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Title:
LABEL-MAKING MACHINE
United States Patent 3861512
Abstract:
The invention contemplates an automatic machine selectively capable of making one or a plurality of machine-readable labels, as for use in item identification, in the filing, search and retrieval operation of existing equipment. The mechanism creates discrete multi-digit machine-readable labels, wherein digit changes between successively created labels are automatically sequenced or otherwise patterned, as needed. The machine has a basic cycle of indexing and reciprocation of a print-character drum (or wheel) and anvil, with respect to each other, the label web between drum and anvil being incrementally advanced or indexed, as necessary, between character-marking reciprocations. Novel means tracking the instantaneous rotary-indexed position of the drum, and evaluating the same in relation to the prescribed next digit to be printed, is operative to reposition the drum with utmost efficiency and speed during the period between successive print contacts with the web, thus assuring against delay between successive print contacts and against uncertainty in the correctness of the newly indexed rotary position of the drum.


Inventors:
Coriasco, Peter (Brooklyn, NY)
Haselbarth, Heinz (Glendale, NY)
Application Number:
05/279702
Publication Date:
01/21/1975
Filing Date:
08/10/1972
Assignee:
Supreme Equipment & Systems Corporation (Brooklyn, NY)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
101/21, 101/93.24, 400/138.2, 400/154.3, 400/162.3, 400/583.3
International Classes:
G06K1/12; (IPC1-7): B41J1/46
Field of Search:
101/93C,21,DIG.4 197
View Patent Images:
Primary Examiner:
Bagwill, Robert E.
Assistant Examiner:
Pieprz, William
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sandoe, Hopgood And Calimafde
Claims:
What is claimed is

1. Printing means, comprising a rotatably indexible member having a series of different indicia at each of a plurality of angularly spaced index locations thereon, multiple-speed reversible rotary-drive means for said member, an anvil member, a frame including guide ways, a slide on said ways and supporting one of said members for movement to and away from coaction with the other member for a given indicium location, means for supporting web material between said members, reciprocating means connected to drive said members into and away from indicium-marking relation with said web, mechanical index-position locating mechanism coacting between said indexible member and said frame, such mechanism being enterable into index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating approach of said members into indicium-marking relation and becoming free of index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating retreat of said members from indicium-marking relation, said index-locating mechanism having a predetermined index-angle acceptance tolerance and including cam means operative to home said members to precision-location of indexed position during the course of such reciprocating approach and prior to achievement of indicium-marking relation, code-wheel means carried for rotation with said rotatably indexible member and having markings uniquely identifying each of said spaced locations, code-wheel reader means non-rotatably mounted to track code markings in the course of rotation, command means for selecting a code output corresponding to a selected one of the several indicium locations on said rotatable member, and program means including a comparator connected for response to the difference between the command and reader outputs, said program means being responsive to a sensed difference between said outputs and determining (a) a relatively high-speed operation of said rotary-drive means and (b) the direction of rotation for which said difference is minimal, said drive means being operative during a separated relation of said members to drive said rotatably indexible member in the direction of minimal rotary displacement to reduce to zero the difference between the command and reader outputs, said program means being also operative upon subsequent comparator-sensed recognition of zero difference between said outputs to discontinue such high-speed operation and to determine a relatively slow-speed and directionally-reversed operation of said rotary-drive means, and said program means being finally operative to discontinue operation of said rotary-drive means upon the next comparator-sensed recognition of zero difference between said outputs, the index-positioning accuracy of said last-defined final operation being within said index-angle acceptance tolerance.

2. A label-making machine for automatically preparing a label card of n-digits of machine-readable characters, said machine comprising a fixed frame including elongate guide means for the progressive guidance of card stock advanced through said machine, stock-supply means at one end of said guide means, a printing station at a location along said guide means and near said supply means, said station comprising on one side of said guide means a rotatably indexible member having a series of different machine-readable printing indicia at each of a plurality of angularly spaced index locations thereon, an anvil member on the other side of said guide means, frame-based structure including guide ways transverse to the direction of said guide means, a slide on said ways and supporting one of said members for movement to and away from coaction with the other member for a given indicium location, reciprocating means connected to drive said members into and away from indicium-marking relation with card stock therebetween, mechanical index-position locating mechanism coacting between said indexible member and said frame, such mechanism being enterable into index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating approach of said members into indicium-marking relation and becoming free of index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating retreat of said members from indicium-marking relation, said index-locating mechanism having a predetermined index-angle acceptance tolerance and including cam means operative to home said members to precision-location of indexed position during the course of such reciprocating approach and prior to achievement of indicium-marking relation, indexing stock-advancing means having a synchronizing connection to said reciprocating means for imparting indexed stock-advancing displacement between indicium-marking strokes of said reciprocating means; code-wheel means carried for rotation with said rotatable member and having markings uniquely identifying each of said spaced locations, code-wheel reader means non-rotatably mounted to track code markings in the course of rotation, program means including command means for selecting a code output corresponding to a selected one of the several indicium locations on said rotatable member, comparator means connected for response to the difference between the command and reader outputs, said comparator means including means sensing the direction of rotation for which said difference is minimal, and reversible-drive means for said rotatably indexible member operative during a separated relation of said members and responsive to said last-defined means to drive said rotatably indexible member the minimal rotaty displacement to reduce to zero the the difference between the command and reader outputs, the index-positioning accuracy of said last-defined means being within said index-angle acceptance tolerance; said program means further including means responsive to attainment of said zero difference for initiating a succeeding cycle of said reciprocating means and for repeating the cycle thereof in synchronized interlace with the cycle of said comparator means and of said reversible-drive means, such repeated cycling being for each of the n digits to be impressed on a given label, and means responsive to completion of the cycles of digit impression on said label for discharging the completed label from said guide means and for changing by an increment of one the n-digit number to be impressed on the next-succeeding label.

