US 3803795 A
An apparatus for automatically removing closures from containers as the containers are transported with respect to the apparatus in predetermined geometric array, as when said containers are drink bottles arranged in columns and rows in wooden cases. The position in the array of each container having a closure thereon is sensed and data representative thereof is stored. A plurality of rotatable, closure-removing devices is provided which individually are energized into contact with the closure on closed containers when the containers have moved into alignment with the closure-removing devices. The stored data respecting the location of containers having closures thereon is employed to permit only those closure-removing devices which are in alignment with containers having closures to become energized.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent m1 Ouellette 111 3,803,795 Apr. 16, 1974 CLOSURE REMOVING APPARATUS AND METHOD  Inventor: Joseph F. Ouellette, 822 E. Essex,
St. Louis, Mo. 63122.
 Filed: Jan. 26, 1973 [2!] App]. No.: 326,998
 US. Cl 53/3, 53/76, 53/381 A 51] Int. Cl B67b 7/18  Field of Search 53/3, 381 A, 76
 7 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,589,103 6/1971 Calvillo et al 53/38l A 3,686,824 8/1972 Rink et al. .Q 53/381 A Primary Examiner-Travis S. McGehee Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Rogers, Ezell & Eilers 571 ABSTRACT- An apparatus for automatically removing closures from containers as the containers are transported with respect to the apparatus in predetermined geometric array, as when said containers are drink bottles arranged in columns and rows in wooden cases. The position in the array of each container having a closure thereon is sensed and data representative thereof is stored. A plurality of rotatable, closure-removing devices is provided which individually are energized into contact with the closure on closed containers when the containers have moved into alignment with the closure-removing devices. The stored data respecting the location of containers having closures thereon is employed to permit only those closure-removing devices which are in alignment with containers having closures to become energized.
9 Claims, 12 Drawing Figures PATENTEDAPR 16 1974 sum 1 or 5 PATENTED APR 1 6 I974 SHEET 2 OF 5 FIG. 2. w
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Fwwmm mOwZmw Pwmmm mwOOUwO TEOWZMw O mm I 1 CLOSURE REMOVING APPARATUS AND METHOD BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION In the bottling industry (soda pop, beer, etc.), empty bottles are ordinarily returned in cases to the bottling works for washing and refilling. The cases may then be unloaded onto a moving conveyor which transports them to a washing apparatus wherein the bottles are throughly cleaned. The bottles are then transported to another apparatus which fills the bottles and caps them..
In the past, drink bottles have been provided with snap-off caps," which could be removed easily only with bottle openers. More recently, however screw-on With the recent return to popularityof returnable drink bottles (largely for environmental reasons), a serious problem has arisen in j the bottling industry. Whereas the old snap-of bottle caps could be replaced upon drink bottles only with great difficulty, the screwn caps can be replaced easily. It has been found that empty bottles which are returned for refilling often have the caps screwed onthem. It will be readily understood that such bottles cannot automatically be cleaned unless. the bottle caps are first removedrUp to three additional employees, and sometimes more, are often required on medium sized bottling lines solely for the purpose of removing such screw-on caps. In view of the factthat many-bottling lines,- particularly large'capacity lines, are fully automated, the presence of a capped, empty bottle in the washing and refilling apparatuses can cause many problems, and may caus'ean expensive shut down of the line. I
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR'ART Because ofthe screw-on cap problem referred to,
above, a'number (Sf-manufacturers have devised machines which purportedly remove caps automatically from bottles on an assembly linebasis.Th e majority of such machines require the bottles to be fed thereto in single file fashion. Since bottling lines generally permit the bottles to be transported in cases to the washing apparatus, the single file requirement of such b'ottle treatment. In another embodiment, a thinknife ispunched through the top of the bottlecap and isrotated to unscrew the cap from the bottle. In yet another embodiment, utilizing the single fileconveyor, cap grippers are caused to'grip and unscrew the bottlecaps.
One decapping.machinewhich' is capable of receiving bottles ,in carton form .is provided with a series of suitable-spaced,rotating knivesw-hich are forced downward into the neck of each bottle, thus piercing any caps which may bepresent and causing them to become unscrewed from the bottles. In this. machine, a resilient collar member is firstforced about the shoulder of each bottle to prevent it from turning. Each bottle, whether or not it contains a cap, is so treated. It is necessary with the latter apparatus to momentarily stop. each case of bottles within the decapping machine for the decapping operation to take place. Thisoperation is slowand quite expensive.
