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Publication numberUS3928942 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateDec 30, 1975
Filing dateApr 19, 1974
Priority dateApr 19, 1974
Also published asCA1030115A, CA1030115A1, DE2501028A1, DE2501028C2
Publication numberUS 3928942 A, US 3928942A, US-A-3928942, US3928942 A, US3928942A
InventorsCramer Jerry W, Paddock Paul F
Original AssigneeSunkist Growers Inc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Means to guide a layer of objects into a box
US 3928942 A
Abstract
To pack objects into a box, a pickup head equipped with multiple vacuum cups picks up a layer of the objects and descends into the box. The box is initially positioned in an approximately correct position relative to the path of descent of the pickup head and as the pickup head approaches the top of the box, four guide panels snap into engagement with the four inner walls, respectively, of the box for four purposes: (1) to position the box precisely correctly relative to the path of descent of the pickup head; (2) to crowd the layer of objects on the pickup head together to conform to the dimensions of the box; (3) to guide the pickup head into the box; and (4) to serve as guards to prevent damage to the descending objects by the rim of the box.
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United States Patent [1 1 Paddock et al.

[ 1 Dec. 30, 1975 [54] MEANS TO GUIDE A LAYER OF OBJECTS INTO A BOX [75] Inventors: Paul F. Paddock, Riverside; Jerry W. Cramer, Upland, both of Calif.

[73] Assignee: Sunkist Growers, lnc., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

[22] Filed: Apr. 19, 1974 [21] Appl. No.: 462,215

3,750,721 8/1973 Hudson 53/187 X Primary ExaminerTravis S. McGehee Assistant Examiner-Horace M. Culver Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Paul A. Weilein 57] ABSTRACT To pack objects into a box, :a pickup head equipped with multiple vacuum cups picks up a layer of the objects and descends into the box. The box is initially positioned in an approximately correct position relative to the path of descent of the pickup head and as the pickup head approaches the top of the box, four guide panels snap into engagement with the four inner walls, respectively, of the box for four purposes: (1) to position the box precisely correctly relative to the path of descent of the pickup head; (2) to crowd the layer of objects on the pickup head together to conform to the dimensions of the box; (3) to guide the pickup head into the box; and (4) to serve as guards to prevent damage to the descending objects by the rim of the box.

23 Claims, 9 Drawing Figures US. Patent Dec. 30, 1975 Sheet 10f4 3,928,942

" ijjjj Mi/ US. Patent Dec. 30, 1975 Sheet20f4 3,928,942

US. Patent Dec. 30, 1975 Sheet 3 0f4 US. Patent Dec. 30, 1975 Sheet4 of4 3,928,942

MEANS TO GUIDE A LAYER OF OBJECTS INTO A BOX BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an automatic apparatus for packing fruit into successive boxes and, more particularly, relates to the type of apparatus that is disclosed in the Riddington US Pat. No. 3,590,551 entitled AU- TOMATIC APPARATUS FOR PACKING ARTICLES IN BOXES, which patent is hereby incorporated into the present disclosure by reference.

In packing oranges, for example, into a box for shipment, the alternate layers partially nest together and therefore the alternate layers are of two different complementary patterns which are formed at two different supply stations on opposite sides of the packing station. In the Riddington disclosure, a left pickup head equipped with a plurality of vacuum cups picks up layers of fruit from the left supply station for deposit in the box and an alternate right pickup head picks up layers from the right supply station for deposit in the box.

With special reference to the packing of oranges in boxes, a long standing troublesome problem encountered in designing an automatic fruit packing apparatus of this general type arises from the fact that the oranges of a layer in a box must be crowded together for safe shipment, it being desirable that the oranges be pressed together to such extent as to create slight distortion of the fruit. The layers that are formed at the supply stations are not sufficiently compact, and moreover, when a pickup head lifts a layer of oranges from a supply station, the layer spreads slightly before the layer reaches the box and the slightly expanded layer may even exceed the dimensions of the interior of the box. The problem is not only to contract the slightly expanded layer that is carried by a descending pickup head, but also to keep the rim of the box from damaging the peripheral fruit of the layer.

In the Riddington disclosure, a tapered rectangular chute is'placed close to the rim of the box to solve this problem. The upper entrance of the chute is of a cross sectional area sufficient to admit the slightly loose layer on the descending pickup head and the lower end of the chute is narrowed to slightly less than the dimensions of the rim of a box.

