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Publication numberUS3774906 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateNov 27, 1973
Filing dateJul 28, 1971
Priority dateJul 28, 1971
Publication numberUS 3774906 A, US 3774906A, US-A-3774906, US3774906 A, US3774906A
InventorsFagan E, Keeler J
Original AssigneeEmf Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Sorting and collating apparatus
US 3774906 A
Abstract
Sorting and collating apparatus for use with copying and duplicating machines for distribution of flexible sheet material. Paper is accepted into the apparatus and immediately diverted either into a receiving tray, separated into individual sorting trays in the machine or sent on through the machine into another sorter unit. The apparatus employs vacuum and belt conveying of the sheet material and deflectors for the sorting trays move in and out of one of the conveyor vacuum chambers. Means are provided for making the paper more accessible to the operator after it has been deposited in the sorting trays.
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United States Patent [191 Fagan et al.

[4 1 Nov. 27, 1973 SORTING AND COLLATING APPARATUS Inventors: Edmund 1. Fagan, Bellevue; Jack D.

Keeler, Seattle, both of Wash.

Assignee: EMF Corporation, Seattle, Wash.

Filed: July 28, 1971 Appl. No.: 166,905

US. Cl 271/64, 270/58, 271/74 Int. Cl B65h 29/60 Field of Search 271/64, 74, DIG. 2,

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS Snellman t Mens et al. 271/71 Morley 271/56 X Frantz 271/64 [57] ABSTRACT Sorting and collating apparatus for use with copying and duplicating machines for distribution of flexible sheet material, Paper is accepted into the apparatus and immediately diverted either into a receiving tray, separated into individual sorting trays in the machine or sent on through the machine into another sorter unit. The apparatus employs vacuum and belt conveying of the sheet material and deflectors for the sorting trays move in and out of one of the conveyor vacuum chambers. Means are provided fior making the paper more accessible to the operator after it has been deposited in the sorting trays.

46 Claims, 12 Drawing Figures 14a 32 5? A Q /27 PAIENTED W27 3. 774. 906

EDMUND I. FAGAN JACK D. KEELER ENVENTORS ATTORNEYS PAIENIEU I973 3. 774. 906

sumuurv FIG 41 EDMUND I. FAGAN JACK D. KEELER INVENTORS Efi aM ATTORNEYS PAIENTED H B 3.774. 906

sum 5 BF 7 EDMUND l. FAGAN JACK D. KEELER INVENTORS BY Mi,

A TTORNEYS PATENIEU Z I975 3.7 74.906

sum 7 BF 7 EDMUND l. FAGAN JACK KEELER VENTORES ATTORNEYS 1 SORTING AND COLLATING APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF INVENTION This invention relates to sheet distributing and in particular, to apparatus adapted toseparate and sort sheet material as it is fed into the apparatus from different types of reproducing or printing devices.

Prior art sorters and collators have encountered a number of problems. One is that the rapid advances in copy. producing machines themselves have made increased demands on sorters and collators. For instance, the speed of a copy producing machine to reproduce a number of sets of copied materials requires that the sorter have the capacity to accommodate changing work loads. The'sorter or collator should be able to increase or decrease its capacity by adding on modular slave units rather than requiring a variety of sizes in individual machines. Additionally, the types and weights of papers used in copy machines may differ substantially and the sorter or collator apparatus must be prepared to handle these differences. The variety of copying jobs sorter-collators must handle suggests they should be modular'to the extent that if one unit cannot handle a copy task, the materials can be passed on to a second modular unit without any loss of time or extra handling of the copied materials.

Among the prior art references which may be considered with respect to the features of this invention are the following: US. Pat. Nos. 3,572,685; 3,497,207; 3,484,101; 3,467,371; 3,460,824; and 3,273,882. The devices covered by the above list of patents are of interest only and are not considered pertinent to the teachings of this invention.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION The sorter-collator of this invention utilizes a partial vacuum and belt-type conveyor system. As a paper copy enters the machine it may be diverted upwardly into a receiving tray or to a conveyor which in turn directs the paper to the sorting area of the machine or passes it on through to the next modular unit. At one side of the machine housing is a large vacuum chamber or major plenum which is separated from the other working parts by a wall or partition. Openings in the partition allow the vacuum in this plenum to draw on the subplenums or vacuum chambers for the conveyors in the copy distribution section of the machine. At the entrance a sheet stiffener is provided to'assist paper being directed into the receiving tray. Backstop means act to pick or jog one corner of the paper towards the exposed side of the sorting trays so that the operator can readily see and grasp the papereConveyor deflectors for diverting sheets into a particular sorting tray actually are retracted into and extend out of the vertical conveyor vacuum chamber. Side stop means for the paper, an air actuated turn-on switch, and unique actuators for the deflectors are also provided.

