US 3815780 A
A clock having time-measuring means includes a pill-dispensing apparatus driven by the time-measuring means for dispensing a pill and for controlling release of the dispensed pill in a manner to regulate consumption of the pill so that the same may only be consumed during a preselected, pill-taking time interval. Means driven by the time-measuring means control access to the dispensed pill and actuate audible and/or visible signaling means to indicate whether a dispensed pill may be, should be or has been consumed.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent l l Bauer 1 1 CLOCK HAVING MEANS FOR PERIODICALLY DISPENSING AND CONTROLLING THE RELEASE OF ARTICLES  Inventor: Herbert Bauer, 7742 St.
Georgen/Schwarzwald, Schultheissweg 2, Germany  Filed: July 20, 1970  Appl. N0.: 56,435
 Foreign Application Priority Data July 19. 1969 Germany 1936816  US. Cl. 221/15  Int. Cl G040 23/18  Field of Search 221/3, 8, l5, 16
 References Cited UNlTED STATES PATENTS Hatch 221/15 X June 11, 1974 Kende 221/15 X Cogdell 221/15 7 Primary ExaminerRobert B. Reeves Assistant ExaminerThomas E. Kocovsky Attorney, Agent, or Firm H i1 l. Gross, Simpson. Van Santen, Steadman, Chiara & Simpson  ABSTRACT A clock having time-measuring means includes a pilldispensing apparatus driven by the time-measuring means for dispensing a pill and for controlling release of the dispensed pill in a manner to regulate consumption of the pill so that the same may only be consumed during a preselected, pill-taking time interval. Means driven by the time-measuring means control access to the dispensed pill and actuate audible and/or visible signaling means to indicate whether a dispensed pill may be, should be or has been consumed.
5 Claims, 2 Drawing'Figures CLOCK HAVING MEANS FOR PERIODICALLY DISPENSING AND CONTROLLING THE RELEASE OF ARTICLES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention generally relates to clock mechanisms and more particularly refers to a clock having time-measuring means and including a pilldispensing. apparatus driven by the time measuring means for dispensing a pill and for controlling release of the dispensed pill in a manner to regulate consumption of the pill and to present audible and/or visible signals.
2. Description of the Prior Art Several medications offered by the pharmaceutical industry in pill form have an effectiveness which is dependent upon the pill being consumed at regular intervals. In order to regulate the consumption of such pillform medications, it has been proposed to provide clock mechanisms programmed with instructions for taking of the medicines. To enable use by the average consumer of such clock mechanisms, it is desirable that there be an indication to enable the user to inform himself as to whether a pill should be taken and also an indication reminding the user to take the medication during the prescribed time intervals, which may extend over days or weeks. Further, the clock mechanism should have a simple and perspicuous mode of operation and mode of programming. In order to increase flexibility of the clock mechanism, it is desirable that the clock be able to function without operating the pilldispensing apparatus.
One medication which requires extremely strict consumption at prescribed intervals extending over a prolonged period is the pill-form medication utilized for contraception. Generally, those medications must be taken at definite intervals of time in order to prevent impairment to the users health and in order to assure the intended effect. The schedule of consumption of such medications is generally apportioned over a period of 28 days. This 28 day range is sub-divided into twenty-one daily intervals with one pill to be consumed per day followed by a seven-day rest period wherein no pills are to be consumed. In the event the schedule of consumption is interrupted, such as by the users forgetting to take one of the pills, then, in accordance with the manufacturers instructions, the schedule of treatment should be discontinued with a new schedule of consumption commencing after menstruation has taken place.
In a German patent application, Ser. No. P 23 23 913.1, and assigned to the same assignee as the present application, there is described a clock driven by a synchronous motor and including an apparatus driven by the clock work for dispensing contraceptive medicines and for indicating when such medicines should be consumed. A calender switching mechanism engaged with the clock .mechanisms and intermittently driven thereby has a dial indication on a dial face of the clock for indicating the exact schedule or cycle of consumption.
