US 3859772 A
The invention relates to a process and a machine permitting the rational filling of containers having a capacity of several hundred bottles. Bottles arriving upright in a line are distributed over four parallel conveyors. These bottles are pushed into upright cradles and the cradles are laid horizontally so as to obtain two spaced groups of bottles lying head to tail at two different levels. These bottles are seized with the aid of two spaced half-panels, each provided with suction cups, the half-panels being brought towards one another while being pivoted to a point above a container, in which successive layers of bottles at two levels are deposited.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
[ Jan. 14, 1975 United States Patent 1 Thierion  LOADING A CONTAINER WITH LAYERS 3,802,154 4/1974 Dillon 53/247 X F BOTTLES  Inventor:
Michel Thierion Muizon, Primary Examiner-Travis S. McGehee J Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Eric H. Waters 51 140 Jonchery-sur-Vesle, France Feb. 15, 1974 [5 7] ABSTRACT The invention relates to a process and a machine per mitting the rational filling of containers having a ca-  Filed:
Appl. No.: 443,040
 Foreign Application Priority Data pacity of several hundred bottles. Bottles arriving up- Feb. 22, 1973 7306236 right in a line are distributed over four parallel conveyors. These bottles are pushed into upright cradles and the cradles are laid horizontally so as to obtain two spaced groups of bottles lying head to tail at two different levels. These bottles are seized with the aid of two spaced half-panels, each provided with suction M 52 3 a 9 6 5 m 2 M w 6 2 B3 m5 mh C .r "a e "S 1 m d t u .1 ME 1.] 00 55 .ll
cups, the half-panels being brought towards one another while being pivoted to a point above a container, in which successive layers of bottles at two levels are deposited.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,403,494 Livingston 53/142 X 12 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures WWW...
PAIEMEU 3 859 772 SHEET 10F 5 PATENIED JAN 1 4l975 SHEET 30F 5 PATENTED JAN 1 41975 SHEET UP UF 5 PATENIEB JAN 1 4 I375 SHEET 5 OF 5 LOADING A CONTAINER WITI-I LAYERS OF BOTTLES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The invention relates to a process and a machine serving for automatically filling containers of large dimensions with bottles.
These containers already exist; they are designed to receive 500 bottles and sometimes 750 bottles or even more. The bottles are placed therein without packing, laid together in a special manner which is explained further on. v
Containers of such size and filled in this manner are sometimes intended for the shipment of the bottles. They are used principally in cellars for the production of sparkling wine, particularly by the Champagne method. These containers serve for moving entire batches of bottles, particularly full bottles, between the various production operations, with the aid of fork-lift trucks.
For convenience of explanation reference will be made to the example of a container for 500 bottles.
In a container of this kind the arrangement of the bottles must comply with a precise rule. In order that the stacked bottles may occupy a minimum volume it is not sufficient to lay them side by side. In order to obtain a minimum volume for the batch of bottles they must be disposed head to tail, bringing them into contact with one another by the incurved portion which connects the body to the neck. This arrangement is not achieved in one plane, but in space. If, for example, five bottles are imagined to be isolated, four of them are turned in one direction side by side and the fifth is introduced in the opposite direction within the four, with which it makes contact by the incurved portion defined above. At the same time, each of the four bottles can be considered as a fifth introduced between four bottles turned in the opposite direction. In space, the five bottles of a group of this kind are situated at three different levels.
Thus, in a SOO-bottle container there are found at a first level 24 bottles, half of which are turned in one direction and half in the opposite direction; at a second level are found 26 bottles distributed equally between two opposite directions; at a third level are found once again 24 bottles directed in one direction and in the other, and so on.
It is seen that the rational filling of a container is difficult work, which up to the present time has always been done manually.
The main aim of the invention is to provide a process and a machine capable of automatically filling a container of large dimensions by disposing the bottles in the usual rational manner.
