Title:
BLISTER CARD LOADING SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A loading system (10) for loading packaging cards (14) with blister cards (22), which system comprises a magazine (15) for holding a supply of blister cards and operable controllably to release sequential blister cards onto a stationary runner (32) disposed around a portion of a feeder wheel (24), at an input position of the feeder wheel, the feeder wheel having means (30) to convey the blister cards in sliding contact with said runner to a transfer position of the feeder wheel, and means (26) sequentially to transfer conveyed blister cards for loading onto packaging cards during synchronized movement between the transfer means and the packaging cards.



Inventors:
Poget, Pierre-yves (Chateauroux, FR)
Poutot, Benoit (Chateauroux, FR)
Application Number:
12/301542
Publication Date:
08/06/2009
Filing Date:
05/18/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/266.1
International Classes:
B65B7/00; B65B5/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GERRITY, STEPHEN FRANCIS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTROCK COMPANY (ATTN: IP LAW GROUP - PATENTS 501 South 5th Street, 3rd Floor, Richmond, VA, 23219-0501, US)
Claims:
1. A loading system for loading packaging cards with blister cards, which loading system comprises a magazine for holding a supply of blister cards that is operable controllably to sequentially release blister cards onto a stationary runner disposed around a portion of a feeder wheel, at an input position of the feeder wheel, the feeder wheel having means to convey the blister cards in sliding contact with said runner to a transfer position of the feeder wheel, and means sequentially to transfer conveyed blister cards for loading onto packaging cards during synchronized movement between the transfer means and the packaging cards.

2. A loading system as claimed in claim 1, wherein a guide rail is provided to cooperate with said stationary runner and thereby to retain blister cards within as working reach of the feeder wheel as they are conveyed by the feeder wheel.

3. A loading system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the means by which the feeder wheel conveys the blister cards comprises lugs that protrude from a surface of the feeder wheel, and which are brought into abutment with a trailing edge of the blister cards by rotation of the feeder wheel, and through which abutment subsequent conveyance of the blister cards is achieved.

4. A loading system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the magazine comprises protrusions that abut a proximate surface of a blister card of the magazine, thereby preventing any blister cards from being released, which protrusions may be controllably moved out of abutment with said proximate surface, by displacement of the protrusions and said surface relative to one another, and thereby releasing a blister card from the magazine.

5. A loading system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the magazine comprise pivotable hooks, the terminal ends of which form said protrusions.

6. A loading system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the magazine comprises Archimedean screws that release the successive blister cards from the magazine through rotation of the screws, the thread of which Archimedean screws forms said protrusions.

7. A loading system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the magazine comprises star wheels which may be rotated to release successive blister cards from the magazine, which star wheels comprises said protrusions disposed around their peripheries.

8. A loading system as claimed in claim 1, arranged such that two or more blister cards may be released onto runners of the feeder wheel, and thereafter loaded onto the same packaging card, simultaneously.

9. A method of loading a packaging card a blister cards sequentially, from a magazine for holding a supply of blister cards, onto a stationary runner disposed around a portion of a feeder wheel, at an input positron of the feeder wheel, conveying the released blister cards, in sliding contact with said runner, to a transfer positron of the feeder wheel, using a conveying means of the feeder wheel, and sequentially transferring conveyed blister cards for loading onto packaging cards during synchronized movements between the transfer means and the packaging cards.

10. A method as claimed in claim 9 wherein the blister cards are controllably released from he magazine by moving protrusions out of abutment with proximate surfaces of the blister cards.

11. A method as claimed in claim 10 wherein the protrusions comprise the end of pivotable hooks and the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by pivoting those hoods.

12. A method as claimed in claim 10 wherein the protrusions comprise the thread of Archimedean screws and the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by rotating the Archimedean screws.

13. A method as claimed in claim 10 wherein the protrusions comprised the lugs of rotatable star wheels and the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by rotating the star wheels.

14. A method as claimed in claim 9 wherein two or more blister cards are released onto the runners of the feed wheel simultaneously, and are thereafter loaded onto the same packaging card simultaneously.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates particularly though not exclusively to a system for loading blister cards onto packaging cards, and more particularly though not exclusively to a loading system that minimises damage to the surface of the blister card during a loading process, and still more particularly though not exclusively to a loading system that comprises a gate mechanism and feeder wheel to carry out the loading process whilst minimising dame to the surface of the blister card.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Current commercial blister card loading systems transfer successive blister cards from a magazine, or other known storage system, into contact with a corresponding packaging card. The packaging cards often comprise an adhesive element with which the packaging cards and the blister card are secured to one another. These adhesive elements may be applied to the packaging card in an activated form, or alternatively, heated such that preapplied adhesive becomes activated. Thus the time between the adhesive being heated, or applied to the packaging card, and the location of the blister cards upon the packaging card must be kept to a minimum so as to limit the exposure of the active adhesive to the air, during which time it will lose part of its adhesive qualities. The means of transferring the blister cards from the magazine to a position of contact with the packaging card are therefore high speed mechanisms that often subject the blister card to potentially damaging levels of friction.

