United States Patent 3653540

An article dispensing machine having a plurality of elongated, parallel dispensers arranged in vertical and horizontal rows ans wherein each is provided with dual, parallel, spaced, helical article-delivery conveyors having convolutions wound in opposite directions. The conveyors are adapted to be simultaneously rotated in opposite directions to successively force articles from the discharge end of a respective dispenser in response to successive operations thereof. Drive mechanism for the dispensers includes a rotatable clutch member for each dispenser provided with a shiftable actuator thereon while a selection solenoid is operably associated with each actuator for shifting the latter from standby to an operated position. In the operated position, each actuator is located to engage gear structure on an associated dispenser for rotating the dual conveyors thereof in opposite directions in response to rotation of the respective clutch member. All of the clutch members are rotated simultaneously through an operating arc and then back by cables trained therearound and coupled to a common drive assembly. An operated actuator is cammed back to standby by a stop adjacent each clutch member, during return rotation of the clutch members.

Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
The Vendo Company (Kansas City, MO)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65G59/00; G07F11/24; (IPC1-7): G07F11/00
Field of Search:
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3335907Spiral vendor with empty source indicating means1967-08-15Holstein et al.
3294281Package vendor with helix shaped delivery spindle1966-12-27Schlaf
2795702Cassette conveying apparatus1957-06-11Morris

Primary Examiner:
Coleman, Samuel F.
Having thus described the invention, what is claimed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is

1. An article dispensing unit comprising:

2. A unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein each of said conveyors comprises an elongated coil supported by said surface of the support, and said power means is connected to the ends of the coils remote from said one margin of the support leaving the opposite ends of the coils free.

3. A unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein said end extremities of the conveyors are each located in proximal relationship to said surface of the support when the conveyors are in their normal standby positions.

4. A unit as set forth in claim 3, wherein said power means includes control means operative to effect rotation of each of the conveyors through 360° during each cycle of operation of the power means.

5. A unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein said support includes a pair of upright sides projecting upwardly from said surface of the support outboard of respective conveyors, and guide means carried by each of the sides and engageable with respective conveyors for maintaining the latter in generally parallel relationship.

6. A unit as set forth in claim 5, wherein each of said conveyors comprises an elongated coil, said power means being connected to the ends of the coils remote from said one margin of the support leaving the opposite ends thereof free, and said guide means includes an elongated member extending longitudinally of each coil in proximal relationship to the portions thereof adjacent respective sides.

7. A unit as set forth in claim 5, wherein each of said conveyors comprises an elongated coil and wherein an elongated spacer bar is provided within each of the coils in longitudinally extending relationship therewithin, said bars being disposed to maintain the articles equidistant from said sides.

8. A unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein said conveyors are located in horizontally spaced relationship, there being an elongated sold-out indicator extending longitudinally of the conveyors in the space therebetween spring means connected to the indicator normally maintaining the same above the surface of the support, and sensing means associated with said indicator means for sensing movement of the indicator from a position adjacent said surface of the support under the weight of one or more articles thereon, to a position above the support surface upon depletion of all of the articles initially carried thereby.

9. A unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein each of said conveyors comprises an elongated coil and a rotatable cylindrical element remote from said one margin of the support, the end of each coil proximal to a respective element being would therearound for rotation therewith leaving the opposite end of the coil free.

10. A unit as set forth in Claim 1, wherein is provided guideways slidably carrying the support for horizontal movement toward and away from the clutch member, and means for releasably locking the support in the normal disposition thereof with said component located to be engaged by the actuator on said clutch member.

11. An article dispensing unit comprising:

12. A unit as set forth in claim 11, wherein is provided actuator return means adjacent each clutch member engageable with an associated actuator in its operated position for returning the same to the standby position thereof as the clutch members are returned to their initial positions by said drive assembly.

13. An article dispensing unit comprising:

14. A unit as set forth in claim 13, wherein said means for shifting each actuator comprises a solenoid provided with an armature located to engage a corresponding actuator and shift the latter from the standby position thereof to said actuated position upon energization of the respective solenoid.

15. A unit as set forth in claim 13, wherein is provided a series of said supports arranged in vertical and horizontal rows, said clutch members being mounted for rotation about horizontally and vertically spaced, parallel axes, and said drive means including a plurality of cables, each connected to one row of clutch members for rotating the latter, all of the cables being joined to a common drive assembly for operation thereby to effect simultaneous rotation of all of the clutch members.

This invention relates to an article dispensing machine and particularly to a unit capable of dispensing a variety of products wherein the customer is permitted to view the product which he receives and automatic stock rotation is assured by virtue of first-in, first-out discharge of articles from each dispenser.

