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Publication numberUS3809263 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateMay 7, 1974
Filing dateMay 29, 1973
Priority dateMay 29, 1973
Also published asDE2425415A1
Publication numberUS 3809263 A, US 3809263A, US-A-3809263, US3809263 A, US3809263A
InventorsP Dodd, J Lynott, J Treder
Original AssigneeIbm
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Continuously movable information storage and retrieval system
US 3809263 A
Abstract
A continuously moving information-bearing article carrier and a selectively actuated article handler are in peripheral velocity synchronism for exchanging information-bearing articles. Such dynamic article exchange occurs without stopping or altering the velocity of the carrier. In a preferred form, the carrier is a rotating cylinder having a large plurality of information-bearing articles spaced about its periphery and extending outwardly of the outer periphery for facilitating dynamic article exchanges. Tiers of such rotating cylinders may be axially aligned with a plurality of article handlers for each of the rotating cylinders; or one or more of the article handlers can move axially of the assembly for selectively accessing any one of the cylinders. In a data staging environment, a small plurality of such cylinders may have a plurality of spaced-apart accessing mechanisms for reducing total access time to any article in such rotating cylinder. Additionally, other cylinders may be selectively accessed by a traveling access mechanism which selectively transfers an article from one of the other rotating cylinders to the staging rotating cylinder. Several embodiments of the invention are described.
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United States Patent [191 Dodd et al.

[111 3,809,263 1451 May 7,1974

[73] Assignee: International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, N.Y.

[22] Filed: May 29, 1973 [21] Appl. N0.: 364,854

[52] US. Cl. 2l4/l6.4 R, 340/1741 [51] Int. Cl. 'B65g l/06 [58] Field of Search 214/161 A, .16 B, 16.4 R,

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,140,009 7/1964 Wallace 2l4/l6.4 R X 3,302,804 2/1967 Harris 214/164 R 3,378,827 4/1968 Hertrich.... 340/1741 3,514,769 5/1970 Woods i 340/l74.l 3,715,040 4 2/1973 Polus et a1. 2l4/l6.4 R

OTHER PUBLICATIONS I IBM Technical Disclosure-Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 11, April, 1963, pages 32-33,-Strip Storage Access Mechanism by D. D. Johnson et al.

Primary Examiner-Robert J. Spar Assistant ExaminerR. B. Johnson Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Herbert F. Somermeyer 57 ABSTRACT A continuously moving information-bearing article carrier and a selectively actuated article handler are in peripheral velocity synchronism for exchanging information-bearing articles. Such dynamic article exchange occurs without stopping or altering the velocity of the carrier. In a preferred form, the carrier is a rotating cylinder having a large plurality of information-bearing articles spaced about its periphery and extending outwardly of the outer periphery for facilitating dynamic article exchanges. Tiers of such rotating cylinders may be axially aligned with a plurality of article handlers for each of the rotating cylinders; or one or more of the article handlers can move axially of the assembly for selectively accessing any one of the cylinders. In a data staging environment, a small plurality of such cylinders may have a plurality of spaced-apart accessing mechanisms for reducing total access time to any article in such rotating cylinder. Additionally, other cylinders may be selectively accessed by a traveling access mechanism which selectively transfers an article from one of the other rotat ing cylinders to the staging rotating cylinder. Several embodiments of the invention are described.

13 Claims, 14 Drawing Figures PATENTEI] m 7 1974 SHEET 3 OF 8 Fl G. 3

TIME

TANGENTIAL VELOCITY OF ARTICLE TRANSFER MEMBER Fl G. 4

POSITION INDICATOR POSITION INDICATOR VELOCITY CIRCUIT I \TT VELOCITY CIRCUIT SELECT BIN II I f) PULSES PULSES COMPARE A-T 62 ADDR Q PATENTEMY 1 m4 SHLET U 1F 8 ERROR PATENTEDHAY 7 m4 SHEET 5 OF 8 2225 QZBEQQE PATENTEDm 11914 SHEEI E U? 8 FIG. 8

I OOO I PATENTEDIM 11914 3 809263 saw 3 0F 8 T I CONTINUOUSLY MOVABLE INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION netic strips, tape, film, and the like, has been employed in the past for providing a relatively high data rate between the storagemedia and a connected processing unit, printer, or the like. An early example of such an automatic retrieval system is shown in the Burke et al. U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,941,738 and 2,941,739. These systems have a relatively large spool of tape contained in a cartridge stored. in facing open-sided arrays of storage compartments. A transfer mechanism travels between the facing arrays, storing and fetching such spools of tape to and from the storage compartments. Attached to the arrays-via a central aperture in such array are a pair of tape drives or processing stations. Automatic mechanisms transfer the spools of tape between the tape drive and the central aperture for further exchange with the transfer mechanisms and the storage compartments. While this system provides a relatively high data rate, the access time from the storage compartment to the tape drive is relatively long, i.e., measured in several seconds.

Since that time, several inventions have been made in order to decrease the transfer time between the storage compartment and the processing station. Further, the media geometry was changedsuch that it would be much lighter, i.e., easier to transport, thereby reducing the access time. While this may be desirable, the quantity of data storable on each article, including a storage media, may be substantially reduced. In some applications, this may not be too detrimental. However, in other applications, the repeated transfers between storage compartments and accessing stations creates control problems in that a large plurality of requests for data may be'simultaneously received. Control of the access mechanismfbecomes extremely complicated as the number of article transfers per given numbers of bytes of information transferred is increased. Accordingly, it is desirable not only to reduce the transfer time between a storage compartment and a processing station, but also it is desirable to reduce the number of transfers required for a givennumber of data bytes to be transferred.