Examples of known loading systems are those that feed blister cards onto a rotating feeder wheel that transfers successive blister cards to a position proximate the packaging, ready for a final accurate transfer mechanism to perform the final loading action. However, such systems often result in damage being caused to the blister cards as they are brought into contact with the revolving surface of the feeder wheel. Such damage not only lowers the aesthetic appeal of the blister card, but also risks rupturing the blisters and loss of, or damage to, the any contents thereof.

There is, therefore, a need for a loading system that may transfer blister cards from a magazine to a position proximate the packaging cards, into which they are to be loaded, which avoids bringing the delicate blisters of the blister cards into contact with a rotating surface, and yet will quickly transfer the blister cards, so as to minimise the risk of the adhesive portions of the packaging cards losing their adhesive qualities.

The present invention described herein seeks to overcome or at least mitigate these problems highlighted in the loading systems of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A first aspect of the present invention provides a loading system for loading packaging cards with blister cards, which system comprises a magazine for holding a supply of blister cards and operable controllably to sequentially release blister cards onto a stationary runner disposed around a portion of a feeder wheel, at an input position of the feeder wheel, the feeder wheel having means to convey the blister cards in sliding contact with said runner to a transfer position of the feeder wheel, and means sequentially to transfer conveyed blister cards for loading onto packaging cards during synchronized movement between the transfer means and the packaging cards.

Preferably, a guide rail is provided to cooperate with said stationary runner and thereby to retain the blister card within a working reach of a feeder wheel as they are conveyed by the feeder wheel.

Preferably, the means by which the feeder conveys the blister cards comprises lugs that protrude from the surface of the feeder wheel, and which are brought into abutment with a trailing edge of the blister cards by rotation of the feeder wheel, and through which abutment subsequent conveyance of the blister card is achieved.

Preferably, the magazine comprises protrusions that abut a proximate surface of a blister card of the magazine, thereby preventing any blister cards from being released, which protrusions may be controllably moved out of abutment with said proximate surface, by displacement of the protrusion and said surface relative to one another, and thereby releasing a blister card from the magazine.

Preferably, the magazine comprises pivotable hooks, the terminal ends of which form said protrusions.

Alternatively, the magazine may comprise Archimedean screws that release the successive blister cards from the magazine through rotation of the Archimedean screws.

Another alternative being that the magazine comprises star wheels which may be rotated to release successive blister cards from the magazine.

Preferably, the loading system is arranged such that two or more blister cards may be released onto runners of the feeder wheel, and thereafter loaded onto the same packaging card, simultaneously.

A second aspect of the present invention provides a method of loading a packaging card a blister card, which method comprises the steps of controllably releasing blister cards sequentially, from a magazine for holding a supply of blister cards, onto a stationary runner disposed around a portion of a feeder wheel, at an input position of the feeder wheel, conveying the released blister cards, in sliding contact with said runner, to a transfer position of the feeder wheel, using a conveying means of the feeder wheel, and sequentially transferring conveyed blister cards for loading onto packaging cards during synchronized movement between the transfer means and the packaging cards.

Preferably, the blister cards are controllably released from the magazine by moving protrusions out of abutment with proximate surfaces of the blister cards.

Preferably, the protrusions comprise the end of pivotable hooks and the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by pivoting those hooks.

Alternatively, the protrusions comprise the thread of Archimedean screws and the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by rotating the Archimedean screws.

A further option being that the protrusions comprise the lugs of rotatable star wheels and that the protrusions are moved out of abutment with said proximate surfaces by rotating the star wheels.

Preferably, two or more blister cards are released onto the runners of the feeder wheel simultaneously, and are thereafter loading onto the same packaging card simultaneously.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A preferred embodiment of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a loading system according to preferred embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 1A shows a schematic side view of the loading system of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention provides a loading system 10 which comprises a gate mechanism 40 for intermittently releasing blister cards 22 from a magazine 15. As the blister cards 22 are released, they are transferred to locate upon respective packaging cards 14 that are disposed upon a packaging conveyor 28. The packaging cards 14 comprise a series of apertures 11 that accommodate blisters 21 that are disposed upon one side of the blister card 22.

