US 3841623 A
An apparatus for feeding and labeling articles such as sheets of paper, knocked-down containers and the like is provided wherein the application of labels, especially of the pressure-sensitive type, is done while the articles are stationary or moving perpendicularly to the plane of the label. Feeding of the sheets is accomplished by the use of a stop, an elevating means which raises at least one article at a predetermined rate above the stop, and a feeding wheel which feeds individual articles as they clear the stop.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Unit States Paet McCarthy et a1.
[ 1 Oct. 15, 1974 1 SHEET FEEDING AND LABELING APPARATUS Inventors: Charles .1. McCarthy; Jerome R McCarthy; Robert 1*". McCarthy, all of Cincinnati, Ohio The Proctor & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio Filed: Feb. 28, 1972 Appl. No.: 230,022
US. Cl. 271/126, 271/157 llnt. C1 B65h 1/116, B65h 3/06 Field of Search 271/39, 28, 126, 127, 147,
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1/1938 Zahn 271/39 4/1940 Stobb 271/28 X 2,896,946 7/1959 Barratt et a] 271/126 X 3,165,313 1/1965 Limberger 271/39 X 3,618,933 11/1971 Roggenstcin et a1. 271/126 Primary Examiner-Evon C. Blunk Assistant Examiner -James W. Miller Attorney, Agent, or Firm-John V. Gorman; Thomas H. OFlaherty; Richard C. Witte  ABSTRACT An apparatus for feeding and labeling articles such as sheets of paper, knocked-down containers and the like is provided wherein the application of labels, especially of the pressure-sensitive type, is done while the articles are stationary or moving perpendicularly to the plane of the label. Feeding of the sheets is accomplished by the use of a stop, an elevating means which raises at least one article at a predetermined rate above the stop, and a feeding wheel which feeds individual articles as they clear the stop.
2 Claims, 3 Drawing Figures LUID I. PRESSURE SOURCE BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to feeding and labeling of articles such as flat sheets, knocked-down containers and the like.
Means to apply labels, especially those of the pressure-sensitive type, to a stream of moving articles are known in the art. Typical of labeling means used to apply pressure-sensitive labels is the Label-Aire la beler as presently manufactured by Compac Corporation, Label-Aire Systems Division, of Chicago, Illinois. Such a device is also shown in US. Pat. No. 3,093,528 entitled Label Applying Means which issued June l 1, 1963 to Robert L. Reich and which is incorporated herein by reference. Although the labeling means referred to in the following-description is of the type applying pressure-sensitive labels, it is understood that any of the variety of labeling means known in the art are within the contemplation of this invention.
Pressure-sensitive labels are typically provided in rolls with individual labels releasably adhered to a roll of release liner. Labeling equipment such as the abovementioned Label-Aire separates the abels from the backing sheet by leading the backing sheet around an abrupt turn (over a knife edge or the like) with the side of the backing sheet not having the labels thereon adjacent the knife edge and the labels on theoutside. As the backing negotiates the turn, it is pulled away from the label, the label possessing sufficient rigidity to continue in the direction of initial travel of the backing sheet and thereby separate from the backing sheet. A blast of air is then used to convey the separated label into the desired position on a sheet or the like.
Label-Aire and other similar machines are often used to apply labels to containers of consumer goods and the like. Such labels areused, for example, to advertise special promotional considerations such as free coupons inside associated with the goods.
Label applying machines such as the Label-Aire are designed for use in conjunction with a packaging line, applying labels to packages as they are being filled and sealed. Such use is often impossible because, for example, the desired face of the package may not be accessible for labeling. In any event, label application on a packaging line as the product is being processed is generally undesirable for two reasons: it adds complexity to the line and consequently reduces the lines efficiency; and the containers are a moving target as they proceed along the packaging line and accurate label placement is therefore difficult.
OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide an apparatus for presenting articles such as sheets, knocked-down containers and the like to a labeling machine in an improved manner.
It is another object of this invention to provide such an apparatus which can be separate from the packaging line thereby obviating some of the above problems.
It is a further object of the invention to provide such an apparatus wherein the problems associated with labeling a moving target are eliminated.
It is still a further object of this invention to provide an apparatus possessing the above advantages which is also very simple and inexpensive.