SUMMARY Upright bottles are moved by a supply conveyor to a position at which a distributor directs them onto a plurality of pairs of parallel conveyors by which they are transported to cradles which overturn the bottles so that they lie on their sides on the cradles in groups pointing in opposite directions, each group comprising a layer of bottles at two levels for disposition in a container. The layers are raised in succession from the eradles by a panel provided with suction cups and are deposited by the panel one on the other in the container.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a machine according to the invention;
FIG. 2 is a section of a container showing bottles disposed at two levels by the machine,
FIG. 3 is a top plan of a part of the machine shown in FIG. 1,
FIG. 4 is a cross-section of a conveyor and ofa laying cradle forming part of the machine,
FIG. 5 is a cross-section similar to that of FIG. 4, showing the laying cradle in a second position,
FIG. 6 shows in section a part of a bottle transport plate forming part of the machine, and
FIGS. 7 and 8 are respectively an elevation and a transverse section of a bottle storage and counting means which also forms part of the machine.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Before starting the description it will be pointed out that in a cellar it is customary to utilise conveyors on which bottles are moved in line in an upright position. A container is to be filled from a line of this kind.
The operational reliability of the machine and its working capacity over a given period of time depend to a great extent on the process adopted for transferring bottles arriving in a line on a conveyor to their ordered position in a container.
According to the process of the invention there are first formed four parallel rows of bottles, which in the case of a conventional container capable of holding 500 bottles comprise two rows of 13 bottles each and two rows of 12 bottles each; a first group is formed which comprises a row of 13 bottles at the side of a row of 12 bottles, and a second group identical to the first. The bottles of the two rows of each group are overturned to lay on their sides so as to face one another at two different levels in order to obtain two groups of recumbent bottles separated by a gap. The two groups of recumbent bottles are seized simultaneously and moved to the container, while during this movement they are brought closer to one another in order to obtain a bed of two levels which is laid in the container. FIG. 1 shows a general view of a machine according to the invention for carrying out the process which has just been explained.
The bottles arrive upright on a conveyor 1, which is known per se. This conveyor leads to a distributor 2 of any suitable design, which with the aid of guides and turntables distributes the bottles between four parallel conveyor paths 30, 300 and 40, 400. The length of these conveyor paths is such that they can support a number of bottles corresponding to the capacity of a container.
For example, for the purpose of filling a SOObottIe container there are thus obtained four parallel rows, two being of 13 bottles on the conveyors 30 and 40 and two consisting of 12 bottles on the conveyors 300 and 400.
Actually, in order to maintain the output of the machine the conveyor paths are each extended over a length capable of containing more than twice the number of bottles just specified.
In their end portion the conveyor paths run alongside sets of cradles 31, 301, and 41, 401.
The general arrangement is as follows. In the centre there are two parallel conveyors 300 and 400 and then, outside the latter, there is on each side a first set of cradles 301 or 401, a second set of cradles 31 or 41, and a conveyor 30 or 40. Symmetry exists in relation to a median longitudinal plane, on each side of which there is formed a first group of two rows of bottles on the conveyors 30 and 300 and a second group of two rows of bottles on the conveyors 40 and 400. Between the rows of each group are situated the sets of cradles 31, 301, and 41, 401.
The cradles of each group are so mounted as to rock towards one another about horizontal axes situated at different levels in each group. The bottles of each group can therefore be laid down, placing them head to tail and at different levels so that they are in contact by their incurved portions.
Separation of the bottles into two groups facilitates the operation of laying them down, but it supplies a set of recumbent bottles which has an empty median space and the dimensions of which are greater than the surface available in a container.
The machine is provided with an arm 4 capable of pivoting in the horizontal direction and of movement in the vertical direction. The conveyor paths associated with the sets of cradles are situated within the zone of action of the arm 4, together with a station for loading the containers which are to be filed.
The arm 4 carries a panel provided with suction cups on its lower face and composed of two half-panels 5, 6 capable of moving apart and towards one another with the aid of jacks 7 and suitable slide guides.
When the two half-panels 5, 6 have been moved apart, they can simultaneously grip the two groups of bottles by means of their suction cups. During the movement of the arm towards the loading station, the half-panels are brought closer to one another. The size of the panel is then smaller than the inside dimensions of the container. The panel can therefore be lowered into the container and deposit the bottles therein at the desired depth, in successive layers.
