US 3782590 A
A pill counting machine in which a plurality of pills are moved by elongated vibrating troughs which first form a single line of pills, then remove the dust, and finally pass the pills through a sensing station where they are counted. A diverting vane adjacent the sensing station switches the direction of the stream of pills into a storage means after the desired number of pills has passed the sensing station.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Apfel PILL COUNTING MACHINE  Inventor: George J. Apfel, 105 Rivervale Rd.,
Park Ridge, NJ. 07656 22 Filed: May 18, 1972 21 Appl. No: 254,619
 US. Cl. 221/13, 53/78  Int. Cl B65d 57/20  Field of Search 221/2, 7, 9, 12,
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,632,588 3/1953 Hoar 221/7 2,236,890 4/1941 Bower Jan. 1, 1974 Primary ExaminerRobert B. Reeves Assistant Examiner-Thomas E. Kocovsk Attorney-Albert F, Kronman  ABSTRACT A pill counting machine in which a plurality of pills are moved by elongated vibrating troughs which first form a single line of pills, then remove the dust, and finally pass the pills through a sensing station where they are counted. A diverting vane adjacent the sensing station switches the direction of the stream of pills into a storage means after the desired number of pills has passed the sensing station. 1
6 Claims, 5 Drawing Figures PATENIEDJAN'HW 3,782,590 suzttaurz BATCH 6/ 60 O l PILL COUNTING MACHINE BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION It is important, for many reasons, to obtain an exact number of pills or capsules in filling a prescription for a patient or to be used in a commercial operation. The time consuming and often inaccurate operation of counting the requisite number of pills or capsules is best performed by suitable mechanisms.
Some prior art pill counters have used rotating disks to agitate the pills prior to forming the pills into a straight line for counting purposes. Others employ rotating screws or apertured plates. Such arrangements have been known to seriously abrade the pill surfaces or crush them. The present system employs elongated troughs to which a gentle vibratory motion is imparted so as to advance the pills or capsules. The troughs have a polished surface which does not abrade the pills. The vibrating motion in addition to advancing the pills, loosens any dust from the pill surfaces. The dust is then separated and'delivered to a disposal box.
One of the features of the invention is a means for accurately counting pills without abrading their surfaces.
Another feature of the invention is a means for removing the dust from the pills just prior to the counting and storage operations.
Still another feature of the invention is the shape of the trough which delivers the pills to the counting space. The curvature of the bottom portion of the second trough plus the limited exit rim section insures that only one pill at a time will be presented to the counting means and an error in counting is eliminated.
Other features and additional details of the invention will be disclosed in the following description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES FIG. 1 is a front view of the pill counting machine showing the panel controls and the funnels which direct the pills into the storage containers.
FIG. 2 is a top view of the machine with a portion of the cover removed.
FIG. 3 is a side view of one of the vibrators used in the pill counter.
FIG. 4 is a top view of one of the magnet windings and the two micro-switches together with two rockable arms which operate the switches.
FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of connections of the entire pill counter electric circuit.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the pill counter includes a housing supported by four legs 11. A funnel 12 is mounted above a trough 13 for receiving a batch of pills to be counted. The trough 13 is coupled to a vibrator 14 which is operated by a peaked wave form applied to a solenoid so that the pills are slowly moved axially along the trough to the left as shown in the figures. The pills are delivered from trough 13 to a second trough 15 which is also coupled to a vibrator 16. The pills received from the first trough 13 are thus moved along the second trough 15 until they are expelled at the open exit end of the trough into a second funnel 17 or into a rotatable guide 18 controlled by counting mechanism within the box 10. At the entrance end of the second trough, an inclined shield 20 is positioned for deflecting pills that otherwise might spill over th edge of the trough at this point.
The second trough 15 must orient the pills into a line of single pills and for this reason a bent wire 21is em ployed to deflect pills that are not properly oriented and move them into a single line. Many pills, especially those without a glassy sugar coating, are abraded to some extent during shipment and handling and accumulate dust. The two vibratory troughs shake this dust from the pills and a slot 22 in the second trough 15 permits the dust to fall from the trough to an inclined collector 23 and then to a vertical conduit 24.
