US 3846962 A
An automatic case packing apparatus is disclosed in which a plurality of separate operations are performed on incoming cartons and articles, thereby to pack the articles in the cartons and close and seal same. The cartons are received with top flaps closed and sealed and at least the bottom side flaps open. Means are provided for opening the bottom front and rear flaps if they are closed, and conveying the carton with all bottom flaps open to a packing station. The articles are received at the inlet in a single row, divided into a double row and conveyed to an indexing mechanism which is effective to separate the articles into distinct groups sufficient to fill the cartons. The thus grouped articles are conveyed to the packing station under an empty carton and means are provided for lowering a carton onto a group of articles in timed sequence with the carton and article conveying means. The cartons are then moved in the same direction by another conveyor means to mechanisms which are effective sequentially to close the front and rear flaps and thence past a gluing and side flap closing station where means are provided for applying glue to the side flaps and closing same, whereby the carton is rendered ready for shipment.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Rossi [45 Nov. 12, 1974 FLAP CLOSING MECHANISM FOR HIGH SPEED AUTOMATIC CASING MACHINE [76 Inventor:  Filed:
Anthony T. Rossi, Bradenton, Fla.
Feb. 11, 1974  Appl. No; 441,041
Related US. Application Data  Division of Ser. No. 183,471, Sept. 24, 1971, Pat.
Primary ExaminerRobert L. Spruill [5 7] ABSTRACT An automatic case packing apparatus is disclosed inwhich a plurality of separate operations are performed on incoming cartons and articles, thereby to pack the articles in the cartons and close and seal same. The cartons are received with top flaps closed and sealed and at least the bottom side flaps open. Means are provided for opening the bottom front and rear flaps if they are closed, and conveying the carton with all bottom flaps open to a packing station. The articles are received at the inlet in a single row, divided into a double row and conveyed to an indexing mechanism which is effective to separate the articles into distinct groups sufficient to fill the cartons. The thus grouped articles are conveyed to the packing station under an empty carton and means are provided for lowering a carton onto a group of articles in timed sequence with the carton and article conveying means.- The cartons are then moved in the same direction by another conveyor means to mechanisms which are effective sequentially to close the front and rear flaps and thence past a gluing and side flap closing station where means 6 Claims, 32 Drawing Figures PATENTED um! 12 I974 saw 01 or 12 PATENTED NOV 12 I974 SHEU 03 0F 12 on 0F 12' .846,962
PATENIEUNBV 12 m4 SHEET PATENTEDNUV 12 1974 SHEET 05 HF 12 F/GZZG PATENTEUuuv 121914 sum as or 12 PAIENTEDImv 12 I974 sum 01 nr 12 PATENTEDImv 12 I974 11846; 982
sum 09 0F 12 PATENIEDHIJV 12 mm 3846; 962 sum 12 or 12 N 9% FEM F LAP CLOSING MECHANISM FOR HIGH SPEED AUTOMATIC CASING MACHINE This is a divisional of application Ser. No. 183,477 filed Sept. 24, 1971, entitled HIGH SPEED AUTO- MATIC CASING MACHINE and now Pat. No. 3,805,484.
This invention relates to apparatus for packing articles into cases for shipment. More particularly, the invention provides an improved arrangement of apparatus adapted to receive a steady stream of articles and open cartons and to pack the cartons with the proper number of articles and properly seal same for shipment, all in a generally continuous automatic fashion at unusually high speeds.
One of the primary factors in the success of a manufacturing or wholesaling operation is the ability to quickly and effectively package the product for shipment. With the increasingly improved techniques for the high speed manufacture and, packaging of consumer goods, it has been found that the most common impediment to high production output is the inability of the present methods and equipment to rapidly and effectively pack the finished product in cases forshipment at a speed commensurate with the product output capability of the plant. This is particularly true of the beverage industry where great strides have been made in high speed techniques for dispensing the product into consumer sized containers.
It will be readily appreciated that any case packing system to be effective must combine high speed with reliability and effective maintenance techniques. Thus, for a plant having a limited storage capacity the rate of production output is directly limited by the case packing capability of the plant.
In the past the packing of articles such as containers for shipment was generally accomplished manually at reasonable cost as a result of the limited production capability of most plants. More recently, in response to improved mass production techniques, increased labor costs, and todays generally expanded production facilites, apparatus has been designed to automatically accomplish this task. To date, however, machines of this type have been extremely complex and costly while not providing the increased speed and capacity to justify that increased cost. Moreover, conventional apparatus of this type almost universally suffers the drawbacks of frequent breakdowns of parts not readily susceptible to rapid maintenance and replacement. As a result of such breakdowns combined with the limited storage capacity of most plants, not only the case packing apparatus but also the production facilities must be shut down for substantial periods with an accompanying waste of equipment and manpower which generally far outweighs any savings in labor costs from the use of such automatic case packing apparatus.
A second drawback of prior art apparatus of this type is that they generally do not perform the entire operation of packing for shipment. Thus the cases are typically packed with the product automatically and then must be manually closed and sealed by tape or the like. Consequently, the ultimate speed attainable is still dependent on manual speed and dexterity, a factor which may fluctuate considerably. Accordingly, the automatic apparatus generally must be stopped frequently to account for fluctuations in manpower and efficiency at the output end of the operation.