The individual pills are mounted for rotating movement and having a plurality of circumferentially spaced pockets opening at a periphery of the dispenser. As the dispenser is intermitdispensed from a container tently rotated by the clock mechanism, individual ones of the pills contained in the pockets are released onto an accessible dispensing surface.
Thus, with the apparatus described hereinabove, the individual pills are dispensed automatically from their container at a point of time most favorable for the consumption of the pill. However, contrary to manufacturers instructions, the pill be may consumed at any time after the same is dispensed. Thus, the user is not compelled to observe the prescribed schedule of consumption but may also consume the medication at any time after the prescribed period has elapsed, thereby lessening the effectiveness of the medication and causing possible'impairment to the users health.
One prior art structure of which I am aware, provides a controlled taking of objects, predeterminable in time, from a container. That structure, which may be driven vby'a clock, includes an opening mechanism which,
nism. That structure is extremely costly and complex,
thereby rendering its use by non-professionals difficult.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the principles of the present invention, a pill-dispensing apparatus is driven by timemeasuring means, such as a synchronous motor, of a clock equipped with an audible alarm. The apparatus includes a container mounted for rotational movement and driven by the time-measuring means in a manner to periodically dispense a pill into a chute or similar reciprocal. Access to the chute or reciprocal is controlled by manually operable gate means including a pivoted lever having a key portion on one end. Control means including'a program roller having a cam surface formed thereon and being driven by the time-measuring means permit or block manualoperation of the gate, thereby regulating access to a dispensed pill so that the same may only be taken during the prescribed time interval and not outside of that time interval. Also, cam means on the container and corotatable therewith cooperate with the control means to block manual operation of the gate during a certain time period, for example during the seven'day pause between a users taking the twenty-first pill and the start of a new sequence.
The apparatus of the present invention not only has a low manufacturing cost but also a simple mode of operation.
In order to remind the user to take the pill during the prescribed pill-taking time interval, the control means periodically actuate the audible alarm on the clock. The audible alarm may be a bell hammer or an electroacoustical signaling device operated by suitable switch means. Once the manually operable gate means have been actuated to obtain access to the dispensed pill, the control means will not operate the audible alarm until a subsequent pill has been dispensed.
In addition to the audible alarm signal, the control means operate visible signaling means in a manner to display differently colored portions behind a sight formed in a face of the clock. The different colors correspond to different conditions or states of the prescribed, pill-taking sequence, for example the different colors may represent that the pill has been dispensed and may be taken, that the pill has been taken, that the gate means are blocked so that a pill may not be taken and that the program is in the seven-day period of pause.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is an elevational view of a clock incorporating a pill-dispensing apparatus of the present invention and illustrates a rear view of the clock with the back cover removed; and
FIG. 2 is a front view of the clock shown in FIG. 1 with a portion of the dial face cut-away to illustrate additional details of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring to the drawings, a clock driven by a synchronous motor 11, or other suitable time-measuring, drive means, has an upstanding mounting plate 12 and a dial face 13 spaced from the mounting plate, both of which are enclosed within a suitable casing 14. A pilldispensing apparatus, generally indicated at 15, is supported on the mounting plate 12 and driven by the synchronous motor 11. Although the pill-dispensing apparatus 15, as described herein, is particularly adapted for dispensing pill-form, contraceptive medications, it should be understood that the apparatus may be adapted for other types of medication having prescribed sequences or programs of consumption.
A multiplicity of pills 16 are received in individual pockets or magazines 17 formed in a wheel-like container 18, which is mounted on the mounting plate 12 for rotational movement about the pivot shaft 19. The individual pockets 17 are circumferentially spaced around the container 18 and open at a periphery 21 of the container. When the pill-dispensing apparatus is utilized for dispensing contraceptive medications, the container 18 is divided into 28 radial segments and includes 21 of the pockets 17 and a blank area 22 having a circumferential extent equal to seven pockets and corresponding to the 7 day period of pause.
In accordance with the present invention, a chute 23 formed in the casing 14 in alignment with the pockets 17 receive one of the pills 16 from one of the pockets as the same moves into registry with the chute due to rotation of the container 18.