The lower portion of trough 15 is given a semicylindrical shape having a curvature somewhat less than that of the surface of the pills. If the bottom of the trough is flat, there is a possibility that two pills will pass the counting space at the same time, one flat on the trough surface and one on its side. If the trough is made with a V section, the pills again will double up; one resting on each of the Hat surfaces.
A photosensitive counting device is placed at the exit end of the second trough 15. It includes a photosensitive detector 25 preferrably a photo-conductor, mounted above the trough end, and a lamp 26 (see FIG. 5 positioned behind a window 27. The light from the lamp 26 energizes the photo-conductor 25 causing current to flow through it and a resistor 28 (see FIG. 5), producing a voltage drop across the resistor. When a pill falls off the end of the trough 15 the light beam is momentarily broken and the potential difference across the resistor 28 falls zero, creating a negative pulse. The photo-conductor 25 is housed in a small cyl inder 25A while the coupling circuit is mounted in a box 30. For most purposes, a single voltage divider 31 is all that is necessary to vary the sensitivity of the device. When the desired number of pills has been counted, a counter mechanism 32 sends an electrical pulse to a latch winding 33 and a short pill diverting guide 18 is moved into the path of falling pills, and directs them into a funnel 35. A receptacle or storage bin 36 (shown in dashed lines in FIG. ll) can be used to catch the over-count pills while a. receptacle 3'7 can be used to receive the counted pills.
The front panel 34 of the housing lllsupports several control knobs for operating the device, the most important being the counter dial 38. A central knob 40 is coupled to an indicator 41 for manually setting the count for a desired number. A second indicator 42 is coupled to the counter mechanism and indicates the number of pills counted by the photosensitive device 25. The counter mechanism is positioned within a dust cover 43 and is arranged to produce an electrical signal when the count of pills, as indicated by the counter indicator 42, reaches the zero position after having been set at the count position. The counter is well known in the art.
Two vibrators 14 and 16 (see FIG. 2) which move the pills or capsules along troughs 13% and i5 are each powered by a peaking circuit shown in FIG. 5. Each circuit contains a variable resistor 44, 45 which can be used to vary the length of stroke. The control shafts of these resistors are connected to two dial knobs 46, 47 on the front panel 34 in easy reach of the operator. A switch 48 is also mounted on the front panel to permit the operator to change from batch count to an R, predetermined number count. Other controls include a start switch lever 50 and a photosensitive control 51 which 3 is connected to the sliding contact of the voltage divider 28. The interior of the housing contains other circuit components such as relays, microswitches, and a step down transformer 52 which is connected to lamp 26.
The two vibrators 14 and 16 are identical and are well known instruments. They may be obtained from the Syntron Company, Homer City, Pa. The vibrators include a cast iron body 53 (see FIG. 3) which is preferably mounted on resilient pads 54. The vibrating unit 55 is supported by two spaced flexible straps 56 and connected to a core 57 within a winding 58. The winding 58 is connected to the peaking circuit shown in FIG. 5 which supplies a strong pulse each time the positive part of an alternating wave is applied to a control circuit. The details of this circuit are shown in FIG. 5.
The control circuit (see FIG. 5) includes a pair of input terminals 60 to which an A.C. electric power supply is connected. A double armed switch 61 is coupled to switch button 48 and can be set to a Batch, an R or an OFF position. One branch of the power line is connected in series with a microswitch 62 and a clutch winding 63 to ground conductor 59. The clutch winding 63 attracts a pivoted lever 64 which moves a gear wheel 65 into or out of engagement with a counting gear wheel 66. The microswitch 62 must be closed and the gear wheels 65, 66, in mesh during each counting operation. Gear wheel 65 carries a cam 67 which is adapted to actuate two contact units 68 and 70 when the counter mechanism moves the cam 67 to a zero count position. The count mechanism comprises a count magnet 71, an armature 72, a ratchet means 73 and a toothed wheel 74. This type of counting means is old in the art, and is available by purchase commercially.
