Title:
Automatic clip attaching mechanism and a document set producing machine having same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automatic clip attaching mechanism is provided for automatically attaching, to a set of sheets, a clip having a crown portion, elbow portions' arm portions connected to the crown portion, and a pair of deflectable hands attached to the arm portions and defining a gap with the crown portion. The automatic clip attaching mechanism includes a support assembly having a set compiler tray defining (i) a set plane for supporting a set of sheets, (ii) an open space below the set plane, and (iii) an open space above the set plane. The automatic clip attaching mechanism also includes a clip support and guide member for supporting and guiding a clip towards the set plane to be automatically attached to an edge of the set of sheets. The clip support and guide member defines a clip feeding position and includes (i) a clip stacking and guide member for supporting a stack of clips and for guiding a lead clip in a supported stack of clips into the feeding position, as well as (ii) a clip hands spreading and guide member for spreading the pair of deflectable hands of the clip from the crown portion and arms portions thereof, and for guiding the pair of deflectable hands and the arms portions oppositely into the space above and the space below the set of sheets. The automatic clip attaching mechanism then includes a powered device for contacting the elbow portions of the lead clip in the feeding position and for automatically pushing such lead clip over the clip hands spreading and guide member into an attached relationship with the set of sheets on the set plane.



Inventors:
Conard-white, Sally A. (Rochester, NY, US)
Tatar, Lynnemarie (Rochester, NY, US)
Tiberio, Connie J. (Webster, NY, US)
Application Number:
09/833778
Publication Date:
10/17/2002
Filing Date:
04/12/2001
Assignee:
Xerox Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B42C1/12; (IPC1-7): B65H33/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MACKEY, PATRICK HEWEY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Patent Documentation Center (Rochester, NY, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An automatic clip attaching mechanism for automatically attaching, to a set of sheets, a clip having a crown portion, elbow portions' arm portions connected to the crown portion, and a pair of deflectable hands attached to the arm portions and defining a gap with the crown portion, the automatic clip attaching mechanism comprising: (a) a support assembly including a set compiler tray defining (i) a set plane for supporting a set of sheets, (ii) an open space below the set plane, and (iii) an open space above the set plane; (b) a clip support and guide member for supporting and guiding a clip towards the set plane to be automatically attached to an edge of the set of sheets, said clip support and guide member defining a clip feeding position and including (i) a clip stacking and guide member for supporting a stack of clips and for guiding a lead clip in a supported stack of clips into said feeding position, and (ii) a clip hands spreading and guide member for spreading the pair of deflectable hands of the clip from the crown portion and arms portions thereof, and for guiding the pair of deflectable hands and the arms portions oppositely into said space above and said space below the set of sheets; and (c) a powered device for contacting the elbow portions of the lead clip in said feeding position and for automatically pushing such lead clip over the clip hands spreading and guide member into an attached relationship with the set of sheets on said set plane.

2. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 1, wherein said clip stacking and guide member has a shape and size suitable for fitting, slidably, within the gap defined by the pair of deflectable hands with the crown portion.

3. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 1, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member has a first surface aligned with said space below the set of sheets, and a second an opposite surface aligned with said space above the set of sheets.

4. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 1, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member has a first end adjacent said clip stacking and guide member, and a distal end located adjacent the set of sheets on said set plane.

5. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 1, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member is arranged at an angle relative to said clip stacking and guide member.

6. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 1, including a set height sensor for sensing a height of the set of sheets on said set plane.

7. The automatic clip attaching mechanism of claim 3, wherein said second surface of said clip hands spreading and guide member is inclined relative to said first surface thereof for spreading the pair of deflectable hands from said arms portions and said crown portion.

