US 3831476 A
Apparatus and means are provided for the handling of hard shell pharmaceutical capsules comprising means for supporting each capsule one at a time at a fixed work station, a set of probes spaced in a pattern generally parallel to the capsule length axis and arranged to reciprocate on a radius to and from the supported capsule so as to vent or perforate the side wall of the capsule and thereby produce a corresponding pattern of vent holes, and means for removing the vented capsule from the work position.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Noren et al.
[ CAPSULE HANDLING APPARATUS  Inventors: Oscar B. Noren, Grosse Pointe Assignee:
Farms; Carl C. Garland; Edmund J.
Kwarsick, both of Detroit, all of Mich.
Parke, Davis & Company, Detroit, Mich.
Feb. 12, 1973 Int. Cl B26d 7/10, B26f 1/24 Field of Search 83/1, 2, 170, 30; 53/329,
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS Chandler 83/170 Aug. 27, 1974 3,466,842 9/1969 Bailey 53/329 3,538,677
Ill/1970 'Amoroso et al. 53/329 X Primary ExaminerDonald R. Schran 5 Claim, 5 Drawing Figures PATENTEDAUBZYW 188L476 sum 1|! 2 PAIENTEnnuczmn mraura 1/ PIE 3 SUMMARY AND DETAILED DESCRIPTION This invention relates to improved apparatus and means for venting filled hard shell capsules. More particularly, the invention relates to such apparatus and means for making a pattern of spaced openings in the side wall of the capsule.
The prior art has provided means for producing impressions or welded points in hard shell capsule medicaments for the purposes of marking or sealing the capsules. However, the art has lacked means for venting capsules, particularly for venting capsules in a uniform manner and in high volume.
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide means for venting filled capsules.
It is a further object of the invention to provide apparatus and means for venting filled capsules with an array of perforations according to a predetermined pattern.
It is also an object of the invention to provide means for perforating the side wall of filled capsules in a vertical or axial line providing a number of holes, preferably of uniform size and evenly spaced, so that there is open access for release of the capsule content to the exterior of the capsule.
It is a still further object of the invention to provide apparatus and means for the mass production of vented filled capsules.
These and other objects and advantages of the invention will be seen from the following description of the invention with reference to the drawing in which:
FIG. 1 is an elevational view of the apparatus;
FIG. 2 is a view of a segment of the apparatus, partly broken away, taken on line 2-2 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3'is an enlarged view of a supported capsule with venting probes in the work position;
FIG. 4 is a similar view of a capsule at the work position partly cut away to show the relative position of the venting probes; and
FIG. 5 is a diagrammatic view of sector wheel drive means for the loading magazine of the apparatus.
One preferred form of the apparatus of the invention includes transport elements of a capsule handling machine known in the art as a Type 8 filling machine. For purposes of illustration, and without limitation to any specific concepts, the invention will be described with reference to this preferred apparatus. As shown in FIG. 1, the apparatus includes a hopper 10 for a supply of filled joined capsules 11, having an open base to receive a magazine 12 adapted to reciprocate up and down in the hopper for loading capsules into a battery of 7 drop tubes 13. Each drop tube has a gate 14, a gate opening 15 and access slot 16. The gate is provided with a knee l7 projecting for contact with a gate lifter l8. Mounted at one side of the magazine is a bracket from which is supported a slide or ball shelf 21 comprising a carrier 21a and a hangar 21b. On the underside of the hangar are fixedly mounted a pair of support shelves 22 and 23 mutually spaced at a predetermined distance by threadably engaged tie rods 24. Support shelf 23 carries a heat block 25 and thermostat 26 in circuit with a suitable electrical power source (not shown). Mounted parallel and adjacent to each drop tube on the working side of the heat block is a spaced array or set of thermal probes 27, seven probes in each set. Each probe set is mounted on a base 28 which is removably attached to the heat block 25. The points 27a of the probes [particularly in what are referred to herein as the retract (FIG. 1) and work (FIG. 3) positions] are located on a line parallel to the central axis of the respective drop tube 13 and are coplanar with or centered on the associated gate opening 15 and access slot 16.
Support shelf 22 carries a wheel mount 29 and guide wheel 30. The guide wheel is arranged for rolling contact with a bar cam member 31 mounted on a pivot 32 in a fixed position which is adjustable to other positions by means of the slotway 33 and lock unit 34 threadably engaged on a base mounted stud (not shown). The guide wheel 30, support shelves 22 and 23, heat block 25 and probes 27 remain in fixed position relative to each other, and in turn the guide wheel is held in position or biased against the cam 31 by a coil spring 35 held under tension between studs 20a and 22a extending from bracket 20 and support shelf 22.
The drive means for the apparatus shown in FIG. 5 includes a sector wheel 40 having an oscillatory drive (not shown) geared for driving a vertical sector rack 41 and integral guide plate 42 supported in a stationary rack housing 41a and for also driving a horizontal sector rack 44 which supports and drives a push-blade 45. Guide plate 42 is rigidly connected to the magazine 12 by means of a bracket 43.
OPERATION In its operation the apparatus performs a sequence or cycle of steps: capsule loading, feeding and indexing the capsule at the work station, piercing the capsule at the work position, retracting the probes, and removing the vented capsule. To set up the operation, a supply of filled joined capsules is added to the hopper 10, the heat block 25 is activated, and the drive means is started for oscillation of the sector wheel 40 at a steady rate of about 50 cycles per minute. The thermostat 26 is set for an operating temperature range sufficient to permit easy penetration of the probe ends 27a without causing cracking, undesirable heat damage, discoloration, etc., of the capsule wall. The adjustment of the cam 31, as will appear from the following description, is made so that the probe ends 270 stand clear of the capsule l 1 (FIG. 1) in the retract position but lie within the capsule interior (FIG. 3) in the work position. In a typical operation using No. 1 capsules, for example, the shift between the retract and work positions conveniently is about A inch.