Even where automatic apparatus for closing and sealing cartons for shipping is provided, such apparatus is often completely separate from the actual case packing equipment and is not properly coordinated therewith, thereby necessitating lengthy conveyor lines which take up considerable plant space.
Finally, apparatus of this type, by its very nature, requires substantial electrical power during operation. Thus, if for some reason the production rate drops, the continued high speed operation of the case packing apparatus involves considerable waste of power and unnecessary wear on the equipment. Yet, prior art apparatus of this type generally provides no flexibility in speed of operation. As a result, if such unnecessary power consumption and wear is to be avoided, the equipment must be operated intermittently provided adequate space is available to accommodate the product buildup between high speed case packing operations. The resulting inefficiencies and increased manpower requirement involved in such intermittent operation will be apparent.
It is a primary object of the present invention to design an automatic case packing apparatus which substantially eliminates the aforementioned drawbacks of prior art equipment of this type.
It is another object of the present invention to design apparatus "adapted to pack cartons with a'designated number of articles and close and seal the carton flaps, all in a-substa'ntially continuous, automaticand'efficient manner at unusually high speeds.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide apparatus adapted to receive a continuous flow of cartons and a continuous flow of articles, arrange said articles in appropriate groups and properly space same, position said groups in said cartons, and close and seal said-cartons, all during substantially continuous high speed movement along a straight line conveyor system in an accurately timed automatic manner.
It is still another object'of the present invention to provide apparatus of the type described which provides a timed sequential high speed packing operation utilizing relatively simple mechanical-components which are easy to maintain, repair and replace and which are interconnected mechanically to insure a foolproof operation without the need for complex electrical switching mechanisms and circuitry.
It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide case packing apparatus of the type described which is provided with means to accurately adjust speed of operation over a wide range with no loss of timing accuracy.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an improved case packing apparatus which is inexpensive to manufacture and reliable in operation and which may be readily installed for use with standard production output equipment in a relatively small plant space.
To these ends, the present invention comprises case packing apparatus utilizing a straight line conveyor system and adapted to perform ten distinct operations in accurately timed sequence to produce packed cases ready for shipment.
The containers are fed into the apparatus in a single row at the inlet section. In the same general area and directly above the container infeed line, empty cartons enter the apparatus with the bottom front flap closed and the bottom back and side flaps open.
During the first operation the cartons are released in timed sequence by an indexing timer and conveyed by means of a flight bar, mechanically linked to the timer, across a dead plate having means to fold open the front flap of the carton (the second operation).
Simultaneously in this general area, the containers are converted from a single row into a double row (third operation) an thereafter conveyed by a flat top divided chain conveyor in preparation for the fourth operation.
The fourth operation comprises separating the containers into appropriate groups by means of a pair of timed indexing chains. The indexing chains run in a continuous loop on opposite sides of the line conveyor and are provided with spaced indexing fingers adapted to be received between adjacentcontainers. The cartons are simultaneously conveyed to a position directly above the thus grouped containers at a packing station, one carton arriving at the packing station precisely at the moment of alignment of one group of containers therewith.
The packing station comprises a second dead plate provided with an aperture adapted to receive acarton therethrough. Means in the form of a pair of parallel rotating members mechanically linked to the carton conveyor system are provided for pushing the carton through the aperture in the second dead plate, partially over the aligned group of containers (operation 5). During this operation the side flaps of the carton are automatically turned up as they pass through the aperture.
As the containers clear the indexing fingers, the carton is pushed down the remaining distance to the conveyor by means of a rotating roller bar also mechanically linked to the conveyor system (operation 6).
The carton is then conveyed past a front flap closer which, by means ofa pair of timed reciprocating plates, is effective to turn in the front flap of thecarton as it passes thereover (operation 7). Next the rear flap is turned under by means of a unique hinge plate on the conveyor chain in combination with a timed holdback mechanism (operation 8).
Finally, the cartons are conveyed past a conventional gluing station and side flap closing device whereby the side flaps are glued and turned in to seal the carton for shipping (operations 9 and 10).-
The above operations are performed continuously in sequence at a rapid but adjustable pace along a straight line conveyor system within a relatively short space. The operative mechanisms are all mechanically linked to insure proper sequence and timing without complicated electronic circuitry.
To the accomplishment of the above and to such other objects as may hereinafter appear, the present invention relates to an automatic case packing apparatus as defined in the appended claims and as described herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIGS. 1A and 18 together are a front elevational view of the complete case packing apparatus, FIG. 1A generally illustrating operational areas I-V and FIG. 1B generally illustrating operational areas VI-X;
FIGS. 2A-2F are fragmentary front elevational views of area II of the case packing apparatus of FIG. 1A and illustrate in sequence the front flap opening operation;
FIG. 2G is a top plan view of the front flap opening mechanism in the position shown in FIG. 2B;
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the container conveyor in area III of FIG. 1A schematically illustrating a mechanism for dividing the bottles from a single row into a double row;
FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the container conveyor in area IV showing the container indexing mechanism;
FIGS. SA-SD are side elevational views of area V of the case packing apparatus of FIG. 1A illustrating in detail the sequential operation of the carton pushdown mechanism;
FIGS. SE-SG are elevational views partly in section taken generally along the line 55 of FIG. 5A and showing generally the same sequence of events as shown in FIGS. 5A-5D;
FIGS. 6A-6C are front elevational views of the case packing apparatus generally in area VI of FIG. lB-and showing the sequential operation of the second pushdown mechanism;
FIGS. 7A-7C are front elevational views of the case packing apparatus of FIG. 18 generally in area VII and showing the sequential operation of the front flap closing mechanism;
FIGS. 8A-8F are front elevational views of the case packing apparatus of FIG. 18 generally in area VIII and showing the sequential operation of the rear flap turning mechanism; an
FIG. 8G is an enlarged front elevational view of the conveyor chain of FIGS. 8A-8F showing a hinged link utilized in the rear flap turning operation.