One approach to solving the-access problem with a limited capacity storage medium was shown by Hertrich in US. Pat. No. 3,378,827. Hertrich used short strips of magnetic media in a continuously rotating carousel or rotating cylinder. One station inside the carousel selectively picked or accessed the short lengths of storage media as they went by an access station. Such media then went through a track onto a transducing station, herein referred to as a processing station. Subsequent to processing, the strip was returned to the rotating carousel in synchronousaction. Even though relatively high data rates were accomplished, disadvantag'es of the Hertrich apparatus are that only one read station was provided for a rotating carousel, the short length of media limited data transfer per article transfer, and thereby limited the flexibility of the apparatus. Also, the pickoff and transfer of the article between the provide a higher capacity, more rapid storage mechanism. Such mechanism should enable several processing stations to simultaneously access the information containing article.

An example of another strip-storage access mechanism having a rotating carousel is shown in the IBM TECHNICAL DISCLOSURE BULLETIN, Volume 5, Number 11, April, 1963, Pages 32 and 33.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION age locations. It is preferred, but not necessary, that each of the stored articles extends outwardly of a'perimeter of the carrier for facilitating dynamic article exchange at various article transfer stations.

A transfer station is preferably of the rotatable type having releasable article retainers for exchanging articles with the continuously moving carrier. The preferred article, usable in the present system, is elongated along its axis and has axially outwardly extending rims at each axial end. The article is preferred to be retained in a continuously moving carrier by such rim with at least a portion of the axial end rims extending outwardly. of the carrier.

7 The article transfer station preferably has a set of article graspingdetents which are engageable with, the rim extending outwardly of the continuously moving carrier. Upon latching onto the carried article, the article transfer station removes it from the article carrier and transfers it automatically to a processing-station. Each transfer station may be either stationary or movable.

The retaining means in the continuously moving carrier are preferably of the yieldable type, i.e., require a threshold of energy for removing the article and retaining the article against all other forces .below such threshold.

It is important that the article transfer mechanism be accurately synchronized with the continuously moving carrier within specified tolerances determined by the size and spacing of the articles, as carried in the continuously moving carrier.

A simple form of the continuously moving carrier is a pair of axially spaced-apart circular plates rotated about a central axis. Each plate has facing yieldable article retainers disposed evenly about their respective peripheries. The article to be carried is selectively in- Serted in the yieldable retainers such that a portion of the article extends radially outward of the continuously moving carrier.

Another form of the carrier includes a flexible belt having integrally molded yieldable article retainers and the like.

A plurality of -the rotating cylinders can be axially stacked for providing a modular axially extendable storage system wherein it is preferred to have at least one axially movable accessing station, with each of the rotating cylinders having possibly one or more accessing stations individual to such cylinders.

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following more particular description of apreferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawing.

THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a simplified diagrammatic perspective view of an illustrative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a partial simplified diagrammatic illustration of a cartridge transfer station and article storage member.

FIG. 2A diagrammatically illustrates an article storage location for a carrier as taken along lines 2-2 in FIG. 2.- I

FIG. 3 is a tangential velocity-versus-ti rne curve of the article transfer station for an article transfer operation.

FIG. 4 is a simplified logic flow diagram of control apparatus usable with the FIG. 1 illustrated embodiment. I

FIG. 5 is a partial diagrammatic showing of position indicia usable with the rotating article carrier illustrated in FIG. 1.

w FIG. 6 is a simplified logic diagram of a portion of the control circuits illustrated in FIG. 4.

FIG. 7-is a partial diagrammatic view of an embodiment of the present invention employing a plurality of axially stacked rotating article carriers with an axially moving transfer mechanism, plus another transfer mechanism for transferring articlesbetween storage and processing tiers for a data staging configuration.

FIG. 8 isa simplified diagrammatic showing of a modularly extended storage system using the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a diagrammatic showing of modular expandability of a storage system employing the principles of the present invention when applied to a flexible-belt embodiment. 1

FIG. 10 is a simplified diagrammatic showing of a retaining means usable with the FIG. 9 illustrated embodiment, as well as with other embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 10A is a simplified partial plan view of the FIG. 10 apparatus showing certain constructional features.

FIG. 11 is a simplified diagrammatic showing of a preferred article transfer mechanism usable with any of the illustrated embodiments and further illustrating an information-bearing, media-containing article preferred to be used with the present invention.

FIG. 12 shows one article transfer station servicing two processing stations from one article exchanging po-' sition of an article carrier.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION Referring now to the drawing, like numbers indicate like parts and structural features in the various diagrams and views. In FIG. 1, continuously rotating carrier or'carousel l0 releasably carries a plurality of 4 information-bearing media storage containers 12 along its outer periphery as described later with respectto FIG. 11. Each article 12 has a pair of axially extending peripheral annular flanges or rims for facilitating article transfer. Disposed adjacent to and about the periphery of carousel 10 is a plurality of article transfer stations 14, 16, 18, and 20. Each article transfer station can be any one of several arrangements as will be further explained and illustrated. Associated with each station is an article processing station represented by the blocks 22. The details of the article processing station are not pertinent to the present invention and are not described in detail for that reason. It suffices to say that the exchange of articles between the various article transfer stations 14-20 and the processing stations, follows the same principles as will be described for exchange of articles with the rotating carousel. Inside each processing station, a cover of the article (which may be a sleeve) is axially removed; and then the magnetic media, preferably a magnetic tape, is unwound through a transducing station. Other forms of covers and cartridge arrangements are usable with equal facility. Tranducing operations then exchange data signals with the record media. Upon completion of the processing operation, the media is rewound on a spool (not shown) containable within one of. said articles. The' cover is then replaced on the spool and the tape whereupon it is returned to the article transfer station for reinsertion in the rotating carrier. An advantage of the described system is that debris and contamination on the magnetic media is minimized while permitting exposed storage of a large plurality of articles with rapid access to such articles. By providing the plurality of article transfer stations, interleaved data processing access-to the articles, as well as interleaved storage principles, may be employed. 'An example of a processing station is shown by Camras in U.S. Pat. No. 3,134,550.

