US 3783577 A
Individual meat patties are deposited on an endless conveyor belt. The patties are formed into individual drafts. Each draft is then conveyed along the belt, and compacted sideways as well as longitudinally. The compacted drafts are then fed onto a sheeting conveyor lined with a continuous plastic film fed onto the conveyor by powered feed rolls. The drafts hold the continuous film in frictional engagment with the sheeting conveyor which runs slightly faster than the film is being paid out to keep the film taut. The drafts are then fed onto a separator conveyor moving at a slightly higher speed. After a draft is fully deposited onto the separator conveyor at determined by sensing fingers, the film is cut between drafts so that the separated draft travels faster than the web and is further separated from a subsequent draft to facilitate removal of that draft at a final packing conveyor section from which the drafts are placed in cartons.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Knutson et al.
SYSTEM FOR PACKING FOOD PATTIES Inventors: Orlie E. Knutson, Downers if Grove, lll.; Louis E. Gernandt, Arthur J. Charmoli, both of Eau Claire, Wis.
Assignee: Armour and Company, Chicago,
Filed: Line 24, i971 Appl. No.: 156,324
US. Cl 53/24, 53/74, 53/124 R,
5 3/160, 53/389 Int. Cl B65b 57/12 Field of Search 53/24, 73, 74, 160, 53/389 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3/1970 Margasso et al 53/74 X 12/1967 Tobey 53/74 X 2/l97l Misik 53/74 Jan. 8, 1974 Primary Examiner-Travis S. McGehee 571 ABSTRACT drafts. Each draft is then conveyed along the belt, and
compacted sideways as well as longitudinally. The
' compacted drafts are then fed onto a sheeting conveyor lined with a continuous plastic film fed onto the conveyor by powered feed rolls. The drafts hold the continuous film in frictional engagment with the sheeting conveyor which runs slightly faster than the film is being paid out to keep the film taut. The drafts are then fed onto a separator conveyor moving at a slightly higher speed. After a draft is fully deposited onto the separator conveyor at determined by sensing fingers, the film is cut between drafts so that the separated draft travels faster than the web and is further separated from a subsequent draft to facilitate removal of that draft at a final packing conveyor section from which the drafts are placed in cartons.
28 Claims, 16 Drawing Figures PAIENIEU JAN 8 sum norm PATENTED JAN 3 saw on or 10 PATENTEI] 8 saw 050F10 KW Q3 MNN 0% %.N u% 6mm N 0% W m\\ m Q Q mm PATENTED sum OBUF10 PATENTEUJAH 88974 sum as nr1o Z00 Z0 OJ SYSTEM FOR PACKING FOOD PATTIES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to a system, including method and apparatus, for packaging individual drafts of meat patties.
Normally, meat patties of the type with which the present invention is concerned are stored in a freezer for a period of time prior to use. The patties are layer packed in boxes with individual groups separated from groups above and below it by means of freezer paper, parchment or plastic film.
It is desirable from the viewpoint of efficiency and economy to automate the packaging of meat patties, and to do so while separating individual drafts of the patties by sheets of plastic film to replace the parchment or freezer paper because of its lower cost and more desirable characteristics, particularly in separating the frozen product. I-Ieretofore, however, plastic film has not been usedfor packaging meat patties in automatic or semi-automatic packaging systems because of the difficulty of working with the thin film, the principal difficulty being in feeding the highly flexible film onto a conveyor belt and transporting it.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In the present system, a slicing machine holds logs of the meat and slices the logs to form the patties. The patties are deposited on a conveyor three or more abreast, depending on slicer capacity and customer requirements. Because they are dropped onto the conveyor from the slicer, the patties have a tendency to become disoriented and cannot be packaged immediately.
After a predetermined number of patties have been slided, for example five, a counter-mechanism causes the slicer to skip one or more cuts, thereby separating the patties into groups or drafts. Each draft, therefore, may contain three columns and five rows.
The drafts are fed to a compacting station which includes two side converging belts for jogging the side columns of patties toward the center so that the side edges of adjacent patties are touching. The converging belts include two parallel sections traveling along with each draft which has been compacted sideways. Located between the parallel sections of the converging belts is a gate which pivots to open in a downstream and upward motion to avoid patty disorientation. When the leading edge of a draft of patties approaches the gate, the gate is closed so as to engage and momentarily stop the leading patties. A switch senses the presence of the leading edge of a draft of patties at the gate and generates a signal which, after a predetermined period of time, causes the gate to lift thereby passing that draft of patties. After the draft has passed, the sensing switch causes the gate to lower. The delay time is set to permit the final row of patties to catch up with the preceding rows. Thus, when a draft passes beneath the gate it is compacted both sideways and longitudinally.
Each draft is conveyed onto a sheeting conveyor which is lined with a continuous plastic film. The film is fed from beneath the sheeting conveyor by powered rollers which pay out the film at a speed slightly less than the speed of the sheeting conveyor, thus keeping the film taut. The drafts are then passed onto a separator conveyor which is driven at a slightly higher peripheral speed than is the sheeting conveyor.
A web cutting station is located between the sheeting conveyor and the separator conveyor. A sensing mechanism located upstream of the sheeting conveyor generates a signal when a draft is passed onto the sheeting conveyor. The distance between this sensing mechanism and the cutting station issuch that when a draft is thus, passed onto the sheeting conveyor, the margin between adjacent drafts downstream will be centered at the cutting station. The signal generated by the sensing mechanism at the sheeting conveyor then shuts down the film feeder and the sheeting conveyor. Second sensing mechanism then determines whether there is any portion of a draft beneath the cutter. If there is none, the cutter is actuated to sever the film between adjacent drafts. A subsequent draft will actuate the first sensing mechanism to re-start the sheeting conveyor and pay-out feeder. The higher peripheral speed of the separator conveyor causes the severed draft to be separated from a subsequent draft.