The purpose of the casing machine here illustrated is to automatically place filled and capped containers, here shown in the form of bottles, into a shipping carton and to seal said carton in preparation for shipment. It will be appreciated, however, that the basic machine may be modified to accommodate containers or other articles of various sizes and shapes and cartons of various constructions. The apparatus is generally driven by variable speed pulley mechanisms and is capable of operating at a wide range of speeds up to an in excess of 50 cartons per minute.
The basic operation of the machine is generally illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, which together show the entire sequence of operations which take place at the various locations along the conveyor system. These various stations or locations of the machine are designated by Roman numerals I-X and correspond to the ten distinct operations performed by the machine. As there shown in area I the containers are fed into the machine in a single row by a straight line conveyor, and are maintained thereon in an upright position. In the same general area and spaced above the bottles, the cartons are fed into machine by a smooth flat belt conveyor generally downwardly inclined toward the container conveyor.
The empty cartons enter the machine with the bottom front flap closed and the bottom back and side flaps open. All top flaps are preferably closed an preglued, although it will be apparent that the machine may be modified to accomplish this operation also. In addition, only slight modifications in the machine need be made to accept incoming cases with bottom flaps in any position. The machine here illustrated is adapted to accept cartons either with all flaps out or with both front and/or back flaps closed and side flaps open.
The timing sequence of the machine is established at the inlet end in area I by an indexing timer generally designated 12 which releases one case at a timein timed coordination with a first flight bar conveyor system generally designated 14. The indexing timer is mechanically linked with the flight bar conveyor system such that the cartons are released between flight bars. The cartons are subsequently picked up by thee flight bars and carried at a designated speed into area II. In
this area the front flap is turned outward by a front opening mechanism generally designated 16 and illustrated schematically in FIGS. 2A2F. In addition, if the rear flaps are initially turned under, during this operation, they are automatically turned out.
The containers in area III on the container conveyor are divided from a single row into a double row by a suitable conventional divider mechanism generally designated l8 and are thereafter conveyed by a divided conveyor chain to the next station in area IV.'As the containers enter area IV, they are separated into appropriate groups necessary to fill the cartons. This grouping operation is carried out by an indexing mechanism generally designated 20 which is continuously active on the incoming bottles at their bottom ends. As a result of the coordinated speed of the cartons and containers, a carton and a group of containers simultaneously move into alignment in registration with a first pushdown mechanism generally designated 22 in area V.
Pushdown mechanism 22 is effective to engage the top of the carton and push it down over the containers at the exact moment of alignment therewith, the cartons being received through an appropriate opening in the carton conveyor line. During this operation, the side flaps are automatically turned up as the carton passes through the opening. The pushdown mechanism 22 is so designed that when a carton is pushed down through the opening in the conveyor system to its lowest point, it is a short distance above the indexing mechanism 20. Subsequently the indexing mechanism is disengaged from the grouped containers and the carton and containers are together moved to area VI 'illustrated in FIG. 1B.
A second pushdown mechanism generally designated 24 in area VI is effective to fully depress the carton onto the bottles. After the carton has been pushed down completely, it is conveyed by a second flight bar system mechanically linked to the pushdown mechanism 24 past area VII where the front flap is turned inwardly by a timed reciprocating front flap closing mechanism generally designated 26.
The carton then continues to be moved by the flight bar system into area VIII where a rear flap turning mechanism generally designated 27 is effective to close the rear flap. The carton is then conveyed by the same flight bar system into area IX past a conventional gluing mechanism 28 and thence into area X in which the side flaps are turned inwardly and sealed by the mechanism generally designated 30.
The cartons, filled and cased with all flaps turned under and sealed, leave the flight bar system and are conveyed on a conventional table top chain conveyor toward the shipping area.
The above operations are carried out continuously, each operation being performed in sequence as a result of a series of mechanically linked pulley systems. The
operational system responds automatically to variations in input rate, may be adjusted to perform over a wide range of speeds, and as a result of the simplicity of design and the use of a minimum of electronic components is virtually immune to serious breakdowns.
Since the speed of operation or output rate of the ma chine herein specifically described is variable, an arbitrary unit of speed designated X will be used throughout this specification to indicate the relative speeds of thevarious mechanisms involved. In addition the apparatus described herein consists of a great number of belts, pulleys, chains and sprocket wheels. It will be appreciated that belts and pulleys are generally interchangeable with chains and sprocket wheels. Moreover, even when not specifically described conveyor belts are generally driven through chains and sprocket wheels at either side thereof.
In addition where two or more belts or chains are trained around pulleys or sprocket wheels mounted on a common shaft that arrangement is frequently illustrated and described as a single pulley or wheel over which the various belts or chains ride.
