US 3833031 A
A rotary container filling machine of the constant level type and which includes a series of radially arranged filling nozzles mounted above a supporting table for the containers which are to be filled for vertical slide movement relatively between raised, inactive positions to the containers and lowered, active or filling positions. The filling machine is adapted for vacuum, gravity or combined vacuum-gravity operation as desired and two distinct, readily interchangeable types of filling nozzles are provided the machine for the purpose of permitting the conversion from one filling mode to another. For this purpose, also, the filler machine is provided with a supply tank for the liquid which is to be introduced into the containers and which is elevationally adjustable to the filler table between a raised position thereto for gravity and combined vacuum-gravity filling and a lowered position thereto for vacuum filling.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States" Patent [191 Fechheimer Sept. 3, 1974 FILLING MACHINE FOR CONTAINERS  Inventor: Paul R. Fechheimer, Worcester,
 Filed: Sept. 11, 1972  Appl. No.: 287,695
Related US. Application Data  Division of Ser. No. 85,442, Oct. 30, 1970,
 US. Cl 141/84, 141/145, 141/367  Int. Cl B65b 3/04  Field of Search 141/62, 116, 120,144,
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,534,997 12/1950 Smith 141/84 2,663,480 12/1953 De Back 2,839,094 6/1958 Reno .1: 141/84 Primary Examiner-Houston S. Bell, Jr.
Attorney, Agent, or FirmJohn K. Crump [5 7] ABSTRACT A rotary container filling machine of the constant level type and which includes a series of radially arranged filling nozzles mounted above a supporting table for the containers which are to be filled for vertical slide movement relatively between raised, inactive positions to the containers and lowered, active or filling positions. The filling machine is adapted for vacuum, gravity or combined vacuum-gravity operation as desired and two distinct, readily interchangeable types of filling nozzles are provided the machine for the purpose of permitting the conversion from one filling mode to another. For this purpose, also, the tiller machine is provided with a supply tank for the liquid which is to be introduced into the containers and which is elevationally adjustable to the tiller table betweenia raised position thereto for gravity and combined vacuum-gravity filling and a loweredposition thereto for vacuum filling.
4 Claims, 11 Drawing Figures FILLING MACHINE FOR CONTAINERS This is a division of application Ser. No. 85,442, filed /30/70, now abandoned.
This invention relates to a container filling machine of the constant level type and more particularly concems a filling machine wherein the filling is controlled by individual filling nozzles which are adapted to be inserted axially into the containers for filling and wherein vacuum, pressure or combined vacuum-pressure principles may be selectively employed to effect a filling flow of liquid to the containers.
Filling machines of the present type are used to effect the constant level filling of bottles, cans, jars and like containers with a wide variety of liquids and particularly those liquids having a low to moderateviscosity and which are relatively quiescent or are of a still nature as opposed to liquids such as carbonated soft drinks and beer which contain large amounts of dissolved gas and which are relatively unstable.
Various forms of vacuum and/or gravity type filling machines have been developed and put in use over the years for carrying out-the filling of containers with socalled still" liquids, and reference is made to US. Pat. Nos. 2,660,357 to Fechheimer, 3,037,536 to Fechheimer, et al, and 3,195,585 also to Fechheimer for typical examples of these prior filler constructions.
While for the most part commercially satisfactory and acceptable, these prior devices were not particularly well adapted to the handling of more than a limited number of different types of containers and, in many instances, in operating these prior devices with containers of a style ortype other than that for which the machine was specifically designed, it was difficult to attain a high degree of filling accuracy in the containers and/or to maintain a satisfactory level of operational efficiency. Also, in many of these prior fillers, such change parts and modifications as were provided to enable the handling of differing types and/or styles of containers in the machine were not readily susceptible of being incorporated therein with the result that the changing of the filler from one run of container to another often entailed considerable down time and corresponding loss of production. y
The principal object of the present invention is the drainage liquid. The manifold is divided bya horizon tal, conical separator plate into a lower liquid chamber and an uppervacuum chamber with the conduits of each separate pair thereof connected with a respective one of the chambers to supply liquid and vacuum to the nozzles as and when required in the filling cycle. A vertically extending liquid supply pipe is connected at its upper end to the bottom of the liquid chamber while the lower end of the pipe is connected to an elevated liquid supply tank through suitable conduiting or piping. The vacuum chamber is connected by way of a vertical conduit in the top of the manifold to a vacuum source and is further connected with a collector or overflow tank for the liquid entering the vacuum side of the filler from the containers through an overflow or return pipe disposed centrally withinthe liquid supply pipe in communication with a drain: hole in the center of the conical separator plate, there being conduiting for connecting the lower end of the return pipe to the overflow tank.
The liquid supply tank is mounted for vertical adjustable movement between a raised position above the containers when in filling positions. in the filling head of the machine and a lowered position coincident with or below the level of the containers in the head whereby provision of a filler machine wherein the aforegoing shortcomings and drawbacks of existing fillers are essentially overcome or greatly minimized through an improved arrangement and construction of the various filler machine parts and mechanisms and wherein such parts and mechanisms as are present combine to provide highly efficient and accurate filling results with a relatively wide range. of different styles and sizes of containers and with several types of liquids,
The above and other more specific objectives and advantages of the invention are achieved in a filling machine which, in a preferred embodiment, includes a rotary filling head having a plurality of filling nozzles mounted circumferentially around the periphery of a horizontally extending, container support table for vertical movement between normally raised. inoperative positions to the table and lowered, operative positions thereto. The nozzles are individually connected to a sealed supply manifold located in the center of the table in an elevationally lowered position with respect to the filling nozzles by pairs of flexible conduits which are angled upwardly from the manifold to the nozzles to enable the liquid to be supplied to the containers either with or without a gravity assistas desired.