3. The machine of claim 2, in which the number of locations of machine-readable printing indicia on said rotatable member is eleven, ten of which have different machine-readable means corresponding to decimal units and the eleventh of which is uniquely characterized for printed identification on one to the exclusion of the other end of the n-digit sequence to be printed on each label, for unambiguous machine readability.

4. The machine of claim 2, in which said stock-supply means includes a reel accommodating continuous card stock for advance through the printing station, and in which said lastdefined means includes cut-off mechanism having a cut-off initiating actuating connection to said last-defined means.

5. Printing means, comprising a rotatably indexible member having a series of different indicia at each of a plurality of angularly spaced index locations thereon, an anvil member, a fixed frame including guide ways, a slide on said ways and supporting one of said members for movement to and away from coaction with the other member for a given indicium location, means for supporting web material between said members, reciprocating means connected to drive said members into and away from indicium-marking relation with said web, mechanical index-position locating mechanism coacting between said indexible member and said frame, such mechanism being enterable into index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating approach of said members into indicium-marking relation and becoming free of index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating retreat of said members from indicium-marking relation, said index-locating mechanism having a predetermined index-angle acceptance tolerance and including cam means operative to home said members to precision-location of indexed position during the course of such reciprocating approach and prior to achievement of indicium-marking relation, code-wheel means carried for rotation with said rotatably indexible member and having markings uniquely identifying each of said spaced locations, code-wheel reader means non-rotatably mounted to track code markings in the course of rotation, command means for selecting a code output corresponding to a selected one of the several indicium locations on said rotatable member, comparator means connected for response to the difference between the command and reader outputs, said comparator means including means sensing the direction of rotation for which said difference is minimal, and reversible-drive means for said rotatably indexible member operative during a separated relation of said members and responsive to said last-defined means to drive said rotatably indexible member the minimal rotary displacement to reduce to zero the difference between the command and reader outputs, the index-positioning accuracy of said last-defined means being within said index-angle acceptance tolerance; said web-supporting means including means for supporting first web material to face said rotatable member, and means for supporting a second and pigmented web material between the first web material and said rotatable member, said anvil comprising a block of stiffly compliant plastic material backed by a part of said frame, the parts relation being such that at the indicium-marking end of the reciprocating stroke, said webs are compressed against each other and into at least some compressive deformation of said anvil; whereby, for first web material having a glass-beaded surface supported to face said rotatable member, and for pigment of the second web facing the glass-beaded surface, pigment will be caused to penetrate into and be retained within the interstices, recesses and follicles of the beaded surface.

6. Printing means according to claim 5, in which the extent of anvil compression is in the range of substantially 2.5 to 5.0 percent of the effective thickness of said anvil.

7. Printing means according to claim 5, in which the extent of anvil compression is approximately 3.5 percent of the effective thickness of said anvil.

8. Printing means according to claim 5, and including heater means in said drum establishing a predetermined temperature level above ambient; whereby, for a given thermosetting pigment in the second web, and for a given heating of the drum, consistent with the thermosetting character of the pigment, the transferred pigment may be locally set and bonded to the beaded surface in its penetrated condition.

9. Printing means according to claim 5, in which the parts relation is such that the maximum indicium-marking pressure upon indenting compression of said anvil is in the order of 1000 psi.