Referring again to FIG/1A, a plurality of containers there shown in the form of bottles B are disposed at the input of the device maintained in a single row on an input table top sprocket chain conveyor 32 by suitable guide rails 33. Input conveyor 32 is mounted for continuous movement on sprocket wheels 34 and 36 which are in turn driven through a chain'35 and sprocket wheel 37- by suitable variable speed drive means (not shown). Wheels 34 and 36 and the various other structural components of the system are mounted on a suitable framework generally designated F and generally comprising a series of upright and transverse beams and trusses. Since the framework F is strictly conventional and forms no part of the present invention it will not be described further. In operation, the sprocket wheels 34 and 36 are driven at a constant rate, imparting a constant linear speed to the conveyor 32 and bottles B. It will be noted at this point the input speed of bottles B is not critical since the function of input bottle conveyor 32 is merely to create line pressure. Accordingly this conveyor may be driven by a separate drive motor and as will be apparent hereinafter should be driven at a speed of at least 2X. 1'
Mounted on framework F directly above input chain conveyor 32 is a smooth flat belt conveyor 38. Conveyor belt 38 is trained in the usual endless loop over pulleys 39 and 40 respectively and along its lower flight is trained over pulleys 41 and 42 and under pulley 43. A sprocket wheel is mounted fast with pulley 40 anda pair of sprocket chains 45 is trained over that wheel and another sprocket wheel 46 mounted further along the carton conveyor system in Area II. A third sprocket wheel 47 is mounted still further along the conveyor system in Area II and a second pair of sprocket chains 48 is trained over sprocket wheels 46 and 47 and moves in an endless path therebetween.
The entire system of belts and chains described above is driven by the pulley system generally designated 49. That system comprises a drive pulley 50 mounted fast on a drive shaft 51 below the bottle conveyor line, an idler shaft 52 mounted on framework F between the upper and lower flights of the flight bar conveyor 14 and a pair of idler pulleys 54 and 56 both mounted fast on idler shaft 52. A drive belt 58 is trained over drive pulley 50, idler pulley 54 and .a freely rotatable roller 60 and is effective to drive idler shaft 52. A second belt 62 is trained around pulley 56 an a pulley 64 mounted fast with sprocket wheel 47 and is effective to drive that sprocket wheel. The drive shaft is driven by a variable speed drive motor (not shown) which comprises one of two main drive motors for the machine.
The cartons generally designated C enter the machine from the right (as viewed in FIG. 1) in the inclined direction of arrow 66 and are conveyed on belt 38 between suitable guide rails 68 at a constant speed of 3X. The cartons C are empty as they enter the machine, with the top flaps preferably closed and preglued. Those empty cartons C will normally be the same cartons in which the empty bottles B were shipped to the contents manufacturer from the bottle manufacturer. Accordingly, the position of the bottom flaps is determined by the initial decasing operation. The cartons are here illustrated with the bottom rear flap 70 and side flaps 72 out (open) and the bottom front flap 74 in(closed). However, as will hereinafter become apparent, the machine as shown, with no modifications, is also adapted to receive cartons with all flaps out or with both front and rear flaps in and side flaps out. Moreover, only slight modifications are required to adapt the machine to accept incoming cartons with bottom flaps in any condition.
The cartons C pile up at the indexing timer 12 which releases the cartons one at a time in timed sequence with flight bar system 14. Timer 12 may be any conventional carton release mechanism but is preferably a Standard Knapp Indexing Timer, well known in the art. As shown in FIG. 1, flight bar system 14 comprises a plurality of horizontally disposed flight bars 76 mounted in evenly spaced relationship along a suitable sprocket chain conveyor 78. That sprocket chain conveyor is trained around a series of idler wheels designated in a clockwise direction, 80, 82, 84, 86, 88 and 90, respectively, and is driven through a sprocket wheel 92 (between wheels 80 and 90) mounted fast on idler shaft 52. Accordingly, the flight bar conveyor is mechanically linked to the carton conveyor and the speed ratio between the two is two to one, the flight bar conveyor travelling at half the speed (1 [2X) of the carton conveyor 38.
As a flight bar 76 comes off idler wheel 80 it commences its operative lower flight parallel to but spaced from the inclined carton conveyor line. The indexing timer 12 is mechanically linked to the flight bar sprocket drive in a one to one ratio in well known manner so that each time a flight bar reaches the starting position of its lower flight (illustrated in FIG. 1A by the flight bar designated 76a) a carton C is released by the indexer 12. That carton C follows the flight bar 76 as long as it is on the conveyor belt 38 (the carton C travelling at twice the speed of the flight bar 76). A dead plate generally designated 94 is virtually coterminous with the upper flight of conveyor belt 38 above sprocket chain 45 in area II and at its turned down inlet edge 94a receives the carton C as it comes off belt 38. Accordingly the carton C momentarily stops on dead plate 94 and the preceding flight bar 76 moves away from the carton C while it is stationary. The carton C remains stationary on dead plate 94 until the next flight bar 76 catches up to it whereupon that carton C is now moved along dead plate 94 by the flight bar 76 at a speed of 1 /2X to area II.
