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Publication numberUS3777445 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateDec 11, 1973
Filing dateAug 9, 1972
Priority dateAug 9, 1972
Also published asCA971420A, CA971420A1
Publication numberUS 3777445 A, US 3777445A, US-A-3777445, US3777445 A, US3777445A
InventorsAnderson R
Original AssigneeGrace W R & Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for pricing case packed canned goods
US 3777445 A
This invention relates to a method and apparatus for pricing, at a central location, canned goods packed in cartons. The method comprises the steps of slitting the cartons so that at least the bottom forms a tray, removing the unused part of the carton, placing the pricing information on the canned goods, and then wrapping the canned goods and tray in sheet material; and, the apparatus comprises means for conveying the cartons of canned goods, means for slitting or cutting the cartons away from the canned goods, means for placing the pricing information on the canned goods, and wrapping means. After wrapping, the priced goods are then ready for distribution to retail grocery stores and supermarkets.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent [1 1 Anderson METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PRICING CASE PACKED CANNED GOODS [75] Inventor: Richard F. Anderson, Camarillo,


[73] Assignee: W. R. Grace & Co., Duncan, SC.

[22] Filed: Aug. 9, 1972 21 Appl. No; 278,916

[52] U.S. Cl 53/14, 53/26, 53/50, 53/131, 53/164, 53/381 R [51] Int. Cl... B65b 43/26, B65b 43/40, B65b 21/06 Field of Search 53/50, 131, 381 R, 53/381 A, 229, 39,14,164, 30, 21 R, 26, 32; 214/305, 309, 6 FS, 8.5 C; 30/2; 101/105,

[ Dec. 11, 1973 Primary Examiner-Travis S. McGehee Assistant Examinerl-1orace M. Culver Attorney-John J. Toney et a1.

[57] I ABSTRACT This invention relates to a method and apparatus for pricing, at a central location, canned goods packed in cartons. The method comprises the steps of slitting the cartons so that at least the bottom forms a tray, removing the unused part of the carton, placing the pricing information on the canned goods, and then wrapping the canned goods and tray in sheet material; and, the apparatus comprises means for conveying the cartons of canned goods, means for slitting or cutting the cartons away from the canned goods, means for placing the pricing information on the canned goods, and wrapping means. After wrapping, the priced goods are then ready for distribution to retail grocery stores and supermarkets.

7 Claims, 18 Drawing Figures FIG.


Q m. Emma .i an

PATENTEDUEE 1 1 ms SHEET 030F 11 PMENIEDBEC 11 ms 3,7714% sum user 11 ,201 257 I W l z 2i '1 PATENTED DEC 1 1 I975 SHEET 10 0F 11 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PRICING CASE PACKED CANNED GOODS FIELD OF THE INVENTION This invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for preparing grocery and other items for retail display. Specifically, the invention relates to a method and apparatus for pricing canned goods at a central location before the canned goods are distributed to retail supermarkets and grocery stores.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION To stock canned goods in a supermarket or retail grocery store, cases must usually be cut open individually by hand, the price of each item must be hand stamped on each can, and then the cans must be placed on the display shelves. This process is not only time consuming where labor is in short supply and is costly, it also blocks aisles, is subject to pricing errors, and is subject to the tendency to leave litter in the aisles. Furthermore, if an item runs short during a rush period in the supermarket, an aisle must be blocked and cans stamped when the labor is needed in another area.

Another disadvantage to pricing canned goods by present methods is that many of the price marks are i1- legible. Thus, an object of this invention is to provide an apparatus and method for legibly pricing canned goods.

It is another object of the present invention to provide cases of priced canned goods having a minimum of wrapping material and being capable of being ready for retail display without the in-store price stamping and having the option of shelf stocking or end-aisle display.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus in which pricing of canned goods is done efficiently and at low costs.

