Title:
Sheet member transporting device and method of controlling the same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The sheet member transporting device moves sheet members of a predetermined length in a distributing direction perpendicular to a transporting direction to change from transportation in a single row to that in plural rows or vise versa. The device includes a transporting roller pair for nipping and transporting a sheet member, a moving member on which the roller pair is provided and which is movable in the distributing direction, a rotation movement mechanism for transmitting rotation to the roller pair and allowing the moving member to move in the distributing direction, a driving unit for driving the mechanism and a nip canceling unit for controlling nipping and releasing by the roller pair. The driving unit is provided as a component separate from the moving member.



Inventors:
Tsuzawa, Yoshiyuki (Kanagawa, JP)
Application Number:
10/902888
Publication Date:
04/21/2005
Filing Date:
08/02/2004
Assignee:
TSUZAWA YOSHIYUKI
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
271/185
International Classes:
B65H29/12; B65H29/58; (IPC1-7): B65H29/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
MCCULLOUGH, MICHAEL C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BIRCH, STEWART, KOLASCH & BIRCH, LLP (FALLS CHURCH, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A sheet member transporting device which is adapted to perform one or both of: moving sheet members of a predetermined length, which are being transported in a single row, in a distributing direction perpendicular to a transporting direction to transport said sheet members in plural rows; and moving said sheet members of said predetermined length, which are transported in plural rows, in the distributing direction to transport said sheet members in a single row, said sheet member transporting device comprising: a transporting roller pair for nipping and transporting one sheet member in said sheet members; a moving member on which said transporting roller pair is provided and which is movable in said distributing direction; a rotation movement mechanism for allowing said transporting roller pair to rotate by transmitting rotation force to said transporting roller pair to transport said one sheet member and allowing said moving member to move in said distributing direction; a driving means connected to said rotation movement mechanism, for driving said rotation movement mechanism to move said moving member in said distributing direction; and a nip canceling means for controlling nipping of said one sheet member and releasing of said nipping thereof by said transporting roller pair, wherein said driving means is provided as a component separate from said moving member.

2. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 1, wherein said rotation movement mechanism comprises: a cylindrical sleeve having rotation transmitting means for transmitting said rotation force to said transporting roller pair, which is created on an outer peripheral surface of said cylindrical sleeve, and an elongated hole which extends in an axial direction of said cylindrical sleeve and is formed in said outer peripheral surface; at least a pair of bearings for rotatably supporting said cylindrical sleeve on said moving member; at least a pair of slide bearings provided in an inner peripheral surface at both ends of said cylindrical sleeve; a rotation shaft inserted into each of said pair of slide bearings so as to be movable in said axial direction; and a rotation transmitting member provided on an outer peripheral surface of said rotation shaft, said rotation transmitting member regulating movement of said rotation shaft in said axial direction and being adapted to abut said elongated hole at a time of rotation of said rotation shaft to transmit rotation of said rotation shaft to said cylindrical sleeve, and wherein, said cylindrical sleeve rotates by rotating said rotation shaft to transmit said rotation force to said transporting roller pair.

3. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 1, wherein said rotation movement mechanism is provided on a frame body and comprises a spline shaft fixed to said frame body and equipped with a rotation transmitting means for transmitting said rotation force to said transporting roller pair, and wherein said rotation transmitting means follows relative movement of said moving member in said distributing direction and transmits said rotation force to said transporting roller pair while moving in an axial direction of said spline shaft.

4. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 3, wherein said rotation movement mechanism further comprises a guide shaft inserted into at least each of a pair of slide bearings provided on said moving member and fixed to said frame body, for guiding movement of said moving member in said distributing direction.

5. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 1, wherein, when said moving member is moved beyond a predetermined position in said distributing direction by said driving means, said nip canceling means releases said nipping by said transporting roller pair.

6. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 5, wherein said nip canceling means releases said nipping by said transporting roller pair by using a translation cam mechanism based on a moving position of said moving member in said distributing direction.

7. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 5, wherein said transporting roller pair comprises: a transporting roller; and a nip roller capable of being brought into and out of contact with said transporting roller, wherein said nip canceling means comprises: a guide member which is a plate member extending in a direction parallel to a moving direction of said moving member and which has a slope at a position to be matched with said predetermined position; a support member fixed to said moving member, said support member rotatably supporting said nip roller as well as pivotally supporting said nip roller so as to allow said nip roller to come into and out of contact with said transporting roller; and a driven member provided on said support member and adapted to come into contact with said guide member, and wherein, when said driven member passes said slope as said moving member moves, said support member pivots said nip roller to separate said nip roller from said transporting roller or to touch said nip roller to said transporting roller.

8. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 7, wherein said support member further comprises: a fixing member fixed to said moving member; and a canceling member pivotally supported by said fixing member, and rotatably supporting said nip roller as well as allowing said nip roller to come into and out of contact with said transporting roller, wherein said driven member is provided on said, canceling member of said support member, and wherein, when said driven member passes said slope as said moving member moves, said canceling member pivots against said fixing member and said nip roller is separated from or touched to said transporting roller.

9. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 1, wherein said nip canceling means releases said nipping by said transporting roller pair by using a translation cam mechanism based on a moving position of said moving member in said distributing direction.

10. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 1, wherein said transporting roller pair comprises: a transporting roller; and a nip roller capable of being brought into and out of contact with said transporting roller, wherein said nip canceling means comprises: a guide member which is a plate member extending in a direction parallel to a moving direction of said moving member and which has a slope at a predetermined position; a support member fixed to said moving member, said support member rotatably supporting said nip roller as well as pivotally supporting said nip roller so as to allow said nip roller to come into and out of contact with said transporting roller; and a driven member provided on said support member and adapted to come into contact with said guide member, and wherein, when said driven member passes said slope as said moving member moves, said support member pivots said nip roller to separate said nip roller from said transporting roller or to touch said nip roller to said transporting roller.

11. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 10, wherein said support member further comprises: a fixing member fixed to said moving member; and a canceling member pivotally supported by said fixing member, and rotatably supporting said nip roller as well as allowing said nip roller to come into and out of contact with said transporting roller, wherein said driven member is provided on said canceling member of said support member, and wherein, when said driven member passes said slope as said moving member moves, said canceling member pivots against said fixing member and said nip roller is separated from or touched to said transporting roller.

12. A sheet member transporting device for transporting sheet members in one of a single row and plural rows according to widths of said sheet members, comprising: plural transporting units adapted to be able to transport said sheet members independently of each other and arranged parallel to each other; and a control unit for adjusting a transporting speed of each transporting unit, wherein, when sheet members having a width extending over two or more transporting units in said plural transporting units are to be transported in said single row, said control unit adjusts an orientation of a sheet member by one of increasing and decreasing said transporting speed of said sheet member in at least one of said plural transporting units.

13. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 12, wherein said plural transporting units are connected to an inlet of another apparatus, each comprising an adjustment transporting unit provided in a vicinity of an outlet for said sheet members of said plural transporting units, said adjustment transporting unit adjusting said transporting speed of said sheet member, and wherein said adjustment transporting unit is controlled by said control unit.

14. The sheet member transporting device according to claim 12, wherein each of said plural transporting units is equipped with a nipping and transporting roller pair and a transporting roller pair provided on a downstream side of said nipping and transporting roller pair with respect to a transporting direction, wherein nipping of said sheet member and releasing of said nipping thereof by said nipping and transporting roller pair are controlled by said control unit, and transportation of said sheet member by said transporting roller pair is controlled by said control unit, and wherein, when said orientation of said sheet member is to be adjusted by said transporting roller pair, said control unit releases said nipping of said sheet member by said nipping and transporting roller pairs.

15. A method of controlling a sheet member transporting device having plural transporting units adapted to transport sheet members independently of each other, said plural transporting units being arranged parallel to each other and allowing adjustment of their respective transporting speeds, with said sheet members being transported in one of a single row and plural rows according to widths of said sheet members, comprising the steps of: detecting a width of a sheet member; detecting an orientation of said sheet member with respect to a perpendicular direction perpendicular to a transporting direction of said sheet member; and adjusting, when a result of detection of said width of said sheet members indicates that said sheet member is to be transported in the single row over said plural transporting units, said orientation of said sheet member by one of increasing and decreasing said transporting speed of said sheet member in at least one of said plural transporting units based on said result of said detection of said width of said sheet member and of said orientation of said sheet member with respect to said perpendicular direction.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a sheet member transporting device and a method of controlling the same.

More specifically, the present invention relates to a sheet member transporting device which moves sheet members of a predetermined length, which are transported in a single row, in a distributing direction to transport them in a plurality of rows or which moves sheet members of a predetermined length, which are transported in a plurality of rows, in a distributing direction to transport them in a single row. In particular, the present invention relates to a sheet member transporting device which realizes, while ensuring high durability and small mass and at restrained cost, a system in which sheet members being transported in a transporting direction are moved in a direction perpendicular to the transporting direction to thereby transport the sheet members in a single row or transport them in a plurality of rows.

Further, the present invention relates to a sheet member transporting device equipped with a nip roller pair having a transporting roller for transporting sheet members and a nip roller for nipping and transporting sheet members together with the transporting roller, and more particularly to a sheet member transporting device which effects canceling of the nipping by the nip roller through a movement in a distributing direction perpendicular to the sheet member transporting direction.

Further, the present invention relates to a sheet member transporting device which transports sheet members in a single row or a plurality of rows according to their width and a method of controlling the device, and more particularly to a sheet member transporting device which adjusts the sheet member transporting speed and, at the same time, adjusts the attitude of the sheet members, such as the orientation thereof, and a method of controlling the device.

Recently, a printing device utilizing digital exposure, that is, a digital photo printer has been put into practical use, which photoelectrically reads an image recorded on a film and turns the read image into a digital signal, performs various kinds of image processing thereon to obtain recording image data, scans a photosensitive material through exposure to a light beam modulated according to the image data to record an image (latent image), and performs development thereon to output a print (photograph).

Basically, this digital photo printer is composed of an input machine having a scanner (image reading device) and an image processing device, and an output machine having a printing device (image recording device) and a processor (developing device).

In the scanner, projection light of an image photographed on a film is photoelectrically read by an image sensor, such as a CCD sensor, and is sent to the image processing device as film image data (image data signal).

The image processing device performs predetermined image processing on the image data and sends the processed image data to the printing device as image data for image recording (exposure condition).

When the printing device is of the type which utilizes light beam scanning exposure, cut sheets of photosensitive material obtained by cutting a roll of long photosensitive material into a predetermined length, are transported to an exposure position. At the same time, a light beam modulated according to the supplied image data is deflected in a one-dimensional direction, that is, in the main scanning direction and impinges on the photosensitive material and, further, the photosensitive material is scanned and transported in a sub scanning direction perpendicular to the main scanning direction to thereby two-dimensionally scan the photosensitive material by exposure to the light beam to form a latent image.

In the processor, a predetermined development process is performed on the photosensitive material that has been subjected to exposure (hereinafter also referred to as simply the “exposed photosensitive material”), and a print is obtained on which the image photographed on the film is reproduced.

In such a digital photo printer, in order to efficiently output a large amount of prints, it is necessary to scan a photosensitive material by exposure in a short time and perform the development thereon. Thus, it is necessary to achieve an improvement in the processing efficiency of the development, and, in order to perform the development while transporting the photosensitive material in a plurality of rows, there have been proposed various distributing devices for transporting the photosensitive material in a plurality of rows through distribution.

In particular, in a digital photo printer in which scanning and exposure are performed on a photosensitive material being transported while deflecting a light beam within a predetermined range, it is desirable to avoid a situation in which the image to be recorded is recorded on the photosensitive material in an inclined state or recorded in an offset state; in this respect, it is desirable to perform post-exposure distribution in which, after recording on a photosensitive material by exposure, the photosensitive material is distributed into a plurality of rows and transported.

For example, in some conventional distributing devices, a motor for rotating a roller which transports a photosensitive material is mounted on a moving member for distributing the photosensitive material into a plurality of rows. In such conventional distributing devices, an FPC (flexible printed circuit) cable which is superior in resistance to flexing and buckling is often used to supply electric power to the motor. In such conventional distributing devices, the moving member is moved with the motor mounted thereon.

Further, JP 9-329885 A discloses a distributing device in which exposed printing paper is distributed into two rows on the downstream side of the transporting path. FIG. 17 is a schematic perspective view of a conventional printing paper distributing device as disclosed in JP 9-329885 A.