As best shown in FIG. 26, the dead plate 94 in area II is provided with a generally rectangular opening 98 slightly wider than carton C and extending generally in the direction of movement of carton C. Accordingly, that opening 98 is sufficiently wide to allow the front flap 74 of the carton C to fall therethrough (see FIG. 2B) but small enough to maintain the carton vertically supported on its side flaps 72 as it traverses the openi is in this area (II) that the front'flap is turned out by mechanism 16. That operation is shown schematically in sequence in FIGS. 2A-2F. As shown in FIGS. 2A and 28, as the edge of the front flap 74 passes over the front edge 98a of the opening 98 in dead plate 94, it drops into that opening as a result of its natural resiliency. In order to insure that the carton C is aligned with the opening 98 in dead plate 94, a pair of pivotally mounted resilient guide bars 100 are provided at either side of opening 98 and are resiliently urged into lateral guiding, engagement with the carton C. As best illustrated in FIG. 2G, those guide bars are pivotally mounted on vertical axes at 102 in any suitable manner and may be resiliently urged inwardly toward carton C by any suitable means such for example as coil springs 104 (FIG. 2A). In addition, as illustrated in FIG. 1A a top guide plate 106 is providedin area II extending parallel to the carton conveyor line and properly spaced thereabove adapted to engage the top of the carton C and thereby to maintain the side flaps 72 horizontally disposed on the dead plate 94 at either side of opening 98. Top guide plate 106 is turned up at its inlet end 106a to guide cartons C thereunder.
Referring again to FIG. 2A, a cleat generally designated 108 is mounted between the sprocket chains 48 for movement therewith. As best shown in FIG. 26, cleat 108 is in the form of a rectangular plate mounted along one edge on a rod 110. Rod 110 is journaled in registering links on sprocket. chains 48 and is provided with means (not shown) to resiliently bias the plate 108 into the position shown in FIG. 2A wherein the cleat 108 lies flat with the chains 48. Accordingly, the cleat is moved along the lower flight of sprocket chains 48 over sprocket wheels 46 and onto the upper flight of the chains in a counterclockwise direction indicated by arrow 112. As illustrated in FIGS. .2E, 2D and 2G, a cam 114 is mounted fast on one end of rod 110, that end extending outwardly beyond sprocket chain 48. A stationary rod or projection 116 is mounted in the path of cam 114 just prior to its turn over that sprocket wheel near the left hand edge of opening 98. As illustrated in FIGS. 2D and 2E, cam 114 is so shaped that as its cam surface engages projection 116, it is effective to pivot cleat 108 in the counterclockwise direction upwardly through opening 98.
It will be recalled from FIG. 1A, that the sprocket wheel 47 is driven through the same pulley 49 which drives the flight bar conveyor 78. The speed ratio between the two is preferably'four to three that is, while the flight bars move in the direction of arrow 118 at a speed of 1 /2X, the chain 48 is drivenaround sprocket wheels 46 and 47 in the direction of arrow 112 at a speed of 2X.
The operation will now be apparent from a consideration of the sequence illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2F. As
the carton C moves past the front edge 98a of the opening 98 in the dead plate 94 at a speed of 1 X, its front flap 74 falls through the opening (FIG. 2B). Immediately following this occurrence, the cleat 108 which is moving at a speed of 2X passes below the edge 98a of opening 98 and is thus disposed behind the downwardly extending front flap 74. About midway along opening 98 the cleat 108 at its pivot axis engages the front flap 74 and begins pivoting that flap in the clockwise direction as a result of the speed differential between the carton C and the cleat 108 (FIG. 2C). By the time the flap reaches the end of opening 98 it has been pivoted by cleat 108 to a substantially horizontal position (FIG. 2D). At this point, the cam '114 on pivot rod 110 engages the fixed rod 116 and the cleat 108 is momentarily pivoted upwardly in a counterclockwise.direction above the plane of the dead plate 94 as illustrated in FIG. 2E. As there shown, the cleat 108, in this position, is effective to lift the flap 74 upwardly sufficiently to clear the rear edge 98b of the opening 98. The advancement of the carton C by the flight bar 76 is effective to carry the flap 74 beyond the rear edge 98b of the dead plate 94 whereupon the cam 114 drops off the fixed rod 116 and cleat 108 turns on sprocket wheels 47 and pivots back to its normal position flat with chains 48 (FIG. 2F). In order to provide clearance for cleat 108 during'this operation the rear edge 98b of opening 98'is formed with a small recess 98c. Also during this operation the spring load side guide bars 100 serve to prevent the carton C from being pushed ahead and away from its associated flight bar-76 when the cleat 108 engages the flap 74.
As best shown in FIG. 3, as the containers enter area lll they are divided from a single row into a double row by a divider mechanism there schematically illustrated and designated 118. Dividermechanism 118 may be a simple timed gating mechanism as there schematically illustrated but is preferably a Braren Divider manufactured by Standard Knapp Corp. under that name.
The bottles B are conveyed along the flat top conveyor 32 on either side of a divider rail 120 to area IV for separation into appropriate groups by indexing mechanism 20. The thickness of rail 120 preferably corresponds to the thickness of the partition elements use in the cartons C. As best shown in FIG; 1A prior to entering area IV the tops of the bottles engage and trip a normally open limit switch 122 which is effective to shut off the main drive motor (driving shaft 51) if there are no bottles on the conveyor at this position. This shut off procedure insures that there will be sufficient line pressure to push the bottles across a dead plate 124 disposed at the far end of flat top conveyor 32.