Accordingly, it is among the many features, objects and advantages of this invention to provide a sorting and collating apparatus which substantially improves copy distributing and sorting mechanisms. The device more conveniently handles a variety of types and weights of paper than prior art devices. It particularly handles lighter weight papers more reliably. The machine is capable of receiving sheets and distributing the same at the high speeds demanded by present advanced copy machines. The device by design lends itself to automatic programming for random or sequential sheet distribution. Paper jam-ups within the machine are made readily accessible so that down time is negligible. The receiving tray is integral with. the machine rather than an external attachment. The apparatus as designed can be modular depending on distribution capacity needed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the machine showing the input end and the path of movement of the sheets;

FIG. 2 is a cross-section view in elevation of the 'entire machine showing location of the major components of the apparatus in the sheet handling section;

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view with the cover panel removed to show the auxiliary compartment and vacuum section of the machine;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view in plan taken along the line 4-4 of FIGS. 2 and 3 and! showing in plan the major plenum section, the sheet distribution section, and separating partition together with other details of paper handling components;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the upper and vertical conveyors and also showing other details of the machine;

FIG. 6 is a partial cross-sectional view of the exit end of the upper conveyor and the upper end of the vertical conveyor and other details showing additional structure for distributing sheets;

FIG. 7 is a partial plan view taken along the line 7-7 of FIG. 6 and further illustrating details of the diverting mechanism at the exitend of the upper conveyor;

FIG. 8 is a partial plan view in cross section taken along the line 8-8 of FIG. 6 to show actuator details for thedeflectors;

FIG. 9 is a partial cross-section view, taken along the line 9-9 of FIG. 5 and illustrating further details of the paper stopping and jogging mechanism in the sorting trays;

FIG. 10 is a partial elevational view showing details of the paper stiffener and forwarding rollers associated therewith;

FIG. 11 is a side elevation view taken along the line 1 1-11 of FIG. 10 and illustrating further details of the drive mechanism for the forwarding rollers attached to the paper stiffener; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the deflector mecha- DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now to the drawings, and particularly FIG. 1, it will be seen that the apparatus, generally designated by the number 10, has an upstanding rectangular housing. It is provided with a supporting frame having base 12, entrance sidewall 14, front wall 16, back wall 18, and exit sidewall 20. In addition, the machine has top surface 22, which as can be seen has an opening therein to expose the receiving tray. Also, controls for the apparatus willbe located on the top surface as indicated by thepanel board 24. An entrance opening 26 is provided in entrance sidewall 14 which is an elongated rectangular slot through which paper enters the sorter. Major areas for discussion will now be pointed out to be followed by a detailed description of each. Within the machine, see FIG. 2, is a paper stiffening structure generally designated by the number 30 which directs paper to a collection tray generally designated by the number 32. If paper is not sent to collection tray 32, it will be directed to the upper or generally horizontal conveyor assembly generally designated by the number 34. At the exit end of conveyor assembly 34 is a sheet diverting structure generally designated as 36. A short paper conveyor assembly 38 is provided for paper that is to go directly on through and out of the apparatus. If the paper is retained in the machine for distribution to sorting trays, it will be transported by the vertical sheet conveyor generally designated by the number 40. The trays themselves are identified by the number'42. A backstop mechanism is also provided and is identified by the number 44. The major vacuum chamber or plenum is identified by the number 46 (FIG. 4) as opposed to the main paper handling or distribution compartment of the machine which is separated from vacuum chamber 46 by partition 48.

Auxiliary Compartment and Vacuum Chamber As seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, on the rear side of the apparatus is vacuum chamber 46 defined by base wall 12, entrance and exit sidewalls 14 and 20, back wall 18, top surface 22, and partition 48. Within the vacuum chamber is a vacuum fan or blower 50 driven by a motor 52 on the distribution side of partition 48 and which is located beneath the stack of sorting trays. The blower or fan can also be driven by its own motor if desired. Within auxiliary chamber 46 is a panel and support structure 54 for housing electronics, controls and other circuitry for the machine. Motor 52 drives a pulley 56 which in turn by virtue of a belt 58 drives another larger pulley 60. Note in FIG. 4 that pulley 56 is doubled for accommodating not only belt 58 but also for receiving belt 62 which runs upwardly and is reeved around a larger pulley 66. An idler pulley 64 is interposed to provide tensioning of belt 62 which is twisted to turn pulley 66 in the proper direction. Thus, a series of pulleys and belts driven by main drive motor 52 provides drive shafts at needed locations within the housing. Such powered shafts will be discussed below more precisely and in greater detail. Partition 48 is provided with a series of openings 70 extending through the partition into the interior of the horizontal conveyor 34 vacuum chamber assembly as will be seen in FIGS. 2 and 3. An opening 72 near pulley 66 opens into the conveyor vacuum chamber in assembly 38 as shown also in FIG. 6. In like manner a series of vertically arranged openings 74 open into the vacuum chamber of the vertical conveyor assembly as seen in FIGS. 2, 3 and 8.