8. An electrostatographic reproduction machine for producing toner images on copy sheets, the electrostatographic reproduction machine comprising: (a) a moveable image bearing member having an image bearing surface; (b) means for forming a toner image on said image bearing surface; (c) a copy sheet supply and feeding assembly for feeding a copy sheet to a transfer station to receive said toner image from said image bearing surface; (d) a fusing apparatus for fusing said toner image onto said copy sheet; (e) a finishing unit for collecting said copy sheet and forming a set of said copy sheets; and (f) an automatic clip attaching mechanism for automatically attaching, to a set of sheets, a clip having a crown portion, elbow portions, arm portions connected to the crown portion, and a pair of deflectable hands attached to the arm portions and defining a gap with the crown portion, the automatic clip attaching mechanism comprising: (i) a support assembly including a set compiler tray defining (i) a set plane for supporting a set of sheets, (ii) an open space below the set plane, and (iii) an open space above the set plane; (ii) a clip support and guide member for supporting and guiding a clip towards the set plane to be automatically attached to an edge of the set of sheets, said clip support and guide member defining a clip feeding position and including (i) a clip stacking and guide member for supporting a stack of clips and for guiding a lead clip in a supported stack of clips into said feeding position, and (ii) a clip hands spreading and guide member for spreading the pair of deflectable hands of the clip from the crown portion and arms portions thereof, and for guiding the pair of deflectable hands and the arms portions oppositely into said space above and said space below the set of sheets; and (iii) a powered device for contacting the elbow portions of the lead clip in said feeding position and for automatically pushing such lead clip over the clip hands spreading and guide member into an attached relationship with the set of sheets on said set plane.

9. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 8, wherein said clip stacking and guide member has a shape and size suitable for fitting, slidably, within the gap defined by the pair of deflectable hands with the crown portion.

10. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 8, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member has a first surface aligned with said space below the set of sheets, and a second an opposite surface aligned with said space above the set of sheets.

11. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 8, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member has a first end adjacent said clip stacking and guide member, and a distal end located adjacent the set of sheets on said set plane.

12. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 8, including a set height sensor for sensing a height of the set of sheets on said set plane.

13. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 10, wherein said second surface of said clip hands spreading and guide member is inclined relative to said first surface thereof for spreading the pair of deflectable hands from said arms portions and said crown portion.

14. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 11, wherein said clip hands spreading and guide member is attached to said clip stacking and guide member.

15. The electrostatographic reproduction machine of claim 11, wherein a height of said distal end of said clip hands spreading and guide member is adjustable for accommodating varying heights of sets of sheets on said set plane.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application is related to U.S. application Ser. No. ______ (Applicants' Docket No. D/99832) entitled “PAPER CLIP AUTOMATIC ATTACHING DEVICE AND A DOCUMENT SET PRODUCING MACHINE HAVING SAME” filed on the same date herewith, and having at least one common inventor.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to an apparatus for automatically binding sheets of paper together, and more specifically to a sheet set automatic clip attaching mechanism and a document or copy set producing machine having same.

[0003] Copying or reproduction machines include but are not limited to electrostatographic process machines. Generally, however, the process of electrostatographic copying or reproduction machines, such as light lens or scanner type machines, includes uniformly charging an image frame of a moving photoconductive member, or photoreceptor, to a substantially uniform potential, and imagewise discharging it or imagewise exposing it to light reflected from an original image being copied or reproduced. The result is an electrostatically formed latent image on the image frame of the photoconductive member. For multiple original images, several such frames are similarly imaged. The latent image so formed on each frame is developed by bringing a charged developer material into contact therewith. Two-component and single-component developer materials are commonly used. A typical two-component developer material comprises magnetic carrier particles, also known as “carrier beads,” having fusable charged toner particles adhering triboelectrically thereto. A single component developer material typically comprises charged toner particles only.

[0004] In either case, the fusable charged toner particles when brought into contact with each latent image, are attracted to such image, thus forming a toner image on the photoconductive member. The toner image is subsequently transferred at a transfer station to an image receiver or copy sheet. The copy sheet is then passed through a fuser apparatus where the toner image is heated and permanently fused to the copy sheet forming a hard copy of the original image. Hard copy sheets formed as such can then be accumulated into a set that needs binding.

