The present invention relates to a vending machine, and particularly to a means for unlocking an access door for permitting access to an item to be vended and to a means for moving the next item to be vended into a vend position at the completion of a prior vend transaction.
The present invention is principally used in connection with a vending machine having a number of levels. Each level has a plurality of vendible item carriers on it. Each carrier is moved into position adjacent to an access door through which items are removed. In accordance with the present invention, each of the access doors at each of the levels of the vending machine is normally blocked against opening by a respective abutment which is normally urged to its blocking position. In the preferred embodiment, the door is a sliding door that slides in its own plane.
When a solenoid device that is associated with the abutment is activated, the abutment is moved from its blocking position and the door may be opened. The solenoid device is an electric circuit with a power supply and with switch means which must be activated before the solenoid is activated. For each access door, there is a manually operable selector switch which comprises part of the switch means. The vendee operates one such switch to select which access door may be opened. There is also a common money activated switch which comprises part of the switch means and is in circuit with all of the selector switches. The money activated switch is activated when proper money or coinage is deposited by the vendee.
The solenoid device operates only so long as the manually operable selector switch is activated. However, the vendee is likely to operate the selector switch for only a short period of time. Accordingly, to prevent the abutment from settling back and blocking opening of the door before the operator has had an opportunity to manually open the door, the abutment is latched against reclosing. A release means associated with the latch means is activated by movement of the door to release the abutment when the door opens. The abutment is urged into its blocking position when the door is completely reclosed.
All of the solenoid devices are connected with a common money mechanism recycling switch means such that when any selector switch is operated to move its abutment out of the door blocking position, the recycling switch means recycles the money mechanism to its start condition to ready it for the next vend transaction.
After an access door is reclosed, the carriers on that level should shift so that the next carrier is moved adjacent to the access door. The carriers on each prohibits are carried on an elongated support, like an endless belt or chain. A motor means moves the support and the carriers. The motor means is in a circuit which includes a power supply and includes switch means which is activated in order to move the carriers and which is deactivated when the succeeding carrier is adjacent to the access door.
One of the switches of the carrier operating switch means is associated with the access door and is closed and activated only after the access door is reclosed. This prohibits access to a succeeding vendible item without it being paid for. This switch may be connected to the door itself or to the door blocking abutment, such that when the abutment shifts to block the now closed door, it also activates this switch.
Another switch of the carrier operating switch means senses the positions of the carriers. Prior to a vend transaction, this switch is in contact with one of the carriers and is normally open. The switch includes a sensor which is positioned to be engaged by the access door as it is being opened. When it is engaged by the access door this sensor disengages the switch from the carrier, which serves to close the switch. Because the previously described door position sensing switch is now opened because the door is open, the carriers do not move. However, when the door is reclosed, both of the abutment activated and carrier activated switches are closed and the carriers begin to move. The carrier position activated switch remains closed until the next carrier in sequence contacts this switch and reopens it.
It is the primary object of the present invention to provide a vending machine which moves objects to be vended adjacent to access doors and which permits a vendee to gain acceess to a vendible item he selects and which prevents more than a single item to be vended through a single access door during a single vend transaction.
It is another object of the present invention to provide means for preventing opening of the access door until predetermined conditions occur.
it is a further object of the present invention to provide means for moving the carriers for the items to be vended such that when an item is vended, the succeeding carrier is moved adjacent to the access door for the next vend transaction.
These and other objects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a front elevation view of the interior of a vending machine in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top view of one level in the vending machine of FIG. 1 along the line and in the direction of arrows 2 in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a side elevation detail view of the mechanism that controls operation of an access door into one of the levels of the ending machine, viewed along the line and in the direction of arrows 3 in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a front elevtion view of the mechanism o FIG. 3, along the line and in the direction of arrows 4 in FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the electric circuit involved in opening a particular access door at one of the levels of the vending machine;
FIGS. 6-9 shows various positions for the means which latches the access door;
FIG. 10 is a top plan view of a fragment of one level of the vending machine, showing the switching mechanism that controls movement of the carriers that deliver an item to be vended adjacent to the access door into the vending machine;
FIG. 11 is a view of the mechanism of FIG. 10 in a second operative position;
FIG. 12 is a view of the mechanism of FIG. 10 in a third operative position; and
FIG. 13 is a block diagram showing the electric circuit involved in moving the vendible item carriers so that the next carrier in sequence will be moved adjacent to the access door of the vending machine.
