US 3893282 A
An article packer apparatus for arranging groups of articles in series including a conveyor for moving articles to a packing station, a locator for successively segregating the articles and simultaneously transferring the articles to the packing station, a conveyor at the packing station for conveying receivers such as cans, boxes and the like into article receiving position, means for retaining the receivers in preselected patterns at the packing station in position for receiving the articles, transfer means for transferring the articles successively to the receivers at the station and means for moving the locator means at a speed faster than that of the article conveyor to clear the conveyor successively of articles adjacent to the packing station and thereby provide space for the next group of articles.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Armbruster et al.
[ ARTICLE PACKER APPARATUS  Inventors: Melvin L. Armbruster, I299 SW. 14th St., Boca Raton, Fla. 33432; Anthony 0. Campanale, 3607 NW. 84th Terr., Coral Springs, Fla. 33605; Robert L. Schultz, 1020 S.W. 18th St.. Boca Raton, Fla. 33432  Assignee: Hollymatic Corporation, Park Forest, ill.
22 Filed: July 26,1974
] Appl. No.: 492,012
Primary Examiner-T avis S. McGehee Attorney, Agent, or FirmWegner, Stellman, McCord, Wiles & Wood  ABSTRACT An article packer apparatus for arranging groups of articles in series including a conveyor for moving articles to a packing station, a locator for successively segregating the articles and simultaneously transferring the articles to the packing station, a conveyor at the packing station for conveying receivers such as cans, boxes and the like into article receiving position, means for retaining the receivers in preselected patterns at the packing station in position for receiving the articles, transfer means for transferring the articles successively to the receivers at the station and means for moving the locator means at a speed faster than that of the article conveyor to clear the conveyor successively of articles adjacent to the packing station and thereby provide space for the next group of articles.
11 Claims, 7 Drawing Figures PATENTFMUL 8 ms 3 8 93, 282
SHEET 2 PNENTEDJUL 8 1975 SHEET v \yf a V ARTICLE PACKER APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an apparatus for packing groups of articles such as stacks of food patties into receivers such as boxes. cans or the like automatically and rapidly so that the articles are removed and packed as fast as they are formed.
The most pertinent prior art of which applicant is aware but which does not disclose the features of this invention are prior U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,718,993, 3,431,702 and 3,673,756.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a fragmentary plan view of an article packer apparatus embodying the invention.
FIG. 2 is a vertical sectional view taken substantially along line 22 of FIG. 1 and illustrating an initial step in the operation of the apparatus.
FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 2 and illustrating the next step in the operation of the apparatus.
FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIG. 3 and illustrating the next step in the operation of the apparatus.
FIG. 5 is a horizontal sectional view taken substantially along line 55 of FIG. 2.
FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5 but taken substantially along line 66 of FIG. 3.
FIG. 7 is a fragmentary side elevational view partially broken away and taken substantially along line 77 of FIG. 6.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT The drawings illustrate one embodiment of the invention and specifically a packer apparatus for packing stacks of freshly formed ground meat patties having their sides aligned so that the stack is in the shape of a cylinder and in this embodiment the stacks are in groups of four aligned transversely to the patty forming apparatus. The successive steps in the operation of the apparatus are illustrated by the successive views of FIGS. 2, 3 and 4.
The article packer apparatus 10 of this invention comprises an article conveyor 11 which is part of a patty machine which may be a conventional machine that arranges individual patties 12 in vertical stacks 13 transversely to the conveyor 11 with each vertically adjacent pair of patties in a stack being separated by a conventional separator paper of which only one 14 is shown for illustrative purposes although it is understood that conventionally each adjacent pair of patties in the stack will be separated by a separator sheet.
In the illustrated embodiment the conveyor belt 11 carries the stacks of patties in groups of four in aligned rows extending transversely across the belt 11. It is to be understood that the stacks will be in successive transverse rows so that the patties are arranged in stacks in groups of four stacks as they come from the patty forming machine which feeds the formed patties to the belt 11. Such patty machines are well known in the art and are illustrated in US. Pat. No. 3,654,665 as well as other patents.
The conveyor belt 11 for the stacks of patties l3 operates to convey them from the patty former and the forward end of the belt passes over a roller 15. Located adjacent to this forward end of the belt 11 is a locator 16 which is operable for successively segregating the groups of articles, here the four stacks 13 of transversely aligned patties, and simultaneously transferring the assembly to a packing station 17 which is adjacent to and generally opposite the forward reach of the conveyor 11 as defined by the return roller 15.