The separator conveyor then transfers each draft,
resting on a sheet of plastic film cut from the continuous source roll, onto a packing conveyor which includes a number of continuous belts or ropes of circular cross-section, supporting a number of drafts and spaced laterally apart to permit the insertion of a fork carrier. A fork carrier is inserted beneath each draft, and the draft is lifted from the packing conveyor and deposited into a carton.
By thus transferring drafts of meat patties onto the top of a plastic film supported by a sheeting conveyor and passing the film downstream, one or more drafts may be placed on the web with the weight of the patties holding the web in frictional engagement with the sheeting conveyor before the film is cut. This eliminates a problem which has heretofore militated against using plastic film in automatic lines even though it is much less expensivenamely, an uncontrolled, free leading edge which is difficult to feed because of its tendency to stick to things.
After the film is severed between adjacent drafts the separator conveyor causes the severed draft to travel faster and thus separate a draft from the rest the moment it is severed. The separator conveyor delivers the individual drafts to a packing conveyor which runs at a considerably higher speed than even the separator conveyor. This causes a further separation between drafts to facilitate pick-up for packing.
With the present system, there need be no separate pulling or pushing mechanism for feeding the web. The film feed rolls runslightly slower than the sheeting conveyor to act as a retarding device while the weight of the patties holds the film in frictional engagement with the conveyor belt. Thus, the film is kept taut.
The individual drafts are compacted longitudinally and sidways prior to being fed onto the film to obviate any problems in wrinkling the film, because it is so thin.
Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to persons of ordinary skill in the art for the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment accompanied by the attached drawing wherein identical reference numerals will refer to like parts in the various views.
THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a schematic plan view of a conveyor and packing system incorporating the present invention;
FIG. 1A is a functional block diagram of the system of FIG. 1;
FIGS. 2 and 2A, taken together, are a side view of apparatus according to the schematic of FIG. 1;
FIGS. 3 and 3A, taken together, are a plan view of the apparatus shown in FIGS. 2, 2A;
FIGS. 4 and 4A are side views which diagrammatically illustrate the longitudinal compacting of an individual draft of patties;
FIG. 5 is a transverse end view taken through the sight line 5-5 of FIG. 2A;
FIGS. 6 and 7 are respectively plan and side views of the cutting station;
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the compacting mechanism;
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the sensing switch which shuts down the sheeting conveyor for cutting the web;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the cutting station;
FIG. 1 1 is a perspective view of a portion of the packing conveyor; and
FIG. 12 is a transverse cross sectional view of the packing conveyor with a fork inserted for lifting a draft.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION Turning first to FIG. 1, which gives an overview of the system in diagrammatic form, the flow of patties is from left to right. At the far left side, there is a slicing machine generally designated by the reference numeral 10, and it deposits the individual cut patties onto a first conveyor section diagrammatically illustrated by the block 11 shown in dashed line. At the downstream end of the conveyor section 11 there is a transverse shaft 12 which is driven in rotation by means of a hydraulic motor 13. The hydraulic motor 13 is, in turn, energized by a pump 14 provided in the slicing machine 10.
Connected to the shaft 12 is a roller which is schematically illustrated by the heavy end lines 15. A first driven sprocket l6 and a second driven sprocket 17 are attached to the respective ends of shaft 12. The roller is fitted with an endless belt schematically shown at 19, the other end of which is entrained about an idler roller 20 which is mounted on a shaft 21.
After the cut patties are deposited onto the conveyor section 11, they are transported to a compacting station generally designated by reference numeral 22. As will be explained in more detail below, the patties are deposited onto the conveyor belt 19 in individual drafts of a predetermined number of patties, and each patty is separated slightly from those before and after it as well as from those at its sides. Further, before the patties are dropped onto the conveyor belt 19 after being cut, they may be somewhat disoriented relative to adjacent patties. Therefore, at the compacting station 22, there are first and second side conveyor belts 23 and 24, each located to one side of the moving drafts. The conveyor belt 23 is entrained about a driven sprocket 23a, a standard 23b and an idler sprocket 23c. Similarly, the belt 24 is entrained about a driven sprocket 240, a standard 24b and an idler sprocket 24c.
The belt 23 is arranged to provide a converging section designated 23e and a parallel section designated 23]". Similarly, the belt 24 is arranged to define a con verging section 24c and a parallel section 24f. As the patties travel along, they first engage the converging sections 23e and Me and are compacted sideways into contact with adjacent patties. Preferably, the belts 23 and 24 are timer belts i.e., they are cogged internally-to vibrate as they pass over the standards 23b and 24b and thereby provide a jogging action to the patties for lateral compaction. The laterally compacted patties 5 are then fed between the parallel conveyor sections 23f and 24f which hold the patties compacted laterally.
The sprocket 1 7 drives a similar sprocket 17a by means of a chain 17b. The sprocket 17a is mounted on a shaft 17c which has a second sprocket 17d mounted to it. The sprocket 17d drives a chain 17:: which, in turn, turns a smaller sprocket 17f connected to a shaft (not shown in FIG. 1) which drives the pulleys 23a, 24a. Alternatively, the compacting belts could be driven by an independent, adjustable-speed drive.