The actuation of the counter is done by an electric pulse provided by the photo-conductive cell 25 and resistor 28. When the light beam falling on cell 25 is interrupted by a pill, an electric pulse is sent over conductor 75 to the count winding 71 to attract the armature and register a count. The other side of winding 71 is connected to conductor 76 and the upper contacts 77A of microswitch 77, then through contacts 86 on relay 81 and the lower contacts 83 controlled by magnet winding 63, then over conductor 84 to blade 98 of switch 61. Another branch of this circuit includes conductor 79, contacts 79A, conductor 78, and both the vibrators to keep the pills or capsules moving. When the counter 32 is put into operation, contacts 83 are closed and current is then applied to winding 81, closing contacts 85 and 86. Contacts 85 are locking contacts and when they are closed by the initial pulse, the current keeps the relay in its actuated condition until blade 98 in switch 61 is opened.
Referring now to FIG. 4, a latch magnet winding 33 controls an armature 87 which holds a first lever 88 when a count is being made. Lever 88 is resiliently urged by a spring 90 to move a second lever 92 to make contact with microswitch 77. The second lever 92 is coupled to a bell crank 93, secured to shaft 94, and re siliently stressed by spring 95 to turn the crank in an anti-clockwise direction. A first arm 96 has its end coupled to the second lever 92 and a second arm 97 makes contact with microswitch 62. The shaft 94 extends through the front panel 34 and is terminated by the start switch knob 50. Shaft 91 also extends through the front panel and is secured to the flip gate 18. When this arrangement is in the OFF position, the elements are arranged as shown by solid lines. When in the operating position, the elements are arranged as shown by the dotted lines. 5 The second lever 92 carries a magnetic pad 115 on a portion of its length so that the pad will be brought in contact with the side of an iron U shaped structure which supports magnet winding 33 and is part of its core. The pad 115 is resilient, being made of flexible material impregnated with magnetic powder, and magnetized so that it acts as a permanent magnet. When the second lever 92 is tripped by the actuation of armature 88, it moves to the position shown in FIG. 4, operates microswitch 77, and is retained in that position with no contact bounce. The absence of bounce is important since a double actuation of switch 77 could result in an erroneous count.
The operation of the pill counter is as follows: Let it be assumed that a single quantity is to be counted and the pills are to be fed to a container. The container 37 is placed under funnel 17A, the knob 40 is turned to set indicator 41 at the desired number, and control switch 61 (coupled to knob 48) is set to the R position. Pills or capsules are poured into the rear trough 13, the stock bottle is placed under funnel 35, and the start switch 50 is turned so as to move the levers and arms shown in FIG. 4 to their dotted positions with armature 87 holding lever 88 in latched position. The upper switch blade 98 is moved to make contact with terminal 100 and the lower blade'lfll .is moved to make contact with terminal 102.
The automatic count action is started by the manual turning of switch lever 50 secured to shaft 94. This action moves arms 96 and 97 to the right as shown in FIG. 4 thereby operating microswitch 62 and closing contacts 62A. At the same time, levers 88 and 92 are cammed to the right by arm 96, to operate microswitch 77 and place the end of lever into latching position beyond the end of latch armature 8'7. Microswitch 62 is now closed and power is supplied to clutch winding 63 in the count mechanism 32, the other side of winding 63 being grounded. Winding 63 moves armature 64 to disengage gears 65 and 66, thereby permitting the counter arm 42 (FIG. 1) to rotate counter-clockwise and limit against projection 41A on indicator 41.
When the manually operated lever 50 is released, the end of arm 97 opens contacts 72A to cut off current from magnet winding 63 and re-engage gears 65 and 66. The counter is now conditioned to count pills each time winding 71 receives a pulse of current from the photosensitive circuit 25, 28. Each count moves the arm 42 in a count-down direction and when the arm 42 reaches its zero position, cam 67 on gear 65 operates contacts 68 and 70. When the upper contacts 79A are opened, current is removed from conductor 78 and the vibrators are tie-energized, stopping the motion of the pills. The counting action may be started again only by the manual operation of switch lever 50. At the end of the R, operation contacts 62A are open, cutting off current from the winding 63, contacts 79A are opened by cam 67 and contacts 778 are open, thereby cutting off current from the vibrators.
Operation of Micro Switch 70A closes contacts 68 lead 106 through switch Mill to coil 33.
Activation of coil 33, releases arm 88-which closes micro switch 77, which applies power to contacts 77B through contacts 7t) to lead 78 to reactivate the feeders.
Activation of arm 88 drops gate 118, so that those tablets in excess of the pre-count set on indicator 41, are deflected from funnels l7 and 117A and are now sent through 39 and funnel 35 to the stoclt bottle 36.