These and other advantages are achieved with an article feeding and labeling apparatus including a frame, a stop adjacent one edge of the article(s) to be fed, a means connected to said frame for elevating said articles at a predetermined rate and a driven compressible feed roll. The roll frictionally engages the uppermost container in said stack and works in cooperation with the stop, feeding the top article from said stack as said article is moved upwardly and clears the stop.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Although the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter regarded as forming the present invention, it is believed the invention will be better understood from the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is an elevational view of a preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 2 is a fragmented elevational view of the apparatus of FIG. 1 illustrating the retention of the last container; and,
FIG. 3 is an elevational view of an alternate embodiment of this invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a preferred embodiment of the apparatus of this invention designated generally by the numeral 10. In the apparatus 10 articles such as knocked-down containers or the like (hereinafter referred to as containers) designated generally by the letter C are presented to the labeling means designated generally by the letter L.
Although many of the labeling means known in the art can be used, the apparatus of the present invention is particularly well adapted for use in conjunction with labelers such as the one described in the aforementioned Reich patent. In such a. labeler, pressuresensitive labels are stripped from a releaseliner and the stripped labels are applied to the articles to be labeled by a blast of compressed air. The labels are mounted in seriatim on a ribbon of release liner in roll form and these are fed into the machine, eventually being guided onto a stripping bar having a forward edge adjacent a side of the grid on a label receiving and applying station. The release liner is carried around the forward edge of the stripping bar and, following the label stripping action caused thereby, is collected on a take-up roll which is later discarded. As the release liner abruptly changes direction in traversing the stripping bar forward edge, the inherent stiffness of a label being carried on the liner causes the leading label edge to separate from the release liner. The leading edge of the label projects in front of the vacuumized grid of the label receiving and applying station, the vacuum biasing the label toward the grid and causing the label to travel across the face of the grid as it is progressively stripped from the release liner. When the article to be labeled is in proper position and the label is completely stripped, appropriate controls cause a blast of compressed air to be directed through a plurality of air nozzles onto the inner surface of the grid and by this means the pressure-sensitive label is blown from the grid and onto the article.
Whatever the labeling means employed, provision for adjustment of label placement location will preferably be included. The labeler, once it has been adjusted to the desired position, is used to apply a label to the container C uppermost in the stack of containers. The labeled container C is then fed from the stack and travels beyond the stack, past the position of container C and is restacked into the stack of containers C". Alternatively, the containers, instead of being restacked can proceed to subsequent equipment; for example, to a packaging line. When proceeding to a packaging line, the containers are preferably placed in an imbricated, or as is known in the art shingled," orientation.
The apparatus includes a frame 11, only part of which is shown for clarity, and to which, directly or indirectly, the remainder of the parts of the apparatus 10 are connected. The frame 11 preferably rests on four legs 12 of which two are shown. An elevating means is provided to form a suitable base for at least one container C and to move it upwardly. Inthe embodiment of FIG. 1, the elevating means comprises the movable support member 13, air cylinder 14 and mounting brackets 15a and 15b connecting said air cylinder 14 to movable support member 13 and to the frame 11 respectively. The dimensions of movable support member 13 are not critical, and for feeding and labeling simple flat sheets any dimensions consistent with providing adequate support for such sheets can be used. In some applications when feeding and labeling articles which are not completely planar, certain dimensions for the movable support member are preferred. For example, knocked-down containers of the type used for synthetic detergents can be labeled on this apparatus. Such containers are comprised of a flatened tubular body and a number of hingedly connected panels which comprise the top and bottom of the fully assembled container. When feeding and labeling these knocked-down containers; the movable support member 13 is preferably slightly narrower than the axial dimension of the container. The containers can then rest on the movable support member 13 with the hinged panels disposed at either side of said member. ln this way, the hinged panels are not contacting the movable support member 13 and considerable lack of uniformity of the positioning of the panels can be tolerated without having problems due to the containers catching on the movable support member 13.
The movable support member 13 is lifted upwardly at a predetermined (i.e., controllable) rate by the air cylinder 14. When using air cylinder 14, application of air to hose 14a from a controlled pressure source diagrammatically illustrated at 14b through an orifice provides the desired controlled lifting. The air cylinder 14 desirably has an upward velocity which can be adjusted from about 5 inches per minute to about 40 inches per minute to be suitable for handling a range of articles as will be described hereinafter. Preferably, the upward motion is very smooth (i.e., uniform) to provide uniform feeding and the retraction of the cylinder 14 is rapid, thereby minimizing the time required to reload the apparatus. An air cylinder which provides the desirable smooth uniform feeding over a range of speeds and rapid retraction is presently manufactured by Allenair Corporation of Mineola, New York and designated Cyc-Check type CH-F." This cylinder uses a secondary oil cylinder and check-valve arrangement to minimize the sponginess" and imprecision associated with conventional air cylinders. Many alternative, although generally more complicated lifting means can also be used. For example, a hydraulic cylinder provided with hydraulic fluid from a positive displacement pump can be used. Gearing with a rack and pinion arrangement, or any of the other means known in the art, can also be used.
