US 3770105 A
A general merchandising machine has product carriers which are moved in a rectangular path of travel in succession past a display window and a dispensing station for customer access to a product selected from one of the carriers and brought into registration with the station. The carriers are positively controlled against tipping along the straight stretches of their path of travel as well as during change of direction at the corners thereof, and special mountings for each carrier plus openable track sections for the carriers facilitate removal and replacement of the carriers for cleaning or maintenance.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent GNeal Nov. 6, 1973 1 PRODUCT DISPLAYING, SELECTIVE, 730,539 /1903 .loor 198/146 DISPENSING APPARATUS 3,172,527 3/1965 Swartz 2,272,291 2/1942 Bolling 198/138  Inventor: Wilbert 0. ONeal, Independence,
Primary Examiner-Richard E. Aegerter  Assignee: The Vendo Company, Kansas City, Alwmey-Schmidt, Johnson at Mo.  Filed: May 9, 1972  BSTRAC T A general merchandising machine has product carriers i PP N05 251,744 which are moved in a rectangular path of travel in succession past a display window and a dispensing station  US. Cl. 198/138 for customer access to a Product selected from one of 51 int. Cl 865g /00 the Carriers and brought into registration with the  Field of Search 198/137, 131, 138, The carriers are Positively commlled against P- 198/158, 146; 221/77 ping along the straight stretches of their path of travel as well as during change of direction at the corners  References Cited thereof, and special mountings for each carrier plus UNITED STATES PATENTS openable track sections for the carriers facilitate removal and replacement of the carriers for cleaning or 3,556,284 l/l97l Dyer 198/138 maintenance. 1,969,122 8/1934 Witt 198/131 2,729,531 1/1956 Anderson... 198/138 16 Claims, 15 Drawing Figures 4 1 Fa l V I I 65 l A6 70 6? (so A? o O 00 O 0 A0 0 O P 2 44 2 5 e 52 I o o 2 z is we O a o a 5.
PRODUCT DISPLAYING, SELECTIVE, DISPENSING APPARATUS- This invention relates to vending machines of the class commonly referred to as general merchandisers. A typical example of an earlier machine of such class is shown and described in U. S. letters Pat. No. 3,556,284, issued Jan. 19, 1971, and entitled DIS- PENSING MACHINE HAVING MULTIPLE VERTI- CALLY MOVABLE, HORIZONTAL PRODUCT CARRIERS. Machines of this type allow a prospective customer to shop for a desired product by actuating the product conveyor of the machine to bring products in succession past a display window. The customer may then stop the conveyor when his product choice moves into registration with a dispensing station, whereupon deposit of the required credit enables the customer to remove his choice from the machine.
Mainfestly, it is extremely desirable for reasons of efficiency that the machine carry the maximum inventory possible within its space limitations. To this end, the product carriers secured to the conveyor of the machine should follow a rectangular path of travel with essentially square corners which conforms as closely as possible to the dimensions of the product cabinet. In this manner the carriers may be disposed in close proximity to one another on the conveyor without interfering with each other during changes of direction at the limits of the conveyor. A number of control problems exist, however, since the carriers must be allowed to pivot relative to the conveyor. Since the machine may be required to handle items which would be disturbed when upset, the item supporting surfaces of the carrier must be maintained in planes that do not depart substantially from the horizontal as the carriers move through the upper and lower limits of their travel.
Accordingly, an important object of the present invention is to provide an improved dispensing or vending machine having a conveyor with product carriers supported thereon wherein the carriers are advanced in a substantially rectangular path of travel having essentially square corners for maximum product capacity and are positively controlled during change of direction around such cornersto preclude any substantial tip- Another important object of the present invention is to provide a machine of the aforesaid variety wherein control of the carriers against tipping is accomplished along straight stretches of the path of travel of the carriers as well as around the corners thereof through the provision of inner and outer confining tracks for the carriers.