Products suitable for vending from a coin-operated dispensing machine are available in a large number of different packages of varying sizes and degree of product protection. For example, cigarettes are packaged in crush-proof boxes as well as flexible paper, while candy bars are generally simply wrapped and thereby vary in size in accordance with the particular product. Similarly, cookies generally are wrapped in cellophane or similar plastic material so that the cookies can be viewed by the customer with the dimensions of the package being dependent upon the number and size of the cookies contained in a particular package. In recent years there has been increasing interest in vending bag-pack items. Quite a number of these items are now on the market. Typical are potato chips, corn chips, popcorn, fried pork skins, a variety of cheese-flavored products such as cheese twists, peanuts, and various candies and candy blends. Generally speaking, bag-packed items cannot be stacked one on top of the other since the product must be protected against damage throughout handling thereof.

It can be appreciated though that the provision of a vending machine capable of handling all of the above types of products utilizing a single type of dispensing mechanism, while at the same time providing customer viewing of the next to vend product while providing for automatic stock rotation, necessarily presents acute problems from a cost standpoint because of the inherent flexibility which the machine must possess. The machine must be capable of fabrication at a reasonable cost without sacrifice of reliability and freedom from frequent maintenance while at the same time operable to dispense not only flat-pack items but bag-pack products as well with positive delivery of the individual items being assured in conjunction with easy and rapid replenishment of products by the serviceman at a normal service interval.

It was found that the requirements above can best be met by using the helix conveyor principle for discharging products from respective dispensers. Although helix delivery units are not new per se and have found some prior acceptance, the units have had only limited commercial appeal primarily because of their high cost and the fact that they were not suitable for receiving bag-pack as well as flat-pack items interchangeably as desired by the operator. For example, for customer convenience the machine is preferably electrically operated so that it is only necessary to press a button in order to obtain access to a desired product. However, a single motor drive is a necessary feature of the design from a cost standpoint. Thus, the machine must be capable of employing selection solenoids to couple a selected dispenser to the drive during each cycle of operation thereof. In addition, it is desirable that a minimum number of different parts be used in the unit in order to minimize not only fabrication but inventory expenses as well and to thereby permit utilization of the maximum number of standard, interchangeable components.

It is, therefore, the primary object of the present invention to provide an article dispensing machine which meets the conditions outlined above and has the inherent features of being capable of dispensing not only bag-pack items but flat-pack products as well with the customer being permitted to view the next vend item of each selection and with product rotation being assured by virtue of first-in, first-out dispensing of articles from each dispenser.

An equally important object of the invention is to provide a machine as described wherein the requisites thereof are met by the use of multiple, dual helix dispensers, each having a pair of helical coils disposed in overlying relation-ship to a product support with the convolutions thereof wound in opposite directions so that upon rotation of the coils of each dispenser in opposite directions during cyclic operation of the machine, products contained in the transverse spaces between aligned convolutions are directed toward the discharge end of the support with the endmost product being displaced from the support for delivery along a chute to an area accessible to the customer whereby the products do not contact one another during storage and movement to dispensing disposition for effective product protection.

In this connection, it is an important object of the invention to provide unique drive mechanism for rotating the helical coils of a selected dispenser by a single motor notwithstanding the provision of a large number of different dispensers for product selectivity and wherein economy of components and operating mechanism are obtained by virtue of the utilization of identical rotatable clutch members for the dispensers and each provided with an actuator thereon which is normally in standby position but is shiftable by a selection solenoid operated by a respective customer accessible push button and with all of the clutch members being rotated simultaneously during each cyclic operation of the machine so that by providing a component on the selected dispenser within the path of the operated actuator which is rotated thereby, rotation of the product discharge helices of the dispenser selected by the customer may be positively effected from the single motor. A further important object in this same connection is the provision of a dispensing machine as described wherein simultaneous rotation of the clutch members is obtained using only a single drive motor by the provision of a cable wound around each clutch member and attached to a reciprocable member driven by the common motor mechanism so that during operation of the motor, all of the clutch members are rotated simultaneously by the cable wound therearound.

A further important object of the invention is therefore to provide a dispensing unit wherein the use of cable-driven clutch members having selection actuators thereon which are shifted into operable disposition by a corresponding selection solenoid permits mounting of the individual product dispensers on guideways therefor so that each dispenser may be pulled out of the cabinet in a direction away form the drive clutches for refilling of the dispenser without re-timing of the dual helix dispenser conveyors with respect to the drive therefor being required.

A still further important object of the invention is to provide a dispensing unit employing tow helical conveyors on each dispenser which receive products within the transverse spaces between aligned convolutions thereof in a manner such that the products rest on the floor of the dispenser support and slide therealong rather than being supported by the convolutions of the conveyor so that the products always remain in generally perpendicular relationship to their paths of travel, cannot become twisted in a manner to interfere with rotation of the helices, and may be accommodated over a relatively wide range of shapes and sizes.

Another specific object of the invention is to provide multiple, dual helix article dispensing structure which lends itself to economical construction by virtue of the fact that many of the parts, including the helix conveyors, are of standard construction and may be used in dispensers of various widths as desired by simply varying the relative disposition thereof or the distance between the convolutions of respective helical coils.

