US 3797196 A
A letter folder and envelope inserter is described in a compact housing assembly. Envelopes are automatically removed from a stack and fed to an envelope stuffing station where a rotating roller operative against the upper edge of the envelope pocket opens the pocket. A paper enclosure such as a letter or invoice is automatically folded by passage through pairs of folding rollers and delivered over the pocket opening roller into the envelope pocket. A compact assembly and control system is described for operation of the folder-inserter.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 11 1 A 1111 3,797,
Harbison 1451 Mar. 19, 1974 [5 LETTER FOLDER AND ENVELOPE 2,914,895 12/1959 Martin 53/117 x lNSERTER  Inventor: Charles H. Harhison, Birmingham, Pnmary E'mmmer Travls S McGehee Attorney, Agent, or Firm-William D. Soltow, Jr.; Al-
bert W. Scribner; Martin D. Wittstein  Assignee: Pitney-Bowes, lnc., Stamford, Conn. 22 Filed: Dec. 4, 1972 ABSTRACT A letter folder and envelope inserter is described in a compact housing assembly. Envelopes are automatically removed from a stack and fed to an envelope  US. Cl 53/55, 53/117, 53/188, stuffing station where a rotating roller operative 53/384 against the upper edge of the envelope pocket opens  Int. Cl.., B65b 57/06, B65b 63/04, B65b 43/22 the pocket. A paper enclosure such as a letter or in- 21 Appl. No.: 311,826
 Field of Search 53/55, 58, 117, 186, 187, voice is automatically folded by passage through pairs 53/ 188, 384 of folding rollers and delivered over the pocket opening roller into the envelope pocket. A compact assem-  References Cited bly and control system is described for operation of UNITED STATES PATENTS the folder-Insert- 2,728,l78 12/1955 Kern 53/117 X 20 Claims, 7 Drawing Figures 1 i 2 7e 92 90 l 18 '42 3a 45 112 K I \\/Y .rllb 2 PATENTEU "AR 1 9 I974 SHEET 2 0F 5 FIG.2
PATENTEBIIAR 1 9 mm 3.797; 198
sum 3 or 5 FIG. 3
} uo FOLDER DRIVE ENVELOPE DRIVE I l l f CAM omve SHEE PATENTEUMAR 19 I974 INPUT POWER cYc\ E l cvcua 2 1 SWITCH LETTER TPJP SWITCH l N6 I CAM LATCH SWITCH FOLDER CAM SWITCH ENVELOPE CAM SWITCH EENVELOPE 46 TRIP SWITCH l ENVELOPE DRIVE CAM DRIVE slvsmss PATENTED MAR 19 I974 SHEET 5 0F 5 LETTER FOLDER AND ENVELOPE INSERTER FIELD OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an apparatus for stuffing envelopes. More specifically, this invention relates to an apparatus which automatically folds an enclosure such as a letter or an invoice and subsequently automatically inserts the folded enclosure into an envelope.
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION Devices for folding of enclosures such as letters and automatically inserting these into envelopes have been previously described in the art; see for example U. S. Pat. No. 2,771,726 which issued to Owen et al. In this patent a letter is automatically folded by feeding it through folding rollers oriented in a selected manner with buckle chutes. The folded letter is then automatically inserted with a reciprocating ram into an automatically opened envelope. U. S. Pat. No. 2,766,569, which issued to Strother et al, also describes a mail folder and envelope inserter. Other sheet folders may be found in the art such as in U. S. Pat. No. 3,510, 122 to Gavaghan.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In an envelope stuffing apparatus in accordance with the invention, an automatic envelope opener is employed wherein envelopes are continually fed to an envelope stuffing station where a roller engages the upper edge of the envelope pocket to open the pocket. Enclosures are then fed over the roller into the pocket. The
use of an opening roller conveniently eliminates reciprocating envelope opening elements and enables the formation of a compact envelope stuffer.