The conveyors 23 and 24 are located above the upper plane of the conveyor 11. Between the sections 23f and 24f of the conveyor 23, 24, there is a gate 25 which extends transversely of the direction of travel of the patties. The gate 25 is arranged to rotate about a shaft 26 having a horizontal axis. The gate 25 moves between a down position in which it inhibits the flow of patties and an up position in which patties may flow beneath it unimpeded. The gate 25 is actuated by means of a lever 27 which is driven by a hydraulic cylinder 28. The hydraulic cylinder 28 is energized by means of a relay 29 which, in turn, is actuated by a sensing switch 30. The relay 29 is of the type commonly referred to as delay on. That is, normally open contacts of the relay 29 are closed a predetermined and settable time after the relay coil is energized; however, the contacts are released without delay when the relay coil is de-energized. In operation, when the switch 30 senses the presence of the leading edge of a draft of patties, it closes, thereby energizing the coil of relay 29. At this time, the gate 25 is in its down" position so that the patties are inhibited from flowing beneath it. The leading patties in a draft thus slip along the upper surface of the conveyor belt 19. After the preset time, which is sufficient to compact all of the patties of a given draft longitudinally, the relay 29 energizes the pneumatic cylinder and piston rod unit 28 which forces the lever 27 to raise the gate 25 and pass the draft of patties which is now compacted both laterally and longitudinally.
The longitudinal compaction of a draft of patties is illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 4a. The individual patties are designated by a capital letter I, and there are five rows (the three columns cannot be seen from the side). The patties are traveling to the right supported on the conveyor 19. The switch 30 includes a depending arm 30a which is resiliently biased in a clockwise direction, and terminates in a sensing finger 30b. Immediately downstream of the finger 30b is the gate 25 which pivots about the shaft 26. When a draft of patties P engages the finger 30b to rotate the arm 30a counterclockwise, the switch 30 closes. The gate 25 remains in a down position and engages the first row of patties, causing it to slide relative to the moving conveyor belt 19. Since the patties have already been oriented properly by the converging belt mechanisms 23, 24, the structure being described in connection with FIGS. 4 and 4A causes the oriented patties to be compacted longitudinallyi.e., in the direction of travel of the patties. After a predetermined time as set by the timer 29 and sufficient to cause adjacent rows of patties to contact, the gate 25 is rotated in the direction of travel of the draft to permit the draft to pass beneath it as illustrated in FIG. 4A.
Returning now to FIG. 1, after the drafts are compacted, they are fed onto a transfer conveyor schematically designated by the dashed line 32. The transfer conveyor 32 includes a wire belt entrained at its discharge end over a roller 33 which is driven by means of a shaft 34 having a first end sprocket 36 and a second end sprocket 37. The end sprocket 36 is driven by means of a chain diagrammatically shown in dashed line and denoted 38 which is driven by the sprocket 16. The upstream end of the transfer conveyor 32 is fed around a rod 39 for reasons which will be made clear below.
The sprocket 37 on the shaft 34 is connected by means of a chain 40 to a second sprocket 41 to which there is coupled a shaft 42. To the shaft 42 there is mounted a first drive sprocket 43 connected by means of a chain 44 to a driven sprocket 45 which drives a shaft 46. A drive roller 48 is also mounted on the shaft 42.
The roller 48 and a second roller 49 are fitted with a sheeting conveyor belt schematically illustrated at 50. The roller 49 is mounted on a shaft 51, and the sheeting conveyor section is denoted 52. As will be described in greater detail below, a continuous web of plastic film is fed from a location beneath the sheeting conveyor 52 between that conveyor and the transfer conveyor 32; and the film rests on top of the run provided by the belt 50. The shaft 46 receives a pinch roller which, in combination with an idler pinch roller, determines the feed rate of the film. The film is preferably polyethylene.
Located approximately between the transfer con veyor 32 and the sheeting conveyor 52 is a second sensing switch 54 provided with a finger 55, which is arranged to be open when there is no draft beneath it and closed when it senses the presence of a draft. When the switch 54 senses the space between drafts (or the absence of a product being processed), it de-energizes controller 56 via an adjustable time delay relay 56A to disengage a clutch brake 57 which, in turn, causes the sheeting conveyor 52 and the polyethylene pay-out shaft 46 to shut down.
Downstream of the sheeting conveyor 52 is a separator conveyor generally designated 59, which is driven by a roller 60 mounted on a common shaft 61. The shaft 61 has a driven sprocket 62 mounted at one end which is connected by means of a chain 63 to a driver sprocket 64 mounted on the shaft 51. The roller 60 is provided with a belt 65, the other end of which is entrained about a roller 66 mounted on a shaft 67. Downstream of the separator conveyor 59 is a packing conveyor 69 from which the individual drafts are lifted by means of an operator and placed into a carton for packaging.
Located on either side of the sheeting conveyor 52 are first and second arms 71 and 72 which are mounted on a common rotatable shaft designated by the chain line 73. The arms 71, 72 extend downstream of the pick-up conveyor 52 to a location between that conveyor and the separator conveyor 59, and an electri cally heated wire 75 (or other suitable cutting device) is connected between the distal ends of these shafts so as to fit into the separation between the conveyors 52, 59 when the arms 70, 71 are lowered. The function of the heated wire 75 is to sever the film web at a location between adjacent drafts. The shaft 73 is actuated by means of a pneumatic cylinder and piston rod unit 76 which is actuated by means of a solenoid 77. The solenoid 77 is, in turn, energized by a switch mechanism denoted 78 via line 79. The switch 78 includes dual sensing fingers which will be described in greater detail below. The function of the switch mechanism, in brief, is to insure that the margin between adjacent drafts is beneath the cutting device (i.e., that no patties are beneath it).