The bottles B are pushed from dead plate 124 onto a section flat top chain conveyor generally designated 126. As shown in FIG. 1A that conveyor comprises a belt 128 trained around pulleys 130 and 132. The conveyor 126' is mechanically linked to the flight bar conveyor system 14 by means of the pulley system generally designated 134, and is driven thereby. Pulley sys-- tem 134 comprises a belt 136 trained around pulley 86 of the flight bar system at one end and around pulley 132 at its other end. The relative dimensions of these pulleys are such as to drive conveyor belt 128 at a speed two-thirds that of the flight bar conveyor 78.
Thus while the flight bar conveyor belt 78 is traveling,
at a speed of 1 /X the bottle conveyor belt 128 travels at a speed of X. The change of bottle speed from 2X on conveyor 32 to X on conveyor 128 ensures that the bottles are lined up contiguously as a result of line pres sure for the indexing operation to follow.
As best shown in FIG. 4 the indexing mechanism comprises a pair of roller chains 138 disposed at either side of conveyor belt 128 and mounting a plurality of evenly spaced indexing fingers 140 therealong. The chains 138 run in a continuous loop in thedirections indicated by arrows 142 along sprocket wheels 144, 146, 148, 150 and 152 in that order. The operative portion of the loop is defined on the side-nearest the conveyor belt 128 between sprocket wheels 146 and 150. As thechains come off the sprocket wheels 146 they are traveling in the same direction as the bottles B but at a slight angle inwardly towards those bottles. The indexing fingers are slightly tapered at their ends and are thus adapted, as they approach the bottles, to enter the 15 joint between successive bottles in each row, thereby separating successive bottles by a distance equal to the operative width of the fingers. Purely for purposes of illustration it has been assumed that each carton C is adapted to accommodate six bottles in two rows of three. Accordingly, every third indexing finger is here shown formed with an increased thickness, thereby to separate the bottles into groups G of two rows of three each. These indexers of greater thickness are spaced from one another by a distance substantially equal to the length of cartons C. The thickness of the remaining index fingers 140 preferably corresponds substantially to the thickness of the internal partition members utilized within the cartons C.
.The thus indexed groups G of bottles B are moved along the conveyor belt 128 between sprocket wheels 148 and 150 with the indexing fingers spaced therebetween, the chains 138 running substantially parallel to the conveyor between these two sprocket wheels. When the indexing chains 138 reach the sprocket wheels 150 the drains turn outwardly around wheels indexed relationship. Once this is done the back pressure on the bottle conveyor line is effective to provide automatic indexing, the motive force for the indexing operation being the conveyor belt 128. As the properly indexed group of bottles B passes the sprocket wheels 150, and the index fingers are released therefrom, the bottles remain in their properly indexed spaced relationship since there is no back pressure at this point.
Referringagain to FIG. 1A, the cartons C which are traveling at 1% times the speed of the indexed bottles are moved from area II with all flaps out along the downward incline of dead plate 94 and-onto a horizontal portion of that dead plate in area V by the flight bars 76. The spacing of flight bars 76 is l /2 times greater than the grouping space G of the bottles B that is,
1% times the distance from one of the thick index fingers to the next. As a result of this spacing and the relative speeds of the flight bar conveyor 78 and the bottle conveyor 128, each carton moves into alignment with a properly indexed group of bottles B at a particular location here designated as area V.
As best shown in FIG. 5A, dead plate 94 in this area is provided with a second opening generally designated 154. As best shown in FIGS. SE-SG, that opening 154 is wide enough to receive a carton C therethrough if the side flaps 72 are turned up. Accordingly, at the moment of alignment between a carton C and a group G of bottles B the carton C, which is disposed directly over opening 154, is pushed down over a group of bottles by pushdown mechanism 22. As best shown in FIG. A that mechanism comprises a pair of pushdown rollers 156 and 158 freely rotatably mounted between bracket arms 160 and 162, respectively. Those bracket arms are in turn pivotally mounted at their other ends on spaced shafts 164 and 166, respectively. Those shafts are each driven by a pulley system 168 and 170 respectively, which are mechanically linked to the flight bar conveyor system 14. Pulley system 168 comprises a pulley 172 mounted fast on shaft 164 and drivingly connected by means of a belt 176 to a pulley 174 mounted fast with sprocket wheel 84, and pulley system 170 comprises a pulley 178 mounted fast on shaft 166 and mechanically linked to pulley 174 by means of a belt 180. Accordingly, the pushdown rollers 156 and 158 are mechanically timed to engage the top of a carton and push it down over the bottles at the exact moment the carton is aligned with the bottles at a frequency precisely equal to the frequency at which the cartons are moved over aperture 154 in dead plate 94.
As best shown in FIGS. SE-SG, the opening 154 at either side thereof is provided with a pair of narrow strips 182 pivotally mounted at 184 and extending substantially along the entire length of the opposing lateral edges of opening 154. Those strips 182 are preferably spring biased to the horizontal position illustrated in FIG. 5E by any suitable means such as spring hinges 186 whereby the strips 182 are effective to restrict the width of the'opening.