Referring to the drawings, and particularly to FIG. 1, vending machine 10 includes a fixed housing 12 within which its components are located, which housing also includes an immovable frame to which various components are affixed.
Within the vending machine are a number of virtually identical vendible item carrier levels 14, 16, 17, 18. Although four levels are illustrated, there may be any number of levels in accordance with the present invention. The vending machine will be described with reference to level 14.
One of the features of the present invention is that each level may be operated independently. All levels share a common system for being activated when the correct money is deposited by the vendee and all share a common system for preventing a person from vending more than one item at a time or from vending from more than one level.
Turning to FIGS. 1 and 2, level 14 includes the vended item carrier support and guidance table 22. Table 22 is supported by means (not shown) in the housing 12. Table 22 includes bearings supporting and positioning shaft 24 for guide roller 26 and shaft 28 for guide roller 30. Endless carrier support 32, which may be a chain or a belt, passes around guide rollers 26, 30. Endless support 32 bends at 34, and is guided by roller 30 to bend.
Carrier support moving means, comprising conventional motor 36, is connected by conventional means 38 with shaft 24 for rotating the shaft and moving endless support 32. Operation of motor 36 is controlled by the below described electric circuit shown in FIG. 13. Note that there are separate motors 36 at each level at the vending machine. In the event that one of the motors breaks down or one of the levels of the bending machine becomes inoperative, each of the levels of the vending machine remains independently operable.
Support 32 includes appropriate conventional fastening means 42 which fasten the support centrally of the rear surfaces of the vended item carriers 43, 44, 46, etc. These carriers are illustrated as being boxes without a front wall, thereby permitting access into the box. An item to be vended is placed in each box and it is removed by the vendee. The design of the carriers is not significant, except insofar as the body of each carrier serves to activate motor 36, as described below. The items to be vended form no part of the present invention, although in a particular application of the invention, a six-pack of beverage cans is placed in each carrier.
Vending machine housing 12 is completely closed prventing access to the items to be vended and to the carriers. At each level 14, 16, etc. is an access door 50 which is opened by a vendee. Each door 50 is positioned so that when it is opened, there is a carrier adjacent to the access door and the vendee can reach through the open wall of the carrier and remove the item in it. Access door 50 may be transparent to permit a vendee to see the item that will be vended through that door. FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate sliding access door 50 for level 14 and the means which control door operation. Door 50 is carried and guided by brackets 52, 54 which guide door 50 to slide. Movement to the right in the direction of arrow 56 in FIG. 4 opens door 50, and movement to the left in the direction of arrow 58 recloses the door.
Referring to FIGS. 3, 4 and 6, when door 50 is closed, i.e. in the dashed line position in FIG. 4, door blocking abutment 60 extends below upper edge 61 of the door and blocks opening of the door. By means to be described, abutment 60 is carried on frame 12 of the vending machine and is movable with respect to frame 12 and door 50. Until abutment 60 is moved out of the way of door 50, the door cannot be opened. Abutment 60 is carried by latch plate 62, which in turn joined to and carried by support arm 64. Arm 64 is slotted at 66 to receive guide posts 68 that extend out of frame 12 and guide the direction of shifting of abutment 60. Arm 64 is joined to solenoid device 70 by means of cross arm 72, which is, in turn, joined to solenoid plunger 74. Cross arm 72 also serves as an operator for switch 190, as described below.
To raise abutment 60 out of its blocking position with respect to door 50, solenoid 70 must be energized. The electric circuit in which solenoid 70 is located and which causes its operation is described in connection with FIGS. 1 and 5.
Conventional money or coin mechanism 76 receives and totals the money or coinage deposited by a vendee. Such totalizers are well known in the art. When adequate money is deposited, a signal is sent to conventional money activated mechanism 78, which may, for example, be a solenoid, and which simultaneously closes the money activated switches 80 for all of the levels of the vending machine. While there is a separate money activated switch 80 for each level, all are simultaneously operated. Hence, there is a common money operated mechanism for all levels.