A still further specific aim of the invention is to provide a dispensing unit as described wherein the dual helix conveyors of each dispenser are disposed in relative relationship such that the outermost and extremities thereof are disposed in locations wherein each is essentially a mirror image position of the other whereby rotation of the helical coils in opposite directions through respective arcs of 360° assures discharge of a product from a respective support without any problem of the convolutions of the coils interfering with gravitational discharge of the product from the horizontal shelf.

Also an important object of the invention is to provide a multiple dual helix dispensing machine wherein the individual dispensers may be replaced at will without alteration of the drive mechanism therefor, thus permitting operator variation of the products to be dispensed from the machine, not only from the standpoint of the relative positions of the products in the cabinet, but also the types of products vendable therefrom.

Other important objects and details of the present invention will become obvious or be explained in greater detail as the description hereunder progresses.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of an article dispensing machine embodying the preferred concepts of the present invention and illustrating the customer selection buttons, the individual dispensers arranged in vertical and horizontal rows, and a product access station;

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary elevational view on an enlarged scale of the power drive panel of the machine which is normally located at the rear of the cabinet shown in Fig. 1, but is illustrated as removed therefrom for clarity;

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary, enlarged, vertical cross-sectional view taken along line 3--3 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary, enlarged, detailed view of the common drive assembly as illustrated in the lower right-hand corner of FIG. 2 and showing the relative positions of the drive arms and links which are reciprocated by the drive motor;

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary, vertical cross-sectional view through the cabinet as shown in FIG. 1 and illustrating one of the dispensers stocked with bag-pack products, with the loading position of the dispenser being illustrated by dashed lines, and the sold-out sensor of the conveyor in its normal position when held down by one or more products on the support of the dispenser;

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary, front elevational view of a number of the dispensers of the unit with the right-hand dispenser shown in full being provided with spacer rods adapting the same for receiving significantly narrower items than the dispenser of Fig. 5;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of one of the dispenser guides and illustrating the same in disposition for receiving the upper tabs of a respective dispenser, it being understood that the guide is used for both the upper and lower portions of each dispenser for purposes of economy in fabricating the machine;

FIG. 8 is a plan view of the dispenser as shown in FIG. 5 with parts being broken away for clarity and to better illustrate the drive gears forming a part of the dispenser to effect rotation of the helical coils in opposite directions;

FIG. 9 is a side elevational view of the dispenser illustrated in FIG. 8 and better showing the wire retainer for holding the dispenser in its operative position;

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary, vertical cross-sectional view taken along line 10--10 of FIG. 9 to better illustrate the gear train of the dispenser as well as the detent for preventing retrograde rotation of the gears;

FIG. 11 is a front elevational view of the right-hand dispenser as illustrated in Fig. 6 but in this instance, showing the sold-out sensor in its normally uppermost position by virtue of exhaustion of products from that dispenser;

FIG. 12 is a rear elevational view of the dispenser illustrated in FIG. 11 and showing the drive cam which is driven by an operated actuator on an associated drive clutch member forming a part of the drive mechanism illustrated in FIG. 2;

FIG. 12 is a fragmentary, vertical cross-sectional view of the line 13--13 of FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a fragmentary plan view of the right-hand side of the dispenser illustrated in FIG. 11 and showing the product guide within the right-hand coil for maintaining narrow items in central disposition relative to the sidewalls of the dispenser;

FIG. 15 is a fragmentary elevational view of the rear portion of the cabinet showing the rear wall thereof, the inside surface of the power panel, and a rotatable clutch member provided with a shiftable actuator thereon illustrated in its normal unactuated position, as well as the selection solenoid for such actuator and with the rear wall of the cabinet being pro-vided with a teardrop-shaped opening therein to provide clearance for coupling the respective dispenser with the corresponding clutch member;

FIG. 16 is essentially a cross-sectional view on the line 16--16 of FIG. 15 but in addition illustrating the cam coupling and driven gear forming a part of the dispenser associated with the respective clutch member;

FIG. 17 is a fragmentary elevational view similar to FIG. 15 but showing the actuator on the clutch member in the operated position thereof by virtue of energization of the selection solenoid associated therewith, while the dispenser drive cam is illustrated in phantom lines since it sits in front of the structure illustrated;

FIG. 18 is a fragmentary view similar to FIG. 17 but with the clutch member shown in its position after rotation thereof to drive the associated helical coils of the corresponding dispenser and in this instance being returned toward its initial position with the relationship of the operated actuator with respect to an actuator return stop being detailed;

FIG. 19 is a rear elevational view of the clutch member which illustrates the cam surfaces on the normally rear face thereof for assuring return of the armature of the selection solenoid to its initial position; and

FIG. 20 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken on the irregular line 20--20 of FIG. 17 to better illustrate the cam arm or lug on the actuator which is disposed to engage the operating cam component of the corresponding dispenser.