Carousel 10 consists of upper and lower circular plates 24 and 26, eachof which has facing yieldable article-retaining detents, later described, for releasably retaining each of the articles on the periphery of carousel 10. Each of the articles has a portion extending beyond the outer peripheral edges 28 and-29 of the upper and lower plates 24 and 26, respectively. The axially extending annular flanges or rims 32 and 34 of each article 12 enable a transfer station to secure the article in the transfer station while it is still being releasably retained in the rotating carousel. As the transfer station removes the article from the carousel, the yieldable detents give way to provide a smooth transfer. As will be later described, substantially simultaneous transfer of articles to and from a rotating carousel is possible with the illustrated article transfer stations. Stations for handling but one cartridge are also usable, such as shown in FIG. 12.

Referring more particularly now to FIGS. 2, 2A, and 3, the kinematics of dynamic article transfer are described. Each article transfer station preferably has a rotatable article transfer member 30, as later more fully described with respect to FIG. 11. On each end of member 30 is a pair of controllable article-grasping detents which fit over the axially extending flanges 32 and 34 ofthe article to be exchanged during article transfer from carrier 10 to an article processing station; In an article fetch, member 30 article-grasping detents move over the axially extending flanges of article '12 and are clamped securelythereover, pulling the stored article from carrier 10. During a storage operation, i.e., return of the article to the carrier, such detents are firmly holding the article; then as soon as the article is inserted in the carrier, the detents are released, releasing the article to the carrier.

FIG. 3 illustrates atypical velocity control curve for rotating member 30 for effecting an article exchange. It is important that the tangential velocity of member '30 and of carrier 10 be equal during the exchange time at 40. This identicalness of velocity should be maintained for a relatively short period of time, such as 20 of member 30 rotation. During one complete revolution, each member 30 can access or fetch two articles from carrier 10, deposit or store two articles in a carrier 10, or access one article and store a second article.

FIG. 2A shows one form of yieldable retaining members in carrier 10. Each cartridge storage location 41 has a set of three detents on each of plates 24 and 26. The radially inward detents 44 are all on a common ci rcle about axis of rotation 42 and are preferably conically shaped and fixed to the respective upper and lower plates 24 and 26. The facing radially outward detents are cone-shaped and spring biased toward each other; that is, the radially outward detents 43 are spring biased upwardly in the lower plate and spring biased downwardly in the upper plate. The annular flanges 32 and 34 lie between the fixed detents 44 and the springloaded detents 43 in their respective plates 24 and 26. This not only accurately positions article 12 in the carrier in the respective storage locations 41, but also permits the article 12 to be inserted or removed from the storage locations merely by overcoming the spring biasing of the radially outer detents 43. Inward detents 44 may also be spring biased as detents 43, but with a greater spring force.

Each circular plate 24, 26 includes a annular radial outward article protecting portion 24A and 26A. These protecting portions are sufficiently spaced apart to permit radial access to a stored article 12 by member 30. Each stored article 12 extends radially outwardly of the respective storage location, as shown, to facilitate accessing.

Rotatable member 30 has a pair of facing detent fingers 46 and 47 movable over flanges 32 and 34 for grasping article 12 as best seen'in FIG. 11. As will'be later described, when moving an article 12 from carousel 10, detents '46 and 47 move over flanges 32 and 34 and then toward each other to firmly grasp article 12.

' As carousel 10 and member 30 rotate, as shown bythe firmly hold article 12 until such time as the article is retained in position 41A by detents, whereupon detents 50 and 51 are released allowing member 30 to rotate away from the stored-article. By timing and repeating the above-described operations, a plurality of articles can be fetched and stored from rotating carousel 10in each one of its revolutions. Optionally, all the transfers of articles between a member 30 and a processing station 22 can be simultaneous with transfers between usable with the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1 for efiecting synchronous operation of a transfer station with a continuously rotating carousel. FIG. 4 only illustrates one station, it being understood that a plurality of stations can be similarly controlled. Carousel 10 is continuously rotated by motor 55 either with or without speed control. FIG. 4 shows motor 55 under control of motor control circuit 56. Tachometer 57 mounted on motor 55 indicates the position and velocity of carousel 10. Position indicator 58, described later with respect to FIG. 6, gives the precise location of carousel 10. Position indicator 58 supplies signals to velocity circuit 59 which determines the velocity of carousel 10 in accordance with known techniques. Additionally, position indicator 58 supplies cartridge location indicating signals overcable 60 to compare circuit 61. For the purposes of discussion, it is assumed that the address which position indicator 58 refers to is the address of the storage location presently in operating position with article exchange apparatus 14. Because of the acceleration time of member 30 within article transfer apparatus 14, it is arbitrarily selected to start rotation of member 30 seven cartridge storage locations upstream. Accordingly, compare circuit 61 compares the desired storage location address received via cable 62, minus seven, with the position indicator 58 supplied address signals. When a match is indicated, a select signal travels over line 63 to motor control circuit 72.. Control 72 actuates article transfer station motor 68 to rotate member 30 in the direction of arrow 49 in accordance with the velocity profile of FIG. 3. Tachometer 69 monitors the rotation of member 30 to supply position indicating pulses to position indicator 70. Indicator 70 supplies its actual position signals over cable 87 to motor control 72 for its positioning control actions which are performed in accordance with wellknown techniques. Additionally, position indicator 70 supplies pulses to velocity circuit 71 which, in turn, supplies phase pulses over line 73 to motor control 72. Phase pulses on line 73 are compared with similar phase pulses from velocitycircuit 59 supplied over line 77. By phase comparing the pulses on lines 73 and 77 for a phase lock loop control, precisetangential velocity and positioning between carousel 10 and apparatus 14 are achieved. Additionally, position indicator 58 supplies storage location 41 indicating or bin pulses over line 76 for timing motor control 72 with respect to the storage locations; that is, a select signal on line 63 may be received by motor control 72 somewhat prior to the time that a storage location or bin mark, as will be described, has passed the reference position. Hence, motor control 72 may wait momentarily until a bin pulse on line 76 is received for actuating apparatus 14 in precise synchronism with carousel 10 rotation.