The above mentioned and other objects are achieved by the present invention which provides a method and apparatus for the retail pricing of canned goods at a central location and further provides for the wrapping of the priced canned goods in packages which are ready for retail display.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In its broadest aspect, the present invention is a method of placing indicia on canned goods packed in cartons comprising the steps of slitting or cutting the carton so that at least the bottom of the carton forms a tray for the canned goods; removing the unused portion of the cartonleaving marking surfaces of the canned goods exposed; placing the indicia on each one of the cans in the group of canned goods; and thereafter assembling the priced canned goods and tray for movement to a retail display area. When the canned goods are packed in a case having two tiers, the method includes cutting or slitting the carton so that both the top and the bottom of the carton form trays; lifting the upper tier of canned goods ina collective group and placing the upper tier on the tray formed from the top of the case; placing indicia such as pricing information on the cans while they are separated in single trayed tiers; and after pricing, lifting one tier and placing it on top of the other. The wrapping of one or more tiers in a transparent, heat shrinkable plastic material is an additional feature of the invention. In a narrower aspect, the lifting of the canned goods is accomplished by magnetic forces, and the pricing of the canned goods is accomplished by printing the price thereon row by row.

In its broadest aspect, the apparatus of the present invention comprises conveying means for the case packed goods; carton slitting or cutting means; means for positioning the cartons as they approach the printer; printing means for printing the price on each row of cans, said printing means being responsive to the contour of an outside can in each row; and wrapping means for the priced goods. When it is desired to price goods packed in two tiers in cartons, the apparatus includes means for separating the tiers of canned goods at a can transfer station. In a narrower aspect of the present invention, the separating means employs magnetic forces to accomplish the separation by lifting. When the wrapping material is a heat shrinkable, thermoplastic sheet, a heat tunnel means is also included to shrink the sheet material tightly around the canned goods.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the following description of the preferred embodiment, reference will be made to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a conceptual perspective layout of an apparatus which employs the method of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a means for slitting or cutting cartons;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing the slitting of the cases and the forming of the carton trays;

FIG. 3a is a perspective view of another embodiment of a carton cutting means including a view of one embodiment of the can transfer station;

FIG. 4 is a partial side elevation view of the apparatus for lifting the upper tier of canned goods at the can transfer station and showing one of the tiers so lifted;

FIG. 5 is the same view as FIG. 4 but showing the upper tier of canned goods being placed or lowered back to the conveyor;

FIG. 6 is a partial side elevation view of the canned goods at the printing station;

FIG. 7 is a view along lines 77 of FIG. 6;

FIG. 7a is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment of an apparatus for printing prices on canned goods;

FIG. 7b is a view along line 7b -7b of FIG. 7a in partial section;

FIG. is a schematic representation of the inking system for the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 7a;

FIGS. 8a 8e are schematic representations of the steps of wrapping regrouped tiers of canned goods; and

FIGS. 9a. and 9b show wrapped canned goods before and after being subjected to heat shrinking of the wrapping material.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring first to FIG. 1, the complete apparatus for centrally pricing case packages canned goods is shown. The cases or cartons 60 are brought in from the left side of FIG. 1 and placed upon conveyor 7 which moves the case into carton slitting station 1 which will be describedin more detail hereinafter. After leaving the carton slitting station 1, the carton is conveyed toward the right in FIG. 1 and the upper part of the carton 61 is taken off and placed on the conveyor and the central slit portion 62 is discarded leaving the two tiers of canned goods 60. Three options are available with regard to portion or section 62; (l) the section may be removed before reaching station 2; (2) the section may be removed in station 2 from either the top tier or the bottom tier; or (3) the section can be left on the bottom tier and removed between stations 2 and 3 at any convenient time.

Next, the two-tiered case of canned goods moves to station 2 where the upper tier 63 carton lifted from the lower tier and then the lower tier is moved onward to the right. The case or catron top 61 which is now a tray can be placed manually on the bottom of tier 63 while it is in the lifted position where it will remain because of the snug fit, or tray top 61 can be left on the conveyor and upper tier 63 lowered into it. As the canned goods leave station 2, they are now half cases on trays containing twelve cans per tray, the usual case of canned goods being in two tiers of twelve cans per tier.