The article dispensing machine illustrated in the overall view of FIG. 1 is broadly designated 22 with the front, outwardly swingable door 24 being shown in elevation and which, for purposes of illustration, is provided with a rectangular opening 26 therein covered with a glass panel 28. The product selection push buttons 30 to the right of opening 26 permit the customer to select a product from any one of the dispensers 32 within the cabinet. Thus, one button 30 is provided for each dispenser 32 with the latter being of the dual helix type and mounted in vertical and horizontal rows at a height for ready viewing of the products carried thereby by a customer standing in front of the machine 22. Although not illustrated since it forms no part of the present invention, it is to be understood that suitable coin control mechanism is provided in association with push buttons 30 to preclude actuation of one of the dispensers 32 until after appropriate money deposit has been made in the machine. Generally, the coinage will include mechanism for returning change to the customer if his deposit exceeds the price of an article selected, and it is also desirable that the machine be capable of dispensing products at various prices. The front door 24 carries chute structure (not shown) on the rear face thereof for guiding products de-livered from dispensers 32 into a collection area behind a swingable panel 34 which also includes components which prevent the customer from gaining access to dispensers 32 when panel 34 has been pushed inwardly so that the customer may grasp an article delivered to the collection area.

Since the dispensers 32 are essentially identical in construction with the exception of the pitch of the helical conveyors and the width of the respective drawers as well as guide structure for products received therein, only a limited number of the dispensers have been shown in detail in the drawings. In addition, it is to be understood that although the drawers have been shown as being of the same width for simplicity, they actually can be of differing width although desirable, all drawers in a particular vertical row are of the same horizontal width.

Thus, referring to FIGS. 5 to 14 inclusive, it is to be noted that the representative dispenser 32 is of generally U-shaped configuration defining a drawer formed by the horizontal floor support 36 provided with upright sides 38 and 40 at opposite side margins of floor 36 and projecting upwardly therefrom in generally parallel relationship. The outermost end margin 42 of floor 36 is located in spaced relationship from glass panel 28 as shown in FIG. 5 so that articles such as those designated 44 may gravitate downwardly between end margins 42 and the inner face of door 24 into the collection area behind access panel 34. An upright rear wall 46 connected to the end of floor 36 opposite end margin 42 as well as to the sides 38 and 40, serves as a support for a gear assembly broadly designated 48 (FIGS. 8, 10 and 13). Two horizontal, parallel mounting shafts 50 carried by wall 46 and extending forwardly therefrom above floor 36 each rotatably receive a cylindrical element 52 having a hub portion 52a rotatable on a corresponding shaft 50 and held thereon by a respective fastener 54 threaded into the outer end of each shaft 50. The cylindrical body portion 52b of each element 52 is integral with a somewhat smaller pinion section 52c located in proximal relationship to wall 46.

The gear sections 52c of each element 52 mesh with corresponding spur gears 56 and 58. Gear 56 is an idler mounted on a shaft 60 affixed to wall 46. Gear 58 has an integral shaft carried by a bearing through the wall 46. Also, as best shown in FIG. 10, gears 56 and 58 are in intermeshing relationship. One particularly important feature of the gear arrangement shown in FIG. 10 is the fact that the shafts 50 may be moved relatively as desired in the fabrication of dispenser 32 so long as gear sections 52c remain in intermeshing relationship to respective gears 56 and 58. In this manner, the effective width of the dispenser 32 may be varied within relatively wide limits without significant need for additional parts and using substantially the same fabrication techniques.

The hub portion 56a of gear 56 proximal to wall 46 has a flat surface 56b thereon which is adapted to be engaged by a spring detent 64 carried by wall 46 above the left-hand element 52 as is apparent from FIGS. 8 and 10. Shaft 62 projects rearwardly from wall 46 as shown in FIG. 13. The outermost extremity of shaft 62 is tapered to serve as a pilot as well be explained, while an operating cam component 66 is secured to shaft 62 for rotating the latter in response to rotation of component 66. As indicated in FIG. 12, component 66 is of generally circular shape but has a cam-defining, inwardly directed surface 66a in radial relationship to the axis of rotation of the component 66.

Coils 68 and 70 are provided above floor 36 of the dispenser drawer with the coil 68 having an end segment 68a wound around the circumference of the upper element 52 as shown in FIG. 8, whereas the section 70a of coil 70 is wound about the lower element 52. The coils are threaded on respective elements 52 until the extremities 68b and 70b are flush with the end margin 42 of floor 36. Integral lugs 52 d projecting from the outer face of cylindrical body portion 52b of each element 52 serve as retainers to hold coils 68 and 70 firmly connected to respective elements 52. As is most apparent from FIG. 8, the coils 68 and 70 are of wire which has been wound into helical configuration in opposite directions about their respective axes. Viewing FIG. 11 it is important to note that when the gear section 52c of respective elements 52 are meshed with gears 56 and 58, the relative relationship of the coils 68 and 70 is carefully controlled so that the end extremities 68b and 70b are located in positions wherein each is essentially a mirror image position of the other. As seen in FIG. 11, the end extremities 68b and 70b are adjusted to be normally located at substantially 6 o'clock positions with 360° rotation of each of the coils 68 and 70 resulting in return of the end portions 68b and 70b thereof to the same dispositions.