As'described with reference to a preferred embodiment for a letter folder and envelope inserter in accordance with the invention, folding rollers for forming a double fold are vertically arranged to deliver a folded enclosure over an envelope opening roller into an envelope pocket. The arrangement of the folding rollers and theenvelope stuffing station enhances the compactness of the folder-inserter which is particularly suitable for use .in offices with copying machines.
As further described with respect to the preferred embodiment, the assembly of thefolder-inserter includes a housing having a plurality of parallel channels in opposing side walls to retain various components which form the apparatus. 7
It is, therefore, an object of the invention to provide a compact envelope opener for automatic stuffing with enclosures such as letters, folded sheets and the like. It is a further object of the invention to provide a compact automatic letter folder and envelope inserter.
. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS These and other advantages and objects of the invention will be understood from the following description of a preferred embodiment described in conjunction with the drawings wherein I FIG. 1 is a perspective'view of a folder-inserter in accordance with the invention in use with an office copy- I I FIG. 4 is a schematic of drive elements and control circuitry employed in the operation of the folderinserter of FIG. 2;
FIG. 5 is a timing diagram for several components employed in the control circuitry shown in FIG. 4;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged perspective view of an envelope opener in accordance with the invention; and
FIG. 7 is an enlarged side view of an operating envelope opening roller in accordance with the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT With reference to FIG. 1, a folder-inserter 10 is shown mounted to receive duplicates 12 from outfeed 14 of a copying machine 16. Duplicate sheets 12 are deposited upon a downwardly inclined infeed tray 18 which guides sheets 12 into the folder-inserter 10 at one side of a housing 20. Envelopes 22 are stored on an infeed platform 24 located on another side of housing 20. The stuffed envelopes emerge from a bottom outfeed 26 and are deposited on a removable tray 28.
The folder-inserter 10 is shown mounted to the inside of a door 30 of a cabinet 32 on which copying machine 16 is placed. Housing 20 is formed with a pair of spaced parallel walls 34-34 having internally faced dove-tail shaped channels 36 to retain the various components such as infeed tray 18. The latter traymay be removed by sliding it upwardly along its mounting channels 36. The convenience and compactness of folder-inserter 10 may be appreciated by virtue of the fact that folderinserter 10 may be stored in cabinet 32 after out-feed tray 28 and infeed tray 18 have been removed and door 30 is closed.
Folder-inserter 10 is particularly useful in small offices which require, for example, billing of a large number of clients on a monthly basis. In such use an updated statement is fed into a copying machine 16 which delivers a duplicate 12 of the statement on in-feed tray 18. The duplicate slides down along infeed tray 18 into inserter-folder 10 which folds the duplicate into a size for automatic stuffing into an envelope 22. Envelopes 22 are preferably provided with a transparent window and the billing statement includes an address at a location selected to appear through the envelope window when folder-inserter 10 has stuffed an envelope. Hence, the only remaining secretarial task is to seal and apply postage to the envelopes.
In the section view of folder-inserter 10 in FIG. 2, a stack of vertically seated envelopes 22 is shown with flaps 38 of envelopes 22 facing housing 20 and a flap engaging hook 40. A pair of primary envelope feed rollers 42-42 are in contact with the front envelope to drive it downwardly along path 44 and over a trip arm 45 of" an envelope sensing element such as a double pole switch 46 to an envelope stuffing station 48. Path 44 is aligned so that envelopes 22 will pass between a pair of feed rollers 50-50. The operation of rollers 50-50 is so timed with the use of switch 46 that when an envelope flap 38 passes between them and the upper edge 52 of the envelope pocket 54 engages an envelope opening roller 56, the envelope feed is stopped to await stuffing of an enclosure.
The envelope opening rollers 56 rotate in a direction indicated by arrow 58 towards and against upper edge 52 which opens to receive folded letters arriving through a channel 60 aligned to pass letters over opening roller 56 into pocket 54.