Entrance Area, Stiffener and Receiving Tray As seen in FIGS. 1 and 2 entrance slot 26 is an elongated rectangular opening. The apparatus can be made to turn on automatically in response, for instance, to an air stream from the copying machine with which the invention is used. Thus, an air vane 80 which presents a flat surface to the air stream from the copier is moved inwardly to actuate a switch 81 to turn on the sorter. Upon entering the machine a sheet of paper may proceed directly onto the-conveyor assembly 34 or into receiving tray 32. To this end a simple diverter mechanism is provided which comprises a hinged angle member 82 connected to an entrance solenoid 84 by link member 86. In its normal position shown in FIG. 2, deflector 82 is down so that sheets will proceed to the conveyor assembly. By actuation of solenoid 84 the horizontal leg of member 82 will swing up around its hinge to direct the paper into stiffener structure 30.

Details of stiffener structure 30 will be found in FIGS. 2, 5 and 10. The essential purpose of stiffener 30 is to form the incoming sheets by turning. the edges up to form the paper in a U-shape along its direction of track. Thus, the paper is mechanically stiffened and is enabled to enter the receiving tray. The stiffener structure is essentially a V-shape metal sheet having upwardly angling surfaces 88 and 90. Between surfaces 88 and 90 is located a pair of forwarding rollers comprising driven roller 92 and a coacting friction roller 94. A shaft 96 connects driven roller 92 to a driven roller 98 located to one side of the structure as shown in FIGS. 10 and 11. Note that forwarding rollers 92 and 94 are located towards the upper end of stiffener assembly 30. At the rear thereof and just above deflector 82 there may be an idler roller 100. Side brackets 102 and 104 are provided to connect or mount the stiffener structure within the apparatus housing. Paper entering the stiffener structure from the copy machine is engaged between forwarding rollers 92 and 94 and propelled into receiving tray 32. A small motor 106 is mounted to one side and has drive shaft 108 which frictionally rotates a wheel or roller 110 mounted on a bracket 112. A spring 114 urges one end of bracket 112 so that roller 110 is biased against both drive shaft 108 and driven roller 98.

The receiving tray 32 is a removable member having a bottom wall and a lower upstanding retaining wall 122. Receiving tray 32 is made easily removable since it is spaced above the paper transport and thus allows quick access in the event a paperjam occurs in the upper part of the machine. The tray is open and forms a separate receiver for non-sorted copy materials so that paper coming in is readily visible and easily removed.

Upper Conveyor, Transfer Conveyor, and Transfer Guide Assembly The upper conveyor assembly 34 extends from just inside entrance opening 26 substantially across the width of the machine as best shown in FIGS. 2, 5 and 6. Conveyor 34 includes a shallow rectangular housing having upper and lower walls and 132, respectively. Upper wall 130 has a plurality of small openings 134 through which the partial vacuum inside is exposed to the paper sheets so that the pressure differential holds the sheets against the moving belt to be described. Conveyor housing 34 also has end walls 136 and sidewalls 138 and 140 to define an enclosed chamber in which a partial vacuum or reduced pressure is induced. The sidewalls 138 and 140 can be seen to extend outwardly beyond end walls 136 to act as structural supports for belt rollers. Thus, entrance belt roller 142 is supported on shaft 144 extending between sidewalls 138 and 140. In like manner, belt exit roller 146 is supported on shaft 148 at the exit end of the conveyor assembly. Note that shaft 148 extends through the bulkhead or partition 48 and has mounted thereon the pulley 66 forming part of the drive train from motor 52. A plurality of relatively flat and spaced apart belts 150 extend around the rollers and the housing. Spacing the belts exposes the openings 134. Since conveyor housing 34 opens into the major vacuum chamber area 46 through openings 70, a partial vacuum can be drawn in the vacuum chamber of conveyor assembly 34 which in turn will have the effect of acting through holes 134 to urge the paper sheets onto the moving belts 150. The result is positive reliable movement or transport of the paper sheets on the conveyor belts.