The pitch of coils 68 and 70 is determined by the size of the products 44 to be discharged from a corresponding dispenser 32. That is, the spacing between convolutions may be varied as desired by the simple expedient of changing the pitch of the convolutions at the time of coiling the conveyors 68 and 70. The coil spacing is relatively narrow where it is desired to vend thin candy bars or flat cookie packets, for example. The coil spacing would be greater where relatively thick items are to be vended. In each case though, the end extremities 68b and 70b must be disposed in substantially the 6o'clock position of FIG. 11 to assure delivery of products from dispenser 32 without interference from the terminal convolutions of the coils 68 and 70.

Elongated coil guides 72 and 74 are provided inside of each of the coils 68 and 70 adjacent respective sides 38 and 40 for maintaining the helical coils in generally parallel relationship. The ends of guides 72 and 74 remote from wall 46 are bent to be received within slots 76 therefor in sidewalls 38 and 40 while the opposite ends of the guides are bent inwardly and fastened to shafts 50 by fasteners 54.

It can now be seen that the convolutions of coils 68 and 70 define spaces 78 extending transversely of the floor 36 for receiving the individual products 44 which are also maintained in spaced relationship to protect the articles contained therein.

Means for supporting the dispensers 32 within the cabinet of machine 22 preferably takes the form of a series of horizontal, transversely U-shaped guideways broadly designated 80 with one of the same being shown perspectively in FIG. 7. As is evident from FIG. 6, each of the guideways 80 is located with the U-shaped cross section thereof inverted as illustrated in FIG. 7 with the rear part of each guideway being carried by rear wall 82 of the cabinet, while the forwardmost ends of the guideways are secured to crosspieces 84 of the cabinet behind panel 28. The crosspieces 84 are located in parallel, vertically stacked relationship extending across the width of the cabinet. The vertical spacing between guideways 80 is sufficient to clear the rear wall 46 of each dispenser 32 with upstanding tab 86 on each rear wall 46 slidably received within a corresponding guideway 80 as illustrated in FIG. 6. Wall 46 has a notch 88 in the bottom margin thereof (FIG. 12) for clearing the guideway 80 immediately therebelow. The irregularly configured wire 37 carried by each dispenser adjacent the forwardmost margin thereof has a depending hook portion which is normally received in a slot of 36a of floor 36. In this manner the drawer defined by floor 36, sides 38 and 40, and rear wall 46, after lifting thereof to clear hood 37, may slide longitudinally of guideways 80 but complete removal of the dispenser 32 from the cabinets is impeded when tab 46 engages the crosspiece 84 supporting the guideway 80 above the dispenser being pulled outwardly for service. The normal disposition of the dispenser 32 for loading purposes is illustrated by the dashed lines in FIG. 5. However, the dispenser 32 can be removed from the guideways 80 if desired by simply lifting up on the front end of the dispenser until the lower margin of wall 46 clears the lower guideway 80 therebelow whereupon the entire drawer may be moved downwardly until the tab 76 thereon clears the crosspiece 84 in proximal relationship thereto.

The drive panel 90 for machine 22 is removable as an assembly as shown in FIG. 2 and comprises a main upright wall 92 having an inturned flange 94 adapted to be connected to the outer face of rear wall 82 of the machine cabinet. Preferably, the means for attaching panel 90 to the cabinet extends through wall 82 into the flange 94 so that it is impossible to remove the drive panel from the machine unless access is gained to the interior of the cabinet by opening the door 24.

Drive panel 90 is provided with a clutch pulley assembly 96 for each of the dispensers 32 with assemblies 96 being aligned with a corresponding dispenser in horizontal and vertical rows as shown in FIG. 2. Since the drive assemblies 96 are essentially identical in construction, only one of the same has been shown in detail in the drawings. A teardrop-shaped opening 97 is provided in wall 82 for each of the assem-blies 96. Each assembly 96 includes a clutch member 98 molded of synthetic resin material and comprising a cylindrical body 100 having an outer cylindrical face which is interrupted by a circumferentially extending, outwardly projecting flange 102 which extends around the periphery of member 98 but is interrupted around the circumference thereof to present a cross slot 104 therein (FIG. 3) which is aligned with a groove 106 in body 100.