The vendee next selects the desired item to be vended by pressing the appropriate selector button 81, 82, 83 that is adjacent to the access door for the level on which the selected item is located. Operation of a particular selector button completes the circuit from power supply 84 to the solenoid device for the respective level of the vending machine. Operation of selector switch 81 for level 14 operates solenoid 70. In a similar manner, operation of selector switches 82, 83 energizes solenoids 85, 86, respectively for levels 16, 18, repectively.
Of course, an operator should not be able to activate more than one selector switch at a time and an appropriate relay may be provided so that when one selector switch is operated, none of the others may be operated until money mechanism 76 is recycled to the start position illustrated in FIG. 5 with all of money activated switches 80 being open.
In addition, the vendee's act of making a selection by operating a single selector switch 81 recycles the money mechanism back to the start condition and also serves to preclude energization of more than one solenoid device at a time. There is a common recycling switch operator bar 88 which includes a number of solenoid plunger engaging downwardly facing surfaces 90. The positions and spacing of surfaces 90 are selected so that when all of the solenoids 70, etc. are deenergized, each surface 90 sits on the upper side of an above described cross arm 72 which is connected with solenoid plunger 74. When any solenoid plunger moves upward in FIG. 3 or 4, bar 88 moves upward. Movement of bar 88 is guided by elongated slots 92 in the bar which receive guide posts 94 that are carried on frame 12.
Bar 88 carries pivot mount 96 for pivotable switch arm 98. Switch arm 98 carries contact 102 which is held separated from contact 104 by abutment 106 which is part of frame 12. When bar 88 moves upward, switch arm 98 pivots contact 102 clockwise toward contact 104 until bar 88 moves up sufficiently to close the contacts. This energizes money mechanism recycling means 108 which is a conventional means for reopening all of the money activated switches 80 in money mechanism 76. Hence, as soon as a vendee makes an item selection, the money mechanism is recycled and is ready for the next vend transaction. When the selector switch is released, the solenoid is deactivated, bar 88 returns to its start position and means 108 is deactivated. But, recycling has been completed.
Turning to FIG. 3, when solenoid 70 is energized by operation of selector switch 81, abutment 60 moves out of the way of and, therefore, unlocks sliding door 50. A vendee will not normally hold switch 81 activated and will usually release it before opening door 50. Abutment 60 would settle back to its blocking position of FIG. 6 and again block door 50 before the vendee could remove the item for which he had paid.
To prevent premature relocking of door 50, a latching mechanism is provided. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, latch plate 62 comprises a support crossbar 112, which is relatively short in height and above and below which there is no obstructing material. Cooperating with crossbar 112 is latching hook 116. Hook 116 is carried by latch bar 118 which is urged by biasing means 120 to the left in FIG. 4 in the direction of arrow 58. Bar 118 is guided in its below described movement to both left and right by means of slots 122, 124 in bar 118, which slots receive guide post 126, 128, respectively. As shown in FIG. 4, when hook 116 is in its normal position, biasing means 120 urges the hook sufficiently to the left in FIG. 4 that it is past crossbar 112. Flattened upper surface 134 off hook 116 prevents crossbar 112 from descending past hook 116. Lower surface 132 of hook 116 is rounded so that when crossbar 112 rises in FIG. 4, it moves hook 116 and bar 118 to the right, in the direction of arrow 56, until crossbar 112 passes hook 116, whereupon biasing means 120 moves hook 116 back to the left into its blocking position.
Operation of the latching mechanism is shown in FIGS. 3 and 6-9. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 6, when solenoid 70 is deneergized, crossbar 72 is in the lowermost broken line position shown in FIG. 3 and abutment 60 is in the low position, shown in FIG. 6, blocking door 50. Crossbar 112 is substantially below hook 116.
