US 3831807 A
An assembly for use in a vending machine in the form of a tray of modular structure for dispensing bagged or packaged products that are loaded into the top of the tray and dispensed by being moved horizontally off of the front edge of the tray and dropped by gravity into an area accessible from the exterior of the dispenser. The tray modules are constructed of transparent material such as clear plastic to enable all of the products to be readily observed through an enlarged window in the front door of the cabinet thereby providing a vending apparatus that enables customer observation of the bagged or packaged products and the highly attractive packages or wrappers normally provided on such products. Each tray module includes a supporting surface on which the articles to be dispensed rest and conveying means including article-engaging fingers or tabs which move the articles off the end of the supporting surface so that they will drop downwardly into an access area. The vending machine includes multiple tray assemblies with the two uppermost tray assemblies being swingable downwardly to an inclined position when they are pulled outwardly at the front of the machine to facilitate loading. Each tray module includes an electrically operated power unit that is automatically engaged when the tray assembly is moved to its operative position and automatically disengaged when the tray assembly is moved to its extended or loading position.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 Deaton et al.
 v 3,831,807 1' Aug. 27, 1974 VENDING MACHINE DISPENSING MODULE TRAY  lnventors: James M. Deaton; Clarence M.
Deaton, both of Conway, Ark.
 Assignee: Vendmart, Inc., Corpus Christi,
 Filed: Mar. 28, 1972 ] Appl. No.: 238,816
Primary Examiner-Robert B. Reeves Assistant ExaminerFrancis J. Bartuska Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Clarence A. OBrien; Harvey B. Jacobson  ABSTRACT An assembly for use in a vending machine in the form of a tray of modular structure for dispensing bagged or packaged products that are loaded into the top of the tray and dispensed by being moved horizontally off of the front edge of the tray and dropped by gravity into an area accessible from the exterior of the dispenser. The tray modules are constructed of transparent material such as clear plastic to enable all of the products to be readily observed through an enlarged window in the front door of the cabinet thereby providing a vending apparatus that enables customer observation of the bagged or packaged products and the highly attractive packages or wrappers normally provided on such products. Each tray module includes a supporting surface on which the articles to be dispensed rest and conveying means including article-engaging fingers or tabs which move the articles off the end of the supporting surface so that they will drop downwardly intolan access area. The vending machine includes multiple tray assemblies with the two uppermost tray assemblies being swingable downwardly to an inclined position when they are pulled outwardly at the front of 'the machine to facilitate loading. Each tray module includes an electrically operated power unit that is automatically engaged when the tray assembly is moved to its operative position and automatically disengaged when the tray assembly is moved to its extended or loading position.
3 Claims, 14 Drawing Figures PAIENIEB mazmu BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Fieldof the Invention The present invention generally relates to vending machines and more particularly a modular tray construction for supporting a plurality of different bagged or packaged products for selective discharge to an access area with the modular tray construction enabling the vending machine to be adapted for dispensing various products having different dimensional characteristics as well as products having different characteristics of rigidity and stability such as bagged potato chips, popcorn and other products which in and of themselves are not stable but provide a relatively stable product when bagged or packaged.
2. Description of the Prior Art Vending machines for dispensing products in containers, packages, bags and the like are generally well known and may be categorized into the type in which a product is placed in a compartment or chamber that is part of or is supported from a conveying apparatus which is operated in increments of movement to sequentially discharge the products and the type in which bagged products are provided with a hole or other attachment means on one end thereof with the hole being positioned over a supporting rod or the attaching means being attached to a supporting mechanism carried by a supporting rod or overhead conveying device so that the products may be discharged sequentially from the end of the rod or overhead conveying device.
Known vending machines, while being successful to a degree, have certain features that have prevented their use to the extent that they should. For example, where individual compartments are employed on a conveying device, the number of items that can be supported in a given space is quite limited so that the capacity in the number of products and the different types of products that can be supported in one vending machine is quite limited thus requiring excessive service time in replenishing the supply of products especially in high volume installations. When the bagged products have a hole punched in the sealed end or a separate attaching tab of the like is provided thereon, it is necessary that the person placing products in the vending machine physically attach each product to a supporting rod or other supporting mechanism for .the products thereby requiring that each product be individually grasped and aligned with a supporting rod, supporting clip, hook or the like thereby considerably increasing the time and labor necessary to fill the vending machine inasmuch aseach product has to be accurately aligned with and engaged with its supporting mechanism. Also, presently available vending machines are quite restricted in their flexibility of use in that the dimensional characteristics of the compartments for receiving the bagged or packaged products are fixed and cannot be altered and the orientation of the overhead supporting rods or other supporting con-' SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION An object of the present invention is to provide a vending machine having a modular tray construction with each module including a supporting surface on which articles or products to be dispensed are supported together with a mechanism to move the products or articles longitudinally along the supporting surface and off the discharge end thereof so that the products or items will be positioned in an access area.