[0005] Document production machines such as copiers and printers conventionally come with the capability of binding the set of hard copies by stapling using a staple driving device as is well known. The other means for binding such sets together is by inserting clips. Currently, the most common option available for clipping sets of sheets is to do so manually. There is however a vary wide variety of clips, none of which seems to have an advantage over the others in terms of usage.

[0006] The undesirable result is a mess of clips sitting on top of the machine (not always in the provided area). Manually clipping a set of documents can also be a frustrating experience, especially due to the fact that clips and sheets can become tangled, or that there is lack of clips at the machine. Clips also tend to fall easily into the copiers and printers, thus causing machine problems and increasing the need for on-site technical representative repairs. Productivity is also affected because of the need to wait in line for the copier while someone manually tries to properly insert clips to a set of documents before returning to their desk. The same problems occurs with printers.

[0007] Automatic clip inserters or fitting machines have been suggested for a wide variety of certain types of clips as disclosed for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,946,154. But apparently these have not found acceptance and wide use as there is still a large population of copiers and printers out there relying mainly on stapling or manual clip insertion.

[0008] There is therefore a need for a simplified and widely acceptable automatic clip inserter for sets of hard copies of documents produced by copiers and printers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] In accordance with the present invention, there has been provided an automatic clip attaching mechanism is provided for automatically attaching, to a set of sheets, a clip having a crown portion, elbow portions' arm portions connected to the crown portion, and a pair of deflectable hands attached to the arm portions and defining a gap with the crown portion. The automatic clip attaching mechanism includes a support assembly having a set compiler tray defining (i) a set plane for supporting a set of sheets, (ii) an open space below the set plane, and (iii) an open space above the set plane. The automatic clip attaching mechanism also includes a clip support and guide member for supporting and guiding a clip towards the set plane to be automatically attached to an edge of the set of sheets. The clip support and guide member defines a clip feeding position and includes (i) a clip stacking and guide member for supporting a stack of clips and for guiding a lead clip in a supported stack of clips into the feeding position, as well as (ii) a clip hands spreading and guide member for spreading the pair of deflectable hands of the clip from the crown portion and arms portions thereof, and for guiding the pair of deflectable hands and the arms portions oppositely into the space above and the space below the set of sheets. The automatic clip attaching mechanism then includes a powered device for contacting the elbow portions of the lead clip in the feeding position and for automatically pushing such lead clip over the clip hands spreading and guide member into an attached relationship with the set of sheets on the set plane..

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] In the detailed description of the invention presented below, reference is made to the drawings, in which:

[0011] FIG. 1 is an external view of a document set producing machine including a finisher having the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention;

[0012] FIG. 2 is a vertical schematic view of the internal process components and stations of the document set producing machine of FIG. 1;

[0013] FIG. 3 is an illustration of a clip, for example a regal clip, for use in the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention;

[0014] FIG. 4 shows a full top view of the finisher of FIG. 1 including the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 5 shows a side view of the finisher of FIG. 1 including the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 6 shows a side sectional view of a portion of the finisher of FIG. 1 including the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention with a lead clip in a feed position; and

[0017] FIG. 7 is the same as FIG. 6 with the lead screw partially fed over the clip hands spreading and guide member; and

[0018] FIG. 8 is an illustration of a set of sheets bound with a clip completely fed and fully attached using the automatic clip attaching mechanism of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0019] While the present invention will be described in connection with a preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to that embodiment. On the contrary, it is intended to cover all alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

[0020] Referring first to FIG. 1, the copying machine 8 is illustrated externally and includes a frame shown generally as 80 including a top horizontal frame panel 82. The top horizontal panel 82 includes a platen cover 84, and could instead include an automatic document handler (not shown), as well as an output tray 49. Copies of original documents reproduced by the process of the machine 8 can be collected as described above in a bin sorter apparatus 50 having individual bins 52. The frame 82 also includes a front vertical panel 86 that has openings for copy sheet supply trays 90, 92, for example, and that forms a corner 88 with the top horizontal panel 82.

