United States Patent 3861561

A vending machine having a plurality of discharge trays having a front edge and each including a helical element rotatably mounted therein in a raised position over the base of each tray and adapted to hold a plurality of items, each item held between a pair of adjacent convolutions of said helical element, whereby rotation of said element for a predetermined amount discharges an item over said front edge, and with means movably attached to each of said trays for adjusting the extent of said front edge relative to the front end of said helical element whereby adapting a tray to a plurality of articles of differing thicknesses merely by adjusting said movable means.

Wittern, Francis A. (Des Moines, IA)
Wirstlin, Arthur N. (Altoona, IA)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Fawn Engineering (Des Moines, IA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
International Classes:
G07F11/36; G07F11/50; (IPC1-7): G07F11/46
Field of Search:
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3335907Spiral vendor with empty source indicating means1967-08-15Holstein et al.
3178055Vending machine1965-04-13Schuller
2784872Vending machine1957-03-12Lux

Primary Examiner:
Reeves, Robert B.
Assistant Examiner:
Bartuska, Francis J.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Henderson & Strom
We claim

1. In a vending machine having an accessible cabinet and within one portion of which is an item discharge chute for dispensing items to be withdrawn from the machine, a plurality of item discharge units mounted in a side-by-side horizontally disposed arrangement, each item discharge unit comprising:

2. In a vending machine as defined in claim 1, said helical means including a rod extended axially therethrough from the inner end thereof to the outer end whereat said rod curves integrally with and forms said convolutions extended rearwardly, said rod mounted near its outer end on said vertical member.

3. In a vending machine as defined in claim 1, said helical means extending further outwardly of the front edge of said base at the open end of said tray means, and article support means movably mounted on said base and adjustably extendable beyond said front edge and beneath said helical means,


This invention is the outgrowth of vending machine structures such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,085,711; 3,335,907; 3,601,281; and our own co-pending application Ser. No. 326,822 filed Jan. 26, 1973 and entitled VENDING MACHINE HELIX DISCHARGE UNIT. Experience with these helical vending arrangements has uncovered several disadvantages thereof.

For example, when placing articles to be vended between adjacent pairs of helix convolutions, which articles are manufactured in loosely wrapped and highly flexible packages, it has been found that the edges and/or other tab-like portions of a package tend to bind between the helix and the tray, particularly between the lower portion of each helix where it rides against and frictionally engages the bottom or edge surface of a tray or trough.

Another disadvantage is the fact that in many of the contemorary, machines, only one size of articles can be vended using the same helix. In several instances, a helix can be removed from the tray and another type or size of helix substituted such that an article having a different thickness can then be vended from the machine. But this of course requires several sizes of helixes. In other instances, by a complicated arrangement, the tray can be adjusted to accommodate articles of different sizes. It has thus been found that a simple arrangement for adjusting a tray to a helix can accommodate the tray for the vending therefrom of a variety of different sized articles without removing the helix, and by making a simple adjustment to the tray.


In a conventional vending machine having an accessible cabinet and within one portion of which is an item discharge chute for dispensing items to be withdrawn from the machine, the invention comprises an item discharge unit a plurality of which are placed in a side-by-side, horizontally disposed arrangement within the cabinet, each item discharge unit comprising a tray unit which has laterally spaced side walls, a rear wall, and a base, with the tray unit open to the discharge chute at a front end thereof, a helical unit having a plurality of convolutions disposed between the side walls and extended longitudinally of the tray unit, a member secured in vertical disposition at one end to the tray unit and which supports the helical unit such that the latter extends above and out of engagement of the base of the tray unit; and with a device at the front edge of the tray base which is adjustably secured thereto and movable longitudinally of the base at the front edge so as to extend the front edge to a predetermined position and relationship directly below the front end of the helical unit, whereby items or articles to be discharged can be placed between adjacent convolutions and moved over the front edge of the base by rotation of the helical unit a predetermined amount; and further by adjusting the device at the front edge of the base, items of differing thickness can be placed between the convolutions of the helical unit and discharged therefrom without the need of substituting a different helical unit.

It is an object of this invention to provide an improved vending machine helix discharge unit for dispensing stored items.

It is another object of this invention to provide a helix discharge unit mounted within a tray in a position disposed above and out of engagement with the bottom or base of the tray.

It is another object of this invention to provide a helix discharge unit having a base device which renders the front edge of the base the tray longitudinally adjustable so as to provide for the same helix being useable to dispense articles of differing thickness.

Still another object of this invention is to provide a helix discharge unit for dispensing stored items from a vending machine, which unit is capable of fulfilling the above designated objects and which is economical to manufacture, effective in operation, and easily serviced.

These objects and other features and advantages of this invention will become readily apparent upon reference to the following description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.


FIG. 1 is a fragmentary plan view of the interior of a vending machine showing several of the helix discharge units of this invention mounted in a side-by-side relationship;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged, foreshortened vertical view, partly in section and partly in elevation, of one of the helix discharge units taken along the line 2--2 in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the structure of FIG. 2 as shown along the lines 3--3 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a foreshortened plan view as taken along the line 4--4 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a slightly reduced foreshortened plan view, comparable to FIG. 4 and showing an article adjusting device in a different position from FIG. 4; and

FIG. 6 is a reduced plan view of the article discharge unit separate from the remainder of the structure.