Another object of the invention is to provide a vending machine in accordance with the preceding object in which the tray modules are constructed of transparent plastic material or the like to enable an observer to see through the tray modules to enable better observation of products in the vending machine. 1
A further object of the present invention is to provide a vending machine employing a plurality of tray assem' blies each including a plurality of modules which are movable horizontally into and out of an openable front in a cabinet to facilitate loading of products into the vending machine with the upper two tray assemblies also being pivoted downwardly to a vertically inclined position to further facilitate loading of the two uppermost tray assemblies.
Yet another object of the invention is to provide a vending machine in accordance with the preceding objects in which each tray module is provided with a drive assembly that is automatically connected to a source of electrical energy and disconnected therefrom in response to movement of the tray assembly.
Yet a further object of the present invention is to provide a vending machine in which each tray module may be separated by a partition into two distinct dispensing modules to facilitate dispensing of relatively small packaged products and the like thereby increasing the flexibility of use of the vending machine by enabling certain tray modules to be adapted for dispensing products having different physical dimensions.
Yet another important object of the present invention is to provide a vending machine which includes a plurality of tray assemblies oriented in horizontal, vertically spaced position with each tray assembly including a plurality of modules each of which includes a pair of plastic chain conveyors with certain of the plastic links including tabs or fingers which engage the products being dispensed for moving the products along the surface of the tray module. The discharge end of each tray module is downwardly slanted and the article-engaging fingers or tabs move beyond the discharge end of the tray module to assure that the product will be discharged from the tray module. Also, the discharge end of a tray module is spaced from the front transparent window on the vendingmachine a distance sufficient to enable the product to drop downwardly between the discharge end of the tray module and the front of the vending machine with the bagged products actually leaning against the surfaceof the transparent window at the front of the vending machine as they are discharged from the tray module to guide the products downwardly into an access area in the form of a trough, chute or the like. 7 i Still another important object of this invention is to provide avending machine which is relatively simple in construction, trouble-free in operation, dependable,
flexible in use and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, operate, service and maintain.
These together with other objects and advantages which will become subsequently apparent reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the vending ma chine with the front access door in open position and the lowermost tray assembly pulled outwardly to a horizontal loading position.
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of one of the tray modules of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a discharge end view of a tray assembly illustrating the supporting track structure therefor.
FIG. 4 is an elevational view of the upper tray assembly illustrating the uppermost tray assembly pulled outwardly and tilted downwardly to its loading position.
FIG. 5 is a view similar to FIG. 4 but illustrating the lower tray assemblies with the lowermost tray pulled outwardly to horizontal loading position and also illustrating-the trough into which items are discharged for access by a customer.
FIG. 6 is a transverse, sectional view of a tray module illustrating the structural details thereof and the association of the conveyor components with the supporting surface for the products.
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of one of the plastic chain links in the conveyor assembly illustrating the article engaging finger or tab formed thereon.
FIG. 8 is an elevational view of another embodiment of the vending machine illustrating a different type of tray module.
FIG. 9 is an enlarged elevational view of the tray module illustrating the association of the conveyor structure.
FIG. 10 is a plan view of the construction of FIG. 9.
FIG. 11 is a transverse sectional view of the tray module.
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the tray module without the conveyor assembled therewith.
FIG. 13 is a perspective'view of one of the plastic chain links with the article-engaging finger or tab thereon.