The separator conveyor 59 travels at a surface speed faster than the preceding section to cause a separated draft to speed up and thereby increase the separation between adjacent drafts on severed portions of the film.
The various control functions associated with the system can be appreciated best from the functional block diagram of FIG. 1A, wherein the horizontal shaded arrows represent generally the product movement from the slicer 10, through the discharge conveyor 11, transfer conveyor 32, onto the sheeting conveyor 52 and thence to the separator conveyor 59. Referring first to the longitudinal compaction that occurs at the discharge conveyor 11, the sensing switch 30 energizes a relay 29 which is a time delay on relay. After the preset time delay of the relay 29, the gate actuator 28 is energized to raise the gate 25.
After passing into the gate 25, each draft is fed onto the transfer conveyor 32. As mentioned, the sensing switch 54 is located approximately between the transfer conveyor 32 and the sheeting conveyor 52, actually, it is preferably located approximately 1 inch ahead of the sheeting conveyor so that the leading edge of a draft starts the sheeting conveyor and film pay-out rollers just prior to the arrival of a draft onto the sheeting conveyor.
The sensing switch 54 energizes a relay 56A which is a time delay off, but has no time delay on. That is, when the coil of the relay 56A is energized, its contacts are actuated immediately, whereas there is an adjustable time delay between the time that the coil is deenergized and the contacts are de-actuated. The relay 56A has a set of normally open contacts (NO) and a set of normally closed contacts (NC). The normally open contacts of the relay 56A couple power to the clutch, and the normally closed contacts of the relay 56A couple power to the brake. Thus, when the leading edge of the draft actuates the sensing switch 54, the coil of relay 56A is energized and its contacts are actuated immediately. This causes the normally open contacts to close thereby engaging the clutch and the normally closed contacts to open thereby disengaging the brake. Thus, upon the arrival of a leading edge of a draft, the shaft 42 is driven immediately and the film is begun to be paid out immediately. However, after the trailing edge of a draft has passed beneath the switch 54, there is a time delay before the brake is engaged and the clutch is disengaged. This permits the trailing edge of the draft to be moved onto the sheeting conveyor 52, and it further permits adjustment of the space between adjacent drafts downstream to be centered beneath the cutting wire 75. The reason for this is that the cutting wire may be actuated only when the pay-out of film has stopped and the sheeting conveyor 52 is stopped.
Dual sensing fingers shown diagrammatically in dashed line and denoted generally by reference numeral 77A, are located on either side of the cutting wire in its severing position, and when they are lowered, they cause the dual sensing switch 78 to be closed, thus indicating that the margin between adjacent drafts is approximately centered beneath the cutting wire 75. The dual sensing switch 78 is connected in series with the normally closed contacts of the relay 56A, and an alternator switch 78B is connected in series with this circuit. Thus, only after the brake has been actuated and the dual sensing fingers 78A are in a down position is the alternator switch 78B actuated to energize the film cutter which includes the solenoid 77 and pneumatic cylinder unit 76. If the brake of the brake and clutch unit 57 is not energized, the web cannot be severed. Further, if any patties are located beneath the cutting wire, the wire cannot be actuated. The function of the alternator switch 788 is simply a countdown device so that the severing wire 75 cuts the web when rotated in each direction. That is, when the severing wire 75 is lowered, it makes one cut, and then when the alternator switch 78B is again energized when the next marginal space between drafts is properly positioned, the severing wire cuts in an upward motion. It will also be observed that if a draft of non-standard length is present, the dual sensing fingers will not permit the actuation of the cutter; however, when the next draft at the transfer conveyor 32 actuates the sensing fingers 55, the clutch brake 57 will be actuated so that processing is not interrupted. The non-standard draft will then be routed to the separator conveyor and pack ing conveyor, where an operator will shunt it to the side so that it is not packed. This greatly facilitates in preventing malfunctions of the cutting mechanism.
The arm 55 of sensing switch 54 is located upstream of the cutting position an integral number of lengths of a draft (i.e., one or more) so that after the time delay occurs, a margin between adjacent drafts is properly located for cutting-but only if the dual fingers indicate that no disoriented or other misplaced patties are be neath the cutting edge.
Having thus described the overall organization and functioning of the system, a detailed description of the various elements and stations will now be given. Referring to FIGS. 2, 2A, 3 and 3A, the slicing machine is shown at the left side of FIGS. 2 and 3; and it may be any commercially available heavy-duty slicing machine such as U.S. Berkel or Albright Nell. In one embodiment, the slicing machine 10 holds three separate logs of prepared meat, although this may vary with customer requirements. The logs are about 28 inches long and they are of a generally square cross-section, the width being about 2% inches.
The slicing machine cuts the patties at a nominal thickness of one-quarter inch, and the patties then fall onto the belt 11. A counter schematically shown by the block 10a is included in the slicing machine 10 and the function of the counter is to time the slicing with the movement of the belt 11. The counter 10a in the illustrated embodiment may be set to slice five groups of three (thereby providing a draft) and then skip one or more counts so that adjacent drafts are separated on the belt 11 by a predetermined space.
The discharge 11 is provided with first and second side frame numbers 90 and 91 which are supported by a pair of legs at the distal end, one leg being shown in FIG. 2 and designated by reference numeral 92. The shaft 12 (FIG. 3) which drives the roller 15 (seen in FIG. 1) as well as the sprockets 16 and 17 is supported by the frame numbers 90, 91. Similarly, the shaft 21 (again referring to FIG. 1) on which the roller 20 is mounted is supported by the frame numbers 90, 91.