The sector whee (FIG. 5), in its upstroke, causes the vertical rack 41 and plate 42 to move upward and the horizontal rack 44 and push blade 45 (mounted on rack 44) to move from left to right. On the downs'troke the action is reversed. Since the magazine 12 is attached to the plate 42 by the bracket 43, the magazine also reciprocates as an integral part with the plate and, in fact, carries with it the bracket 20, shelves 21, 22 and 23, heat block 25, probes 27 and guide wheel 30.
The guide wheel 30 reciprocates vertically between the limit positions illustrated in FIG. 1 in solid and dotted outlines. It follows the cam surface (being biased against the surface by the coil spring 35) between these two positions and correspondingly governs the lateral position of the elements hanging from the ball shelf 21, viz.: the wheel mount 29, shelves 22 and 23, heat block 25, thermostat 26, and probes 27. The action is such as to cause the probes to enter into and to retract from the respective drop tubes 13 in phase with the upstroke and,
downstroke, respectively. On the upstroke the magazine 12 engages the capsules in the hopper and is filled. The raceway 46 is located so that it supports the capsules in the drop tube 13 as illustrated in FIG. 1 for indexing purposes. Also on the upstroke, as indicated, the heat block 25 is moved inwardly by the cam action so that the probes are caused to move to the working position at which they enter the side wall of the capsule located at the work station (FIG. 3); also at this stage, the gate'lifter l8 releases so that the gate 14 retracts onto and holds the adjacent indexed capsule. On the downstroke the magazine moves to the position illustrated in FIG. 1 in which position the probes are retracted and the gate lifter 18 contacts the gate knees 17 thereby releasing the perforated capsule. The latter capsule, supported by the raceway 46, provides support for the adjacent capsule above. Also in the downstroke phase the push blade 45 retracts to make way for the mentioned newly perforated capsule to seat upon the raceway. To complete the cycle, during the next upstroke the push blade moves from left to right and pushes the vented capsule from the raceway onto the collect tray 47. The collected capsules are further processed as desired. The venting operation can be set up for a different venting pattern by replacing the'probe set 27 and base 28 for each drop tube. Also, the operation can be set up for capsules of a different size by changing the magazine assembly and the probe sets, in this case also making any necessary readjustment of the probe clearance, raceway, etc.
For purposes of the invention, the size and shape of the probes 27 and the relative position of the probe ends 27a in each probe set can be varied widely.
FIGS. 3 and 4 show one embodiment preferred for size No. 1 capsules, with seven probes (equal in size and circular in cross-section) in an axial line, i.e., located in a line which is substantially parallel to the central axis of each capsule at the work station. The location is such that during the perforating step, at least 3 probes intersect the double wall portion (FIG. 3) and the remaining probes penetrate into the body portion; for No. capsules a 4-probe set is preferred having 2 probes located for penetration of the double-wall portion. A similar arrangement for the probe pattern is a so-called zig-zag configuration wherein adjacent probes are offset on opposite sides of the line of perforation illustrated in FIG. 4. Another arrangement which is suitable is a series of knife blades arranged in an axial line such that, for example, for a combination of three such blades corresponding axial vent slits are produced of which the middle vent extends across the bottom or cutting line" of the capsule cap whereas another of the slits extends across the cutting line of the capsule body.
The probes and probe ends may take any of various shapes such as cylindrical with convex or concave tapered points, rectangular, conoidal, pyramidal, etc. The penetration size, i.e., lateral or diametral size of the probe effective in shaping the perforation produced, conveniently may be in the range from about 10-35 mils. The size of aperture produced depends on the mentioned penetration size of the probe and also on the probe temperature and the duration of the perforating motion. In this regard, the heat block 25 preferably is maintained in the range from about 260270 F. and the probe ends 27a are maintained at temperatures in the range from about to 210 F., preferably at about 200 F. The perforating motion is preferably accomplished in a period of about one-third to one half seconds corresponding to a work frequency of about 50 cycles per minute. Operation at slower rates tends to be inefficient whereas at higher rates there is a tendency for the capsule walls to break or crack.
While the invention in capsule handling apparatus and means has been described in considerable detail, it will be realized by those skilled in the art that wide variation in such detail can be made without departing from the spirit of the invention as claimed below. It is therefore intended that the claims which follow should be interpreted to cover the invention as described and any such variation.
1. Apparatus for venting hard shell capsules each comprising telescopically joined cap and body parts with overlapping open ends providing an envelope with a tubular side wall having a double wall thickness in the overlapping portion and each being filled with capsule fill material, the apparatus comprising at least one feed member for feeding filled capsules one at a time to a work station characterized by a guide member for supporting capsules one at a time at a fixed work station,
a venting unit comprising a plurality of thermal probes adapted in synchronous relation to reciprocate to and from a work position adjacent the work station, the working end of each of the probes of said position relative to each supported capsule extending inside the side wall, and the working ends being evenly spaced apart on or about a line substantially parallel to the central axis of such capsule,
and transport means for moving the venting unit to and from the work position in phase with the feeding cycle.
2. Apparatus according to claim 1 in which the guide member is a tube apertured to receive the probe ends.
sponding number of venting units.