The filling stems or nozzles have one of two different basic constructions, depending upon whether the machine is to be operated as a gravity or combined gravity-vacuum system or as a vacuum system and it is a particular feature of the invention that these two types 'of nozzles include parts which are common to one another and that quick type clamping devices are employed with both types of nozzles for holding the parts in assembled relation and for effecting necessary couplings with the liquid supply and vacuum lines so as to permit the conversion of the machine from vacuum to gravity or vacuum-gravity operation to be effected in a highly convenient, extremely rapid fashion.
The foregoing objects and-advantages, together with others, will appear hereinafter or become apparent to the skilled worker in the art to which the invention relates, are accomplished by the exemplary embodiments of the invention which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. 1
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is an elevational view of a container filling machine which incorporates the improvements of the invention, certain parts of the filler being omitted for clarity of illustratiom' FIG. 2 is an elevational view showing the general paths of liquid and air flow in and between the filling machine and the external sources of liquid and vacuum supply provided for the filler;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged elevation of the manifold structure employed in the filler between the individual filling nozzles thereof and the liquid and vacuum sources, with the manifold being partially broken away to reveal details of interior construction;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one of the slidable carrier portions of the filling noules in mounted relation to a pair of rods of the nozzle supporting cage;
FIG. 5 is an elevational view of one of the sleeve-type filling nozzles which are employed in the filler of the invention for effecting the filling of a container with liquid, parts of the noule being broken away and shown in section to reveal details of interior construction;
. FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the lower tip portion of the filling nozzle of FIG. 5, showing the particular relationship of the O-ring sealing member to the vacuum tube of the nozzle;
FIG. 7 is a side view of an alternate or open type of filling nozzle which may be used in the filling machine of the invention;
FIG. 8 is an enlarged, longitudinal sectional view of the vacuum body portion of the filling nozzle of FIG.
FIG. 8a is a cross-sectional view of the alternate type of filling nozzle, taken on the lines 8a--8a of FIG. 8;
F IG. 8b is a further cross-sectional view on the lines 8b8b of the nozzle of FIG. 8; and
FIG. 9 is an enlarged longitudinal section of a check valve which is employed in the individual liquid supply lines when using the open-type filling nozzles.
Referring now to the drawings and to FIG. 1 in particular illustrating the general form of a filler machine embodying the present invention, a filling head 2 is supported in a base structure 4 for rotatable movement about a vertical axis through the center of the filler. Filling head 2 has a horizontally disposed filler table 6 constituting a support for the containers which are to be filled, herein shown as bottles B, and to which is secured an upstanding ring or cage structure 8 forming a support for a series of identically constructed, individual filling spouts or nozzle assemblies 10. The nozzle assemblies are arranged in equi-circumferentially spaced relation to one another around the cage struc' ture as is conventional to providea series of individual filling stations for the bottles or other containers which are to be filled. As will be explained in detail hereinafter, the nozzle assemblies 10 are supported for vertical slide movement in cage structure 8 and in the course of moving circumferentially with the filler table during rotation thereof slide vertically in a predetermined or pre-established manner successively from and between a raised or inactive position above the bottles and a lowered or active position in which the nozzle assemblies are engaged with the containers for filling action.
While not shown, the filler head has generally conventional type starvvheel devices associated with it for delivering bottles or other containers onto the table 6 for filling action by the nozzle assemblies 10 and for removing the bottles therefrom when filling is completed, these feed and discharge devices being driven in synchronous relation with the rotary filling head to provide a smooth, continuous flow of bottles through the filling machine.
In accordance with the invention, the filler machine is adapted to effect the filling of the containers either by gravity or combined gravity and vacuum means or by vacuum means alone as may be desired or selected to best meet the particular requirements of the containers and/or liquid being handled in the filler in any given operating run thereof, and it is a particular feature of the present filler that relatively rapid and convenient procedures are provided for converting the machine from one such filling mode to another.
Before adverting to the details of filler construction, however, it is well to first consider the overall arrangement of the liquid and vacuum system with which the filler is associated. For this purpose, attention is directed to FIGS. 2 and 3 wherein it may be seen that a sealed supply manifold 28 having a main bowl-like body portion 30 and a cover or top closure 32 is v mounted in the center of filler table 6 as by a number of mounting studs 34 aflixed vertically to the table and extending through registering openings in the flanged periphery of body portion 30 and of cover or closure 32 for receiving wing nuts 36 or other threaded fastening means. Suitable gasketing is interposed between the mating edge portions of the body and closure of the manifold so as to seal these members to one another upon the wing nuts being tightened to the studs.
The manifold is divided internally by a conical separator plate 40 fitting horizontally between body portion 30 and cover 32 into a lower, liquid chamber 42 and an upper, vacuum chamber 44. Liquid chamber 42 is in communication with each of the individual nozzle assemblies 10 via a corresponding one of a series of flexible conduits 46 attached at one end to an individual one of a series of nipples 48 located around the bowl of the manifold and attached at the other end to a nipple-like fitting 50 on each of the nozzle assemblies. Vacuum chamber 44 is connected to each of the nozzle assemblies through a similar series of flexible conduits 52 connected at one end to an individual one of a series of fittings 54 tapped into the cover of the manifold and attached at the other end to a second nipple-like fitting 56 on each of nozzle assemblies 10.
These several attachments of the flexible liquid and vacuum conduits 46 and 52 respectively to the separate parts of manifold 30 and to the individual nozzle assemblies are preferably effected through quick release, sanitary type clamps 58 of the design and construction set forth in applicants co-pending patent application Ser. No. 72,920, filing date Sept. 17, 1970, now abandoned and which has the same assignee as that of the instant invention. As fully shown and described in such patent application, these clamps are in the nature of a resiliently flexible C-ring having an internal locking or clamping groove for receipt of like shaped, tapered shoulders or flanges especially provided or formed integrally with members or parts which are to be connected and having an arcuate extent well in excess of 180 whereby to define or present opposed gripping arms or segments cooperating to yieldingly, firmly engage over and between such shoulders or flanges upon the clamp being mounted circumferentially thereonto. ln the construction illustrated, the necessary flanges or shoulders are, in the instance of the flexible conduits 46 and 52, formed as a part of a separate fitting 60 attached to the opposite ends of each of the conduits 46 and 52, while the companion flanges or shoulders therefor on the nozzle assemblies and manifold are formed integral with the aforesaid nipples 50 and 56 of the nozzle assemblies and with the fittings 48 and 54 of the manifold. Conventional O-rings are interposed between the engaging surfaces of the flanges in each of the joints to seal the members or parts to one another when the clamp is in place. These clamps are particularly advantageous because not only may they be installed and removed in an extremely rapid manner thereby to facilitate any necessary servicing or replacing of the conduits as well as the nozzle assemblies and the manifold but also, as explained in greater detail in the aforementioned patent application, the joint which results from these clamps may be effectively cleaned without being dismantled through a simple flushing of the conduits with suitable cleaning liquids. The overall cleanability of the filler is thusenhanced.