An exemplary embodiment of position indication for effecting motor control and position detecting and control is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. Position of carousel 10 is indicated by tachometer 57 two tracks of position indicia. The first, or fine track, may have 5 76 position or phase-indicating marks 80 evenly disposed about the tachometerperiphery. In addition, storage location 41 indicating marks'81 are disposed evenly about tachom-.

precisely related to the storage location indicating marks 81. Since each cartridge is to be individually addressed, a fiducial mark 82 is provided. This mark is of greater circumferential extent than the corresponding phase-indicating mark 80A. The use of this fiducial mark in resetting address counters is well known and but briefly described with'respect to FIG. 6. Fiducial mark 80A corresponds to circumferential address 0, while the immediately preceding mark, i.e., the one to the left as seen in FIG. 5, corresponds to address 575. Similarly, the mark immediately preceding fiducial mark 82 is cartridge location 35; while the one to the right not shown in FIG. is storage location 0, yielding 36 storage locations in carousel 10. d

The article location indicating marks are not absolutely necessary. When phase marks 80 are a convenient multiple ofthe number of article locations, a counter (not shown) then indicates article locations. A fiducial mark resets such counter to a reference count. If 16 marks 80 represent center-to-center location spacing, then every 16th count represents an article location. The counter modulus is at least 16 times the number of article locations.

The carousel tachometer discprovides the master or controlling signals for both phase and velocity to the servo system. It must have at least one pulse per article location, but preferably has as many pulses as possible,

being an even multiple (preferably a power of 2) of the number of article positions. Thepicker radius is selected by design to be as. small as possible consistent with convenient placing of the processing stations. The reason for keeping the picker radius small is to minimize the rotational inertia of the picker/cartridge combination and thereby minimize the power required to drive its servomotor. The picker radius is preferably selected to be an even fraction of .the carrier radius. in order to keep the servo logic simple. The article transfer tachometer must have at least one pulse per phase pulse from the carousel tachometer, but may have any even multiple of such pulses.

The reason for selecting even multiples and powers of 2 for the various ratios and tachometer pulses is not theoretical, it is practical. Even numbers and powers of 2 simply make the servo computations much easier to perform in electronic hardware. The desirability of having large numbers of phase pulses is that more pulses equal more precision in phase-locking the article transfer member motion to the carrier motion.

A'constructed embodiment might have, for instance,

32 articles on a carousel, 32 tachometer pulses per arti-- cle position, and a 5/1 carousel to article transfer member radius ratio. Then there would be a total of 1,024

phase pulses on the carousel tachometer. If one tried to design the transfer tachometer to have one pulse per carousel tachometer pulse, a tachometer with 204.8 pulses per revolution would be required, an impossibility. But, if a disc identical to the carousel disc is used, having 1,024 pulses, then a counter not shown) in the electronics can select every fifth pulse for phase lock- Tachometer 69 associated with cartridge transfer apparatus 14 has a similar set of indicia. Since the illustrated radii ratio is 4:1, article transfer station tachometer 69 has one-fourth the number of phase marks as carrier 10. To make the tangential velocities easily identical, the marks in the apparatus 14 and carousel are spaced in accordance with the radii. Tachomestationary rotational location, one mark for each position it transfers an article with its associated processing station.

There are 16 phase marks for each storage location mark 81. At each location or bin mark 81, address counter 86 should have all 1's in the lower four bit positions, all Is representing decimal 15 which is the maximum count indicatable by marks 80 between storage location marks 81. Accordingly, counter 86 increments once for each pulse supplied by photocell system 84 over line 77. The address of a storage location 41 is indicated by the bit positions in counter 86 having a binary value of 2 and greater. Bit positions 2 through 2 indicate address-phase locations between centers of storage locations. Decode 88 detects the all-ls condition in counter 86 locations 2 through 2 If that condition is not met and photocell System is supplying a bin-indicating pulse over line 76 in response to sensing mark 81 and fiducial single-shot has not expired its time, an error signal is supplied by AND 89. An error has occurred in counter 86.

Detection of a fiducial mark is initiated when fiducial single-shot 90 is set to the active condition by each bin pulse on line 76. Its timing is such that the elapsed time between the leading edge of a mark 81 and'fiducial mark 82 is substantially less than the timeout period of single-shot 90. Accordingly, when single-shot 90 is acti vated, it resets counter 86 to an all-0s condition such that mark 80A corresponds to position 0, as well as re.- setting the storage location count to 0. The negative or complementary output of fiducial single-shot 90 is supplied to AND circuit 89. If it has not reset, i.e., a fiducial mark 82 is being detected, then AND 89 is disabled. However, if single-shot 90 has timed out, AND circuit 89 is enabled for detecting an error condition between the count afforded by phase pulses from photocell 84 and the bin pulses from photocell 85. By making the fiducial mark 82 broader in circumferential extent than the 0s phase mark 80A, tolerance problems are avoided.