10. Printing means according to claim 5, in which said plastic material is of solid urethane.

11. Printing means, comprising a rotatably indexible member having a series of different indicia at each of a plurality of angularly spaced index locations thereon, an anvil member, a fixed frame including guide ways, a slide on said ways and supporting one of said members for movement to and away from coaction with the other member for a given indicium location, means for supporting web material between said members, reciprocating means connected to drive said members into and away from indicium-marking relation with said web, mechanical index-position locating mechanism coacting between said indexible member and said frame, such mechanism being enterable into index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating approach of said members into indicium-marking relation and becoming free of index-locating relationship in the course of reciprocating retreat of said members from indicium-marking relation, said index-locating mechanism having a predetermined index-angle acceptance tolerance and including cam means operative to home said members to precision-location of indexed position during the course of such reciprocating approach and prior to achievement of indicium-marking relation, code-wheel means carried for rotation with said rotatably indexible member and having markings uniquely identifying each of said spaced locations, code-wheel reader means non-rotatably mounted to track code markings in the course of rotation, command means for selecting a code output corresponding to a selected one of the several indicium locations on said rotatable member, comparator means connected for response to the difference between the command and reader outputs, said comparator means including means sensing the direction of rotation for which said difference is minimal, and reversible-drive means for relation of said members and responsive to said last-defined means to drive said rotatably indexible member the minimal rotary displacement to reduce to zero the difference between the command and reader outputs; the index-positioning accuracy of said drive means upon such reduction to zero being within said index-angle acceptance tolerance.

12. Printing means according to claim 11, further including indexing web-advancing means having a synchronizing connection to said reciprocating means for imparting indexed web movement between indicium-marking strokes of said reciprocating means.

13. Printing means according to claim 11, in which said rotatably indexible member is carried by said slide and said anvil member is supported by a fixed part of said frame.

14. Printing means according to claim 11, in which said locating mechanism comprises a guide element fixed to said frame and having an open guide slot on an alignment parallel to the axis of slide reciprocation, and guidable pin elements fixed to said rotatably indexible member at index-identifying locations, any selected one of said pin elements being enterable in said slot in the course of slide approach to the indicium-marking relation.

15. Printing means according to claim 11, wherein the number of indicium locations is n, and wherein a digital threshold x is approximately given by n/2, said directional sensing means comprising means for selectively adding one of +x or -x to said reader output, means for comparing the output of said adder means with said command, means for comparing said command and the output of said reader, and logic means connected to said comparator means for selectively signaling said reversible drive means for driving said rotatable means in a given direction.

16. Printing means according to claim 11, further comprising means for storing label numbers and operatively connected to said command means.

17. Printing means as in claim 16, wherein said storage means includes a shift register, and means responsive to each printing operation for shifting information within said shift register.

18. Printing means according to claim 16, further comprising display means for displaying the instantaneous numerical value of said shift register.

19. Printing means according to claim 16, further comprising means for generating a serial sequence of label numbers to be printed.

Description:
This invention relates to means for automatically making labels, each of which is characterized by m digit positions, with machine-readable digits, selected from a plurality n, being applied with changes as necessary, from one to the next label-marking function.

The invention will be described in connection with a machine in which the end product (a suitably marked label) is destined for a machine-reading application which relies upon reflected light to evaluate an encoded label, through response to the pattern of light intensity, in the course of a scanning operation. This being the case, the machine is described in terms of printing, i.e., applying a suitable printed pigment to the surface of a contrasting web surface. The machine is equally applicable to label-encoding devices wherein the machine-readable characters are applied to create a stencil, i.e., to punch-out the web, rather than merely to print the characters thereon. In either case, the marking indicia of the plurality n are carried at angularly spaced locations on a drum or wheel, which is sometimes herein referred to as a print drum, but which will, in a stencil or punch-out application, be understood to be one of the male-and-female set of such drums, as may be needed for clean punching of the web.

It is an object of the invention to provide an improved machine of the character indicated.

Another object is to provide improved means for effecting character-change, in the period between successive print or other web-marking functions of such a machine.

A further object is to provide improved means for automating the production of sequentially and/or randomly indexed indicia in such a machine.

It is also an object to achieve the foregoing objects with a machine wherein time is reduced between successive print or other marking functions and wherein accuracy is enhanced in the individual indexing movements required of the print drum, from one print cycle to the next.

It is a specific object to provide, in a rotary-indexed machine of the character indicated, means operative in the period between successive print contacts with the web for automatically evaluating the existing drum angle against the next-desired angle, and in the event of a difference, for driving the index mechanism in the particular direction which achieves the desired angle via the shortest route of angular-index displacement.

A general object is to achieve the above objects with a machine in which utmost flexibility and simplicity are offered to the operator in calling for particular multi-digit markings and for sequences thereof, and in which at the same time economy, efficiency and accuracy are achieved to a high degree.

