US 3805317 A
Apparatus for automatically removing clinging matter from articles on a production line basis is described in which a plurality of flexible tubular members are disposed in the path of the object to be cleaned. High speed fluid flow is provided through said tubular members to effect a violent whipping action which results in high speed agitation and impact upon the surface to be cleaned thereby to loosen the clinging particles. The fluid emanating from the free ends of those tubes is effective to simultaneously blow away the thus loosened particles. The above process is carried out in a conveyorized tunnel and vacuum means are provided for evacuating the tunnel of particles removed from the surfaces of the objects being cleaned.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Dickinson INDUSTRIAL CLEANING APPARATUS USING AIR WHIP  Inventor: Sanford C. Dickinson, Mamaroneck,
 Assignee: Ex-Cell 5th Ave., Inc., New York,
 Filed: Oct. 30, 1972  Appl. No.: 301,981
 US. Cl. 15/306 B, 15/308, 15/316 R, 15/405  Int. Cl A471 5/30  Field of Search 15/303, 306 B, 308, 312 A, 15/316 R, 382, 405
[451 Apr. 23, 1974 Primary ExaminerRobert W. Jenkins Assistant Examiner-C. K. Moore [5 7] ABSTRACT Apparatus for automatically removing clinging matter from articles on a production line basis is described in which a plurality of flexible tubular members are disposed in the path of the object to be cleaned. High speed fluid flow is provided through said tubular members to effect a violent whipping action which results in high speed agitation and impact upon the surface to be cleaned thereby to loosen the clinging particles. The fluid emanating from the free ends of those tubes is effective to simultaneously blow away the thus loosened particles. The above process is carried out in a conveyorized tunnel and vacuum means are provided for evacuating the tunnel of particles removed from the surfaces of the objects being cleaned.
12 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures x a m WENTEBAPR 23 mm SHEET 1 [1F 7 TATENTEDAPR 23 m7: 8 05317 SHEET 5 UF 7 :EYIENTEHAPR '2 3 E97 SHEET 6 OF 7 INDUSTRIAL CLEANING APPARATUS USING AIR WHIP This invention relates to cleaning apparatus and more particularly to a system for automatically removing clinging foreign matter from an object by high speed agitation and blowing.
In a wide variety of industrial processes, particularly in the textile field, it is found necessary to remove foreign matter deposited on objects. For example, in the manufacture of pillows, cushions or the like a sack or case of a suitable fabric is typically filled with a soft shredded fibrous material such as cotton or kapok. Such material typically consists of short fibers and fine ravelings and is of necessity light and fluffy and has a tendency to separate and disperse during the filling operation, whereby a substantial amount of the material settles on the outside of the fabric cover. The nature ofthis material is such that once settled on the fabric cover, it clings tenaciously thereto. Quite obviously, this extraneous material hereinafter generically referred to as fluff must be removed from the finished article prior to shipment. However, as a result of the unusually tenacious clinging property of the fluff, and the large amounts typically deposited on the outside of the object during filling, the removal thereof is notoriously difficult. The problem of fluff removal is aggravated by the tendency of the material to float freely in air and its (static) electrical attraction to the fabric cover even at distances of aninch or more. As a result, the pieces or particles of fluff must not only be separated from the fabric, but must also be substantially simultaneously removed from the vicinity of the article to prevent readherence. Blowing alone will not accomplish this purpose because many of the fluff particles tend merely to move along the fabric surface in the direction of airflow continuing to cling thereto. Moreover, an air stream of great enough velocity to remove all fluff fibers, even if feasible, would require a mechanism for tightly grasping the object in a stationary condition. In the case of a pillow or cushion, the fabric surface area grasped would not be subject to the cleaning action.
Agitation or beating in a direction substantially perpendicular to the fabric surface is effective to break the bond between the fluff fibers and the fabric, but the fluff tends to reeling to the fabric unless substantially simultaneously blown away.
As a result of all of the above, an automatic production line process for removing extraneous fluff of the type described has never been successfully developed. Typically, this material is removed by hand with the aid of various blowing and/or agitation mechanisms.