FIG. 14 is a perspective view of one of the plastic conveyor chain links without the article-engaging finger or tab thereon.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now specifically to the drawings, the vending machine is generally designated by reference numeral 20 and includes a vertically oriented cabinet structure 22 supported from a floor or other supporting surface by suitable legs 24 and including side walls 26, a top wall 28, a rear wall 30 and a front wall 32. The bottom may be closed to provide an enclosed cabinet with the front wall 32 including an enlarged access opening 34 that is closed by a door. 36 hingedly attached to one edge of the opening 34 and provided with a lock mechanism 38 to releasably retain the door in closed position. The door 36 is provided with an enlarged transparent panel 40 to enable observation of the products being dispensed by the vending machine 20. Also, the lower portion of the front wall 34 is provided with a horizontally elongated opening 42 having a gravity operated closure door 44 thereon that is pivotally supported from its top edge by a hinge 46 to enable access to a trough 48 which defines an access area 50 inwardly of the front wall 32. The closure door or panel 44 may be of transparent material to enable observation of items in the trough and the lower edge thereof is sufficiently above the bottom of the trough to enable the door or closure panel 44 to be swung inwardly after a product has been discharged into the trough 48 or in the access area 50 to enable a person to obtain the article purchased from the vending machine.
In addition, the front wall 32 is provided with a panel 52 which includes instructional indicia, coin receiving slots, coin return slots and selector buttons having indicia thereon enabling a person to select a desired product. The details of the control panel 52 form no particular part of the present invention in that conventional coin receiving mechanism and selector buttons and related control structures are employed.
Supported within the cabinet is a plurality of horizontally disposed vertically spaced tray assemblies generally designated by 54 with each tray assembly being constructed from a plurality of tray modules 56 as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 6. The tray modules may vary in number for each tray assembly. and the number of tray assemblies may also vary. Practically, it has been found that four tray assemblies as illustrated in FIG. 1 provide a sufficient volume of space to receive an adequate quantity and different types of bagged or packaged products. Also, each tray assembly includes five tray modules 56 as illustrated in FIG. 3.
Each of the tray modules 56 includes an elongated bottom member 58 having a centrally disposed depending longitudinal rib 60 thereon. The forward end of the bottom panel 58 is provided with a downwardly and outwardly inclined flange or lip 62 extending across the width of the bottom panel 58 and forming a discharge guide for articles or products being discharged from the end of the tray module. Extending upwardly from the bottom member 58 is a pair of longitudinal flanges 64 and 66 which are in spaced parallel relation to each other and oriented generally centrally of each side half of the bottom member 58 as illustrated in FIG. 6. The flanges 64 and 66 terminate in a horizontal flange 68 and 70 which are parallel with the bottom member 58 but spaced therefrom with the inner edges of the flanges 68 and 70 being spaced from each other and the outer'edges of the flanges 68 and 70 terminating in an upwardly extending'wall 72 and 74. The walls 72 and 74 are disposed inwardly of the side edges of the bottom member 58 and the upper edges of the walls 72 and 74 terminate in an outwardly extending flange 76 and 78 which are generally in parallel relation to the bottom member 58 with the outer edge of the top flanges 76 and 78 generally being in alignment with the outer edges of the bottom member 58 so that when adjacent tray modules are brought into registry or engagement with each other, the edges of the flanges 76 and 78 and the edges of the bottom member 58 will abut as illustrated in FIG. 3. The inner end of the tray module is provided with a rear wall member 80 terminating in a rear top flange 82 which is' continuous with the top flanges 76 and 78. Also, the bottom member 58 and the rear wall 60 is provided with a groove 84 formed therein in which a partition wall may be positioned in order to divide the tray module into two separate areas. Without the partition, as illustrated in FIG. 6, the upper surfaces of the horizontal flanges 68 and 70 form a sup porting surface for bagged or packaged articles such as potato chips and the like in which the lower end of the bags will slidingly engage and be supported by the surfaces 68 and 70 and bridge the space therebetween. When a partition is used in the groove 84, each of the surfaces 68 and 70 forms a support surface for packaged or bagged articles thereby enabling smaller bags or smaller packages to be dispensed sothat the tray module may be used to dispense a single row of relatively large bagged or packaged articles and two rows of smaller bagged or packaged articles. For example, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn and other similar rather bulky packaged products may be dispensed without using a partition and relatively small bagged or pack aged articles such as salted peanuts, crackers, cookies, candies, mints, gum and the like can be dispensed from two rows in the same module when the partition is used.