FIGS. 3 and 7 illustrate the situation when solenoid 70 is energized. The solid line positions of crossbar 72 and connection plate 64 and the positions of abutment 60 and crossbar 122 are shown in FIG. 3. As shown in FIG. 7, abutment 60 has been raised substantially above and out of the way of door 50. Crossbar 112 has slid pas hook 116 and the hook has snapped back to position beneath the crossbar. The crossbar is now above and spaced away from hook 116.
Turning to FIG. 8, when the vendee releases selector switch 81 and this switch reopens, solenoid 70 is deactivated. Solenoid plunger 74, latch plate 62, crossbar 112 and abutment 60 are urged back to their position of FIG. 6. In the illustrated embodiment, solenoid 70 has raised abutment 60 vertically upward, whereby the above noted elements are urged back by gravity. However, if a different orientation of these elements were adopted, appropriate biasing means would be used for urging these elements back to their positions of FIG. 6. Abutment 60 and crossbar 112 settle back until crossbar 112 is resting on upper surface 134 of hook 116. Hook 116 prevents further descent of abutment 60. Abutment 60 has not moved back sufficiently to interfere with movement of door 50 and the vendee may still open that door, although he has released selector switch 81. Door 50 does not become relocked before the vend transaction is completed.
To remove hook 116 from the position at which is holds abutment 60 out of the way of door 50, the latch release mechanism, shown in FIG. 4, is provided. Above mentioned pin 128, which is affixed to the housing frame, also pivotally supports latch release plate 133. Pin 134 extends out of plate 133 and into a notch 136 cut into latch bar 118. Depending abutment roller 138 is rotatably carried at 140 on plate 133. Plate 133 is so shaped and positioned and roller 138 is so positioned with respect to plate 133 that when door 50 is closed at its dashed line position of FIG. 4, roller 138 hangs down so that it will be in the pathway of door 50 as the door opens. The engagement between door 50 and roller 138 occurs when the door is at its solid line position of FIG. 4. When roller 138 is contacted, it moves to the right in the direction of arrow 56 in FIG. 4. Plate 133 pivots counterclockwise in FIG. 4 and post 134 on plate 133 engages in notch 136 and moves bar 118 to the right, thereby moving hook 116 out from beneath crossbar 112.
Turning to FIG. 9, now that hook 116 no longer blocks crossbar 112, that crossbar and abutment 60 drop down. As shown in FIG. 4, door 50 is now opened. Hence, abutment 60 cannot drop down to its door blocking position of FIG. 6. Instead, it drops until its lower surface 142 rests on upper surface 61 of door 50. In this position, abutment 60 is not blocking any movement of door 50. The vendee can continue opening door 50 to its full extent, can remove the item being vended and can reclose door 50. When door 50 is finally reclosed by being moved in the direction of arrow 58 to its closed, dashed line position in FIG. 4, the door moves free of abutment 60 and the abutment then drops back to its position of FIG. 6. The descent of abutment 60 and crossbar 72 operates the carrier moving means switch 190, described below.
The means which releases hook 116 from its supporting position of FIG. 8, namely roller 138 and plate 133, is spaced a distance away from abutment 60, as shown in FIG. 4. The hook release means might be located right at abutment 60, so that as soon as door 50 begins to open, the abutment drops to its position of FIG. 9 and relocks door 50 when it is reclosed. However, it has been found that vendees often do not open access door 50 in a single smooth stroke. Instead, they hesitate or more the door slightly back and forth before opening it. Roller 138 is so positioned that by the time the leading edge of door 50 contacts it, it is clear that the vendee intends to fully open the door to gain access to the vendible item. On the other hand, roller 138 should not be placed so far from abutment 60 that a vendee could reach his hand through the small door opening that occurs before door 50 contacts roller 138.
After a vendee has removed an item from the carrier 44 that is adjacent to access door 50, the next carrier 43 in sequence should be moved adjacent to access door 50. Means are needed for activating motor 36 for bringing carrier 43 adjacent to access door 50 and for then stopping motor 36. Also, motor 36 should not be activated until the vendee in the prior vend transaction has removed the item from carrier 44. Further still, the carriers should not shift until access door 50 has been reclosed and locked, lest the vendee of the item in carrier 44 be able to additionally obtain the item in carrier 43 without paying for it.