None of the above solutions to the problem has proven entirelyacceptable'. As mentioned, the "single file machines operate on each bottle, and require that the bottles be removed from the cases in order to undergo treatment in such machines. In similar fashion, the apparatus which is capable of treating bottles in cases treats each and every bottle, and has proven to be slow and highlyexpens ive. In addition, the latter mentioned machine requires the shoulder to each bottle to be gripped,'thus wearing the glass surface at that point and defacing not only the shine of the bottle, but also avertising which may appear thereon.
A machine which would be capable of treating bottles-in case or carton fonn, which would not damage or deface the bottles, 'and which wouldnot require interchine which iscapable of removing closures from containers butwhich does notrequire contact with the bot tle itself.
, It is yet another object of the invention to provide a bottle-decapping machine which can-be easily' and inexpensively installed in existing bottling lines and through which cases of bottles may pass without significant intermittent interruption.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide an apparatus for removing closures from containers which is relatively inexpensive, simple, and which'requires little maintenance.
,It is a further object of the invention to provide an apparatus forremoving closures from containers as the same are contained within cases or cartons wherein only those containers having closures are subjected to the 'closur'e removing operation.
BRIEF SUMMARY-OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to an apparatus'for automatically removing closures, particularly screw closures,,from containers which are arranged in predeterminedre gular geometric array; for example, as soda pop bottles are arranged in cases or cartons. The apparatus comprises means for transporting the containers with respect to the apparatus and stationary closure sensing means for sensing the positions in the array of those containers which have closures thereon. Data representativeof such positions are received and stored indata storage means provided for this purpose. A-closure removal" means is provided which comprises a plur'ality of individually operable closure removing (e.g., unscrewing) devices arranged with respect to the prearranged array of containers such that these devices are positioned in momentary alignment with the array of containers as the containers are transported with respect to .the apparatus. Each such device iscapable, when energized, of contacting and removing the closure from the respective container in momentary alignranged in cases), and the closure-removing devices are arrayed similarly over the path traversed by the containers and are capable of vertical movement such that the devices, when energized, are momentarily forced into contact with the container closures, causing the latter to unscrew from the containers.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG/1 is a side view of the apparatus of the present invention, showing conveyor belts leading to and away from the apparatus;
FIG. 2 is a top view partially broken away of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 22 of FIG.
FIG. 3 is a broken away, cross-sectional view of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 33 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a partially broken away cross-sectional view taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a broken away view shown in partial crosssection of a portion of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 5-5 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 6 is a partially broken away, cross-sectional view of a portion of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 6-6 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a detail view in partial cross-section and partially broken away of a portion of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 77 of FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a view shown partially in cross-section and partially broken away of a portion of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 88 of FIG. 7;
FIG. 9 is a view in cross-section and partially broken away of a portion of the apparatus of the invention taken along lines 9-9 of FIG. 7;
FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of a closureremoving device of the present invention broken away taken along lines l010 of FIG. 7, the device being shown as gripping a closure member threaded on a container;
FIG. 11 is a bottom view of the closure-removing device depicted in FIG. 10; and
FIG. 12 is a schematic representation of electronic circuitry which may be employed in the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now to FIG. 1, the apparatus of the invention 10 is provided with a frame assembly 12 supporting a conveyor belt 14 which serves to convey cases 16 carrying bottles 18 in rows and columns past the closure-sensing and removal section of the machine, the latter being referred to generally as 20. Although cases of various sizes and containers of various dimensions may be accommodated, for each of description, I will refer to the cases as being of wood and containing bottles in a regular rectangular array, the cases containing six columns of bottles in four rows. As shown in FIG. 1, the bottles may be in cardboard cartons within the cases. The conveyor belt 14 is driven by electric motor 22 through gear box 24 and belt 26. In a normal production line, the cases of empty bottles 16 are placed on a first conveyor belt 28 as shown in FIG. 1, and are thence transported to hurry up roller 30 which has" a surface speed slightly greater than that of conveyor belts l4 and 28. The hurry up roller is appropriately geared through sprocket 32 to belt guide roller 33. Thus, the cases 16, as they pass over roller 30, are given a slight advance downstream, thereby insuring that a slight gap will exist between cases as they pass over a point between rollers 30 and 33, the purpose of which will be subsequently explained.