The transport of the articles to a cleaning area and the manual removal of fluff in this manner poses a significant safety hazard to the personnel involved. Indeed, this cleaning process is generally carried out with the aid of masks and individual air supplies to prevent inhalation of the fibrous particles. Moreover, the loose fluff must be periodically removed from the cleaning area to prevent buildups which pose a significant fire hazard.
It is a primary object of the present invention to design an automated system for rapidly and effectively removing unwanted fibrous material from objects.
More particularly, it is an object of the present invention to design a mechanism for cleaning fabric surfaces which combines a rapid beating motion with a high 2 speed blowing action in precisely the right quantities and sequence to remove substantially all unwanted clinging matter from the fabric surface.
It is yet another object of the present invention to design a conveyorized system for fabric products in which all unwanted fluff is systematically removed from the surface of such products as they move along a conveyor, the removed material being automatically deposited in a receptacle.
It is still another object of the present invention to design a simple and effective high speed nozzle device which is adapted to produce a rapid whipping action as air is blown therethrough, the combined whipping and blowing action being unusually effective to simultaneously loosen and permanently remove clinging matter from fabric surfaces.
To these ends, tenaciously clinging fibrous matter is removed from the fabric surfaces, in accordance with the present invention, by the use of a simple and inexpensive, yet unusually effective air nozzle mechanism. That mechanism (hereinafter referred to as an air whip) comprises a tubular member of soft pliable plastic material having a relatively wide diameter base portion and an end portion of a smaller diameter. The base portion is operatively connected through a suitable fitting to a fluid supply, air or other fluid being forced through the base portion and outwardly of the smaller diameter end portion. Such airflow is effective to provide a rapid, random oscillation or whipping of the tubular member, the tip of the nozzle whipping randomly back and forth through an arc of approximately This rapid whipping action combined with the high speed airflow from the tip of the nozzle has been found to be unusually effective in removing fluff from fabric surfaces when the surface is disposed in the path of movement of the nozzle tip. If the tubular member is several inches in length, the tip impinges randomly on the fabric surface over a substantial area thereof with a force sufficient to shake the clinging material loose. That material is immediately blown away from the vicinity of the fabric surface by the localized high speed airstream emanating from the nozzle tip.
in a preferred embodiment of the invention, a plurality of such air whips are pivotally mounted on the walls of a tunnel through which the article to be cleaned is moved. The article is moved along a conveyor comprising two or more successive conveyor belts, a plurality of air whips being pivotally mounted along the top wall, the side walls and beneath the level of the conveyor and extending upwardly between consecutive conveyor belts. As a result, as the article moves through the tunnel, the top, bottom and side surfaces thereof are whippingly engaged by the air whip, whereby the fluff particles are loosened and blown from the vicinity of the fabric surface. Vacuum means are provided at the top and bottom walls of the tunnel, that vacuum means being effective to draw the loose, floating fluff particles out of the tunnel and into a receptacle. i
The air whips are preferably pivotally mounted along the tunnel walls in staggered locations and spring biased to a normal position extending substantially inwardly from the tunnel walls, thereby to accommodate articles of various sizes and shapes.
To the accomplishment of the above and to such other objects as may hereinafter appear, the present invention relates to a system for rapidly and effectively removing unwanted clinging matter from fabric articles as defined in the appended claims and as described herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIGS. 1A and 18 together comprise a cross sectional view of a conveyorized system designed in accordance with the present invention taken along a vertical plane in the axial direction of the conveyor;
FIGS. 2A and 2B together comprise a plan view of the apparatus of FIGS. 1A and 18 with the top wall removed;
FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view taken along the line 3-3 of FIG. 1A;
FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the conveyor system of FIGS. 1A and 18 showing the air supply system;
FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the air whip mounting construction utilized in the system of FIGS. 1A and 1B; and
FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of a nozzle device utilized in the system of FIGS. 1A and 13.