Body 100 is rotatably disposed over a shaft 110 carried by and projecting outwardly from wall 92 of panel 90 in disposition such that the central, axially aligned bore 112 in shaft 110 complementally receives the outer tapered end of pin 62 of a respective dispenser 32. E-ring 113 holds body 100 on shaft 110. As shown in FIG. 16, shaft 110 carried by panel wall 92 of each drive assembly 96 has a sleeve 114 thereover which serves to maintain the cylindrical body 100 away from the proximal inner face of wall 92.

An elongated, irregularly-shaped actuator 116 is slidably and pivotally mounted on a pin 118 carried by body 100 of drive assembly 98 and shiftably received within slot 120 in actuator 116. E-ring 122 on pin 118 serves to releasably hold actuator 116 on pin 118 with a washer 124 underlying E-ring 122 of a greater diameter than the width of slot 120 serving to prevent displacement of the actuator from the support pin therefor without interfering with reciprocable movement of the actuator 116 with respect to the axis of pin 118. The L-shaped end 126 of actuator 116 has a toggle spring 128 connected thereto with the opposite end of the spring being attached to body 100 of drive member 98 within the passage 130 therein.

The normal standby position of the actuator 116 is shown in FIG. 15 wherein the point of connection of spring 128 to dogleg 126 of actuator 116 is below a line through pin 118 and the point of connection of spring 128 to body 100. As a consequence, the integral cam arm 132 of actuator 116 is located in the disposition thereof shown in FIG. 15. In the standby position of the cam arm 132, the cam surface 132a thereof (FIG. 20) is out of the path of surface 66a of a corresponding cam component 66 on dispenser 32 aligned therewith. Selection solenoid 136 carried by panel wall 92 proximal to drive member 98 has a coil 138 which reciprocably carries an armature 140 provided with an integral button 140a on the outer extremity thereof disposed to engage an arm 133 of actuator 116 extending through opening 134 in body 100 of drive member 98 (FIG. 16). When the armature 140 is pulled in by energization of the associated coil 138 button 140a engages cam arm 133 as indicated in FIG. 16 to rotate actuator 116 into the disposition of the same as shown in FIG. 17 wherein the point of connection of spring 138 to dogleg end 126 is above a line through pin 118 and the point of mounting of spring 128 on body 100 within passage 130 so that actuator 116 is releasably maintained in the operated position thereof. Movement of the actuator 116 to its operated position results in cam arm 132 being moved to the location thereof where the surface 132a may engage cam surface 66a of a corresponding cam component 66.

Actuator 116 in its operated position has a cam margin 142 located to project beyond the periphery of the cylindrical surface of drive member 98 during clockwise rotation thereof as illustrated in FIG. 18 whereby actuator 116 is returned to its initial position under the bias of spring 128 thereon when cam margin 142 is moved into engagement with a stop 144 projecting outwardly from the inner face of panel wall 92 as indicated in FIGS. 17 and 18. The stop 144 is of L-shaped configuration and has a base leg portion 144a secured to panel wall 92 by a fastener 146 passing therethrough. Integral, inwardly struck detents 148 embrace leg portion 144a of stop 144 outboard of the fastener 146 to prevent rotation of the stop about the axis of fastening means 146.

The normally rearmost face of cylindrical body 100 is provided with an oval, off-center cam ledge 150 constructed to engage button 140a of armature 140 to positively return the armature in the coil 138 to its normal extended position, notwithstanding a tendency for the armature to be retained within the coil because of problems such as residual magnetism or the like.

As is apparent from FIG. 2, a flexible wire 152 such as aircraft cable is wound around each of the drive members 98 of each of the vertically aligned rows of drive assemblies 96, with the four cables then passing around upper and lower idlers 154 and 156 before being attached to a vertically reciprocable link 158. The stretch of each cable 152 which passes over idler structure 154 is joined to link 158 by spring means 160, while the stretches of cables 152 which are trained over lower idler structure 156 are connected directly to the upper end of the link 158. For simplicity purposes, only one spring 160 has been depicted in the drawings, but it is to be understood that a spring 160 is actually provided for each of the four cables 152.

Referring to FIGS. 15 to 18 inclusive, it is to be noted that each cable 152 is trained around the circumference of a corresponding body 100 adjacent flange 102 and extends through groove 106 and its associated cross slot 104. L-shaped retainer 162 carried by each body 100 and releasably fastened thereto by a screw 164 rigidly secures the respective cable 152 to body 100 of clutch member 98.

Link 158 has an elongated slot 166 therein which slidably receives pin 168 projecting inwardly from panel wall 92, while the mounting pin 170 for idler structure 156 is slidably received in a second elongated slot 172 in link 158 to restrict the latter to a vertical, rectilinear path of travel. The arm 174 pivotally mounted on wall 92 below assemblies 96 and pivotally coupled to the lower end of link 158, is of U-shaped transferse configuration and receives a roller 176 rotatably mounted on an arm 178 connected to the shaft of a motor in gear unit 180 supported by a bracket assembly 182 on panel wall 92. Switch cam 184 rotatable with arm 178 has a notch 186 therein for receiving the switch actuator 188 of a motor cutoff switch 190.