As shown, the movable support member 13 is at an angle'of about 20 from horizontal. This preferred orientation aids in achieving the desired alignment of the containers C as a result of their tendency to slide down the sloped movable support member 13 and come to rest against the vertical support member 18. Any other suitable orientation of the movable support member 13, including but not limited to horizontal, can also be used. In all cases, the labeler L is preferably, but not necessarily, oriented so that the label moves perpendicularly to the container C as the label is applied.
Any of the well known means for maintaining the movable support member 13 at the desired angle can be used. As shown, this function is performed by sleeves 16a and 16b and preferably at least one additional sleeve (not shown) which are connected at their upper ends to the movable support member 13 and are slidably engaged with parallel rods 17a and 17b (and another, not shown) which are connected at their lower ends to frame 11. In some cases, the air cylinder 14 or other elevating means can be rigidly mounted, thereby obviating the need for separate means to maintain the movable support member 13 at the desired angle.
Vertical support member 18 is attached to the frame 11 at its lower end and supports stop 19. Preferably, stop 19 is mounted atop vertical support member 18 in such a way as to provide a step facing toward the containers C as shown. Preferably, the step is about one-fourth inch along its horizontal and vertical faces; i.e., the stop is about one-fourth inch high and offset about one-fourth inch to the right (as shown) from the left face of the vertical support member 18. The stop can be of any width but is preferably about the same width as the movable support member 13, thereby presenting a large surface to the articles to be fed yet not extending so far as to catch the hinged panels of knocked-down containers. The function of this step will be discussed hereinafter.
A dead-plate conveyor 24 is mounted adjacent to and at the same or slightly lower elevation than stop 19, thereby providing a smooth or downwardly stepped transition from stop 19 to the dead-plate conveyor 24. Preferably, the dead-plate conveyor 24 is the same width as the movable support member 13, thereby avoiding interference with the hinged panels or knockdown containers as discussed previously. In the preferred embodiments of the present invention, articles are fed by the roll 20 (as will be discussed hereinafter) at a velocity sufficient to allow them to traverse the dead-plate conveyor 24 without additional motivation. It is possible, however, to feed the articles at a low velocity thereby requiring the use of a powered conveyor. In other applications, the use of a comparatively long conveyor 24 may be desired, again requiring the use of a powered conveyor. In these and other cases, many of the powered conveyors well known in the art can be used.
Guide members, not shown for the sake ofclarity, are preferably used in conjunction with the movable support member 13 and conveyor 24 to maintain the desired centering of the containers. The guide members are preferably vertically disposed plates which provide walls to retain the containers therebetween.
The timing of the apparatus is preferably adjusted (as will be described hereinafter) such that the containers are fed one at a time with a space between the fed containers. A sensing means of any of the types well known in the art responsive to the presence of containers (or the space between containers) detects containers in the position indicated by container C and energizes a solenoid valve in the labeler L allowing the passage of the compressed air which then blows a label onto the top container in the stack of containers C. As shown, the sensing means is a photoelectric sensor comprising light source 25, light-activated switch 26 and a reflective surface 27. Light from light source is directed to the reflective surface 27 and reflected from it to the light-activated switch 26. The source 25 and switch 26 can be adjusted along the reflective surface 27 to sense a container C at any point along conveyor 24, thereby varying the timing of label placement. if the conveyor 24 has a reflective surface, the separate reflective surface 27 can be eliminated.
After activating the photoelectric sensing device, the container continues traveling from the position of container C and falls to the top of the stack of containers at C". As mentioned previously, the container can optionally proceed to additional equipment rather than being restacked. The stack of containers at C" rests on horizontal member which is supported by vertical members 28 and 29. Vertical member 28 also supports one end of conveyor 24 and vertical member 29 also serves as a stop for the containers, preventing motion of the containers beyond the right-most side (as shown) of horizontal member 30.
A supply and feeding station is preferably provided and as shown comprises horizontal member 31 and vertical support members 32 and 33. The horizontal member 311 is at an elevation just slightly higher than the lowest position which the movable support member 13 can assume, thereby facilitating the sliding of containers from horizontal member 3i onto the movable support member l3.