As already stated, the bottles of each group are situated at two different levels. Chocks 8, FIG. 2, are therefore provided in the container to support the bottom bottles at a suitable height.
FIG. 2 shows how the first two-layer bed is disposed in a container when the two groups of recumbent bottles laid head to tail have been brought close to one another. The base of the outer bottles is supported by chocks 8. Q
It will be observed that the relative position of the bottles in each group, in respect of height, could be reversed by placing the outer bottles at a lower level and the inner bottles at a higher level. The inner bottles would then be supported by chocks on the bottom of the container.
The adaptation of the machine to this arrangement presents no difficulty and does not depart from the scope of the invention.
FIG. 2 also shows that the difference in levels h between the bottles of one layer is substantially equal to one-half the diameter of a bottle.
FIG. 3 is a top plan of the four conveyor paths 30, 300 and 40, 400, particularly of their end portion which is associated with the sets of pivoting cradles 31, 301, and 41, 401 respectively.
It is advantageous for each set of cradles to be an integral part, produced for example by moulding and having a succession of concavities 9 and base plates 10. The base plates being separated by gaps 11.
Each set of cradles is supported along a conveyor track by end shafts 12, with the aid of which it is possible to rock the set of cradles by about by any suit able means, for example by a crank attached to a jack.
On the other side of each conveyor path, facing each set ofcradles, is a pusher means 13. Each pusher means 13 may occupy a position of rest in which it serves to guide the bottles carried by the conveyor. Each pusher means 13 is also adapted to be moved above the conveyor in the directions away from and towards the corresponding cradle. The length of the pusher means corresponds to that of the row of bottles, and the number of cradles is equal to the number of bottles of the corresponding row.
In order to ensure that the bottles enter correctly into their respective cradles under the action of the pusher means, they must be correctly aligned on the conveyor. On the same side as the sets of cradles there are therefore also provided elongated guides 15, FIG. 4, which are not visible in FIG. 3. These guides are displaceable in the transverse direction and are provided with tongues 14, FIG. 4, adapted to slide into the gaps l1 separating the base plates 10. In a first position near the conveyors the tongues guide the bottles on the latter, and in a second, remote position the tongues are withdrawn from the rocking zone of the cradles.
FIGS. 4 to 8 illustrate in detail one example of construction of the important elements of the machine of which the general arrangement has just been described.
FIG. 4 shows in cross-section the conveyor path 30 with the set of cradles 31 in the vertical or upright position. The vertical wall of the cradles is interrupted at the bottom of the concavity, a short distance below the shaft 12, thus making it possible for the tongues 14, which stand upright from the guides 15 and which move in the gaps 11, to move back to their withdrawn position.
On their bottom faces the guides 15 are provided with rack portions 16, each of which meshes with a toothed sector 17. The toothed sector 17 is keyed on a shaft 18 parallel to the conveyor path, to the set of cradles, and to the guides. An arm 19, or a plurality of arms if this is considered'necessary, is keyed on the shaft 18 and then operated between a position in which it is shown in solid lines and in a position in which it is shown in dot-and-dash lines makes it possible to have the guide 15 and the tongues 14 between their second and first positions, in which they are shown respectively in solid lines and in dot-and-dash lines. This arrangement is also adopted for the guides provided with tonques for the other conveyor paths; it is very suitable for simultaneous operation of all the guides by means of the arms 19, which are connected to the same operating connecting rod (not shown).
The pusher means 13 are connected by connecting rods 20 to displacement means which drive them between their position of rest (shown in dot-and-dash lines) and their end position (shown in solid lines) in which they push the bottles into the cradles.
The width of each conveyor track 30, 300, 40, 400
is equal to the width ofa bottle, as can be seen from the bottle shown in dot-and-dash lines, and the gap in the transverse direction between each pusher means 13 and the tongues 14 of each guide 15 is also equal to this width, allowing for operating clearance.
This has the consequence that the bottles are held in exact alignment on the conveyor, each facing its corresponding cradle.
The simultaneous displacement of the pusher means 13 and of the guide 15 has the consequence that the bottles are reliably introduced at the bottom of the upright cradles, like the bottle shown in solid lines.