To count batches of pills, switch bl is set on BATCH moving switch arm 9% to the upper contact terminal and moving the lower switch arm lltlll to a vacent terminal having no connection. To start the action, switch knob 5U is turned as before to latch the first lever 88 at the end of armature 87, operating microswitches 77 and 62. The remaining operations under BATCH are the same as under the R circuit controls except that, at the end of the count, the latch winding does not receive any current since it is connected to an open terminal 102. The flip gate 18 is not operated since levers 88 and 92 remain in their latched condition. However, cam 67 does operate contacts 68 and '70 as before to stop the flow of pills and to stop the count action. The operator next removes the container containing the counted pills and puts an empty container in its place. Then the start knob 50 is again moved to disengage the second arm 97 from switch 62, contacts 62A are closed, gears 65 and do are momentarily disengaged, and the pointer 42 again limits against portion 41A. When arm 97 is released, contacts 62A are again closed, and the second count proceeded.
The vibrator control circuits 80 need not be described in detail since they are old in the art. However, it should he noted that almost no action occurs during the negative portion of the applied AC power. During the positive portion capacitor W7 is charged and when a predetermined voltage is reached, the unijunction transistor lid is made conductive and the charge on capacitor 1W7 is passed through the junction and resistor lllll, creating a potential difference across it and firing the silicon controlled rectifier M2. This action permits a large current pulse to flow through winding 58 which moves the solenoid core 57 (FlG. 3) to the right abruptly, advancing the pills on trough lit to the left. During the conductive interval, which is quite short, a small current flows through winding 58 to again charge capacitors lltl'l, During this interval the trough 13 returns to the left slowly carrying the pills with it. Variable resistor 4d (and 45) controls the voltage at which the S.C.R. is made conductive and thereby controls the speed of the pills. Capacitor lhd and resistor 109 form a networlt around the rectifier 11112 to protect it against large voltage spikes generated when the current is removed t'rom coil 58.
There may be times when the operator wishes to stop the it, action of the counter before the full count is reached. The button W5 is then depressed, connecting contacts llllhtl and grounding conductor 1W3. This action operates latch coil 33 and levers as, 92 and arms 96, 97 are normalized.
Having thus fully described the invention, what is claimed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent of the United States is:
1. A combined counterand dispenser for a plurality of discrete objects comprising:
a. a first elongated trough to receive a quantity of the said objects, said trough having an open exit end thereon,
b. vibration imparting means coupled to the first trough to advance the objects therealong,
c. a second elongated trough having a substantially arcuate cross-sectional shape and an open exit end thereon, disposed so as to receive the objects coming from the first elongated trough,
d. a second vibration imparting means coupled to the second trough to advance the: objects therealong,
e. elongated openings in the bottom portion of the second trough disposed in the path of the objects, whereby dust or particulate matter on the objects may be removed from the second trough,
f. a counter assembly including a source of light which generates a beam directed across the path of the objects as they leave the exit end of the second trough, a photosensitive device positioned adjacent to the second trough exit end,
g. a manually operated start means for said counter, said start means including a first lever secured to a start handle, a magnetically releasable latch armature for latching the first lever into a start position, a bell crank coupled to the first lever including a first and a second arm, and a switch connected in series between a source of electrical power and a clutch winding in the counting means, said switch positioned in line with the second arm for actuation when the bell crank is operated by the start handle, and
h. an electric counter coupled to the photosensitive device.
2. A counter according to claim ll wherein said first lever is coupled to a second lever for actuating a stop switch to stop the counting action, said second lever including a permanent magnet pad for engagement with a ferromagnetic slab for positive actuation of the switch.
3. A counter according to claim 2 wherein said first and second arms are coupled to a diverting trough positioned at the exit end of the second trough for changing the direction of movement of the objects after a predetermined number of objects have been counted.
4. A counter according to claim 2 wherein said first and second levers are rockable about a first shaft secured to the start handle.
5. A counter according to claim 2 wherein said first and second arms of the bell cranlt are rocltable about a second shaft, said first arm is coupled to the second lever and resiliently stressed for contact therewith.
s. A counter according to claim 2 wherein said magnet pad is made of resilient material impregnated with ferromagnetic particles for eleminating bounce from the second lever when it is moved into contact with said slab.