One disadvantage of employing such a tapered chute is that it creates the problem of insuring that the box is accurately aligned with the chute. If the box is even slightly out of alignment with the tapered chute, the peripheral fruit of the descending layer may be damaged by being forced against the rim of the box. Another drawback is that the peripheral fruit of the descending layer necessarily rubs against the inner surface of the tapered chute with increased pressure as the A layer of fruit descends. It has been found that such friction may rupture oil cells in the skin of the fruit to result in subsequent deterioration of the fruit before the fruit reaches the consumer.

The present invention is directed to a new solution for the problem of guiding a descending layer of fruit into a box and simultaneously slightly contracting the layer to the dimensions of the box.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Instead of employing any type of fixed guide means at the rim of a box at the packing station, the present invention provides a set of four dynamic guide panels corresponding to the four inner walls of the box with the four guide panels supported and controlled by four corresponding actuating mechanisms. As a loaded pickup head descends towards the top of the box, the four guide panels are at poised positions above the box in the path of descent of the layer of fruit, with each guide panel overhanging a corresponding wall of the box and inclined downward towards the interior of the box.

When the peripheral fruit of the descending layer of fruit impinges on the poised guide panels, the guide panels initially yield by swinging downward with the fruit with minimum relative movement between the guide panels and the fruit and consequently with little or no frictional abrasion of the fruit. Then the downwardly swinging panel snap down by spring action to lower effective positions at which each panel is upright with a lip of the lower edge of the panel engaging the inner rim portion of the corresponding wall of the box. The initial yielding resistance of the four guide panels gently contracts the layer of oranges and then when the panels snap to their lower upright positions they form a chute or guideway into the box that confines the layer of fruit to dimensions that are only slightly less than the inside dimensions of the rim of the box.

Since the layer of fruit descends below the level of the top edges of the poised guide panels before impinging on the guide panels, the invention solves the problem of moving the layer of fruit past the top edges of the guide panels and there is thus no possibility of the fruit being damaged by being forced against the top edges of the panels. At the lower upright positions of the guide panels, they overlap the box rim from the inside and thus serve as guides to solve the problem of getting the layer past the box rim with no possibility of the rim injuring the peripheral. fruit of the layer.

A feature of the invention of primary importance is that when the guide panels swing to their lower upright positions by snap action, one pair of opposite guide panels cooperate to center the box longitudinally relative to the path of descent of the pickup head and the other pair of opposite guide panels center the box laterally. The result is precision positioning of the box before the descending layer reaches the rim of the box.

The four guide panels have a capability of shifting an empty box through a given range of movement to bring the box into precise alignment with the path of the pickup head and the conveyor that delivers the empty boxes to the packing station normally places the empty boxes at positions that approximate the desired precise alignment within the range of correction capability of the four guide panels. Sensing means in the form of switches that respond to the movement of a box into the packing station are operative to prevent descent of a pickup head towards the box if the delivered position of the box is beyond the correction capability of the guide panels.

The features and advantages of the invention may be understood from the following detailed description together with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the drawings, which are to be regarded as merely illustrative: I

FIG. I is a front elevational view of an automatic packing apparatus incorporating the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, portions of the apparatus being broken away to show concealed parts;

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary plan view showing the packing station and the two supply stations onopposite sides thereof;

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary vertical section taken along the longitudinal center line ofa box at a packing station and showing a pickup head with a layer of fruit thereon descending towards the box;

FIG. 4 is a section taken along the line 4-4 of FIG.

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary plan view of the set of four guide panels with the guide panels at their lower upright positions;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken along the line 6-6 of FIG. 5 showing a panel at its lower upright position in engagement with the inner rim of a box;

FIG. 7 is a fragmentary sectional view similar to FIG. 6 showing the guide panel at its alternate elevated poised position;

FIG. 8 is a sectional view taken along the line 8-8 of FIG. 5 showing the rear face of a guide panel; and

FIG. 9 is a view similar to FIG. 6 but on a smaller scale showing how the head plate of a pickup head may swing the guide panel to a retracted position in the event the head plate catches on the lower lip of the guide panel.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SELECTED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION FIG. 1 shows a packing station represented by a box, generally designed B, which has been delivered to the packing station by a conveyor that is generally designated C. Fruit F, in this instance oranges, are packed in the box B in alternate layers that are of complementary patterns to enable them to partially nest together and therefore the apparatus provides two separate supply stations comprising a left supply station S-1 and a right supply station S-2.'The left station forms the fruit into what may be termed a left pattern and the right station forms the fruit in what may be termed a right pattern, the two patterns being shown in FIG. 2.