The locator which successively segregates the groups of articles, here the transversely aligned rows. and transfers these articles to the packing station 17 comprises a vertical plate 18 that is mounted on the top end of a vertical piston 19 that is moved in a vertical path by a compressed air cylinder 20 of conventional construction.
The top edges of the vertical plate 18 on opposite sides of the piston 19 and bracket 21 are each attached to a slide block 22 which is slidably mounted on a vertical rod 23 so as to guide the vertical movement of the plate 19.
The bottom end of each rod 23 is attached to a cross bar 24 which extends transversely of the conveyor 11 and whose opposite ends are mounted on an elongated cylindrical slide 25 each of which is mounted on a longitudinal rod 26. The rods 26 therefore are parallel to each other, are located adjacent to but above the opposite sides of the conveyor belt 11 and extend forwardly with their forward ends held in mounting blocks 27 secured to a vertical plate 28 that forms a forward end of the framework 29 of the article packer apparatus.
With this arrangement the entire locator 16 is movable longitudinally parallel to the direction of movement of the conveyor 11 and transversely to the groups of patty stacks 13. In order to cause this longitudinal movement the cross bar 24 which serves as the mounting for the vertical plate 19 is moved forwardly and rearwardly. or to the right and left as viewed in FIGS. 2-4, by a compressed air cylinder 30 of conventional construction and similar to the previously described cylinder 20. The piston 31 of this air cylinder 30 is attached to the vertical leg 32 of a mounting bracket 33 that is attached to the cross bar 24 at substantially the center thereof.
The locator I6 is provided with arcuate pushers 34 positioned side-by-side across the bottom of the vertical plate 18 and spaced correspondingly to the stacks 13 of patties 12 as illustrated in FIG. 1. Each of the pushers 34 extend beneath a horizontal cross bar 35 that is mounted on the forward side of the vertical plate 18 and sturdily attached thereto by spaced reinforcements 36. As can be seen in FIG. 1 each of the arcuate pusher surfaces 34 is located immediately behind a corresponding stack 13 of patties.
Located forwardly, or to the right in the illustrated embodiment, of the locator 16 is the packing station 17 which comprises a vertical positioner block 37 having four transversely aligned vertical arcuate surfaces 38 that are similar to the locator surfaces 34 so that when the four stacks are moved to the position illustrated in FIG. 3 each stack 13 will be retained between the facing arcuate surfaces 34 and 38 so as to be held in proper lateral and longitudinal position for proper packing.
Immediately in front of the positioner block 37 is a trap door construction that comprises a pair of superimposed elongated plates 39 and 40 with the top plate being fixed in position as by spaced mounting screws 41 (FIG. 5) and the lower plate 40 being horizontally movable relative to the top plate 39 as by means of a customary air cylinder 41 whose piston 42 is attached to a transversely extending tab 43 that forms a part of the lower plate 40.
Each of the top and bottom plates 39 and 40 is provided with an opening 45 and 46 that is slightly larger in diameter than the diameter of the stack 13 of patties. When the plates are in the relative positions of FIG. the openings 45 and 46 are out of alignment with each other to produce the trap door effect so that the pair of plates retain the stacks 13 of patties on them as illustrated in FIG. 3. However. when the air cylinder 41 operating through the tab 43 slides the bottom plate relative to the top plate 39 the openings 45 and 46 become aligned so that the stacks 13 can drop through the aligned openings from the transversely aligned passages of FIG. 3 to the bottommost position in FIG. 4 during the packing operation to be explained in more detail hereinafter.
In the illustrated embodiment the groups of articles which are illustrated by the four transverse stacks 13 of individual patties 12 are loaded into receivers which in this embodiment are individual cans each receiving a stack 13. It is of course obvious that two or more articles such as two or more of the stacks 13 may be received in a single receiver such as an elongated box, if desired, without departing from the invention.