An additional important object of the instant invention is the provision of tracks for the carriers as aforesaid which maintain the carriers in their proper disposition, yet a section of which tracks may be selectively moved out of their confining relationship with the carriers to facilitate cleaning or complete removal of any and all carriers from the machine.
Yet another important object-of the present invention is to provide a noncomplex, yet highly reliable means for mounting each carrier on the conveyor which facilitates control of each carrier as the latter changes direction at the corners of its path of travel yet does not in any way detract from the ready removability of the carriers from the conveyor.
Additionally, an important object is to provide a' double roller assembly at opposite ends of each product carrier, one of the rollers of each assembly serving to pivotally and shiftably mount the corresponding carrier on the conveyor for movement relative to the latter as the carrier changes directions, and the other roller serving as a cam follower for receiving directional forces applied to the carrier during such directional changes thereof.
Still other objects and advantages of the invention will become clear or made apparent by the description and drawings which follow.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a fragmentary, front elevational view of the product storage compartment of a general merchandising machine constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention, one track section for the product carriers of the compartment being shown in its open position;
FIG. 2 is a fragmentary side elevational view of the compartment with a wall thereof partially broken away to reveal the product carriers therebehind, the interior door of the machine cabinet ,beingshown fragmentarily and in crosssection;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged, fragmentary, substantially vertical cross-sectional view through the compartment;
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary, vertical, cross-sectional view taken along line 44 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary, horizontal, cross-sectional view taken along line 55 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged, fragmentary, substantially horizontal cross-sectional view of one lower end of the compartment looking downwardly toward the floor of the compartment;
FIG. 7 is an enlarged, fragmentary detail view of a double roller assembly used at each end of the carriers;
FIG. 8 is a fragmentary, cross-sectional view of an outer track for the carriers taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 9 is an enlarged, fragmentary, cross-sectional view of an outer track for the carriers taken along line 9-9 of FIG. 1 and illustrating the shiftable section of the track in its closed position;
FIG. 10 is a view similar to FIG. 9 showing the shiftable track section in its opened position;
FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a casting found at each limit of the conveyor for the carriers and containing cam surfaces for controlling the carriers as they change directions;
FIGS. 12-14 are fragmentary, partially diagrammatic views illustrating the sequence of movement of one of the carriers as it changes directions at its lower limit of travel;
FIG. 15 is a perspective view on a reduced scale of a general merchandising machine employing the apparatus of the present invention.
The merchandiser of FIG. 15 has a cabinet 10 closed by a swingable outer door 12, the latter being provided with a large rectangular opening 14, a coin deposit slot 16, and a depressable shopping'button 18 which controls operation of a product'conveyor within cabinet 10, hereinafter described indetail. Cabinet 10 has an interior product storage structure or compartment 20 (shown in an isolated condition in FIGS. 1 and 2 for clarity of illustration) which is normally closed by an inner door 22 (FIG. 2) of cabinet 10. A large display window 24 in door 22 is aligned with opening 14 in outer door 12 for viewing of products presented behind window 24 by shiftable product carrier bins 26. A horizontally extending dispensing station 28 is defined by an opening below window 24, which opening is normally closed by a horizontal series of individually shiftable product doors 30. Each bin 26 is rectangular in configuration and is divided into a horizontally extending series of separate stalls corresponding in number to the doors 30 and in respective alignment therewith, such that opening of a selected door 30 provides access to a corresponding product stall in a bin 26 brought into registration with station 28.
The carrier bins 26 are advanced in a closed path of travel by a vertically disposed conveyor 32 on each side of compartment 20. Only one of the conveyors 32 is shown in the drawings and will hereinafter be described inasmuch as the components of both conveyors are identical. A motor 34 (FIG. 2) supplies driving power to conveyor 32 via a chain and sprocket assembly 36 which, in turn, drives a transverse shaft 38 spanning the lower region of compartment 20. An endless, flexible drive chain 40 is entrained about a pair of identical upper and lower sprockets 42 for each side of compartment'20, each lower sprocket 42 being affixed to drive shaft 38 and each upper sprocket 42 being affixed to a drivable shaft 44 crossing the upper region of compartment 20. By virtue of the circular nature of sprockets 42, it is seen that chain 40 defines an enlongated, elliptical pattern having curvillinear limits at opposite ends as opposed to a rectangular pattern with essentially square corners.
