration to minimize instability of the pills 54 or piling up of the pills 54 in traversing the chute 22 and ensure that they will be reduced to a single file for accurate counting. The sensing device, hereinafter described, will therefore not be led into error by two pills moving side by side along the chute 22.
Counting occurs in upper chute 22. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, counting is conveniently and accurately effected by intercepting a light beam.
Thus, there is provided as shown in FIG. 4 a light source 121, e.g. an electric light bulb, and sheathed electric wires 108, the assembly being supported in mounting block 109. Instead ofa bulb being located for transmission of light through the sidewall 60, the light may be conducted thereto by means of light conductors, e.g. a plexiglass light conduit or a fiber optics conduit. A light receptor opening 114 is provided in the sidewall 62 of upper chute 22. The disposition of the light source 121 and the receiver 122 (which may be a photoelectric cell) is such that even the thinnest pills or items traversing the chute 22 will intercept enough of the light beam to activate the photocell located behind the opening 114. The impulse from the photocell is carried to a convenient connection box 112 by a conduit 110. Mounting blocks 109 and 111 are in turn supported by the plate 90.
Referring now more particularly to FIGS. 2, 3, and 5, it will be observed that the plate 90 and the parts associated with and mounted thereon are disposed at a slight angle which, for most purposes, is between 5 and 15, for example 10. This provides, therefore, a lateral slope to the bottom portions 64 and of chutes 22 and 24, respectively (see FIGS. 2 and 5). Such a disposition of the bottom of the upper chute 22 in particular forces the items or pills 54 to move by gravity toward the upstanding wall 62 in which the light receiver opening 114 is disposed. This provides for a more nearly accurate count. The width of the chute 22 or chute 24 is determined, of course, in large measure by the size of the items or pills being counted. An important consideration affecting the accuracy of the apparatus is the length of the straight section between the exit surface 39 and the opening 84 in the plate 82. This portion which is identified as 56 in FIG. 7 is considered as having a length l and has an influence on the length of the opening 84 in the gate plate 82. If too great a distance is traveled by the item being counted, it will accelerate to a relatively high speed and, therefore, require a much greater length of the opening 84.
The length of the straight section or portion 56 between the surface 39 at the end of the vibrating trackway 34 and the opening 84 in the plate 82 is an important consideration. As will be pointed out hereinafter more particularly, it influences the length of the opening 84 in the gate 82. If too great a distance is traveled over the portion 56 and/or the slope is quite steep, the items being counted accelerate to a higher speed and therefore require a much greater length of opening 84 to fall through due to their flatter trajectory. Thus it is desirable for purposes of practical size in installation for use in pharmacies, for example, that the length of the stationary portion 56 should be held to a minimum.
For general purposes, the ratio of the length I to the length L (the length of the opening 84) is approxi mately 1:4. In a typical embodiment, the length of the portion 56 is 7% inch.
As previously indicated, the edges encountered by the part or pill as it moves down the pathway from the vibrating bowl exit 38 and through the chute 22 are important. These edges may cause instability in the parts or pills and therefore could adversely affect the accuracy of the count. Thus, the edge of the portion 56 of the bottom 64 which is first encountered by the part should be absolutely tangential to or preferably slightly below the adjacent edge of the surface 39. As the part leaves the portion 56 and enters onto the upper surface of the movable gate 82, this surface should be absolutely in the same plane as the portion 56 or preferably slightly below the plane of the portion 56. In practice, there will always be a certain amount of freedom of movement of the gate in a slot such as provided by gibs 96 and 98. Thus, it is advantageous to place a small spring (not shown) bearing down upon the edge of the plate 82 closest to the portion 56, and a small spring bearing up on the edge of the plate 82 farthest away from the bowl. This provides assurance of the elimination of instability introduced by reason of a part striking an edge that enables the provision of a. practical high production design and a high degree of accuracy. Normally, accuracy can be achieved in the: range of from 0.2 to L percent for shapes with inherent instability such as spheres that roll and ovals that slide and bounce in an irregular fashion.
It is important that there be acceleration of the parts or pills 54 as they move down the stationary exit chute structure. This causes the parts to space themselves apart from each other for more accurate counting. It is also desirable to use a photocell which has a wide band of light-todark response. Such devices are capable of detecting any change in the intensity of the light. If the band is narrow, thenit requires considerable care to prevent input from external transient signals which may cause count irregularities. It has also been found that another consideration affecting the accuracy of the count is the depth of the lower chute 24. The chutes are normally disposed at an angle in the range of from 20 to 45 to the horizontal. Because of the nature of some parts, there is a problem of bouncing of the parts from the bottom of the lower chute 24 and, in some cases, a part may bounce back up through the gateway open- .ing 80 onto the bottom 64 of the main chute 22. If the depth of the lower chute is inadequate, this may create a problem in the accuracy of the count.