In the illustrated embodiment the open topped cans 47 are transported into the packing station 17 on a continuously operating conveyor belt 48. The cans are positioned in groups of four as illustrated in FIG. 6 immediately beneath the transversely aligned groups 13 of patties 12 which have been properly located by the locator 16 which includes the positioner block 37. Thus the receivers. here the cans 47, are retained in groups of four by the leading can 49 of the group of four eontacting a star wheel 50 having four points. This star wheel is rotatable about a vertical axle 51 but is held against rotation during the positioning and loading of the cans 47 by means of a vertical piston 52 projected upwardly by means of its air cylinder 53 to engage a socket 54 in the bottom of the star wheel 50 as illustrated in FIG. 7. The opposite end of the group of four cans 47 is defined by a similar star wheel 55 also having four points and which is rotated in a counterclockwise direction as viewed in FIG. 6 by the entering cans 47. As soon as the four cans have been assembled. however, as shown in FIG. 6 this star wheel 55 is also locked against rotation by a similar piston 56 and air cylinder 57 that are similar in construction and operation to the piston 52 and cylinder 53 of the opposite wheel 50. This wheel 55 when locked in position as described prevents additional cans 47 from entering the filling station 58 where the four preceding cans 47 are located in the manner previously described. If desired, either of the wheels 50 or 55 may also be used to operate a counter as each rotates a full 360 for each group of four cans.
In order to retain the receivers or cans 47 in proper loading position there are provided retaining means which securely lock each can in proper position both laterally and longitudinally for receiving the groups 13 of patties. In the illustrated embodiment this retaining means or receiver lock 59 (FIG. 6) comprises a transversely extending base bar 60 against which the receivers or cans 47 are held in a horizontally movable clamp bar 61 that is provided with four sockets 62 defined by angular sides each of which is adapted to embrace the side ofa can 47 opposite the base bar 60 so as to retain the can in position.
The clamp bar 61 is horizontally movable by being attached at about its midpoint to a horizontal piston 63 of a horizontal air cylinder 64. In order to provide stability the clamp bar 61 is also provided with a pair of guide rails 65 that are parallel to each other and to the piston 63 and that are horizontally slidable in cylinders 66. These cylinders 66 are mounted on the orposm ends of a horizontal strap 67 that is essentially parallel to the clamp bar 61 with this strap comprising the vertical upper part ofa mounting bracket 68 that is attached to a frame part 69 of the apparatus.
In order to press the stacks 13 of patties firmly i111! the cans 47 despite the resistance of the separator sheets 14 previously described there are provided a loader piston assembly 70 that forms the top part of the packing station 17.
This loader piston assembly comprises the horizontal top flange 71 forming a part of the mounting plate 28 and having attached thereto an upwardly extending air cylinder 72 at about the midpoint of the flange 71 and with this air cylinder being provided with the customary movable piston 73. This piston 73 is provided on its lower end with an inverted U-shaped bracket 74 (FIG. 3) that embraces the sides of a horizontal bar 75. This bar is loosely mounted on the bracket 74 by means of a transverse piston 76. Spaced along this horizontal bar 75 are vertical loader pistons 77 that include vertical shafts guided for vertical movement by slidably engaging the top flange 71 of the plate 28 and a lower horizontal flange 78 that is mounted on the plate 28.
The bottom of each loader piston 77 is provided with a pusher plate 79 each of which is adapted to contact the top of a stack 13 of patties and force the stack downwardly into its can 47 against the usual resistance including the paper separator sheets 14. In its bottommost position each pusher plate 79 is slightly within the top of its can 47 at the bottom of the movement of the pusher assembly as illustrated in FIG. 4.
The air cylinder 30 that with its piston 31 moves the arcuate pushers 34 forwardly or to the right from the position in FIGS. 1 and 2 to the loading position of FIG. 3 is mounted on a support strap 80 between a pair of end flanges 81 and this strap and the attached cylinder are held in the horizontal position shown by an angled brace 82.
In order to move the receivers here illustrated by the cans 47 forwardly there is provided the continuously operating can conveyor belt 48 which is operated by an electric motor 83 through a gear reducer 84 and a belt drive 85. The gear reducer 83 serves to reduce the speed of rotation to rotate an end roller 86 over which the belt 48 passes with the belt moving in the direction indicated by the arrow 87 of FIG. 1.
In order to move the sets of receivers 47, here shown as four. into the receiving station 58 the downstream star wheel 50 is latched against rotation by its piston 52 being in the locked position illustrated in FIG. 7. This first wheel 50 therefore acts as a stop with the other star wheel 55 having its piston 56 retracted being rotatcd in a counterclockwise direction in FIG. 6 by the oncoming cans 47. Thus this second star wheel 55 can also function as a counter. if desired.
As soon as the required number of receivers or cans which in the illustrated embodiment are four in number reach the filling station area 58 between the two star wheels the upstream wheel 55 is latched against rotation in the manner previously described so as to block the next entering can which is the one shown in FIG. 6 in engagement with the upstream star wheel 55.