Other objects and various further features of novelty and invention will be pointed out or will occur to those skilled in the art from a reading of the following specification, in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. In said drawings, which show, for illustrative purposes only, a preferred form of the invention:

FIG. 1 is a simplified view in side elevation showing a label-making machine of the invention;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view, taken at the vertical plane 2--2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a further-enlarged fragmentary view of a part of the apparatus, as seen from the plane 3--3 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged front view of an index disc, which appears in side elevation as a part of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a front view of the control and display panel for the machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an electrical diagram schematically showing circuitry operated by and from the panel of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a further sucl diagram, schematically showing more detail for certain parts of FIG. 6; and

FIG. 8 is another schematic diagram illustrating an alternative for the circuit of FIG. 7.

Referring to FIG. 1, the invention is shown in application to bench or table-mounted equipment involving a web-supply station A, a printing and web-indexing station B, and a cut-off station C, discharging completed labels (product) via a gravity chute to a collection station D. All of the foregoing, and in particular station B are subject to the governing action of the control panel of FIG. 5. The primary mechanical and control elements will be described under separate headings.

MECHANICAL RELATIONSHIPS

For the printing application shown, the station A accommodates, between upright frame plates 10, separate supply reels 11-12 for the pay-out of label-web stock 13 and of print-pigment web 14, via guide rolls which place the web 14 above the adjacent the web 13, in readiness for pigment transfer at station B. Preferably, each of the reels 11-12 includes an adjustably loaded drag feature, suggested at 15-16, respectively.

At station B which is also established between upright frame plates 17-17', spaced guide rolls 18-19 establish a generally horizontal plane of web support through the printing zone, wherein a printing head 20 and an anvil 21 (FIG. 2) are vertically reciprocated with respect to each other, to effect pigment transfer by squeezing the webs 13-14. Thereafter, an upper pair of feed rolls 22 withdraws used pigment web 14 to a take-up reel 23, while a lower pair of feed rolls 24 delivers printed web 13 straight to the cut-off station c. Preferably, the feed rolls 24 are spaced substantially a label length L from the print zone, and are also spaced substantially the distance L from the cut-off point at C, as shown by legend in FIG. 1.

In the form shown, the printing head 20 is a drum rotatably mounted in vertical slides 25-25', and the print-reciprocation cycle involves vertical descent of the slides toward, and withdrawal from, coaction with the anvil 21, all as guided by vertical ways 26 in the frame. Slides 25-25' are bridge-connected at 27, above drum 20, for attachment to the actuating rod 28 of double-acting fluid-pressure operated means 29, the latter being frame-mounted on a saddle or table 30 which connects the front and back plates 17-17'.

Increments of web-feeding drive to the respective pairs of feed rolls 22-24 are picked off the indicated vertical-reciprocation cycle of the printing head 20, via a bracket 31 secured to one of the slides 25-25'. As shown, the bracket 31 has spaced horizontal mounting slots to enable a range of horizontal adjustment of the position at which it is secured, as by bolt means 32, to the front vertical slide 25, thus enabling a substantially radial adjustment for the point at which a feed pin 33 (forming part of bracket 31) engages a radial slot in a feed crank 34. A one-way-engaging rotary clutch 35 engages crank 34 to a transverse shaft 36, which carries a drive sprocket or toothed wheel 37 for endless-chain or toothed-belt means 38, suitably tensed at 38', and meshing with sprockets 22'-24' forming part of the respective feed-roll pairs 22-24. The direction of one-way-engagement at 35 is such as to disengage during the descending stroke of slides 25-25' and to engage during the return or withdrawal stroke thereof. It will be understood that the pick-off sprockets at 22'-24' should be of the same pitch diameter to assure uniform transport of both webs 13-14 through the printing zone, and that the pitch diameter of drive sprocket 37 should be so proportioned to that of the sprockets at 22'-24' as to assure one full character or digit-position index of the web for each print-reciprocation cycle; the horizontal adjustment for securing bracket 31 to slide 25 enables precise control of such digit-position indexing of the webs 13-14. An auxiliary pick off 39 form the described web-indexing means enables suitable drive of the take-up reel through slip-clutch means, as will be understood.

Turning now more particularly to FIG. 2, the drum or printing head 20 is seen to comprise an annulus 40 with n equally spaced mounting flats or pedestals 41 about the periphery, each being suitably devised to accurately mount a different one of the n different character or indicium pieces (a, b, c, etc. in FIG. 1) in a plane that is strictly tangential to a cylindrical locus of character or type-face centers. In FIG. 2, the upper and lower sections for annulus 40 appear different because n, in the form shown, happens to be an odd number, being selected as eleven, in order to accommodate one decade of machine-readable indicia of decimal quantities, plus a machine-readable indicium which is distinguishable for machine-recognition of the direction in which a fully encoded label should be scanned.