Referring to the drawings and in particular to FIG. 1, it will be seen that the apparatus of the present invention is designed to provide systematic fluff removal on a production line basis and comprises a processing tunnel generally designated 10 including a top wall 12, a bottom wall 14 and side walls 16 (see FIG. 2). A conveyor system generally designated 18 is suitably mounted along the bottom wall 14 of tunnel l0 and is adapted to receive the articles to be cleaned at the tunnel inlet 12a from a suitable conveyor 20 and to convey same through the processing tunnel to another conveyor 22 at the tunnel outlet 12b.
Conveyor system 18 preferably comprises a series of individual conveyors arranged end-to-end from the tunnel inlet 12a to the outlet 12!) and spaced from one another by a distance of a few inches for a purpose which will hereinafter appear. Purely by way of example, the conveyor system 18, illustrated in FIG. 1, comprises four individual conveyors; an inlet conveyor 24, an outlet conveyor 26, and two intermediate conveyors 28 and 30, respectively. Each conveyor comprises a pair of rotatable shafts 32a and 32b, respectively, upon which an endless conveyor belt or chain is mounted. As best shown in FIG. 2, the operative conveyor belts pref erably comprise a series of narrow strips 34 of a suitable flexible material, those strips extending in parallel relationship and being laterally spaced to provide ventilation through the conveyor surfaces along the entire length of the tunnel. Those strips are supported at the upper flights of the conveyors by correspondingly spaced strips 36 of rigid material mounted on cross bars 38 extending transversely across the tunnel framework (see FIGS. 1A and 1B). Suitable guide means (not shown) are provided on the shafts 32a and 32b and rigid strips 36 to maintain the flexible conveyor strips in the parallel spaced paths during operation.
Conveyor shaft 32a of input conveyor 24 is driven through a suitable pulley 40 by a variable speed motor generally designated M, the remaining conveyors being driven by conveyor 24 through suitable pulley connections between their adjacent conveyor shafts (not shown). Preferably, those pulley connections provide a drive ratio increasing the speed of the subsequent conveyors thereby to provide adequate spacing between the articles during the cleaning process, even when those articles are closely bunched at the tunnel inlet 12a. Those articles are here illustrated as cushions C upon the outer surface of which a large quantity of fluff particles fcling. Those particles are systematically loosened and. removed from the outer surface of cushions C at a plurality of cleaning stations S along the processing tunnel 12. By way of example, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, three such cleaning stations S1, S2 and S3 are illustrated. Each cleaning station is defined by a plurality of air whips generally designated W, suitably mounted along the tunnel walls and extending inwardly therefrom. The construction and mounting of air whips W, in accordance with the present invention, is best considered in detail with reference to FIGS. 5 and 6.
As best shown in FIG. 6, air whip W comprises a hollow open-ended tubular member 42 formed with a large diameter base portion 42a and a smaller diameter whip portion 42b. Tubular member 42 is preferably fabricated of a soft flexible material and is operatively connected at its base portion 42a in communication with one end of a rigid tube 44 by means of a suitable fitting 46. The other end of tube 44 is connected to a source of compressed air or other high pressure fluid. In operation, as the air or other fluid is forced via rigid tube 44 into flexible tube 42 and outwardly thereof as shown by arrows 48, the tube 42 tends to rapidly oscillate or whip in a random fashion as shown by the broken line positions in FIG. 6. This whipping action results from the instability of the free end of the flexible tube in response to the fluid forces on the interior walls thereof. While a variety of flexible tube designs are possible, it has been found that optimal whipping action is attained for the present purposes by a two-part tube as shown in FIG. 6. The primary whipping action occurs in the smaller diameter whipping portion 42b of the tube 42, While the larger diameter base portion 42a is sufficiently flexible to bend slightly with the random oscillation of the nozzle tip. The resiliency of base portion 420 tends to reinforce the whipping action of portion 42b yet tends to prevent the nozzle tip from moving through an arc of more than approximately the optimum whipping stroke for the cleaning action hereinafter described.