An endless conveying chain generally designated by numeral 86 is mounted for movement around each of the flanges 64 and 66 with the conveyor chain being constructed from a plurality of plastic links 88 as illustrated in FIG. 7. Certain of the links 88 are provided with laterally extending rods 90 that support an elongated vertically extending rod 92 which forms a finger or tab for engaging the products to be dispensed. As illustrated, the links 88 with the finger 92 thereon are spaced from each other by a plurality of standard plastic chain links which are hingedly interconnected and snapped together due to the characteristics of the plastic material so that the chain conveyor 86 may move around end sprocket gears 94 each of which has an upwardly and downwardly extending axle 96 thereon that is received in a bearingplate 98 having a notched end 100 therein removably receiving the bearing shaft or stub 96 with the plates 98 being spaced vertically from each other to stabilize the sprocket gears 94. As illustrated, the conveyor chain 86 is positioned below the flange 68 or flange 70 with the inner run of the conveyor having its fingers or tabs 92 extending upwardly alongside of the respective flanges 68 and 70 and the fingers or tabs 92 on the outer run of each conveyor 86 are disposed alongside of the walls 72 and 74 respectively and within'the confines of the outer edges of the flanges 76 and 78 and the outer edges of the bottom 58 so that there will be no interference between adjacent tray modules when they are arranged in side by side abutting relation as illustrated in FIG. 3. Each tray module includes a drive motor assembly 102 which is in the form of two synchronized motors that drive the inner sprocket gears at the same speed and in timed relation. If desired, a single motor may be driven with the two sprocket gears being driven therefrom in apositive relationship in the event a partition tray is-not being used. However, with the two individual motors, the conveyors 86 may be individually activated as when a partition is being used and the tray module, in effect,
becomes two independent dispensing trays. The use of minates above the inclined flange 62 with the flange being in the same orientation so that articles discharged therefrom will drop onto the inclined surface 62. Also, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the fingers or tabs 92'move outwardly beyond the edge of the flanges 68 and 70 respectively thereby assuring that the article supported on the supporting surface defined by the flanges 68 and 70 will be completely carried and moved longitudinally off the end of the surfaces 68 and 70. The rear of the tray module includes male plug-in assemblies 104 (FIG. 2) for electrically connecting the drive motor or motors 102 to a female electrical socket assembly 106 (FIG. 4) mounted transversely to the rear wall 30by a channel structure 108 or the like so that as the tray assemblies are moved inwardly in a horizontal direction, the electrical connection with the motor drive units 102 will be automatically connected so that the conveyor chains 86 may be appropriately driven when the appropriate electrical circuit is energized.
The tray assembly 54, constituting five or any other suitable number of tray modules is supported for horizontal sliding movement by a pair of inwardly facing channel-shaped tracks 110 mounted on the opposite side wall 26 of the cabinet 22 with the channel-shaped tracks 1 10 receiving correspondingly shaped side members 112 secured to the tray assembly 54. This construction is substantially the same as that employed as a drawer slide employed in file cabinets and the like and enables the tray assembly to be moved longitudinally outwardly of the track 110 and the cabinet so that a substantial portion of the tray is accessible for loading articles or products 114 thereon. The drawer slides may be of the type employing anti-friction wheels or rollers associated therewith or may be friction slide types with the structure being sufficiently rigid and having sufficient strength characteristics to effectively support the tray assembly 54 and the articles positioned therein and also sufficiently strong to withstand other forces which may be encountered such as when a person loading the tray assembly may accidentally lean on or otherwise apply forces to the tray assembly.
The two uppermost tray assemblies include an arcuate track 116 that communicates with the side tracks 110 with the side track 110 being broken into segments with the shorter segment 118 being pivoted about a pivot pin 120 so that it follows the arc of the track 116 when the slide member 112 has been moved outwardly to a position with the innermost end or end roller thereon in alignment with the arcuate track 116 so that the track segment 118 and the associated tray assembly 54 may pivot downwardly to an upwardly inclined position as illustrated in FIG. 6. The track structure 116 prevents the tray assembly S4 from being pushed inwardly until the track segment 118 is in alignment with the track 110 and the structure also prevents the tray assembly from being pivoted downwardly until the tray assembly has been moved completely to its outermost position at which time the inner end of the drawer slide The tray modules are supported from the slide members 112 in any suitable manner such as by angle irons extending therebetween with the angle irons being rigidly affixed to the depending ribs 60 in any suitable manner or secured to the bottom panels 58 in any suitable manner to provide a rigid tray assembly. One of such cross members for supporting the tray modules is designated at 122 in FIG. 1. Thus, each tray assembly is a rigid unit and 6565a removedfrbr ri the cabinet in the same manner that a drawer is removed from a file cabinet by disconnecting the drawer slide assemblies. This enables the tray assemblies to be removed for replacement if desired or enables repair of any components that may be necessary and facilitates maintenance and repair of the operating structure of the invention and also provides access to the interior of the cabinet.