Referring to the drawings and particularly to FIG. 1, a portion of a cabinet 10 for a conventional vending machine is illustrated, showing a plurality of helix discharge units indicated generally at 11 in FIG. 4, and shown generally in a side-by-side relationship in FIG. 1 by the reference numerals 11a, 11b, and 11c. The cabinet includes a rear panel 12, and a side panel 13, and the front ends of the helix discharge units 11a - 11c are disposed above an item discharge chute 14.

It will be noted in FIG. 1 that a plurality of items 16, such as packages of cigarettes or the like, are disposed within each helix discharge unit 11, the number of course depending upon how many of the items 16 have been loaded into and then dispensed from the vending machine by operation of a conventional coin actuating unit (not shown). A coin unit, as is well known in the trade, energizes one or the other of the helix discharge units 11a - 11c for dispensing whatever particular brand of cigarettes 16 is disposed within the particular unit 11.

Each helix discharge unit 11 is identical and only one will be described. It comprises a drive unit 17 (FIG. 2) having a drive rod 18 which extends the length of the unit 11 terminating in a helix 19 which coils rearwardly as a part of the unit until it terminates close to the drive unit 17. Each unit 11 is mounted on a flat base 21 and forms a tray 22 by means of a pair of laterally spaced, upright side walls 23 and 24, extending outwardly from a rear wall 26 (FIG. 2). Each tray 22 is open at the front end thereof, and it will be noted that the front end of the helix 19 extends beyond the front edge 28 of the base 21.

Each helix 19 includes a radial element 29 (FIGS. 2 and 4), it being noted that this element 29 is the outermost portion of the helix 19, and which element 29 extends at right angles from the outer end of the drive rod 18 and from which a plurality of convolutions 31 of a helical arrangement (FIGS. 2 and 4) are formed, ending in a rear element 32 (FIG. 5) closely adjacent the rear wall 26 of the tray 22. The drive rod 18 extends axially of and within the convolutions 31.

For the purpose of supporting the helix 19 in a position above the base, it being noted in FIGS. 2 and 3 particularly that the bottom portions 33 of the convolutions 31 are spaced above the base 21, and also for the purpose of dividing each tray 22 into a pair of horizontally disposed, side-by-side compartments, a vertically disposed element 34 (FIGS. 2 and 3) in the form of a thin, substantially flat member is provided. At the rear of the element 34, which shall be termed a divider as it divides the tray 22 longitudinally, a bracket 36 is provided for securing the divider 34 to the rear wall 26 of the tray 22.

Additionally, the interior front end of the divider 34 aids in supporting the helix 19 by means of another bracket 37 securing, loosely, the drive rod 18 thereto. It should be noted that the mounting or supporting of the helix 19 by the divider 34 does not effect the drive or rotation of the helix 19 by the drive unit 17 via the drive rod 18.

For the purpose of adapting the tray 22 and the helix 19 to vending different sized articles without changing or removing the helix, a device for adjusting the effective length of the tray base 21 is provided.

Indicated generally at 38 in FIGS. 2 and 6 is an article support plate which comprises a relatively flat plate having a rectangular shape with an elongated slot 39 formed in a rear corner thereof. Further, in plan view the plate 38 has a cut away portion 41 (FIG. 6) formed at a slight acute angle with one side thereof and extending inwardly to a point 42 slightly more than half way across the plate 38. From the point 42, a lip 43 extends outwardly further than the cut away portion 41, and it will be noted that by referring to FIG. 2 that the lip 43 is bent slightly downwardly.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 4, which show the article support plate 38 in its mounted position, it will be noted that the width and length of the plate 38 are slightly less than the width and length of a tray 22. The plate 38 is held in a longitudinally movable position on the base 21 and a tray 22 by means of a small screw 44 (FIGS. 2 and 4) which is inserted through the slot 39 and into the base 21. The plate 38 is shown in FIG. 4 in an extended position, the plate having been moved away from the rear wall 26; and in FIG. 5, the article support plate 38 has been moved rearwardly to its limit such that its rear edge 45 is up against the inside of the rear wall 26. In use of a helix discharge unit 11, should it be desired to dispense cigarette packages 16 (FIG. 4) from the unit 11, the plate 38 is moved to a predetermined position placing the lip 43 and the portion 41 at the most advantageous position relative to the outer end 29 of the helix 19, FIG. 5 for example. A predetermined amount of rotation of the helix 19 by the drive unit 17 will cause first one package 16 to drop off the plate 38 and into the chute 14 (FIG. 1), then another package 16 on the other side of the divider 34 to be moved off and into the chute 14.

Should it be desirable to vend other articles, such as packages 46 (FIG. 2) which are less thick than the packages 16, from a unit 11, the screw 44 is loosened and the blank 28 is moved on the base 21 to change the longitudinal relationship between the front of the blank and the leading radial element 29 of the helix 19, whereby again the most effective relationship between these two parts is provided for efficiently discharging the thinner packages 46 from the tray 22 (See FIG. 2). This change of physical relationship between the blank 28 and the helix 19 is shown in FIGS. 2, 4 and 5. Although not shown herein, the tray 22 will be properly marked with indicia indicating the proper position of the blank 28 on the base 21 for articles of certain thicknesses.

For discharging articles from the left side of the divider 34 as viewed in FIGS. 4 and 5, it has been found that by bending down slightly the front portion of the lip 43, the articles do not tend to hang up between the helix 19 and the base 21 or the plate 38.

It has also been found that by raising the helix 19 off the base 21, no peripheral parts or tags of any package, loose or otherwise, being vended from a tray 22 will snag, bind or be caught between the helix 19 and the tray base as the helix 19 is rotated.