The liquid chamber 42 of the manifold is adapted to be supplied with liquid through a pipe or conduit 62 supported vertically in the center of base structure 4 in endwise coupled relationship with a hublike member 64 which surroundsan opening 66 in the bottom of manifold bowl 30. The lower end of conduit 62 is affixed to a support bracket 68 secured to a horizontal bottom plate 70 of filler base structure 4 through a conventional rotary joint 72 which includes a suitable packing gland to seal the pipe to the bracket while permitting the pipe to rotate therein. An inlet tee 74 is attached to the supply pipe below the rotary joint with the tee being coupled, in turn, through its lateral branch 74a to a liquid supply line 76. The supply line may be connected directly to customers storage tank or other supply source, but rather than this the invention contemplates providing a separate liquid supply source for use with the filler machine and which is designed to be adjusted vertically to provide a gravity assist to the liquid as and when desired in the operation of the filler. This separate source may take the form of a portable stand 78 which includes a main column or beam 80 extending vertically from a wheel carrying base plate 82 and a tank or reservoir 84 supported on the column by a U-section slide bracket, not shown. Suitable means, of either a mechanical or hydraulic nature is incorporated within the stand for adjusting the bracket vertically of the column as desired to correspondingly vary the elevational position on the column of the supply tank.
The aforesaid liquid inlet line 76 connects to a fitting 88 in the bottom of the tank through a vertical pipe or line 90 with the tank bottom preferably being tapered downwardly to the fitting to facilitate the drainage of the tank at the conclusion of a run of any particular liquid. The tank also has a suitable inlet fitting which is adapted to be coupled to a supply line from customer's storage tank not shown to supply liquid to the tank as and when required during operation of the filler with a float or other control means being provided within the tank to maintain a substantially constant level of liquid therein during operation.
With further reference now to the vacuum portion of the manifold. there is connected to the center of the enclosure or cover portion 32 of the manifold a conduit 92 which extends vertically to the canopied superstructure 94 of the filler machine. Conduit 92 is stationary and is coupled to the manifold cover 32 in direct communication with vacuum chamber 44 through a .conventional, sealed rotary joint 96 similar to the joint 72 described previously between liquid supply pipe 62 and mounting bracket 68 so as to permit the manifold to rotate relatively of the conduit 92 while maintaining the parts in sealed relation to one another. The upper end of the conduit 92 is attached by way of a series of additional, interconnected conduits in the canopy and in an enclosed side portion of the filler machine to an overflow tank 98 which is associated with the portable liquid supply mechanism 78, being mounted on the base plate 82 thereof. Tank- 98, as will be more particularly explained hereinafter, serves as an air trap or air-liquid separator for the liquid entering into the vacuum side of the filler and'is connected through a top plate or cover 100 to the intake side of a vacuum pump 102 via a conduit 104, the pump for convenience being mounted on a plate 106 extending from the side of base structure 4. In this way, the vacuum chamber is connected to the vacuum pump and with the latter in operation a vacuum will be drawn in the tank above the liquid level therein and also in the vacuum chamber of the manifold. This, in turn, results in a vacuum being drawn in the filling nozzle spout assemblies through the flexible conduits 52.
Vacuum chamber 44 has an additional connection with the overflow tank and whice is designed to direct into the overflow tank that portion of the liquid which is drawn back out of the containers through the vacuum lines in the final stages of the filling cycle while permitting such air as is drawn out of the containers with the liquid to pass back into the tank through the conduit arrangement previously described. For this purpose, a liquid return tube or conduit 112 is extended axially the length of the liquid inlet conduit 62 with the upper end of the tube 112 in a flush position with respect to a suitable drain hole 110 in the center of the separator plate 40. The lower end of tube 112 is journaled within a suitable bearing (not shown) in the vertical leg portion of tee fitting 74 and is coupled directly to an elbow 124 which is sealingly secured to the tee fitting as by another of the C-clamps 58. Elbow 124 is secured to the vertical leg of the tee fitting and conneets also with a conduit 128 which, in turn, is connected with a vertical conduit 129 leading to a fitting in the bottom of the overflow tank to thereby establish a liquid flow path between the vacuum chamber and the overflow tank.
At this point, it will be further observed that another line or conduit 130 is connected into the bottom of tank 98 through another fitting and leads to the intake side of a liquid pump 132, the discharge side of which is connected to a line 134 which empties into the supply tank 84 of portable stand 78.