In this construction, the downwardly inclined sur faces 62 may be provided with an indicia bearing area 124 on which the price of the product in that particular tray module may be indicated or in the event the tray module is divided into two separate compartments by a partition, then two separate indicia bearing areas may be provided. The indicia may be provided on a tab or panel that is glued onto or otherwise secured to the flange 62. Also, the various panels and flanges are constructed of transparent plastic material which provides a see-through feature which enables an observer to see a substantial quantity of the products 114 supported in the tray assemblies which not only provides an attractive display of the products but also enables observation of the quantity of the various products left in the machine.
ln constructing the tray modules, the bottom panel 56 may be in the form of two panels split longitudinally along the rib 60 and secured together either by separate fastener elements or by a bonding material. When separate fastener elements are employed, the two components of the tray module may be replaced. Also, the rib 60 may be omitted in certain areas to receive the transversely extending support members with the support members and tray modules being secured together in any suitable manner with suitable fasteners. This arrangement enables flexibility in construction of the various tray assemblies in that in some instances, larger tray modules may be provided in certain of the tray assemblies and smaller tray modules provided in the other tray assemblies thus enabling more flexibility in the physical dimensional characteristics of the products dispensed by the vending machine.
In use, the bagged or packaged products are loaded into the tray assembly from the top in the spaces be tween the wiper fingers or tabs 92. The product 114 is moved forward by the chains 86 rotating around the sprockets which are powered by the synchronized counter-rotating drives 102. The product is then dispensed when reaching the forward end and slides down the positioning lip 62 into the delivery area of the machine. The front door 36 prevents tilting of articles as they are dispensed thus assuring that they will be discharged into the access area.
Also, a T-shaped insert 69 may be supported in the groove 61 at the upper surface of the rib 60 to provide a continuity of the supporting surfaces 68 and 70 and retain the wiping tabs or fingers 92 in their vertical up right position (see FIG. 6). Of course, this T-shaped member 69 would not be used if a partition is inserted in the groove 61 and the groove 84. The rear wall component 80 assures that the complete space can be loaded inasmuch as it defines the rear surface of the rearmost space with the wiping tabs or fingers 92 stopping with a finger positioned at the reannost point of travel and a finger positioned at the forwardmost point of travel outwardly beyond the ends of the surfaces 68 and 70.
Referring now specifically to FIGS. 8-14, another embodiment of tray module is disclosed and is designated by numeral with the tray module being assembled with similar modules into a tray assembly in generally the same manner as in the structure disclosed in FIGS. 1-7 with the tray assembly then being supported in the cabinet 142 on horizontal tracks 144 in the form of drawer slides with the uppermost tray assemblies being swingable downwardly to an inclined position when they are pulled outwardly of the cabinet 142 when the front door 146 is opened. The module 140 is driven by synchronized drive motors 148 which receive their power in the same manner as in FIGS. l7.
In this embodiment of the tray module 140, a bottom member 150 is provided with upstanding wall panels 152 and 154 which are substantially parallel with each other. Centrally of the bottom panel 150, there is a de pending rib 156 with a vertical groove 158 being provided in the upper surface of the bottom panel 150 to receive a longitudinal vertical partition wall (not illustrated). The rear of the tray module includes a rear wall 160 having a vertical slot 162 formed therein which extends up through a horizontal top flange 164 to receive the partition. The front edge of the bottom 150 is provided with a downwardly angulated lip 166 which forms a positioning guide for articles being dispensed from the module. As illustrated in FIG. 9, the front edge of the walls 152 and 154 incline inwardly slightly as at 168 to further eliminate any possible interference with the movement of the articles or products as they are discharged to the access area.