[0021] Referring next to FIG. 2, the machine 8 has conventional imaging processing stations associated therewith, including a charging station AA, an imaging/exposing station BB, a development station CC, a transfer station DD, a fusing station EE, and a cleaning station FF. Importantly, the machine 8 includes a convenience active staple removing station of the present invention shown generally as SR, (to be described in detail below).

[0022] As shown, the machine 8 has a photoconductive belt 10 with a photoconductive layer 12 which is supported by a drive roller 14 and a tension roller 15. The drive roller 14 functions to drive the belt in the direction indicated by arrow 18. The drive roller 14 is itself driven by a motor (not shown) by suitable means, such as a belt drive.

[0023] The operation of the machine 8 can be briefly described as follows. Initially, the photoconductive belt 10 is charged at the charging station AA by a corona generating device 20. The charged portion of the belt is then transported by action of the drive roller 14 to the imaging/exposing station BB where a latent image is formed on the belt 10 corresponding to the image on a document positioned on a platen 24 via the light lens imaging system 28 of the imaging/exposing station 13B. It will also be understood that the light lens imaging system can easily be changed to an input/output scanning terminal or an output scanning terminal driven by a data input signal to likewise image the belt 10. As is also well known, the document on the platen 24 can be placed there manually, or it could be fed there automatically by an automatic document handler device (not shown).

[0024] The portion of the belt 10 bearing the latent image is then transported to the development station CC where the latent image is developed by electrically charged toner material from a magnetic developer roller 30 of the developer station CC. The developed image on the belt is then transported to the transfer station DD where the toner image is transferred to a copy sheet fed from a sheet cassette tray, for example, sheet cassette tray assemblies 70, 72. As shown, the sheets are fed, for example, by a copy sheet handling system 31 that each includes a feed roller 33.

[0025] At the transfer station DD, a corona generating device 32 is provided for charging the copy sheet so as to attract the charged toner image from the photoconductive belt 10 to the copy sheet. The copy sheet with the transferred image thereon is then directed to the fuser station EE. The fuser apparatus at station EE includes a heated fuser roll 34 and backup pressure roll 36. The heated fuser roll 34 and pressure roll 36 rotatably cooperate to fuse and fix the toner image onto the copy sheet. The copy sheet then, as is well known, may be selectively transported to the finishing area, or to a duplex tray 40 along a selectable duplex path 42 for duplexing.

[0026] The portion of the belt 10 from which the developed image was transferred is then advanced to the cleaning station FF where residual toner and charge on the belt are removed by a cleaning device such as a blade 44, and a discharge lamp (not shown) in order to prepare the portion for a subsequent imaging cycle.

[0027] When not doing duplex imaging, or at the end of such duplex imaging, the copy sheets upon finally leaving the fusing rolls 34, 36, are passed to rolls 46 and 48 for input to the finisher 100. From the input rolls 46, 48, the copy sheets are fed, for example, individually to the output tray 49, or as a set of such sheets to a compiler tray 144 (FIG. 4) of the finisher 100 for binding by a staple driving unit 130 or by the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 in accordance with the present invention.

[0028] Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 8, a clip 110, such as a regal type clip, that is suitable for attaching using the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 of the present invention, and a set of sheets so attached, are illustrated. As shown, the clip 110 includes a crown portion 112, and a pair of side by side arms having deflectable hand portions 114, 116 connected by the crown portion 112. The crown portion 112 and each of the arms and hands 114, 116 each have a thickness “T”, and the crown portion 112 has a length “L”. Of the hands 119, 121, the distal ends 117, 118 thereof are bent back, and ordinarily in the same common plane 120 towards the crown portion 112, and define a gap 111 from the crown portion 112. As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, the gap 111 is used for holding each clip 110 in a stack 162 of such clips on the clip stacking and guide member 153.