Sold-out control structure broadly designated 192 is provided on each of the dispensers 32 and preferably comprises an elongated wire having a main rectilinear stretch 194 extending longitudinally of a corresponding dispenser drawer above the floor 36 thereof and terminating adjacent margin 42 as shown in FIG. 8. The opposite end of the wire is bent into generally L-shaped configuration and includes an intermediate stretch 196 pivotally received within bracket 198 affixed to floor 36 forwardly of wall 46, while a rear section 200 of the sold-out wire projects through an opening 202 therefor in wall 46 and extends upwardly therefrom as indicated in FIG. 12. Spring 204 engaging section 200 of the wire and connected to wall 46 adjacent the lower margin thereof, biases the sold-out indicator in a direction to shift stretch 194 thereof away from floor 36 as illustrated in FIG. 11. Switch 206 for each of the sold-out sensors 192 and carried by panel 92 has an elongated actuator 208 thereon which extends through a corresponding opening therefor in a cabinet wall 82 for engagement by section 200 of the sold-out wire. When the stretch 194 thereof is held down against the upper face of floor 36 as illustrated in FIG. 5 for example, actuator 208 is held away from the contact plunger of switch 206 so that the latter remains in its normal condition. However, upward movement of stretch 194 upon exhaustion of products from a respective dispenser 32 causes the section 200 of the sold-out wire to be rotated in a clockwise direction viewing FIG. 5 to actuate the respective switch 206.

In FIGS. 11 and 14, the dispenser 32 illustrated therein is provided with an elongated spacer rod 210 carried within coils 68 and 70 substantially axially thereof so that relatively narrow products may be dispensed from the unit as indicated in FIG. 6. Rod 210 is coupled to shaft 50 through the fastener 54 associated therewith and to the opposite end of sidewall 38 by a bracket 212.

In readying machine 22 for operation, the serviceman opens door 24 to gain access to the individual dispensers 32. While pushing upwardly on the respective spring latch 37 at the forward end thereof, each of the drawer-like dispensers 32 may be individually pulled outwardly into the dashed line position thereof illustrated in FIG. 5 for filling with merchandise or replacement of the supply thereof which has been depleted since the preceding service call.

As each dispenser 32 is pulled outwardly, the guideways 80 restrict the drawer to a rectilinear path of travel and engagement of the tab 86 with the crosspiece 84 immediately thereabove precludes the dispenser 32 from being pulled completely out of the cabinet of machine 22. It is to be noted also that the drawer assembly slants downwardly to a certain extent when withdrawn from the cabinet so as to further facilitate replenishment of articles to be vended from machine 22.

The dispenser 32 is loaded by simply inserting articles in the spaces defined by aligned convolutions of the coils 68 and 70 as indicated in FIG. 8 with the articles thereby being in parallel relationship and spaced one from the other longitudinally of the respective conveyor assemblies. In FIG. 8, the dispenser 32 illustrated therein is shown as being adapted for vending bag-packs such as corn chips, corn curls, potato chips, popcorn, and similar items. Thus, the spacing between adjacent spiral stretches of the coils 68 and 70 is such as to accommodate the particular type of back-pack to be vended from that dispenser. However, if much narrower items are to be vended, as for example candy bars or the like, coils 68 and 70 may be used on that dispenser of less pitch so that the space between adjacent spiral sections of the coils is considerably more limited than that illustrated in FIG. 8. A larger number of articles may, therefore, be accommodated in the dispenser 32 equipped with coil conveyors 68 and 70 having a substantially larger number of convolutions than illustrated in FIG. 8 and thereby increasing the capacity of the dispenser. By the same token, the articles to be dispensed will be maintained in an upright position since placement of very narrow articles in coils 68 and 70 of the configuration shown in FIG. 8 would necessarily mean that the articles would be inclined slightly transversely thereof when positioned in the mechanism. However, such inclination does not interfere with proper dispensing of the articles with the main disadvantage simply being a lower overall product capacity for that particular dispenser. In like manner, for articles of greater width than bag-packs 34, coils 68 and 70 would be spaced farther apart than those shown in FIG. 8 to accommodate the wider products.

In this connection it is to be emphasized that the operator of machine 22 may change the coil conveyors 68 and 70 at will by simply unthreading the same from corresponding cylindrical elements 52 and replacing the conveyors with others of different pitches as desired. Since discharge of an article from a respective dispenser 32 is accomplished by rotation of the coil conveyors 68 and 70 through one revolution, it can be seen that discharge of a product from the outer end of a corresponding drawer is independent of both the pitch of the convolutions of the coils 68 and 70 and the spacing between the coils.