Still referring to FIG. 1, the half cases 64 continue their movement to the right hand side of FIG. 1 as they approach station 3 which is a gang pricer or printer for printing the appropriate price on each can. A labeler could also be used at station 3 to place the appropriate pricing labels on the cans. After the pricing has been completed, the half cases move to station 4 which operates in the same fashion as station 2. At station 4 a first tier of cans is lifted and then lowered onto a succeeding tier of cans. The double tier of cans 65 then moves to a wrapping device 5 which can be an apparatus for enclosing the canned goods in heat shrinkable film and after being so wrapped, the case 65 moves into station 6 which is a heat tunnel for shrinking the shrinkable film tightly around the canned goods. Since the heat shrinkable film is preferably transparent, the thue wrapped cases 66 will emerge from the heat tunnel 6 being ready for shipment to a supermarket or retail grocery store. The goods wrapped in this manner, being already priced, can be stacked in a grocery store at the end of an aisle, in the center of a high pedestrian traffic area to make a self-supporting display, or placed directly upon the retail shelves. The grocer can remove as many of the film overwraps as he desires, or if time and labor do not permit, the film can be left on the package as it is easy for a customer to remove cans from the packages as will be hereinafter explained in greater detail.

Turning now to FIG. 2, the operation of the carton slitter 1 will be described. Conveyor belt 7 carries carton 60 and the belt can run on driven rollers between side supporting rails 11 or carton 60 can be pushed through by air or other means or it can be pulled through by mechanical or other means. The rollers can be driven by any conventional means which are well within the skill of the art. Upright standard or shaft 12 carries swingable arms 13 having at their ends cutting blades 18. These arms 13 are urged inwardly towards each other by spring means 14. The two arms 13 can be vertically adjusted, but must be maintained at the same vertical distance from plate 17. This is essential so that the cut around the carton will lie in one horizontal plane. A second shaft 120 carries pivotally mounted upper swingable arms 15 also having cutting blades 18. Arms 15 are urged inwardly by upper springs or resilient means 16. Again, it is essential that the blades 18 on the upper swingable arms 15 be at the same vertical height from the conveyor belt 7. As a case or carton enters station 1 and moves from the right hand side of FIG. 2 on the conveyor belt to the left hand side of the figure, the carton will first strike against inclined plate 17 which is the adjustment means for the height of the upper swingable arms. The adjustment means 17 is resiliently mounted by spring means 19 so that as the carton moves from right to left, the inclined plate will rise due to the wedging action of the carton against the plate until the lowermost or horizontal portion of the plate 17 is at the height of the top of the carton thus allowing the carton to move thereunder. As the carton does move under the plate 17 the blades 18 on the upper arms 15 and lower arms 13 cut parallel slits in the sides of the carton. This sequence is schematically represented in FIG. 3 where carton 6 is slit and turned and thereafter the center section 62 is removed leaving tray portion 61. Preferably, the slitter is arranged as shown in FIG. 1 wherein the cartons emerge at a 90 degree angle from the direction in which they entered the cutting station 1. Inside station 1, the arrangement can resemble that shown in FIG. 3a. After passing through the first set 101 of slitting arms 13 and 15, the carton is delivered from conveyor means 7 onto a second conveyor system 8 which is moving at right angles to conveyor means 7. This can be accomplished by having the second conveyor 8 at a lower elevation than the first conveyor 7 with a short inclined chute or roller conveyor inbetween; a turntable can be used; or, as shown. appropriately driven rollers can be employed, all of this being within the skill of the art. However, it has been found that powered means acting on the carton 60 must be used to transport the case through station 60 as arms 13 and 15 offer appreciable resistance. Of course, the carton 60 can be manually pushed through station 2.

Once the carton has been turned at a right angle, it passes through a second set 102 of inwardly swingable cuttings arms 13 and 15. Thus, when the carton emerges from station 1, as shown in FIG. 1, it has two parallel slits completely around its periphery so that the top portion of the carton will form a shallow tray 61, the central or middle portion 62 can be discarded, and the bottom portion of a carton also forms a shallow tray 61.