With the above arrangement, it will be seen that any liquid which is drawn into the vacuum lines from the individual nozzle or stem assemblies will, in passing into the vacuum chamber, drop onto the separator plate and flow downwardly .therealong into center drain hole 110, while any air or gas which is brought into the chamber with the'liquid will tend to rise in the chamber and to flow out through the line 92. The'liquid and air or gas are thus enabled toflow separate paths in passing to overflow tank 98 and there is as a result of this a reduced turbulence in the overflow liquid and a reduced time during which the air and liquid are exposed to one another in the confined space of the flow conduits. This aids materially in reducing the volume of air or other gas present in the overflow liquid at the point where it enters the overflow tank. At the same time, the liquid in passing onto separator plate 40 distributes itself as a thin film and, inasmuch as vacuum chamber 44 is under subatmospheric pressure, such gas as is dissolved in the liquid will tend to be forced out of solution and to pass into the conduit 92 for eventual exhaustion from the system by vacuum pump 102. In this way, a relatively efficient. initial air separating action is effected in the overflow liquid and which action as later supplemented by the action in the overflow tank at the liquid-gas interface therein results in a negligible amount of air remaining in the liquid at the point where the latter is returned to supply tank 84. Generally to insure proper air-liquid separation in the vacuum chamber, the diameter of the upper conduit 92 must be somewhat larger than that of return conduit 1 12. Good results have been obtained by providing the conduit 92 with a diameter twice that of the return conduit 112.
The conduits 130, 134 and pump 132 are provided, of course, to periodically divert overflow liquid from the overflow tank 98 to the main supply tank and, in the usual instance, overflow tank 98 will be provided with a float or other liquid level sensing means for automatically starting the pump when the liquid rises to a given level in the overflow'tank and for stopping operation when a lower level is produced. A check valve 136 is provided in the line 134 to prevent liquid from flowing into the overflow tank from the supply tank.
With regard now to the details of construction and operation of the nozzle assemblies, the filler table 6, as previously mentioned, has a cage 8 attached thereto. This cage includes a lower ring 270 connected with the table by a number of support posts 272 mounted vertically between the table and the ring 270 and removably secured to the table and ring as by cap nuts threaded onto the ends of the posts. An upper cage ring 274 is supported above lower ring 270 by a series of rods 276 and 278 located in sets around the circumference of the cage structure and which, as in the case of posts 272, have threaded ends fitting through the rings to receive cap nuts which releasably secure the rods in place. A set of the rods 276, 278 is provided for each of the nozzle assemblies and they are arranged in equi-circumferentially spaced relation to one another around the cage as the nozzles have a uniform pitch spacing to one another. The radially outer of the rods of each set, viz, rod 276, has a carrier 280 of the nozzle assemblies slidably mounted thereonto and serves to guide the carrier for vertical sliding movement in the cage structure while the other or inner of the rods on each set, viz, rod 278, rides against a vertical edge of the carrier in a manner as will appear to prevent the carrier and the nozzle assemblies as a whole from rotating relatively of the rod 276.
The carriers 280 are identically constructed of an upper and a lower bearing block 282 and 284 respectively and which are connected with a desired spacing therebetween by a pair of the plates 286 secured to the opposed sides of the blocks as by screws. Blocks 282,
284 are provided with generally circular cut-outs along table is controlled through means of a cam follower roller 290 rotatably mounted to the radially outer edge or wall of the upper of the bearing blocks 282 and which, in moving around the pitch circle of the filler table with its associated nozzle assembly, is adapted to selectively engage a main cam plate 292 positioned along the front of the filler machine and/or a full 360 stern support ring 294 located outside of and in generally concentric relation to cage structure 8. Cam plate 292 serves to control the nozzle assembly for movement relatively into and between raised, inactive positions to the containers and lowered, active positions thereto and, as shown herein, is provided with a generally trapezoidallike shape, being characterized by relatively steep or abrupt vertical edges on either side of an upper hori zontal edge, is dependingly supported from a horizontal plate 296 in superstructure 94 of the filler machine frame by a pair of threaded mounting rods 298 located one to each end of cam plate 292. Rods 298 are journaled in the plate 296 through conventional bearing means and are in threaded engagement with bracket means 300 on the cam plate so as to provide the latter a conventional screw type adjustment for permitting the elevational position of the cam plate in the filler to be varied. This adjustment is adapted to be effected manually through a hand wheel 302 carried on a shaft 304 which is joumaled in the aforesaid plate 296 and which has keyed thereto a sprocket 306 connected by an endless precision chain 308 to like sprockets 310 on the upper ends of mounting rods 298.
The stem support ring 294 acts as a stop for the cam follower rollers whereby to limit the carriers 280 for slide movement downwardly in the cage structure for purposes of controlling the axial penetration of the filling nozzles into the containers or, in the case of the absence of a container, to prevent the assemblies from dropping fully downwardly in the cage structure and causing the lower bearing block 284 to strike the lower ring of the cage structure. The ring 294 is dependingly supported from the superstructure of the filler by a number of threaded mounting rods 312 joumaled in the aforesaid plate 296 of the superstructure, there being a total of four rods to support the ring, with the rods located one in each quadrant of the ring. Rods 312 are threadably engaged within bushings 314 on ring 294 to provide the latter a conventional screw type adjustment which enables the ring to be adjusted vertically in the filler as desired. For effecting this adjustment, there is provided a second hand wheel 316 carried on a shaft 318 joumaled in the plate 296 and which has keyed thereto a sprocket 320 connected by another precision chain 322 to like sprockets 324 attached to the upper ends of the mounting rods 312.
Generally speaking, the invention contemplates the use of two different types of filling heads, one of which has a sleeve type construction and is adapted for gravity and/or combined vacuum-gravity filling, and the other of which has an open type construction stem and is adapted solely for vacuum filling. The carrier is adapted to permit either of the heads to be used therewith with a minimum amount of changeover time being required to convert from one type of head to the other and the heads themselves include some common parts and are so assembled in the tiller as to permit rapid conversion and changeover as and when required or desired.
Reference is made first to the sleeve-type filling head and particularly to the embodiment thereof which is shown in H65. 5 and 6 of the drawings. In general, this fonn of filling head comprises a relatively large diameter stern casing 326 which attaches directly to the stem support-plate 288 of a carrier 280 as by a cap nut threadably connected to a stud-like projection 328 fonned integral with the upper end of the casing and which fits upwardly through an aperture in plate 288. Stem casing 326 has a center chamber 330 in communication with the aforementioned fitting or nipple 50 provided the noule assemblies for coupling with the liquid inlet conduits 46 and which is connected therewith by one of the aforesaid C-clamps 58. Connected axially to the lower end of casing 326 is an elongated filling tube or stem 332, the chamber-of the casing being enlarged to receive a boss on the tube and the casing and tube being formed integrally with tapered, mating attachment flanges to permit the coupling to be effected by another of the C-type clamp devices 334. An O-ring or other siding means is provided between the boss and an interior shoulder in the chamber 330 to seal the tube 332 to the casing when the C-clamp is in place.