An unusual factor in this counting circuit with regard to other counting circuits is the fact that the counting system is located below the gating or after the gating mechanism. In other circuits, it has been the reversethe counter has been located immediately ahead of a diverter or some other means for diverting the parts that have been counted. Because of the extreme speed available in solid-state counting and solid-state switch gear for energizing and deenergizing solenoids, it has been found possible to place the light path (114 116) in such close proximity to the botom edge of slot 84 that, for the most part, the pill or capsule which reaches the preset count and triggers the counting system to shift the solenoids actually actuates the circuit while it is stillin a position of instability with regard to the edge of the slot 84 farthest from the bowl. In other words, if the gate 82 were activated instantaneously, this pill or capsule would continue on past the light path only because of its speed, inertia, and trajectory. A part following closely behind this part would therefore fall through the opening 84. To place the light source. before a divertcr or opening would mean that the speed with which the parts traverse the chute would become a very critical part of the calculation and would severely limit the accuracy obtainable with the mechanism. Also, diverters often crush items as they are passing from one chute entrance to another. This creates a design problem. When the accuracy of speed of movement of parts down the chute becomes an important factor, the mere change in atmospheric humidity from one day to another can cause problems. Thus there is provided a unique relationship of gating and light path. The effectiveness of this relationship is, of course, enhanced with the recently developed high speed solid-state counting equipment. High speed solid-state switch gear equipment coupled with the improved counting equipment and the location thereof also improves the reliability.
In operation, then, a pharmacist desiring to count out a predetermined number of pills in the filling of a prescription and utilizing a device in accordance with the present invention will dial into the predeter'mining counter a number, for example 100. He will then discharge into the bowl 30 a number of pills in excess of 100. He will then turn on the electromagnetic vibration-inducing device, causing the pills resting on the conical bottom 32 to enter onto the trackway 34 for movement upwardly therealong in a known manner to the discharge gate 38. A notch 118 is formed in the trackway 34 adjacent the discharge opening 38. The fixed notch 118 is shaped and sized to be effective for any diameter pill 54 which will be counted by the device. If the pills should traverse the track 34 in a sideby-side relation as shown in FIG. 4 as 54a and 54b, pill 54b will drop off the trackway through the notch 118, and only a single file of pills 54 will progress past that point. Pill 54b will be returned to the supply in the bottom 32 of the bowl 30 for recycling. The width of the track 34 as it appraches the discharge opening 38 is also calculated to be insufficient to support two of the largest diameter pills to be metered by the device.-
In FIGS. 8 and 9 there is shown in several positions a large disc representing a typical pill, for example, and having diameter 2R. With the disc tangential to the side surface which is the vertical wall 36 of the bowl 30, the disc tangential points a and b and surface point 0 are located. A center line of the disc parallel to the wall through ab locates the geometric balance points of this disc. Angle AOB is'described by drawing lines through 00 and b0. This angle becomes one theoretical limit for the extremities of the notch l 18. Now, two discs X and Y are drawn side-by-side and against the side surface 36, and a third disc Z is drawn with the center of the disc Z on a line bQ perpendicular to the wall 36 and passing between discs X and Y at point b. This is an arbitrary selection of what might be present on the track and might desirably be eliminated with regard to parts passing down the track in side-by-side relation. The disc with diameter r is then drawn tangential to the other two discs X and Y with the center of the disc on the center line bQ mentioned above. Moving this disc across so the center lies on the center line OP of the original disc X passing through 0 and perpendicular to the wall 36, one is able to describe through the balance points c and d of the disc the angle COD which works out to be approximately 42. This has been found to be a good practical lower limit for the included angle of the notch 118. For purposes of fast dropping and elimination of parts passing along the trackway 34 in side by-side relation, it is advisable to approach the 90 angle AOB as closely as possible. However, since the trackway 34 is a vibrating surface, and the transient imbalances set up on convex surfaced discs (pills) do not permit approaching AOB exactly, experimental work has indicated that something in the order of ECG is practical for the included angle of notch 118. This works out to be about Other practical considerations dictate that it is advisable to cut the notch short and run a line across at a distance from the wall equal to the minimum diameter 2r of the smallest discs divided by two plus a little something extra. This is also shown in FIG. 8. It is clear from this construction that almost any ratio of small to large diameter may be handled by the notch 118. Actually, a track of one-inch width is found capable of handling a range in diameters of approximately 20 to l. The center line or center of balance of the largest part would be slightly inboard of the edge of the track with the small part of a disc hanging out over the edge. And yet, no technological knowledge on the part of the operator is required nor is any expensive adjustment feature such as has been commonly used prior to this. The depth h of the notch 118 is desirably about one-fourth the full width at the inboard edge of the trackway 34. This depth is not critical since any depth is sufficient whereby edges ME and NG create a sufficient instability in the undesired part or pill to cause it to fall off the trackway 34 and allow a single file to pass by notch 118.