The cases then pass toward the closure sensing and removal section 20, the cases encountering case sensor 32, bottle column sensor 34, and closure detectors 36. In an embodiment wherein each case contains 24 bottles, in six columns and four rows, I employ four separate closure detectors 36, each located above a row of bottles to detect closures thereon. I prefer to have the bottle column sensors 34 and the closure detectors 36 in substantial vertical alignment so that these devices will simultaneously provide data with respect to which column of bottles is being sensed, and which bottles in each column so sensed have closures thereon. Such data is stored in a memory system for later retrieval, as will be more fully explained below. Continuing in their travel downstream the bottles are sensed by a second bottle column sensor 38 when the array of bottles is in substantial alignment with closure removing devices 40, which devices are arranged in the same geometric array as are the bottles in the cases. When sensor 38 senses that substantial alignment between the bottles and the closure removal devices 40 has been obtained, such of those devices as are in line with bottles having closures are advanced downwardly into momentary contact with the bottle closures, and then are retracted upwardly. Such devices preferably continuously rotate in an unscrewing direction to unscrew the closures from the respective bottles. As the devices 40 are returned to their upright position, the container closures are ejected therefrom and are entrained in a flow of air emitted from nozzles (shown generally as 42 in FIG. 7) in a downstream direction whereupon they are collected in a collector 44. A second stream of air directs the closures outwardly from collector 44 through elbow 46 and thence downwardly through plastic tubing (not shown) into a suitable .collection container. Cases of bottles, now completely uncapped, move onto downstream conveyor belt 48 which carried the bottles to a washing apparatus. A stop member 50, which may consist of a flat steel plate, is pivotally mounted to the axle 52 of roller 30 and extends transversely of the apparatus in the direction of case movement. Pivotal movement of the stop member about axle 52 is governed by air cycinder 54 which is pivotally connected to the stop member at 56, as is best seen in FIG. 3. This figure shows the stop in its rest position (dotted lines) and in its upright, operative position (solid lines), the stop in its latter position serving to prevent movement downstream of case 16. The purpose of stop 50 is to prevent further cases of containers from passing downstream into the sensing and closure removing section 20 when shut-down of the machine is desired or in the event that an emergency (requiring shut-down) should arise. For example, referring to FIG. 1, a height sensor is provided near the adjacent end of conveyor belt 28 for the purpose of sensing whether any of the bottles in a case extend upwardly beyond a certain distance, (as when a bottle rests on paper or the like crumpled in the bottom of the case). Although the apparatus of the invention can tolerate considerable variance in the arrangement of the array of bottles and in the height thereof, it may be necessary in some circumstances to stop the machine should a bottle of unusual height be sensed. Should this occur, an appropriate signal is generated to activate air cylinder 54, whereupon stop 50 is transported upwardly so as to block the passage of that case bearing the high bottle. Another sensor 60 is provided at ease level at a point slightly upstream from vertical alignment with the stop 50. This sensor detects when acase of bottles moves out of vertical alignment with stop 50, and permits air cylinder 54 to transport stop 50 into its upright position only at such time. I
The closure detectors 36, beneath which the four rows of bottles move as they pass downstream from the area of brake 50, are shown best in FIGS. 6 and 7. Referring to FIG. 7, the closure detectors 36 are mounted in supporting arms 62' which in turn are pivotally mounted to the frame 12 by pin 64, set screw 66 serving the adjust the height of arms 62 so that the closure detectors 36 are supported closely adjacent (e.g., within about one-fourth inch of) the tops of the passing bottles. The detectors themselves preferably are of a type capable of detection electrically conductive closure material such as aluminum, and accordingly may be of the magnetic field distortion variety known to the art. I