Position indicator 70 includes a similar counter indicating the rotational position of member 30 in accordance with the received phase pulses from photocell system 96 over line 97 and supplied to motor control 72 over line 73. A fiducial mark (not shown) is sensed by photocell system 98 and is delayed to reset counter 95 immediately after the phase pulse on line 97 has incremented the counter. The counter has several outputs indicating relative positions of member 30 with respect to the desired velocity curve of FIG. 3. When the count is 0, it is in a stationary position. When the count is equal to 19, maximum velocity should occur allowing Motor control 72 is shown in simplified form and includes a phase locked loop 101 receiving the phase pulses over lines 73 and 77. These are phase compared with an error signal being supplied over line 102 to motor drive amplifier and shapers 103. These amplifiers 103 may have the usual known motor drive shaping circuits for effecting the velocity curve of FIG. 3. During acceleration and deceleration of member 30, there is a changing phase shift between the phase pulses caused by different rotational velocities of carousel 10 and member 30. Mo'torcontrol 72 responds to such phase shift to alter acceleration by current waveform shaping circuitry, as is known in the motor control arts. That is, the greater the phase change, the greater the velocity difference, hence, acceleration. Any form of autosynchronizing systemmay be employed with the present invention. Additionally, AND circuit 104 turns motor drive amplifiers on and off in joint response to the select signal received over line 63 and the K= pulse received overline 105. That is, member 30 will not be rotated unless it is in a reference position. This ensures proper positioning control at all times.

Instead of having a single rotating carousel being serviced by a plurality of article exchanging apparatus and associated processing stations, a plurality of such carousels can be axially stacked as shown in FIG. 7.

Single motor 55 continuously rotates all tiers, 10, 10A,

10B, 10C, and 10D under control of the FIG. 4 illustrated control circuits 110. Article exchanging station 14 is operatively associated with a lower tier 10, which is referred to as a processing tier of stored articles. Processing station 22 is conveniently located immediately adjacent'station 14. Additionally, an axially traversing article exchanging apparatus, referred to as autostager 111, moves axially along andcan select any article from and insert an aritcle into any of the tiers 10-10D. In a data staging operation, an article from the storage tiers 10A-10D can be selected and moved by autostager 111 to processing tier 10 and inserted as above described. Later, when processing station 22 is available for processing that article, it is relatively quickly available as an autostaged information-bearing article. It is understood that tier l0 may have a plurality of processing stations circumferentially disposed as shown in FIG. 1, the limitation beingthe physical size of the individual processing stations with respect to the size of the rotating carousel 10.

Autostager 111 operations are understood by referring to FIG. 7. Motor 112 is suitably mounted on frame 113, which also mounts apparatus 14 as well as motor 55. Lead screw 114 extends axially of andradially outward of the tier arrayand' is rotatably secured at the upper end in stationary assembly 115. Guide rod 116 extends from assembly 115 to lower assembly 120. For axial traversing of autostager 111 detent solenoid 121 is selectively actuated by control circuits (not shown) within circuits 110 to lock assembly 120 against rotation. Then, lead screw 114 rotation moves autostager 111 in accordance with its rotational direction and pitch. When electromechanical actuator 121, such as a solenoid, is de-energized, detent clutch 123 permits assembly 120, lead screw 114, and guide rod 116 to rotate as a unit in bearings 125 and upper assembly 115. Such action rotates autostager 111 as described for member 30. Autostager 111 includes a solenoid (not shown) actuating its cartridge grasping arms 122 as described for the FIG. 11 illustrated apparatus. Motor 112 is also actuated by control circuits 110. These circuits employ known positioning, sensing, and control mechanisms (not shown) to be used for autopositioner 111 along the tiers. For example, Beach et al. US. Pat. No. 3,584,284 may be -so utilized.

Clutch 123 has locking pin l23A radially movably disposed with respect'to lead screw 114 in radially extending aperture 125A. When the left-hand end of locking pin 123A extends into frame 113, as shown, assembly 125 is stationary permitting autostager 111 to axially traverse along the bin array. When solenoid 121 is de-energized, spring clutch 123 moves pin 123A radially into groove 114A locking assembly 125 to lead screw 114 and simultaneously freeing both assemblies for rotation in frame 113 bearings 113A.

FIG. 8 illustrates an alternate arrangement to that shown in FIG. 7. A continuously rotating stack 130 of storage tiers 10 is powered by motor 131 disposed interior to the tiers. On opposite ends of one diameter of the stacked tiers 130 is a pair of axially movable autostagers 132, 133, 134, and 135. Each of the autostagers is independently movable and controlled by a control circuit (not shown) which positions the autostagers with respect to the various tiers inaccordance with Beach et al., supra. Each of the autostagers includes its own motor (not shown) for traversing on the rails 136 and 137. Four article processing stations 140-143 are disposed around the periphery of stack (Two processing stations are associated with each of the rails which correspond favorably to the two autostagers on the respective rails. The entry and exit points of the processing station (not shown) are axially and radially aligned with -a pair of staging tiers 145 and 146. The operation of the autostagers with respect to tiers 145 and 146 is similar to that described for FIG. 7. That is, all of the tiers, except 145 and 146, are considered as cartridge general storage tiers. When data is to be retrieved or stored on a given cartridge, it may be staged from the general storage tiers to one of the two staging V tiers 145 and 146. Then, the access time to that particular cartridge is limited to the average access time or latency period of the tier, plus the time it takes to transfer the cartridge from the staging tier to the processingstation immediately axially aligned therewith. An example of a procedure to be followedincludes using autostager 134 for transferring a cartridge from a general storage tier to tier 146. Simultaneously, processing station 142 .is processing an article. Then, the staged cartridge can be either accessed by autostager 132 or 134 to either of the processing stations or 142. Preferably, each autostager operation can be interleaved with that of the processing station; that is, while a station is processing a first article, an autostager is fetching and storing other articles. It is preferred that one of the autostagers be available for staging operations, i.e., transfer of cartridges between the staging tier 145 and another tier; while the other autostager is used to transfer a staged cartridge between staging tier 146 and one of the two processing stations 140, 142. It can be envisioned that with complex calculation control of the position and operation of the autostagers and processing stations, optimum cartridge rate transfers can be achieved with the FIG. 8 illustrated configuration. Each autostager 132, 133, 134, and 135 is also an article transfer station for exchanging articles between a processing station and a tier 145, 146. For a pure autostaging function, carriages/autostagers 132-135 need only exchange articles at but one angular location; while for article transfer, at least two angular locations, one for the tier and one for the processing station, are required.