The embodiment of FIG. 3a shows a preferred shape for inclined plate 17. The plate 17 is carried in race 121 of beam which is equivalent in its function to shaft 120 in FIG. 2 except that beam 120 is inclined to make the vertical movement of plate 17 require less force.

A carton slitting device similar to the one described hereinabove is disclosed in US Pat. No. 3,137,068 which issued to 1.8. Quigley on June 16, 1964. FIGS. 2 and 3 above are modifications of FIGS. 2 and l of the Quigley patent. In the Quigley patent, a pair of base supported vertical shafts are provided with each shaft having mounted thereon vertically spaced pairs of horizontally opposed and inwardly biased cutting blade arms, two sets of which shaft-moutned cutting blade arms when attached in horizontally spaced disposition along a conventional carton conveyor will cause cartons moving on the conveyor to be slit on all four sides at substantially equal distances above and below the carton bottom and top regardless of the carton width and height so as to divide the carton into two trays of equal size with a disposable intermediate sleeve section.

In every instance it may not be desirable or practical to cut two parallel slits in the carton. In a single tiered carton only one horizontal peripheral slit will obviously be necessary; and, even with two tiers a single cut at the cartons midplane may be desirable so that the upper carton half can be removed and used as a tray of greater than usual depth.

Referring briefly again to FIG. 1, after leaving the slitting station 1, the upper tray portion 61 and center portion 62 can be manually removed from the case and the two tiers of canned goods are thereby exposed. The canned goods in two tiers resting on the bottom tray move to station 2 whose operation will now be described with reference to FIG. 4. In FIG. 4, a half case of goods or the lower tier is shown on driven rollers 9 being held by gate 29. The conveyor 8 (FIG. 1) can be either a series of driven rollers or can be a belt up to station 2, but prior to station 2 the conveying means preferably should be driven rollers which will slip against the carton bottom when it is held as it is in FIG. 4 by gate 29. The gate 29 travels vertically in gate frame or vertical gate race 27 and is powered by pneumatic cylinder 201 and supported by piston shaft 202. Pneumatic cylinder 201 is fed by line 203. Altemately, gate 29 and cylinder 201 may be located below rollers 9 and, when actuated, the gate 29 rises between the rollers 9 to block and hold case 60, the slit case with at least the topremoved.

The upper tier or layer of cans 63 has been raised by magnet plate 26 which is mounted above the carriage frame having contact plate 25, both the magnet and the frame being supported by connecting rod 23 which is vertically actuated by pneumatic cylinder 21. Also located on a cross-member of the carriage frame is a second pneumatic cylinder 22 which has a connecting rod 24 which extends through an aperture in the crossmember so that the contact plate 25 and magnet 26 may be vertically separated. While in the raised position as shown in FIG. 4, the tray 61 cut from the upper portion of the carton can be manually placed under the upper tier of cans 63. Normally, this fit is snug enough so that the trays 61 will stay in place.

Referring to FIG. 5, connecting rod 23 actuated by pneumatic cylinder 21 has lowered the upper tier of canned goods 63 and the tray 61 onto the conveyor 9 and in this position pneumatic cylinder 22 is actuated so that magnet plate 26 is vertically moved away from contact plate 25 thus separating the cans in tier 63 from the influence of magnetic plate 26. This vertical separation is possible as shaft 23 supports the carriage frame having contact plate 25 directly, the supporting means for magnetic plate 26 being pneumatic cylinder 22 which in turn rests on the carriage frame cross-member and supports magnetic plate 26 by shaft 24 through an aperture inthe cross-member. Obviously, in order for the cans to be vertically lifted as in done at station 2, the can transfer station, the cans must be made of a ferrous metal or a ferrous alloy metal.