To assure alignment of the bottles as they pass beneath closure detectors 36 and through the remainder of the closure removal operation, guide strips 68, which are of the proper width to permit the necks of bottles to pass therebetween, are supported at the proper height between frame member 70 (FIG. 6) and the lower edge 72 of the closure collector 44. To further aid in alignment of the bottles as they pass beneath the closure detectors 36, stationary and movable case guides 74 and 76 are provided along respective edges of the conveyor belt 14. As perhaps best shown in FIG. 5, stationary guide 74 is rigidly attached to frame 12 so as to provide a bearing surface against which the case rides during its travel through the apparatus. On the other side of the case is provided a heavy rod 76 which is pivotally connected to and carried above horizontal plate members 78 by means of arms 80 such that the weight of the rod 76 urges the case against stationary guide 74. I have found this type of guide system to be much more effective than guide systems employing springs or the like to urge the case against opposing guides. By means of slotted connections 82, each of the guides may be adjusted so as to properly position the cases of containers as these cases pass through the apparatus. I
As each case enters the area beneath closure detectors 36, the entrance of each case is sensed by sensor 32, and each column of bottles as it passes is sensed by columnsensor 34. The combinationof closure detectors 36 (detecting which bottles have closures as they pass therebeneath) and sensor 34 (counting the columns of bottles as they pass) fixes the location in the array of bottles of those bottles bearing closures. This information is stored in a memory unit which may conveniently be located in a centrally positioned control box 84. The location of each bottle bearing a closure can then be retrieved from the memory unit when the bottles are in proper position to have the closures removed therefrom.
Referring now to FIGS. 7, 8 and 9, a plurality of closure removing devices 40 are positioned downstream from sensing devices 32 and 34, and are supported by hollow shafts 86 which rise vertically through a vacuum chamber 88, a pressure chamber 90, and a gearing chamber 92. The shafts are connected by means of rota'ry slip couplings 94 to air cylinders 96, the latter serving to move the shafts up and down in response to pulses of air pressure received through lines 98 from solenoid air valves 100. In the apparatus depicted, twelve closure-removing devices 40 are employed. Thus, a case of bottles having four rows and six columns of bottles is subjected twice to the closure removing operation, the first operation affecting the first three columns of bottles, and the second operation affecting the remaining three columns of bottles. In another embodiment, 24 of the closure-removing devices are employed such than an entire case of 24* bottles may be subjected at one time to the closure-removing operation.
The closure-removing devices, as shown best in FIGS. 10 and 11, are in the form of inverted, cupshaped cylinders, each having an outer annular portion 102 made of an impact resistance plastic such as polycarbonate (e.g., Delrin," a product of E I Dupont de Nemours & Company) and 'an inner annular portion l04-which may be of stainless steel. The bottom sur faces 106 and 108 of the annular portions 102 and 104 are aligned and are tapered inwardly such that these surfaces, uponcontacting the top of a bottle, tend to center the bottle top within the device. The inner surface of the inner annular portion 104 is provided with a series of sharp serrations or teeth 110 which preferably correspond in number and location to serrations normally found on the outer edges of screw-on closures. For example, bottles employed in the soda pop industry normally have 40 serrations about their outer surfaces; hence, annular inner portion 104 adapted for use in removing the closures from such bottles will normally have 40 serrations or teeth. The serrated portion 104 has a diameter slightly larger than the glass top of a bottle so that the serrations or teeth contact only the closure 112 of a bottle 18, but not the upper end of the bottle itself. 7
The lower portion of shaft 86 (FIG. 10) is threaded into inner annular portion 144, as shown at 114, and is held in place by a lock nut 116. The lower end 118 of shaft 86 extends into the cavity formed by the inner surface of inner annular portion 104, and mounted thereon is a downwardly oriented suction cup 120, which may be of rubber. The bottom surface of the suction cup 120 is normally approximately in line with the bottom edge of the serrated portion 110 such that the upper surface 122 of bottle closure 112 comes into contact with the suction cup as the closure-enters the serrated portion of the inner annular member 104. The suction cup has a hollow interior 124 which communicates with the hollow interior 126 of shaft 86, which in turn communicates through orifices 128 with the vacuum and pressure chambers 88 and .90. Orifices 128 are positioned longitudinally of shaft 86 such that when the closure removing device 40 is in its downward position in contact with a closure member, orifice 128 is within vacuum chamber 88, thus drawing a vacuum within the interior 124 of suction cup 120 to cause the same to adhere to the upper surface 122 of closure member 112. After removal of the closure member from the bottle, shaft 86 is transported upwardly to