A short transfer conveyor assembly 38 is provided so that sheets can be directed out of the apparatus through exit opening 27 in wall 20. Again, a closed housing is provided having a top wall 152 with vacuum openings 154 therein. Transfer conveyor 38 has rollers 156 and 158 around which a plurality of belts 160 are received. The rollers can be driven by pulleys attached to shaft 148 of conveyor 34 and shaft 157 of conveyor 38 and a connecting belt received around both in order to provide power for conveyor assembly 38. Vacuum is drawn through opening 72 into the housing which in turns draws vacuum through openings 154 to urge paper sheets against belts 160.

The transfer guide assembly 36 is supported on a generally flat supporting plate 162 which is in spaced relation to transfer conveyor 38 and the exit end of upperconveyor 34. Plate 162 has a back wall 164 and a projecting guide lip 166 which, as can be seen, extends upwardly at an angle above roller 146 and the exit end of conveyor assembly 34. Support plate 162 also has sidewalls 168 and 170. A paper deflector generally designated by the number 172, the details of which can be seen in FIG. 12, is located at the entry end of plate 162 generally at the base of the upwardly angling lip 166. Deflector 172 has a supporting body 174 and a series of triangular deflector teeth 176; Deflector assembly 172 is pivotally mounted between sidewalls 168 and 170 on shaft 178 projecting from each end thereof. Deflector assembly 172 is normally biased downwardly so that teeth 176 in their usual position extend through the opening or openings in plate 162 into the path of oncoming paper. Thus, paper will be deflected downwardly in the normal course unless it is desired that the paper proceed on through the apparatus and out exit slot 27 to another module. A solenoid 180 has armature 182 to which is attached an actuator lever 184. One end of lever l84is movably anchored to back wall 164 and is pivotally attached to armature 182. The forward end of lever 184 engages deflector assembly 172. When the solenoid is actuated, armature 182 is retracted to raise the deflector assembly and accordingly teeth 176 are retracted to permit paper to pass on through in a horizontal direction over transfer conveyor 38. A pair of knurled friction wheels 186 are bi- Vertical Conveyor, Vacuum Plenum and Deflector System Vertical conveyor 40 in its basic structure is similar to that of upper conveyor 34, reference being had to FIGS. 2, 5 and 6. Conveyor assembly 40 has face wall 200, outside wall 202, top end wall 204, lower end wall 206, and a plurality of deflector slots 208 arranged in horizontal and vertical rows. Vertical conveyor assembly 40 is also provided with sidewalls 210 (see F IG. 6) and 212 which extend outwardly beyond the vacuum housing to support the belt rollers. Thus, upper roller 214 is supported on shaft 216 extending between sidewalls 210 and 212. In like manner lower roller 218 is supported on shaft 220 extending between sidewalls 210 and 212. A plurality of belts 222 extend around rollers 214 and 218 between the spaced apart deflector slots 208. At one end of shaft 220, supporting lower roller 218, is a pulley which in turn is rotated by belt 224. The lower end of belt 224 extends around pulley 226, see FIG. 2, mounted on shaft 228 which extends through partition 48. Shaft 228 also mounts pulley on the other side of the partition 48 as described above. As seen particularly in FIGS. 2, 4 and 8, vertical conveyor housing 40 is mounted on a hinge structure 230 supported on partition 48. Hinge 230 permits the vertical conveyor to be pivoted away from the entrance to the sorting trays. A simple latching mechanism enables the vertical conveyor to be held in place but to be unlatched easily and swung away to expose the working face of the conveyor and the entrance to the sorting trays. Thus, paper jams can be quickly and conveniently cleared.

Within the housing of vertical conveyor 40 are located a series of deflectors 172 of the type shown in FIG. 12. A deflector assembly 172 is provided within the vacuum chamber for each of the sorting trays in the apparatus. The deflector assemblies 172 are resiliently biased as by a spring to a retracted position as shown in phantom lines in FIG. 6. Actuating mechanisms as shown in FIGS. 4 and 8 extend through the openings 74 through which a vacuum is drawn from the major plenum chamber 46 to the housing of vertical conveyor 40. Slots 208 in face wall 200 of the conveyor 40 permit thepartial vacuum to be exerted against the sheets to urge them against the belts. The actuating mechanism consists of a series of bracket mounted solenoids 232 having armatures 234. The mounting bracket for each solenoid 232 has an extension arm 236 in which is mounted a linkage 238. When solenoid 232 is energized, the linkage member 238 which extends through opening 74 and into the interior of the housing of vertical conveyor 40 makes contact engagement with a follower member 240 connected to the back of each de flector assembly 172. Energization of solenoid 232 retracts armature 234 forcing linkage 238 against follower 240 to push or rotate teeth 176 out of the housing against spring pressure. Upon de-energization of solenoid 232 the natural spring bias of the deflector assembly 172 retracts the teeth 176 back into the interior of the housing through openings or slots 208.