The tube 332 defines an axial flow passage in the filling head for the liquid and projects relatively axially inwardly of a container when the head is lowered into an active or filling position. Normally, the tube is of a length as will position the lower end or tip of the tube in the upper end portion of the container being filled under the conditions described and it will be appreciated therefore that the length of the stem is a function, among other things, of the height of the containers being filled in any given run of the filler machine. In actual practice and where containers of widely varying height are to be handled in the machine, several different stem lengths would be provided to provide the particular tip positioning desired in the container in any given run of the machine.
Stem 332 carries a plug-like element 336 in its lower end or tip and which is provided with a series of relatively large side openings 338 for accommodating liquid flow into a container from the stem. The ends of plug 336 are expanded radially as respects the stem to which it is attached with the lower expanded portion of the plug being provided with a circumferentially extending groove 340 which seats an O-ring 342, the function of which will become readily apparent hereinafter.
The filling tube or stem 332 has further mounted thereon a vertically slidable vacuum body and tube assembly indicated as a whole in the drawings by the reference numeral 344. Assembly 344 comprises an enlarged, cylindrical vacuum body 346 having an axially extending bore 348 for receiving the tube or stem 332 and which is open to an enlarged recess 350 in the upper end of the body, as shown. A separate cover 352 is provided the vacuum body, being releasably connected thereto by another of the C-type clamps fitting over and between mating beveled flanges on the cover and on the upper end of the body. The vacuum body 346 is slidingly engaged with the filling tube or stem through structure which includes a centrally sliding seal 354 which fits in the recess 350 with the inner lip-like edge 356 of the split seal segments engaging the tube 332. An O-ring 358 is fitted between the mating outer edge portions of the seal segments to seal the body it- 1 self to the cover 352 when the C-clamp is in place.
The axial bore 348 of vacuum body 346 communicates laterally via a port 362 in the body to one of the aforesaid nipples 56 provided the filling nozzles for coupling to the aforesaid flexible vacuum conduits from the center manifold.
Mounted axially to the lower end of the vacuum body 346 is a vacuum tube 364 of a slightly larger inside diameter than theoutside diameter of the filling tube or stem 332. Tube 364 has a flanged upper end and is secured through such flange to a mating flange on the lower end of the vacuum body by a still further of the C-type clamp devices. As in the instance of the coupling between the filling tube and the stem casing, the flanged end of the vacuum tube is embossed and an O- ring 366 seats against a shoulder in the counterbored lower end of the vacuum body to provide a liquid seal betweenthe tube and such body when the C-clamp is applied.
The' vacuum tube 364 terminates above the free, lower end of the filling stem 332 and is normally maintained by the weight of the combined vacuumbody and tube assembly 344 or by a spring in an axially lower slide position on the stem with the tip of the tube in an engaged closed position against the aforesaid O-ring 342 carried in the plug 336 in the stem. The O-ring 342 as thus positioned provides a valve action between the liquid and vacuum tubes 332 and 364 respectively, whereby to control the opening and closing of these members and thereby control the flow of liquid through the nozzle assemblies. The O-ring 342 further serves as a retainer for holding the vacuum body and tube assembly 344 onto the liquid tube or stem and to this end the O-ring is sized, as respects its inside diameter, relatively of the groove 340 so as to require some stretching of the O-iing to enable its installation, thereby to insure the O-ring being retained tightly on the plug. At the same time, however, the O-ring should not be stretched to the extent as would preclude the relative ready removal of the O-ring from the groove when O-ring replacement is required or when removal of the vacuum tube from the filling stem is desired.
The outside diameter'of the O-ring must, of course, be related to the vacuum tube diameter in away as will produce the aforesaid closing engagement of the lower end of the vacuum tube by the O-ring when the vacuum tube is in the normal, lower axial slide position on the filling stem. Over and above this, however, the vacuum tube 364 itself generally will be made as large as possi ble in outside diameter while still providing clearance with the sides of the containers when inserted axially thereinto, allowing for the normal tolerances in container neck openings which have been established in the container industry, and for this reason it is preferred that O-ring 342 be further dimensioned such that its outside diameter, as measured with the O-ring installed in the groove and in a stretched condition, is at a value which lies between the inside and outside diameters of the vacuum tube.
The O-ring as thus dimensioned and positioned on the filling stem acts further to shroud the end of the vacuum tube from the containers during the lowering of the noule assemblies to filling positions thereto. This is desirable in that it protects the sealing edge of the vacuum tube from possible damage in the event of any misalignment between the containers and nozzles. Such damage is to be avoided, of course, as it would invariably impair the sealing action between the C ring and the vacuum tube and cause a malfunctioning of the nozzle assemblies.
.The filling head portions of nozzle assemblies 10 are each further provided with a resiliently deformable disc-like member 368 which is designed to seal the container to the nozzle assemblies 10 when the latter are in filling relation to the containers. Disc member or seal .368, and which in the usual instance is composed of soft, resilient material such as rubber for example, is carried on vacuum tube 364 and is preferably backed by a stiffener washer 370 to prevent the seal from deflecting in its unsupported section when in engagement with a container. The lower face of disc 368 may be provided with a Teflon liner if desired so as to afford the seal a measure of protection against the action of the product being filled and/or to minimize adhesion between the seal and the container at the point in the filling cycle when the nozzle assemblies are retracted from the containers.