The tube 42 may be fabricated of any flexible material which is strong enough to withstand the high speed oscillation and impact to which it is subjected and soft enough to prevent undue abrasion to the surface being cleaned. One such material which has been found particularly suitable is soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material which exhibits the flexibility, strength, and nonabrasive surface characteristics required. The twopart tube may be conveniently fabricated by utilizing a tube portion 42b having an outer diameter approximately equal to the inner diameter of the base portion 42a. One end of the base portion 42a is dipped in a suitable solvent (such as tetrahydrofuran, where the tubing is PVC) to render it tacky. Thereafter, one end of the smaller tube portion 42b is inserted into the base portion 42a and compressed air is immediately blown through the portion 42b to remove excess solvent and prevent blocking. After a suitable setting time (approximately 3 hours in the case of PVC), the two tube portions are substantially integrally bonded to one another. The tube portions 42a and 42b are typically a few inches in length and A and VB inches in diameter, respectively, although other dimensions would be suitable.
The thus constructed air whips W are preferably piv' otally mounted along the tunnel walls by means of the mounting structure illustrated in FIG. 5 and generally designated 49. That structure comprises a shaft 50 suitably mounted on the tunnel framework and extending along the tunnel Wall transversely to the direction of conveyor movement. A series of mounting rings 52 are fitted fast on shaft 50. Rings 52 are provided with a projecting eyelet 54 carrying a pin 56. Mounted on pin 56 is a tube mounting bracket 58 having a resilient stem portion 58a and a rigid bracket portion 58b including a pair of registering circular loops 60 adapted to firmly grasp the rigid tube 44. A stop plate 62 is fixedly secured on ring 52 and extends from eyelet 54 at an angle to the direction of conveyor movement (see FIG. 1A). Stop plate 62 is slotted at 64 to receive the bent up portion of resilient stem 58. The natural resiliency of that stem is effective to normally bias tube mounting bracket 58b against stop plate 62 in the position illustrated in solid lines in FIG. 5.
Compressed air or other high pressure fluid is supplied to tube 44 by a pipe 66 suitably mounted on the tunnel framework generally parallel to shaft 50 and operatively connected in communication with tube 44 by a length of flexible tubing 68, that tubing serving to maintain fluid communication between pipe 66 and tube 44 in all positions of tube 44.
Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, it will be seen that each cleaning station includes one such mounting arrangement comprising shaft 50 and a fluid supply pipe 66 mounted along each of the four walls of the tunnel 12. A plurality of tube mounting brackets 58 are mounted on shaft 50 and extended inwardly and to the left as viewed in FIG. I, the air whips W extending from the thus mounted tubes 44 into the path of movement of the object to be cleaned. In the illustrated embodiment, the air whips W mounted along the top and bottom walls of the tunnel are located somewhat upstream of those mounted along the side walls although this is a matter of design choice. The rigid tubes 44 should preferably be of a length sufficient to bring the air whips W attached thereto into the path of the smallest object which the apparatus is designed to handle in the normally biased position of bracket 58. If necessary, the apparatus may be redesigned to successfully handle smaller objects merely by replacing tubes 44 with longer tubes. The tubes 44 mounted along the bottom of the tunnel extend upwardly and to the left (as viewed in FIG. 1A) between successive conveyors and may be made of a standard length sufficient to position the upwardly extending air whips in the path of the lower surfaces of the articles to be cleaned.
In the preferred embodiment illustrated, the first two cleaning stations S1 and S2 are closely spaced at either side of the relatively short conveyor belt 28. Located in the area of those stations at the top and bottom walls, respectively, of the tunnel 12 are a pair of rather large vacuum funnels 70 and 72, respectively. Those funnels are adapted to be operatively connected to a high vacuum source (not shown) via hosing (not shown) secured to the lips 70a and 720, respectively, in any suitable manner. Similarly. a second pair of vacuum funnels 74 and 76 are located at the top and bottom walls ofthe tunnel 12 in the vicinity of cleaning station S3 at the outlet end of conveyor belt 30. The vacuum means preferably comprises a suitable fan the outlet of which is operatively connected to a porous bag or other receptacle within which the evacuated fluff particles are collected.