The previously described shaft 17c is also supported by means of the frame to drive the sprocket 17d which drives the chain 17s. The chain 172 drives the sprocket 17f which is connected to a shaft extending transverse of the direction of travel of the patties. The transverse shaft is provided with a beveled gear arrangement, one being generally designated in FIG. 2 by reference numeral 94 which has a vertical take-off to rotate a shaft 95 about a vertical axis. The previously identified pulley 24a is connected to the top of the shaft 95, and the side converging belt 24 is entrained about the pulleys 24a-24c. The transverse shaft is shown in phantom in FIG. 3 and designated by reference numeral 93.
The belt 23 is driven by a similar pulley arrangement 23a, also driven by the shaft 93. The guide 23b is supported by means of a bracket 95a which is secured to the side rail 91; and the guide 24b is similarly mounted by means of a bracket 96 to the side frame member 90. Similarly, the pulleys 23c and 24c are mounted by means of brackets 97 and 98 respectively connected to the side frame members 91 and 90. The brackets 97 and 98 are, however, slotted so as to provide an adjusting mechanism for tensioning their associated belts.
Referring now to FIG. 8, the compaction of a draft is illustrated. The belts 23, 24, by means of the drive mechanisms described, are arranged to travel at a peripheral speed which is equal to the peripheral speed of the conveyor belt 1 1. The patties are oriented and compacted sideways by means of the converging belt sections 23a, 24e and fed to the gate 25 by the parallel sections 23f, 24f, while, at the same time, being vibrated by means of the cogged belts passing over the smooth guides 23b, 24b.
Turning now to the gating mechanism, the gate 25 is mounted to the transverse shaft 26 which is connected to the side frame members 90, 91 by means of side journal members 99.
The lower end of the shaft 26 (as viewed in FIG. 3) extends through its associated journal member 99 and is connected to the lever 27 which, in turn, is connected to the piston rod 28a of the pneumatic cylinder and piston rod unit 28. When the piston rod 28a is extended, the lever 27 is turned to raise the gate 25 in a motion which is both upward and downstream away from the leading patties so as to minimize disturbance of the patties.
The switch 30 is mounted by means of a bracket 100 which is mounted on the side frame members 90, 91. As best seen in FIG. 3, the sensing finger 30b is located immediately adjacent, but upstream of, the gate 25. As already mentioned, the switch 30 actuates the cylinder and piston rod unit 28 after a short time delay as caused by the relay 29.
Turning now to the transfer conveyor 32, the shaft 34 on which the roller 33 is mounted is connected to the side frame members 90, 91 by means of forwardly extending arms 103, 104, each provided with a bearing for rotatably supporting the shaft 34. Further the rod 39 is rotatably held by the arms 103,104. As seen in FIGS. 2 and 9, the rod 39 permits a relatively small turning radius for the transfer conveyor 32; and this permits very close placement of the transfer conveyor to the conveyor belt 19 which has a fairly large turning radius, as illustrated. This arrangement insures the pick-up and transfer of the draft of patties from the discharge conveyor 11 with a minimum of disturbance and while maintaining the draft in its compacted state.
The transfer conveyor 32 is preferably a wire belt, comprised of a plurality of transverse wires woven together. This permits driving the wires by means of a roller formed with grooves to engage the wire belt, providing a conveyor which is not stretchable, and therefore does not need tensioning with time. Further, by forming the transfer conveyor, as well as all subsequent conveyors unless otherwise distinguished, with a pervious surface so that if any food particles become loosened from the patties, they will fall to the floor and then be swept away. Such wire conveyor belts also minimize disturbance of the plastic sheet on subsequent conveyors due to static electricity.
Still referring to FIG. 3, one outboard end of the shaft 34 is provided with the sprocket 37 which drives the pulley 41 by means of the chain 40. The clutch brake 57 causes the pulley 41 to engage and disengage from the chain 40. The shaft 42, as already mentioned, drives a roller for moving the wire sheeting conveyor belt 52. The sheeting conveyor belt 50 is mounted on a frame generally designated 110 and including vertical supporting legs 111 as well as side frame members 112 and 113, seen in FIGS. 2a, 3 and 3a. The frame 110 also supports the separator conveyor belt 59.
Referring particularly now to FIGS. 2A and 9, attached to the side frame 112 is a bracket 114 which suspends the switch 54 at a location over the transfer conveyor 32. The arm 55 which actuates the switch 54 includes a horizontal portion 55a which is held in a raised position as long as any patties are beneath it. When there are no patties beneath the arm 55, the switch 54 will open and thereby de-energize the clutchbrake 57 via time delay relay 56A and controller 56, as already described.
The setting of the delay time of relay 56A enables the draft beneath arm 55 to be moved onto the sheeting conveyor belt 50, and it also allows adjustment of the margin between drafts to be centered beneath the cutting element 75 when the sheet conveyor is stopped. The margin between drafts is determined by this delay time as well as the length of the horizontal portion 55a of arm 55 because the downstream end opens switch 54 as one draft passes, but the upstream end of portion 55a closes switch 54 when moved by the leading edge of a subsequent draft. Further adjustment of the cutting edge could be had by moving the arm 54 along the direction of travel of the patties.