The seal itself is in frictional sliding engagement with vacuum tube 364 through O-ring means or other conventional sealant means carried in suitable grooves in the bored portion of the seal and thus may be adjusted axially of the vacuum tube 364 to control the axial projection of the vacuum tube into the container during the filling cycle. The extent of this projection into the container of the vacuum tube, as will be explained in more detail hereinafter, controls the height within the containers to which the liquid will be filled and thus it may be appreciated that the axial location of sealing member 368 on the vacuum tube 364 is a critical matter and considerable accuracy and care are necessary to provide the exact fill, height required in any particular type of container. In order to facilitate the accurate setting of the seal on the vacuum tube, it is contemplated as a still further feature of the invention to provide for use with the vacuum tube a special spacer tube 372 which has a snapon fit with tube 364 and which when assembled to the tube provides a stop or seat thereon for the sealing member 368. Spacer tube 372 preferably takes the form of a longitudinally split, C- section type plastic extrusion such as the type commonly used as wear strips on conveyor guide rails, for example, and which has sufficient resiliency as will permit its ready application to and removal from the vacuum tube by manual means. When this tube is in place, the container seal 368 is adjusted axially of the vacuum tube to a position against the lower, free end of the tube whereby to provide an exact setting of the seal on the tube 364 and a corresponding exactness in the length of the portion of the vacuum tube which will enter the container when the latter is in filling position against the seal. A number of tubes of different predetermined lengths generally may be provided for use where containers of varying heights are to be handled in a given filler machine so that when changing to a run of containers of any given height the set of spacer tubes which have been designed for such containers may be readily assembled onto the vacuum tubes.
In the operation of the nozzle assemblies as equipped with the aforedescribed sleeve-type filling heads, the bottles in initially feeding onto the rotary filling table along what may be termed as the front of the machine through the action of suitable feed means align vertically with a corresponding one of the nozzle assemblies which as they are rotated by the table to pitch positions along the front of the machine are brought to and held momentarily in raised, non-obstructive positions to the incoming containers by the action of the cam follower rollers 290 engaging the upper dwell portion of the main cam plate 292. The nozzle assemblies are then caused to be lowered into filling positions with respect to the containers by the cam follower roller 290 riding off the upper dwell section of main cam plate 292 and moving downwardly along the inclined, trailing edge portion of the cam plate. Assuming that the bottle is correctly indexed to the nozzle assembly, as the nozzle assemblies are lowered the tip portions of filling stem 332 and vacuum tube 364 enter the mouth of the container and progress thereinto as a unit to the point where the mouth of the container engages the conthe filling stem 332 for filling action. At this point, and
if it be assumed that the liquid supply tank 84 is elevated on the vertical column to a position where it is above filler table 6 so as to provide gravity flow of liquid to the containers and that the vacuum pump 102 is in operation, air will start to be exhausted from the container through vacuum tube 364 concurrently as liquid commences to fill thecontainer by gravity flow thereinto through the filling stem 332 and the filling ports 338 in plug 336. Air and liquid interchange in the container continue in the manner indicated to cause the container to progressively fill with liquid to the level at which the liquid closes the end of the vacuum tube 364. Upon this occurrence, liquid flow to the container is abruptly slowed and only so much additional liquid is admitted to the container from the filling stem as will result in the air in the head space of the container compressing to the point where the head space pressure balances the head on the liquid and to replace the slight amount of liquid as will be drawn out of the container through the vacuum tube. The filling of the container in the manner described generally is correlated with the rotation ofthe filler table in a way as will result in any given filling nozzle and container moving somewhere in the range of from 270 to 290 around the pitch circle of the table in the time required for the nozzle assemblies 10 to move from a fully raised to a lowered or filling position to the containers and for the liquid to have filled the container to the level at which the container and liquid pressures are in balance as indicated. In any event, after the liquid has risen to above the end of the vacuum tube and liquid flow to the container is interrupted, the nozzle assembly 10 is caused to retract from the container by the engagement of the cam follower roller 290 with the leading or forward edge of cam plate 292 and which is angled upwardly in the abrupt fashion as described for the trailing edge of the cam plate. In this withdrawal or retraction of the nozzle assembly, the vacuum tube 364 remains stationary to the container during the brief period which is required for O-ring 342 on the filling stem 332 to engage the tip of the vacuum tube at which point the tubes 332 and 364 move as a-unit out of the container as the nozzle assembly is raised by the cam roller 290 riding up the leading edge of the main cam plate 292. The container is free to be moved off the table as soon as the lowermost portion of the nozzle assembly has cleared the upper end of the container but normally some slight further travel is provided the container on the pitch of the table between the position at which this occurs and the position of the container at which it enters a pocket of the discharge wheel. Generally a total pitch travel of say 10 to 20 is provided the containers from the time the retraction of the nozzle assemblies is initiated to the entry of the container into the discharge wheel, making the total pitch travel of the container from the point on the table where it is aligned below a nozzle assembly to the point where it enters the discharge wheel of from 280 to 310. Adding another to of pitch travel for the container to move into filling position from the infeed wheel, a complete filling cycle typically may or will entail a pitch travel of anywhere from 285 to 320.
In the course of the withdrawal of the noule assembly from the container, it will be understood that the liquid level in the container will drop somewhat to compensate for the liquid displacement in the upper end or neck portion of the containers of the plug member in the tip of the liquid tube so that the final liquid level in the container will be slightly below the level initially produced therein. Generally, the liquid drop off from one container to the next will be substantially constant and it is only necessary then to attain a final, desired level of liquid in any particular type of container to determine for such container the axial position on the vacuum tube of the sealing member which will provide the initial fill height of liquid in the container as will give the desired final liquid level when the plug is retracted fully from the container. Once this setting is determined, a set of spacer tubes of the requisite length may then be prepared so that in running this tppe of container the tubes could be employed with the nozzle assemblies to give the control desired over liquid fill height.