[0029] The distal ends 117, 118 of the deflectable arms and hands 114, 116, when in the unattached position, normally are aligned and lie on a common plane 122 (FIG. 3). To attach the clip 110 to a set 132 of sheets (FIG. 6), at least one of the distal ends 117, 118 is moved out of the common plane 122 and relative to the other arm, thus allowing space between the distal ends for inserting an edge portion 134 of a set of sheets to be bound. When a set 132 of sheets is bound thus, the hands 119, 121, and the arms 114, 116, end up (FIG. 8) on opposite side of the edge portion 134 of the set of sheets.

[0030] Referring now to FIGS. 3-8, an automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 in accordance with the present invention, includes a clip holding assembly 160 for holding a stack 162 of clips, and a clip pushing or driving mechanism 170. When a set 132 of sheets are to be bound together by a clip, an edge portion 134 of the set 132 of sheets is positioned toward the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 so as to easily fit between the mutually opened deflectable side by side hands 119 and 121 and the crown 112 and arms 114, 116 of a clip 110. The present invention provides an option for automatically binding a set of document sheets at a copier/printer using a clip in a manner similar to stapling processes currently available on many copiers/printers. The clip is a standard metal clip that is not very difficult to dispense, and the apparatus of the present invention (the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141) makes them easy to store and dispense in a manner that would prevent tangling. Therefore, many opportunities for the clip dispenser to jam would cause additional service calls for the machines.

[0031] Referring in particular to FIG. 4, the staple driving unit 138 is also provided in the copy reproduction machine 8, for selective use along side the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 of the present invention. A moveable unit 130 selectively moves the staple driving unit 138 (shown out of the way) into staple driving position for a set of sheets 132, or out of the way of such set of sheets as shown. A set pushing tamping unit 135 is provided, as well as a set hold down unit 137, and a set pushing unit 171 for registering the sides of the set of sheets prior to staple driving or clip attachment. Since either the staple driving unit 138 or the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 can be selectively set at the compiler tray 144 of the finisher 100, the set 132 of sheets can be bound together by either a staple or the clip, depending on the purpose or the intended use of the bound copies or sheets.

[0032] Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 is suitable for automatically attaching, to a set 132 of sheets, a regal type clip 110 having a crown portion 112, arm portions 114, 116, elbow portions 113, 115 and a pair of side by side deflectable hands 119, 121 having distal ends 117, 118 (FIGS. 3 and 8). The deflectable hands 119, 121, the elbow portions 113, 115, and the crown portions ordinarily lie in a common plane 120. As shown, the deflectable hands 119, 121 are bent back towards, but spaced from, the crown portion 112, so that the distal ends 117, 118 define a gap 111 with the crown portion 112. One method of attaching the clip 110 to a set of sheets is by spreading the hands 119, 121 out of the common plane 120 with the arm portions 114, 116 and crown portion 112. As illustrated, the automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 includes a sheet support assembly 142 including the set compiler tray 144 on which copy sheets are accumulated or compiled into a set 132 for binding.

[0033] Referring in particular to FIGS. 4-7, (top and side views of 141) the set compiler tray 144 defines a set plane 146 for supporting the set 132 of sheets, as well as, a first open space 148 below the set plane, and a second open space 149 above the set plane 146. Each open space 148, 149 is suitable for allowing passage of the crown portion 112 or the distal end 117, 118 of the hands 119, 121 of a clip 110 being attached to a set 132 of sheets on the set plane 146.