Each bin 26 is mounted on conveyors 32 for movement in a number of directions relative thereto and also for complete removal from conveyors 32. To this end, a special arm 46, generally trapezoidal in configuration, is provided for each end of each bin 26 and is secured to its corresponding chain 40 in cantilever fashion as shown best in FIG. 3. An elongated, open-ended slot 48 in each arm 46 is adapted to receive a grooved, inner roller 50 of a double roller assembly 52 (FIG. 7) mounted on the corresponding end of bin 26. Assembly 52 further includes an outer roller 54 serving as a cam follower as will hereinafter be explained in detail, both of the rollers 50 and 54 being rotatably supported by a common spindle 56 projecting outwardly from the end wall of bin 26. It is important to note that rollers 50 and 54 are rotatable independently of one another and that, by virtue of the rotatable relationship between roller 50 and spindle 56, bin 26 is free to pivot relative to conveyor 32 about a horizontal axis as well as to move inwardly and outwardly on its arms 46.
Each side of compartment is also provided with a pair of vertically extending, U-shaped channels 58 disposed on opposite sides of the corresponding conveyor 32 for shiftably receiving an elongated guide block 60 affixed to each arm 46. A pair of identical, rectangular castings 62 are disposed at opposite limits of each conveyor 32 for effecting a part of the needed control for bins 26 as the latter change their directions of travel. As shown most clearly in FIG. 11, each casting 62 in.- cludes a basic planar portion 64 from which a number of areas'project in relief, such areas including a threesided, square-cornered boss 66, the outer surfaces 66a of which function as guide surfaces for rollers 54, and a U-shaped, limiting rib 68 which surrounds the sides of boss 66 and is disposed in spaced relationship to surfaces 66a thereof. A U-shaped, confining passage 70 for rollers 54 is thus defined by the surfaces 660 and rib 68.
Both vertical legs of passage are equidistant from the center of casting 62, the latter receiving one of the shafts 38 or 44 through an integral collar 72. The vertical legs of passage 70 are also generally aligned with the vertical line of roller assemblies 52 on bins 26, although surfaces 660 are disposed slightly outwardly of what would otherwise be the normal path of travel of assemblies 52. Outwardly flared ends 68a of rib 68 and inwardly beveled ends 66b of boss 66 are thus provided to facilitate entrance and exit of assemblies 52 from passage 70. v
The boss 66 of each casting 62 has a circular cavity 74 concentric with collar 72 and provided with a vertically disposed entrance 74a and exit 74b on opposite sides of collar 72. Entrance and exit 74a and 74b respectively are spaced inwardly from the vertical legs of passage 70 and are disposed equidistant from collar 72 in alignment with corresponding ends of channels 58 for receiving and discharging guide blocks 60 respectively. A circular plate 75 (FIG. 3) at each end of shafts 38 and 44 covers the end of its corresponding conveyor 32 and is shiftable axially ofshaft 38 or 44 to expose components therebehind (the top plate 75 in FIG. 3 has been removed for clarity).
' A large, vertically extending, U-shaped member 76 on each side of compartment 20 is disposed centrally of the loop formed by the corresponding chain 40 for supporting a pair of generally L-shaped, inner tracks 78 for bins 26. Similarly constructed outer tracks 80 for bins 26 define a rectangular pattern with vertical and horizontal stretches on each side of compartment 20 at the outer extremes of the latter. All of the tracks 78 and 80 are covered or coated with a friction-reducin g material to minimize drag on bins 26 as the latter advance during operation.