Flanged hubs 42-43 close the ends of annulus 40 and are bushed at 44 to the respective vertical slides 25-25'. The counterbore 45 of the rear hub 43 is keyed to a drive shaft 46, which also fixedly carries drum-position indicator or index plate 47, to be described later, in connection with FIG. 4 and the control and positioning means of FIGS. 5 to 7.

For each of its n possible indexed positions, the drum 20 carries a locating pin 48, typified by the one shown in side elevation in FIG. 2, and fitted to the flange of the rear hub 43. As best seen in FIG. 3, upon attainment of a given indexed position of drum 20, the lowermost index-locating pin 48 is poised above a locating fork 49 which presents a funnel-mouthed locating slot for accurate positioning and retention of drum 20 during a printing stroke; the located "down" position of this stroke is suggested by phantom outline 48'. The fork 49 is shown to have a degree of guided freedom for vertical adjustment, being anchored by means 49' in a guide groove milled in the inner face of the back frame plate 17'.

It suffices to here identify a frame-based unit-handling assembly of a light-source support arm 50, and a similar photocell-reader arm 51 fastened by means 52, in radially oriented but axially offset relation, and straddling a local part of plate 47; a bracket 53 is the means shown for frame-mounting this assembly. Drive to the shaft 46 originates with reversible motor means 54, which is shown in FIG. 1 with separately labeled inputs CW and CCW, to suggest the "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" senses with which drive can be developed, all as will appear from the control and circuitry description below. The drive train from motor 54 is shown to include reduction-gear means 55 to a vertical shaft 56, journalled by means 57 and having an upwardly projecting splined or keying end 58, for axially slidable but non-rotatable engagement to one of the meshing (1:1) pinions in a shaft-connecting gear assembly 59; another of the pinions of assembly 59 is also keyed to the similarly finished reduced end 60 of shaft 46. The rotary connection from motor 54 to drum 20 is thus closely maintained in spite of the vertical reciprocation cycle of drum 20.

The described construction of drum 20 establishes a hollow interior, for accommodation of heater means 61 carried by a tubular rod 62, bushed at 63 to hub 43, passing in clearance relation through the bore of hub 42, and clamped by means 64 on the front face of slide 25. Heater 61 will be understood to be supplied and controlled via the clamped open end of rod 62, as may be required for appropriate for the particular pigment of web 14.

The cut-off station C comprises an upstanding frame 65, mounting fixed and movable shear elements 66-67, and controlled by double-acting fluid-pressure means 68. A limit switch 69 responds to the shear "up" or "open" position, for electrical synchronizing purposes. A further such switch 70 is carried by a fixed standard 71 (see FIG. 2) to respond to an "up" position of drum 20, again for electrical synchronizing purposes.

Turning now to FIG. 4, the index plate 47 is seen as a rotatable mask, having successive concentric loci (I, II, III, IV, V) on which apertures are provided, in uniquely and radially coded array, for each of the n indexible positions of the drum 20 to which plate 47 is clamped, via drive shaft 46. Light-phantom radial strobes indicate the code alignment for each of the indexible positions, and as already indicated, there are eleven such positions, equally spaced; in FIG. 4, each such strobe is marked with a decimal digit, 0, 1, 2 ...9. The eleventh position is designated S, to signify the index position for which an indicium is printed at one end of the label, e.g., the start position, so that machine-reading can be unambiguous, by starting to scan only at the correct end of the coded succession of indicia.

As shown, the loci I to IV accommodate the four respective digit positions for the successive binary equivalents of the single decimal decade here employed; the apertures 72 for this purpose are of relatively large diameter. At the circular locus V, much smaller apertures 73, at intersection with all radial-strobe alignments, enable a much finer pin-pointing of the particular strobe for a given indexed position. The light-source support arm 50 (FIG. 2) directs light from five sources on alignments normal to plate 47 and intersecting the respective loci I, II ...V, as suggested by legends I', II', III', IV' and V' in FIG. 2; and for each of these alignments a separate photocell, contained in the photocell-reader arm 51, will be understood to develop an independent electrical output. For the control equipment to be described below, the apertures 72 of the four-bit binary codes at loci I to IV serve a high-speed indexing rotation of drum 20, and the apertures 73 at locus V serve to mark passage of each indexable position and to end a subsequently programmed, reversed, slow-speed drive back to a drive-stop function, at the selected indexed position.