To pack the two patterns of fruit into the box B alternately, the apparatus provides a left pickup head P-l to pick up layers of fruit at the supply station S-1 and a right pickup head P-2 to pick up layers of fruit at the right supply station S-2. The two pickup heads extend, downward from a carriage 10 which is largely concealed behind a panel 12 in FIG. 1. The carriage is automatically reciprocated between a left position shown in FIG. 1 where the left pickup head P-l is poised over the left supply station S-1 and the right pickup head P-2 is poised over the packing station, and an alternate position to the right where thepickup head P-l is poised over the packing station and the right pickup head P-2 is poised over the right supply station S-2.

When the two pickup heads are at their left positions shown in FIG. I, the left pickup head P-l descends to pick up a layer of fruit from the left supply station 5-] and simultaneously the right pickup head P-2 descends to deposit a layer of fruit in the box B. In like manner, when the two pickup heads are at their right positions the left pickup head P-l descends to deposit a layer of fruit in the box B and simultaneously the right pickup head P-2 descends to pick up a layer of fruit at the right supply station S-2.

Each of the two pickup heads is mounted on a corresponding pair of guide rods 14 which extend through guide sleeves (not shown)'on the carriage l0 and each of the pickup heads is reciprocat ed verticallyby a cor- I responding air cylinder 15.

The construction of a pickup head is best shown in FIG. 3 where the pickup head is connected to the lower ends of the corresponding guide rods 14 and is also connected to a piston rod 16 that extends downward from the corresponding air cylinder 15. FIG. 3 also shows how the structure of a pickup head includes a head plate 18 that carries onits underside a set of vacuum cups 20 with the vacuum cups arranged in a pattern that corresponds to the pattern of the fruit at the corresponding supply station S-1 or S-2. An automatic control system makes or brakes the vacuums in the vacuum cups as required for picking up fruit at a supply station or for releasing fruit in a box B.

Theconveyor C has a pair of spaced parallel conveyor chains 22 :shown in FIGS. 1, 3 and 4 which are interconnected by spaced pusher bars 24 which push the successive boxesto the packing station. As shown in FIG. 4 when a box reaches the packing station the pusher bar 24 that propels the box encounters an operating arm 25 of a stop switch 26 to stop the conveyor and subsequently the conveyor is again activated to move a new .empty box to the packing station and to move the filled box out of the packing station onto a dischargeconveyor that is generally designated 27 in FIG. 3. 1

The apparatus as described to this point is identical. with the apparatus disclosed in the above mentioned Riddington patent. The improvement. provided by the present invention comprises a set of four guide panels G which guide the successive layers of fruit on the pickup heads into a box at the packing station.

In this particular example of the invention, each of the boxes B is a conventional orange packing box that is made in two sections to permit vertical expansion and contraction of the box as required for confining different volumes of fruit. A bottom section 28 of the box has four flaps which are glued together to form a double thickness bottom wall 30. An upper box section 32 which is bottomless and which is slidingly mounted in the bottom section 28 has two outwardly extending end flaps 34 shown in FIG. 3 and has two longitudinal outwardly extending side flaps 35 shown in FIG. 4. a

In a manner-well known in therart, each of the boxes B is initially elevated to space the bottom wall of the box above the platform 36of the packing station as shown in FIG. 3. For this purpose, as shown in FIG. 4, each of the side flaps encounters a corresponding fixed rod 38 which is supported by suitable brackets 40 and which is inclined upward to .lift each flap against a corresponding fixed upper rod 42. The first layer of fruit that is deposited in the elevated box by a pickup head pushes against the bottom wall 36 of the box to shift the bottom wall from the elevated position shown in FIG. 3 to the lower position shown in FIG. 4 where the bottom wall of the box rests on the platform 36 of the packing station. Thus, each of the successive boxes is expanded at the start of each packing cycle.

The four guide panels G are carried ,by four corresponding mechanisms, designated M in various figures of the drawings, and the four mechanisms M are mounted on a support plate 44 which, as shown in FIG. 4, is attached to fixed frame members 45 of the apparatus by suitable angular brackets 46., The support plate 44 has a rectangular opening 48 which is positioned above the box at the packing station and 'is slightly larger in area than the interior of the box to provide clearance for the operation of the guide panels G.

Each of the mechanisms M includes a transverse base casting 50 which is of angular cross section as shown in FIG. 6 with two upstanding wings 52 at its opposite ends, respectively. Each of the base castings 50 is formed with two pairs of rearwardly extending ears 54 which are bridged by two corresponding pivot pins 55. The two pivot pins 55 hingedly mount the base casting on two spaced hinge members 56 which are attached to the support plate by suitable screws 58 and nuts 60.