Manually operable gate means, generally indicated at 25, control access to one of the pills 16 dispensed into i the chute 23. The gate means include a key portion 26 extending beyond the casing 14 and having a wall portion or stop surface 27 projecting at least partially across an open end 28 of the chute 23 for maintaining the pill in the chute until the key is depressed to open the chute. If desired, the key 26 may have a receiving trough formed in an upper surface 29 and into which the pill will be introduced when the key is depressed. Also, the chute 23 may be sized so that a multiplicity of the pills 16 which are dispensed from the container 18 may be stored in the chute without impairing the operation of the apparatus, thereby permitting the apparatus to be operated even though one or more of the pills .are not consumed at the proper time. Further, since the stop surface 27 does not extend entirely 4 across the open end 28 of the chute 23, pills dispensed in excess of the storage capacity of the chute may overflow out of the chute without jamming the mechanism.
A lever 31 mounted on the plate 12 for pivoting movement about a pivot shaft 32 supports the key 26 and extends through a suitable aperture 33 formed in the casing 14 beneath the chute 23. A spring34 biases the lever 31 upwardly toward a closed position and permits the key 26 to be pivoted or depressed downwardly to an open position, wherein the stop surface 27 is free of the chute opening 28.
The time-measuring means, including the synchronous motor 11, of the clock 10 drives a program roller 35 via a gear train 36. The program roller 35 is mounted on the plate 12 for rotational movement and forms a portion of control means for regulating or controlling manual operation of the key 26, thereby regulating the time interval during which the dispensed pill 16 may be consumed. Corotatably mounted with the program roller 35 is a drive disc 37 having a notch 38 disposed for meshing engagement with a Maltese wheel 39, which in turn rotates the container 18 via intermeshing gears 41.
Thegear train 36 is selected to rotate the program roller 35, and thus the drive disc 37, through one revolution per 24 hour period. Also, the gear train 41 is selected to rotate the container 18 one twenty-eighth revolution per 24 hour period, thereby moving one of the pockets 17 into registry with the chute 23 for dispensing one of the pills 16 into the chute during each 24 hour period. If desired, the program roller 35 may be mounted on apivot shaft for coaxial movement therealong in a manner to disengage a gear 42 on the program roller from the gear train 36, thereby uncoupling the pill-dispensing apparatus from the synchronous motor 11 so that the clock 10 may be utilized independently of the pill-dispensing apparatus.
In accordance with the present invention, manual operation of the key 26 is controlled by a control member 43 mounted on the plate 12 for pivotal movement about a pivot shaft 44. An abutment surface 46 formed on the control member 43 is movable into blocking engagementwith an offset lug 47 formed on a rearward extension 48 of the key supporting lever 31, thereby retaining the key 26 in the closed position for preventing access to the pill 16 disposed in the chute 23. On the other hand, when the abutment surface is out of engagement with the lug, the key 26 may be pivoted against the bias of the spring 34 to the opened position in order to gain access to the pills 16'disposed in the chute 23. A spring 49 biases the control member 43 to a position wherein the abutment surface 46 is out of engagement with the lug 47.
The program roller 35 includes a cam surface 50 cooperating with an offset cam follower or lug 51 formed on the pivoted control member 43 in a manner to position the control member for controlling or regulating the manual operation of the key 26. The cam surface 50 has a first segment or portion 52 configured for permitting the biasing spring 48 to urge the control member 43 to a position wherein the abutment surface 46 is out of engagement with the lug 47, thereby permitting actuation of the key'26. In accordance with the prescribed schedule of the consumption of the pillform, contraceptive medicines, the effectiveness of the medication is dependent upon the pill being taken within a 12 hour period, and thus, the cam segment 52 has a circumferential extent corresponding to rotation of the program roller 35 during a l2 hour period.