[0034] The automatic clip attaching mechanism 141 includes a clip holding assembly 160 that has a clip support and guide member 150 that supports and guides each clip 110 towards the set plane 146 where it can be automatically attached to the edge portion 134 of the set of sheets 132. The clip support and guide member 150 includes a clip stacking and guide member 153, and a clip hands spreading and guide member 154 having a first guide surface 156 for guiding, for example, the pair of deflectable hands 119, 121 into a first position within the first open space 148 below the set plane 146, as illustrated. The clips hands spreading and guide member 154 also has a second guide surface 158 for guiding, for example, the crown portion 112 and arms portions 114, 116 into a second position within the second open space 149 above the set plane 146, as illustrated.

[0035] As shown, a plane of the second guide surface 159 is inclined, for example, upwardly, relative to a plane of the first guide surface 156, for deflecting the hands 119, 121 away from the common plane 120 and thus from the crown portion 112 and arms portions 114, 116.

[0036] As also shown, the clip sacking and guide member 153 is suitable for holding a stack 162 of the clip 110 in position for feeding a lead clip 163 in the feeding position 164 onto the clip hands spreading and guide member 154. The clip support and guide member 150 includes the clip stacking and guide member 153 for holding the stack 162 of clips, and a spring loaded feeding mechanism 168 located for applying a force 166 to move the stack 162 and hence the lead clip 163 of the stack into the feeding position 164.

[0037] The clip support and guide member 150 next includes a powered driving or pushing device or mechanism 170, for contacting the elbow portions 113, 115 of the lead clip 163 in the stack 162, and for automatically pushing such lead clip 163, crown portion 112 first, over the second guide surface 158 of the clip hands spreading and guide member 154, into an attached relationship (FIG. 8) with the set 132 of sheets on the set plane 146.

[0038] As shown, the clip stacking and guide member 153 has a shape and size that are suitable for fitting, slidably, within the gap 111 defined by the pair of deflectable hands 119, 121 with the crown portion 112. The first surface 156 of the clip hands spreading and guide member 154 has is aligned with the space 148 below the set plane, and the second an opposite surface 158 is aligned with the open space 149 above the set 132 of sheets on the set plane 146. As shown, the second surface 158 of the clip hands spreading and guide member 154 is inclined relative to the first surface 156 thereof for spreading the pair of deflectable hands from the arm portions 114, 116 and the crown portion 112. The clip hands spreading and guide member 154 has a first end 155 adjacent the clip stacking and guide member 153. The clip hands spreading and guide member 154 further has a distal end 157 that is arranged at an angle relative to a longitudinal axis of the clip stacking and guide member 153, and is located adjacent the edge portion 134 of the set 132 of sheets on the set plane.

[0039] As can be seen, there has been provided an automatic clip attaching mechanism is provided for automatically attaching, to a set of sheets, a clip having a crown portion, elbow portion' arm portions connected to the crown portion, and a pair of deflectable hands attached to the arm portions and defining a gap with the crown portion. The automatic clip attaching mechanism includes a support assembly having a set compiler tray defining (i) a set plane for supporting a set of sheets, (ii) an open space below the set plane, and (iii) an open space above the set plane. The automatic clip attaching mechanism also includes a clip support and guide member for supporting and guiding a clip towards the set plane to be automatically attached to an edge of the set of sheets. The clip support and guide member defines a clip feeding position and includes (i) a clip stacking and guide member for supporting a stack of clips and for guiding a lead clip in a supported stack of clips into the feeding position, as well as (ii) a clip hands spreading and guide member for spreading the pair of deflectable hands of the clip from the crown portion and arms portions thereof, and for guiding the pair of deflectable hands and the arms portions oppositely into the space above and the space below the set of sheets. The automatic clip attaching mechanism then includes a powered device for contacting the elbow portions of the lead clip in the feeding position and for automatically pushing such lead clip over the clip hands spreading and guide member into an attached relationship with the set of sheets on the set plane.

[0040] While this invention has been described in conjunction with a particular embodiment thereof, it shall be evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, the present invention is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations as fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.