The operation of the article packer apparatus is as follows. The specific embodiment articles. the patties 13, come from the patty machine (not shown) in the manner described in the above U.S. Pat. No. 3,654,665 in four transverse stacks 13 and with each movement of the stacks of patties being separated from the next succeeding movement which is not shown here for simplicity of illustration by a relatively short distance that is still enough for the locator 16 to enter between the rows of patties and engage the leading row as illustrated in FIG. 2. The conveyor 11 transports the rows of patty stacks 13 from the patty machine. When the leading row of stacks 13 has reached the position shown in FIG. 2 the air cylinder 20 is energized with compressed air to lower the piston 19 which operates through the bracket 21 and the guide rails 23 to lower the arcuate pushers at the bottom of the vertical plate 18 to a position behind the transverse rows of patty stacks 13 or to the position shown in FIG. 2.
Next the air cylinder 30 is energized by being placed in communication with a source (not shown) of compressed air to extend the cylinder piston 31 forwardly or to the position of FIG. 3 from the position of FIG. 2. This forward movement of the piston 31 as well as the downward movement of the previously described piston 19 is at a linear rate greater than the rate of movement of the conveyor belt 11 carrying the stacks of patties from the machine. This greater linear rate is provided in order that the forward end 88 of the conveyor belt 11 will be cleared prior to the approach of the next row 89 of stacks 13 as illustrated in FIG. 4.
The forward movement of the piston 31 and thus the locator 16 to the position of FIG. 3 slides the forwardmost row of stacks 13 onto the trap door plate 39 which is fixed in position with the cooperating plate 40 being retracted to the position shown in FIG. 5 where the openings and 46 in the superimposed plates are out of registry as previously described.
In the meantime. the moving belt 48 has moved the four sets of cans to the loading position shown in FIG. 6 where their open tops 90 are generally beneath the four forwardmost stacks 13 of patties 12.
Next the air cylinder 64 is energized with compressed air so that the armature 63 in cooperation with the side guide rods 65 move the clamp bar 61 forwardly so that the four angular sockets 62 not only center each can 47 with its open top 80 beneath the corresponding stack 13 of patties but also clamps the cans 47 immovably against the opposite base bar 60 so that the cans cannot move in any direction in spite ofthe fact that during the entire operation the conveyor belt 48 continues to rotate. For this reason the surface of the belt is treated with any of the customary low friction surfacing materials.
With the cans properly centered. as described beneath the four stacks the air cylinder 41 is energized with compressed air to move its piston 42 to extended position or toward the bottom of FIG. 5 so that the openings 45 and 46 in the superimposed plates 39 and 40 coincide with each other. Because of the locator 16 operating in conjunction with the arcuate surfaces 38 ofthc positioner block 37 the stacks 13 are held against lateral movement in the proper position to pass downwardly through the aligned openings 45 and 46 in the manner illustrated in FIG. 4 into the respective cans 47. In order to insure that this downward movement ofthe articles into the receivers or cans is complete. rapid and positive even when the articles are stacks of patties with separator paper between the air cylinder 72 is energized with compressed air to force its piston 73 downwardly and by operating through the yoke bracket 74 and the cross bar 75 on the pistons 77 each stack 13 is pressed downwardly into its receiver or can by its pusher plates 79 and their respective stacks 13 of patties are forced downwardly by a combination of gravity and compressed air acting through the air cylinder 72 to move the patties from their external position of FIG. 3 downwardly to the can 47 filled position of FIG. 4.
As soon as this has been accomplished the following operations occur. The air cylinder 72 is again energized with compressed air but in the opposite direction to lift the pusher plates 79 from the stacks 13 of patties within the cans 47. The star wheels 50 and 55 are released by lowering their locking pistons 52 to release the sockets 54 and the clamp bar 61 is moved to release position or to the left as shown in FIG. 6. This releases the filled cans 47 in the filling or loading station 58 so that the continuously operating conveyor belt 48 can carry the four filled cans away and move four succeeding cans into position as previously described.
When the pusher plates 78 have been returned to their raised positions as illustrated in FIG. 2 through the action of their operating air cylinder 72 the air cylinder 41 (FIG. 5) is re-energized to move its piston 42 to the retracted position of FIG. 1 so that the openings 45 and 46 are again out of register as shown in FIG. 5 preparatory to receiving the next row of patties.
Then in order to move and load the next transverse row 89 of patty stacks 13 the arcuate pushers 34 moved from the lowered position of FIG. 3 to the raised position of FIG. 4 by energizing the air cylinder 20 for movement of the piston 19 in attached plate 18 upwardly as indicated by the arrow 91 of FIG. 4.