Turning to FIG. 13, motor 36 is in circuit with power supply 148, with vendible item carrier position sensing switch 150, which senses the positions of the carriers and is closed after completion of the vend transaction for carrier 44 and is opened when carrier 43 has moveed into the access position adjacent to access door 50, and an access door position sensing switch 190 which is closed when access door 50 has been relocked.
Switch 150 is inside housing 151 which is immovably secured to frame 12 of the vending machine, e.g., by being secured to plate 22.
In FIGS. 10-12, the means for activating and deactivating switch 150 are shown. Switch 150 includes an operator button 152 and a resilient operator arm 154 for depressing button 152. When resilient arm 154 is pressed counterclockwise against the direction in which it is normally resiliently urged and against button 152 to thereby depress the button, switch 150 is opened or deactivated. When arm 154 is permitted to resiliently deflect away from button 152 and the button is not depressed, switch 150 is closed or activated. The means for moving resilient arm 154 between the button depressed position of FIG. 10, on the one hand, and the button undepressed position of FIGS. 11 and 12, on the other hand, is carrier position sensor 160, and in particular its upstanding shelf 156 which is adapted to engage and press upon abutting roller 158, which is part of resilient arm 154.
Extending up from fixed table surface 22 are carrier position sensor support posts 162, 164. For receiving post 162, sensor 160 includes a cut out slot 166 of a length and width to permit and guide movement of sensor 160. Sensor 160 also pivots around post 162. Slot 168 and pin 164 received therein also serve to guide sensor 160. Sensor 160 has motion left, right, clockwise and counterclockwise in FIG. 10 and the sizes and shapes of slots 166, 168 are chosen to permit this movement. Biasing spring means 170 joins plate 22 and sensor 160 and normally urges sensor 160 to move in a manner which pivots it clockwise and moves it to the right in FIG. 10.
In FIG. 10, the carriers move to the right in the direction of arrow 56. At the trailing end of sensor 160 with respect to the movement of the carrier and to the left of the sensor pivot post 162, sensor 160 is provided with a carrier contacting abutment roller 172 which engages and seats against lip 174 that depends beneath carrier 46. As illustrated in FIG. 10, carrier 46 is beginning its turn about roller 30 and its trailing end swings around and sweeps into roller 172, moving the roller downward, as viewed in FIG. 10, which pivots sensor 160 counterclockwise, and moves resilient arm 154 and switch operator button 152 so that switch 150 is deactivated.
In the position illustrated in FIG. 10, access door 50 is closed and locked by abutment 60. After a vendee activates solenoid 70 and abutment 60 is no longer blocking door 50, as shown in FIG. 11, door 50 is being opened to the right, in the direction of arrow 56. Eventually, the leading edge of door 50 contacts and then rolls past roller 176 on door position sensor 180. Sensor 180 is pivotably mounted at 182 to housing 151. As can be seen by a comparison of FIGS. 10 and 11, when door 50 moves past roller 176, sensor 180 is pivoted counterclockwise. Door position sensor 180 carries a fixed pin 184 which engages in elongated slot 186 in carrier position sensor 160. When sensor 180 pivots counterclockwise, pin 184 travels through slot 186 and the pin also urges sensor 160 to the left, as seen in a comparison of FIGS. 10 and 11. Abutment 172 is moved to the left of and past depending front lip 174 of carrier 46. Now, lip 174 no longer blocks sensor 160 from being pivoted clockwise under the influence of biasing means 170 and the sensor so pivots until carrier 46 engages shelf 156 on sensor 160. Through this pivoting of sensor 160, resilient arm 154 is permitted to deflect clockwise, switch button 152 is no longer depressed and switch 150 is activated. Motor 36 does not operate, however, because switch 190 has not yet been closed or activated.
Turning to FIG. 12, after the vendee has removed the item from carrier 44, he recloses door 50 in the direction of arrow 58. Once door 50 has moved past roller 176, the door is no longer biasing sensor 180 counterclockwise, and biasing means 170 now operates to move carrier position sensor 160 to the right in FIG. 12 in the direction of arrow 56.