CONTROL RELATIONSHIPS

By way of general overview, there are three principal aspects regarding control for the instant label-making machine. First, the numerical identity of the labels to be produced must be entered into electronic storage. Secondly, digital circuit operations (e.g., digit shifting, next-number fetching and the like) must isolate and serially supply to the printing apparatus the digits forming each label. Finally, for printing of each digit, and in accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a logical decision must be made to determine the shortest direction of rotation (i.e., clockwise or counterclockwise) for the printing drum 20 and the index plate 47 to enable printing of the next digit. Considering first the entry of label-numerical information, attention is directed to the operator console panel of FIG. 5, and the associated electronic circuitry of FIG. 6. To initiate a label-printing sequence of operation, an operator serially depresses numerical keys on a keyboard 80 (FIG. 5) corresponding to the decimal digits of the beginning label number of a label sequence, that is, a series of consecutive label numbers to be produced by the labeling machine of the present invention. As is well known for many commercially available keyboard constructions, depression of any key produces a unique encoding on a plurality of keyboard-output conductors, and also generates a signal on a control line to indicate that a key has been actuated. As shown in FIG. 6, the keyboard output-data lines comprise inputs to spaced sections of a buffer shift register 88 (or inputs to a plurality of differing shift registers), and the control output line from the keyboard 80 comprises a clock input for the register 88, to shift data down each register section.

After the complete beginning-label number is loaded into the register 88, an "enter beginning number" identifying control key 81 (FIG. 5) is depressed on the console to transfer data present at the output terminals of the shift-register (88) stages into a plural-stage register or latch 89, and via a gate 94 enabled by the key 81 into a working register 95. Thus, for example, depression of the key 81 may simply energize a control input port 92 of the register 89 to momentarily render that register operative in a data-receiving (sample) mode. End stages of the register 95 permanently store a special character which is printed at the beginning of each label to facilitate automated reading (retrieval) thereof, and an internal end of label-control character considered below.

The number stored in the register 89 is supplied to a decoder-display 83 which decodes the stored-data format (assumed to be binary-coded decimal, or "BCD" to "x of n" form for actuating any commonly available plural-digit display structure, such as cold-cathode tubes, plural-segment light-emitting diodes, or the like. The first label number is displayed on the operator console panel, at the display 83 shown in FIG. 5, for the duration of the label-producing sequence of operation.

Similarly, the characters on the keyboard 80 are next again actuated to load into the shift register 88 the last number of the numerical labeling sequence. Following this, an "enter last number" control key 82 on the console is actuated to load a latch or register 90 from the register 88 (by signaling a latch-control terminal 93), the register 90 thereby retaining the last number of the labeling sequence for the duration of the label-printing sequence of operation. The number stored in the register 90 is supplied to a decoder-display 84 and is visually displayed on the operator console (see FIG. 5).

At this point then, the beginning and end sequence numbers are preserved and displayed, and the working register 95 stores the full digital number corresponding to the current (or next) label to be produced; in this apparatus-initiating situation, it is the first or beginning-of-sequence number that is initially loaded into the registers 88 and 89. That number, i.e., the contents of the register 95, is loaded in parallel form into a further shift register 98 via a gate 102, the latter being enabled by the key 81 by way of an OR gate 103. The current operand content of the register 98 is decoded and displayed on the operator console by structure 85. The FIG. 6 electrical apparatus has thus completed its data-entry mode of operation, and is next applied to the process of iteratively printing labels, printing being effected on a digit-by-digit basis for each label in turn.

To effect printing of any particular label, the plural-digit binary-digit word identifying each decimal digit in the label number (e.g., four bits for BCD coding) is supplied to print-wheel control apparatus (FIG. 7) from the end stage of each register portion. In the manner described below, the printing drum 20 and index plate 47 are rotated until a digit comparator 101 (shown in both FIG. 6 and FIG. 7) detects a match between the number to be printed, and the operative print-drum positioning signaled by the plate 47 and the light detectors associated therewith. When a match obtains and the drive to drum 20 has been completed, the web 13 is imprinted with decimal information in the manner already discussed above.

As part of the printing process, the actuated hydraulic cylinder 29 and anvil 21 produce an electrical "completion-of-digit printing" signal, e.g., optically or via a travel-sensing limit switch. The end-of-digit signal serves as a clock pulse for the shift register 98 to step the information contained therein one stage to the right for each of the assumed four register sections, such that the binary-coded decimal information for the next-following decimal digit in the label number is then present at the register-output reading positions. After a suitable delay provided by a delay circuit 99, e.g., a monostable multivibrator, this next number to be printed is communicated to the mechanical printing apparatus via a plural-lead buss 104.

The above operation recurs until all digits in the label number have been printed and a complete label has been generated. At this point, the special end-of-label code, supplied to the register 98 when that register is loaded through gate 102, is present at the output stages of the shift register 98. This special character is detected by a "match" output of an end-of-character test circuit 100, e.g., a comparator having its other inputs loaded with the BCD special "end-of-character" (i.e., "end-of-label") binary word. Alternatively, this "end-of-label" signal may be produced by simply counting a predetermined number of "end-of-digit" pulses, for the known number of digits in the given label-marking assignment.