As shown most clearly in FIGS. 1 and 8-10, each front vertical stretch of outer track 80 includes a shiftable track section 82 which is hinged to the remaining portions of the front outer track 80 for swinging between a closed position shown by the left section 82 in FIG. 1 and in FIG. 9, and an opened position illustrated by the right section 82 in FIG. 1 and FIG. 10. A pair of hinges 84 for each section 82 serve the dual role of providing for swinging movement of section 82, as well as for releasable latching of the latter in its closed position. To this end, each hinge 84 includes a pair of platelike components 86 and 88 (FIGS. 9 and 10) interconnected by a pivot 90, the component 86 being rigidly affixed to the stationary portion of track 80 and projecting slightly upwardly beyond the end thereof as shown in FIG. 10, and the component 88 being affixed to section 82 for swinging movement therewith about the axis of pivot 90. Component 88 is set in from the extremity of section 82 an amount corresponding to the projection of component 86 beyond the stationary portion of track 80, and components 86 and 88, are relatively shiftable toward and away from one another along pivot 90 such that section 82 may drop in place behind the projecting portion of component 86 when section 82 is closed, as shown in FIG. 9. In this manner, component 86 effectively latches section 82 against swinging out of its closed position until section 82 is first raised a sufficient distance to clear component 86.
OPERATION In practice the merchandiser is provided with suitable control apparatus (not shown) which is responsive to the deposit of coinage in coin slot 16. Upon deposit of a predetermined amount of credit, such apparatus is operable to unlock one of the doors which have been pre-set to unlock at such credit level and the selected door 30 may then be opened for access to a product contained in the corresponding stall therebehind. Either before or after such coinage has been deposited, but not while any of the doors 30 is open, the customer may actuate button 18 to operate conveyor 32 and thereby bring bins 26 in succession past window 24 and doors 30. In this manner the customer may effectively shop for the product of his choice until such product has been located and brought into registration with Station 28.
The arms 46 are spaced along the length of each chain a distance which will cause the bins 26 to be disposed in close proximity to one another as they move along the vertical stretches of their rectangular path of travel. This close spacing is desirable not only from the standpoint of a mutual stabilizing action created between successive bins 26, but also because of the fact that the available space within compartment 20 is thus utilized to its fullest possible extent. Note that such close spacing of bins 26 is a function of the squareness of the corners of their path of travel. That is, with an increasing degree of arcuate movement of bins 26 during their change of direction at the limits of conveyors 32, it becomes necessary to correspondingly space bins 26 a greater distance apart to avoid mutual interference during such change of direction. This, of course, decreases the number of bins 26 which may be carried by conveyors 32, hence decreasing the number of products which may be stored within the compartment 20. Thus, the corners turned by bins 26 should be as square as possible.
Because of the generally elliptical path followed by chain 40 of each conveyor 32 with its arcuate end limits, conveyors 32 inherently seek to move bins 26 in a similar path of travel. However, by virtue of cam castings 62, bins 26 are forced to turn square corners resulting in an overall rectangular path of travel. This action is shown diagrammatically in FIGS. 12-14 wherein a bin 26 moving in a counter-clockwisedirection is shown approaching a lower corner of its path of travel in FIG. 12, then precisely at its corner in FIG. 13, and then leaving the corner in FIG. 14. As the bin 26 approaches its FIG. 12 position, the follower 54 at each end of bin 26 enters the first vertical leg of its corresponding passage 70, riding against the surface 66a of boss 66. Simultaneously, the corresponding roller is moved outwardly in its arm slot 48 as surface 66a acts upon follower 54 and as guide block enters entrance 74a to cavity 74. Further advancement of the chains 40 around their sprockets 42 causes relative shifting between bin 26 and chains 40 as surface 66a forces follower 54 and hence roller 50 toward the mouth of slot 48 until bin 26 reaches its FIG. 13 position. During this latter advancement, both ends of block 60 enter cavity 74 and bear against the walls 74c thereof to stabilize arm 46.
