US 3810561 A
A vending machine delivery apparatus for dispensing containers of circular cross-section from a multiplicity of columns and including a removable tray comprising a pair of converging inclined planes or ramps, inclined at an angle of at least about 6 DEG , including a trough at their confluence, a conveyor belt mounted in the trough and having one surface extending thereover and being driven to engage cans located in said trough, and transport them to the front end of the vending machine for discharge through a discharge port.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1191 Merkl May 14, 1974 [5 VENDING MACHINE DELIVERY 2,889,074 6/1959 Reynolds 221 253 x APPARATUS 2,874,873 2/l959 Newell 22l/203  Inventor: Lloyd D. Merkl, Mayville, Wis. Primary Exam'."er Stanley H Tonberg  Assignee: Mayville Metal Products (10., Assistant Examiner-Francis J. Bartuska Mayville, Wis.
22 Filed: Mar. 17, 1972 57 ABSTRACT ] Appl. No.: 235,636 A vending machine delivery apparatus for dispensing containers of circular cross-section from a multiplicity 52 u.s.c1. ..221/201,221/25 3 "l f T a pair of converging inclined planes or ramps, inclined  Int.Cl ..B65h5/00 l f t] t b t ht 58 Field of Search 221/174, 200, 203, 224, i ange 0 a ms 8 mg l their confluence, a conveyor belt mounted 1n the 221/225, 150 HC, 150 A, 253
trough and hav ng one surface extending thereover and being driven to engage cans located in said  References Clted trough, and transport them to the front end of the UNITED STATES PATENTS vending machine for discharge through a discharge 3,443,509 5/1969 Sandy 221/150 HCX o -L 3,333,666 8/1967 Murray et al. 221/150 HC X 2,897,939 8/1959 Mayhew 2 2l/253 X 5 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures (L (ls 28 VATENTEBm 14 m4 3.810.561 SHEEI 2 0P2 BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The instant invention relates to coin-operated vending machines for vending containers of circular cross-section, such as soda cans or bottles, from a multiplicity of tiers.
2. The State of the Art Vending machines have been provided with numerous devices for facilitation of the discharge of containers through an exit port located in the front of the machine. One such mechanism involves the use of downwardly and forwardly inclined planes to use the force of gravity to roll the containers of circular cross-section to discharge ports at the front of the machine, and could require two discharge ports in some instances. However, the angle of the planes required in order to allow the containers to acquire sufficient momentum to properly discharge is substantial, on the order of 28 or more and the discharging apparatus occupies a substantial portion of the vending machine volume, thereby decreasing its capacity. Also machines of the prior art type can produce jamming, when a container is not discharged at the front of the machine.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The invention comprises a discharging apparatus for discharging containers of circular cross-section in a vending machine, and comprising a removable tray including a pair of convergent inclined planes connected by a trough at their confluence. A conveyor belt has its upper surface located above the base of the trough. The conveyor belt is driven by a suitable drive motor so that its upper surface moves from the rear of the machine toward the front end of the machine. Mounted on the conveyor belt are a plurality of container engaging means for the purpose of positively engaging and dislodging any container which may fall to the bottom of the dispensing device in a position where it would not otherwise be engaged by the conveyor belt for movement toward the front of the machine. The machine includes a vibrator connected to one of the inclined planes for vibrating the inclined plane gently to assure proper feeding of containers to the conveyor belt. The angle of inclination of each inclined plane is in the range from about 6 to about 10, and is preferably about 65. A portion of the trough on either side of the conveyor belt includes channels which allow the accumulation of any liquid which may leak from the containers being dispensed, and because of its direct alignment with the door of the machine is easily accessable for cleaning of any syrups which may accumulate in the machine. The tray which includes the inclined planes and trough is removable to further facilitate cleaning of any syrups therefrom. The apparatus of the invention, in a typical instance, by having a discharge apparatus which occupies substantially less of the interior volume of the vending machine that the prior art devices, allows a to 6 inch reduction in the distance from the bottom edge of the stacks of cans to be discharged in a machine of given exterior dimensions. This permits the capacity of one common size of vending machine to be increased by about six layers of cans, thereby allowing one hundred eight additional cans of soda to be stored in a machine of the type illustrated in the drawings; this increase in capacity is an important factor in the economics of vending machine operators, since it reduces the frequency with which the machines have to be serviced to replace the exhausted or substantially depleted supply of soda or other merchandise or increases the available number of containers to be sold in a given period of time.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION It is therefore a primary object of this invention to provide a reliable delivery means for a vending machine which occupies a minimum volume within the machine and therefore permits a maximum capacity for containers in a given size of machine, thereby reducing the frequency with which the vending machine has to be refilled.