With regard now to the embodiment of filling head hereinbefore termed as of the open type construction or design, it is seen by reference to FlGS. 7 and 8 of the drawings that the head in this instance comprises an upper stem casing 406, a reversing vacuum body 408 mounted axially to the lower end of the casing, and a liquid filling tube or stem 410 secured axially to the lower end of the vacuum body. Stem casing 406 is identical of construction to the casing 326 of the sleeve type nozzle and which, in fact, may be the same member as that used in the latter type of filling head. The casing 406 is attached to the stem support plate 288 of a carrier 280 in the same fashion as described earlier for the casing 326 and, as in the previous instance, is also coupled through a side fitting thereon and another of the resilient C-clamp means to one of the aforesaid flexible liquid inlet lines 46 from the center supply manifold.
The vacuum body 408 has a generally tubular construction and is formed at its upper end with a bevelled attachment flange 412 which mates with and is secured by another of the resilient C-clamp devices to a like flange on the lower end of casing 406, with an O-ring being interposed between the engaging faces of the flanges to provide a liquid seal therebetween when the C-clamp is in place. The lower end of vacuum body 408 has a similar flange 414 formed thereon and which is coupled through a still further of the resilient C-clamps to a mating flange 416 provided on the end of a ferrule 418 which is attached to the upper end of the filling tube or stem 410, there being another O-ring between the flanges 414 and 416 to seal the vacuum body 408 to the ferrule 418 and to the filling stem 410.
The vacuum body is formed intermediate of its ends with a core 420 around the center of which are provided a number of through axial passageways 422 defining paths of flow for the liquid from casing 406 to filling stem 410. The core is further provided with a blind center axial passageway 424 communicating through a radial port or passageway 426 with a nipplelike fitting 428 associated with the side of the vacuum body and communicating also with a vacuum tube 430 extending axially the length of the filling stem. The tube 430 is dependingly supported from the core through a tubular fitment 432 mounted onto the upper end of the vacuum tube and which is supported with its upper end in the passageway through means of a spider 434 located interiorly of the vacuum body at the juncture of the body with the ferrule of the liquid stem. The spider which is drilled as at 436 to provide a multiplicity of liquid flow passages therethrough seals against an interior shoulder 438 provided in the counterbored upper end of the ferrule 418 with the tubular member itself being bonded in a counterbored center portion of the spider. An Q-ring 440 seating in an external groove on the upper end of the fitment 432 seals the latter in the passageway. A
The fitting 428, of course, is adapted to be attached to one of the flexible vacuum conduits 52 leading from the center manifold 30 with the attachment being effected as in all the previous instances through a suitable dimensioned one of the C-clamp devices.
The vacuum tube extends to just below the lower end of the filling stem and has an annular plug member 442 fitted thereto for closing off the end of the filling tube below a series of relatively small diameter ports or openings 444 provided in the tip of the fitting tube, as shown.
As in the instance of the sleeve type filling head, the open-type construction, further includes a container sealing member 446 of rubber or other soft or pliable material fittedto the filling stem along with a stiffening washer to sealingly engage the containers when the head or nozzle assembly proper is lowered to a filling position to the container. The seal is fixed axially of the stem to provide a desired vertical spacing between the seal and the open tip of the vacuum tube and a desired fill height in the containers by a split, resilient spacer tube 448 such as described earlier and which has a snap-on engagement with the filling stem for convenience of assembly and dis-assembly.
With the open type filling head, the filling tube is at all times open to liquid flow and it is necessary therefore that this type of head be used for vacuum filling only, as any gravity assist to the liquid would result in liquid flow through the head whether or not enaged for filling action with a bottle. Also, in order to prevent liquid flow back through the liquid supply conduits and the possible attendant entry into these lines of air during the retraction of the noule assemblies from the containers after a filling cycle has been completed, it is necessary that the liquid supply conduits 46 each be provided with a check valve or other one-way flow control means. in the illustrated construction, these check valves as shown at 450 are incorporated between the nipples 48 of the supply manifold and the ends of the liquid supply conduits. Valves 450 comprise an annular housing 452 formed at one endwith a beveled attachment flange 454 which receives and is coupled by a C- clamp to one of the outlet nipples 48. The opposed end of housing 452 receives an attachment ferrule 456 having a flanged portion 458 mating with and connected by another of the C-clamps to the previously described fitting 60 on the end of a corresponding one of the liquid conduits 46. Liquid flow in check valve 450 is controlled by a ball member 460 located in the center of the housing above an annular ball seat 462 of Teflon-or other like material and which has an associated keeper 464 fitting in an annular groove 466 in the seat. The ball 460 is free to lift from seat 462 to enable one-way flow of liquid through the valve in a direction from the manifold nipple to the supply conduit and in lifting from the seat moves between a set of three guide pins 468 mounted in outlet ferrule 456 along the outer periphery of the inner face thereof, being limited for upward travel within the pins by a keeper pin 470 inserted transversely through the outlet ferrule.
From time to time, as for example in cleaning or flushing the liquid supply conduits 46, it is desired to effect a reverse flow of liquid in the lines and in the outlet nipples. For this purpose, the valve 450 further includes an operating plunger 472 slidably mounted in the side of the valve body for selective engagement with the ball element 460. The plunger is carried within a closed sleeve-like member 474 which is sealed to the valve body through an O-ring or the like and which is open at the outer end to expose the end of the plunger for its actuation, there being a riblike projection 476 on the plunger to limit its outward travel in the housing responsive to the outward bias of an operating spring 478 mounted coaxially about the plunger. When pushed fully inward in the sleeve 474, the plunger will engage and cause an unseating of the ball element thereby to permit a reverse flow of liquid through the check valve when and as desired. The ball element will fall back onto the seat to provide the flow control function desired or intended for it when the plunger is released for return action under the bias of the spring.