Returning to FIG. 2A, the chain 44 drives the sprocket 45 which drives the film or web denoted W. The film W is fed from a source roll R which is mounted by means of a shaft 115 to the legs 111 of the frame 110. The film W is fed from the roll R through the pinch rollers generally designated by reference numeral 116 and onto the top of the sheeting conveyor belt 50. The shaft 42 also supplies power to the shaft 51 located downstream of the sheeting conveyor section by means of the rollers 48, 49 and the belt 50 which have been described. It is preferred, as illustrated in FIG. 2a to entrain the belt 50 about a transverse rod 117 in addition to the rollers provided on the shafts 42 and 51, and to mount the shaft 51 to adjustable side journals 118 mounted in brackets 119 which permit vertical adjustment of the shaft 51 to tension the belt 50. Further, the small turning radius provided by the shaft 117 facilitates the transfer from the pick-up conveyor section 112 to the separator conveyor section which follows.
Turning now to FIG. 5, the roll R of film is seen as feeding the web W between upper and lower pinch rollers 116a and 116b, the upper pinch roller having peripheral friction ridges 116c for paying out the web at a rate equal to the speed of the patties as delivered from the transfer section 32. However, the wire conveyor belt 50 over which the web W is fed travels at a slightly greater speed than the web W so as to insure that the web is tensioned.
The pinch roller 116b is driven by the shaft 46, and the pinch roller 116a is freely rotatably mounted to the upright frame members 1 1 1 of the frame 1 10 by means of side journals.
Still referring to FIG. 5, a transverse retainer bar 120 is spring biased by means of side mounting assemblies 121 to engage the outer surface of the web W relative to the pick-up conveyor 52 and to hold it against the conveyor belt 50 so that when the system is being started up with a new roll 'of plastic film, an operator simply threads the film through the pinch rollers 116 and then between the transverse retainer bar 120 and the sheeting conveyor belt 50 and onto the top of that conveyor belt without fear of having the web slide back down.
Returning now to FIGS. 2a and 3a, the side frame members 112, 113 of the frame 110 are provided with transverse vertical slots 125 and 126 respectively. These slots extend below the horizontal plane of the traveling web W for receiving the heated severing wire 75 which is mounted on the arms 71, 72. The arms 71, 72 pivot about the transverse shaft 73 which is journaled in the side rails 112, 113. As seen in FIG. 2A, the pneumatic cylinder '76 is provided with a piston rod 76a pivotally connected to the arm 72 to cause that arm to rotate to a down position thereby severing the web when the pneumatic cylinder and piston rod unit 76 is energized. In operation, the-cutter 75 may be reciprocated down and up for each cut; however, the preferred way to perform the cutting function is to move the cutter in one direction for one cut and then to moveit in the other direction for the second cut so that the pneumatic cylinder and piston rod unit 76 goes through a full reciprocation for every two cuts. This is accomplished by the previously described alternator switch or other suitable means.
The separator conveyor 59 is mounted in a manner similar to the sheeting conveyor 52 except that as viewed from the side, one configuration is the mirror image of the other. That is, the shaft 61 is driven by means of the shaft 51 and the chain 63. Above and to the left of the shaft 61 is a rod 129 about which the conveyor chain 65 is fed. The proximity of the. rods 117, 129 of the sheeting conveyor and separator conveyor respectively facilitate transfer of the drafts from one conveyor to the other while permitting the cutting motion of the cutter 75. The switch 78 is mounted at the transverse center of the separator conveyor section by means of a bracket 130 which is secured to the side frames 112, 113 as seen in FIG. 10. The switch 78 has a pivot arm 78a which is povitally connected to a collar 131 which receives a rod 131a. A planograph type of linkage generally designated 132 is carried by the rod 131a. First and second sensing fingers 133a and 13311 are, in turn, connected to the'linkage 132; and these sets of fingers are located on different sides of the cutting location, as best seen in FIG. 10. The sets of fingers are spaced less than the length of a patty so that they will drop only when there is no patty beneath the cutting location. When the fingers 133a and [3311, together with the linkage 132, drop in response to the presence of a margin between drafts at the cutting location, the switch 78 closes.
Each time the switch 78 closes in response to sensing the margin between adjacent drafts, the alternator switch 78b reverses a three-way valve so the pneumatic cylinder 76 operates the film cutter downward for the first count and upward for the next. The dual sensing fingers are, as mentioned, centered over the cutting location so that when a space between adjacent drafts is sensed, the cutting wire is located midway between adjacent drafts on the continuous film W, and the film will be severed at that point.
An idler roller 134 is journaled in the bracket 130 and located immediately downstream of the fingers l33b to stabilize the last row of patties on the draft being severed during the cutting action. During severing, the web W and sheeting conveyor are stopped so that as soon as the separation is completed, the severed draft will be transported downstream by the separator conveyor 59 which moves at a higher speed than the sheeting conveyor even when the sheeting conveyor is running. This further enhances separation between sev' ered drafts. From the separator conveyor, the individual drafts are fed onto a packing conveyor generally designated by reference numeral 69. The packing conveyor 69 as with other conveyors, may be separately driven or it may be driven by a take-off on the shaft 67 of the separator conveyor. In either case, it is preferably driven at a peripheral speed greater than the speed of the separator conveyor 59 so as to further separate the distance between adjacent drafts which are placed on the plastic film sheets.
The packing conveyor preferably is comprised of a plurality of continuous plastic cords or cables 135 extending in conveyor fashion in the direction of travel of the drafts. The cables 135 are supported on a bed 136, and the individual sheets, one being designated by S in FIG. 12, on which the patties P rest are conveyed along on top of the cables 135 (see FIG. 11). The cables 135 are separated by a distance which permits the insertion of a fork for lifting the drafts off of the conveyor. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 11, the fork is a handactuated fork generally designated 137 having individual tines 137a of the number sufficient to lift an entire sheeted draft of patties. It has been found to be highly advantageous to use round conveyor members such as the cables 135 so that an operator, packaging the patties at high speed does not have to worry about centering the tines 137a between the conveyor cables 135; the operator need merely place the fork on the conveyor, and the curved upper section of the tubular conveyor members 135 automatically guides the tines down beneath the plane of the sheet S.