As best shown in FIG. 1A, the cushion C enters the tunnel 10 in the direction of arrow 78, covered with clinging fluff f, and is carried along slotted conveyor belt 24 towards the first cleaning station S1. While the compressed air and vacuum sources may be maintained continuously operable, it may be desirable, where the flow of cushions is not continuous, to provide for automatic shut off and start up of these mechanisms. This is conveniently attained in the illustrated embodiment by a pair of microswitches 82 adapted to sense the entry of one or more cushions into tunnel 12 and to automatically actuate the compressed air and vacuum sources in response thereto. These mechanisms may be programmed to run for a minimum time sufficient to allow passage of the cushion to the outlet of the tunnel and to automatically shut off after such minimum time period in the absence of a further microswitch actuation in the interim. As best illustrated in FIG. 2A, microswitches 82 are spaced in accordance with the dimensions of cushions C and are redundant, so that regardless of the position or orientation of the cushion on the conveyor belt 24, at least one of those switches is activated thereby to initiate vacuum and compressed air operation as the cushion enters the tunnel. The above noted time interval between start up and shut off is preferably adjustable by means of a timer (not shown) so that the speed of variable speed motor M may be adjusted to provide the optimum speed for the particular articles being cleaned.
As the cushion C approaches the first cleaning station S1, any loose fluff particles are sucked into vacuum funnels and 72 by the vacuum induced air cur rents in the tunnel as represented by arrows 80. In this regard, it will be noted that the slotted construction of the conveyor belts provides adequate air passages for the downward draft created through funnel 72.
As the cushion passes the cleaning station the air whips W extending downwardly from the top wall, upwardly from the bottom wall and inwardly from the side wall all engage the surfaces of the cushion C with a violently whipping action. The air whips W at each cleaning station would be spaced from one another by a distance small enough to provide a slight overlap between the arcuate paths of adjacent air whips. As a result, the entire surface area of the cushion is rapidly and forcefully whipped to loosen substantially all clinging matter. Moreover, each time the cushion is whippingly engaged by the tip of the air whip nozzle, a high speed air stream emanating from that nozzle impinges on the impacted area to substantially simultaneously blow the loosened fluff particles from the vicinity of the surface and render them airborne. Those airborne particles are immediately picked up by the vacuum induced airstreams and drawn through funnels 70 and 72 into the aforementioned receptacles. This process is repeated at cleaning stations S2 and S3, the airborne particles at the latter station being drawn through funnels 74 and 76. After passing the last cleaning station S3, the cushion C, fully cleaned of all clinging matter, is carried by conveyor belt 26 to the outlet 12b of the tunnel. In order to insure that no fluff particles escape from the tunnel outlet 12b, air may be blown into the tunnel (either by a separate fan or the same compressed air source used in connection with air whips W) through a suitable conduit 84 near the outlet and directed towards vacuum funnels 74 and 76 by a de pending flap 86 operatively connected to the top wall of the tunnel as indicated by arrows 88.
As best illustrated in FIG. 3, the air whips at consecutive cleaning stations are preferably disposed in staggered relationship to insure that the entire surface area of the cushion C is subject to the cleaning action of these devices. (The rearwardly disposed air whips in cleaning station S2 are only partially illustrated in FIG. 3.)
As best illustrated in FIG. 4, all air whips are fed from a common air supply conduit 90 through a filter 92 and a control valve 94. The pipes 66 associated with each row of air whips W are operatively connected to air supply conduit 90 via suitable piping 95 which runs along one side wall of the tunnel. Access to cleaning stations S1, S2 and S3 for maintenance and/or replacement of parts may be provided by suitable doors D1, D2 and D3 in the tunnel side walls and doors D4 in the funnels 70, 72, 74 and 76.