A knurled wheel or wheels 242 mounted on a shaft 244 are resiliently biased against vertically running belts 222 by spring 246 as shown in FIG. 6. Finally a guide means 248 is provided above knurled wheels 242 and in spaced relation to guide piece 192 to ensure that the leading edges of the sheets are directed to the vertical conveyor.

Sorting Trays, Jogger, and Side Stop has an upstanding portion 252 and a double back portion 254. It is the spaced relationship of the double backed edge 254 and the main floor sections 250 of the next tray above which establishes the entrance openings 256. The openings 256 and the trays are positioned so that as seen in FIG. 6, paper being conveyed downwardly can be deflected into an entrance opening 256 for a given tray. The trays have a lower end 258 and each has an elongated rectangular slot 260 extending from the lower end or edge 258 for perhaps half the length of the main tray floor 250. Each tray 42 has one of the rectangular slots for a purpose which will be explained more fully hereinafter. The trays will be exposed on one side of the machine and in order to facilitate grasping the sheets or stacks of paper from the trays a niche 262 is cut into each floor portion 250 near the entrance end of the tray. The inside edge 264 of the trays abuts partition 48. While the trays are shown to be angled or inclined about 20 from the horizontal, the incline may vary or for that matter could be adjustable.

A paper jogger 44, as can best be seen in FIGS. 4, and 9, comprises a vertical bar member 270 which is disposed within the aligned slots 260 of the sorting tray, said bar member 270 extending generally from the bottom of the machine to above the topmost sorting tray. A horizontal bar section 272 extends outwardly, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 5, to the outside of the trays but inside the covering panel. At the outer end of horizontal section 272 the bar has an upwardly extending or short vertical section 274 at the upper end of which is an operators handle 276 which extends outwardly through a slot 278 in the housing. A support rod 280 holds the backstop assembly by virtue of a sleeve 282 secured to section 274 which slides on the rod. At the lower end of main vertical bar 270 is a guide and support channel 284 in which the lower end of bar 270 slides. In this way the backstop can be set to the length of the particular paper being distributed to the trays.

Attached to vertical bar'270 is a resilient jogger material. In the preferred form a light gage metal is used. It extends from below the bottom tray to above the top tray as is best seen in FIG. 5. It includes a mounting leg 290 for securing the same to bar 270. The jogger member has a second section 292 extending toward the tray entrance at an angle and inwardly from the exposed side of the machine across generally the central part of tray slots 260. At the outer end of the jogger is a third section 294 of somewhat shorter dimension and angling back from section 292 generally transversely to the trays. Be reference made to FIGS. 4 and 9 it will be seen that paper entering a tray as shown in FIG. 4 will slide into a tray and the leading edge of the sheet will strike the jogger on the far side of the papers centerline. The resilient nature of the jogger is such that it will give way and then by spring return action deflect the paper into the skewed position also shown in FIG. 4 to place the upper outer corner of the sheet in the niche area 262. Also the leading edge of the paper will come to rest against bar 270, thus leaving the jogger free to repeat the action on the next incoming sheets.

In order to restrain the upper outer corner of the paper from moving too far out or perhaps even from sliding out of the tray, a side stop bar generally designated by the number 300 is provided. By reference to FIGS. 2 and 4, it will be seen that the side stop bar 300 has an upper leg 302, a vertical leg 304 and a bottom leg 306. The upper and bottom legs 302 and 306 are supported in a frame member of the machine not described. While the machine is in operation side stop bar 300 will be in the position shown in full lines in FIG. 4. When it is desired to remove sheets from the machine, side stop bar 300 is slid into the position shown in dashdot'lines also in FIG. 4. Thus, it is understood that the bar is easily slipped rearwardly in the supporting frame member so that it does not hinder removal of the sorted or distributed material.

Operation The machine as seen in FIG. 1 has a sort-no sort switch 25 and a power on" switch 27. If the copy machine is started without turning on the power switch, air vane 80, which is actuated by air from the copy machine will energize through switch 81 the entrance solenoid 84 and the deflector drive motor 106 for turning forwarding roller 94. In this way copies will be directed into the receiving tray to prevent jamming of the copy machine.

With power on, energy is supplied to the controls permitting the sorter to be operated in either the sort or no-sort mode. Power actuates light 310 just below the entrance slot 26, as for instance shown in FIG. 2, which in turn activates photocell 312. Power also actuates sorting tray lamp 314 which in turn energizes photocell 316 as can be seen in FIG. 6. Note that lamp 314 is below the bottommost sorter tray and that photocell 316 is above the topmost tray. A series of apertures 318 in the trays are aligned so that light from lamp 314 reaches photocell 316. When the copy machine is started and sorter switch 25 is in the sort mode, a second switch activated by air vane will actuate a relay, which in turn starts the main drive motor 52. The conveyor belts start as does blower 50 to create the vacuum necessary for reliable transport of the copies on the belts.