Lines 203, 204, and 205 supply compressed air to actuate the pneumatic cylinders 21, 22, and 201. These cylinders can be actuated manually in the sequence to be described hereinbelow or by a combination of valves, switches, and cams described. When, in FIG. 4, a case 64 moving on rollers 9 strikes pneumatic switch 206, a pneumatic valve (not shown) is opened causing gate 29 to drop or rise, as the case may be thereby blocking and stopping case 64. As the gate 29 moves into its blocking position, a microswitch (not shown) is turned on by the gates movement. The microswitch starts a timer (not shown) which is set for a predetermined cycle time. The timer sets a cam shaft (not shown) in rotation. The cams on the shaft turn a series of microswitches on and off at predetermined intervals. The microswitches control electrical solenoid valves which direct the flow of air to cylinders in the following order. First, the main cylinder 21 is vented thereby allowing magnet 26 and contact plate 25 to fall freely down onto the top of the cans in case 64. Next, the vent of main cylinder 21 is closed and compressed air is introduced into the cylinder causing it to lift the cans. The gate 29 is then moved by a solenoid from its blocking position allowing the bottom tray of cans 64 to exit. The main cylinder 21 is again vented lowering the tier of cans 63 onto a tray 61 or a tray 61 will have been manually placed under the cans 63. Second air cylinder 22 is now actuated retracting magnet 26 from contact plate 25 afterwhich the entire assembly is lifted by actuation of main cylinder 21. During this lifting phase, cylinder 22 is vented and magnet 26 drops into place. Then, the timer is turned off and the whole can transfer station is now ready for the next case of cans.

In FIG. 3a, a preferred embodiment of can transfer station 2 is shown in perspective without pneumatic lines. Main cylinder 21 is located in the center of the horizontal portion of supporting frame 20. Shaft 23 connects to carriage 231, the bottom of which is formed by contact plate or tray 25. Magnet 26 is inside tray 25; and, second pneumatic cylinder 22 with shaft 24 cannot be seen in this view.

Referring now to FIG. 6 the operation of printing station 3 will be described. FIG. 6 is a partial view showing a half case or tier of canned goods 64 at the station, the case having columns four cans wide and rows three cans deep, a row being a line of cans transverse to the conveyor and a column being a line parallel to the direction of motion of the conveyor. In FIG. 6 the tray of canned goods 64 is moving to the right on conveyor 8 and disposed above the cans carried by frame 30 is printing device 310. (See FIG. 7a) Viewing FIG. 7 with FIG. 6, FIG. 7 being a view along lines 77 of FIG. 6, half case 64 is shown having been positioned by guide chutes 301 and 302 so that the contour of the outer can in each row can be followed by contour wheel or cam 38 which is rotatably mounted on switch arm 37 and which when moved to the extreme outside position by the contour of oneof the outside cans 63 will actuate switch 36 which in turn signals a solenoid or a pneumatic cylinder which releases reciprocating piston 331 (FIG. 7a) to fall downwardly thus printing the row of cans with the price. Chute arm 301 can be adjusted to accommodate differing sizes of cartons. The printing characters, of course, are spaced transversely across the cans and, since mostall cases of canned goods in a four-by-three array, only four groups of characters are needed. Lateral or transverse adjustment of the character groups is not normally needed as can sizes usually fall in the range of 2% inches to 4% inches in diameter and one transverse setting can be used for this range of can sizes.

FIGS. 7a and 7b show the preferred printing device 310 for use at gang pricer station 3. In FIG. 7a, frame 311 supports pneumatic cylinders 331 which are connected to horizontal beam 332 by piston shaft 330. De-

pending from beam 332 is a series of plates 333 in which shafts 44, 45, and 46 are journaled together with shafts 336, 337, and 338. Shafts 44, 45, and 46 each respectively have a series of coaxially mounted adjustment wheels 41, 42, and 43. Also, referring to FIG. 7b, shafts 336, 337, and 338 each respectively have a series of grooved band wheels 350,351, and 352 mounted coaxially thereon. The grooved wheels 350, 351, and 352 are arranged in a triangular array with printing bands 341, 342, and 343 disposed in the wheel grooves in each array. The bands carry printing type on their exposed faces and are constructed of a resilient material such as rubber, plastic, or the like.

When pneumatic cylinder 331 lowers piston 330 and consequently beam 332, plates 333, and the shafts jour naled therein, wheels 352 will be rotated by shaft 336 which is driven by pinion 335 being turned when it engages rack 334 in one direction of vertical motion. All of the printing bands are thus moved into position on wheels 350 ready to print having previously been linked. Thus, each stroke of cylinder 331 turns the bands for printing on cans located below wheels 350.