Operation of the apparatus starts with a stack of containers on the movable support member l3; i.e., in the position of containers C. Air from any appropriate source Mb and typically at a pressure of about 80 P.S.l. is applied to the air cylinder 14 through hose Ma causing it to lift the movable support member 13 upwardly. The containers rise above the stop 19 at a rate determined by the equation: (number of containers per inch of stack height X upward velocity of movable supporting member 13 in inches per minute) number of containers per minute rising above stop 1).
Somewhat before a container rises above stop 19 it contacts the resilient roll 20 which is mounted on shaft 21 and is driven by a suitable drive means not shown. The resilience of the roll 20 allows it to deform to the degree necessary to firmly contact the containers, yet let them pass between the roll 20 and the stop 19. Although use of such a roll which is itself resilient is the preferred mode of practicing this invention resilient roll" as used herein is understood to also include rolls which are resiliently mounted, thereby allowing the roll to perform as hereinafter described. Preferably the roll 20 is driven at a fairly high rate of speed, for example at l750 RPM by a direct connection to a motor operating at that speed. By choosing a sufficiently high speed at which to drive the roll 20, in consideration of the size of the containers and the rate at which they are rising above the stop 19 to be fed, the containers can be fed at spaced intervals; i.e., one container can be completely displaced from the stack before the next succeeding one clears the stop 19. This provides the desired spacing for simple container detection. A roll 20 particularly well suited to use with the present invention can be constructed of sponge-like flexible polyurethane from with a density of about 0.2 gm/cc, an outside diameter of about 4 inches and width of about 2 inches or more.
Because of the desired high rotational speed of the roll 20, containers C, once they clear stop 19, are fed at a high rate of speed and can traverse the conveyor 2 without additional motivation. Because of the resilient nature of the roll 2% it can spin at a high rate of speed in contact with the uppermost of the container C for some time without noticeably damaging the containers. Of course, the roll 20 can be driven intermittently if desired, to further reduce the possibility of damage to the containers.
As mentioned previously, as containers pass the position shown by container C they are sensed by the lightactivated switch 26 which triggers the labeler L thereby labeling the container C now uppermost in the stack of containers C. Labelers such as the Label-Aire can apply labels at a rate in excess of 300 labels per minute. Containers of the type used for consumer products often have a knocked-down thickness (i.e., the thickness of two walls of the container) of about 0.06 inches. At 300 labels per minute, the upward travel of the mov able support member should be 18 inches per minute for these containers.
The feeding and labeling of containers C continues until a single container C (i.e., the one adjacent the movable support member 13) remains in the stack. The travel of air cylinder 14 is adjusted such that the last container C will not clear the stop 19, but is raised above the top of vertical support member 18 and brought into contact with the roll 20. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the roll 20 will urge this container onto the step formed by the upper edge of vertical support member l8 and stop 19. An after holding means comprising spring clip 22 mounted on bracket 23 is adjacent the edge of containers C opposite the stop 19. As the containers C are elevated, the spring clip 22 is deflected upwardly and outwardly toward the vertical face of bracket 23 as shown in FIG. 1. When so deflected, the uppermost end of the spring clip 22 is just below the trailing edge of the uppermost of the containers C.-The movable support member 13 is notched or otherwise arranged so as to not contact the spring clip 22, thus allowing the spring clip 22 to drop beneath the last of the containers C as they are fed upwardly, as shown in FIG. 2. As the movable support member 13 reaches an elevation allowing the uppermost container C to be thus supported by the step and spring clip 22, its position is sensed by any suitable means such as a limit switch and appropriate controls release the air pressure from the air cylinder 14 thereby lowering the movable support member ill for reloading.
Retention of the last container C in this manner is done to avoid problems which would otherwise be present with the controls and sequence described above. When the next-to-last container passes the lightactivated switch 26, a label is placed on the last container. If this last container were fed forward before a new stack of containers is placed in feeding position, a label would be applied to the movable support member 13. In addition, no label would be applied to the first container on the new stack as triggering of the labeler L would not be done prior to feeding this container. It can readily be appreciated that the expedient of retaining the last container from one stack to serve as the first container of the next stack obviates the above problems. While retention of the last containers is achieved in the embodiment described by a combination of the step and spring clip 22 any alternate means known in the art can also be employed for this purpose. It is also possible to avoid the above problems altogether by the use of additional controls which would, for instance, sense the absence of a container and override the label feeding signal from the light-actuated switch 26 (thereby avoiding undesired labeling) and detect the presence of a new stack and call for the placement of a label to the first container in the stack.
In the apparatus illustrated, the feeding of containers C and removal of restacked containers C" is done by hand. It is obvious that many of the conveying means known in the art can be used to further automate these operations, further reducing the requisite operator effort and attention.