When the pushers 34 are in their elevated position of FIG. 4 so as to clear the top of the next succeeding row 89 of patty stacks 13 the horizontal air cylinder 30 is again energized with compressed air to move its piston 31 in the opposite direction or to retracted position as indicated by the arrow 92 in FIG. 4. In the meantime the conveyor belt 11 moves the next row of patties 89 forwardly as shown by the arrow 93 of FIG. 4.
Once this next row 89 of patties has reached the forward position illustrated by the stacks 13 of patties in FIG. 2 the operation is repeated to load this now forwardmost row 89 into the succeeding set of four cans in the same manner as just described.
As can be seen from the above description of one embodiment of the invention and its operation the article packer apparatus of this invention has a number of very important advantages. Thus it operates continuously and at high speed and automatically to load successive receivers which are transported into and out of the filling or loading station automatically. In order to provide for this automatic operation the illustrated embodiment includes an electric eye control which functions in the customary manner to project a beam of light from the eye 94 transversely to an electric eye receiver 95 so that the interrupting of this light beam by the advancing transverse rows of articles or stacks l3 energizes the various operating elements of the system but permits it to stop automatically when'there are no articles to be loaded. This automatic control by advancing articles such as the articles 13 interrupting a light beam is conventional and widely described in the art of automatic controls.
The apparatus of this invention has the advantage of moving the article receivers which in the illustrated embodiment are individual cans 47 for an individual stack 13 into position and retains them in position during the loading operation. Although in this embodiment there is one stack loaded into one receiver, it is obvious that the apparatus with very slight modifications can be used to load a plurality of stacks into a single receiver such as by loading the four stacks illustrated into a single receiving box. The important factor is that regardless of the character of the articles or the character of the receiver this apparatus is readily adaptable to. first, hold the receivers in proper position, second, hold the articles in proper loading position and, third, load the articles into the receivers by a positive force action during which both the receivers and the articles are completely controlled in their movement during all stages. An additional advantage is that once the articles have been properly loaded into the receivers, then the loaded receivers are automatically removed from loading position and the next receiver or groups of receivers is automatically moved into loading position.
Having described our invention as related to the embodiment shown in the accompanying drawings, it is our intention that the invention be not limited by any of the details of description, unless otherwise specified, but rather be construed broadly within its spirit and scope as set out in the appended claims.
1. An article packer apparatus, comprising: a continuously operating article conveyor for moving said articles to a packing station; locator means for successively segregating said moving articles and simultaneously transferring said segregated articles to said packing station; receiver conveying means at said station for moving article receivers into article receiving position; means for retaining said receivers stationary in preselected patterns at said station for receiving said articles; transfer means for transferring said segregated articles successively to said receivers at said station; and means for moving said locator means at a rate of speed faster than that of said conveyor to clear the conveyor successively of articles adjacent to said packing station and provide space for the next said articles during said packing.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said locator means successively segregates said articles in preselected groupings corresponding to said articles patterns and maintains said groupings at said packing station.
- 3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means for moving said locator means provides four successive motions. a first of which moves the locator means into position for said segregating, another of which moves said segregated articles to said packing station. a third of which moves said locator means away from said segregated articles and a fourth of which returns said locator means to an initial position preparatory to segregating the next articles.
4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said locator means is normally positioned above said article conveyor and the articles thereon prior to said first motion.
5. The apparatus of claim I wherein said receiver conveying means operates continuously in contact with said stationary receivers at said packing station.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein there are pro vided stop means for stopping the movement of said receivers at said packing station and locking means for locking each said receiver in a preselected position corresponding to the position of said segregated articles at the packing station.
7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said locking means comprises a movable clamp member and means for operating said clamp member intermittently to lock said receivers in position during said transfer of articles to said receivers.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein there are provided at said packing station a movable trap door means on which said segregated articles are retained during the moving of said article receivers into receiving position and means for opening said trap door means to transfer the articles into said receivers.
9. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein said trap door means comprises a fixed plate having article passing openings and a movable plate having article receiving openings out of register with said openings in the first plate and said moving means moves the openings in both said plates into coinciding cooperation.
10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said retaining means retain said receivers at said packing station beneath the corresponding segregated articles and said transfer means comprises force operated members for forcing said articles into said receiver at the packing station.
11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said receiver conveying means and said means for retaining said receivers in preselected pattern are located beneath said segregated articles at the packing station and said transfer means operates in conjunction with gravity to transfer said articles downwardly to the receivers at the packing station.