FIG. 70 is a schematic representation of the parts of the printing device 310. shown in FIGS. 7a and 7b; but, in FIG. 7c the operation of the inking system is illustrated. Inking ribbon 320 is a continuous, ink absorbent ribbon carried by rollers 323,324, and 329. The ribbon can be made from any of the well known materials used in the printing arts, particularly the typewriter, teletype, and computer printer arts. The ribbon 320 passes into ink reservoir 322 where it is submerged in ink 321. From the reservoir 322 the ribbon-passes between the pair of rollers 324 and 324'. These rollers squeeze excess ink from the ribbon. Roller 324' is powered by means which are not shown and the teeth on roller 324 grip the ribbon 320 and move the ribbon a predetermined distance with each inking stroke as will be hereinafter explained. Inking plate 325 has lands 328 with cut-outs or indentations therebetween which expose ribbon 320 which is traveling in groove 327 (not shown) on the backside of plate 325. The exposed ribbon 320 contacts the printing belts 341, 342, and 343 on wheels 352 and the wheels are moved upwardly. Horizontal beam 332 and vertical plates 333 (see FIGS. 7a and 7b) carry the shafts 338 and 337 to which wheels 352 and 350 are attached. The location of inking plate 325 will be behind beam 332 in FIG. 7a and above wheel 325 in FIG. 7b.

Still referring to FIG. 7c, during each downward stroke of the printing wheels and printing belts 341, 342, and 343, cans 63 will have their appropriate prices printed thereon. The wheels and belts carried by beam 332 and actuated by cylinder 331 (see FIGS. 7a) fall freely onto cans 63, the penumatic cylinder 331 having been vented to atmosphere. Upon arrest of its downward motion, cylinder 331 is actuated to raise the wheels and belts. At the upper extremity of cylinder 33ls stroke the belts are pressed against ribbon 320 between lands 328. When the cylinder 331 is again vented for free-fall, powered roller 324 is actuated to turn a pre-determined number of revolutions so that the ribbon will be moved the width of plate 325 thus leaving freshly inked ribbon surfaces exposed for the next inking stroke. The fresh inking of the type on the belts and the direct, positive contact of the type with the cans provides legible, correct prices on each can.

Adjustment wheels 41, 42, and 43 which are respectively carried by shafts 44, 45, and 46 are manually turned by knobs 41A, 42A and 43A. Each of these knobs causes one set of bands to be moved relative to the other sets. Thus, price changes can be quickly and readily made.

After leaving the printing station 3, each half case moves onto case regrouper 4 (see FIG. 1) which operates in the same manner as the can transfer station 2. Thus, reference will again be made to FIGS. 4 and 5 to describe the operation of case regrouper 4. The main difference between can transfer station 2 and case regrouper station 4 is the sequence of operation of the lifting means. A regrouping station 4 as a first half case 64 enters and trips air switch 206, gate 29 will descend or rise to stop the case. A timer is again started and the main cylinder 21 is vented so that the plate and magnet fall freely on the cans. Next, the cylinder 21 is actuated to lift the cans, the gate is removed, and the timer goes off. The next half case arriving trips switch 206, the gate moves in place stopping the case, the timer goes on, and the cylinder 21 is vented thus lowering the previously lifted half-case. Now, the magnet is separated from the contact plate as before, the gate removed, and the regrouped carton moves on with all cans having been priced.