its rest position whereupon orifices 128 are raised into communication with pressure chamber 90. The pressure thus communicated to the interior 124 of the suction cup forces the closure member out of the inner annular portion 104, whereupon it is conveyed by air currents into the closure collector 44 and thence to a holding container. Since compartments 88 and 90 are respectively evacuated and pressurized, the upper and lower walls of these containers are preferably provided with suitable bushings, such as those made of nylon, through which the shaft 86 pass. In a preferred embodiment, the orifices 128 of shafts 86 purposely vary from exact horizontal alignment with each other when the shafts are in their upward, rest position. Instead, the orifices of those shafts nearer the downstream side of the apparatus are slightly elevated from those near the upstream side of the apparatus such that when the shafts return simultaneously from the downward position to the upward position, the orifices of those shafts nearer the downstream side of the machine enter pressure chamber 90 first, thus causing the closures to be ejected first near the downstream side of the machine. The stream of air which is emitted from air source 42 in the downstream direction hence first contacts those ejected closures furthest removed therefrom, without interference from closures ejected from the more upstream closure removal devices. I
The shafts 86 are caused to continuously rotate about their axes in an unscrewing direction by motor 128. Referring to FIG. 8, motor 128 drives drive chain 130 in the direction shown by arrow 132, the chain 130 passing about drive sprockets 134 and idler sprockets 136. The drive sprockets 134 communicate with gear members 138 within gearing chamber 92, which in turn contact gears 140 on shafts 86, causing the latter to rotate. The large gears 138 (FIG. 1) have a lengthy vertical toothed surface of, for example, three inches, whereas gears 140 have perhaps a one inch toothed surface. As will be evident from FIG. 7, the shaft gears 140 are adapted to vertically traverse the toothed surfaces of gears 138 as the shafts 86 are transported down and up during the closure removal operation, the gear 138 continuously imparting rotary motion to shafts 86 through gears 140. The upper ends 142 of shafts 86 are connected to slip couplings 94, which couplings are adapted to permit vertical motion to be transmitted to the shafts while permitting the shaft ends to rotate freely therein. Rods 144 extend downwardly from air cylinders 96 into slip couplings 94 to supply the vertical forces to shafts 86.
The vacuum and pressure compartments 88 and 90 are connected respectively to a continuous vacuum source 146 such as a vacuum pump (FIG. 1) through line 148, the vacuum source being driven by motor 150. To avoid continuous loss of pressure through leakage from pressure chamber 90, this chamber preferably is pressurized in pulses, air being conveyed to this chamber through line 152 (FIG. 6) through air regulator 154 and solenoid air valve 156 from a source of air pressure entering through connection 158. Air under pressure is also fed through pressure regulator 160 (FIG. 6) and thence through orifices 161 in nozzle manifold 42, the orifices pointing in a downstream direction so that the air emitted therefrom serves to blow ejected bottle closures 112 into closure collector 44. Air entering through connection 158 is pulsed by solenoid air valve 156, and, as mentioned, is fed through regulators 154 and 160 respectively into pressure chamber 90 and through orifices 161, so that the same pulse of air pressure is employed to eject closures from the devices 40 and to blow the closures into collector 44. The latter collector is connected by means of line 162 through regulator 164 and solenoid air valve 166 to said source of air under pressure through connection 158. The air current thus generated in orifice collector 44 travels in the direction of arrow 170 to blow the collected closures through elbow 46 and thence downwardly through suitable plastic tubing or the like into a collector. Operation of solenoid air valves 156 and 100 are controlled by signals from control box 84 in a manner to be described.
As shown in FIG. 1, the cases of containers are slightly spaced one from another as they travel through the apparatus of the invention. After the closure removing operation has occurred, the cases of containers are passed onto a conveyor belt 48. Should a shutdown or other emergency arise downstream of the apparatus of the invention, as at the container washing station, the cases may tend to pile up" such that the spacing between cases disappears. Preferably, a sensor 172 is positioned in line with the cases downstream of the apparatus of the invention to sense whether proper spacing is being maintained between cases. If proper spacing is not maintained, stop member 50 may be activated to prevent further cases from entering the appa ratus until the downstream emergency is resolved.