Each end of a guide panel G is supported by a lower arm 62 and a cooperating upper arm 64. Each of the lower arms 62 lies against the outer face of the corresponding end wing 52 of the base casting 50 and is rigidly connected to the corresponding end of a torque shaft 65 that is journalled in the two end wings 52. Thus, in effect, each of the lower arms 62 is pivotally connected to the corresponding end wing 52 of the base casting 50.

Each of the two upper arms 64 is one arm of two arms of a lever, generally designated 66, that lies against the inner face of the corresponding end wing 52 of the base casting and is fulcrummed on a pivot pin 68 that extends laterally from the end wing. The second arm 70 of each of the two levers 66 functions as a toggle arm and is paired with a corresponding lower toggle arm 72.

As best shown in FIG. 7, each of the two lower toggle arms 72 is longitudinally expansile and for this reason comprises an upper tubular section 74 and a lower section 75 in the form of a plunger that is slidingly telescoped into the tubular section. The upper tubular section 74 of each toggle arm 72 is connected by a pivot 76 to the corresponding upper toggle arm 70 and houses a coiled spring 78 which acts under compression against the corresponding plunger 75. The plunger 75 is formed with a rounded nose as shown and seatsin the angular base casting 50 to rock between the two limit positions shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, respectively.

The outer ends of the pair of lower arms 62 and the outer ends of the pair of upper arms 64 are pivotally connected to the corresponding guide panel G in the manner shown in FIG. 8. In FIG. 8, the outer ends of the two lower arms 62 are connected to the guide panel by individual pivot pins 80 that are mounted in reinforcing ribs 82 on the back of the guide panel and the outer ends of the two upper arms 64 are pivotally connected to the guide panel by a single pivot rod 84 that extends through ribs of the guide panel. Thus, the guide panel G functions, in effect, as an articulated link in an assembly of articulated links that includes the pair of toggle arms 70 and 72.

The limit position of the guide panel shown in FIG. 6 is determined by abutment of the undersides of the two lower arms 62 against corresponding stop shoulders on the outer faces of the two end wings 52 of the base casting 50. As best shown in FIG. 9, such a stop shoulder, which is indicated at 108, is formed by a projection on the outer face of the corresponding end wing of the base casting, the thickness of the end wing being increased to form the projection. The other limit position of the panel shown in FIG. 7 is determined by the position of the nut 100 on the end of the piston rod 94. It is apparent that the nut 100 may be adjusted to adjust the poised position of the corresponding guide panel.

It is apparent that when a linkage mechanism M shifts in either direction from the two limit positions shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, respectively, the pivot 76 of the two toggle arms and 72 first approaches and then moves beyond a center line that is defined by the axes of the two pivots 68 and the vertex of the angular base casting 50 that seats the rounded nose of the lower toggle arm 72. Initial movement of the linkage mechanism away from either one of its limit positions towards its other limit position is resisted by the force of the coiled springs 78 in the two lower toggle arms 72 up to the point where the toggle pivot 76 crosses the described center line and then the force of the two coil springs urges thelinkage mechanism to the other of its two limit positions. Thus, forcibly moving the linkage mechanism out of either of its two limit positions towards its other limit positions is resisted by spring pressure until approximately the midpoint of the movement is passed, and then the force of the two coil springs 78 acts to complete the movement of the guide panel with a snap action.

With all four of the linkage mechanisms M at their limit positions shown in FIG. 7, the four guide panels G are at upper poised positions at which each guide panel overhangs a corresponding side wall of the box B and is inclined downwardly towards the interior of the box. When peripheral fruit of a descending layer of fruit encounters the poised guide panel in the manner shown in FIG. 7, the descending fruit forces each of the four linkage mechanisms beyond the midpoint of its movement and thus causes the four guide panels to snap to their opposite limit positions illustrated by FIG. 6 at which the four guide panels are substantially upright with a downwardly extending lip 85 of each guide panel engaging the inner rim of the corresponding wall of the box.

By virtue of the pivotal connections of the base casting 50 of a mechanism M to the corresponding pair of hinge members 56, each linkage mechanism M may be swung bodily to a retracted position shown in FIG. 9 to swing its guide panel clear of the path of upward return movement of a pickup head. In the event that the head plate 18 of an upwardly returning pickup'head engages the lower edge of a panel when the panel is at its lower upright position as shown in phantom in FIG. 9, the rising pickup head swings the panel to its upper retracted position as indicated by the arrow in FIG. 9. The upper retracted position shown in FIG. 9 is gravitationally unstable, the retracted guide panel and its mechanism being gravitationally biased to return to the positions shown in FIG. 6.