Referring to FIG. 1, the preferred embodiment of the loading system 10 comprises a magazine 15, containing blister cards 22, positioned vertically above a feeder wheel 24 that is in turn positioned above a rotary suction arm 26. This assembly is positioned over packaging conveyor 28 and may advantageously be positioned proximate an exit end of a heating hood 12. In the illustrated embodiment, the magazine 15 comprises two adjacent stacks of blister cards 22 so as to allow simultaneous loading of two blister cards 22 upon each packaging card 14. It is, however, contemplated that the number of stacks of blister cards 22 may be higher or lower than the two shown in this exemplary embodiment.

The magazine 15 is fitted with a gate mechanism 40 which can be controlled to intermittently release the lowermost blister cards 22 of each stack in the magazine 15, onto runners 32 of a feeder wheel 24. The gate mechanism 40 comprises, in a preferred embodiment, a pair of hooks 44 (best shown in FIG. 1A), hinged upon either side of the magazine 15. The terminal ends of each hook 44 are disposed inwardly of the magazine 15 so as to come into abutment with a lowermost surface of the lowermost blister cards 22 of each stack in the magazine 15, which abutment retains all the blister cards 22 in the magazine 15.

The hooks 44 may be brought out of abutment with the lowermost blister cards 22 by pivoting the hooks 44 about pivots 42 a sufficient amount to allow the lowermost blister card 22 to pass between the terminal ends of the those hooks 44. After the release of the lowermost blister card 22 of each stack, the hooks 44 pivot back to their original orientation to prevent the release of successive blister cards 22 from the magazine 15. Alternatively, it may be that dual pairs of gate mechanisms 40 are employed such that a first gate mechanism retains the penultimate blister cards 22 of each stack, whilst the second gate mechanism 40 retains only the lowermost blister card 22 of each stack.

It is also conceived that the same gate mechanism function may be achieved using Archimedean screws or star wheels (not shown) as alternatives to the hooks 44 described above. For example, the Archimedean screws could convey the blister cards 22 down through the magazine 15 in a controllable fashion and would release the lowermost blister cards as they reach the terminal free end of the screw. Likewise, star wheels may be positioned such that lugs, disposed around the periphery of each star wheel, come into contact with the free edges of the blister card 22. The star wheels may then be controlled so as to free the lowermost blister cards 22 of the magazine 15 at controllable intervals.

Once the lowermost blister card 22, of each stack, has been freed from restraint by the gate mechanism 40, it will descend, under gravitational attraction, to a position of rest upon runners 32 of the feeder wheel 24. The runners 32 are provided in pairs for each blister card, so as to support the blister card 22 in a stable condition, and the number of pairs of runners 32 corresponds to the number of stacks contained in the magazine, so that the blister cards 22 may be accommodated side by side on the runners 32.

The runners 32 follow a path proximate to but offset from the perimeter of feeder wheel 24, as is more clearly illustrated in FIG. 1A. The feeder wheel 24 further comprises guide rails 33, that similarly follow a path proximate the perimeter of the feeder wheel 24, although offset therefrom by a greater distance than that of the runners 32. The released blister cards 22 drop onto the runners 32 directly beneath the magazine 15 and remain in place until a lug 30 is brought into contact with their trailing edges. The blister cards 22 are disposed upon the runner 32 with the blisters 21 protruding toward the feeder wheel 24, the runners 32 being shaped and arranged so as to contact a flat underside of the blister card 22 rather than the blisters 21 themselves. Thus, at the point at which the blister cards 22 are brought into contact with the feeder wheel 24, the blister cards are only subject to the forces of their own weight resting upon the runners 32.

The lugs 30 protrude radially from the surface of the feeder wheel 24 and thereby follow an annular path as the feeder wheel 24 is rotated. In the preferred embodiment, the lugs 30 are provided in pairs, each lug 30 of each pair being aligned with the other lug 30 of that pair. There are provided four such pairs of lugs 30 around the periphery of the feeder wheel 24. If a different number of stacks of blister cards 22 were being used, the number of lugs 30 in each set would be adapted accordingly from the exemplary pairs. Once in abutment with an aforementioned trailing edge of a blister card 22, the lugs 30 convey the blister cards 22 around a portion of the periphery of the feeder wheel 24. A terminal end of the guide rails 33 is positioned proximate the location at which the blister cards 22 are initially positioned upon the runners 32, such that, once the blister cards 22 are conveyed by the lugs 30, the blister cards 22 quickly become disposed intermediate a guide rail 33 and the runners 32. The guide rail 33 prevents the blister cards 22 from separating from the runners 32. Thus the blister cards 22 are conveyed by the lugs 30 around a portion of the feeder wheel 24 in direction Tc until they reach a lowermost point of the feeder wheel 24, at which point each blister card 22 is released from the feeder wheel 24 as a result of the termination of the guide rails 33. As each blister card 22 is released, it comes into contact with a corresponding suction head 34 of a rotary suction arm 26, with which a seal is created. The blister cards 22 are thereby secured to the rotary suction arm unit 26, and are orientated such that the blisters 21 are protruding away from the rotary suction arm 26.