At this moment the pusher means 13 can be withdrawn and the sets of cradles rocked to bring them into the recumbent position together with the bottles which they contain.
The distance between two sets of neighbouring cradles 31, 301, the offsetting in the vertical direction of their rocking shafts, or the situation of their concavities in relation to the axes of the shafts are such that after the rocking the bottles lie head to tail, in contact with one another by their incurved portions, and at levels which are separated by a distance h, as can be seen in FIG. 5.
FIG. 6 shows in detail a part of the half-panels 5 and 6. The latter is fixed in relation to the arm 4 and it carries slide guides, such as horizontal sliding shafts 21 which support the half-panel 5. The latter is provided with ball bearings and is moved by jacks (not visible in FIG. 6) which are fastened to the half-panel 6. Annular stops 22 surround the sliding shafts 21 and accurately limit the minimum distance between the half-panels 5, 6.
Each of the half-panels is provided on its bottom face with suction cups 23, 24, each of which can cover a fraction of the side of a recumbent bottle. The suction cups 23, 24 are distributed in the space corresponding to the bottles lying on the cradles; they are individually connected to suction pipes provided on the half-panels. The suction cups can atmosphere. connected at will to a vacuum source or to atmosphere. It is not necessary to describe them in detail.
In order to be able to operate the machine of the invention at a high rate and without incident, it is preferable to provide storage and counting means on the portion of the conveyor tracks 30 300 and 40 400 which precedes the portion facing the sets of cradles 31 301 and 41- 401.
These means retain rows of bottles composed of the exact number of bottles, that is to say 12 or 13 as the case may be in the present example.
These means will now be described with reference to FIGS. 1, 3, 7 and 8.
A shaft 25, to which the desired length is given, is carried by bearings 26 along each conveyor 30, 300, 40, 400. At both ends each shaft carries half-discs 27, 28 respectively, the useful part of which extends over 180. The circular peripheral edge of the half-discs 27, 28 is bevelled and overhangs the corresponding conveyor in one of its positions, known as the stop position. In another position, which is known as the passage position and is offset by 180 in relation to the first position, each half-disc completely clears the conveyor. n the same shaft 25 the half-discs 27 and 28 are rotationally fixed, with an angular spacing of 180; in other words, when the half-disc 27 is in the passage position the halfdisc 28 is in the stop position, and vice versa.
. 6 At the same end the shafts 25 are provided with a rotationally fixed pulley 29 and a single belt 32 passes round the four pulleys 29, passing beneath the central LII versely under the conveyors 300, 400 in the same plane as the belt 32. Any risk of the slipping of the belt is overcome by fastening it to each of the pulleys 25.
With this arrangement, a simple strokeof the piston of the jack 33 is sufficient to rotate the four shafts 25 through 180 and simultaneously to change the position of the eight half-discs 27, 28.
During the rocking of the sets of cradles 31, 301 and 41, 401 the half-discs 28 near these cradles are in their stop position and retain the bottles which the half-discs 27 allow to pass. The bottles accumulate, and when the sets of cradles, the guides 15 and the pusher means 13 have resumed their original position the jack 33 turns the shafts through The half-discs 27 are inserted between two bottles and retain those which are 20 upstream, while the half-discs 281 allow the free passage of the exact number of bottles intended for the cradles situated downstream.
Through the judiciously designed process for the preparation of successive layers each comprising two levels, the machine of the invention constitutes considerable progress. It carries out automatically and at high speed a delicate task which up to the present time could only be done manually. By way of indication it may be stated that a machine provided with storage and counting means as described above can pack into 500- bottle containers about 9,000 to 10,000 bottles per hour.
The movements of the different parts of the machine are brought about by means which are known per se 5 and which are themselves controlled by suitable detectors or by a general programme.
Equivalent variants are possible for the various elements of the machine described, without departing from the scope of the invention. To give an example, the arm 4 may be provided with slide guides on which the two half-panels 5, 6 can be moved simultaneously in the outward and inward directions in relation to a central position in which they are side by side in order to penetrate into a container.