As shown in FIG. 17, in a distributing device 500 disclosed in JP 9-329885 A, a main carriage 520 and a sub carriage 521 are arranged so as to be opposed to each other with respect to the transporting path. The main carriage 520 is equipped with idle rollers 522 and 524 on the upstream and downstream sides thereof in the transporting direction D, respectively, and thrust bushes 530 are provided at both ends of the idle rollers 522 and 524. Guide shafts 510 are passed through the idle rollers 522 and 524 and the thrust bushes 530.

The sub carriage 521 is equipped with drive rollers 526 and 528 on the upstream and downstream sides thereof in the transporting direction D, respectively; the thrust bushes 530 are provided at both ends of the drive rollers 526 and 528. Drive shafts 512 are passed through the drive rollers 526 and 528 and the thrust bushes 530.

A timing belt (not shown) is mounted on the main carriage 520 and the sub carriage 521, and the main carriage 520 and the sub carriage 521 are driven by a motor (not shown) in synchronism with each other in main scanning directions M1 and M2 perpendicular to the transporting direction D while being guided by the thrust bushes 530.

At the ends of the guide shafts 510 and the drive shafts 512, there are provided pulleys 514, between which spring rings 515 are stretched, whereby the idle rollers 522 and 524 and the drive rollers 526 and 528 are reliably held in contact with each other, making it possible to prevent slippage during transportation of a photosensitive material P.

In this way, the idle rollers 522 and 524 and the drive rollers 526 and 528 are moved in the main scanning directions M1 and M2 while being rotated, thereby making it possible to perform distribution of the photosensitive material P.

However, in the above-described conventional distributing device using a moving member with a motor mounted thereon, the motor is mounted on the moving member which distributes a photosensitive material into a plurality of rows, so that the device size is rather large, which involves a large mass and high cost. Further, the large mass leads to an increase in load moment of inertia, and, when the distributing speed is to be raised, the upper limit thereof is rather low; further, the device readily causes step-out. Further, the FPC cable is inferior in durability, and breakage, etc. occurs at the buckled portion.

Further, in the distributing device as disclosed in JP 9-329885 A, it is impossible to avoid sliding between the thrust bushes 530 on one hand, and the guide shafts 510 and the drive shafts 512 on the other hand. As a result, the inner surfaces of the thrust bushes 530 are rasped off, resulting in a rather poor durability. Further, when the slidability of the thrust bushes 530 deteriorates, skewing of the photosensitive material P will occur, making it impossible to effect distribution in a stable manner and with high accuracy. Further, when the driving speed of the main carriage 520 and the sub carriage 521 is increased, step-out will occur due to the sliding resistance of the thrust bushes 530.

As described above, the distributing device as disclosed in JP 9-329885 A involves a deterioration in transporting accuracy, such as skewing of the photosensitive material, and a deterioration in durability; in addition, when an attempt is made to raise the distributing speed in order to achieve an improvement in production efficiency, the problem as mentioned above is involved, which means the device cannot be operated in the proper fashion when there is an increase in speed.

Apart from this, as a conventional distributing device in which a moving member is moved with a motor mounted thereon as described above, there exists a nip distributing device in which after recording on a photosensitive material by exposure, the photosensitive material is, for example, nipped and distributed in a plurality of rows before transporting it.

However, also in this conventional nip distributing device, no distribution is effected on a photosensitive material whose size exceeds a predetermined size. Thus, in this conventional distributing device, when no distribution is to be effected on the photosensitive material, it is necessary to cancel the nipping of the photosensitive material, which means it is necessary for the distributing device to be equipped with a nipping canceling mechanism. In this way, in the conventional digital photo printer, it is determined as to whether distribution is to be effected or not according to the size of the photosensitive material, thus making is possible to obtain prints of various sizes.

However, this conventional nip distributing device also involves various problems similar to those associated with the above-described conventional distributing device in which a moving member is moved with a motor mounted thereon.

Thus, this conventional nip distributing device has a problem in that it is impossible to perform with high durability the distributing operation accompanied by a nip canceling operation.

Further, a conventional distributing device in which distribution is effected after exposure has independent delivery portions respectively corresponding to the rows obtained by distribution. The delivery portions supply a photosensitive material to the processor, with the transporting speed adjusted.

For example, JP 2001-194733 A discloses a transporting mechanism for transporting a photosensitive material, which has been subjected to exposure, in a number of rows. FIGS. 18A through 18C are schematic diagrams each showing the transporting mechanism of the photographic processing device as disclosed in JP 2001-194733 A and the transporting state therein.

A conventional transporting mechanism 600, shown in FIGS. 18A through 18C, transports to a processor a photosensitive material distributed into four or two rows by a distributing device or a photosensitive material of a size not suited for distribution.

The conventional transporting mechanism 600 has four transporting lines 610, 612, 614, and 616, and the transporting lines 610, 612, 614, and 616 have stepping motors 620, 622, 624, and 626, driver circuits 630, 632, 634, and 636, control circuits 640, 642, 644, and 646, a main control portion 650, a clock distribution circuit 652, and a distribution control circuit 654.

In the conventional transporting mechanism 600, on the basis of a transporting line switching signal output from the main control portion 650 to the distribution control circuit 654, the distribution control circuit 654 outputs predetermined control signals S1, S2, and S3 to the clock distribution circuit 652. To this clock distribution circuit 652, driving clock signals are input from the control circuits 640, 642, 644, and 646, and it outputs, based on the control signals S1, S2, and S3, the driving clocks to the stepping motors 620, 622, 624, and 626 of the transporting lines 610, 612, 614, and 616.

As shown in FIG. 18A, when, for example, a photosensitive material distributed into four rows is to be transported, a driving clock CL is output from the control circuits 640, 642, 644, and 646 to the driver circuits 630, 632, 634, and 636 by the control signal S1, and a photosensitive material Pa is transported in four rows by the transporting lines 610, 612, 614, and 616.

Further, as shown in FIG. 18B, when, for example, a photosensitive material distributed into two rows is to be transported, a driving clock CL1 output from the control circuit 640 to the clock distribution circuit 652 is output to the driver circuits 630 and 632 by the control signal S2, and a photosensitive material Pb is transported through cooperation of the two transporting lines 610 and 612. Similarly, a driving clock CL2 output from the control circuit 644 to the clock distribution circuit 652 is output to the driver circuits 634 and 636 by the control signal S2, and the photosensitive material Pb is transported through cooperation of the two transporting lines 614 and 616.

Further, as shown in FIG. 18C, when, for example, transport is to be performed in a single row without effecting distribution, a driving clock CL3 output from the control circuit 640 to the clock distribution circuit 652 is output to the driver circuits 630, 632, 634, and 636 by the control signal S3, and a photosensitive material Pc is transported through cooperation of the four transporting lines 610, 612, 614, and 616.

The respective sizes of the photosensitive materials Pa, Pb and Pc are such that Pa<Pb<Pc.

In the conventional transporting mechanism 600, when a photosensitive material is to be transported through cooperation of a plurality of transporting lines, the cooperating transporting lines are driven by one driving clock, so that there is no operational deviation among the stepping motors due to element variation or variation in the software command timing, and even if the photosensitive material is transported over a plurality of rows, it is possible to restrain generation of meandering of the photosensitive material.

However, there is a difference in reference between a printer and a processor, and the transporting mechanism after distribution is required to absorb the deviation between the printer and processor.

At present, this deviation is absorbed by improving the design accuracy of the printer and processor, resulting in an increase in production cost. Further, when the positions of the printer and processor are deviated from reference positions, and there is a difference between the vertical direction in the printer and the vertical direction in the processor, the photosensitive material must be intentionally caused to undergo skewing by the transporting mechanism, transporting it to the processors after being adjusted to the proper angle. In particular, in the case of a photosensitive material of the size requiring no distribution, if it is not transported to the processor properly, there is a danger of an image deterioration occurring at the time of development.

Further, while the above-described conventional transporting mechanism is capable of restraining meandering of the photosensitive material, it is not capable of properly transporting a photosensitive material taking processing errors into consideration.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention has been made in view of the above-mentioned problems in the prior art. It is a first object of the present invention to provide a sheet member transporting device capable of realizing, while ensuring high durability, small mass, and low cost, a system which, while transporting sheet members in the transporting direction, moves the sheet members in a direction perpendicular to the transporting direction, thereby transporting the sheet materials in a single row or in a plurality of rows.

Further, it is a second object of the present invention, which has been made in view of the above problems in the prior art, to provide a sheet member transporting device capable of realizing, while ensuring high durability and low cost, a system in which a nipping canceling operation can be effected whenever it is necessary to release nipping of sheet members by a transporting roller pair.

Further, it is a third object of the present invention, which has been made in view of the above problems in the prior art, to provide a sheet member transporting device capable of adjusting the speed at which a photosensitive material is transported and capable of correcting the attitude of the photosensitive material or intentionally skewing the photosensitive material, and a control method for the sheet member transporting device.

In order to attain the first object described above, the first aspect of the present invention provides a sheet member transporting device which is adapted to perform one or both of: moving sheet members of a predetermined length, which are being transported in a single row, in a distributing direction perpendicular to a transporting direction to transport the sheet members in plural rows; and moving the sheet members of the predetermined length, which are transported in plural rows, in the distributing direction to transport the sheet members in a single row, the sheet member transporting device comprising: a transporting roller pair for nipping and transporting one sheet member in the sheet members; a moving member on which the transporting roller pair is provided and which is movable in the distributing direction; a rotation movement mechanism for allowing the transporting roller pair to rotate by transmitting rotation force to the transporting roller pair to transport the one sheet member and allowing the moving member to move in the distributing direction; a driving means connected to the rotation movement mechanism, for driving the rotation movement mechanism to move the moving member in the distributing direction; and a nip canceling means for controlling nipping of the one sheet member and releasing of the nipping thereof by the transporting roller pair, wherein the driving means is provided as a component separate from the moving member.

Preferably, the rotation movement mechanism comprises a cylindrical sleeve having rotation transmitting means for transmitting the rotation force to the transporting roller pair, which is created on an outer peripheral surface of the cylindrical sleeve, and an elongated hole which extends in an axial direction of the cylindrical sleeve and is formed in the outer peripheral surface; at least a pair of bearings for rotatably supporting the cylindrical sleeve on the moving member; at least a pair of slide bearings provided in an inner peripheral surface at both ends of the cylindrical sleeve; a rotation shaft inserted into each of the pair of slide bearings so as to be movable in the axial direction; and a rotation transmitting member provided on an outer peripheral surface of the rotation shaft, the rotation transmitting member regulating movement of the rotation shaft in the axial direction and being adapted to abut the elongated hole at a time of rotation of the rotation shaft to transmit rotation of the rotation shaft to the cylindrical sleeve; and the cylindrical sleeve rotates by rotating the rotation shaft to transmit the rotation force to the transporting roller pair.

It is preferred that the rotation movement mechanism is provided on a frame body and comprises a spline shaft fixed to the frame body and equipped with a rotation transmitting means for transmitting the rotation force to the transporting roller pair, and that the rotation transmitting means follows relative movement of the moving member in the distributing direction and transmits the rotation force to the transporting roller pair while moving in an axial direction of the spline shaft.

It is preferred that the rotation movement mechanism further comprises a guide shaft inserted into at least each of a pair of slide bearings provided on the moving member and fixed to the frame body, for guiding movement of the moving member in the distributing direction.

The nip canceling means preferably releases the nipping by the transporting roller pair by using a translation cam mechanism based on a moving position of the moving member in the distributing direction.

Preferably, the transporting roller pair comprises a transporting roller and a nip roller capable of being brought into and out of contact with the transporting roller; the nip canceling means comprises a guide member which is a plate member extending in a direction parallel to a moving direction of the moving member and which has a slope at a predetermined position, a support member fixed to the moving member, the support member rotatably supporting the nip roller as well as pivotally supporting the nip roller so as to allow the nip roller to come into and out of contact with the transporting roller and a driven member provided on the support member and adapted to come into contact with the guide member; and when the driven member passes the slope as the moving member moves, the support member pivots the nip roller to separate the nip roller from the transporting roller or to touch the nip roller to the transporting roller.

Preferably, the support member further comprises a fixing member fixed to the moving member and a canceling member pivotally supported by the fixing member, and rotatably supporting the nip roller as well as allowing the nip roller to come into and out of contact with the transporting roller; the driven member is provided on the canceling member of the support member; and when the driven member passes the slope as the moving member moves, the canceling member pivots against the fixing member and the nip roller is separated from or touched to the transporting roller.