As a carton is pushed downwardly by rollers 156 and 158, those strips 182 pivot downwardly and outwardly as shown in FIG. 5F to allow the carton to be pushed through the opening 154, the strips 182 snugly engaging the side flaps 72 and maintaining those flaps in the vertical position illustrated in FIG. 5F until the carton is partially covering a group of bottles. As best shown in FIG. 56 the flaps 72 at that point, by virtue of their natural resiliency, pivot outwardly and engage a pair of L-shaped brackets 188 provided for that purpose. Strips 182 and brackets 188 ensure that the side flaps 72 are not turned down prematurely before the carton is pushed down fully by rollers 156 and 158 to the position shown in FIG. 5H. As there shown, as the carton approaches this position, the side flaps 72 of the carton C are released from brackets 188 and are received on those plates 190 are mounted on framework F at either side of bottles B and comprise a horizontal support portion 192 disposed directly over sprocket wheels 150 and extending laterally over indexing fingers 140 and an inclined portion 194 extending downwardly to the right (FIG. SC) to the level of the bottle conveyor belt 128 just to the left of sprocket wheel 130. Thus the leading edges of side flaps 72 as they are released from brackets 188, engage the horizontal support portions 192 of plates 190, and thus the carton is maintained spaced above the outlet end of indexing mechanism 22 until the group of bottles clear said mechanism.
As best illustrated in FIGS. 5A5D, just prior to the withdrawal of the indexing fingers 140 from between the bottles B in the area of sprocket wheels 150, the indexed bottles are pushed across another dead plate 196 onto another flat top chain conveyor 197 by the line pressure. As best seen in FIGS. 1A and 1B,.that conveyor comprises a belt 198 trained around wheels 200 (FIG. 1A) and 202 (FIG. 1B). That conveyor 197 by means of a pulley system generally designated 206, is operatively drivingly connected to sprocket wheel and thus bottle conveyor 126, flight bar conveyor 14 (through pulley system 134) and carton conveyor 27 (through pulley system 49). Pulley system 206 comprises an idler shaft 208 rotatably mounted on framework F upon which shaft two pulleys 210 and 212 are mounted fast. A drive belt 214 is trained around wheel 202 at one end and around pulley 212 at its other end, idler pulley 216 taking up the slack. Another belt 218 drivingly connects pulley 210 to an idler pulley 220 mounted on framework F below wheel 200. That idler pulley is in turn operatively drivingly connected to wheel 130, which drives bottle conveyor belt 128, by another belt 222. By virtue of the above conveyor belt 198 is driven at a speed of 2X.
Referring again to FIGS. 5A-5D, it will be seen that a new carton C2 approaches the leading edge 154a of opening 154 in dead plate 94 just as a previous carton C1 has completed its downward movement over a group of bottles (FIG. 5A). An upper guide plate 224 is provided at this location above the leading edge 154a of opening 154 to ensure that the carton C remains horizontal, the motivating flight bar 76 at this point moving downwardly relative to carton C2 as a result of the incline of conveyor 78. .The pushdown rollers 164 and 166 engage the top of the carton C2 simultaneously as the rear side wall of the carton C2 clears the leading edge of the aperture 158a. Since the flight bar conveyor is moving at one and one half times the speed of the indexed bottles B below opening 154, the carton C2 has at this point caught up with the previous carton Cl and the front flap 74 of carton C2 is generally aligned with the rearwall of carton Cltherebelow (see FIG. 5B). At the moment of roller engagement (FIG. 5B) the flight bar begins to turn around sprocketwheel 82. Accordingly, the horizontal (leftward) component of flight bar velocity at this point begins progressively to decrease.
As the carton is pushed down to a position just clearing the necks of the bottles B as illustrated in FIG. 5C, the carton C2 is traveling to the left at approximately the same speed (X) as the bottles B. Moreover, once the lower edge of the carton C2 clears the necks of the bottles B, the carton is self-centering on the group of bottles. Thus during the remainder of the downward travel of carton C2 the partition elements 226 automatically seek the spaces 228 between the still indexed bottles B defined by the index fingers and this selfaligning process is unimpeded by the flight bar 76, which, as the carton C2 engages the bottles B, has already moved upwardly along the vertical flight of con veyor 78 out of engagement with the carton. In addition, as shown in FIG. 5C, as carton C2 is pushed down, its front flap 74 wipingiy engages the rear wall of the preceding carton C2. This relative positioning is effective to prevent the front flap 74, as a result of its natural resilience, from turning down and jamming against support plate 190. However, during the pushdown of carton C2, carton Cl, which is now moving along conveyor 196 at a speed (2X) twice that of carton C2 (X),
moves away from carton C2. Thus before carton'C2 reaches its lowermost position (FIG. D) the preceding carton C1 has moved away from carton C2 sufficiently to prevent the front flap of carton C2 from jamming against the rear of carton C1. As shown in FIG. 5D pushdown bracket arms 160 and 162 are of a length sufficient to push the carton down to the level of support plate 190 and no further. Moreover, opening 154 is long enough to accommodate the small horizontal movement of the carton to the left during the relatively rapid vertical pushdown movement.
Shortly after a carton is pushed down the index fingers are retracted from the group G of bottles B over which the carton is disposed, that group being pushed across dead plate 196 onto conveyor belt 198.