When a pickup head returns upward after depositing a layer of fruit in a box, the four guide panels G must be returned to their upper poised positions illustrated by FIG. 7 before the next layer of fruit descends into the box. Within the scope of the invention any suitable arrangement may be employed for the required automatic return of the guide panels to their upper poised positions. The presently preferred arrangement for this purpose will now be described.

Each of the four linkage mechanisms M includes a power cylinder 86 that may be energized by compressed air to return the corresponding guide panel to its upper poised position. Each power cylinder 86 is connected to a corresponding flexible air line 88 and is located centrally of the panel with trunions90 at the lower end of the power cylinder journalled in a pair of parallel arms 92 that are integral with the base casting 7 50. A piston rod 94 extending from the upper end of the power cylinder 86 is pivotally connected to a crank arm 95 that is fixedly mounted on the previously mentioned torque shaft 65 at the midpoint of the torque shaft.

As shown in FIG. 5, the outer end of the crank arm 95 is formed with two parallel arms 96 to straddle a small body 98 that is formed with trunions journalled in the two arms. As shown in FIG. 6 the piston rod 94 extends through the small body 98 and is screw threaded at its outer end to receive a nut 100 that abuts the outer side of the small body. For the purpose of assembly one of the two arms of the crank arm 95 is in the form of a separate plate 102 (FIG. that is apertured to receive the torque shaft 65 and is removably secured to the body of the crank arm by a suitable screw 104.

It is apparent that when a guide panel G is in its lower upright position shown in FIG. 6, energization of the corresponding control cylinder 86 by compressed air forces the crank arm 95 counterclockwise, as viewed in FIG. 6, to force the guide panel from its lower upright position shown in FIG. 6 to its upper poised position shown in FIG. 7. The coiled springs 78 of the two pairs of toggle arms initially resist and then assist the return of the guide panel to its upper poised position.

The four flexible air lines 88 are connected to a common manifold 88a shown in FIG. 2 and compressed air is supplied to the manifold through a suitable normally closed solenoid valve (not shown). In this particular embodiment of the invention, switches 106 shown in FIG. 1 are positioned on the carriage structure adjacent the two slidable guide rods 14, respectively, and are operated by corresponding collars 107 on the guide rods. The switches are operated whenever an empty pickup head returns from a box to an elevated position with the consequence that all four of the power cylinders 86 are energized to snap the four guide panels G from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions.

The manner in which the four guide panels G function for their purpose may be readily understood from the foregoing description. With each of the guide panels G at its upper poised position shown in FIG. 7, the peripheral fruit of a descending layer of fruit impinges on the four guide panels at points below their arms 62 and 64 and thus causes the guide panels to move downward in arcuate paths towards their lower upright positions. Since the guide panels yield arcuately downwardly to the downwardly moving peripheral fruit of the descending layer, relative movement between the peripheral fruit and the surface of the guide panels is minimal with consequent minimum friction action on the descending fruit. When the four poised guide panels are depressed beyond the midpoints of their respective linkage mechanisms, they snap downward to their upright positions shown in FIG. 6 with the consequence that two opposite guide panels act on the opposite end walls of the box to center the box longitudinally relative to the path of the descending fruit and the other two opposite panels act on the opposite side walls of the box to center the box laterally.

It is apparent that snap action of the four guide panels to their lower upright positions causes the four guide panels to cooperate, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, to form a four-walled guide enclosure or guide chute that leads to the interior of the box, the guide chute being dimensioned to contract the descending layer of I 8 fruit to the dimensions of the interior of the box. Thus, in effect, the invention provides a guide chute that is repeatedly assembled and disassembled in the course of packing fruit into a box.

Since a layer of fruit descends well below the upper edges of the four poised panels before the peripheral fruit of a layer contacts the poised panels, there is no opportunity for the peripheral fruit of a descending layer to be damaged by impact against the upper edges of the guide panels. Thus, the four-walled guide chute leading to the interior of the box as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 is not assembled until well after the descending layer of fruit passes the upper rim of the four-walled enclosure. It is also to be noted that the assembled guide chute is slightly telescoped into a box to protect the descending fruit from damage by the rim of the box and the guide chute is always reassembled before the descending fruit reaches the level of the rim of the box.