When a copy enters the sorter, references now being had to FIGS. 1 and 2, the light beam between lamp 310 and photocell 312 is broken. A corresponding pulse from the photocell is sent to the controls where a retriggerable multivibrator is energized and which functions as an automatic reset. As long as copies enter the sorter at a predetermined minimum frequency, the automatic reset is retriggered and maintains its activated state. In the normal sorting operation the first copy is directed into the top sorting tray, the second copy into the second sorting tray, etc. so that each consecutive copy is directed to a separate sorting tray. Actual steering or guiding of a copy into a particular sorting tray is accomplished by energizing a solenoid 232, which in turn causes its associated deflector 172 with teeth 176 to extend out of the vacuum chamber into the paper path. It will be seen, incidentally, that no pinch or friction rolls are necessary at the entrance to each sorting tray to assist the deflectors and conveyor in directing the sheets into their trays.

As stated above, aligned openings 318 are located at the entrance to the sorting trays. As a copy enters a sorting tray, the light beam from lamp 314 is temporarily interrupted resulting in a pulse change from the photocell 316. The pulse corresponds to the time the paper blocks the light beam. The leading edge of the paper pulse triggers a monostable multivibrator with a predetermined and precise pulse duration referred to as the jam detect time. The trailing edge of the paper pulse, indicating that the paper has cleared the sorting tray up-counter circuit and a binary-to-decimal decoder,

and thus only one solenoid 232 at a time is energized. For each clock pulse the counter steps to the next solenoid, thereby directing the next copy into the next lower sorting tray. The time or the moment at which a given solenoid is activated is decided only by the trailing edge of the paper successfully entering the sorting tray immediately above. As a result the sorter is insensitive to the number of copies per minute supplied by the copying machine and thus the sorting rate is limited only by conveyor speed and copy length. When an interruption longer than the predetermined reset time occurs in the flow of copies from the copy machine, the automatic reset will clear the counter and the sorter is ready for a new sorting sequence beginning with the topmost sorting tray. The reset time, that is, the period of time permitted before the machine automatically resets, is predetermined bycircuitry to be longer than the feed rate of the copy machine with which the sorter is used. In any event, the reset interval will be somewhat longer than the interval between copies at continuous operation, but less than the interval normally required to change originals in the copier. It should be mentioned that since the trailing edge of a paper copy is responsible for generating a clock pulse by clearing the beam from light 314, the machine does not operate on a set time pulse generator.

In normal operation paper will clear the sorting tray entrance before jam detect time has expired. If the back stop and jogger 44 is incorrectly adjusted, a sheet of paper will not enter the sorting tray completely. Thus, the light beam will be blocked, creating a potential jam condition for oncoming copies. If this condition prevails when the jam detect time expires, ajam detect pulse is sent to the control unit. This pulse forces the sorter into a no-sort mode and succeeding copies are therefore directed into the receiving tray 32 as described above. At the same time the conveyor belts in the machine are stopped. If the jam detect pulse reaches the control unit while the next incoming paper has only partially entered the sorter, a secondary jam could be created if the deflector 82 were actuated. If the entrance photocell indicates that a copy is in transit, the no-sort command initiated by the jam detect pulse is therefore inhibited until the deflector is clear.

The machine lends itself readily to programming. For instance, by using a program card copies may be randomly directed to the sorting trays selected by means of holes punched in the program card. The hole permits a contact to be made and a circuit completed to identify a particular tray to which a copy is to be directed. When a copy enters the sorter, the pulse from the photocell 312, besides triggering the automatic reset interrogates the programmercircuits. If no hole is punched for sorting tray No. 1, the counter automatically steps down to sort tray No. 2. The interrogation time is approximately microseconds, so that if no hole is punched in the card indicating that a copy is to go into sorting tray No. 2, sorting tray No. 2 is skipped. A new clock pulse is thus generated every 5 microseconds until the first hole in the program card is found. Be-

cause of the high interrogation frequency, any sorting tray can be selected in fractions of a millisecond and random or sequential sorting patterns can be easily handled at high copy sorting rates.

What is claimed is:

1. Sheet sorting apparatus, comprising:

a. a housing having a sheet distribution compartment including a plurality of spaced and generally vertically aligned sheet sorting trays, said housing also having anauxiliary compartment including vacuum inducing means,

b. first generally horizontally disposed and second generally vertically disposed belt conveyor sections in said distribution compartment including vacuum chamber means in and extending over substantially the entire width of each of said first and second conveyor sections, said second section being adjacent said plurality of sheet sorting trays, and

c. a series of selectively movable deflector means in the vacuum chamber of said second conveyor section for being extended out of said vacuum chamber into the path of sheets and deflecting sheets into said sorting trays, there being deflector means for each sorting tray.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1 and wherein said auxiliary and distribution compartments are separated by partition means.