The bottles and carton are then conveyed at a speed of 2X along belt 198 to a second pushdown mechanism generally designated 228. As best shown in FIGS. 6A-6C, that mechanism comprises another roller bar 230 journalled at one end of a pair of bracket arms 232, the other ends of which are mounted fast on a rotatable drive shaft 234. The shaft is driven at an angular speed such that roller bar 230 revolves at a tangential velocity of 1.875X and is turned to engage the top of each carton approximately at the 3 oclock position as illustrated in FIG. 6A. The carton C is pushed down completely until its lower edge is flush with conveyor belt 198 during a quarter revolution of roller 230 in the clockwisedirection (FIG. 6B) just as the carton approaches the end of belt 198. At this point carton C is pushed onto another dead plate 236 and pauses m0- mentarily until a flight bar 238 of a second flight bar conveyor system generally designated 240 engages its rear wall.
As best shown in FIG. 1B flight bar conveyor system 240 comprises a plurality of equally spaced bars 238 mounted betweeen a pair of parallel roller chains 242. Those chains are moved in a counterclockwise direction by a sprocket wheel 244 mounted fast on shaft 234 and trained respectively around wheels 246, 248, 250, 252 and 254 and thence back around wheel 244. The radius of sprocket wheel 244 is exactly equal to the length of bracket arms 232 so that the flight bars 238 also move at a speed of 1.875X. Moreover, the spacing of the flight bars is such that a flight bar engages each carton shortly after it is deposited on dead plate 236 (see FIG. 6C).
In order to correlate the speed of flight bar conveyor 242 with that of conveyor belt 198 the two are preferably operatively drivingly connected by means such as chain 245 shown in FIG. 1B trained around wheels 202 and 246. However, it will be apparent that this speed correlation is not critical and consequently the flight bar system may be driven through a separate drive motor (not shown) at the required speed.
The carton C is then carried along dead plate 236 to the front flap closing mechanism 26in Area VII (FIG. 1B). As best shown in FIGS. 7A-7C, that mechanism includes a pair of hinge plates 256 and 258, hinged at opposite ends along axes transverse to the direction of carton travel. The righthand plate 256 (as viewed in FIG. 7A) is hinged on framework F at the terminal edge of dead plate 236 by a suitable hinge mechanism 260 and the other plate 258 is also hinged on framework F at the front edge of another dead plate designated 262, the plates being slightly spaced at their free ends to define a narrow transverse slot 264' (see FIG.
' 266 and 268 in turn are mounted at their other ends on a pair of horizontally disposed cam arms 270 and 272 which when aligned as illustrated in FIG. 7C are generally coterminous. A pair of brackets 274 and 276 respectively are provided for additional support of arms 266 and 268. Camarms 270 and 272 are mounted for vertical sliding movement by any suitable means (not shown) on framework F and are provided with horizontal cam follower rods 278 and 280, respectively, extending transversely in closely spaced parallel relationship from the contiguous ends of arms 270 and 272.
' Cam follower rods 278 and 280 provide vertical support for cam arms 270 and 272 and thus support arms 274 and 276, respectively, by their engagement with an eccentric cam 282 mounted faston a rotatably driven shaft 284. Shaft 284 is preferably mechanically linked (in any suitable manner) to the flight bar conveyor 240 to reciprocatearms 266 and 268 in timed relationship with the movement of cartons C past slot 264. Accordingly, during each complete rotation of cam 282, cam arms 270 and 272 and thus support arms 266 and 268 reciprocate in a manner illustrated in the sequenceof FIGS. 7A-7C, thereby to reciprocate the hinge plates 256 and 258, respectively.
As there shown, as the front flap 74 of the carton C moves to the left ,off dead plate 236 and onto hinge plate 256, that hinge plate pivots slightly downwardly (counterclockwise) and the other hinge plate 258 pivots slightly upwardly, thereby to allow' the flap 74 to enter the slot 264 therebetween (FIG. 7A). After the flap 74 has moved under the elevated hinge plate 258 and before the leading wall of the carton has reached the plate 258, that plate pivots downwardly with respect to plate 256, whereby as the leading wall of the carton moves past the slot 264, the free end of the now depressed hinge plate 258 engages flap 74 and pivots thatflap counterclockwise, thereby to turn it in under carton C (FIG. 7B). As the carton C continues its movement to the left the front flap 74 movesout of slot 264 and onto hinge plate 258 in the turned in (closed) position.
As the carton C leaves hinge plate 258, it is carried by flight bar 238 across dead plate 262 toward the rear flap closing mechanism 27. As best shown in FIG. 1B, that mechanism includes a flat top chain conveyor belt 286 which moves counterclockwise around three sprocket wheels 288, 290 and 292. Sprocket wheel 288 is mounted just below dead plate 262 and defines the commencement of the horizontal flight 294 of the belt, that horizontal flight being generally coterminous with dead plate 262. The horizontal flight 294 terminates as the belt turns on sprocket wheel 290 spaced to the left of wheel 288. Wheel 290 is the driving sprocket wheel and is operatively drivingly connected through a belt 298 to sprocket wheel 254 of flight bar conveyor 240. Thus the belt 286 is mechanically linked to the flight bar conveyor and as here disclosed is driven at a speed of 3.75X (twice the speed of the flight bar conveyor 242). l
As best illustrated in FIGS. 8A-8D, belt 286 comprises a series of contiguous metal strips 300 extending