The spacer rods 210 as illustrated in FIGS. 6, 11 and 14 for example, are used where the articles to be vended are relatively narrow and there would be a tendency for the products to shift toward one side or other of the dispenser unless restrained by the centrally located guide rods 210. Again it can be seen that the rods 210 are mountable at will on any one or all of the dispensers 32 as required and also may be changed as needed depending upon the type of article to be sold from a particular drawer.

In this connection, it is to be noted that the products slide along the floor 36 of a respective dispenser 32 and thus support is provided for the articles regardless of their effective length or width as the case may be in a direction trans-verse of the coil conveyors 68 and 70. Similarly, location of the coils 68 and 70 with their outer extremities 68b and 70b disposed at essentially a 6o'clock position in standby, assures discharge of a product from floor 36 during one cycle of rotation of the coils 68 and 70 since the arcuate stretch of each coil at the outer extremity thereof which operates against the endmost product constantly forces the latter toward the margin 42 until the end extremities 68b and 70b return to disposition at margin 42.

When reloading machine 22 the serviceman is forced to replenish the back spaces of each dispenser 32 which are devoid of articles and thus first-in, first-out vending is always assured without the necessity of the serviceman moving the older products into next to vend disposition.

Machine 22 is desirably constructed so that the control mechanism thereof permits sale of products from dispensers 32 at variable prices depending upon the particular setting for each dispensing station and for change to be returned to the customer for any excess deposit over the amount of money actually inserted by the customer. Similarly, the machine should have an escrow feature so that if the customer inserts money and then discovers that a product is sold out, he can optionally select another product or obtain return of his money.

When the customer pushes a selection button 30 corresponding to the dispenser 32 from which he desires to obtain a product, control circuitry not illustrated but which is conventional in this art is actuated to cause the solenoid 136 associated with the selected dispenser 32 to be energized whereby armature 140 is drawn into the coil 138, thus rotating the associated actuator 116 in a clockwise direction viewing FIG. 15 as the button 140a of armature 140 engages cam arm 133 to swing actuator 116 about the axis of pin 118. Toggle spring 128 serves to maintain actuator 116 in its operated position as shown in FIG. 17. The cam surface 132a of cam arm 132 is now in a location to engage the cam surface 66a of cam component 66 of the selected dispenser 32. Motor and gear unit 180 is actuated through the control circuitry of the machine to rotate arm 178 in a counterclockwise direction viewing FIG. 4, whereby the arm 174 is lifted to raise link 158 attached thereto. During such upward movement of the link 158 all of the cables 152 are moved therewith to effect rotation of all of the clutch pulley members 98 in a counterclockwise direction from the position illustrated in FIG. 17 through arcs exceeding 360° and preferably about 410°, although the exact extent of such rotation is not critical.

As illustrated in FIG. 17, there is a small gap between cam surface 132a of actuator 116 and the surface 66a of cam component 66 after actuator 116 has been operated. This gap, which will vary with dimensional tolerances must always be adequate to avoid interference with operation of actuator 116.

Upon rotation of the clutch pulley members 98 in a counterclockwise direction during the first cycle of rotation thereof, the cam arm 132 of the operated actuator 116 moves through an arcuate displacement before it engages cam component 66 to rotate the latter. After engagement, there is an additional lost arcuate motion of member 98 as the load is picked up from cam component 66 which serves to pull the cam margin 142 of actuator 116 (as permitted by slot 120 therein) within the periphery of member 98 so that cam margin 142 will not contact stop 144 during counterclockwise rotation of member 98. The total of the lost motion just discussed is what makes the difference between the required 360° rotation of cam component 66 and the approximate 410° rotation of the member 98.

Thus, component 66 is rotated in a clockwise direction, viewing FIG. 12, to rotate gear 56 and pinion sections 52c of elements 52. As a consequence, elements 52 are rotated in opposite directions simultaneously through 360° arcs. At the completion of rotation of the coils 68 and 70 detent 64 returns to its normal position engaging surface 56b of hub portion 56a of spur gear 56.

The operated actuator 116 has no effect on the associated cam component 66 during retrograde rotation of the clutch pulley member 98 since cam arm 132 is moving away from cam surface 66a. When the cam margin 142 of the operated actuator 116 moves into engagement with stop 144, the actuator 116 is cammed back into its original position and retained there by toggle spring 128 connected thereto. The cam arm 132 of the last operated actuator 116 is thus moved out of the path of the cam component 66 so that the cam arm 132 can move past cam surface 66a of the associated cam component 66 upon a subsequent quent vend cycle when it does not correspond to a dispenser from which a product is to be dispensed. Operation of the motor is discontinued when the switch operator 188 falls back into notch 186 on cam control 184.

When the sold-out indicator rod 194 of a particular dispenser 32 moves upwardly into the position thereof illustrated in FIG. 11, the contacts of switch 206 open to preclude operation of the associated solenoid 136. The customer then can select a product from any of the remaining dispensers still containing products so long as his deposit equals or exceeds the price of an article selected.