Turning again to FIG. 1, the regrouped case 65 after leaving the case regrouper station 4 moves to the wrap ping station 5 where the case is wrapped in sheet material, preferably a heat shrinkable, clear thermoplastic material such as crosslinked polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride. In FIG. 8 an apparatus is schematically represented and a method is illustrated for wrapping the reqrouped case 65 in heat shrinkable thermoplastic material. Following the sequence from FIG. 8a to 82 the wrapping operation at station 5 will be described. A sheet of wrapping material 59 is shown hanging from roll 57 with its free end secured by vacuum means 512. Movable carriage 524 with pressure plate 526 and support roller 515 is shown positioned between conveyors 51 and 8. Platen 521 is shown located adjacent conveyor 51. In FIG. 8b advancing means 511 has positioned regrouped case 65 through the space between stroke roller 56 and support roller 515 striking the film and causing the film to be wrapped around its leading bottom and sides. The trailing edge of film 59 is shown resting on platen 521. In FIG. 8c advancing means 511 has withdrawn to its original position and movable carriage 521 has moved downwardly. Stroke roller 56 has formed a loop with film roller 59 and has carried it below the surface of the conveyors. Pressure plate 522 has engaged the film against platen 521 to seal same. For sealing to occur at this point, it is preferred that the thermoplastic material also be heat scalable and that plate 521 or pressure plate 522 be heated. FIG. 8d shows the additional stroke of roller 56 is shown as it moves to position 56' and is nearing the bottom of its additional stroke. The film has now been severed at the pressure plate by severing means which'operates with the sealing means. It is well known within the skill of the art to seal and sever in one operation such as this.

Once the film has been severed at the pressure plate, it is wiped against the vacuum means 512. In FIG. 8e the completed package is shown with the film 59 completely around article 65, there being a heat seal 538 to complete the package. The free end of the film is secured by vacuum means 512 and is ready for the next group of canned goods.

A wrapping machine as described is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,469,368 issued on Sept. 30, 1969 to Ivan F. Churchill et al and FIG. 8 of this application is taken from FIG. 7 of the Churchill patent. Briefly, the Churchill wrapping machine is for sleeve wrapping articles in a single sheet of heat shrinkable thermoplastic film and has means for advancing an article into a vertically disposed sheet of film to cover the leading side and bottom of the article. A stroke roller is provided for bringing film down behind the trailing side of the article thus covering the top and trailing side and pulling additional film from a film supply. A heated ribbon is used to seal the film to itself and additional means can be provided for severing the film. A secondary stroke from the roller wipes the lower portion of the unsevered film against a vacuum plate to hold the film vertically in place for a succeeding article.

Upon leaving the wrapping station 5, the case of canned goods has the appearance as shown in FIG. 9a. The two tiers 63 and 64 are shown stacked one on the other enclosed by the loosely fitting sleeve of film 59'. Next the sleeve wrapped case 65 goes into heat tunnel station 6 (see FIG. 1) where heat is applied to shrink the film so that the film enclosed case of canned goods 66 has the appearance shown in FIG. 9b.

The operation of the heating tunnel is not described herein in detail as the heat tunnel is merely a means of applying heated air to the film. This is in the nature of an open-ended oven where air temperatures can range from 190 to above 500 F. A suitable heat tunnel is described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,399,506 issued to M. A. Howe, Jr., on Sept. 3, 1968.

The wrapped and priced cans as shown in FIG. 9b are now ready for shipment to the supermarket. These cases can be stacked one on top of the other for their own self supporting retail display and the supermarket employee need only tear the film off the top case and as each case is emptied, the lower cases can be easily opened and cans removed therefrom by prospective customers. While some littering might occur from the film and empty trays, the amount of disposable debris is greatly reduced in both volume and weight from that necessary if a whole paperboard carton is used. Also, the cans are all legibly priced and do not require further handling at the retail store level.

Other methods of wrapping the regrouped cases can be employed and bands or straps of fibrous material or of plastic may be used to hold the case securely.

The foregoing described method and apparatus provide great flexibility for a variety of pricing operations. A complete system as shown in FIG. 1 can be used or the components at each station can be employed to performed limited operations as desired.

I claim:

1. A method of pricing canned goods packed in two tiers in cartons comprising the steps of: I

a. slitting the carton in two parallel cuts, both of said cuts being horizontally and continuing completely around the periphery of said carton so that the top and bottom of said carton form trays;

b. removing said top .tray thereby leaving the two tiers of canned goods disposed upon the bottom tray;

0. lifting the upper tier of said canned goods;

d. moving the lower tier from below said upper tier;

e. positioning said top tray below said upper tier;

f. lowering said upper tier to the same level as said lower tier into said top tray; and,

g. placing pricing information on each of the canned goods in said upper and lower tiers.