The label number stored in the register 95 is supplied to an adder 97 which is continuously available to provide a +1 add function, i.e., the label unumber plus one. The successive outputs of the adder 97 comprise a label number having a value one greater than the previous label number; each such output at 97 thus represents the next label number to be printed. Responsive to the end-of-character signal generated by the match circuit 100 or an equivalent thereof, this next label number present at the output of the adder 97 is gated into the register 95 via a gate 96, and also loaded in parallel into the shift register 98 through gate 102 enabled by gate 103. Thus, printing begins in the manner described above to develop a label with the next large label number. It is also observed that the end-of-character signal comprises information required to signal the FIG. 1 apparatus that the previous label is completed, and may be severed at C from the label web 13 for collection at D.

Finally, a further digital comparator 91 signals that all labels in the sequence have been produced when a match is detected between the contents of the register 90 and 95.

The above discussion has considered the manner in which the labeling information is supplied to the printing apparatus on a digit-by-digit basis, and to also provide control signaling when a label (and when all labels) have been completed. Attention will now be directed to the manner in which the decimal-digit information present on the four binary output lines in the buss 104 is employed to position the print drum 20

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, it is desired that the labels be printed as rapidly a possible and, therefore, that the print drum 20 be positioned in an efficient manner. To this end, the motor 54 (FIG. 1) which positions the print drum is selectively operative in either direction, and is constrained by the FIG. 7 circuitry to move through the shortest arc between its current position (initially corresponding to the last-decimal digit printed) and its next required position (corresponding to the next digit to be printed). In accordance with a still further aspect of the present invention, the motor initially turns rapidly and, accordingly, overshoots the requisite position slightly. It then reverses in a slow rotational mode until properly positioned, at which point the motor 54 stops.

As a basic underlying algorithm for determining the preferred direction of rotation for print-drum (20) repositioning, it is observed that the drum 20 has eleven radial orientations (corresponding to the decimal characters 0-9 and one special position -- the special character being identified as a decimal 10, binary 1010). Thus, the drum can be no more than five index stations away (in the shorter direction) from its next-commanded position. The apparatus of FIG. 7 operates to determine the clockwise or counterclockwise direction for which the next number is within five positions from its present position. Stated in other words and more generally, where the number of indicium locations is n, a digital threshold x is approximately given by n/2, and the directional sensing means of the invention includes means for selectively adding one of the quantities +x or -x to reader output and for comparing the added output with the instantaneous command, for supply to logic means to be described, for developing the correct direction of shortest rotary displacement to the commanded-digit position. To this end, and for the specific form shown, the decimal equivalent of the present print-drum (20) position ("PRESENT") is increased by five if the decimal value of the present position is between zero and five, and decremented by five for values between six and eleven, the augmented or decremented present-position quantity being identified as the "SUM" quantity. If (1) the next required digit position (identified as the "COMMAND" quantity in FIG. 7) is greater or equal to "SUM"; if "COMMAND" is greater than "PRESENT"; and "PRESENT" is six or more; or, if (2) "SUM" is greater than "COMMAND"; "PRESENT" is greater than "COMMAND"; and "PRESENT" is less than six, the motor will be directed to turn in a first direction, e.g., clockwise. Otherwise, the motor will be directed to turn in an opposite direction.

When "COMMAND" equals "SUM," the motor is stopped in the manner considered below.

Some reflection will show that the above procedure will always result in the motor 54 turning through the least arc to arrive to the next-required angular position from its previous printing orientation.

The manner in which the above mode of processing is implemented is shown in FIG. 7. The present position of the print wheel 20 ("PRESENT") is stored in a first register 121. The identity of the next digit to be printed, i.e., the digits supplied by the shift register 98 on buss 104 in FIG. 6, is loaded into a "COMMAND" register 122. The present-position information is compared with the literal binary number +6 in a digital comparator 110, and one of two input control ports of a combinatorial circuit 113 is energized by an OR gate 111 or by the inverse thereof (generated by an invertor 112), depending upon whether or not the quantity presently stored in the register 121 is between 0 and 5, or between 6 and 10, respectively.

The combinatorial circuit 113 responds to one of the two possible enabling input signals by supplying binary equivalents of one of the decimal numbers +5 or -5, as an addend to an adder 114 which also receives the present rotational location information from the register 121. The adder 114 thus serves to produce the quantity "SUM" described above. "SUM" is compared with "COMMAND" in a comparator 115 to produce output signals descriptive of the relative magnitudes of the quantities "COMMAND" and "SUM." Similarly, the comparator 101 examines the digital quantities stored in "PRESENT" register 121 and "COMMAND" register 122 and appropriately signals the two possible inequalities therebetween, and also provides an output signal via a lead to an AND gate 123 when the signals "PRESENT" and "COMMAND" are equal, i.e., when the printing drum 20 is adjusted such that the proper character is disposed in an operative print location.