In order to attain the second object described above, the second aspect of the present invention provides a sheet member transporting device being the sheet member transporting device of the first aspect of the present invention, wherein, when the moving member is moved beyond a predetermined position in the distributing direction by the driving means, the nip canceling means releases the nipping by the transporting roller pair.

The nip canceling means preferably releases the nipping by the transporting roller pair by using a translation cam mechanism based on a moving position of the moving member in the distributing direction.

Preferably, the transporting roller pair comprises a transporting roller and a nip roller capable of being brought into and out of contact with the transporting roller; the nip canceling means comprises a guide member which is a plate member extending in a direction parallel to a moving direction of the moving member and which has a slope at a position to be matched with the predetermined position, a support member fixed to the moving member, the support member rotatably supporting the nip roller as well as pivotally supporting the nip roller so as to allow the nip roller to come into and out of contact with the transporting roller and a driven member provided on the support member and adapted to come into contact with the guide member; and when the driven member passes the slope as the moving member moves, the support member pivots the nip roller to separate the nip roller from the transporting roller or to touch the nip roller to the transporting roller.

Preferably, the support member further comprises a fixing member fixed to the moving member and a canceling member pivotally supported by the fixing member, and rotatably supporting the nip roller as well as allowing the nip roller to come into and out of contact with the transporting roller; the driven member is provided on the canceling member of the support member; and when the driven member passes the slope as the moving member moves, the canceling member pivots against the fixing member and the nip roller is separated from or touched to the transporting roller.

In order to attain the third object described above, the third aspect of the present invention provides a sheet member transporting device for transporting sheet members in one of a single row and plural rows according to widths of the sheet members, comprising: plural transporting units adapted to be able to transport the sheet members independently of each other and arranged parallel to each other; and a control unit for adjusting a transporting speed of each transporting unit, wherein, when sheet members having a width extending over two or more transporting units in the plural transporting units are to be transported in the single row, the control unit adjusts an orientation of a sheet member by one of increasing and decreasing the transporting speed of the sheet member in at least one of the plural transporting units.

Preferably, the plural transporting units are connected to an inlet of another apparatus, each comprising an adjustment transporting unit provided in a vicinity of an outlet for the sheet members of the plural transporting units, the adjustment transporting unit adjusting the transporting speed of the sheet member; and the adjustment transporting unit is controlled by the control unit.

It should be noted that in the third aspect of the present invention, another apparatus described above is, for example, a processor for photosensitive materials.

Preferably, each of the plural transporting units is equipped with a nipping and transporting roller pair and a transporting roller pair provided on a downstream side of the nipping and transporting roller pair with respect to a transporting direction; nipping of the sheet member and releasing of the nipping thereof by the nipping and transporting roller pair are controlled by the control unit, and transportation of the sheet member by the transporting roller pair is controlled by the control unit; and when the orientation of the sheet member is to be adjusted by the transporting roller pair, the control unit releases the nipping of the sheet member by the nipping and transporting roller pairs.

In order to attain the third object described above, the fourth aspect of the present invention provides a method of controlling a sheet member transporting device having plural transporting units adapted to transport sheet members independently of each other, the plural transporting units being arranged parallel to each other and allowing adjustment of their respective transporting speeds, with the sheet members being transported in one of a single row and plural rows according to widths of the sheet members, comprising the steps of: detecting a width of a sheet member; detecting an orientation of the sheet member with respect to a perpendicular direction perpendicular to a transporting direction of the sheet member; and adjusting, when a result of detection of the width of the sheet members indicates that the sheet member is to be transported in the single row over the plural transporting units, the orientation of the sheet member by one of increasing and decreasing the transporting speed of the sheet member in at least one of the plural transporting units based on the result of the detection of the width of the sheet member and of the orientation of the sheet member with respect to the perpendicular direction.

This application claims priority on Japanese patent applications No. 2003-205656, No. 2003-311607 and No. 2003-205631, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

In addition the entire contents of literatures cited in this specification are incorporated by reference.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings:

FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view of an embodiment of an image recording apparatus in which a sheet member transporting device according to the present invention is used;

FIG. 2 is a schematic plan view of a delivery portion of the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1 when it is seen from the above;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view schematically showing an embodiment of the sheet member transporting device which is applied to a distributing portion of the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view schematically showing the arrangement and construction of a moving member in the sheet member transporting device shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view schematically showing the construction of a seamless pipe slide of the moving member shown in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a partly exploded perspective view showing how the seamless pipe slide and a nip canceling mechanism in the moving member of the sheet member transporting device shown in FIG. 3 are arranged;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view schematically showing the construction of the nip canceling mechanism in the distributing portion of the sheet member transporting device shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 8 is a partial perspective view showing the nip canceling mechanism (except large diameter transporting rollers) shown in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9A is a schematic side sectional view showing the state of the nip canceling mechanism shown in FIG. 7 when distribution is to be effected;

FIG. 9B is a schematic side sectional view showing the state of the nip canceling mechanism when no distribution is to be effected;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view schematically showing another embodiment of the sheet member transporting device which is applied to the distributing portion of the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 11 is a schematic perspective view of the sheet member transporting device shown in FIG. 10 as seen from the sheet member discharge side;

FIGS. 12A and 12B are enlarged schematic side views of a transporting path F and a transporting path R in the delivery portion of the image recording apparatus shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, respectively;

FIG. 13 is a sectional view schematically showing the construction of an embodiment of a processor used in the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIGS. 14A through 14J are exemplary timing charts showing how cut sheet members distributed into two rows are transported in the delivery portion shown in FIGS. 2, 12A and 12B;

FIGS. 15A through 15J are exemplary timing charts showing how cut sheet members are transported in a single row in the delivery portion shown in FIGS. 2, 12A and 12B;

FIG. 16 is a schematic view showing how skewing is eliminated in the delivery portion of the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 17 is a schematic perspective view showing a conventional device for distributing printing paper; and

FIGS. 18A through 18C are schematic diagrams each showing the transporting mechanism and transporting condition of a photographic processing apparatus.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A sheet member transporting device and a method of controlling the same according to the present invention will now be described in detail with reference to preferred embodiments shown in the accompanying drawings.

First, with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, an image recording apparatus using a sheet member transporting device according to the present invention will be described.

FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view showing an embodiment of an image recording apparatus in which a sheet member transporting device according to the present invention is used.

As shown in FIG. 1, an image recording apparatus 10 forms, together with a scanner 12, an image processing apparatus 14, and a processor 16, a digital photo printer (hereinafter also simply referred to as the printer). The image recording apparatus 10 is a recording apparatus which performs exposure recording on a photosensitive material by utilizing light beam scanning exposure. A long photosensitive material A wound into a roll is pulled out by a predetermined length and cut into a sheet and the cut sheet (sheet member) is transported to an exposure position; at the same time, a light beam L modulated according to image data supplied from the image processing apparatus 14 is deflected in a main scanning direction, and the photosensitive material is scan-transported in a sub scanning direction perpendicular to the main scanning direction, whereby the photosensitive material is two-dimensionally scan-exposed by the light beam L to thereby form a latent image.

The image recording apparatus 10 is connected to the image processing apparatus 14, which is connected to the scanner 12. The processor 16 is connected to the image recording apparatus 10 so that it can receive the exposed photosensitive material delivered from the image recording apparatus 10. The image recording apparatus 10 has a control portion 34 for controlling the operation of the image recording apparatus 10.

The scanner 12 photoelectrically reads projection light of an image taken on a film by an image sensor, such as a CCD sensor, and captures film image data (image data signal) before sending it to the image processing apparatus 14.

The image processing apparatus 14 performs predetermined image processing on this image data and sends the processed image data to a printing device as image data (exposure condition) for image recording. It is also possible for the image processing apparatus 14 to be constructed so as to send to the printing device image data obtained by photographing with a digital still camera (DSC) or the like.

The processor 16 performs a predetermined development process on the exposed photosensitive material on which a latent image is formed, and outputs it as a print on which an image photographed on a film or an image photographed by a DSC is reproduced.

The image recording apparatus 10 is constructed so as to perform each processing while transporting a cut sheet member obtained by cutting a roll of long photosensitive material A into a predetermined length. The image recording apparatus 10 has, starting from the upstream side in the transporting direction, a supply portion 20, a back printing portion 22, a registration portion 24, an exposure portion 26, a sub scanning reception portion 28, a distributing portion 30, and a delivery portion 32; in each of these portions, there are provided, along the transporting path, a plurality of transporting roller pairs consisting of rollers or driving rollers and nip rollers paired with the driving rollers. These transporting roller pairs are provided at intervals shorter than the length in the transporting direction of the minimum size cut sheet member used in the image recording apparatus 10. Further, although not shown, in and between these portions, there are provided transporting guides, and there may be provided some other transporting means.

The supply portion 20 is a portion loaded with magazines 20a and 20b in which rolls of long photosensitive material A are contained in lightproof casings with the recording surfaces facing outside.

Usually, the magazines 20a and 20b contain different kinds of photosensitive materials A differing in size (width), type of photosensitive surface (silk, mat, etc.), specifications (thickness and base type), etc. While in this embodiment two magazines 20a and 20b are provided, there are no particular limitations in the present invention regarding the number of magazines. In the present invention, it is also possible to use one or three or more magazines.

The magazines 20a and 20b are equipped with pull-out roller pairs 38a and 38b for pulling out and transporting the photosensitive material A contained therein.

Further, at positions spaced apart from the outlets of the magazines 20a and 20b by a predetermined distance, there are provided cutters 40a and 40b. The photosensitive material A is pulled out and cut into a predetermined length to provide cut sheet members.

To obtain cut sheet members with a predetermined length by the cutters 40a and 40b, the pull-out roller pairs 38a and 38b pull out the photosensitive material A by a predetermined length according to the print length, and then stop the pullout operation.

The cutters 40a and 40b cut the photosensitive material A pulled out of the magazines 20a and 20b based on a control signal supplied from the control portion 34 of the image recording apparatus 10. The cut sheet members cut into a predetermined length by the cutters 40a and 40b are conveyed to the back printing portion 22.

The back printing portion 22 serves to record on the non-recording surface (non-emulsion surface=back surface) a so-called back print consisting of various items of information including the photographing date of the picture, printing date, frame number, film ID number (code), the ID number of the camera used for photographing, the ID number of the photo printer. The back printing portion 22 has transporting roller pairs 42a, 42b, 42c, 42d, 42e, and 42f, and a back printing head 44 arranged between the transporting roller pairs 42d and 42e.

As a cut sheet member is transported upward by the rollers and roller pairs, a back print is recorded on the non-recording surface by the back printing head 44. As the back printing head 44, there is used a well-known printing head, such as an ink jet head, a dot impact printing head, or a thermal transfer printing head. The back printing head 44 is adapted to the Advanced Photo System and is capable of printing/recording characters in two or more lines.

The registration portion 24 curves the transporting path for the cut sheet members transported after having been cut into a predetermined length, from the vertical direction to the horizontal direction, and performs adjustment on the skewing or the position in the width direction of the cut sheet members such that the cut sheet members are arranged in a predetermined position in the width direction in the transporting path without being inclined with respect to the transporting path. The registration portion 24 has a registration roller pair 46, a transporting roller pair 48a, and transporting roller pairs capable of nip canceling (hereinafter also simply referred to as the nip roller pairs) 48b and 48c. The registration roller pair 46 is provided adjacent to the back printing portion 22. The nip roller pairs 48b and 48c transport the cut sheet members having been adjusted in skewing and width direction position so that the cut sheet members are protected against any impact and skewing or positional deviation does not occur. As a result, in exposure recording in the exposure portion 26, which is a post-process, it is possible to perform scan-exposure recording at a predetermined position on the cut sheet member. Regarding the adjustment of the cut sheet members in terms of skewing and position in the width direction performed in the registration portion 24, it is possible to adopt a well-known method; for example, it is possible to adopt the skew adjusting method and the width direction position adjusting method as disclosed in JP 60-153358 A and JP 11-349191 A.

As shown in FIG. 1, when passing through the registration portion 24, the cut sheet members are changed in transporting direction from the vertical transporting to the horizontal transporting along the transporting guides (not shown) between the registration roller pair 46 and the transporting roller pair 48a before being transported to the exposure portion 26.