Enclosures for envelopes 22 slide down in-feed tray 18 over a trip-arm 62 of an enclosure sensing switch 64 to actuate control circuitry as will be further described. Tray 18 is aligned with a sheet folder 66 formed of four sets of folding rollers 68, 70, 72 and 74 and a pair of buckle chutes 76, 78. When sheet 12 is deposited on tray 18, the sheet is passed between folding rollers 68, 70 which drive the front edge of the sheet up into the first buckle chute 76. When the front edge engages stop 80, the sheet buckles and the fold is passed between folding rollers 70, 72. When the fold encounters stop 82 in the second buckle chute 78, the sheet buckles again to form a second fold which passes between folding rollers 72, 74 into channel 60. The twice folded sheet is then passed between folding rollers 72, 74 into channel 60 and over opening roller 56 into a waiting and opened envelope 22.
The assembly of folder-inserter utilizes channels 36 in walls 34-34 as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Channels 36 are T-shaped with bracket retaining vertical slots 84 located between channels 36.
The mounting of components to walls 34-34 utilizes channels 36 and slots 84 in a flexible and varied manner. Thus, folding roller 68 is mounted on end bearings 86-86, each of which has an outer housing 88 shaped to fit in the wide segment of a channel 36. Buckle chute 76, which is formed of a pair of laterally spaced brackets 90, 92 is shaped so that bracket 90 has a vertical edge 94 mounted in a slot 84 and a horizontal extension 96 located in the wide portion of a channel 36. The flap hook 40 is attached to a horizontally disposed rod 98 which fits in a channel 36 and permits pivot movement of hook 40. A Z-shaped envelope stack support bracket 100 extends vertically along a channel 36 with an edge 103 captured by lip 104 of wall 34. One side 106 of Z- shaped bracket 100 seats against lip 104 to form a sturdy support for envelope in-feed tray 24.
The folding rollers 68, 70, 72 and 74 are mounted in a common slot to form a vertical arrangement for a compact sheet folder as shown in FIG. 2. The location of buckle chutes 76, 78 on opposite sides of the folding rollers facillitates the assembly of the sheet folder into a compact structure.
The drive for the folding rollers is applied from a motor 110 through a timing belt 112 coupled both to folding rollers 74 and pocket opening roller 56. The folding rollers 68, 70, 72 and 74 are held in contacting relationship with a pair of end-located springs 114 (only one spring 114 being shown in FIG. 3). Springs 114 are wrapped around bearing housings 88-88 to transfer the drive from roller 74 to the other rollers.
The drive for envelope feeding is obtained from a motor 116 and a timing drive belt 118 coupled to rollers 42, 50. Separate drive motors 110, 116 are used to enable the folder-inserter to be operated in a preferred cycle whereby envelopes are fed from their stack position on tray 24 to the stuffing station 48 to await arrival of a folded sheet. Instead of separate motors, a single motor with a disengageable drive for the sheet folder 66 could be used.
The operation of folder-inserter 10 may best be explained with reference to the circuit shown in FIG. 4 and the timing diagram of FIG. 5. A double poled power switch 130 controls the delivery of AC line power to the folder-inserter 10 on lines 132, 134. Line 134 is coupled to the power returns of envelope motor drive 116, enclosure folder drive motor and a timing motor 136.
Timing motor 136 drives a set of three cams (not shown) which control respectively a latching cam switch 138, folder cam switch 140 and an envelope cam switch 142. The cams which control these latter switches are of convential design and are shaped and positioned to actuate the switches in the manner as explained with respect to the operation of folder-inserter l0.
When power switch is closed at time t, (see FIG. 5), power is applied to lines 132, 134, but no operation occurs until a letter is dropped on in-feed tray 18 and slides down to actuate normally open switch 64 at time t Closure of letter trip switch 64 commences operation of timer cam drive 136, one of whose cams causes a closure of latching switches 138 at time t As soon as latching switch 138 has closed, power bypasses letter switch 64 so that the timing motor maintains itself energized until the end of the cycle.