TI-Ie embodiments heretofore described have shown cyclic cartridge storage apparatus of carousel type. FIG. 9 isan extension of that concept to a modularexpandable belt-type cyclic storage for accommodating a greater number of cartridges, or articles, while compromising access times. A driving wheel ,150 engages endless belt 151, which includes FIG. illustrated article holding apparatus, as will be later described. A large plurality of articles 152 is releasably held on belt 151 for automatic exchange with an article processing station 153 via article transfer mechanism 154. Transfer mechanism 154 may be constructed as described for the other article transfer mechanisms. In the FIG. 9 embodiment, a minimum configuration includes endless belt 151 being disposed about wheel 150 having a travel pathfor the articles indicated by the dash line articles 156. An intermediate size configuration is provided by adding idler wheel 160 with endless belt 151 'being disposed around both driving wheel 150 and idler wheel 160. The travel path then includes dashed line,

article indicating circles161. The number of articles carried by belt 151, in the, intermediate configuration,

would be about three times that of the minimum conaforedescribed, a plurality of processing stations can be disposed around the periphery of belt 151 forautomatic article-exchange between the processing station and the belt, as detailed with respect to FIGS. 10 and 10A.

It is preferred that belt 151 be constructed of flexible molded plastic, rubber, or reinforced cloth and the like. Belt 165A has extensions 166,166A constituting a resilient article retainer, one for each article to be stored. In a preferred form, inner surface of belt'l65A may have serrations or teeth forpositively driving in precise relationship to driving wheel 150 such that a tachometer on driving wheel 150 may be used in conjunction with the tachometer on article transfer mechanism 154 in the manner heretofore described.

Each releasable article holder 166 is preferably formed of resilient molded plastic material. It has an arcuate back wall 170 secured to outer rail 165. The arc of back wall 170 is preferably..designed to receive and nest a cartridge or article 12. At each end of back wall 170 is a tensioning loop 171. At the outer extremities of the tensioning loops is a pair of inwardly facing cartridge retaining arcuate detents 172 and 173 for releasably retaining an article 12 as shown in FIG. 9. Ad-

ditionally, a pair of outwardly extending camming members 174 and 175 has facing triangular cams 176 and 177. To release article 12, a transfer mechanism (not shown) engages cams 176 and 177 deflecting arms 174 and 175 apart, thereby disengaging detents 172 and 173 from article 12. Simultaneous to such action, cartridge retaining detents (not shown) on such transfer mechanism engage the outer'portion of article 12 at the rims, such as described-with respect to the illustrated article transfer mechanisms. For, inserting an article, arms 174 and 175 deflect as above stated; then,

the article 12 is inserted to be nested against the back wall 170. The arms 174 and 175 are released allowing tension loops 171 to resiliently urge detent 172, 173 engagement with article 12. Simultaneously, article 12 is released from such transfer mechanism.

lel to its elongated axis includes rotatably mounted article transfer member 30. Camming and release mechanisms in shroud 180 operate article retaining fingers 46 and 47 for selectively fetching and storing article 12. The article may be nested or held flat against a fixed o spring-loaded platform, as at 181. I To transfer article 12 into the illustrated article han dler, the article is preferably placed in engaging relationship with fingers 46 and 47. Engagement of the picking flanges with fingers 46 and 47 ends forces the fingers apart.

Pivoting of finger 47 about pivot axis 183 simultaneously causes finger 46 to pivot about axis 182. After the hooks on fingers 46 and 47 have traveled over the ends of the annular article flanges 32 and 34, extension spring 185 forces fingers 46 and 47 to come together for retaining article 12. Spring 185 acts on lower finger 47 through camming engagement at 186. Fingers 50 and 51 are simultaneously actuated as just described for fingers 46 and 47. I

The camming means within shroud 180 can be designed to either operate all fingers 46, 47, 50, and 51 simultaneously or individually. For example, the cam can operate on lowerfinger 47 pivoting it downwardly about axis 183. The camming at 186 forces upper finger 46 upwardly and outwardly for releasing an article held in the handler. Such selective cam actuation can be based upon the rotational position of handler 30 or can be actuated by electrical actuated apparatus (not shown).

Once an article has been retained by fingers 46 and 47, handler 30 rapidly rotates interchanging rotational positions of fingers 46 and 47 with 50 and 51 for releasing another article 12 to another mechanism (not shown in FIG. 11) and simultaneously permitting a second article 12 to be placed in fingers 46 and 47. When fingers 46, 47 and 50, 51' are made operationally independent, asynchronous article loading and unloading is provided. I

The camming means within shroud 180 may include vertically movable cam 190 geared to the rotation of member 30 by an eccentric (not shown). In this arrangement, article 12 is not used to separate the fingers. As control cam 190 moves upwardly, it engages inward control arms 191 and 192, respectively, on fingers 47 and 51 pivoting them upwardly, about axes 183 (hence, fingers 46, 47 outwardly). As a result, the fingers 47 and.51 respectively pivot about axes 18 forcing all of the fingers apart simultaneously. As control cam 190 moves downwardly in synchronism with the rotation of member 30, spring 185 urges the fingers-to return to article holding position. In the event of electrical actuation, control cam 190 can be replaced by two small electrical actuators, one for each of the control arms 191 and 192, which are activated in synchronism with the positioning mechanism illustrated in FIG. 4.

That is, upon the approach of the 'end portion 46, 47'

of member 30 to the article contained in the continuously moving article carrier, fingers 46 and 47 are. pivoted outwardly at the central position, i.e., when memously rotating carrier. Such deactuation of a magnet can be via using the bin pulses supplied as shown in FIG. 4. The FIG. 11 apparatus can be employed for any of the illustrated arrangements.