FIG. 12 depicts schematically one of the many logic systems which may be employed in the invention. The various electronic elements which are employed can be purchased commercially from, for example, Texas Instrument Company, and the model numbers which appear hereinafter refer to this source of equipment. A latch memory unit having 24 bits, four by six (corresponding to 4 rows and 6 columns of bottles in a case of bottles) may be employed as the data storage unit, and may consist of six No. 7475 quad latch memory units. Information respecting the location of such bot tles as have closures is conveyed to the latch memory unit by the four closure detectors 36 (which indicate which of the four bottles in each of the six columns have closures thereon), and from the case and column sensors 32 and 34, the latter sensing and counting the columns of bottles moving past the closure detector 36. The signals from the case sensor 32 and the column sensor 34 are fed to a three-stage binary counter and decoder 182, which may be a combination of a No. 7493 three-stage binary counter and a No. 7442 binary coded zero to zero decoder. The binary counter and decoder 182 is reset to zero when the case sensor 32 senses the presence of a new case of bottles moving beneath the closure detectors 36. The columns of bottles, as they move past sensor 34, are thus counter by the three-stage binary counter and decoder 182, and signals representative thereof are fed through a six-line cable 184 to the latch memory unit. Thus, the number of the column of bottles being sensed (from the threestage binary counter 182) and the indication from the closure detectors as to which, if any, bottles in the particular column being sensed have closures, together provide the latch memory unit with the specific position in a 24 bottle case of those bottles having closures. This information in turn is fed through a 24 line cable 186 to a multiplexer device 188 (which may be made of three No. 74157 multiplexer units), which in turn has 12 leads 191 leading respectively to the 12 solenoid-operated airvalves 100.
As the case of bottles moves downstream from sensors 32 and 34, the bottles again are sensed by sensor 38 when the first three columns of bottles have moved into alignment with the 12 closure-removing devices 40. Signals from sensor 38 are led to a second threestage binary counter and decoder 190 which may be identical to that described above. Signals from this binary counter and decoder 190 are fed through appropriate circuitry to the multiplexer 188. Upon sensing the presence of the first column of bottles by sensor 38, counter 190 counts 1, and the appropriate circuitry causes a signal to be sent to the multiplexer 188 whereupon this device, drawing on the latch memory unit for the position of closed bottles within the first three columns of bottles in the case, energizes the appropriate solenoid air valves 100 whereupon such closure removal devices 40 as are in line with closed bottles'are shot downwardly by air cyclinders 96 to affect removal of the closures. The signal pulse received by the multiplexer is of very short duration (e.g., 0.2 seconds), and when this pulse terminates, the closure removal devices are rapidly returned to their rest positions, during which return the closures are ejected and collected in closure collector 44. The signals generated by the multiplexer may also be led to solenoid valve 156, whereupon air under pressure is pulsed into the pressure chamber 90 and through orifices 161. The closure removal devices 40 thus contact the bottle closures on the bottles for such a short period of time (less than 0.2 seconds) that no hesitation in the smooth flow of bottles past the apparatus of the invention is normally visually detected, and the cases of bottles move smoothly through the apparatus. The three-stages binary counter and decoder 190 continues to count the columns of bottles which pass sensor 38, and upon counting 4 (the fourth column of bottles), appropriate circuitry generates another pulse to the multiplexer 188 whereupon the multiplexer, drawing upon the latch memory unit 180 for the position of closed bottles in the remaining three columns of bottles in the case, again sends appropriate signals to the solenoid air valves 100 to activate those closure removal devices as are then in line with bottles in the second half of the case which have closures. After counting 4, the threestage binary counter and decoder 190 is reset to zero and is ready for another case of bottles. Similarly, when a fresh case of bottles is sensed by case sensor 32, the three-stage binary counter and decoder 182 is reset to zero. Once information has been retrieved from the bits of the memory unit for operation of the solenoid air valves 100, such bits are again ready to store information derived from bottle sensor 34 and closure detector 36. Thus, the operation of the apparatus of the invention is completely automatic.