The apparatus of this invention can also be used to feed sheets which are thinner than the 0.06 inch thick containers described above, limited only by the rigidity of the sheet (which is necessary to avoid the sheets being pushed into the stop and wrinkled by the roll) and the ability. to feed single sheets (which is a function of the rigidity and thickness of the sheets, the relative friction between sheets and between the roll and the top sheet, and the precision of the elevating means). Feeding of relatively thin and/or flexible sheets can be aided by the provision of a resiliently biased stop as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 3,260,521 issued July 12, 1966 to James G. Moxness or a two-piece stop forming a narrow throat through which sheets are fed as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 3,481,597 issued Dec. 2, 1969 to Donald 'J. Wanek. Generally sheets thicker than 0.06 inches will'present little or no problem infeeding in the apparatus of this invention.
The timing of the feeding apparatus 10 and the labeler L is controlled by the thickness and length of the containers C, the spacing between stop 19 and lightactivated switch 26, the rotational speed of the roll 20 (and the linear velocity consequently imparted to the containers C by it), and the vertical velocity of the movable support member 13. As can readily be appreciated by those skilled in the art, many combinations of the above factors exist wherein one container traverses the conveyor 24 and triggers the light-activated switch 26 before the succeeding container is fed. With this timing, the application ofa label by labeler L is accomplished before the container C having the label applied to it is fed. Thus containers can be labeled while not moving horizontally (parallel to the plane of the label to be applied) and moving vertically (perpendicular to the plane of the label to be applied) only slowly, on the order of 18 inches per minute. This is a very desirable operating condition making possible very accurate label placement.
In contrast, prior art devices have been designed to effect labeling of containers as the containers are moving parallel to the plane of the label to be applied, ei-
ther on a packaging line or after feeding; e.g., at a location such as that of container C in FIG. 1. With such movement, the label sees a laterally moving target and must lead it, making accurate label placement difficult. In addition, changes in the velocity of the moving target, as can occur with a packaging line operating at varying speeds, necessitate adjustments to the lead used in label application.
FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of an alternate embodiment of the present invention. This embodiment is similar to that shown in FIG. I, differing principally in the means for elevating containers C, above stop 19a. In this embodiment, the stop 19a extends above the horizontal supporting member 41 by a distance which is preferably just slightly less than the thickness of one container. With this geometry and two containers C, at the stop 19a the uppermost of said containers is fed over and past the stop 19a by roll 20a in the manner previously described. In a manner similar to that described with reference to the embodiment of FIG. 1, a photoelectric sensing device comprising light source 25a light-activated switch 26a and reflective surface 27a senses the presence of a container at the location designated C and causes the labeler L to apply a label to the uppermost of the containers at C,. Subsequent containers are fed under the container (or stack of containers) C, at a predetermined rate and with sufficient velocity that they pass the offset 42 on supporting member 41 and come to rest against the stop 19a The roll 20a and offset 42 hold the containers C, waiting to be fed in the slanted orientation as shown, thereby allowing the feeding of subsequent containers to the bottom of the stack. The desirability of having stop 19a high enough to retain only one container C, is apparent in view of the need to lift any containers C, at the stop 19a with subsequently fed containers. It is obvious that a variety of configurations of offset 42 are satisfactory to provide the requisite orientation to containers C, to allow subsequent containers to be fed under the one(s) in place at stop 19a.
Any of the many feeding means known in the art can be used to feed containers under the stack of containers C,. Because of its ability to feed at a high velocity a roll and drive means, such as the roll 20 and its drive means, is a highly satisfactory feeding means for this application, either alone or in conjunction with other devices. In fact, a highly desirable means to apply two or more labels is to apply the first with the apparatus of FIG. 1 and subsequent ones with the apparatus of FIG. 3, with each such label applying station being fed by the immediately preceeding one.
Many modifications of the invention can be made and it is not intended to limit the invention to the particular structures described, all reasonable equivalents thereof being intended to fall with the scope of this invention.
What is claimed is:
1. An apparatus for feeding articles such as knockeddown containers, sheets or the like in spaced relationship from a stack thereof comprising:
a. a frame;
b. a stop attached to said frame, adjacent one edge of said stack, and adapted to engage a leading edge of each article being fed;
0. a fluid pressure cylinder actuated means connected to said frame for continuously elevating said stack at a predetermined constant rate thereby alabove said stop; and
f. a means connected to said frame and said shaft for driving said roll.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means for elevating said stack comprises a movable support memher, said fluid pressure cylinder means being connected to said member and to said frame for moving said movable support member at a predetermined rate.