The exposure portion 26 has an exposure unit 36 connected to the image forming apparatus 14, two sub scanning transporting roller pairs 50 and 54 (hereinafter also referred to as the sub scanning roller pairs) which are provided on the upstream and downstream sides in the transporting direction with respect to an exposure position r at which scan-exposure is effected on the cut sheet members by a light beam L emitted from the exposure unit 36, and which transport the cut sheet members at a predetermined speed to perform sub scanning thereon, and a position detecting sensor 52 provided between the exposure position r and the sub scanning roller pair 50 and adapted to detect passing of the cut sheet members. The position detecting sensor 52 is an optical sensor adapted to detect the presence of an object by shading and consisting of a pair of a light emitting element and a light receiving element. The light emitting element and the light receiving element are arranged in a direction perpendicular to the transporting path, with the light emitting element being arranged on the non-recording surface side of the photosensitive material P. Since the photosensitive material P is detected in this embodiment, a sensor using light at a wavelength causing no fogging such as a flashing infrared sensor is suitably used for the position detecting sensor 52.

The exposure unit 36 is a well-known light beam scanning device using a light beam such as a laser beam as the recording light, and has a light source emitting a light beam L corresponding to each of read (R) exposure, green (G) exposure, and blue (B) exposure of the cut sheet members, a modulating means such as an AOM (acoustic optical modulator) for modulating the light beam L emitted from the light source according to image data supplied from the image processing apparatus 14 and subjected to image processing, an optical deflector such as a polygon mirror for deflecting the modulated light beam L in a direction (main scanning direction) perpendicular to the transporting direction of the cut sheet members, an fθ (scanning) lens optical path adjusting mirror for imaging the light beam L deflected in the main scanning direction so as to have a predetermined beam diameter at a predetermined position in the exposure position r.

Further, it is also possible to adopt a digital exposure means using various light emitting arrays or spatial modulation element arrays, etc. extending in the main direction perpendicular to the transporting direction, such as a PDP (plasma display) array, ELP (electroluminescent display) array, LED (light emitting diode) array, LCD (liquid crystal display) array, DMD (digital micro mirror device (registered trademark)) array, and laser array.

The width of the light beam L for the main scanning effected at the exposure position r of the exposure unit 36 is set so as to be in conformity with the width of the cut sheet members.

The above operation of the exposure unit 36 is controlled by a control signal from the control portion 34.

While in the above-described example of the present invention image recording is effected by the exposure unit 36, this should not be construed restrictively; for example, it is also possible to adopt the ink jet recording system.

The light beam L constituting the recording light is deflected in the main scanning direction (the direction perpendicular to the plane of FIG. 1) and the cut sheet members are transported by the two sub scanning roller pairs 50 and 54, so that the cut sheet members are two-dimensionally scan-exposed by the light beam L modulated according to the image data, and a latent image is recorded.

Instead of the sub scanning roller pairs 50 and 54, it is also possible to adopt a scanning/transporting mechanism using an exposure drum transporting a cut sheet member while retaining it at the exposure position r and two nip rollers abutting the exposure drum with the exposure position r therebetween. There are no particular limitations regarding its construction as long as it is one which performs scan-recording in the main scanning direction perpendicular to the cut sheet transporting direction to thereby record images on cut sheet members being transported.

The sub scanning reception portion 28 is a portion equipped with two nip roller pairs 56 (56a, 56b) and 58 (58a, 58b) supporting the leading edge portions of cut sheet members transported during recording in the exposure portion 26 and protruding from the exposure portion 26, and two nip roller pairs 60 (60a, 60b) and 62 (62a, 62b) converting the transporting path for the cut sheet members received from the exposure portion 26 from the horizontal direction to the vertical and downward direction. The four nip roller pairs 56, 58, 60, and 62 respectively consist of driving rollers 56a, 58a, 60a, and 62a and nip rollers 56b, 58b, 60b, and 62b movable with respect to the driving rollers 56a, 58a, 60a, and 62a and capable of nip canceling. The transporting of cut sheet members by the nip roller pairs 56, 58, 60, and 62 is effected at the same speed as the transporting speed of the sub scanning roller pairs 50 and 54.

As described below, the nip rollers 56b and 58b are controlled such that, during exposure recording, they are spaced apart from the driving rollers 56a and 58a and do not nip the cut sheet member and that, when the exposure recording on the trailing edge portion of the cut sheet member is completed, they come into contact with the driving rollers 56a and 58a and transport the cut sheet member while nipping them. This is for the purpose of preventing generation of deviation in exposure position and unevenness in exposure in the cut sheet member due to generation of fine vibration as a result of starting of nipping when the nip rollers 56b and 58b abut the cut sheet member during exposure recording on the cut sheet member. Of course, the operation of the sub scanning reception portion 28 is controlled by a control signal supplied from the control portion 34. This will be described in more detail below.

The distributing portion 30 serves to distribute cut sheet members having been transported in a single row into, for example, two rows according to the widths, lengths, etc. of the cut sheet members without stopping them and to transport them in the main scanning direction (distributing direction). In this embodiment, a judgment as to whether or not distribution is to be effected is made according, for example, to the widths of the cut sheet members.

This distributing portion 30 corresponds to the sheet member transporting devices according to first and second aspects of the present invention. The distributing portion 30 and the sheet member transporting devices of the first and second aspects of the present invention will be described in detail below.

Between the distributing portion 30 and the delivery portion 32, there are provided position detecting sensors (detecting means) 64, 66, and 68.

The position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68 are fixed to a moving table (not shown) immediately on the downstream side in the transporting direction of the position where the nip roller pair 62 is arranged so that they may move with the movement of the moving table (not shown), and the leading edges of cut sheet members having passed between the nip roller pair 62 are detected immediately after the passage. This will be described in detail below. The position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68 used may be of a construction similar to that of the position detecting sensor 52.

Further, in the image recording apparatus 10, the distributing device 30 is provided in a corner portion in the transporting path so that the transporting direction may be changed from the horizontal direction to the downward direction (an anti-plane direction of the recording surfaces of the cut sheet members) during the distribution of the cut sheet members, whereby it is possible to endow the cut sheet members with curvature in an anti-plane direction of the recording surfaces of the cut sheet members, thereby lessening the rigidity of the cut sheet members to make it possible to perform distribution smoothly while suppressing occurrence of jamming.

The delivery portion 32 serves to transport the cut sheet members distributed into two rows by the distributing portion 30 independently for each row. For the sake of convenience, FIG. 1 shows the transporting paths F and R as arranged in parallel. Actually, however, the rollers in the transporting paths F and R are arranged with their axes aligned with each other as shown in FIG. 2. FIG. 2 is a schematic plan view of the transporting paths F and R of the delivery portion 32 as seen from the above.

As shown in FIG. 2, nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and a governor roller pair 74 are provided in the transporting path F, and nip roller pairs 71 and 73 and a governor roller pair 75 are provided in the transporting path R. Further, there are arranged delivery roller pairs 76 over the transporting paths F and R.

The nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 are controlled so as to transport cut sheet members independently of each other, each being composed of two rollers of 70a and 70b, 72a and 72b, 71a and 71b, and 73a and 73b. The nip roller pairs 70, 71, 72, and 73 respectively have nip rollers, for example, the rollers 70b, 71b, 72b, and 73b, which are freely movable with respect to the driving rollers and capable of nip canceling, for example, the rollers 70a, 71a, 72a, and 73a. On the downstream side in the transporting direction of the governor transporting roller pair (hereinafter simply referred to as the governor roller pair) 74, there are provided position detecting sensors 80a through 80c, making it possible to detect the position of a cut sheet member P in the transporting direction. The position detecting sensors 80a through 80c may also be of a construction similar to that of the sensor 52. The governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are respectively composed of rollers 74a and 74b and rollers 75a and 75b.

In the delivery portion 32, cut sheet members P distributed into two rows by the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 are transported separately and independently through the transporting paths F and R. When the leading edge positions of the cut sheet members P are detected by the position detecting sensors 80a through 80c, the transporting speed is reduced by the governor roller pairs 74 and 75. That is, in the image recording apparatus 10, the cut sheet members P are transported at a fixed speed, for example, of 100 mm/sec in the transporting path including the back printing portion 22, the registration portion 24, the exposure portion 26, the sub scanning reception portion 28, the distributing portion 30, and the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and nip roller pairs 71 and 73 in the delivery portion 32, and the transporting speed of the cut sheet members P is reduced from 100 mm/sec to 45.3 mm/sec by the governor roller pairs 74 and 75. In this process, immediately before the start of the speed reduction by the governor roller pairs 74 and 75, the nip roller pairs 70 through 73 are controlled such that the nip rollers are spaced apart from the driving rollers to effect nip canceling. This speed reduction is effected for the purpose of making the transporting speed in conformity with the processing speed in the development process in the processor 16 constituting the post-processing.

The cut sheet members P transported in parallel in two rows are discharged from the delivery outlet 11a by the transporting roller pair 76 and supplied to the processor 16 adjacent thereto.

Of course, the operation of the delivery portion 32 is controlled by a control signal supplied from the control portion 34.

The control portion 34 is connected to a plurality of sensors (not shown) including the above-mentioned position detecting sensors arranged in the image recording apparatus 10, and receives detection signals from these sensors to thereby generate control signals for controlling the operations and processing in the supply portion 20, the cutters 40a and 40b, the back printing portion 22, the registration portion 24, the exposure portion 26, the sub scanning reception portion 28, the distributing portion 30, and the delivery portion 32. The generated control signals are sent to these portions. For example, as described below, the control portion 34 receives detection signals sent from the exposure portion 26, the distributing portion 30, and the delivery portion 32, and controls a series of operations including exposure, distribution, transport and governing. In FIG. 1, the connection between the control portion 34 and the respective portions through wiring is omitted.

Incidentally, the delivery portion 32 and the control portion 34 controlling the delivery portion 32 correspond to the sheet member transporting device according to a third aspect of the present invention. The delivery portion 32, the control portion 34, and the sheet member transporting device according to the third aspect of the present invention will be described in detail below.

Next, with reference to FIGS. 3 through 11, the sheet member transporting devices according to the first and second aspects of the present invention will be described in detail.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the distributing portion 30 to which a first embodiment of the sheet member transporting device in each of the first and second aspects of the present invention is applied.

The distributing portion 30 has a moving member 108 for distributing cut sheet members, a driving portion (driving means) 120 for moving the moving member to the right and left, and a nip canceling mechanism (nip canceling means) 140.

In the distributing portion 30, the moving member 108 and the driving portion 120 are provided as separate components on a frame member 92 with side plates 92a and 92b having window portions 94a and 94b.

A support shaft 96 is fixed to the side plates 92a and 92b, and, further, fixed thereto is a guide shaft 104a that is passed through a slide bearing 106 provided in the nip canceling mechanism 140 described below.

As described below, the moving member 108 is equipped with a transporting roller pair 113. The transporting roller pair 113 has large diameter transporting rollers 114a and 114b and two sets of small diameter nip rollers 115a, 115b and 117a, 117b (see FIGS. 7 and 8) respectively abutting the large diameter transporting rollers 114a and 114b and adapted to distribute photosensitive materials by nipping therebetween and transporting them.

Further, the moving member 108 has a seamless pipe slide (hereinafter also referred to as the pipe slide) 130 which is a rotary moving mechanism for moving the transporting rollers 114a and 114b to the right and left in a rotating state, and the nip canceling mechanism 140 for controlling the nipping and releasing of the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b provided for the transporting rollers 114a and 114b.

The moving member 108 has a long casing 110 provided at a position matched with the window portions 94a and 94b of the side plates 92a and 92b, and the casing 110 is equipped with a pair of guide plates 110a and 10b having slits through which cut sheet members are passed.

Further, in the longitudinal direction thereof, the casing 110 is equipped with a support shaft 112 to which the transporting rollers 114a and 114b and a gear 116 are mounted. This support shaft 112 is parallel to the guide shaft 104.

Further, the driving portion 120 serves to move the moving member 108 in the main scanning direction (hereinafter also referred to as the distributing direction), and it does not move in the distributing direction together with the moving member 108. The driving portion 120 has a pair of pulleys 122 and an endless belt 124 wrapped around these pulleys 122. The pulleys 122 are connected to the casing through a rotation transmitting mechanism composed of a gear and a rotation shaft. Through the rotation of the pulleys 122, the moving member 108 moves in the distributing direction parallel to the guide shaft 104, that is, in the main scanning direction.

Further, a motor 150 is connected to the other pulley (not shown). By rotating the motor 150 in the normal or reverse direction, it is possible to move the moving member 108 in the main scanning direction. The motor 150 is also connected to the control portion 34, and its rotation is controlled by the control portion 34.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view schematically showing the arrangement and construction of the moving member in the sheet member transporting device shown in FIG. 3 which is applicable to the distributing portion of this embodiment. In FIG. 4, the components that are the same as those shown in FIG. 3 are indicated by the same reference numerals, and a detailed description of such components will be omitted.