It has been found that the violent whipping action to which the flexible tubes 42 are subject during operation tends to wear the edges of the free end of the tube quite thin resulting in an eventually splitting thereof. As a result, frequent replacement is necessary. It has been found that the above noted end splitting can be effectively prevented by providing the tube 421) with a small nub 96 as illustrated in somewhat exaggerated form in FIG. 6. That nub may be conveniently formed by dip ping the end of the tube into a solution of the material of which it is formed in a suitable solvent. In the preferrcd form of the invention where the tube is made of soft PVC, a solution of rigid (unplasticized) PVC resin in tetrahydrofuran has been found suitable for this purpose. The size of the nub 96 which forms is dependent upon the viscosity of the PVC solution. After the tip of the tube is removed from the solution, air should be blown from base portion 42a through the whip portion 42b to prevent clogging.
It will be appreciated from the above that the apparatus herein described is a quite effective and economical means of systematically removing unwanted clinging matter from the surface of objects on a production line basis. While the apparatus has been herein specifically described in connection with the removal of fluff from fabric articles, it will be apparent that the apparatus may be used in connection with a variety of other objects to be cleaned. The novel air whip device herein described is effective to combine extremely high speed agitation with a simultaneous localized blowing which has been found to be unusually effective in loosening and removing even the most tenacious clinging matter from the surface of an object. When used in conjunction with vacuum means, the apparatus serves to remove all of the loosened particles from the vicinity of the articles and deposit same in a receptacle thereby to effectively prevent reclinging and to guard against buildups of such matter which might pose a significant safety hazard.
While only a single embodiment of the present invention has been herein specifically disclosed, it will be appreciated that many variations may be made therein, all within the scope of this invention as defined in the following claims.
1. Automatic cleaning apparatus for systematically cleaning objects of unwanted clinging matter, comprising a tunnel having an inlet and an outlet, conveyor means adapted to move said objects through said tunnel from said inlet to said outlet, a plurality of flexible tubular members mounted at one end on said tunnel and having their other ends extending inwardly thereof into the path of said moving objects, means effective to force fluid through said tubular members at high speeds to violently whip said tubular members against said moving objects, whereby said tubular members whippingly engage said article to loosen said clinging matter and said fluid carries said loosened matter from the immediate vicinity of said objects, and vacuum means operatively connected to said tunnel and effective to evacuate said tunnel of said loosened matter.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said vacuum means comprises a vacuum source, and a plurality of funnels communicating with said tunnel and operatively attached to said vacuum source.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said tubular members are pivotally mounted on said one end along the top, bottom and side walls of said tunnel, said tubular members being adapted to pivot outwardly towards said tunnel walls upon engagement with said moving articles and resilient means biasing said tubular members to an inwardly extending position, whereby said tubular members are effective to operatively engage articles of various sizes and shapes.
4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said vacuum means comprises a vacuum source, and a plurality of funnels communicating with said tunnel and operatively attached to said vacuum source.
5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein said conveyor means comprises a plurality of consecutive conveyors, said tubular members mounted along said bottom wall of said tunnel being mounted below said conveyors and extending upwardly between consecutive conveyors.
6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said funnels communicate with said tunnel at the top and bottom walls thereof and wherein said conveyors comprise slotted conveyor belts to afford ventilation through said conveyors to said bottom wall of said tunnel.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said tubular members are made of polyvinyl chloride.
8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein said vacuum means comprises a vacuum source, and a plurality of funnels communicating with said tunnel and operatively attached to said vacuum source.
9. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein said tubular members are pivotally mounted on said one end along the top, bottom and side walls of said tunnel, said tubular members being adapted to pivot outwardly towards said tunnel walls upon engagement with said moving articles and resilient means biasing said tubular members to an inwardly extending position, whereby said tubular members are effective to operatively engage articles of various sizes and shapes.
10. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein said conveyor means comprises a plurality of consecutive conveyors, said tubular members mounted along said bottom wall of said tunnel being mounted below said conveyors and extending upwardly between consecutive conveyors.
11. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said funnels communicate with said tunnel at the top and bottom walls thereof and wherein said conveyors comprise slotted conveyor belts to afford ventilation through said conveyors to said bottom wall of said tunnel.
10 tive to force fluid through said tubular members at high speeds to violently whip said tubular members against said moving objects, whereby said tubular members whippingly engage said article to loosen said clinging matter and said fluid carries said loosened matter from the immediate vicinity of said objects.