As is readily apparent, gating elements 116-117-118-119 operate on the quantities developed by the FIG. 7 circuitry to generate a signal CW which activates the motor 54 for clockwise rotation in accordance with the above described algorithm, and for otherwise rotating the motor in a counterclockwise direction via an appropriate signal at an output terminal CCW which is the inverse of the potential at the output terminal CW, as implemented by an inverter 120. Thus, the FIG. 7 circuitry operates to actuate the motor 54 for rotation in the preferred, shortest direction to properly position the print drum 20.

When the proper position of the index plate 47 and the printing drum 20 is first attained, both inputs of the AND gate 123 will be actuated, the "read" signal being developed by the light-sensing transducer at the outer track V of FIG. 4. Thus, a divide-by-two counter 125 registers a count of one therein to energize a counter-output terminal 124. This causes the motor 54 to reverse direction to obviate the overshoot which occurred when the desired radial orientation was first encountered and traversed. Thus, when the plate 47 next passes the correct position, it is rotating slowly, a match signal is again produced by the comparator 101, and a "read" potential is again developed by the transducer on track V. Accordingly, the gate 123 again switches, advancing the counter 125 to its other state (a count of 2) thereby energizing its other output port 126 to stop the motor, and thereby also providing a print-enabling command.

The invention is not to be limited to the implementation of the algorithm set forth above; other tests may be made to determine the preferred direction of rotation of the motor 54. For example, a conceptually simple approach is to determine the larger of "PRESENT" and "COMMAND", and to compute the absolute value of the difference COMMAND-PRESENT. If "PRESENT" exceeds "COMMAND" and the difference value is at least 6, or if "COMMAND" exceeds "PRESENT" and the difference is less than 6, the motor 54 is turned in one direction. If neither of these conditions obtains, the motor turns in the reverse direction. The foregoing may be implemented by supplying "PRESENT" and "COMMAND" to a digital subtractor, and comparing the subtractor-output-difference amplitude digits with the number +5. The subtractor sign bit is then employed to gate the comparator inequality-output signals to a motor-controlling circuit-output terminal. Such structure is depicted in FIG. 8.

It will be seen that the described invention meets all stated objects. In particular, the described circuitry may be implemented by inexpensive, reliable and well-understood and available components and, regardless of the FIG. 7 or FIG. 8 approach used, the circuit arrangement shown will position the print wheel 20 in the most advantageous manner for rapid label printing, such printing being implemented by the mechanical and electrical circuitry discussed hereinabove.

In a preferred embodiment of the impression-transfer mechanism, the anvil 21 is a removably inserted block of yieldable plastic having a good memory characteristic, such as relatively stiff polyurethane, retained in a suitable cavity within the bed structure 21' (FIG. 2) of the frame between plates 17-17'. As shown, the cavity is an elongate horizontal dovetail groove and the anvil 21 is of similar section for slidable reception in the groove; removable plate means 21" is secured to bed 21' and retains the inserted longitudinal position of anvil 21, in registry beneath the currently indexed operative pedestal 41 (and the type face or indicium piece mounted thereon). The plastic anvil 21 will be seen as particularly useful when indicia are to be non-reflectively printed on the reflective side of a web 13 of glass-beaded reflective tape. The local compliant yield-ability of the anvil material adapts the pigment web 14 to surface undulations and irregularities of the beaded surface, causing full penetration of pigment into the interstices, recesses and follicles of the bead surface. The parts are adjusted to assure locally compressed indentation of the anvil for each print stroke, the extent of interference being at least equal to substantially the maximum amplitude of surface irregularity of the glass-bead surface. During the momentum of the pigment-impression part of the stroke, the plastic anvil allows fully pressurized imbedding of the exposed portions of the glass beads, creating a uniformly printed (pigment-coated) surface; in the rest intervals between print strokes, the urethane anvil is self-restoring to its original shape. If a specific employment of the invention, the anvil 21 was a 5/8-inch thick block of "K-Prene" urethane, being a trademark product of Houdaille Industries, the web 13 was a glass-beaded tape (No. 7900) of the 3M Company, and the web 14 carried a heat-responsive pigment on a plastic-film backing, calling for maintenance of the drum 20 at a temperature of 250° Fahrenheit; the impression stroke was adjusted to achieve a 0.020-inch compression of the anvil, namely in the range of 2.5 to 5 percent (preferably substantially 3.5 percent of anvil thickness), which, for the indicated materials, involved a maximum impression force of substantially 1,000 psi.

The above described arrangements are merely illustrative of the principles of the present invention, and it will be understood that modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.