2. The method of claim 1 including the additional steps of:

i. lifting said lower tier;

ii. moving said upper tier under said lower tier; and,

iii. lowering said lower tier onto said upper tier thereby regrouping said canned goods.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein a magnet is employed to lift said tiers.

4. A method of preparing canned goods for retail display and sale, said canned goods being packed in two tiers in a paperboard carton and said cans comprising a ferro-magnetic material, said method comprising the steps of:

a. slitting the carton in two horizontal, parallel cuts whereby the top and bottom of said carton form two shallow trays;

b. removing said carton top and middle section thereby exposing the two tiers of canned goods on the bottom tray;

c. placing a flat plate on top of said upper tier of canned goods, said plate covering the upper surfaces of said canned goods in said upper tier;

d. positioning a magnet on top of said plate, said magnet applying magnetic force to all cans in said upper tier and said magnet being of sufficient strength to hold and lift all cans in said upper tier;

e. lifting said plate and said magnet thereby lifting said upper tier of canned goods from said lower tier;

f. moving said lower tier from under said upper tier;

g. placing the carton top below said upper tier to form a tray therefor;

h. lowering said upper tier to the same horizontal level as said lower tier;

i. holding said plate while moving said magnet out of magnetically attractive relationship with said cans;

j. removing said plate from one top of said upper tier;

k. placing pricing information on the tops of said cans in each of said tiers;

l. placing a second flat plate on top of the cans in one of said tiers thereby covering same;

m. placing a second magnet on top of said second plate, said second magnet being capable of holding and lifting all the cans in the tier;

n. lifting said second plate and said second magnet thereby lifting the cans in said tier; I

o. positioning the other tier under the tier being lifted;

p. lowering the lifted tier onto the other tier; and,

q. holding the second plate and moving the second magnet out of contact with said cans and thereafter removing said second plate whereby said cans are grouped in a case lot.

5. The method of claim 4 including the steps of wrapping the regrouped canned goods in clear, heat shrinkable thermoplastic material and thereafter heat shrinking the material around said regrouped canned goods.

6. Apparatus for pricing canned goods packed in tiers in cartons comprising:

a. conveying means for conveying said cartons to and through the succeeding enumerated means;

b. carton slitting means for cutting said carton into at least one tray upon which said canned goods rest;

0. can transfer means for lifting the uppermost tier of canned goods and lowering same onto said conveying means;

d. means for placing pricing indicia on each row of canned goods; and,

e. means for regrouping said tiers.

7. Apparatus for pricing canned goods packed in two tiers and cartons comprising:

a. conveying means to move said cartons and canned goods horizontally through the following enumerated means;

b. carton slitting means to out two parallel, horizontal cuts about the periphery of a carton whereby the top and the bottom of said carton form shallow trays;

c. first lifting means for lifting an upper tier of canned goods from a lower tier permitting the lower tier to move horizontally on said conveying means from under said lifted tier and thereafter placing said upper tier on said conveying means;

d. carton positioning means to position cartons traveling on said conveying means;

e. printing means to apply pricing information to the tops of said cans in each of said tiers;

f. second lifting means to lift a tier of canned goods above said conveying means whereby as a following tier of canned goods moves under said lifted tier, said lifted tier can be lowered on top of said following tier; and

g. wrapping means to enclose said tiers in sheet material.

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U.S. Classification53/397, 53/50, 53/540, 53/463, 53/411, 53/442, 53/580, 53/557, 53/131.2, 53/381.2, 53/447
International ClassificationB65B61/26, B65B61/00, B65B69/00
Cooperative ClassificationB65B61/26, B65B69/0033
European ClassificationB65B69/00C, B65B61/26
Legal Events
Sep 5, 1989ASAssignment
Owner name: W.R. GRACE & CO.-CONN, A CORP. OF CT
Effective date: 19880525