A slight modification of the FIG. 1 illustrated apparatus is shown in FIG. 12. Instead of a double-ended transfer member 30, a single-ended member 30A is in cartridge transfer station 14A disposed adjacent carousel in the same manner that station 14 is so disposed. In a similar manner, a plurality of such stations may be used. Station 14A selectively transfers any one of the cartridges 12 from carousel 10 to either of the article processing stations 22L or 22R. Also, motor 55 is mounted offset from carousel 10 with drive belt 200 interconnecting a drive pulley 201 to drive carousel 10. Optical tachometer 57 operates in the same manner with control circuits (not shown in FIG. 12) of FIGS. 4-6.

In a similar manner, drive motor 68 and its associated tachometer 69 control member 30A in the same manner as described for the FIG. 4 illustrated circuits with modifications as hereinafter noted. Speed control of member 30A is the same as aforedescribed; that is, the tangential velocity of the article engaging end, as at 308, must match the tangential velocity and direction of the peripheral portion of carousel 10 during article exchange. A difference resides in the discharge of articles from member 30A to stations 22L and 22R. As shown in the solid line, member 30A is in position to exchange article 12M with station 22L. Station 22L has reciprocating carriage 205 which moves forwardly toward member 30A to engage cartridge 12M with its pivoted and reciprocating arms 206 and 207. .These arms are spread apart to engage the periphery of article 12M. Upon such engagement, the arms are brought together, frictionally holding the article. Simultaneously therewith, the detents of member 30A, such as the detents shown in FIG. 11 for one end, release the article permitting arms 206 and 207 to move same over article receiving aperture 208 in processing station 22L. Here, the arms 206 and 207 release the article allowing it to drop into the processing station.

To return a processed article to a carousel, an elevator (not shown) in station 22L elevates the article to a position between arms 206 and 207. Arms 206 and 207 are then forced together by means within carriage 205 to frictionally hold the article for return to member 30A. The arms againmove toward member 30A until the article is engaged by the detents. The arms release the article, allowing member 30A to rotate for returning the article to carousel 10.

Processing station 22R has the same cooperative relationship with member 30A as that described for station 22L. To facilitate location of member 30A, the disc of tachometer 69 has reference positions and sensing positions not shown) precisely locating the angular position of stations 22L and 22R with respect to station 14A. Such location is well within the ordinary skill in the art and is not further described for that reason.

An advantage of using one transfer station for two processing stations is that the number of processing stations per storage tier is increased. Because of the latency time of carousel 10 and the transfer time of station 14A being substantially less than expected processing time for magnetic media within a cartridge 12, it is desirable for maximum utilization of equipment to have a plurality of processing stations such that the transfer apparatus will be used a greater percentage of the time. It is understood that an additional processing station may be similarly serviced by transfer station 14. In fact, a linear array of such stations may be so serviced with the first few stations handling all priority transfers and processing; while the more remote stations are serviced on an available status for lower priority article transfers.

Other arrangements than those shown can be envisioned. Two spaced-apart parallel rotating carousels may have an article transfer station disposed therebetween. One carousel may have a large diameter for long-term article storage. A second carousel can have a small diameter for short-term rapid accessing storage. An article transfer station selectively exchanges articles between the two carousels in a manner similar to article exchange between a processing station and a carousel. Control of such an exchange includes fetching an article from one carousel, rotating stopping; then starting again in synchronism with the second carousel to transfer the article thereto. In such an arrangement, the two carousels must rotate in opposite senses such that the tangential velocity vectors match the transfer velocity vectors during article exchange.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to a preferred embodiment of the invention, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. Article storage and retrieval apparatus for handling a plurality of axially elongated cylindrical articles,

the improvement including in combination:

a continuously rotating article containing carrier having a plurality of releasable article containable storage locations about its circular periphery;

a transfer station adjacent the periphery of said continuously rotating article carrier and having an intermittent rotational movable member wherein a portion of the transfer station overlies said article carrier for selectively exchanging an article with one of said storage locations;

each said storage location having article engaging means spaced apart a distance about equal to the length of said article and having an article retaining threshold; I

control means at said transfer station responsive to the rotational positions of said continuously rotating article carrier and of said transfer station to actuate said movable member to intermittently rotate such that its peripheral velocity, when in juxtaposition to said one'article storage location, is equal to the peripheral velocity of said article carrier;

actuable article retaining means on said member;

means actuating said retaining means to engage or disengage from an article and having a holding force greater than said article retaining threshold for selectively exchanging a selected one of said articles with said continuously rotating article carrier; and an article processing station in juxtaposition to said transfer station for selectively exchanging an article with said transfer station. 2. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 further including a tachometer disc on said continuously rotating article I carrier including a plurality of equally spaced-apart phase marks indicating rotational-position of said article carrier with respect to each and every one of said storage locations;

a tachometer disc on said transfer station member indicating its rotational position with respect to said continuously rotating article carrier;

said control means receiving tachometer signals from both said tachometers and combining same for generating motor control signals for said transfer station; and

phase lock loop means in said transfer station responsive to said motor control signals for adjusting the rotational velocity of said transfer station.

3. The apparatus set forth in claim 1, wherein said continuously moving articlecarrier includes'first and second axially spaced-apart circular plates coaxially disposed about a common axis of rotation;

a hub portion coaxial with said circular plates securely interconnecting said circular plates;

each said plate having axially facing first circular surfaces spaced apart an'axial distance substantially equal to the axial length of articles to be stored;

said article engaging means being disposed about the periphery of said first surfaces for retaining articles to be stored to said article retaining threshold, each said article being so stored extending'radially outwardly ofa peripheral portion of said first surfaces whereby said transfer station can engage any one of said articles without entering space between said first surfaces; and

each said plate having a radially outwardly extending portion from said first surface having an axial spacing greater than the axial length of said articles.