As shown in FIG. 4, provided on a lower surface 110c of the casing 110 is the pipe slide 130 as described below. Due to the pipe slide 130, the casing 110 can protrude from the window portions 94a and 94b through distribution at the time of distribution. In the following, the construction of the pipe slide 130 will be described in detail with reference to FIG. 4.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view schematically showing the construction of the seamless pipe slide of the moving member in this embodiment shown in FIG. 4. As shown in FIG. 5, the pipe slide 130 is provided on flanges 111a and 111b erected on the lower surface 110c of the casing 110 of the moving member 108, for example through a pair of ball bearings 136.

The pipe slide 130 has a sleeve 132, at least one pair of slide bearings 134, and a rotation shaft 138.

The sleeve 132 has a cylindrical shape, and has on the outer peripheral surface thereof a pair of opposing elongated holes 132a extending in the longitudinal direction (axial direction). The sleeve 132 is provided on the flanges 111a and 111b, for example through a pair of ball bearings 136a. Further, the sleeve 132 is equipped, for example, with the pair of slide bearings 134 on the inner peripheral surfaces in both the end portions. Further, as described below, on the outer peripheral surface of the sleeve 132, there is provided a gear 160 (see FIG. 4).

While at least one pair of ball bearings 136 suffice, it is also possible to provide more than one pair of such ball bearings.

A rotation shaft 138 is formed in the slide bearings 134. The rotation shaft 138 is fixed to the side plates 92a and 92b, and rotation transmitting members 139 are provided at positions in alignment with the elongated holes 132a of the sleeve 132. The rotation transmitting members 139 include bearings 139a and shaft portions 139b provided at the centers of the bearings 139a. An end of each shaft portion 139b is threaded.

While at least one pair of slide bearings 134 suffices, it is also possible to provide more than one pair of them.

When the rotation shaft 138 moves relative to the sleeve 132, the rotation transmitting members 139 move longitudinally inside the elongated holes 132a and abut the ends of the elongated holes 132a to regulate the rotation shaft 138, thus serving as anti-detachment members. Further, when the support shaft rotates, the rotation transmitting members 139 press the elongated holes 132a to thereby transmit the rotation of the rotation shaft 138 to the sleeve 132. The sleeve 132 is supported by the ball bearings 136, so that the sleeve 132 also rotates, whereby the rotation of the rotation shaft 138 is transmitted to the sleeve 132.

Further, the rotation shaft 138 has at its end a gear 154, to which a motor 152 is connected. The motor 152 is also connected to the control portion 34, by means of which the rotation of the motor 152 is controlled, thereby controlling the rotation of the transporting rollers 114a and 114b.

FIG. 6 is a partly exploded perspective view showing how the seamless pipe slide 130 and the nip canceling mechanism 140 in the moving member 108 of this embodiment are arranged.

As shown in FIG. 6, a gear 160 is provided on the sleeve 132 of the pipe slide 130. The gear 160 is connected with a gear 116, whereby the rotation of the rotation shaft 138 is transmitted to the support shaft 112 through the gears 160 and 116, and the transporting roller pair 113 rotates.

Further, as shown in FIG. 6, in the second aspect of the present invention, the length G of the groove 132a of the sleeve 132 of the distributing portion 30 is at least two times as long as the distributing width S.

There is provided a guide member 156 extending in a direction parallel to the direction in which the guide shaft 104 (see FIG. 3) extends, that is, in the direction parallel to the moving direction of the moving member 108. The guide member 156 is a long slender plate member having a slope 156a at an end thereof. The slope 156a is in a position aligned with the position of the rotation transmitting member 139 when it has moved by a movement distance E from the longitudinal center position (hereinafter referred to as the center position) of the sleeve 132.

In the distributing portion 30, to cancel nipping, the moving member 108 is moved at least by the movement distance E from the center position toward the slope 156a. This movement distance E as measured from the center position is larger than the distributing width S, so that, at the time of distribution, the nipping by the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b is not canceled.

While this embodiment is configured to have a single slope 156a for canceling nipping, this should not be construed restrictively. It is also possible to provide two slopes at the ends of the guide member 156 so as to be larger than the distributing width S and as to be within the groove length G of the sleeve 132. In this case, it is possible to shorten the requisite time for nip canceling by moving the moving member 108 to the nearer slope according to the position of the moving member 108.

On the other hand, there is provided in the upper portion of the casing a nip canceling mechanism 140 for controlling the nipping and releasing of the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b provided for the transporting rollers 114a and 114b.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view schematically showing the construction of the nip canceling mechanism in the distributing portion of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, and FIG. 8 is a partial perspective view of the nip canceling mechanism (except large diameter transporting rollers) shown in FIG. 7.

The nip canceling mechanism 140 has a canceling member 142 and a fixing member 145 which rotatably supports the canceling member 142 and is fixed to the moving member 108. The canceling member 142 and the fixing member 145 constitute a support member of the present invention. The support member rotatably supports the small diameter nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a and 117b and pivotally supports these nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a and 117b so that they can be brought into contact with or moved away from the large diameter transporting rollers 114a and 114b.

The canceling member 142 includes a rectangular base member 142a, one end portion of which is bent into a hook-like shape, and a driven member 144 is provided on a bent portion 142b located at a tip end thereof.

Below the driven member 144, there is provided a guide member 156. This guide member 156 is a long slender plate member extending in a direction parallel to the direction in which the moving member 108 is moved, and a slope 156a is provided at an end thereof. The slope 156a is provided at a position spaced apart by a distance larger than the distributing width. The driven member 144 and the guide member 156 form a translation cam mechanism. In the nip canceling mechanism 140, nipping by the nip rollers is controlled by this translation cam mechanism. As described below, with a distributing width in ordinary distribution, no nip canceling is effected. While in this embodiment the driven member 144 is kept in contact with the guide member 156, this should not be construed restrictively; it is also possible for the driven member 144 to be brought into contact with the guide member 156 only at the time of nip canceling.

Further, below an upper portion 142c which is perpendicular to the base member 142a and which is formed by bending one end thereof into a hook-like shape, the canceling member 142 has support members 143a and 143b which extend from the long sides of the base member 142a so as to be opposed to each other on the side where the driven member 144 is provided. In these support members 143a and 143b, a pivot shaft 147 is provided pivotally with respect to the fixing member 145. The canceling member 142 is thus pivotally connected to the fixing member 145 through this pivot shaft 147.

Further, shaft support members 143c and 143d extend from the long sides of the base member 142a at the end opposite to the upper surface 142c toward the side opposite to the side where the driven member 144 is provided and are opposed to each other. The shaft support members 143c and 143d rotatably support the rotation shaft 119a of the nip rollers 115a and 117b and the rotation shaft 119b of the nip rollers 115b and 117a such that they extend in parallel in the longitudinal direction of the base member 142a.

The fixing member 145 includes a pair of L-shaped side surface members 145a and 145b and a rectangular connecting member 145c connecting one end of the side surface member 145a and one end of the side surface member 145b to each other. In the fixing member 145, the other ends of the side surface members 145a and 145b are free, and the length of the connecting member 145c is larger than the short side length of the base member 142a. The other ends of the fixing member 145 are connected to the canceling member 142 through the pivot shaft 147, whereby there is no fear of the canceling member 142 coming into contact with the fixing member 145. In other words, in the upper portions of the side surface members 145a and 145b, the fixing member 145 pivotally supports the pivot shaft 147 passing through the members 143a and 143b of the canceling member 142. In the present invention however, the pivot shaft 147 may be attached to the side surface members 145a and 145b in a fixed manner so that the members 143a and 143b of the canceling member 142 can be pivoted on the pivot shaft 147.

Further, a guide shaft 158 is passed through the side surface members 145a and 145b of the fixing member 145 so as to be parallel to the long side of the connecting member 145c. This guide shaft 158 is a shaft parallel to the support shaft 112, and is fixed to the side plates 92a and 92b. Between the side surface members 145a and 145b and the guide shaft 158, there are provided slide bearings (not shown).

In the nip canceling mechanism 140, the moving member 108 is moved in the distributing direction by a distance larger than the distributing width, and, when the driven member 144 climbs the slope 156a of the guide member 156, the canceling member 142 pivots on the pivot shaft 147 toward the guide shaft 158 side, and the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b are spaced apart from the transporting rollers 114a and 114b, whereby the cut sheet members being transported are transported as they are without being distributed.

In the following, the construction and operation of the nip canceling mechanism 140 of this embodiment and the second aspect of the present invention will be described.

FIG. 9A is a schematic side sectional view showing the state of the nip canceling mechanism when distribution is to be effected, and FIG. 9B is a schematic side sectional view showing the state of the nip canceling mechanism when no distribution is to be effected.

As shown in FIG. 9A, an elastic member 148 is provided between the back surface of the base member 142a of the canceling member 142 and a fixing wall 149 of the fixing member 145 (see FIG. 7). This elastic member 148 urges the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b toward the transporting rollers 114a and 114b, pressing the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b against the transporting rollers 114a and 114b. This elastic member 148 is for example a spring member.

When, in the distributing portion 30, cut sheet members P of a size requiring distributing are transported, the cut sheet members P are alternately distributed, for example, into two rows with the distributing width S from the center position in the distributing direction while the cut sheet members P are being transported, with the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b being pressed against the transporting rollers 114a and 114b. In this case, the transporting rollers 114a and 114b are on standby at the center position. When the cut sheet members P are transported, the moving member 108 is alternately moved in one and the other distributing directions by the distributing width S to thereby distribute the cut sheet members P into two rows.

On the other hand, when, in the distributing portion 30, cut sheet members PL of a size requiring no distribution are transported, the moving member 108 is moved by the driving portion 120 in one distributing direction by the movement distance E, causing the driven member 144 of the nip canceling member 140 to climb the slope 156a, whereby, as shown in FIG. 9B, the canceling member 142 is inclined using the pivot shaft 147, and the surface of the base member 142a of the canceling member 142 is brought from the position b shown in FIG. 9A to the position b1 shown in FIG. 9B. As a result, the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b are separated from the transporting rollers 114a and 114b, and the nipping by the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b is canceled. Thus, the cut sheet members PL are allowed to pass the distributing portion 30 as they are. Thus, even when exposure on the cut sheet members PL has not been completed yet, no impact or vibration is imparted to the cut sheet members PL, thus making it possible to prevent unevenness in exposure.

In this embodiment, the cut sheet members to be distributed have a length in the distributing direction (main scanning direction) of 152 mm or less and a length in the sub scanning direction of 254 mm or less, and no distribution is effected on cut sheet members exceeding this size.

Further, in this embodiment, it is also possible to mount a motor on the moving member, and to provide a rotary cam causing the nip roller pairs to be separated from the transporting roller through the rotation of this motor, thus canceling the nipping by the nip roller pairs by means of this rotary cam.

Furthermore, it is also possible to provide a solenoid, for example, on the canceling member, causing the nip roller pairs to be separated from the transporting rollers by means of this solenoid.

While in this embodiment a translation cam mechanism is used as the nip canceling mechanism 140, this should not be construed restrictively. Instead of using the guide member 156, it is also possible to form in a plate member a guide groove of a sectional configuration similar to that of the guide member 156. A driven member equipped with a bar-like guide member is inserted into that guide groove; when the canceling member 142 moves, the position of the guide bar is changed to thereby cancel the nipping.

Further, it is also possible to provide, at a position that is the same as the position where the slope 156a is provided, a wedge member to be inserted between the transporting rollers and the nip rollers, whereby the nip rollers are separated from the transporting rollers by moving the moving member by a predetermined distance. Thus, as in the case of the translation cam mechanism, it is possible to cancel the nipping.

Further, while in the above construction the guide member 156 is equipped with one slope 156a, this embodiment is not restricted to this arrangement. It is also possible to provide slopes at both ends of the guide member 156. In this case, since there is a slope at either end of the guide member, the guide member is moved to the nearer slope whenever nipping is to be canceled, whereby the requisite time for nip canceling can be shortened.

In this embodiment, the distributing portion 30 is provided at a position spaced apart from the exposure portion 26 by a distance larger than the maximum length in the transporting direction of the cut sheet members used. That is, the distributing portion 30 and the exposure portion 26 are spaced apart from each other by a distance larger than the maximum length in the transporting direction of the cut sheet members of a size requiring no distribution. Thus, the exposure is not affected even if the distribution is effected while nipping the cut sheet members by the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b.