Each side wall 152 and 154 is provided with a pair of integral flanges 170 and 172 which project laterally outwardly from the respective side walls and which are in vertically spaced parallel relation. The flangesv 170 and 172 are rigidly interconnected by a vertical connecting flange 174 located centrally between the side edges of the horizontal flanges 170 and l72-so that each wall 152 will be continuous and rigid but the flanges 170 and 172 form an inwardly opening and an outwardly opening longitudinal slot-like space for receiving the inner and outer runs of a plastic conveying chain generally designated by numeral 176. The plastic conveying chain 176 is constructed from a plurality of plastic chain links 178 and a plurality of modified plastic chain links 180 which include a vertically elongated rod 182 rigid therewith but offset therefrom by connecting portions 184. The upper and lower ends of the rod 182 are provided with laterally extending fingers or wiper tabs 186 which project horizontally from the top and bottom ends of the rod 182. The plastic conveyor chain 176 is entrained over sprocket gears 188 and 190 which may be constructed of plastic material with the sprocket gears 190 being driven through shaft assemblies 192 from the motors 148. When the conveying chains 176 are assembled around the sprocket gears 188 and 190, the links 178 and 180 are received between the flanges 170 and 172. The offset connecting portions 184 project beyond the flanges so that the rod 182 will move longitudinally outwardly ofthe outer edges of the flanges 170 and 172 and longitudinally along the inner surfaces of the respective walls 150 and 154. The inner end of the module is provided with openings 194 through which the rod 182 and wiper fingers or tabs 186 move from exteriorly of the tray module to the interior thereof. As illustrated in FIG. 1.0, the wiper fingers 186 or tabs at the opposite sides of the tray module are in alignment thus providing spaces for receiving bagged or packaged products to be dispensed 196 such as bagged potato chips, pretzels and the like.
In both forms of the tray module, the basic structure is of clear plastic molded material and bagged or packaged products may be effectively dispensed by the carrier links, fingers or wiper tabs which move forward with the chains that are powered by synchronized rotating drives.
This unit is constructed to enable staggered orientation of the tray modules vertically in relation to each other inasmuch as the path of movement of the carrier links externally of the tray requires that the trays be spaced laterally from each other. However, by orienting the external path of movement of the carrier links and adjacent trays in vertical alignment with each other, the tray modules can be vertically staggered in such a manner that while the carrier links will not interfere with each other, the paths of movement of these components will overlap vertically thereby enabling less lateral dimensions to be used by nesting the paths of movement of the vertical rod and laterally extending fingers or tabs in adjacent tray'modules. The rear wall of the tray module may be so constructed that it will form a rear surface for the rearmost product to be inserted and this may be accomplished by a spacer on the rear wall or construction of the rear wall so that the center at least will be spaced in a manner so that it will not be engaged by the fingers but will serve as a positioning device for the rearmost product when the tray assemblies are being loaded. Also, in this form of the invention, the tray modules may be independently supported by a drawer slide structure associated with a channel-shaped recess 153 formed on the bottom exterior of each of the walls. The rear end of each drawer slide could be supported on the rear wall of the cabinet and the front end thereof supported by vertical support members at the front of the cabinet thus enabling each tray module to be individually moved outwardly for loading thus further increasing the flexibility of function of the vending machine to enable it to effectively vend various products.
, What is claimed as new is as follows:
1. In a vending machine for dispensing articles, a tray module for supporting a plurality of articles to be dispensed, said tray module comprising a supporting surface on which a plurality of aligned articles are positioned, conveying means mounted on said tray module,
,including vertically elongated fingers sprocket gear means at each end of the tray module,
said finger means including a carrier link in said chain with a projecting finger disposed between adjacent articles without supporting the articles thereby enabling sliding engagement of the articles with the supporting surface, the forward edge of the tray module being provided with a downwardly inclined lip for guiding said plurality of articles when they are dispensed, said tray module including an electrical plug-in assembly connectible to a cooperating electrical assembly in the vending machine to operate the conveying means when said assemblies are in electrical contact, said tray module including upwardly extending wall structures at the outer edges of the supporting surface, and said conveying means including a second chain identical to the first-mentioned chain, and having plural finger means cooperating with the first-mentioned finger means to form pockets for receiving articles therein, said supporting surface being generally horizontally oriented and divided into two horizontal components, said chains being disposed below the supporting surface and extending through and above said supporting surface, said upwardly extending wall structures further having slots therein and said tray module further having a longitudinal groove centrally thereof so that either (A) a partition may be received in said groove and slot combination to divide the supporting surface into two separate supporting surfaces, or (B) a filler strip may be inserted in said groove and slot combination to form a continuation of said supporting surfaces and said strip being disposed between the fingers on the two chains for retaining the fingers in upright positions.
2. The machine of claim 1 wherein each module is constructed of transparent plastic material with the machine including a plurality of vertically disposed tray assemblies thereby enabling the products in the various tray assemblies to be observed. I
3. The machine of claim 2 wherein the uppermost tray assemblies are supported by track means including an outward pivot means to enable the uppermost tray assemblies to pivot downwardly to an upwardly inclined position to facilitate loading thereof.