As bin 26 leaves the corner moving into its FIG. 14 position, the horizontal stretch of rib 68 forces follower 54 inwardly such that roller 50 shifts back into slot 48. By virtue of rib 68, bin 26 is thus positively held at a constant elevation along its horizontal stretch and is maintained under constant control in spite of the fact that bin 26 tends to gravitate away from boss 66during this period. As bin 26 then approaches the lower right corner, the action is identical to that having previously occurred between its FIG. 12 and FIG. 13 positions as surface 66a forces assembly 52 to move outwardly of slot 48 until the comer has been cleared. Upon leaving the lower right-hand corner, guide block 60 moves through exit 74b and into channel 58.
Not only are the bins 26 thus forced to move in a rectangular path of travel with square corners, but they are also maintained against tipping about spindles 56 during such movement. Note that tracks 78 and 80 cooperate on the vertical stretches of bin travel to guard against such tipping, while track 80 serves this function in conjunction with passage during change of direction of bins 26 and along their horizontal stretches of travel. The combined control by castings 62 and track during such horizontal travel and abrupt changes of direction assures that bins 26 are very positively restrained and confined, yet power loss due to friction is minimized because the load is borne by roller assemblies 52 and not by the stabilizing outer track 80. v
In spite of the high amount of control exercised against bins 26, removal thereof from compartment 20 is extremely simple by virtue of the hinged track sections 82. Thus, should it become necessary to remove bins 26 for cleaning or other servicing, it is but necessary to lift both sections 82 until they clear their respective hinge components 86, whereupon sections 82 may be swung to their opened positions to free bins 26 brought into alignment with the removal area. The open-ended slots 48 in arms 46 clear roller assemblies 52 as each bin 26 is withdrawn. Replacement of bins 26 is just as easily effected. by simply reinserting the roller assemblies 52 thereof into their corresponding slots 48 and then closing sections 82.
Having thus described the invention, what is claim ed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is:
1. In a dispensing machine:
an endless, upright conveyor having generally vertical straight stretches and arcuate stretches adjacent the top and bottom of the conveyor;
a dispensing station disposed adjacent a vertical stretch; a plurality of product carriers; means mounting said carriers on said conveyor for 'movement in succession past said station,
said mounting means shiftably mounting each of said carriers for pivotal movement relative to the conveyor and for reciprocal movement toward and away from said conveyor; follower means on each of said carriers; guide means adjacent each of said arcuate stretches respectively and disposed for engagement with the follower means of acarrier moving therepast;
limit means adjacent and in spaced, opposed relationship to each of said guide means for oppositely engaging and confining the follower means of a carrier moving past the corresponding guide means to a square-cornered, rectilinear path of travel in spite of the arcuate movement of the conveyor around said arcuate stretches; and
a track for the carriers disposed to engage the bodies of the carriers during movement thereof to maintain the carriers against substantial tipping,
each of said carriers being removably mounted,
said track having a shiftable track section and means mounting said section on the remainder of the track for movement between a closed position in which the section blocks removal of carriers from the machine and an open position in which such removal is permitted said track having releasable latching means for holding said section in said closed position,
said latching means including a first component secured to said section for movement therewith and set in a distance from the end of said section, and a second component on the remainder of said track projecting beyond the end thereof in opposition to said first component, said second component being adapted to receive said end of the section behind the projecting portion of the second component when said components are vertically aligned with one another.
2. in a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 1, wherein said guide means is provided with rectilinear outer surfaces and said limit means is provided with rectilinear inner surfaces disposed in spaced opposition to said outer surfaces, thereby defining a passage for the follower means.
3. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim I, wherein said mounting means for each carrier includes a support arm secured to the conveyor, and structure on the carrier movable along and completely off of said arm.
4. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 3, wherein each of said arms is provided with an openended guide slot for receiving said structure of the corresponding carrier.
5. in a dispensing machine'as claimed in claim 3, wherein said'structure includes a spindle and a first roller rotatably carried by said spindle, said follower means including a second roller rotatably carried by said spindle adjacent said first-roller.
6. in a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 5, wherein each of said arms is provided with an openended slot'for receiving said first roller of the corresponding carrier.
7. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 1, wherein said section mounting means includes an axially shiftable hinge pin between said components for swinging of said section between the alternate positions thereof when the section is displaced axially from behind said second component.