It is apparent that the four guide panels in swinging down to their lower upright positions shown in FIG. 6 are capable of shifting an empty box through a given maximum range of movement to bring a newly arrived box into the desired precise alignment with the path of a descending layer of fruit. If a newly arrived empty box is initially positioned outside of this given range, the bottom lip of a downwardly swinging guide panel may impinge on an outwardly extending flap of the box instead of moving into engagement with the inner rim of the box. A feature of the invention is that this possibility of faulty operation is avoided by providing suitable means to sense the position of a newly arrived box at the packing station and to stop operation of the two pickup heads if the newly arrived box is outside of the aforementioned range that measures the position-correcting capability of the four guide panels.

For this purpose, as shown in FIG. 4, a box approaching the packing station is confined between two opposite side walls 112 and 114 and, as shown in FIG. 3, three successive sensing switches 116, 117 and 118 are positioned adjacent the side wall 114. The three switches have corresponding operating arms 116a, 1 17a and 1 18a that extend through corresponding windows of the side wall into the path of conveyance of the boxes. As heretofore stated, when a pusher bar 24 of the conveyor pushes an empty box to the packing station, the pusher bar encounters the operating arm 25 of the switch 26 to stop the empty box at a position which is intended to approximate the desired precise position of the box within the given range box-positioning capability of the guide panels G.

The two box confining side walls 112 and 114 of the conveyor are intended to insure that a newly arrived box is centered laterally within the box-positioning capability of the two guide panels that cooperate with the two opposite sides of the box. The three sensing switches serve the purpose of keeping the pickup heads from descending into the interior of a box if the box is not adequately centered longitudinally relative to the path of descent of a pickup head.

The three switches 116, 117 and 118 are in series to activate the pickup heads so that all three switches must be closed to permit a pickup head to descend into the interior of a box at the packing station. The switches 116 and 118 are normally closed and the central switch 117 is normally open. The normally open switch 117 closes when an empty box arrives at the packing station and if the box is centered longitudinally within the given range the two switches 116 and 118 remain closed. If the box does not advance far enough, switch 116 is open and if the box advances too far, switch 118 is open to prevent operation of the pickup heads.

This description in specific detail of the selected embodiment of the invention will suggest various changes, substitutions and other departures from the disclosure within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

We claim:

1. ln an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends briefly into a box to deposit the layer therein,

the improvement comprising:

a guide chute extending upward from the box and defining a zone of approach to the box, said chute being shaped and dimensioned to surround a layer of objects on a pickup head as the layer descends to the box and to confine the layer of objects to the inside dimensions of the box,

said chute being made of separate parts movably mounted on said apparatus to permit the chute to be disassembled by moving the separate parts away from their assembled positions to positions spaced upwardly of said box and to be reassembled by restoring the parts to their assembled positions;

means to disassemble the chute by moving the upper edges of the separable parts in different directions outwardly from the path of descent of each layer of objects before the layer descends to the level of the upper ends of the parts of the chute thereby to keep the descending layer from encountering the upper ends of the parts of the chute; and

means to reassemble the chute responsive to downward movement of a descending layer of objects on a pickup head after said objects pass the level of the upper end of the chute.

2. An improvement as set forth in claim 1 in which the lower end of the assembled chute telescopes into the inner rim of the box to serve as a guard to keep the descending layer of objects from encountering the rim of the box. a

3. In an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends briefly into a box to deposit the layer therein,

the improvement comprising:

a set of four guide panels corresponding, respectively, to the four sides of a box;

corresponding mechanisms supporting said guide panels, respectively,

said mechanisms being operable to guide the guide panels between initial poised positions and lower upright positions,

said panels at their poised positions being above the box in the path of descent of a layer of objects on the pickup head, the guide panels at their poised positions overhanging corresponding walls of the box and being inclined downward towards the interior of the box,

said guide panels at their lower upright positions forming a guide chute leading to the interior of the box,

said mechanisms including spring means to move the panels to their lower upright positions in response 10 to the descent of a layer of objects to a level intermediate the upper and lower edges of the poised guide panels; and

means to operate said mechanisms to return the panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions when the upwardly returning pickup head reaches a level above the initial poised positions of the guide panels.

4. In an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends along a given path briefly into a box to deposit the layer therein,

the improvement comprising:

means to support an empty box at a given level with freedom for the box to move slightly horizontally at said level as required for alignment of the box with said given path;

a set of guide panels including at least two opposite guide panels to cooperate with opposite inner walls of the box;

corresponding mechanisms supporting said guide panels, respectively,

said mechanisms being operable to guide the guide panels between initial poised positions and lower upright positions,

said panels at their poised positions being above the box in the path of descent of a layer of objects on the pickup head, the guide panels at their poised positions overhanging corresponding walls of the box and being inclined downward towards the interior of the box,

said guide panels at their lower upright positions engaging corresponding inner rim portions of the box to assure alignment of the box with the path of descent of the pickup head and to prevent the descending layer of objects from impact against the rim of the box,

said mechanisms including spring means to snap the panels to their lower upright positions when a layer of descending objects reaches a level intermediate the upper and lower edges of the poised guide panels so that the force of the spring means aligns the box with said given path if such alignment is necessary; and

means to return the panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions when the upwardly returning pickup head reaches a level above the initial poised positions of the guide panels.