When no distribution is to be effected, the moving member 108 is moved to the slope 156a side to separate the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b from the transporting rollers 114a and 114b to effect nip canceling, and then cut sheet members are allowed to pass as they are. In this embodiment, cut sheet members of a small size are distributed but cut sheet members of a large size are not distributed, so that even the length in the transporting direction of the maximum size cut sheet members to be distributed is smaller than the length in the transporting direction of the longest cut sheet members not to be distributed. Thus, it goes without saying that exposure is not affected even when no distribution is to be effected.

Further, while in the above described embodiment the distributing portion 30 distributes cut sheet members being transported in a single row into two rows, this should not be construed restrictively. For example, it is also possible to apply the present invention to a case in which cut sheet members being transported in a plurality of rows are distributed so as to be transported in a single row; thus, cut sheet members being transported in two rows may be distributed so as to be transported in a single row.

Further, it is also possible to provide a sensor immediately before the distributing portion 30. The size of the cut sheet members is known in advance at the time of cutting by the cutter. Thus, when the cut sheet members are of a size requiring distribution, distribution is effected with the moving member 108 being kept on standby at the center position. On the other hand, when the cut sheet members are of a size not requiring distribution, the moving member 108 may be moved to the position where nip canceling is effected by the nip canceling mechanism 140.

Next, with reference to FIGS. 1 through 9B, the operation of the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment will be described.

In the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the photosensitive material A is first pulled out by a predetermined length from the magazines 20a and 20b set in the supply portion 20 and is cut by the cutters 40a and 40b to thereby provide cut sheet members.

Back print recording is effected on the cut sheet members in the back printing portion 22. Thereafter, the cut sheet members are transported upward along the transporting path to the registration portion 24. In the registration portion 24, in order that the cut sheet members may be arranged at a predetermined position in the width direction of the transporting path without being inclined with respect to the transporting path, adjustment is effected on the cut sheet members in terms of skewing and the position in the main scanning direction. The transporting direction of the cut sheet members having passed through the registration portion 24 is changed from the upward direction to the horizontal direction before the cut sheet members are transported to the exposure position 20.

In the exposure position 20, when the leading edge of a cut sheet member passes between the light emitting element and the light receiving element of the position detecting sensor 52, a detection signal of the position detecting sensor 52 is sent to the control portion 34, and the light beam L of the exposure unit 36 comes on to start exposure recording.

The cut sheet members having been exposed are transported to the distributing portion 30 by the nip roller pairs 56, 58, 60, and 62 without receiving any impact.

In the distributing portion 30, the moving member 108, for example, is on standby at the center position, and the transporting rollers 114a and 114b are constantly rotating. When the size (width) of the cut sheet members being transported is one requiring distribution, the driving motor is rotated to effect distribution in either the transporting path F or the transporting path R. At this time, since the pipe slide 130 is used in this embodiment, it is possible to simultaneously perform the transport in the main scanning direction (which is perpendicular to the transporting direction) and the transport in the sub scanning direction (transporting direction). That is, it is possible to transport the cut sheet members in the transporting direction while distributing them. Further, since no driving means such as a motor is provided on the pipe slide 130, it is possible to achieve a reduction in mass and increase the moving speed of the moving member in the main scanning direction, and, furthermore, it is also possible to avoid a problem such as step-out.

Further, when cut sheet members of a size (width) requiring distribution are successively transported, they are transported while being alternately distributed to the transporting path F and the transporting path R. Since the transporting rollers 114a and 114b are constantly rotating, there is no need to stop the cut sheet members, and it is possible to restrain a reduction in the transporting speed, whereby it is also possible to achieve an improvement in terms of transporting efficiency. In this case, the slope is at a position spaced apart by a distance larger than the distributing width, so that there is no fear of the nipping being canceled. It is also possible to detect the end portions in the main scanning direction of the cut sheet members, move the moving member 108 by an amount according to the end portions and restore it to the home position.

In the delivery portion 32, the cut sheet members distributed to the transporting paths F and R by the distributing portion 30 are transported independently of each other.

For example, a cut sheet member P distributed to the transporting path F (see FIG. 2) is transported while being nipped by the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and is transported by the governor rollers 74; when the leading edge of the cut sheet member P is detected by the sensor 80a (see FIG. 2), the transporting speed of the governor roller pair 74 is reduced, for example, from 100 mm/sec to 45.3 mm/sec. In this way, adjustment to the transporting speed at the processor 16 is effected, and the cut sheet member P is transported to the transporting roller pair 76, and, further, transported to the processor 16 at a predetermined transporting speed.

Further, regarding the cut sheet member P transported to the transporting path R (see FIG. 2), it is also possible to effect transporting in the same manner as in the transporting path F.

When the size of the cut sheet members PL (see FIG. 2) is one not requiring distribution by the distributing portion 30, the moving member 108 is moved toward the slope 156a by the movement distance E (not less than the distributing width), and the driven member 144 is caused to climb the slope 156a to separate the nip rollers 115a, 115b, 117a, and 117b from the transporting rollers 114a and 114b to effect nip canceling, allowing the cut sheet members to pass as they are.

Next, their leading edges are detected by the sensors 64 through 68, and the skewing of the cut sheet members PL is measured. When there is skewing in the cut sheet members PL, the skewing is eliminated by adjusting the rotation speed, the degree of acceleration or deceleration, or the rotation start timing of the governor roller pairs 74 and 75.

For example, when the leading edge of a cut sheet member PL on the transporting path R side is upstream in the sub scanning direction from the leading edge of the sheet member PL, the skewing of the cut sheet member PL is eliminated by increasing the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 74 or lowering the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 75. In this case, the nipping by the nip roller pairs 70 and 71 is canceled.

Further, when the leading edge of the cut sheet member PL on the transporting path F side is upstream in the sub scanning direction from the leading edge of the sheet member PL, the skewing of the cut sheet member PL is eliminated by increasing the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 75 or lowering the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 74. In this case also, the nipping by the nip roller pairs 70 and 71 is canceled.

In this way, when, in the delivery portion 32, there is any skewing in the cut sheet members PL of a size not requiring distribution, it is possible to eliminate the skewing. Thus, even in the case of a cut sheet member PL of a size having little margin with respect to the processor, it is possible to transport it in the proper attitude.

As described above, in the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment, when distribution is effected, it is possible to perform transporting in the main scanning direction (distributing direction) while performing transporting in the transporting direction, so that it is possible to effect distribution without having to stop transporting. Accordingly, it is possible to increase the number of sheet members processed per unit time, thus providing a superior processing capacity. Further, in the distributing portion 30, no driving means such as a motor is provided on the moving member, so that it is possible to achieve a reduction in mass, making it possible to perform distributing at high speed without involving step-out. Further, the distributing portion 30 is supported by bearings both in the main scanning direction and in the rotating direction, so that it involves little frictional resistance and is superior in durability. That is, the moving member can move smoothly while maintaining durability.

Further, according to the second aspect of the present invention, when the size of the cut sheet members is one not requiring distribution, movement in the distributing direction is effected by the movement distance E (see FIG. 6), thereby making it possible to cancel the nipping by the nip rollers. In this way, in this embodiment, in the distributing operation, the movement distance of the moving member is adjusted, whereby it is possible to selectively control the nipping by the nip rollers on cut sheet members requiring distribution and cut sheet member requiring no distribution. Furthermore, in the distributing portion, there is no need to provide a driving means, such as a motor, or a solenoid or the like for nip canceling, nor is there any need to supply power. Thus, there is no need to provide an FPC or the like on the moving member, so that it is possible to achieve superior durability and reliability; further, since it allows simplification of the mechanism, it is also possible to achieve a reduction in cost.

Next, a sheet member transporting device according to the second embodiment of the present invention will be described.

FIG. 10 is a schematic perspective view showing a distributing portion to which the sheet member transporting device according to the second embodiment of the present invention is applied. FIG. 11 is a schematic perspective view of the distributing portion of this embodiment as seen from the sheet member discharge side. In FIG. 10, the slide mechanism shown in FIG. 11 is omitted. Further, the arrow a in FIG. 11 indicates the direction in which cut sheet members are carried in, and the arrow b indicates the direction in which they are discharged.

In this embodiment, the components that are the same as those of the first embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 8 are indicated by the same reference numerals, and a detailed description of such components will be omitted. Further, as in the first embodiment, the distributing portion of this embodiment is applied to an image recording apparatus. That is, a distributing portion 30a of this embodiment shown in FIGS. 10 and 11 can replace the distributing portion 30 of the first embodiment of the image recording apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

As shown in FIG. 10, the distributing portion 30a of this embodiment differs from the distributing portion 30 of the first embodiment in that the driving mechanism for the moving member 108 does not have the pipe slide 130 but a spline mechanism 170 and a slide mechanism 180; otherwise, it is of the same construction as the distributing portion 30 of the first embodiment, so that a detained description thereof will be omitted.

In the distributing portion 30a of this embodiment, the spline mechanism 170 has a spline shaft 172, a gear (rotation transmitting member) 174 slidably provided on the spline shaft 172, and a driving gear 176 provided at an end of the spline shaft 172.

The spline shaft 172 is fixed to the side plates 92a and 92b, and the spline shaft 172 has in the outer peripheral surface thereof a spline groove 172a extending in the axial direction.

The gear 174 has a fitting portion (not shown) to be fitted into the spline groove 172a of the spline shaft 172, and this fitting portion can move in the axial direction of the spline shaft 172. Transmitted to this gear 174 is the rotation of the spline shaft 172 by means of the fitting portion. Further, the gear 174 is engaged with a gear 118 rotating the support shaft 112 of the transporting rollers 114a and 114b. Further, the spline shaft 172 is equipped with a driving gear 176, which is meshed with a transmission gear (not shown). The spline shaft 172 is rotated by the transmission gear. Since the gear 174 is provided on the spline shaft 172, it follows the movement of the moving member 108 in the main scanning direction (distributing direction), making it possible to transmit rotation to the transporting rollers 114a and 114b while moving in the axial direction of the spline shaft 172.

Further, as shown in FIG. 11, the slide mechanism 180 is provided between the side plates 92a and 92b, and has a guide shaft 182 fixed to the side plates 92a and 92b and a guide member 184 provided so as to be movable in the longitudinal direction with respect to the guide shaft 182. The guide member 184 is connected to the moving member 108, and the guide member 184 moves on the guide member 182 with the movement of the moving member 108. Due to this slide mechanism 180, the movement of the moving member 108 in the main scanning direction is effected smoothly.

As the guide member 184, it is possible to use, for example, a slide bearing; in this embodiment, a pair of slide bearings are provided. However, the guide member 184 is not restricted to that of this embodiment; any type of member will serve the purpose as long as it is capable of reciprocating in the longitudinal direction while being guided by the guide shaft 182; further, there are no particular limitations regarding the size and number of such guide members as long as they allow connection to the moving member 108 and are capable of moving while supporting the moving member 108. For example, instead of the pair of guide members 184 shown, it is also possible to provide a single guide member having a large longitudinal size, or not less than a pair of, that is, not less than two guide members.

Further, it is not always necessary to provide this slide mechanism 180; it is not absolutely necessary if the spline shaft 172 has sufficient strength.

Also in the distributing portion 30a of this embodiment, no driving means, such as a motor, is provided on the moving member 108, so that it is possible to achieve a reduction in weight, whereby it is possible to obtain the same effect as that of the distributing portion 30 of the first embodiment.

Further, the operation of the distributing portion 30a is the same as that described above, so that a detailed description thereof will be omitted. In this embodiment also, the driving roller is constantly rotating, and, in this state, the moving member 108 is moved in the distributing direction (main scanning direction), thereby distributing cut sheet members into, for example, two rows. Further, when the cut sheet members are of a size requiring no distribution, the moving member is moved, that is, retracted, by the movement distance E to thereby effect nip canceling, allowing the cut sheet members to pass as they are. As in the above-described first embodiment, in this embodiment, the movement distance of the moving member is adjusted in the distributing operation, whereby it is possible to selectively control the nipping/releasing of the nip rollers for cut sheet members requiring distribution and cut sheet members requiring no distribution. That is, this embodiment is the same as the first embodiment also in its operation, providing the same effect as the first embodiment.

While in either of the above-described embodiments the sheet transporting device of the first and second aspects of the present invention is applied to a distributing device, this should not be construed restrictively. For example, the present invention is naturally also applicable to a sheet member transporting device of the type which transports cut sheet members by a transporting roller pair having a transporting roller and a nip roller, wherein canceling of the nipping by this nip roller is required.

Next, with reference to FIGS. 1, 2, and 12A through 16, a sheet member transporting device according to a third aspect of the present invention and a method of controlling a sheet member transporting device according to a fourth aspect thereof will be described in detail.