Shortly after timing motor 136 has been energized, the letter folder cam causes a closure of folder cam swtich 140 at time Thus, in turn, actuates folder drive motor 110 which commences to feed the input letter through letter folder 66 towards stuffing station 48. Removal of a letter from in-feed tray 18 reopens letter trip switch 46 at time r Since the folder cam switch 140 remains closed until a folded letter arrives at stuffing station at about time t, and since the envelope feed has as yet not been energized, the first folded letter does not get inserted into an envelope and emerges on tray 28 for inspection to confirm a proper folding operation. Folder drive is terminated at time I, when folder cam switch 140 is reopened.
At a time following actuation of the folder drive, envelope cam switch 142 is closed, initiating a feed of an envelope towards stuffing station 48.
The front envelope 22 is moved down from its position on tray 24 along path 44. As the envelope is moved, its flap 38 catches on hook 40 which retains a sufficient hold to rotate flap in the direction of arrow 144 (see FIG. 2) and expose the pocket of the envelope. Flap 38 is rotated into a plane parallel with the main envelope so that envelope trip switch 46 remains actuated from the time t when the envelope first passes over arm 45 until time t, when flap 38 has cleared arm 45.
The envelope cam switch 142 was permitted to reopen at time t' however, the actuation of double pole envelope trip switch 46 maintains power to both envelope drive 116 and folder drive 110 to continue to move an envelope and rotate envelope opening roller 56.
when flap 38 clears envelope trip switch 46, the drive to envelope feed rollers stops and the envelope is positioned as indicated in FIGS. 2 and 6. The location of the trip arm 45 of switch 46 is so selected that the upper edge 52 of envelope 22 remains in contact with opening roller 56. The envelope remains at the stuffing station until a folded sheet has been inserted during the next cycle of operation.
At the end of the cycle, at time t,, the cam latch switch is permitted to open again, thus terminating the cycle. When the next letter is deposited on in-feed tray 18 and letter trip switch has been actuated at time t,,, the folder drive is again energized. At this time, envelope opening roller 56 is rotated against edge 52 of pocket 54. Roller 56, as shown in FIG. 6, is formed of a pair of rollers whose peripheries 150 are formed of a frictional material such as soft rubber. The roller surfaces 150 carry small axially aligned slots 152 sized to receive edge 52 of an envelope pocket 54. Slots 152 separate ridges 154 which peels pocket edge 52 away from the main body of envelope 22 as shown in FIG. 7. This continuous peeling action maintains pocket 54 open and enables a folded letter to be passed over opening roller 46 and below envelope feed roller 50 into pocket 54.
The rotation of opening roller 56 is the direction of arrow 58 conveniently cooperates to hold pocket 54 open and stuff a folded sheet into the pocket. The insertion of a folded sheet 12 into an envelope 22 occurs at about time 1 (see FIG. 5). After the envelope has been stuffed, it remains at stuffing station 48 until the envelope drive is energized at time t,,. A new envelope is then brought down from tray 24 and, at the same time, rotation of envelope feed rollers 50-50 causes the stuffed envelope to be dispensed at about time before the next envelope arrives at time t Having thus described a folder-inserter in accordance with the invention, its many advantages may be appreciated. The compact channel assembly permits a convenient mounting suitable for use in small offices. The use of a rotating roller foropening of the envelope pocket cooperates to facilitate stuffing of the envelopes since envelope opening and stuffing are obtained by a common rotating element.
What is claimed is 1. An apparatus for opening the pockets of empty envelopes having closure flaps for sealing envelopes comprising a roller having a paper edge gripping peripheral surface; l
means for holding an envelope with the opening edge of the envelope pocket in operative contact with the peripheral surface of the roller; and
means for driving the roller into rotation to engage the opening edge of the pocket of the held envelope and urge the pocket opening away to open the pocket for stuffing with an enclosure.
2. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 wherein the roller peripheral surface is formed of a resilient high friction material and provided around the perimeter to form circumferentially spaced ridges to sequentially engage the pocket edge during roller rotation and open the envelope pocket.
3. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2 wherein said ridges are effectively defined by slots that extend substantially parallel with the axis of rotation of the roller.
4. An apparatus for stuffing enclosures into pockets of envelopes having closure flaps for sealing envelope pockets comprising means for advancing enclosures towards an envelope stuffing'station; I
means for advancing envelopes from a stack towards the envelope stuffing station;
a pocket opening roller arranged for operative contact with the opening edge of a pocket of an envelope;
means for rotating the pocket opening roller;
means for holding an envelope in stuffing relationship with an enclosure that is advanced towards the envelope stuffing station with the pocket edge of the envelope in contact with said rotated opening roller to open the pocket and enable the stuffing of the envelope pocket with said enclosure.
5. The apparatus for stuffing empty envelopes as claimed in claim 4 wherein the envelopes advancing means further includes an envelope stack feeder shaped to receive a stack of envelopes with their flaps in pocket closing position;
means for removing envelopes one at a time from the stack;
a flap engaging hook in operative contact with the front envelope in the stack and below the edge of the closed flap with the flap engaging hook being selectively shaped to catch the flap of an envelope being removed to orient the flap to an open position prior to arrival at the stuffing station.
6. The apparatus for stuffing empty envelopes as claimed in claim 5 wherein said holding means further includes a pair of closely spaced rotating envelope feed rollers oriented to receive envelopes removed from the stack;
means for sensing the passage of an envelope; and
means to terminate rotation of the envelope feed rollers when said pocket opening edge is operatively engaged by the pocket opening roller.
7. The apparatus for stuffing envelopes as claimed in claim 6 wherein said envelope sensing means is formed of an envelope trip switch having a trip arm, said trip arm being selectively located to be operatively engaged by the flap of a passing envelope, with said means for terminating rotation including an envelope feed drive responsive to the actuation of the envelope trip switch and coupled to the envelope feed rollers.
8. The apparatus for stuffing envelopes as claimed in claim 7 and further including means for sensing the arrival of enclosures and producing a signal indicative thereof; and
means effectively actuated by the enclosure arrival signal for rotating the pocket opening roller to open an envelope held at the envelope stuffing station.
9. The apparatus for stuffing envelopes as claimed in claim 8 wherein said enclosure advancing means further includes a plurality of folding rollers and buckle chutes arranged to produce a folded enclosure for stuffing into an envelope, with said pocket opening roller driving means also being coupled to drive the folding rollers.
10. The apparatus for stuffing envelopes as claimed in claim 9 and further including a timing motor provided with a plurality of cam controlled switches, said timing motor being actuated by the enclosure arrival signal, with one of said cam controlled switches being coupled to latch operation of the timing motor for a predetermined cycle, and with other cam controlled switches being coupled respectively to the envelope feed drive and the pocket opening roller driving means for operation thereof during selected portions of the predetermined cycle.
11. The apparatus for stuffing empty envelopes as claimed in claim 7 wherein the stack of envelopes, the flap engaging hook, the envelope trip switch and the envelope stuffing station are generally arranged in a vertical orientation with the envelope stuffing station at the bottom end.
12. An apparatus for folding enclosures to be stuffed into pockets of envelopes having closure flaps for sealing the envelope pockets comprising an envelope stuffing station;
means for advancing envelopes from a stack towards the envelope stuffing station;
means for holding an envelope with its pocket open to receive an enclosure at the stuffing station; means for detecting enclosures;
means for folding enclosures, said folding means including a plurality of folding rollers arranged in a generally vertical line, a first buckle chute located on one lateral side of the folding rollers to form a first fold between a first pair of folding rollers and a second buckle chute located on the other lateral side of the folding rollers to form a second fold between a second pair of folding rollers;
said stuffing station being located on said one side of the folding rollers to receive the twice folded enclosure upon its emergence from between the second pair of folding rollers.
13. The apparatus for folding and stuffing enclosures as claimed in claim 12 wherein the stuffing station is located along a downwardly inclined path from the second pair of folding rollers.