Once the'key 26 has been depressed during the pilltaking time interval, in order to gain access to the dispensed pills 16, latching means including a latch plate 53 actuated by the lever 31 operates on the control member 43 in a manner to pivot the control member against the bias of the spring 48 to a position wherein the cam follower 51 is out of engagement with the first cam segment 52 and holds the control plate in that position. The latch plate 53 is mounted for pivotal movement on a pivot shaft 54 and urged away from the control plate 43 by a spring 56. As the key 26 is depressed, a rounded end 57 of the lever extension 49 pushes upwardly on an offset surface 58 formed on the latch plate 53 to pivot an offset lug or latch member 59 into camming engagement with a surface 61 formed on the control plate 43. In that manner, the control plate 43 is pivoted away from the program roller 35, against the bias of the spring 48, until the lug 59 drops into a latching notch 62, thereby latching or holding the control plate in a position wherein the cam follower 51 is out of engagement with the first cam segment 52. As the program roller 35 rotates in a counterclockwise direction, as indicated by the arrow 63, a cam rise 64 moves into engagement with the cam follower 51.
In order to prevent the consumption of the dispensed pill 16 during a 12 hour period, after the expiration of the 12 hour, pill-taking period, the cam rise 64 and a second cam segment 66 extending over'a circumferential length equal to a '12 hour period cooperates with the cam follower 51 for pivoting the control member 43 to a position wherein the abutment surface 46 engages the lug 47 to block or prevent manual operation of the key 26. Also, movement of the cam follower 51 over the cam rise 64 sufficiently pivots the control plate 43 to withdraw the notch 62 from latching engagement with the lug 59, thereby permitting the latch plate 53 to pivot under the influence of the spring 56. As the latch plate pivots from the laching position, the lug 59 engages a stop surface 67 formed on the control plate 43 for maintaining the latch plate atan upwardly pivoted position.
Further rotation of the program roller 35 by the synchronous motor 11 results in advancement of the container 18 to dispense another pill into the chute 23 at a time approximately 2 hours before commencement of the pill-taking time period. Consumption of the dispensed pill is permitted when a terminal end 68 of the second cam segment 66 passes by the cam follower 51, thereby permitting the control plate 43 to pivot to a position wherein the abutment surface 46 is out of engagement with the lug 47. Simultaneously with the control plate 43 pivoting out of the blocking position, the stop surface 67 is pivoted out of engagement with the lug 59 for permitting the lug to pass through a channel 69 formed between the surface 61 and a terminal end 71 of the stop surface, thereby permitting the latching member to return to its rest position, as illustrated in FIG. 1.
In the event the dispensed pill is not consumed within the first few hours of the 12 hour, pill-taking time interval the latching means are not operated and the cam follower 51 is maintained in engagement with the first cam segment 52. In order to remind the user to take the pill 16, it is contemplated by the present invention to actuate an audible signal or alarm periodically during the pill-taking time interval. Thus, a plurality of notches 72 extend radially inwardly of the first cam segment 52 and cooperate with the cam follower 51 to permit the control member 43 to pivot under the influence of the spring 48 and into actuating engagement with a control rod 73 of switching means 74. The switching means 74 form part of a circuit controlling actuation of the clock alarm which may be, for example, an electro-acoustical signaling device in the form of a buzzer or sounding mechanism. Preferably, the audible alarm or signal is sounded for approximately 5 minutes, after which the cam follower is again raised out of the notches 72 to deactuate the alarm device. Also, the audible reminder may be repeated, for example, every 2 hours, until the user, through operation of the key 26, removes the pill 12 from the storage chute 23. As described hereinabove, whenever the key 26 is operated, the latching plate 53 pivots the control member 43 to a position wherein the cam follower 51 is out of contact with the cam surface 52 and holds the. control plate in that position, thereby preventing further actuation of the alarm device.
From the previous description of the apparatus, it should be noted that in the event the 12 hour, pilltaking time interval elapses without consumption of the dispensed pill 16, the second segment 66 of the cam surfaceoperates to prevent or block manual operation of the key 26, thereby preventing consumption of the pill. Approximately 2 hours before commencement of the subsequent pill-taking time interval, a second one of the pills 16 is dispensed into the receiving chute 23, and consequently, there are two pills in the chute. Thus, in the event the key 26 is operated during that pill-taking time interval, then the person using the medication is readily aware that one pill has been omitted from the sequence. For hygienic advantage of the user, the program of use should be discontinued, and with the date of mehstruatiomunless a physician directs otherwise, the user may initiate a new course of treatment extending over another 28 day time span.