Sensors 30, 32, 34, 38, 58 and 172 may be photoelectric cell-light source combinations wherein the photoelectric cell is on one side of the apparatus as the light source is on the other side. Photoelectric cell operations (electric eyes) are well known to the art. Similarly, the electronic devices 36, 180, 182, 188 and 190 include items of commerce, and these items, and the associated circuitry, need not be described in detail.
It is to be understood that while I have illustrated and described one form of my invention, it is not to be limited to the specific form or arrangement of parts herein described and shown except insofar as such limitations are included in the claims.
What is claimed is:
1. Apparatus for automatically removing closures from containers arranged in predetermined regular geometric array, comprising:'
a. means for transporting said containers relative to said apparatus;
b. stationary closure-sensing means for sensing the position, in said array, of each container having a closure thereon;
c. data storage means for storing information sensed by said closure sensing meanS relating to the position of containers having closures thereon;
d. closure-removal means comprising a plurality of individually operable closure-removing devices arranged with respectto said pre-arranged array of containers such that said devices are momentarily positioned in substantial alignment with said array of containers as said containers are transported relative to said apparatus, said devices each being capable, when energized, of contacting and removing said closures;
e. array-sensing means for sensing said momentary alignment of said array of containers; and
f. energizing means responsive to said array sensing means and said stored data to energize such of said devices as are in alignment with said containers having closures so as to remove the closures therefrom.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said closure sensing means comprises a plurality of closuredetection devices so positioned as to respectively come into metal-detecting proximity to said closures as said containers move relative to said apparatus.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said closureremoving devices are continuously rotated in an unscrewing direction with rcspcct to the longitudinal axis of bottles aligned therewith having screw-on closures.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said closureremoving devices each have an inverted cup-shaped closure-gripping surface provided with serrations for gripping container closures, each such device being capable of vertical movement into and out of contact with said closures by said energizing means.
5. The apparatus of claim 4 additionally comprising sources of vacuum and pressure to said closureremoving devices to respectively retain said closures in said devices by applying vacuum thereto and ejecting said closures'therefrom by applying pressure thereto.
6. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein each closureremoving device is provided with an upwardly extending, hollow mounting shaft and wherein said apparatus includes vertically adjacent pressure and vacuum chambers through which each shaft travels, each shaft having at least one orifice therein permitting communication between its hollow interior and said pressure and vacuum chambers as said at least one orifice is admitted to each chamber; said pressure and vacuum chambers being so arranged that when said closureremoving device is in contact with a closure on a container, said orifice will communicate the interior of said shaft with said vacuum chamber, and when said closure-removing device with a closure thereon is removed upwardly from said container, said at least one orifice will communicate the interior of said shaft with said pressure chamber, thereby to cause the interior of said shaft to become pressurized and to eject said closure.
7. The apparatus'of claim 6 wherein said closureremoving device is provided, in its interior, with a suction cup communicating with the hollow interior of said shaft, whereby said suction cup comes into contact with an upper surface of said closure, thus retaining the closure within said closure-gripping device until the same is ejected by pressure from within said shaft.
8. Method for automatically removing closures from containers arranged in predetermined regular geometric array, comprising:
a. transporting said containers in said geometric array with respect to said apparatus;
b. sensing the position in said array of each container having a closure thereon;
c. storing information characteristic of the location of each container having a closure thereon;
d. providing a closure removal means comprising a plurality of individually operable closure-removing devices arranged with respect to said array of containers such that said devices are momentarily positioned in substantial alignment with said array of containers as the latter are transported with respect to said apparatus, said device each being capable, when energized, of contacting and removing said closures;
e. sensing the moment when said array of containers is aligned with said closure-removing devices, and in response thereto and in cooperation with said stored information, energizing such of said closureremoving devices as are in alignment with said containers bearing closures so as to remove said closures.
9. Apparatus for automatically removing screw closures from containers arranged in regular geometric array transported with respect to said apparatus com prising sensing means for sensing the position, in said array, of containers having closures thereon, and closure removal means comprising a plurality of individually operable unscrewing devices so arranged as to become aligned with said array of containers momentarily during passage of containers past said apparatus and capable of individually contacting and removing closures therefrom.