14. The apparatus for folding and stuffing enclosures as claimed in claim 13 and further including an enclosure infeed tray oriented with a downward incline in alignment with a pair of folding rollers to feed enclosures towards the first buckle chute;
an enclosure sensing element operatively disposed on the enclosure infeed tray; and
means actuated by the enclosure sensing element for controlling the operational cycle of the folding and stuffing apparatus. 15. A compact letter folder and envelope stuffing apparatus wherein envelopes have a closure flap sized to overlap an outer edge of the pocket of the envelope comprising a housing having means for advancing letters along a letter feed path and means for advancing envelopes along an envelope feed path, said letter feed path and envelope feed path being respectively oriented to feed letters and envelopes generally towards each other to meet in stuffing relationship at an envelope stuffing station; letter folding means located along the letter feed path to receive letters at one side and dispense folded letters from an opposite side along the feed path in the vicinity of the envelope stuffing station;
means located at the envelope stuffing station for retaining the closure flap of an envelope with the pocket of the retained envelope oriented to receive folded letters dispensed along the letter feed path;
means, including a friction roller operatively located at the stuffing station in contact with the outer pocket edge at the inside of the envelope closure flap, for driving the friction roller into rotation to urge the outer pocket edge away from the retained closure flap and to stuff folded letters into the envelope pocket.
16. The compact letter folder and envelope stuffing apparatus as claimed in claim 15 wherein the letter folding means further includes a plurality of folding rollers each having an axis of rotation and arranged with their axes of rotations generally coplanar; and
a pair of buckle chutes disposed on opposite sides of the plurality of rollers and positioned to form double folded letters with the unfolded letters entering one side of the feed rollers and being dispensed on the opposite side with a double fold.
17. A compact enclosure folderand envelope inserter assembly comprising a housing having a plurality of dove-tail shaped parallel spaced channels on opposite internal walls of the housing, with channels on one wall being in predetermined alignment with the channels on the other wall;
an enclosure feed located on one lateral end of the internal walls and supported at a predetermined height along a channel;
an envelope feed located on another opposite lateral end of the internal walls and supported at a predetermined height along a channel, said envelope feed being sized and shaped to support a stack of envelopes;
a plurality of folding rollers disposed in the path of the enclosure feed and mounted along a common channel for general coplanar mounting of their axes of rotation;
a pair of buckle chutes located on opposite sides of the folding rollers to provide a double folded enclosure on the envelope feed side of the plurality of folding rollers; and
an envelope inserter station disposed in the path of the folded enclosures and envelopes, said station including an envelope pocket opening roller mounted in a channel and supported therein at a height selected to place the pocket opening roller in the path of a double folded enclosure emerging from between a pair of folding rollers, and a pair of envelope feed rollers each mounted in a channel and spaced from each other to control the passing and retention of envelopes relative to the pocket opening rollers, said pocket opening roller and the envelope feed rollers being selectively spaced along their channels to place edges of each envelope pocket in contact with the pocket opening roller to insert a folded enclosure into the pocket of an envelope. 1
18. The compact enclosure folder and envelope inserter assembly as claimed in claim 17 wherein the envelope stuffing station is located along a downwardly inclined path from a plurality of folding rollers.
19. The compact enclosure folder and envelope inserter assembly as claimed in claim 17 and further including an enclosure sensing element for generating a signal representative of the arrival of an enclosure to be inserted into an envelope;
an envelope sensing element selectively located to sense the arrival of an envelope at the envelope inserting station; and
means actuated by the enclosure arrival signal for controlling the feed of envelopes and the insertion of folded enclosures into opened envelopes.
20. The compact enclosure folder and envelope inserter assembly as claimed in claim 19 wherein said controlling means further includes motor being each actuated by a cam controlled switch to initiate respectively an enclosure folding and envelope feeding from the stack, with the envelope sensing element being coupled to said envelope drive motor to terminate feeding of an envelope upon its arrival at the envelope insertion statlon.