Assuming, however, that all twenty-one of the pills 16 were regularly removed from the receiving shaft 23 in the proper sequence, then a 7 day period commences wherein no pills are to be consumed. in order to prevent actuation of the audible alarm or signal dur-' ing the 7 day time span, it is contemplated by the present invention to provide means for pivoting the control plate 43 to a position wherein the cam follower 51 is held out of engagement with the cam surface 50 formed on the program roller 35. For that purpose, a cam 76 formed on the container 18 and disposed to engage an offset lug 77 on the control plate 43 pivots the plate against the bias of the spring 48 to a position wherein the cam follower 51 is out of engagement with the cam surface 50. During the 7 day period in which no pills are to be consumed, the synchronous motor 11 rotates the container 18 so that the blank or unpocketed segment 22 is conveyed past the chute 23. Manual operation of the key 26 is also prevented during the 7 day time span by blocking engagement of the abutment surface 46 with the lug 47 formed on the lever 31. After expiration of the pause, the cam 76 rotates out of engagement with the lug 77, thereby permitting the control plate 43 to move under the urging of the spring 48 and into the operating position wherein the camv follower engages the cam surface 50. Thus, the apparatus is in a condition for commencing a new 28 day program. 1
It is also contemplated by the present invention to enable the. program roller 35 to be positioned so that a user of the apparatus may select or arrange the 12 hour, pill-taking time interval in any desired time-ofday space. Thus, the gear 42 formed on the program roller 35 may include rest-stop friction means or clutch means for enabling rotation of the program roller 35 by means of a knob 81 formed on the program roller. Se-
lection of the 12 hour, pill-taking time interval within a 24 hour period is facilitated by a dial face 82 divided into 24, equally-spaced increments and shaded to indicate a day range and a night range.
Also, the knob 81 may be utilized to rotate the drive disc 37 in a manner to rapidly index or shift the container 18, thereby implementing the refilling procedure, if required.
A simple and perspicuous construction of the pill taking apparatus may be economically provided by forming or structuring the program roller 35, the control member or plate 43, the latching member 53 and the container 18 from thermoplastic material.
As illustrated in FlG.-2, the clock 10 includes the usual components of an electric alarm clock. In particular, an hour hand 91 and a minute hand 92 are driven by a suitable clock mechanism in a manner to keep time. A second hand 93, composed of a transparent, crystal-clear plastic is also driven by the clock mechanism and preferably has a cylindrical, colored indicator 94 formed at a free end thereof. A waking time may be selected for actuation of the clock alarm and that time is indicated by a separate hand 96. An alarm shut-off button 97 projects upwardly through the clock casing 14 and actuates an alarm shut-off mechanism.
In addition to the usual clock components, the clock face 13 includes a sight or aperture indicated at 101 and behind which differently colored patches are displayed to provide a visual indication of the condition or state of the pill dispensing apparatus 15, and in particular to give an indication of the manual operability of the key 26. Means for presenting the visible signal include a first fan 102 disposed behind the clock face 13 and mounted on the pivot shaft 44 for corotation with the control plate or member 43. The fan 102 has three areas or patches of different colors which may be moved into registry with the sight 101,.The first colored area 103 may be yellow and corresponds to the condition illustrated in FIG. 1, wherein one of the pills 16 is dispensed in the receiving chute 23 and the key 26 may be manually operated to gain access to the dispensed pill. A second colored area 104, which may be red, moves into registry with the sight 101 whenever the second cam segment 66 moves the control member 43 to the blocking position, thereby giving a visual indication that the key 26 may not be operated. When the cam 76 on the container 18 operates on the lug 77 to pivot the control member 43 to the rest or nonoperative position during the seven-day pause, a third area 106, which may be white, is moved into registry with the sight 102.