It is another object of this invention to provide a vending machine delivery apparatus, for delivering containers of circular cross-section through an access means in the front end of the machine, without any prospect that containers will become stuck in the delivering means and will not be dispensed.
Yet another object of this invention is to provide a vending machine delivery means which includes removable delivery ramps formed of a single sheet of material and including an integral collection area for the accumulation of any spillage from the containers for easy cleaning of the machine.
Yet another object of this invention is to provide a vending machine delivery mechanism which includes a conveyor belt and gripping means mounted on the conveyor belt to insure that any can which reaches the conveyor belt in a non-delivery position will be properly positioned on the conveyor belt for discharge from the front of the machine.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a partially schematic front elevational view of a vending machine delivery apparatus of the instant invention;
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 2-2 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 2; and
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 44 of FIG. 3.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Viewing FIG. I, a vending machine, generally designated by the numeral 10, includes a bottom wall 12, side walls 14 and 16, and a front inner wall 18 having a plastic swinging inner door 20 hingedly mounted therein. The machine would also contain an outer front face and an outer door spaced from front inner wall 18 (not shown) in a manner which is well-known in the art to permit access to the dispensed container.
A plurality of vertical columns, each of which is generally designated by numeral 22, contains a stack of containers to be dispensed, each container being designated by numeral 24. The containers illustrated are cylindrical containers, such as cans of soda, but other shapes of container, of circular cross-section, such as soda bottles, could also be dispensed from the machine, Furthermore, although the machine would probably most likely be used for dispensing cans of soda, other items could also be dispensed in cylindrical containers, without departing from the scope of this invention.
Within the vending machine, respective left-hand and right-hand side walls 26 and 28 define the outer limits of the vending machine stacks.
The cans 24 in each stack 22 are mounted in three columns. Each column is defined on its opposite sides by spacers 30 which are suitably mounted in the machine, in a well-known manner. Mounted at the front of each column 22, and extending beneath that column is a release mechanism 32, of a type which is wellknown in the art, for the purpose of releasing a single can from one of the stacks, in response to the insertion ofa coin into a coin receptacle in the vending machine. The mechanism 32, and their location and operation and the basic operating mechanisms for the vending machine, are well-known in the art and form no part of the instant invention.
Spaced immediately below the bottom ends of the stacks 22 of cans is the discharging apparatus, which includes a tray 38 comprising a pair of converging inclined planes or ramps 40 and 42. As best seen in FIG. 2, the front and rear edges of the respective inclined planes 40 and 42, which are designed by numeral 60, are turned up, so that any containers which are discharged onto the inclined planes are directed downwardly toward the centrally located trough 44. The tray 38 is slidably mounted within the vending machine, so that it may be lifted and moved or removed for easy cleaning of any syrup or other material which accumulates thereon. The inclined planes 40 and 42 are formed of a single sheet of sheet material, preferably 16 gauge sheet metal, and are joined by a trough section 44, which is best illustrated in FIG. 4. Trough section 44 has vertical outer walls 46 and 48, inwardly extending lower walls 50 and 52, and a central upstanding portion comprising an upper horizontal surface 54 and side ledge surfaces56 and 58.
The angle of incline of the inclined planes 40 and 42 is the range from about 6 to about and is most preferably about 65. This angle is important, and facilitates reliable discharge of the individual containers while minimizing the inner volume of the vending machine which is occupied by the discharging apparatus. It has been found that ramp incline angles of less than about 6 will not permit optimum dispensing of containers. The optimum angle for dispensing is about 6.5", but it will be appreciated that convenional techniques for forming tray 38 will result in some deviations from the optimum angle. Angles of incline in excess of about 65 are possible, and would produce somewhat faster dispensing of cans 24, but the more the angle of incline is increased the more the container capacity of the machine is decreased. Accordingly, an incline angle in excess of about 10 would decrease the capacity of the machine without producing any substantial attendant benefits.
