« PreviousContinue »
MAILING SYSTEM HAVING FLEXIBLE
PRINTING OF MESSAGES
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No.: 09/470,611 filed Dec. 22, 1999, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,356,883.
This application is related to the following co-pending 10 applications filed On Dec. 30, 1998 and commonly assigned to the assignee of this application: U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/224,256, entitled POSTAGE PRINTING SYSTEM HAVING SUBSIDIZED PRINTING OF THIRD PARTY MESSAGES now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,141,654; U.S. 15 patent application Ser. No. 09/223,504, entitled POSTAGE PRINTING SYSTEM HAVING VARIABLE SUBSIDIES FOR PRINTING OF THIRD PARTY MESSAGES now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,154,733 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/223,643, entitled PRODUCTION MAIL SYS- 20 TEM HAVING SUBSIDIES FOR PRINTING OF THIRD PARTY MESSAGES ON MAILPIECES now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,173,274, all of which are specifically incorporated herein by reference.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to postage printing systems. More particularly, this invention is directed to a mailing system including a transport system for feeding envelopes in 30 a path of travel, a printer for printing both postage and third party messages, and a control system for coordinating the feeding and printing of third party messages according to user defined parameters.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Postage printing systems are well known in the art. A typical postage meter (one example of a postage accounting system) stores and dispenses postage. Evidence that postage 40 has been dispensed is most often in the form of a postal indicia that is printed on an envelope or other mailpiece. As is well known, postage meters include an ascending register, that stores a running total of all postage dispensed by the meter, and a descending register, that holds the remaining amount of 45 postage credited to the meter and that is reduced by the amount of postage dispensed during a transaction. The postage meter generally also includes a control sum register that provides a check upon the descending and ascending registers. The control sum register has a running account of the 50 total funds having been added into the meter. The control sum register must always correspond with the summed readings of the ascending and descending registers. Thus, the control sum register is the total amount of postage ever put into the machine and it is alterable only when adding funds to the 55 meter. In this manner, by inspecting the various registers and securing them from tampering, the dispensing of postal funds may be accurately recorded, tracked and accounted for.
More recently, postage printing systems have been developed where the accounting structure described above is no 60 longer resident with the user and the printing portion of the postage printing system. Sometimes referred to as a "virtual postage meter", these types of postage printing systems dispense postage electronically over suitable communication channels (LAN, WAN, telephone lines, Internet, etc.). The 65 user maintains an account with a remotely located data center (maintained by an authorized postage meter manufacturer)
and receives postage securely using appropriate electronic data interchange techniques. At a later time, the user is invoiced for the amount of postage dispensed and any other fees associated with maintaining the account with the data center. Oftentimes, a secret code or token is derived from information particular to the mailpiece (the indicated postage amount, date, recipient address information, etc.) and is incorporated or embedded into the postal indicia for later use by a postal authority in verifying the integrity of the postal indicia. Examples of such systems are described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,725,718 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,454,038.
Generally, the postage metering functionality may also be integrated within a mailing machine. Mailing machines, also well known in the art, are typically employed to automate the handling of the mailpieces so as to increase the efficiency of producing large batches of mailpieces. Mailing machines are readily available from manufacturers such as Pitney Bowes Inc. of Stamford, Conn., USA and often include a variety of different labor saving modules. The typical mailing machine may includes a variety of different modules or sub-systems where each module performs a different task on the mailpiece, such as: singulating (separating the mailpieces one at a time from a stack of mailpieces), weighing, sealing (wetting and closing the glued flap of an envelope), applying evidence of postage, accounting for postage used (performed by the postage meter), feeding roll tape or cut tape strips for printing and stacking finished mailpieces. However, the exact configuration of each mailing machine is particular to the needs of the user. Customarily, the mailing machine also includes a transport apparatus, which feeds the mailpieces in a path of travel through the successive modules of the mailing machine.
It is also known to print selected messages (sometimes referred to as ad slogans although such messages are not necessarily restricted to advertisements) along with the postal indicia. In traditional systems employing either rotary drum or flat bed printing technology, the message is printed along with the postal indicia by including an additional printing die representative of the message. These dies are typically costly to manufacture, difficult to distribute and cumbersome to remove or install. Also, due to physical space requirements, there are practical limits as to the number of message dies that are readily available for printing. Examples of die based systems for printing messages are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,168,804 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,024,153. More recently, the industry has begun to incorporate digital (dot matrix) printing technology which obviates the need for dies as the digital printer may be supplied with suitable drive signals to effect printing of the message. Thus, a graphical representation of the message may be stored in memory and used by a digital printer to print the message. Examples of digital printing technology based systems for printing messages are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,831,554 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,509,109.
Although such prior art postage printing systems described above work generally well, they suffer from certain drawbacks and disadvantages. First, the ad slogan and the postal indicia bear a fixed spatial relationship in that the ad slogan appears to the immediate left of the postal indicia. Thus, the operator does not have much flexibility over the location of the ad slogan. Only by adjusting the location of the postal indicia does the ad slogan move in kind. Second, when dedicated printers are employed, the print swath is typically only as wide as the postal indicia. Thus, there is no ability to print the ad slogan in a print swath coincident with the postal indicia.
Therefore, there is a need for an improved postage printing system that allows the operator more flexibility and options