A visual indication that the dispensed pill 16 has been properly taken by manually operating the key 26, is provided by a second fan 107 supported on the pivot shaft 54 to corotate with the latching plate 53. The second fan 107, which outwardly overlaps the fan 102, has a brown-colored area 108 which moves into registry with the sight 101 whenever the latching plate 53 is moved to itspivoted position by operation of the key 26. The brown-colored area 108 is visible through the sight 101 until a new pill-taking time interval is present, since the stop surface 67 formed on the control member 43 holds the latch plate 53 in the pivoted position during the time interval in which the key 26 is locked against manual operation.
If desired, the pill-dispensing apparatus 15 of the present invention may include an additional safety feature for indicating the day of the week to indicate whether the time-measuring means, such as the synchronous motor 11, has been stopped over a relatively long period of time, such as for example would occur in the event there is a current failure. Means for indicating the day of the week include a disc 111 disposed behind the clock face 13 and mounted for corotation with the container 18. The disc 111 is divided into 28 equal segments with each segment containing two or more letters forming, in sequence, abbreviations of the week days. A second viewing aperture or sight 112 formed in the clock face 13 is disposed so thatthe week day abbreviations are sequentially movable into registration therewith in a manner to be viewed by a user of the clock 10.
The disc 111 indicates the day of the week, as opposed to the usual date indicator which shows the day of the month, since the 28 day program for taking the contraceptive medication is readily divisible into four weeks. Furthermore, the'particular day of the week is probably better known to the user of the clock 10 then would be the corresponding date, which must be corrected at least every other month.
From the description contained herein, it should be noted that the clock 10 of the present invention, which includes the pill dispensing apparatus 15, provides a simple and perspicuous construction which is economical to manufacture and which has a simple mode of operation for providing visible and/or audible signals or indications of the condition of the prescribed medication program. Further, since the pills 16 are stored in the receiving chute 23, the automatic dispensing of the pills from the container 18 is absolutely hygienic until the key 26 is operated to gain access to the pill. Moreover, the special volume of the chute 23 permits storage of a multiplicity of pills to pervent jamming of a mechanism in the event the medication program is deferred or inadvertently omitted.
Although various minor modifications might be suggested by those versed in the art, it should be understood that I wish to embody within the scope of the patent warranted hereon all such modifications as reasonably and properly come within the scope of my contribution to the art.
I claim as my invention:
1. An apparatus for automatically dispensing individual articles, such as pills, in a predeterminable prime pattern comprising: I
an article-receiving chute;
manually operable gate means controlling access to said chute; an article container driven by said timemeasuring means in a manner to deposit articles in said chute at periodic intervals;
manually operable gate means controlling access to said chute and including a lever mounted for pivot- 9 ing movement between a closed and an open posimember to pivot to a non-blocking position tion; wherein said stop is out of engagement with said a program roller mounted for rotating movement and l ver,
driven y said time measuring means d Program 4. An apparatus according to claim 3, including elecroller having a cam surface formed thereon; and i ll Operated, dibl i li means;
a Control member mounted for pivoting movement switch means forming a portion of a circuit controland having a Cam follower engageable with Said ling operation of said signaling means and having cam surface for cooperating therewith to pivot said an actuating member engageable by a portion of b Said control member having a portion said pivotally mounted control member; and formmg a l eilgageablfa wlth Sald lever 10 portions on said cam surface cooperating with said ner to retain said lever in the closed position for cam follow at for permitting movement ofsaid com manual Operation thereof I trol member in a manner to actuate said switch 2. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said lever included by said manually operable gate means has a key formed on one end thereof, said key having a portion formed to at least partially close said chute when said lever is in a closed position.
3. An apparatus according to claim 1,
said cam surface having a portion formed to cooperate with said cam follower for pivoting said control member to a blocking position wherein saidstop means for operating said signaling means.
5. An apparatus according to claim 4, including latching means operated by manual movement of said lever to the open position,
said latching means pivoting said control member and maintaining said control member in a pivoted position wherein said cam follower will not cooperate with said switch-actuating cam portions,
engages said lever to prevent manual operation thereby preventing operation of said signaling means thereof; and once said gate means has been manually operated said cam surface having another portion cooperating during the pill-taking interval.
with said cam follower for permittingsaid control