The uppermost edge of each of the inclined planes 40 and 42 is located approximately 2% inches below the bottom of the respective adjacent stacks 22 of cans. Preferably, the trough section 44, has a depth from the lower edge of each of the inclined planes of approximately one inch, and the bottom faces 50 and 52 of the trough 44 are conveniently located approximately 2% inches above the bottom face 12 of vending machine Mounted below the tray 38 is a sheet-metal enclosure, generally designated by numeral 62, and best seen in F IG. 4. The purpose of the sheet metal enclosure 6 is to reinforce the sheet metal inclined planes 40 and 42 against buckling and to support some of the electrical apparatus of the vending machine and the conveyor belt mechanism, which are described more fully hereinafter. The sheet-metal enclosure 62 comprises vertical side walls. both of which are designated by the numeral 64, and a bottom wall 66. Fastened to the bottom wall 66 of enclosure 62, as by bolts 68, are the horizontal flanges 70 of the two vertically extending end plates 72,
which enclose the opposite sides of the conveyor belt mechanism and mount the conveyor belt shafts.
The conveyor mechanism, best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, is seen to comprise an endless conveyor belt 76 formed of frictional material, such as rubber, and having a stepped inner surface which travels over a pair of rotating mounted support members 78 and 80 which are provided with stepped outer surfaces which mate with the inner surface of conveyor belt. Support member 78 is rigidly mounted on shaft 82, which is rotatably mounted in suitable journals (not shown) located in the rear ends of each of the end plates 72 of the conveyor belt mechanism in a manner which is well-known.
Support member 80 is rigidly mounted on shaft 84, and shaft 84 is journaled in suitable journals (not shown), and of a type which is well-known, located in the forward ends of each of the end plates 72. Shaft 84 is connected to gear motor 86 through a suitable flexible shaft coupling 88. Also mounted on shaft 84 is a cam mounting 90 which has an integral arm 96 which engages a switch 92 once upon every revolution of shaft 84, by means of contact member 96, for the purpose of engaging the switch which is connected to and initiates the operation of the vibrator mechanism 94.
Mounted on an end face 64 of enclosure 62 is a vibrator unit 94, which is suitably connected to the vibrator switch 92, in a manner well-known in the art, and which includes a solenoid member which is connected, as by welding or mechanical fastening, to the under surface of plane or ramp 42, and the operation of which will be more described hereinafter.
Mounted on the conveyor belt 76 are two trippers, generally designated by numeral 100, and best illustrated in FIG. 4. Each of the trippers 100 comprises a horizontal sheetmetal section 102 having a pair of gripping fingers 104 formed integrally therewith and engaging opposing edges of the conveyor belt 76, as best seen in FIG. 4. The arm 102 terminates in two integral sheetmetal receptacles or seats 106 and 108 which seat and support rectangular foam blocks 110 and 112. The foam blocks preferably adhesively secured to the seats, and are formed of any suitable resilient frictional material, preferably a polymeric foam material such as polyurethane foam. The gripping members 104 of the tripper may also be adhesively fastened to the conveyor belt 76, to insure that they will not become dislodged.
As best seen in FIG. 3, the front 18 of the inner face of vending machine 10, has an inner door 20, hingedly mounted thereon, and a dispensing opening formed therein and extending inwardly. Molded in plastic door 20 is a small bar magnet (not shown). Mounted on the delivery port cover (not shown) which extends between inner door 20 and the outer door of the vending machine, in a manner which is well-known in'the art, is a magnetic switch (not shown) which is closed by the bar magnet when door 20 is opened.
The operation of the vending machine delivery apparatus is as follows:
A person wishing to purchase a unit, such as a can of soda, being vended from the machine would insert a coin in a suitable coin receptacle located in a portion of the machine not shown but of a location, mechanism and operation which is well-known in the art. Upon the coin being inserted in the receptacle, the vending machine operating mechanism activates one of the con tainer dispensing units 32, in a manner which is wellknown in the art, to drop a single container 24 from one of the stacks 22 down onto one of the inclined planes, being either inclined plane 40 or inclined plane 42, depending upon the location of the stack from which the container is dispensed.
Upon the dropping of the container from the respective stack 22, the gear motor 86 is actuated, so that drive shaft 84, which drives the conveyor belt 76, commences rotation and the conveyor belt begins to move so that the upper surface of the conveyor belt moves toward the front of the vending machine. Because of the inward and downward incline of the respective planes 40 and 42, a can 24 dropped from any of the stacks 22 will fall on one of those planes and will tend to roll downwardly toward the trough 44.