Here, a description will be made of a delivery portion of an image recording apparatus to which an embodiment of the sheet member transporting device of the third aspect of the present invention is applied, a control portion for controlling the same, and a photosensitive material processing device (processor) connected to the image recording apparatus.

First, the delivery portion 32 of this embodiment applicable to the image recording apparatus 10 shown in FIG. 1 will be described in detail.

As described above, the delivery portion 32 shown in FIG. 1 is adapted to independently transport cut sheet members distributed into two rows by the distributing portion 30.

Here, FIG. 12A is an enlarged schematic side view of the transporting path F shown in FIG. 1, and FIG. 12B is an enlarged schematic side view of the transporting path R shown in FIG. 1.

As shown in FIGS. 2, 12A, and 12B, provided in the transporting path F, starting from the upstream side in the transporting direction, are the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and the governor roller pair 74; similarly, provided in the transporting path R, starting from the upstream side in the transporting direction, are the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 and the governor roller pair 75. Further, in the vicinity of the outlets of the transporting paths F and R, there are provided the delivery roller pairs (adjustment transporting portions) 76 over the transporting paths F and R.

In the transporting path F and the transporting path R, the nip roller pairs 70 through 73 and the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are connected to the control portion 34. The rotation and the nipping/releasing of the nip roller pairs 70 through 73 and the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are controlled independently of each other, transporting cut sheet members independently.

Further, as shown in FIG. 12A, in the transporting path F of the delivery portion 32, the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 have driving rollers 70a and 72a and nip rollers 70b and 72b. The nip roller pairs 70 and 72 are equipped with an opening/closing means 78a for effecting nipping/releasing of the nip rollers 70b and 72b. The opening/closing means 78a serves to bring the nip rollers 70b and 72b into or out of contact with the driving rollers 70a and 72a. This opening/closing means 78a is driven by the control portion 34 based on a detection signal output to the control portion 34 from the position detecting sensor 80a described below.

On the upstream side of the nip roller pair 70, there is provided the position detecting sensor 64.

On the downstream side of the nip roller pair 72, there is provided the governor roller pair 74. The governor roller pair 74 serves to perform adjustment, such as increasing or reducing the sheet member transporting speed, and effects no nip canceling. In this embodiment, the governor roller pair 74 reduces the transporting speed.

On the downstream side of the governor roller pair 74, there is provided the delivery roller pair 76, and the position detecting sensor 80a is provided between the governor roller pair 74 and the delivery roller pair 76.

The position detecting sensor 80a serves to detect a cut sheet member, and is connected to the control portion 34. When a cut sheet member is detected by the position detecting sensor 80a, a detection signal is output to the control portion 34, and the nip roller 70b is separated from the driving roller 70a.

The delivery roller pair 76 serves to carry the cut sheet member having been adjusted in transporting speed, into the processor 16 at a predetermined delivery speed.

The transporting path R shown in FIG. 12B is of the same construction as the transporting path F shown in FIG. 12A, so that a detailed description thereof will be omitted. In the transporting path R shown in FIG. 12B, the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 correspond to the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 (see FIG. 12A), the governor roller pair 75 corresponds to the governor roller pair 74 (see FIG. 12A), the opening/closing means 78b corresponds to the opening/closing means 78a (see FIG. 12A), and the position detecting sensor 80c corresponds to the position detecting sensor 80a (see FIG. 12A).

As shown in FIG. 2, in the transporting paths F and R of the delivery portion 32, cut sheet members P distributed into two rows by the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 are transported independently of each other. As for cut sheet members PL whose width requires no distribution and which are thus transported in a single row, they are transported astride the transporting path F and the transporting path R.

As described above, in the delivery portion 32, when the leading edges of cut sheet members P are detected by the position detecting sensors 80a through 80c, the transporting speed of the cut sheet members P is reduced from 100 mm/sec to 45.3 mm/sec by the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 controlled by a control signal supplied from the control portion 34 in order to be in conformity with the processing speed of the post-processing or the development in the processor 16. In this process, immediately before the start of the speed reduction by the governor rollers 74 and 75, the nip roller pairs 70 through 73 are controlled such that the nip rollers are separated from the driving rollers to effect nip canceling.

The cut sheet members P transported in parallel in two rows are discharged from the delivery outlet 11a by the transporting roller pair 76, and are supplied to the processor 16 adjacent thereto. Also, the cut sheet members PL transported in a single row are discharged from the delivery outlet 11a by the transporting roller pair 76, and are supplied to the processor 16 adjacent thereto.

As stated above, the control portion 34 is connected to a plurality of sensors (not shown) including the position detecting sensors arranged in the image recording apparatus 10, and receives detection signals from these sensors, whereby it generates control signals for controlling the operations and processing of the various portions and the delivery portion 32 of the image recording apparatus 10, and sends the control signals to the various portions including the delivery portion 32. For example, as described below, it receives detection signals sent from the exposure portion 26, the distributing portion 30, and the delivery portion 32 to control a series of operations including exposure, distribution, transport, and governing.

On the downstream side of the delivery portion 32, there is provided the processor 16, and the exposed cut sheet members P are developed by the processor 16.

FIG. 13 is a sectional view schematically showing the construction of the processor in the image recording apparatus of this embodiment.

As shown in FIG. 13, the processor 16 has a developing portion 18 and a drying portion 19, and the cut sheet members P are developed and dried to obtain prints. As an example of this processor 16, an automatic developing device disclosed in JP 2002-55422 A may be mentioned. This automatic developing device has a photosensitive material in-liquid transporting construction capable of reliably preventing leakage between the processing vessels with a small number of components.

As shown in FIG. 13, in the developing portion 18, there are horizontally provided, starting from the upstream side in the transporting direction of the cut sheet members P, a developing vessel 200, a fixing/bleaching vessel 202, a first washing vessel 204, a second washing vessel 206, a third washing vessel 208, and a fourth washing vessel 210. The drying portion 19 is provided on the downstream side of the fourth washing vessel 210.

The developing vessel 200 stores a predetermined amount of developing liquid and the fixing/bleaching vessel 202 stores a predetermined amount of fixing/bleaching liquid.

Inside the developing vessel 200 and the fixing/bleaching vessel 202, there is provided a transporting device 212 consisting of a plurality of rollers transporting cut sheet members P substantially in a U-shaped route within the vessel.

Above the developing vessel 200, there are provided nip rollers 214 for transporting the cut sheet members P into the developing vessel 200 and nip rollers 216 for transporting the developed cut sheet members P to the fixing/bleaching vessel 202 side.

Further, above the fixing/bleaching vessel 202, there are provided nip rollers 218 for transporting the cut sheet members P transported from the developing vessel 200 side into the fixing/bleaching vessel 202 and nip rollers 220 for transporting the fixed cut sheet members P to the first washing vessel 204 side.

Further, each of the first washing vessel 204, the second washing vessel 206, the third washing vessel 208, and the fourth washing vessel 210 stores a predetermined amount of washing water.

Above the first washing vessel 204, there are provided nip rollers 222 for transporting the fixed cut sheet members P into the first washing vessel 204.

First, a partition wall 224a between the first washing vessel 204 and the second washing vessel 206, a partition wall 224b between the second washing vessel 206 and the third washing vessel 208, and a partition wall 224c between the third washing vessel 208 and the fourth washing vessel 210 are equipped with photosensitive material passage members 226a, 226b, and 226c allowing passage of the cut sheet members P and capable of preventing passage of liquid. The photosensitive material passage members 226a, 226b, and 226c have blades; after the passing of the cut sheet members P, passage of liquid is prevented by the blades.

Further, the first washing vessel 204, the second washing vessel 206, the third washing vessel 208, and the fourth washing vessel 210 are equipped with nip rollers 228a, 228b, and 228c serving as transporting means for transporting the cut sheet members P. The second washing vessel 206 and the third washing vessel 208 are equipped with guide plate pairs 230a and 230b.

Above the fourth washing vessel 210, there are provided nip rollers 232 for transporting the washed cut sheet members P to the drying portion 19.

Further, above the fourth washing vessel 210, there is arranged an end portion of a pipe 236 for supplying the fourth washing vessel 210 with fresh washing liquid stored in a replenishing tank 234. This pipe 236 is equipped with a pump 238 for supplying the washing liquid of the replenishing tank 234 to the fourth washing vessel 210.

Connected to the pump 238 is a pump driving device 240, by means of which the pump 238 is operated with a predetermined timing.

Further, the first washing vessel 204 is equipped with an overflow pipe 243 for discharging washing liquid exceeding a predetermined amount, and the overflowing washing liquid is stored in a storage vessel 244 through an overflow pipe 243.

In this processor 16, the cut sheet members P immersed in the developing liquid in the developing vessel 200 are then immersed in the fixing liquid in the fixing/bleaching vessel 202 before being transported to the first washing vessel 204. In this embodiment, the cut sheet members P are transported with the recording surfaces (emulsion surface) facing upward and the non-recording surfaces facing downward.

The cut sheet members P sent into the first washing vessel 204 are washed in the washing water stored in the first washing vessel 204.

The cut sheet members P washed in the first washing vessel 204 are transported toward the second washing vessel 206 by the nip rollers 228a, and passed through the photosensitive material passage member 226a before being carried into the second washing vessel 206.

Thereafter, the cut sheet members P pass through the photosensitive material passage members 226b and 226c in a similar fashion and are washed in the washing water in the second washing vessel 206, the third washing vessel 208, and the fourth washing vessel 210 before being transported to the drying portion 19 by the nip roller pair 232. In this drying portion 19, the cut sheet members P are dried.

In the processor 16 of this embodiment, the replenishment of the washing waster is effected by a so-called cascade system, and fresh washing water is supplied to the fourth, most downstream washing vessel 210 in the transporting direction of the cut sheet members P according to the processing amount of cut sheet members P.

Next, a description will be made of the operations of the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment and of the sheet member transporting device according to the third aspect of the present invention and the control method for the sheet member transporting device according to the fourth aspect of the present invention.

As described above, in the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment, processing similar to that in the first and second aspects of the present invention, described above, are conducted in the supply portion 20, the back printing portion 22, the registration portion 24, the exposure portion 20, and the distributing portion 30.

In the distributing portion 30, when the width of the cut sheet members to be transported is one requiring distribution, the driving motor is rotated and the cut sheet members are distributed in the transporting path F or the transporting path R.

Further, when cut sheet members of a width requiring distribution have been transported successively, the cut sheet members are transported while being alternately distributed to the transporting path F and the transporting path R.

The delivery portion 32 independently transports the cut sheet members distributed to the transporting paths F and R by the distributing portion 30, or transports in a single row the cut sheet members that have not been distributed by the distributing portion 30.

A case will be described in which, in the distributing portion 30, cut sheet members P of a width requiring distribution (see FIG. 2) are transported while being distributed.

FIGS. 14A through 14J are timing charts illustrating how the cut sheet members distributed into two rows are transported in the delivery portion 32; the horizontal axis indicates time. FIG. 14A is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 68, FIG. 14B is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 64, FIG. 14C is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 66, FIG. 14D is the timing chart of the opening/closing means 78a, FIG. 14E is the timing chart of the opening/closing means 78b, FIG. 14F is the timing chart of the governor motor 74, FIG. 14G is the timing chart of the governor motor 75, FIG. 14H is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80a, FIG. 14I is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80b, and FIG. 14J is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80c.

First, a cut sheet member P is transported to the distributing portion 30 (see FIG. 2), and, as shown in FIG. 14C, at time α1, the leading edge of the cut sheet member P is detected by the position detecting sensor 66 (see FIG. 2). Next, the cut sheet member is distributed to the transporting path R by the distributing portion 30, and, as shown in FIG. 14A, at time β, the leading edge of the cut sheet member P is detected by the position detecting sensor 68 (see FIG. 12B), and the leading edge is not detected by the other position detecting sensors 64 and 66.

The cut sheet member P passes through the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 (see FIG. 12B), and, further, passes through the governor roller pair 75 (see FIG. 12B). At this time, as shown in FIG. 14G, the governor roller pair 75 is rotating with a predetermined timing.

Next, the cut sheet member P passes through the governor roller pair 75, and, as shown in FIG. 14J, its leading edge is detected at time δ by the position detecting sensor 80c (see FIG. 12B), and a detection signal is output from the position detecting sensor 80c to the control portion 34, and, as shown in FIG. 14E, the opening/closing means 78a is driven for a predetermined period of time by the control portion 34, and the nip roller 71b of the nip roller pair 71 is separated from the driving roller 71a. At the same time, as shown in FIG. 14G, the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 75 is reduced to the transporting speed of the processor 16 with a time delay t from the time δ.