8. ln a dispensing machine:
an endless conveyor;
a dispensing station disposed adjacent the conveyor;
a plurality of product carriers; a
means mounting said carriers on the conveyor for movement in a closed path of travel and in successive order past said station, said mounting means removably and pivotally mounting each of said carriers on the conveyor; and
an openable track along one stretch of said path of travel for maintaining the carriers against pivoting as the latter move along said stretch, said track having a shiftable track section and means mounting said section for movement between a closed position in which the section blocks removal of carriers from the conveyor and an open position in which the section permits such removal, 7
said track being provided with releasable latching means for holding said section in said closed position,
said latching means including a first movable component fixed to said section for movement therewith and set in a distance from the proximal end of the section, and a second stationary component fixed against movement with the section and having a projecting portion disposed in opposition to said first component, said second component being adapted to receive said end of the section behind said projecting portion of the second component when said components are aligned with one another, whereby to hold said section in said closed position.
9. in a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 8, wherein said section mounting means includes an axially shiftable hinge pin between said components for swinging of said section between the alternate positions thereof when the section is displaced axially from behind said second component.
10. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 8, wherein said mounting means for each carrier includes a pair of supportarms secured to the conveyor at opposite ends of the carrier and a roller on each end of the carrier freely movable along and selectively off of the corresponding arm.
11. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 10, wherein each of said arms is provided with an openended guide slot for the corresponding roller.
12. In a dispensing machine:
a pair of endless, upright and horizontally spaced apart conveyors having generally vertical straight stretches and arcuate stretches adjacent the tops and bottoms of the conveyors;
a dispensing station located adjacent one pair of vertical stretches of the conveyors;
a plurality of product carriers;
a series of carrier support arms projecting from each of said conveyors,
each of said arms having a slot therein extending outwardly from the conveyor and terminating in an open end;
mounting structure projecting from opposite ends of each carrier for reception within the slots of a proximal pair of arms to adapt the carriers for movement in succession past said station,
said structures being shiftable within and along their slots for pivoting of the carriers relative to the conveyors, for reciprocation of the carriers relative to the conveyors, and for complete removal of the carriers from the conveyors when the structures are moved out of their slots through said open ends thereof;
a pair of followers rotatably mounted on opposite ends of each carrier;
a guide passage adjacent each of said arcuate stretches for receiving the proximal follower of a carrier moving around one end of its path of travel,
said passage having a continuous square corner around the adjacent arcuate stretch defined by a pair of continuous, opposed, inner and outer surfaces disposed to receive the follower therebetween whereby to limit the carriers to squarecornered, rectilinear movement around the ends of their path of travel in spite of the arcuate movement of said conveyors around said arcuate stretches; and
at least one continuous track complementally engageable with the bodies of the carriers during advancement thereof by the conveyors for preventing tipping of the carriers as they are advanced and for preventing said structures of the carriers from leaving their slots in said arms through said open ends thereof,
said track having a gate section and means mounting said section on the remainder of the track for movement between a closed position wherein the section blocks removal of a carrier aligned therewith from the machine and an open position wherein the section permits such removal of the aligned carrier.
13. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 12, wherein is provided releasable latching means on said track for holding said section in said closed position.
14. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 13, wherein said latching means includes a first component secured to said section for movement therewith and set in a distance from the end of said section, and a second component on the remainder of said track projecting beyond the end thereof in opposition to said first component, said second component being adapted to receive said end of the section behind the projecting portion of the second component when said components are vertically aligned with one another.
15. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 14, wherein said section mounting means includes an axially shiftable hinge pin between said components for swinging of said section between the alternate positions thereof when the section is displaced axially from behind said second component.
16. In a dispensing machine as claimed in claim 12, wherein each of said structures includes a spindle and a first roller rotatably carried by said spindle for engagement within the slot of a proximal arm, each of said followers including a second roller rotatable on said spindle independently of said first roller and adjacent the latter for engagement within the passage.