In order to avoid any possibility that a container will not roll down either of the incline planes to the trough 44, a vibrator 94 is incorporated into the machine, and includes a solenoid mechanism (not shown) fastened to ramp 42 for the purpose of engaging the inclined plane 42 and vibrating the same to dislodge any stuck can. Since the inclined planes 40 and 42 are part of a single unit, the vibrating of ramp 42 will vibrate the entire tray 38, including plane 40, so that any container which might be stuck on plane 40 will also be dislodged by the action of vibrator 94. The vibrator 94 is actuated once during each revolution of the drive shaft-84 by switch actuating member 96 engaging the switch contact 92, which is mounted on the inclined plane 42, to initiate the operation of the vibrator 94.
Typically, once a can has rolled to the trough 44, one of three things can occur. Most desirably, the container 24 can roll directly onto the conveyor belt 76, with its longitudinal axis aligned with the direction of movement of the conveyor belt, so that the conveyor belt transports the container directly to the front of the machine for removal. Sometimes, however, a container may reach the trough 44 in one of the two positions shown in FIG. 2, where the longitudinal axis of the container is transverse to the direction of movement of conveyor belt or is skewed with respect to the direction of movement of the conveyor belt. In either of those two instances, a tripper 100 will engage an edge of the container 24 through one of its engaging members 110 or 112, and this will push the leading edge of the container around and align its longitudinal axis with the direction of movement of the conveyor belt so that it will roll down to the conveyor belt in proper position. As illustrated in the drawings, two trippers 100 are mounted on the conveyor belt, although one tripper or more than two trippers can also be used, it having been found that two trippers is a convenient number for effectively achieving the desired result of dislodging any stuck containers without undue expense.
Once the can is located, in properly aligned position, on the conveyor belt, the conveyor belt transports the container 24 to the front of the vending machine. The
leading end of the container 24 will engage inner door 20, and pushes out door 20 under the driving force of conveyor belt 76. When door 20 is moved by container 24 from the substantially vertical closed position to a position similar to that shown in phantom in FIG. 3, a bar magnet mounted within door 20 will actuate a magnetic switch of a conventional type located on the delivery port cover (not shown) thereby to discontinue the operation of the gear motor 86, and discontinuing movement of the conveyor belt. Accordingly, when the inner door 20 is opened, the conveyor belt drive ceases operation, and the can is located in a position, ready to be removed, in the access opening in the front of the vending machine.
It will be apparent that various modifications of the vending machine apparatus disclosed can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of this invention. For example, the tripper illustrated in the drawing is the desired device for dislodging any container stuck in the manner shown in FIG. 2. However, it is possible to provide the conveyor belt 76 with a knurled surface for the purpose of dislodging stuck containers or to utilize other similar mechanisms. Also, in lieu of the conveyor belt shown in the drawings, other mechanical means for moving the cans from the confluence of the inclined planes could be utilized, such as, for example, a plurality of rollers, driven by a single source, and containing, on their surfaces, some frictional material, such as a knurled rubber sheet, adhered thereto to drivingly engage the cans to be dispensed.
What is claimed is:
l. A vending machine apparatus having a front and back, comprising:
a. Means for storing and vertically selectively releasing from a multiplicity of columns containers of circular cross-section;
b. Means mounted in said machine for releasing one container at a time from one of said columns;
c. Inclined plane means mounted in said machine and comprising a pair of converging inclined ramps spaced from each other and formed of a single integral unit of sheet material and extending substantially from the front to the back of said machine and substantially coextensive with and located beneath and proximate to said columns of containers and having an angle of incline with respect to the horizontal of less than about 10;
d. Mechanically engaged conveyor belt drive means mounted in said machine and having a surface located between and below said ramps to transport containers in a horizontal direction transverse to the direction of incline of said ramps;
e. Said unit including an integral dependent section having two discrete channels at the convergence of said ramps, on either side of said drive means;
f. Mounting means removably mounting said unit in said machine; and
g. Upstanding frictional gripping means mounted on said conveyor belt to align said containers in substantial axial alignment with said drive means.
2. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1, including vibrator means connected to one of said inclined ramps for transmitting vibration thereto to dislodge any containers which may be blocked thereon.
3. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said gripping means comprises at least one pair of foam slightly greater than the diameter of a container to be dispensed, magnetic switch means mounted in said door and actuated in response to the position of said door, and means interconnecting said magnetic switch means and said drive means to discontinue operation of said drive means when said door is partially opened.