Having thus described in detail a preferred embodiment of the inventive system, persons skilled in the art will be able to substitute equivalent elements for those which have been disclosed and to modify certain of the structure illustrated while continuing to practice the principles of the invention; and it is, therefore, intended that all such modifications and substitutions be covered as they are embraced within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.
1. In a system for packing meat patties, the combination comprising: first conveyor means; means for sequentially depositing drafts of individual patties onto said first conveyor means in a matrix and with a predetermined interval between drafts; first and second centering conveyor means mounted above said first conveyor means and traveling therewith at the same rate of travel for engaging the side patties of each draft and urging them centrally to compact the draft of patties laterally and to orient all patties of a draft in a predetermined disposition; gate means including a gate extending transverse of a draft of patties over said first conveyor means for engaging the first row of patties of each sequential draft and delaying them for a predetermined time to slide adjacent rows of patties into engagement along the direction of travel, said gate means being actuated by said first row of patties; sheeting conveyor means receiving individual compacted drafts of patties sequentially from said first conveyor means; a continuous web of thin plastic sheet material fed onto said sheeting conveyor means beneath said drafts whereby said drafts continue to be spaced; the weight of said patties holding said web in frictional drive engagement with said sheeting conveyor means; separator conveyor means traveling at a greater peripheral speed than said sheeting conveyor means for receiving and supporting said web and patties; and cutting means between said sheeting conveyor means and said separator conveyor means, and responsive to the location of said patties for severing said web at a location between adjacent drafts while one of said drafts is on said separator conveyor means, whereby the severed draft will be moved by said separator conveyor and be further separated from a subsequent draft.
2. The system of claim 1 wherein said centering conveyor means includes first and second side belts, each belt being mounted so as to include a first portion in clined inwardly in the direction of travel of said patties to urge said patties toward the center of said first conveyor means, and a second section parallel to the direction of travel of said patties.
3. The system of claim 2 further comprising means for jogging said first and second centering conveyor belts to urge said patties to be compacted laterally.
4. The system of claim 2 wherein said gate of said gate means is located between the parallel sections of said first and second centering belts, and said gate means further includes a switch responsive to the presence of a draft of patties adjacent said gate; and actuator means including delay means energized by said switch for rotating said gate downstream in the direction of travel of said patties and upward from said first conveyor means to permit passage of a draft a predetermined time after said switch is actuated with a minimum of disturbance to said patties.
5. The system of claim 1 wherein said first conveyor means further comprises a transfer conveyor including an endless belt entrained at the upstream section about a rod, thereby providing a relatively small turning radius for said belt to receive patties from said first conveyor means.
6. The system of claim 1 wherein said web is provided in the form of a source roll and said system further comprises means for paying out said web from said source roll at the same speed as the speed of said patties onto said sheeting conveyor means; and sensing switch means adjacent the beginning of said sheeting conveyor means for intermittently stopping said payout means and said sheeting conveyor means to permit cutting said web in a stopped position.
7. The system of claim 1 wherein said cutting means includes an electrically heated severing wire mounted for rotation about an axis transverse of the direction of travel of said patties for severing said web; and further comprising first sensing means upstream of said cutting location an integral number of draft lengths for generating a signal representative of the placement of a margin between adjacent drafts beneath said cutting location; and means responsive to said signal for actuating said cutting means.
8. The system of claim 7 further comprising second sensing means straddling said cutting location for inhibiting action of said cutting means when patties are located beneath it.
9. The system of claim 8 further comprising: means for actuating said cutting means in only one direction for each cut, successive cuts being made in traverses of said web in opposite directions.
10. The system of claim 1 further comprising packing conveyor means receiving separated drafts of patties on individual sheets of said web from said separator conveyor'means, said packing conveyor means comprising: a plurality of laterally spaced apart cables having upper curved sections whereby a pick-off fork may be guided into the interval between adjacent drafts, the tines of said fork being guided and centered by the upper curved surfaces of the conveyor tubes on said packing conveyor means.
1 1. In a system for preparing drafts of a food product for packaging, the combination comprising: a conveyor providing a horizontal run; means for sequentially transferring said drafts on to said conveyor; means for feeding a continuous thin plastic web onto said conveyor at the beginning of said run and beneath said drafts; switch means responsive to contact with one of said drafts on said conveyor for generating a signal when the interval between adjacent drafts is beneath a predetermined cutting position for severing said web while at least one draft remains on said horizontal conveyor run to maintain said web in engagement with said conveyor, said switch means including sensing means adjacent the input end 'of said conveyor and upstream of said cutting position an integral number of draft lengths for sensing the presence of a margin between adjacent drafts thereby signalling the location of a margin at said cutting position; and brake means responsive to said sensing means for stopping said conveyor and said feeding means during cutting of said film.
12. The system of claim 11 wherein said sensing means is further responsive to the presence of a subsequent draft at the input to said conveyor for re-starting said feeding means and said conveyor.
13. The system of claim 12 further comprising adjustable delay means responsive to said sensing means for energizing said brake means a predetermined time after said margin has been sensed at the input to said conveyor.