5. An improvement as set forth in claim 4 in which the poised panels are in the path of descent of a loaded pickup head and are yieldably supported at their poised positions by said spring means for initial movement out of their poised positions by impact from the loaded pickup head.

6. An improvement as set forth in claim 4 in which the guide panels are responsive to the return movement of an empty pickup head to shift from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions after the returning pickup head clears the guide panels;

7. In an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends briefly into a box to deposit the layer therein, t

the improvement comprising:

1 l a set of guide panels including at least twoopposite guide panels to cooperate with opposite inner walls of the box; corresponding mechanisms supporting said guide panels, respectively, said mechanisms being operable to move the guide panels between initial poised positions and lower upright positions,

said panels at their poised positions being above the box in the path of descent of a layer of objects on the pickup head, the guide panels at their poised positions overhanging corresponding walls of the box and being inclined downward towards the interior of the box,

said guide panels at their lower upright positions engaging corresponding inner rim portions of the box to assure alignment of the box with the path of descent of the pickup head and to prevent the descending layer of objects from impact against the rim of the box,

said guide panels being operative to move from their poised positions to their lower upright positions when a layer of descending objects reaches a level intermediate the upper and lower edges of the poised guide panels, said guide panels being responsive to the return movement of an empty pickup head to shift from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions after the returning pickup head clears the guide panels, and switch means operative to cause return of the panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions, said switch being positioned to be mechanically operated when an empty pickup head rises above the guide panels. 8. An improvement as set forth in claim 7 which includes fluid-pressure-actuated means controlled by said switch to return the guide panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions.

9. In an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends briefly into a box to deposit the layer therein,

the improvement comprising: a set of guide panels including at least two opposite guide panels to cooperate with opposite inner walls of the box;

corresponding mechanisms supporting said guide panels, respectively, said mechanisms being operable to move the guide panels between initial poised positions and lower upright positions,

said panels at their poised positions being above the box in the path of descent of a layer of objects on the pickup head, the guide panels at their poised positions overhanging corresponding walls of the box and being inclined downward towards the interior of the box,

said guide panels at their lower upright positions engaging corresponding inner rim portions of the box to assure alignment of the box with the path of descent of the pickup head and to prevent the descending layer of objects from impact against the rim of the box,

said guide panels being operative to move from their posied positions to their lower upright positions when a layer of descending objects reaches a level intermediate the upper and lower edges of the poised guide panels; and

means to operate said mechanisms to return the panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions when the upwardly returning pickup head reaches a level above the initial poised positions of the guide panels,

each of said mechanisms including resilient means to yieldingly resist movement of the corresponding guide panel from either of its two positions to a position intermediate its' two positions and to urge the guide panel'to the other, of its two positions when the guide panel is moved beyond said intermediate position,

whereby forcibly moving a guide panel out of either of its two positions beyond said intermediate position causes the panel to snap to said other of its two positions.

10. An improvement as set forth in claim 9 in which the guide panels are forced from their poised positions past their intermediate positions when a descending layer of fruit reaches the poised positions of the guide panels, thereby causing the guide panels to snap to their lower upright positions before the layer of objects reaches the level of therim of the box.

1 1. An improvement as set forth in claim 10 in which the panels at their poised positions are in the path of descent of a loaded pickup head to be pushed by the loaded pickup head from their poised positions past their intermediate positions.

12. An improvement as set forth in claim 1 l in which the poised panels are in the path of descent of a layer of objects on a pickup head to cause the descending objects to push the poised panels out of their poised positions.

13. An improvement as set forth in claim 4 in which said set of guide panels comprises four guide panels including two guide" panels cooperative with the opposite end walls of the box to center the box longitudinally relative to the path of descent of a loaded pickup head and including two panels cooperative with the opposite side walls of the box to center thebox laterally relative to the path of descent of a loaded pickup head.