1. A process for automatically filling a container from a line of bottles on a conveyor including the steps of:
a. disposing the bottles in parallel rows grouped in pairs the number of which is determined by the number required for a layer of imbricated bottles in the container,
b. laying the bottles of each group of two rows facing one another at twodifferent levels to obtain groups of recumbent bottles separated by a gap,
c. simultaneously seizing the recumbent bottles of all groups and moving them to the container while moving the groups towards one another to reduce said gap and obtain a layer of bottles at two levels,
depositing the layer of bottles in the container, and
e. repeating steps (a) to (d) to obtain successive layers deposited one on the other in the container.
2. A machine for the automatic filling of a container 5 from a row of upright bottles on a supply conveyor,
b. a bottle distributor operable to direct upright bottles from the supply conveyor onto said parallel conveyors,
c. sets of cradles associated in pairs respectively each with a pair of said parallel conveyors, each set of cradles being disposed between a pair of said parallel conveyors and rockable between a vertical position and a horizontal position to form a group of two parallel rows of incumbent bottles, the cradles associated with each group being mounted on shafts offset so that the bottoms of recumbent bottles are displaced by about one-half the diameter of a bottle,
d. pusher means extending along the sides of the parallel conveyors opposite the cradles and arranged to be displaceable over the conveyors towards and away from the cradles,
e. an arm supported for pivotal movement in a horizontal plane and for displacement in a vertical plane,
f. a panel carried by said arm and provided with suction cups, said panel comprising at least two parts movable towards and away from each other and each part corresponding to a group of two rows of incumbent bottles lying on the cradles, the panel parts when moved towards each other forming a panel having lesser dimensions than those of the interior of the container, and
g. a container-charging station located in the zone of action of said arm whereby layers of bottles are successively laid one on the other in the container by the arm and said panel.
3. A machine according to claim 2, wherein each set of cradles comprises a unitary member having a succession of concavities and base plates separated by gaps, and associated with said members side guides having a succession of tongues movable in said gaps and mounted for movement in a direction transverse to that of the cradles between a first position in which the tongues are close to the conveyor and guide bottles thereon and a second position in which the tongues are withdrawn from the rocking zone of the cradles.
4. A machine according to claim 3, wherein the parallel conveyors are at the same level and together with the sets of cradles and the side guides are disposed symmetrically in relation to a general plane of symmetry passing between two central parallel conveyors.
5. A machine according to claim 3, wherein the side guides each have a lower face provided with a rack cooperable with an oscillating toothed sector, said sectors being rotatable by a single drive shaft.
6. A machine according to claim 2, wherein the panel comprises one part which is fixed in relation to said arm, the movable parts being provided with slide guides for movement relative to the fixed part, and jacks being respectively connected between the different movable parts and the part fixed to the arm.
7. A machine according to claim 3, wherein the pusher means and the side guides are spaced apart transversely to the conveyor with which they are associated by a distance equal to the diameter of the bottles, allowing for operating clearance.
8. A machine according to claim 2, comprising bottle storage and counting means disposed upstream of the conveyor track and situated facing the corresponding cradles, said storage and counting means comprising elongated shafts each of which is supported along a parallel conveyor with which it is associated, said shafts I each being provided at its opposite ends with half-discs offset by and capable of occupying a stop position in which they overhang a part of the associated conveyor and a passage position in which they completely clear the said conveyor, said shafts being angularly movable simultaneously by a single drive means.
9. A machine according to claim 8, wherein each shaft has a pulley rotatable therewith, and wherein a belt disposed transversely to the conveyors passes round said pulleys and under the two central parallel conveyors, the ends of the belt being fastened to opposite rods of the piston of a jack disposed transversely under said central conveyors.
10. A machine according to claim 8, wherein the half-discs have bevelled external peripheral edges facilitating their introduction between bottles.
11. A machine according to claim 10, comprising four parallel conveyors and four cradles associated respectively with four pusher means, constituting two groups each of which is composed at the centre of two conveyors and then, outside the latter and on each side, a first set of cradles and a second set of cradles each of which is associated with a pusher means, the panel comprising two movable parts each of which constitutes a half-panel.
12. A machine according to claim 11, wherein said arm carries slide guides on which the two half-panels are slidably mounted, together with jacks to which the two half-panels are connected so that they are displaceable simultaneously.