14. In combination, first conveyor means providing a horizontal run; means for paying out a thin, continuous plastic web on said first conveyor means; means for sequentially delivering a plurality of drafts of a food product onto said web; and switch means sensing the presence of drafts passing to said conveyor for temporarily shutting down said first conveyor and said web pay-out means when said delivery means fails to deliver said drafts to said first conveyor.
15. The system of claim 14 wherein said delivery means includes a continuously running conveyor to deliver said drafts, said switch means being responsive to delivery of drafts from said continuously running conveyor to said first conveyor means, and being further adapted to start said first conveyor when a subsequently delivered draft is sensed.
16. In apparatus for preparing drafts of a food product for packing, the combination comprising: sheeting conveyor means providing a horizontal run with an upstream end and a downstream end; transfer means for delivering drafts sequentially to said sheeting conveyor means; source means for paying out a continuous thin plastic film to the upstream end of said sheeting conveyor means and beneath said drafts; separator conveyor means providing a horizontal run continuing the run of said sheeting conveyor means, the upstream end of said separator conveyor means being spaced from the downstream end of said sheeting conveyor means at a distance such that said drafts are transferred to said separator conveyor while permitting the passage of a cutting edge; severing means including a cutting edge wire for severing said web between drafts, and means for sensing whether there is a product at the position of said wire when said severing means is about to operate, said sensing means being effective to restrain the operation of said severing means when the presence of product at said position is sensed.
17. The system of claim 16 wherein said severing means includes a position switch; a set of sensing fingers on either side of said cutting edge and adapted to be moved by underpassing drafts; and means for stopping said sheeting conveyor and said source means only when a margin between adjacent drafts is in the cutting position.
18. The system of claim 16 further comprising: packing conveyor means located adjacent the downstream end of said separator conveyor means for receiving separated drafts therefrom and including a plurality of continuous cables spaced laterally apart to permit the insertion of lift tines, said cables being driven in the direction of motion of said drafts and at a greater speed than said separator conveyor.
H9. The system of claim 16 wherein said severing means is adapted to make successive cuts of said web in alternate upward and downward motions.
20. A system for preparing food products for packing comprising: a first conveyor; means for delivering individual products onto said first conveyor in matrix form; side conveyor means for engaging the side products of each matrix or compacting them sideways; first sensing switch means associated with said first conveyor and responsive to the presence of a leading edge of each matrix; a transverse gate adjacent said converging conveyor means for stopping the leading patties of each matrix, said first sensing switch actuating said gate to an open position permitting the passage of a compacted draft of said product a predetermined time after sensing the leading edge of each matrix; sheeting conveyor means downstream of said first conveyor; means for feeding a thin plastic film onto said sheeting conveyor, said first conveyor delivering separated, compacted drafts onto said film to hold the same in frictional engagement with said sheeting conveyor; second sensing means responsive to the positioning of the margin between adjacent drafts at a cutting position for stopping said film feeding means and said sheeting conveyor; cutter means at said cutting position for severing said film in the margin between adjacent drafts only when a margin is located at the cutting position and said sheeting conveyor is stopped; and separator conveyor means receiving individual drafts prior to severing and moving at a speed greater than the feeding of said film for separating adjacent drafts after cutting.
21. The system of claim further comprising packing conveyor means including a plurality of laterally spaced cables moving at a speed greater than the speed of said separator conveyor for receiving severed drafts while facilitating the insertion of a fork with elongated tines for lifting said severed drafts from said packing conveyor.
22. In a processing conveyor for preparing individual drafts of food products for packing, the combination comprising a sheeting conveyor; means for feeding a thin film of plastic onto said sheeting conveyor at a speed less than the speed of said sheeting conveyor; means for transferring said drafts sequentially onto said film to hold the same in frictional engagement with said sheeting conveyor; means providing a cutting position downstream of said sheeting conveyor; and sensing switch means responsive to the positioning of margins between adjacent drafts including adjustable time delay means for signaling that a margin is at said cutting location.
23. The system of claim 22 further comprising first and second pairs of sensing fingers located on either side of said cutting position; and circuit means responsive to said pairs of sensing fingers for inhibiting cutting action unless a margin between adjacent drafts is present at said cutting location.
24. A method for preparing drafts of a food product for packaging comprising: periodically depositing a plurality of individual products onto a conveyor belt in a generally rectangular pattern to form a draft; moving said drafts along said conveyor belt; compacting said drafts from the side as they move along said conveyor belt by causing the side ones of said draft to converge centrally of said draft; engaging the leading edge of a draft for a predetermined time to cause each draft to be compacted in the direction of travel; paying out a continuous plastic film onto a second conveyor immediately downstream of said first conveyor while transferring said compacted drafts onto said web to cause it to move with said second conveyor; stopping said payout and said second conveyor in response'to the position of margins between adjacent drafts; and severing said film at said margins between adjacent drafts.
25. The method of claim 24 wherein said step of severing comprises: passing a heated electrical wire transverse of the plane of said web to sever the same.
26. The method of claim 25 further comprising: passing said film onto a third conveyor immediately downstream of the cutting location; and engaging patties of each draft from the top to hold them against said third conveyor adjacent the location at which said web is being severed.
27. The method of claim 24 further comprising the step of synchronizing the paying out of said web with the delivery of said drafts from said first conveyor, while causing said second conveyor to have a slightly greater peripheral speed than said first conveyor thereby to hold said web against said second conveyor by the weight of said drafts while tensioning said web against said second conveyor.
28. The method of claim 24 further comprising the step of passing said web onto a third conveyor traveling at a peripheral speed larger than said second conveyor, said step of severing occurring between said second and third conveyors whereby each draft that is severed will speed up and be separated from subsequent sections by said third conveyor.