3. The apparatus according to claim 2 and wherein said vacuum inducing means generally creates vacuum in substantially all of said auxiliary compartment and wherein openings in said partition connect said auxiliary compartment with the vacuum chambers of said first and second conveyor sections.

4. The apparatus according to claim 3 and wherein separate actuator mechanisms for each deflector means are provided in the vacuum chamber means of said second conveyor section to move said deflectors.

5. The apparatus according to claim 4 and wherein said deflectors include a plurality of teeth which extend outwardly through openings in said vacuum chamber and retract to the interior of said chamber.

6. The apparatus according to claim 5 and wherein sensing means are provided to detect the paper copy which is responsible for actuation of deflector means for directing the next oncoming paper copy into the next designated sorting tray.

7. The apparatus according to claim 6 and wherein a generally vertically extending adjustable paper backstop means is provided for jogging an outer corner of paper coming into said sorting trays to the exposed side of said sorting trays.

8. The apparatus according to claim 7 and wherein said sorting trays are provided with aligned slots within which said backstop is movable for adjustment to various paper lengths.

9. The apparatus according to claim 8 and wherein a side stop means is provided to limit the side movement of paper deflected outwardly by said backstop.

10. The apparatus according to claim 9 and wherein said second conveyor section, including its vacuum chamber and belt assembly, are hinged so as to permit pivotal movement for quick access to and removal of paper jams.

11. The apparatus according to claim 1 and wherein a receiving tray is located above and in spaced relation to said first conveyor section for receiving copies not needing to be sorted.

12. The apparatus according to claim 11 and wherein a selectively actuable entrance deflector means is located at the copy entrance of said apparatus so as to direct paper either onto said first conveyor section or to said receiving tray.

13. The apparatus according to claim l2 and wherein a paper stiffener means is provided for said receiving tray whereby the side edges of "the paper copies are turned up to stiffen the longitudinal dimension of said paper as it moves into said receiving tray.

14. The apparatus according to claim 13 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes a pair of upwardly angling surfaces for turning said side edges up.

15. The apparatus according to claim 14 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes forwarding means for propelling paper through said stiffener and into said receiving tray.

16. The apparatus according to claim 15 and wherein an air vane'switch is actuated by the movement of air from a copy machine to actuate at least said entrance deflector and said means for propelling paper into said receiving tray.

17. Sheet sorting apparatus, comprising:

a. a housing having a sheet distribution compartment including a plurality of spaced and generally vertically aligned sheet sorting trays, said trays being disposed at an angle with the entrance thereto being at the high end, said housing also having an auxiliary compartment separated from said distribution compartment by a partition and including vacuum inducing means therein,

b. first generally horizontally disposed and second generally vertically disposed belt conveyor sections in said distribution compartment including vacuum chamber means in and extending over substantially the entire width of each of said first and second conveyor sections, said second section being adjacent said plurality of sheet sorting trays, said first and second conveyor sections being in proximity to each other for the transfer and guiding of sheets from said first to said second section,

c. a series of selectively movable deflector means in the vacuum chamber of said second conveyor section for being extended out of said vacuum chamber into the path of sheets and deflecting sheets into said sorting trays, there being deflector means for each sorting tray.

18. The apparatus according to claim 17 and wherein said vacuum inducing means generally creates vacuum in substantially all of said auxiliary compartment and wherein openings in said partition connect said auxiliary compartment with the vacuum chamber of said first and second conveyor sections.

19. The apparatus according to claim 18 and wherein separate actuator mechanisms for each deflector means are provided in the vacuum chamber means of said second conveyor section to move said deflectors.

20. The apparatus according to claim 18 and wherein said deflectors including a plurality of teeth which extend outwardly through openings in said vacuum chamber and retract to the interior of said chamber.

21. The apparatus according to claim 20 wherein sensing means are provided to detect the paper copy which is responsible for actuation of deflector means for directing the next oncoming paper copy into the next designated sorting tray.

22. The apparatus according to claim 21 and wherein a generally vertically extending adjustable paper backstop means is provided for jogging an outer corner of paper coming into said sorting trays to the exposed side of said sorting trays.

23. The apparatus according to claim 22 and wherein said sorting trays are provided with aligned slots within which said backstop is movable for adjustment to various paper lengths. i'

24. The apparatus according to claim 23 and wherein a side stop means is provided to limit the side movement of paper deflected outwardly by said backstop.