Note the resulting position of abutment roller 172. In FIG. 10, it was held below pending carrier lip 174. Because the abutment 172 was above lip 174 in FIG. 11, when sensor 160 is moved to the right into the position of FIG. 12, abutment roller 172 moves along the other side and above depending lip 174. In FIG. 12 roller 172 is hidden beneath carrier 46. In FIG. 10, when roller 172 was on the one side of lip 174, sensor 160 was in the position which deactivated switch 152. However, in FIG. 12, when roller 172 is on the other side of lip 174, it cannot pivot counterclockwise sufficiently to move resilient arm 154 to depress switch operator button 152, whereby switch 150 remains closed and activated and, therefore, enables motor 36 to operate. As will be described below, when door 50 is fully closed, switch 190 will also be closed and motor 36 will then operate to move the carriers.
When carrier 46 moves free of abutment roller 172, the urging of biasing means 170 pivots abutment roller 172 clockwise about post 162 and, therefore, holds shelf 156 and resilient arm 154 off switch operator button 52. Sensor 160 shifts so that the upper end in FIG. 12 of slot 186 moves against pin 184, but this does not depress button 152. The carriers continue to move.
Abutment roller 172 is now down far enough, from its position in FIG. 12, so that it is not engaged by the front lip 174 of succeeding carrier 44 as that carrier moves straight past abutment roller 172. Eventually, the portion of elongated support 32 to which carrier 44 is attached begins to move around bend 34 defined by roller 30, and carrier 44 swings around, in the manner of carrier 46, until lip 174 near the trailing end of carrier 44 engages abutment roller 172 and pivots sensor 160 counterclockwise until it again assumes the position shown in FIG. 10. At this position, switch operator button 152 is again depressed and switch 150 is opened or deactivated, halting motor 36. Carrier 44 is now in the position of carrier 46 in FIG. 10. The subsequent carrier 43, which is spaced equidistantly from carrier 44 on support 32 has thereby been moved to the access location adjacent to access door 50 so that an item may be removed from carrier 43 during a succeeding vend transaction.
Referring to FIGS. 3, 4 and 13, switch 190, which must be closed and activated before the carriers will move, is activated only when previously open access door 50 has been reclosed and relocked. This is accomplished by associating switch 190 with abutment 60 such that it will be closed only when abutment 60 resumes its door locking position of FIG. 6. Switch 190 is affixed to frame 12 of the vending machine. It includes an operator button 192 and a resilient operator arm 194 which is resiliently deflectable away from button 192 and switch depresses button 192 and closes switch 190 when arm 194 is depressed to its broken line position in FIG. 4.
Arm 194 carries an abutment roller 196. Roller 196 is engaged by the undersurface 198 of above described cross arm 72, which arm is part of both solenoid plunger 74 and abutment 60. When abutment 60 is in the position of FIG. 6, cross arm 72 is in its lowermost broken line position of FIG. 3, and switch 190 is closed. When abutment 60 is in any of the positions of FIGS. 7, 8 or 9, the abutment is not blocking movement of door 50 and cross arm 72 is sufficiently elevated above abutment roller 196 so as not to close switch 190 and the switch is, therefore, open. Abutment 60 does not move to its position of FIG. 6 and, therefore, switch 190 is not closed unless door 50 is closed and locked, whereby motor 36 will not operate until door 50 has been reclosed and locked.
It is noted that switch 190 is closed a good portion of the time because door 50 is locked a good portion of the time. However, above described switch 150, which is also in circuit with motor 36, is always open when door 50 is closed before a vend transaction. Thus, both of switches 150 and 190 are closed only after completion of a vend transaction when door 50 is relocked by abutment 60.
There has just been described a novel vending machine apparatus including means for releasing a locked access door to the items to be vended, a means for preventing dispensing of more than one item in a single vend transaction and means for moving a loaded vended item carrier into position near the access door after completion of a prior vend transaction.
Although the present invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment thereof, may variations and modifications will now become apparent to those skilled in the art. It is preferred, therefore, that the present invention be limited not by the specific disclosure herein, but only by the appended claims.