In the preferred embodiment, the rotary suction arm unit 26 comprises two pairs of diametrically opposed arms 35 each comprising a suction head 34. It is contemplated that the number of pairs may be varied according to the requirements of the system, wherein three pairs of arms may, for example allow for quicker withdrawal of blister cards 22 from the feeder wheel 24. Similarly, the number of arms in each set may be varied from the illustrated pair to correspond to the number of stacks of blister cards 22 in the magazine 15.

Once a seal has been created between the rotary suction arm unit 26 and each blister card 22, the blister cards 22 are displaced out of abutment with lugs 30 by pivoting the rotary suction arm unit 26 about its central axis in direction Ta. The lugs 30 are thereby freed to follow the return path of the feeder wheel 24. The rotation of the rotary suction arm unit 26 is synchronised with that of the feeder wheel 24, such that a suction head 34 is correctly positioned proximate the lowermost point on the feeder wheel 24, as each successive blister card 22 is released from the feeder wheel 24.

The rotary suction arm unit 26 conveys the blister cards 22 about an annular path that brings them into a correct position upon a packaging card 14 that is disposed upon the packaging conveyor 28. At this point, the blisters 21 of the blister cards 22 are disposed toward the packaging card 14 and are each aligned in registry with a corresponding aperture 11 in the packaging card 14.

Once blister cards 22 are positioned correctly with respect to a packaging card 14, the seal between those blister cards 22 and the respective suction heads 34 is broken, by virtue of, for example, the removal of a negative pressure between the suction head 34 and a surface of the blister card 22. As the seal is broken, the blister cards 22 are freed from the rotary suction arm unit 26 and are conveyed upon the packaging cards 14, by packaging conveyor 28.

The packaging conveyor 28 conveys the packaging cards 14, loaded with blister cards 22, between compression rollers 18 and 20. The compression rollers 18 and 20 are spaced apart and each compression roller 18, 20 comprises at least one shaped pad, such as pad 36 illustrated in FIG. 1. In the preferred embodiment, the pads 36 are each sized and shaped to accommodate two blister cards 22 disposed adjacent one another and to protect the blisters 21 from damage whilst compressing the packaging card 14 against a flat underside surface of the blister card 22. The compression ensures a good contact between adhesive portions of the packaging card 14 and the flat underside surface of the blister cards 22, thereby providing a good seal between the two. Additionally, compression rollers 18, 20 are synchronised with the packaging conveyor 28 such that the pads 36, upon each compression roller 18,20, simultaneously come into contact with both an uppermost surface of the blister cards 22 and a lowermost surface of the packaging card 14, and avoid coming into contact with adhesive portions of packaging card 14 that are not covered by the blister cards 22.

The loaded packaging card 14 is, thereafter, passed to further mechanisms whereby the packaging process is completed. For example, a further roller system may be employed to fold a separate panel of the packaging card 14 over the uppermost surfaces of the blister cards 22.

It is contemplated within the scope of the invention that the exact nature of the non essential features of the loading system may be altered whilst not departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the rotary suction arms 20, may be replaced with mechanical gripping assemblies which perform the function of transferring the blister cards 22, down into position of alignment with the packaging 14. Additionally, the exact orientation of the magazine 15, is not a limiting feature of this invention and it is entirely contemplated that the magazine may be at any angle; not only vertical or horizontal, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 1A. Further, the exact arrangement of runners 32 and guide rails 33, illustrated in FIG. 1, is not a limiting feature of the invention and it is contemplated that the paths along which the blister cards 22 are conveyed may be adapted to suit the exact requirements of the loading system as necessary. As described above, numerous alternatives to the use of pivotable hooks 44 may be employed to achieve the controllable gate mechanism 40.

Any directional references used in the above description, such as “uppermost”, “lowermost”, “upper”, “lower” are not limiting features and are incorporated purely for the benefit of clarity and ease of reference.