25. The apparatus according to claim 24 and wherein said second conveyor section, including its vacuum chamber and belt assembly, are hinged so as to permit pivotal movement for quick access to and removal of paper jams.

26. The apparatus according to claim 17 and wherein a receiving tray is located above and in spaced relation to said first conveyor section for receiving copies not needing to be sorted.

27. The apparatus according to claim 26 and wherein a selectively actuable entrance deflector means is located at the copy entrance of said apparatus so as to direct paper either onto said first conveyor section or to said receiving tray.

28. The apparatus according to claim 27 and wherein a paper stiffener means is provided for said receiving tray whereby the side edges of the paper copies are turned up to stiffen the longitudinal dimension of said paper as it moves into said receiving tray.

29. The apparatus according to claim 28 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes a pair of upwardly angling surfaces for turning said side edges up.

30. The apparatus according to claim 29 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes forwarding means for propelling paper through said stiffener and into said receiving tray.

31. The apparatus according to claim 30 and wherein an air vane switch is actuated by the movement of air from a copy machine to actuate at least said entrance deflector and said means for propelling paper into said receiving tray.

32. Sheet sorting apparatus, comprising:

a. a housing having a sheet distribution compartment including a plurality of spaced and generally vertically aligned sheet sorting trays, said housing also having an auxiliary compartment separated from said distribution compartment and including vacuum inducing means therein,

b. first generally horizontally disposed and second generally vertically disposed multiple belt conveyor sections in said distribution compartment including vacuum chamber means underlying substantially the entire length and width of each of said first and second conveyor sections, said second section being adjacent the entrances of said plurality of sheet sorting trays, said first and second conveyor sections being in proximity to each other for the transfer and guiding of sheets from said first to said second section, the vacuum chambers of said conveyor sections being provided with a plurality of openings so that sheets are held by vacuum against the belts,

c. a series of selectively movable deflector means in the vacuum chamber of said second conveyor section for being extended outwardly through said vacuum openings into the path of sheets and deflecting sheets into said sorting trays, there being deflector means for each sorting tray.

33. The apparatus according to claim 32 and wherein said vacuum inducing means generally creates vacuum in substantially all of said auxiliary compartment and wherein openings connect said auxiliary compartment with the vacuum chambers of said first and second conveyor sections.

34. The apparatus according to claim 33 and wherein separate selectively controllable actuator mechanisms for each deflector means are provided in the vacuum chamber means of said second conveyor section to move said deflectors.

35. The apparatus according to claim 34 and wherein said deflectors include a plurality of teeth which extend outwardly through said openings in said vacuum chamber and retract to the interior of said chamber. 1

36. The apparatus according to claim 35 and wherein sensing means are provided to detect the paper copy which is responsible for actuation of an actuator mechanism and deflector means for directing the next oncoming paper copy into the next designated sorting tray.

37. The apparatus according to claim 36 and wherein a generally vertically extending adjustable paper backstop means is provided for jogging an outer corner of paper coming into said sorting trays to the exposed side of said sorting trays.

38. The apparatus according to claim 37 and wherein said sortingtrays are provided with aligned slots within which said backstop is movable for adjustment to various paper lengths 39. The apparatus according to claim 38 and wherein a side stop means is provided to limit the side movement of paper deflected outwardly by said backstop.

40. The apparatus according to claim 39 and wherein said second conveyor section, including its vacuum chamber and blet assembly, are hinged so as to permit pivotal movement for quick access to and removal of paper jams.

41. The apparatus according to claim 32 and wherein a receiving tray is located above and in spaced relation to said first conveyor section for receiving copies not needing to be sorted.

42. The apparatus according to claim 41 and wherein a selectively actuable entrance deflector means is located at the copy entrance of said apparatus so as to di' rect paper either onto said first conveyor section or to said receiving tray.

43. The apparatus according to claim 42 and wherein a paper stiffener means is provided for said receiving tray whereby the side edges of the paper copies are turned up to stiffen the longitudinal dimension of said paper as it moves into said receiving tray.

44. The apparatus according to claim 43 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes a pair of upwardly angling surfaces for turning said side edges up.

45. The apparatus according to claim 44 and wherein said paper stiffener means includes forwarding means for propelling paper through said stiffener and into said receiving tray.

46. The apparatus according to claim 45 and wherein an air vane switch is actuated by the movement of air from a copy machine to actuate at least said entrance deflector and said means for propelling paper into said receiving tray.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification271/289, 270/58.16, 271/297, 271/197
International ClassificationB07C3/00
Cooperative ClassificationB07C3/00
European ClassificationB07C3/00