ln the operation of this embodiment of nozzle assembly. and assuming that the supply tank 84 is adjusted relatively of the vertical column 80 of the stand 78 to an elevational position which places the liquid level in the tank below the filler table so as to allow the filling action to proceed entirely through vacuum action, containers in feeding onto the table along the front of the machine in the manner described previously herein are engaged for filling action by a nozzle assembly moving into a lowered position to the table by the coaction of the main cam 292 and cam follower roller 290. Air from within the container initially starts to be withdrawn therefrom through'the vacuum tube of the filling stem and when the pressure in the container has been dropped to a predetermined level below atmospheric, usually 2 to 4 inches of Mercury, depending upon the nature of the container, liquid will commence to flow through the nozzle assemblies and into the container. Air withdrawal through the vacuum tube and liquid flow in any particular nozzle assembly continues unabated until such time as the liquid rising in the container closes the end of the vacuum tube. At such time,
liquid flow into the container continues'but at an appreciably reduced rate and while the nozzle assembly may, and usually will, remain in filling position to the container for a slight additional period of time prior to the cam follower roller which is associated with the filling stem engaging the main cam to cause the nozzle assembly to retract from the container, this added liquid passes out of the container through the vacuum tube, leaving the liquid level generally coincident with the terminus of the vacuum tube. 1
In this retraction or elevation of the nozzle, the liquid in the filling ports of the tube acts through surface tension to close the tube and the ports remain closed until the nozzle is again engaged with a container and the assembly and because of this undesirable splashing and turbulence of the liquid at the start of the filling cycle are eliminated.
It will be further observed that with the open-type of filling head, the absence of a container on the table when the nozzle assembly is lowered to filling position will not lead to liquid loss inasmuch as under such circumstances the vacuum necessary to cause liquid to flow through the nozzle assembly cannot be established. There will be a loss of vacuum through any such nozzle assembly, however, in the absence of a container below the assembly and indeed also even with a container being present, during the time the nozzle assembly is disengaged from the container. This loss of vacuum, however, is normally of little or no consequence as the invention contemplates a relatively nominal pressure drop, say, for example, 2 to 4 inches Hg, in the containers for liquid flow through the nozzle assemblies and ordinarily it is more feasible to permit the small vacuum loss rather than to add valving in the vacuum chamber to prevent such loss.
The open type filling head is somewhat better adapted than the closed-type filling head to the filling of containers which have a relatively restricted neck or throat configuration, primarily because with the central disposition of the vacuum tube in the nozzle assembly and the consequent projection of the vacuum tube from the tip of the filling stem the filling operation may be accomplished through the open-type head with a somewhat decreased projection of the nozzle assembly into the neck of the container as compared with the closed stem. For this same reason, the open-type filling head is also preferred with containers which require an unusually high fill level.
The herein described container filling machine includes a great number of features and advantages hereinbefore not found in such devices and which when taken individually or severally at a time render the machine highly adaptable for use with a side variety of different styles, sizes and shapes of containers and with liquids having widely differing characteristics. This is in part due to the capability of the filler to be operated either through vacuum or gravity means or by combined vacuum-gravity means and to the further capability of the machine to be readily converted from one filling technique to another.
The arrangement of the product and air or vacuum flow lines in and between the nozzle assemblies, the liquid and vacuum source, and the overflow tanks is particularly beneficial both from the standpoint of promoting an extremely smooth, relatively turbulent free handling of the liquid during the filling cycle as well as from the standpoint of minimizing air and liquid mixing and air absorption by the liquid in the overflow or retum lines while at the same time providing for the efficient separation from the liquid of such air or other gas as may become dissolved therein.
Various modes of carrying out the present invention are contemplated as being within the scope of the following claims particularly poin'ting out and distinctly claiming the subject-matter regarded as the nature of the invention.
1. A container filling machine of the type adapted for combined gravity-vacuum filling and for vacuum filling as desired, which includes a rotary filler table for supporting the containers during filling, a series of radially disposed filling nozzles mounted above said table for movement relatively between raised, inoperative positions to the containers and lowered, engaged positions thereto, a supply manifold mounted in the center of the table anddivided internally into a liquid chamber and a separate vacuum chamber, a liquid supply tank connected to the liquid chamber of said manifold to supply liquid thereto and supported for elevationally adjustable movement relatively from and between a raised position to the filling nozzles when in lowered, engaged positions to the containers for vacuum-gravity filling of the containers and a lowered position to the nozzles when in lowered positions to the containers for vacuum filling of the containers, a source of vacuum connected with the vacuum' chamber of said manifold, a set of flexible supply conduits for each of the filling nozzles with a first conduit of each set being connected between the nozzle and the liquid chamber and the second conduit of each set being connected between the nozzle and the vacuum chamber, said filling nozzles each including a carrier mechanism and a separate filling head detachably mounted thereto, there being a first series of heads of open type construction for vacuum filling of the containers and an interchangeable, second series of heads of normally closed construction for gravity-vacuum filling of the containers.
2. The construction of claim 1 wherein the first and second series of filling heads include an identical casing member and are appended in both instances to the'carrier mechanisms through such casing member whereby in switching from gravity-vacuum filling to vacuum filling the casing may remain in place on the carrier mechsupply conduit which is attached to the casing member leads from theliquid chamber of the supply manifold and wherein the closed-type filling head includes, as a single assembly, an inner tube adapted to be connected axially to the lower end of the casing member to define an inner passage in the nozzle for liquid flow into the containers and an outer tube supported coaxially on said inner tube by a cylindrical valve member which is adapted to be attached to the flexible supply conduit leading from the vacuum chamber of the manifold to define an outer passage in the nozzle for air flow from the containers, and wherein the open-type filling head comprises, as a single assembly which is interchangeable with that of the closed-type filling head, a cylindrical valve body adapted to be attached to the casing member and having a fitting thereon adapted to be attached to the flexible supply conduit which leads from the vacuum chamber of the supply manifold, said valve body having a valve core which is provided with a center blind recess ported radially to said fitting and a series of axially extending passageways around the recess for communicating the ends of the valve body with one another through the valve core, an inner tube attached axially within the recess of said valve core and extending axially from the lower end of said valve body to define an inner passage in the nozzle for air flow from the containers, and an outer tube attached axially to the lower end of saidvalve body and extending axially therefrom in surrounding relation with the inner tube to define an outer passage in the nozzle for liquid flow to the containers.