In this way, the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 75 is reduced and adjusted to the transporting speed in the processor 16, with the nipping of the trailing edge of the cut sheet member P canceled, and the cut sheet member P (see FIG. 12B) is transported to the transporting roller pair 76, and, further, to the processor 16.

Next, as shown in FIG. 14C, at time α2, the cut sheet member P is detected by the position detecting sensor 66 (see FIG. 2), and the cut sheet member P is distributed to the transporting path F, and as in the case of the transporting path R, transported to the processor 16 at an adjusted transporting speed. In this case, at time γ, the leading edge of the cut sheet member P is detected by the position detecting sensor 64 (see FIG. 12A), and the leading edge is not detected by the other position detecting sensors 66 and 68.

And, the cut sheet member P passes through the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 (see FIG. 12A), and further, passes through the governor roller pair 74 (see FIG. 12A). At this time, as shown in FIG. 14F, the governor roller pair 74 is previously rotating with a predetermined timing.

Next, the cut sheet member P passes through the governor roller pair 74, and, when, as shown in FIG. 14H, the leading edge thereof is detected by the position detecting sensor 80a at time ε (see FIG. 12A), a detection signal is output from the position detection sensor 80a to the control portion 34, and, as shown in FIG. 14D, the opening/closing means 78a is driven for a predetermined period of time by the control portion 34, and the nip roller 71b of the nip roller pair 71 is separated from the driving roller 71a. At the same time, as shown in FIG. 14F, the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 74 is delayed by time t, and is reduced to the transporting speed of the processor 16.

In this way, in the delivery portion 32, the cut sheet members P distributed are alternately distributed to the transporting path F and the transporting path R and transported to the processor 16, with their transporting speed adjusted. For example, the transporting speed that has been 100 mm/sec is reduced to 45.3 mm/sec. That is, the delivery portion 32 adjusts the transporting speed according to the transporting speed in the processor 16.

Next, a case will be described in which cut sheet members PL (see FIG. 2) of a width not requiring distribution at the distributing portion 30 are transported in a single row. It is to be assumed that the cut sheet members PL are free from skewing (see FIG. 2), with the cut sheet members PL being transported astride the transporting path F and the transporting path R. At this time, regarding the distributing portion 30, the nipping has been canceled as stated above, and the cut sheet members PL pass through the distributing portion 30 as they are. It is possible to detect the width of the cut sheet member PL from the number of position detecting sensors through which the cut sheet member PL passed among the sensors 64, 66 and 68.

FIGS. 15A through 15J are timing charts of cut sheet members transported in a single row in the delivery portion; the horizontal axis indicates time. FIG. 15A is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 68, FIG. 15B is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 64, FIG. 15C is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 66, FIG. 15D is the timing chart of the opening/closing means 78a, FIG. 15E is the timing chart of the opening/closing means 78b, FIG. 15F is the timing chart of the governor motor 74, FIG. 15G is the timing chart of the governor motor 75, FIG. 15H is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80a, FIG. 15I is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80b, and FIG. 15J is the timing chart of the position detecting sensor 80c.

First, as shown in FIGS. 15A through 15C, cut sheet members PL not distributed (see FIG. 2) are detected by the position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68 (see FIG. 2) at time a. In this case, detection is effected at the same time a by the position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68, so that it is possible to detect the width of the cut sheet members PL.

The cut sheet members PL pass through the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 (see FIG. 12A) and the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 (see FIG. 12B) of the transporting paths F and R, and, further, also pass through the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 (see FIGS. 12A and 12B). At this time, as shown in FIGS. 15F and 15G, the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are previously rotating so that transportation may be effected with a predetermined timing and at a predetermined transporting speed.

When the cut sheet members PL have passed through the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 and when, as shown in FIGS. 15H through 15J, the leading edges thereof are detected by the position detecting sensors 80a through 80c at time δ (see FIG. 2), detection signals are output from the position detecting sensors 80a through 80c to the control portion 34, and, as shown in FIGS. 15D and 15E, the opening/closing means 78a and 78b are driven for a predetermined period of time by the control portion 34, and the nip rollers 70b and 71b of the nip roller pairs 70 and 71 are separated from the driving rollers 70a and 71a. At the same time, when the leading edges are detected by the position detecting sensors 80a through 80c, the rotation speed of the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are, as shown in FIGS. 15F and 15G, reduced to the transporting speed of the processor 16 with a time delay of t.

In this way, the rotation speed of the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are reduced to the transporting speed in the processor 16, with the nipping of the trailing edge portions of the cut sheet members PL transported in a single row being canceled, and the cut sheet members PL are transported to the transporting roller pair 76 and, further, to the processor 16.

FIG. 16 is a schematic diagram showing how skewing in the delivery portion of this embodiment is eliminated.

Next, to be described will be a skewing eliminating method for a case in which the cut sheet members PL are transported in a single row in the delivery portion 32 and in which, as shown in FIG. 16, the cut sheet members PL are transported in a skewed state from the upstream side.

First, as shown in FIG. 15A, the position detecting sensor 68 detects a leading edge earlier than the position detecting sensor 66 by time f, and then, as shown in FIG. 15C, the position detecting sensor 66 detects a leading edge at time α; finally, as shown in FIG. 15B, the position detecting sensor 64 detects a leading edge later than the position detecting sensor 66 by time g. Due to this deviation in detection time among the position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68, skewing of the cut sheet members PL can be detected. In this case also, the leading edges are detected by the position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68, so that it is possible to detect the width of the cut sheet members PL.

The cut sheet members PL pass through the nip roller pairs 70 and 72 and the nip roller pairs 71 and 73 of the transporting paths F and R, and, further, also pass through the governor roller pairs 74 and 75. At this time, as shown in FIGS. 15F and 15G, the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 are previously rotating so that transportation may be effected with a predetermined timing and at a predetermined transporting speed. However, when the cut sheet members PL are in a skewed state, the timing at which the rotation of the governor roller pair 74 is speeded up is delayed by time h.

When the cut sheet members PL pass through the governor roller pairs 74 and 75 and the leading edges thereof are detected by the position detecting sensor 80c, detection signals are output from the position detecting sensor 80c to the control portion 34, and, as shown in FIG. 15E, the opening/closing means 78b is driven for a predetermined period of time by the control portion 34, and the nip roller 71b of the nip roller pair 71 is separated from the driving roller 71a. At the same time, the rotation speed of the governor roller 75 is, as shown in FIG. 15G, reduced.

As shown in FIG. 15I, the leading edge of a cut sheet member PL is detected by the position detecting sensor 80b later than the position detecting sensor 80a by time k and, further, as shown in FIG. 15H, the leading edge of a cut sheet member PL is detected by the position detecting sensor 80c later than the position detecting sensor 80a by time j. At this time, as shown in FIG. 15D, a detection signal is output from the position detecting sensor 80c to the control portion 34 with a time delay of j, and the opening/closing means 78a is driven for a predetermined period of time by the control portion 34, and the nip roller 70b of the nip roller pair 70 is separated from the driving roller 70a. At the same time, as shown in FIG. 15F, the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 74 is reduced by time h.

As a result, as shown in FIG. 16, the cut sheet member PL rotates in the direction θ, making it possible to eliminate skewing of the cut sheet member PL and to transport the cut sheet member PL to the transporting roller pair 76 in a state free from skewing. Further, it is also possible to transport the cut sheet member PL to the transporting roller pair 76 at a speed adjusted to the transporting speed in the processor 16 and, further, transport it to the processor 16 at a predetermined transporting speed.

While in the above-described method of this embodiment skewing adjustment is performed on the cut sheet member PL through speed reduction timing for the governor roller pairs 74 and 75, this should not be construed restrictively. Apart from this, it is also possible to eliminate skewing of the cut sheet member PL by adjusting the rotation speed or the degree of acceleration or deceleration of the governor roller pairs 74 and 75.

Further, when the leading edge of a cut sheet member PL on the transporting path F side is upstream in the transporting direction from the leading edge of a cut sheet member PL on the transporting path R side, the skewing of the cut sheet member PL is eliminated by increasing the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 75 or reducing the rotation speed of the governor roller pair 74. In this case also, the nip rollers 70b and 71b are spaced apart from the driving rollers 70a and 71a.

In this way, when, in the delivery portion 32, there is skewing in a cut sheet member PL of a width requiring transportation in a single row, it is possible to effect governing and eliminate the skewing. Thus, even in the case of a cut sheet member PL of a width with little margin with respect to the processor 16, it is possible to transport it to the processor 16 at proper speed and with proper attitude (orientation).

As stated above, in the delivery portion 32, even when there is no skewing in the delivery portion 32, depending on the positional relationship between the image recording apparatus 10 and the processor 16, there may be some skewing in the processor 16. In this case, the attitude of the cut sheet PL is adjusted by intentionally skewing the cut sheet member PL so that there may be no skewing with respect to the processor 16, and governing is effected.

The delivery portion 32 of this embodiment serves to eliminate skewing in cut sheet members generated due to differences between individual image recording apparatuses 10, such as differences in assembling precision, parts precision, cut sheet members, etc. Further, also in an image recording apparatus 10 using a plurality of kinds of cut sheet members, it is possible to adjust the transporting speed of the cut sheet members and eliminate skewing without being dependent on the kind of cut sheet member.

Further, in the delivery portion 32 of this embodiment, it is also possible to transport cut sheet members not distributed previously and to ascertain the degree of skewing of the cut sheet members by the position detecting sensors 64, 66 and 68. Due to this arrangement, when cut sheet members of a width not requiring distribution are transported, any skewing may be eliminated by controlling the governor roller pairs 74 and 75.

It is to be noted that, in JP 2001-194733 A, synchronized transportation is effected through hardware, it is impossible to eliminate skewing as in this embodiment. Thus, the device disclosed in the above publication is obviously unsuitable for an image recording apparatus 10 using a plurality of kinds of cut sheet members.

In the image recording apparatus 10 of this embodiment, cut sheet members distributed into a single row or two rows are transported at a speed adjusted to the transporting speed in the processor; regarding cut sheet members transported in a single row, skewing measurement is performed by position detecting sensors, thereby making it possible to eliminate skewing and adjust the transporting speed. Further, it is also possible to transport the cut sheet members, with their attitude (orientation in a direction perpendicular to the transporting direction) being adjusted according to the positional relationship between the processor 16 and the image recording apparatus 10.

Further, while in all of the above-described embodiments any skewing (inclination) of the sheet member is detected by a position detecting sensor to eliminate the skewing, this should not be construed restrictively. For example, by investigating skewing peculiar to the apparatus beforehand, it is possible to eliminate the skewing by controlling the governor roller pair according to the skewing. Thus, it is not always necessary to provide the position detecting sensor; for example, skewing can be eliminated by setting the transporting timing for the cut sheet members by the control portion.

As described in detail above, in the sheet member transporting device according to the first aspect of the present invention, while being transported in a transporting direction, the sheet members are moved in a direction perpendicular to the transporting direction, whereby it is possible to realize with high durability a system in which sheet members are transported in a single row or in a plurality of rows. Further, since no movement of a driving means such as a motor is involved, it is possible to achieve a reduction in mass, restrain step-out, etc., and achieve a reduction in cost.

Further, as described in detail above, in the sheet member transporting device according to the second aspect of the present invention, when, in a transporting roller pair for transporting sheet members while nipping them, it is necessary to cancel the nipping by the transporting roller pair, it is possible to realize a transporting roller pair canceling operation with high durability and at low cost.

In the sheet member transporting device according to the third aspect of the present invention, it is possible to adjust the transporting speed of photosensitive materials and, at the same time, rectify the attitude of the photosensitive material or intentionally skew the photosensitive material.

Further, in the sheet member transporting device controlling method according to the fourth aspect of the present invention, when sheet members are to be transported in a single row, the sheet member transporting speed in at least one of a plurality of transporting portions is increased or decreased on the basis of detection results regarding, for example, the width of the sheet members and their orientation in a direction perpendicular to the transporting direction, whereby it is possible to adjust the attitude of the sheet members and the transporting speed of the photosensitive material and to rectify the attitude of the photosensitive material or intentionally skew the photosensitive material.

The above detailed description of the embodiments of the sheet member transporting device of the present invention and the control method thereof should not be construed restrictively, and various improvements and modifications are naturally possible without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the sheet member transporting device of the present invention is applicable not only to an image recording apparatus but also to a printer adapted to perform exposure recording by using a light beam, an ink jet printer, etc.