It has also been found that the notch 118 aids in the removal of capsules which are traversing the trackway 34 in side-by-side relation. However, it is quite normal to find that capsules tend to align themselves in a single file well in advance of arrival at the discharge opening 38 due to the vibratory effects imposed upon the capsules by the vibrating surfaces of the bowl.
After depositing into the bowl an excess over the predetermined number 100, the druggist or pharmacist activates the electromagnetic vibration-inducing device causing the pills to traverse the trackway toward the discharge opening 38. As indicated above, the pills encounter a cut-out obstacle in the trackway 34 so that only a single file of pills or capsules passes the notch 118. As the pills begin to move through the discharge opening 38 onto the upper chute 22, the gate 82 is in the closed position as shown in FIG. 4. Pills cascade down over the sloped portion 56 onto the surface of the gate 82 and, because of the lateral slope of the gate and the bottom portion 64 of the upper chute 22, tend to assume a position along the sidewall 62 of chute 22. Also, because of the downward slope of approximately 22, the pills 54 are accelerated along the chute and thus become spaced apart. The counter apparatus 16 is adapted and arranged by conventional means so that when the number of impulses sensed by the lightsensing means 122 reaches the predetermined number, for example 100, then the solenoid 88 is actuated to drive the gate 82 so that the opening 84 lies fully across the bottom of the chute 22. Pills 54 now representing an excess over the predetermined number fall through the opening 84 onto the bottom 70 of lower chute 24 and are thus diverted into a storage receptacle such as receptacle 28. While the pills are traversing the bottom 64 of chute 22, they are directed to a separate receptacle such as receptacle 26 in FIG. 1.
The speed of operation is such that a quantity of I pills can easily be counted in as little as five seconds. The usual time is about thirty seconds. In the meantime, any excess is being diverted back into the supply vessel 28.
It is also possible to use the apparatus for the purpose of counting the number of units in a supply vessel. Thus, if a number is inserted into a display counter which is well in excess of the anticipated number of pills in the supply container, a counter equipped with display tubes will record digitally and visually the number of interruptions of the light beam, each interruption corresponding to one unit. Where the predetermined number exceeds the anticipated number in a given container, the gate 82 will remain in a position enabling the counting of the parts rather than isolation of a predetermined number of parts.
What is claimed is:
l. A vibratory quantifying apparatus comprising in combination:
a. a vibratable receptacle;
b. means for supporting and guiding the receptacle for oscillatory movement;
c. means coacting with said receptacle for inducing oscillatory movement thereof;
d. a discharge opening leading from said receptacle;
e. a pair of downwardly sloped chutes disposed for selective operative communication with said discharge opening;
f. counting means settable to a predetermined quantity coacting with one of said chutes,
g. gate means operative in response to said counter means and coacting between said chutes to divert any excess over said predetermined quantity to the other of said chutes, said gate means comprising a plate movable between the chutes and lying in the plane of the bottom of one of said chutes and movable laterally to remove a bottom portion of one of said chutes to allow access to the other of said chutes.
2. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein the vibration-inducing means is electromagnetic.
3. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein the chutes are stationarily mounted.
4. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein said plate includes an opening therein, said opening having a width for at least a portion thereof equal to the width of the chute.
5. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 4 wherein the gate means includes a pair of solenoids on opposite sides thereof connected to said plate and operating in push-pull relationship to shift the plate laterally.
6. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein at least one of said chutes includes a light source and a light-sensing member in op posed relationship and intersecting the path along said chute.
7. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 6 wherein said light means is disposed across the width of said chute and downstream from said gate.
8. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein the vibratable receptacle comprises a circular bowl having upstanding walls and a closed bottom and a spiral trackway extending from the bottom upwardly along the upstanding wall toward said discharge opening.
9. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 8 wherein the discharge opening includes a lip having a sloped surface for smooth transition into said chutes.
10. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 8 wherein the sloped surface of the lip is tangential to the surface of the trackway.
11. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 8 wherein the trackway includes notch means for limiting the width of the track.
12. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein the means for supporting and guiding the receptacle include a base and a plurality of leaf springs extending between the base and the receptacle.
13. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 12 wherein the receptacle is a circular bowl and wherein the springs are disposed circumferentially between the bowl and the base.
14. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 12 wherein the bottoms of said chutes are sloped downwardly from said bowl toward the plane of said base.
15. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance v with claim 14 wherein the bottoms of the chutes are sloped downwardly from 20 to 45' to the plane of said base.
16. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 1' wherein the chutes comprising said pair are disposed one above the other.
17. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 16 wherein the bottom of the upper chute is flat and laterally sloped relative to the horizontal.
18. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 16 wherein each of the chutes comprises a channel having parallel upstanding walls and a planar bottom.
19. A vibratory quantifying apparatus in accordance with claim 18 wherein the angle of the lateral slope to the horizontal is from 5 to 15.