4. The apparatus set forthin claim 3 wherein each of said article retaining means comprises a relatively fixed axially extending detent on saidfirst surfaces and an axially movable detent disposed radially outwardly of said first-mentioned detents, but radially inside said first surfaces.

5. An article storage and retrieval apparatus for storing a plurality of axially. elongated cylindrical articles, each article having an axially outwardlyextending annular flange at each of, its end portions, each said cylindrical article having a predetermined axiallength,

the improvement including'in combination:

a continuously rotating article carousel having a plurality of article storing locations about its annular periphery, said article storing member including two axially spaced-apart circular plates having inner first facing surfaces;

a plurality of article retaining means on each of said first surfaces about said periphery and spaced radially inward of the outer radial portion of said first surfaces a distance substantially less than the diameter of said articles, each article storing means including threshold means for retaining articles up to a given radial force threshold;

said article storing means storing each of said articles along respective axes parallel to the axis of rotation of said continuously rotating article carousel and such that a substantial portion of each article extends radially outwardly of said first surfaces;

an intermittently rotatable article transfer mechanism disposed adjacent said continuously rotating article carousel and having article engaging means at one extremity movable to an engaging position 16 of stored articles immediately adjacent and immediately radially outwardly of said first surfaces; means indicating the angular position of said continuously rotating article carousel and of said article transfer mechanism, and control means responsive to said position indicating means for actuating said article transfer mechanism to move to said juxtaposition adjacent said first surfaces for selectively exchanging an article in said continuously rotating article carousel and including speed control means for causing said article transfer mechanism to be rotating peripherally at the same tangential velocity as the tangential velocity of a stored article; and

means for selecting which article is to be exchanged.

6. An article-storage and retrieval apparatus for storing a plurality of articles, each article having an annular a plurality of article stor ing'means disposed about its periphery, said periphery moving along a given travel path at a given speed;

each said article storing means having a pair of spaced-apart article retaining members, means urging said members toward each other at least to a spacing of less than said predetermined distance; i

an article transfer mechanism disposed adjacent said travel path, engaging means on said mechanism for releasably engaging an article for holding same; and i I control means actuating said transfer mechanism to move said engaging means to juxtaposition to a selected one of said article storing means and including speed control means to move said engaging means at said given speed in the immediate vicinity of said selected article storage means, and engaging control means for actuatingsaid engaging means to engage or disengage an article when in juxtaposition to said selected article storage means whereby articles are transferred to and from said article storing member. t 7. The apparatus set forth in claim 6 further including first and second transfer mechanisms and article processing stations disposed in juxtaposition to said article transfer mechanism, and means on each of said article processing stations to selectively engage articles in said article transfer mechanisms, and control means coordinating operation of said transfer mechanisms with said processing stations.

8. The apparatus set forth in claim 6 wherein said continuously moving article storing member has a plurality of axially displaced tiers of rotating storing portions, each with a plurality of said article storing means disposed around the respective peripheries;

said article transfer mechanism being disposed adjacent a first one of said tiers; and axially movable autostaging means disposed along the periphery of said plurality of tiers and operative to exchange articles between any one of said tiers whereby articles in all of said tiers are available to said article transfer means via said one tier and said autostager operative to exchange articles between said tiers whereby said one tier is a processing tier.

9. The apparatus set forth in claim 8 wherein said autostaging means includes a lead screw coextensive with the axial extent of all of said plurality of tiers and being disposed radially outwardly of said tiers along a line parallel to the axis of rotation of said tiers, a guide bar coextensively extending parallel to and spaced from said lead screw, a carriage on said lead screw and being guided by said guide bar; and

rotatable means anchoring and supporting said lead screw and said guide bar at their respective axial ends and including a rotatable annular support supporting said lead screw, and detent means selectively latching the lead screw to said rotatable carriage whereby said lead screw either rotates by itself for causing said carriage to move axially along said tiers or said lead screw and said guide bar rotate together as a unit for rotating said carriage about an axis of rotation for selectively engaging articles in a selected one of said tiers.

10. The apparatus set forth in claim 8 further including a large plurality of said tiers, and

a second article transfer mechanism disposed adjacent a second one of said tiers such that said first and second ones of said tiers being processing tiers, and the remaining tiers being storage tiers, and a plurality of autostaging means for selectively transferring articles between said tiers, and including at least one autostaging means and article transferring 'means being common.

11-. The apparatus set forth in claim 8 wherein said article transfer mechanism is included in said autostaging means and being movable along said plurality of tiers and further operative to transfer an article from said one tier to an article processing station;

first and second article processing stations; and

a second article transfer mechanism in one of said autostaging means operative with said second processing station and said second tier as an article transfer mechanism, and further being movable along the same travel path of said first autostaging means.

12. The apparatus set forth in claim 6 wherein said continuously moving article storing member includes a flexible belt having said article storing means as outwardly extending article retaining members spaced along said belt; and

at least one rotating wheel inside said belt and having means engaging same for continuously moving the belt along a given travel path, and means on said belt indicating position of said article storing means.

13. Article storage and retrieval apparatus for handling a plurality of articles having a predetermined shape and one given dimension,

the improvement including in combination:

a continuously moving article container having a plurality of article retaining means disposed about its outer periphery and traveling along a given travel p a transfer station adjacent said outer periphery and interposable into said travel path and including an ticle engaging means for selectively transferring articles to and from an article storing location with- V out stopping or altering the speed of said article carrier, including speed control means for matching speed of said article engaging means to that of the article retaining means during said selective article transfer; and control means operatively associated with said transfer station and said continuously moving article carrier to synchronize the speed thereof at and about the time of article exchange and including means for selecting which article location is to be employed in said exchange.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification414/331.3, 360/92.1
International ClassificationG06K17/00, G11B15/68, B65G1/04, B65G1/133
Cooperative ClassificationG06K17/0012, G06K17/00
European ClassificationG06K17/00, G06K17/00B3