14. An improvement as set forth in claim 4 in which each of said panels-is yieldingly movable from its lower upright position to an upper retracted position out of the path of an upwardly moving pickup head so that if a returning pickup head engages the panel at the lower upright position of the panel, the returning pickup head lifts the panel from its lower upright position to said upper retracted position,

said panel at said upper retracted position being gravitationally biased to return to its lower upright position.

15. An improvement as set forth in claim 14 in which eachof said mechanisms for a guide panel is pivotally mounted for pivotal movement of the mechanism as a whole when a returning pickup head moves the corresponding paneltoits upper retracted'position.

16. In an apparatus for automatically packing layers of objects into successive boxes at a packing station, wherein a pickup head picks up a layer of the objects and descends briefly intoa box to deposit the layer therein,

the improvement comprising:

a set of guide panels including at least two opposite guide panels to cooperate with opposite inner walls of the box;

corresponding mechanisms supporting said guide panels; respectively,

said mechanisms being operable to move the guide panels between initial poised positions and lower upright positions,

said panels at their poised positions being above the box in the path of descent of a layer of objects on the pickup head, the guide panels at their poised positions overhanging corresponding walls of the box and being inclined downward towards the interior of the box,

said guide panels at their lower upright positions engaging corresponding inner rim portions of the box to assure alignment of the box with the path of descent of the pickup head and to prevent the descending layer of objects from impact against the rim of the box,

said guide panels being operative to move from their poised positions to their lower upright positions when a layer of descending objects reaches a level intermediate the upper and lower edges of the poised guide panels; and

means to operate said mechanisms to return the panels from their lower upright positions to their upper poised positions when the upwardly returning pickup head reaches a level above the initial poised positions of the guide panels,

each of said mechanisms including a pair of toggle arms operatively connected to the guide panel and movable past center to a first limit position corresponding to the poised position of the panel and movable past center to a second limit position corresponding to the lower upright position of the panel,

one arm of said pair of toggle arms being expansile and including spring means to expand the toggle arm thereby to yieldingly hold the pair of toggle arms at whichever limit position they may be placed,

whereby forcibly moving the pair of toggle arms from either one of their limit positions past center causes the pair of toggle arms to snap by spring action to their other limit positions thereby to snap the guide panel to either one of its two positions.

17. An improvement as set forth in claim 16 in which one of said toggle arms is the arm of a lever that is pivotally connected to the guide panel.

18. An improvement as set forth in claim 16 which includes power means to forcibly move the pair of toggle arms from their second limit positions past center thereby to cause the two toggle arms to snap to their 14 first limit position to snap the guide panel to its poised position.

19. An improvement as set forth in claim 18 in which said power means is operable to return the guide panel automatically from its lower upright position to its poised position when a returning pickup head rises above the level of the poised position of the guide panel.

20. An improvement as set forth in claim 16 in which the mechanism that supports a guide panel includes two pairs of toggle arms;

in which one toggle arm of each of the two pairs is one arm of a lever that is mounted on a fixed pivot and is pivotally connected at its end to the guide panel;

and which includes two pivotally mounted arms pivotally connected to the guide panel to cooperate with the two levers to determine the two positions of the guide panel.

21. An improvement as set forth in claim 20 which includes power means operatively connected to said two pivotally mounted arms to force the two pairs of toggle arms from their second limit positions past center to cause the guide panel to snap from its lower upright position to its upper poised position.

22. An improvement as set forth in claim 4 in which said set of guide panels is capable of imparting a given range of movement to an empty box to move the box out of alignment into alignment with the path of descent of the pickup head;

which includes means to convey empty boxes successively to the packing station;

which includes means to sense the positions of the empty boxes at the packing station;

and which includes means responsive to said sensing means to prevent descent of a pickup head into a box if the box is positioned out of said given range.

23. An improvement as set forth in claim 22 in which said sensing means includes three switches in series in a circuit for operating the pickup head,

two of said switches being normally closed switches adjacent opposite ends respectively of a box, one of which switches is opened by the box if the box is positioned in one longitudinal direction outside of said range, the other switch being opened by the box if the box is positioned in the other direction outside of said range; the third switch being a normally open switch positioned intermediate said two normally closed switches to be closed by a box at the packing station.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4386491 *Nov 17, 1980Jun 7, 1983Sunkist Growers, Inc.Apparatus for selectively packing layers of objects in boxes of different depths
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Classifications
U.S. Classification53/247, 53/261
International ClassificationB65B21/12, B65B5/00, B65B25/02, B65B25/04, B65B21/00, B65B35/30, B65B5/08, B65B35/38
Cooperative ClassificationB65B25/046, B65B35/38
European ClassificationB65B25/04D, B65B35/38