Title:
Picker apparatus and method for defeathering poultry
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A picker apparatus for defeathering or plucking of poultry and other avian in a food processing facility includes a universal mount picker assembly including a belt drive system for driving a plurality of rotatable picker members with a drive motor disposed centrally in relation to the picker members, and a quick release positioning adjustment for the operating components of a picker apparatus.



Inventors:
Winkelmolen, Antoine J. H. (Shawnee, KS, US)
Criscione II, Frank J. (Gladstone, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/042416
Publication Date:
08/25/2005
Filing Date:
01/24/2005
Assignee:
Johnson Food Equipment, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
271/34
International Classes:
A22C21/02; B65H3/04; (IPC1-7): B65H3/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20080141685Method, Apparatus And Cooling Element For Cooling Carcass PartsJune, 2008Borup et al.
20050176356Method for processing a crustaceansAugust, 2005Gallant et al.
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20060234618Gambrel systemsOctober, 2006Koch et al.
20090053985MAGAZINE FOR STORAGE RODS FOR RECEIVING SAUSAGE-SHAPED PRODUCTS AND METHOD FOR SUPPLYING THE STORAGE RODS FOR LOADING WITH SAUSAGE-SHAPED PRODUCTSFebruary, 2009Topfer
20050227603IMPROVED SAUSAGE STUFFEROctober, 2005Stanuszek



Primary Examiner:
PRICE JR, RICHARD THOMAS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Spencer Fane LLP (Kansas City, MO, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus for defeathering or plucking of poultry and other avian in a food processing facility comprising: (a) a frame having a top cross member on each end for mounting adjustable carriers; (b) each cross member including releasable carrier stops and a lateral position adjuster for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops; (c) each carrier having a carrier support assembly and a latch assembly for engaging the carrier stops to hold the carriers in operating position; (d) each carrier further including at least one picker bank support bracket for mounting of picker banks including a plurality of rotatable picker disks for defeathering; and (e) at least one drive motor attached to each picker bank including a mounting location central to a plurality of picker disks.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the lateral position adjuster includes two threaded carrier stops slidably engaging the cross member and threadingly engaged with an adjustment screw attached to the upper side of the cross member, the adjustment screw having reverse threaded sections for adjustment of the carrier stops in opposing directions, and the carrier stops further including a latch stud capable of quick release engagement with the carriers.

3. The apparatus according to claim 2 wherein the carrier stops include guide members extending downward from the carrier stops and engaging the vertical faces of the cross member for maintaining stable engagement along the length of the cross member.

4. The apparatus according to claim 2 wherein the adjustment screw is rotatably connected to an angled gear housing, the gear housing including a quick release fitting connected to a gear shaft opposite the adjustment screw connection, the quick release fitting engaging a removable crank handle for rotating the adjustment screw for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops.

5. The apparatus according to claim 2 wherein the adjustment screw further includes an enlarged diameter end flange opposite the gear housing, and engaging the adjacent carrier stop to limit carrier stop travel preventing disengagement with the adjustment screw.

6. The apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the carriers include carrier support assemblies engaging the cross member for movement along the length of the cross member, the carrier support assemblies further including a latch plate movably attached to the outer face of the carrier support assemblies and defining a notch, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate to engage the carrier stop latch studs in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops for movement of the carriers apart, and wherein the notched latch plate is perforated at the other end for engagement with a manual release handle.

7. The apparatus according to claim 6 wherein the carrier support assemblies include a front carrier support plate and a rear carrier support plate attached to either face of a vertical column, and further including at least two connecting axles and rollers for slidably engaging the cross member, and the vertical column further including at least one picker bank support bracket attached to the vertical column near the mid-point.

8. The apparatus according to claim 7 wherein the carrier support assemblies include at least two connecting axles and rollers for slidably engaging the top of the cross member and at least two connecting axles and rollers for slidably engaging the bottom of the cross member, the rollers including larger diameter outer flanges.

9. The apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the picker banks include an elongated housing, two or more mounting studs attached to each end of the housing, a set of picker members disposed in lateral alignment within the housing for abrading the feathers from poultry and other avian placed within and carried through the apparatus, a drive system for operating the set of picker members, and at least one motor for powering the drive system.

10. The apparatus according to claim 7 wherein the picker bank support brackets include slots for slidably mounting eyelets engaging mounting studs on the picker bank assemblies.

11. The apparatus according to claim 9 in which the drive system further comprises the picker members being mounted on rotatable pulley members wherein each pulley member is rotatable in either direction, the belt member being adapted to engage the pulley members in serpentine relationship, whereby movement of the belt member along the pulley members effects opposite relational rotation between adjacent pulley members.

12. The apparatus according to claim 11 in which the pulley members have a toothed circumferential edge, the belt member having a double-sided toothed edge, the belt and the pulley members being adapted to engage in intermeshing relationship, whereby the belt is adapted to rotate the pulley members in forward and reverse direction.

13. The apparatus according to claim 11 in which a tensioner member is provided in the drive system for engaging the belt member with varying degree of force for adjusting slack in the belt member.

14. The apparatus according to claim 11 in which the apparatus is adapted to receive multiple sets of picker members placed in end-to-end alignment, each set of picker members being driven by a respective drive system having its respective motor disposed centrally in relation to the lateral alignment of picker members comprising the respective picker member set.

15. An apparatus for plucking feathers from poultry and other avian, the apparatus comprising: (a) a frame having a top cross member on each end for mounting adjustable carriers; (b) each cross member including releasable carrier stops and a lateral position adjuster for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops.

16. The apparatus according to claim 15 wherein the lateral position adjuster includes two threaded carrier stops slidably engaging the cross member and threadingly engaged with an adjustment screw attached to the upper side of the cross member, the adjustment screw having reverse threaded sections for adjustment of the carrier stops in opposing directions, and the carrier stops further including a latch stud capable of quick release engagement with the carriers.

17. The apparatus according to claim 16 wherein the carrier stops include guide members extending downward from the carrier stops and engaging the vertical faces of the cross member for maintaining stable engagement along the length of the cross member.

18. The apparatus according to claim 16 wherein the adjustment screw is rotatably connected to an angled gear housing, the gear housing including a quick release fitting connected to a gear shaft opposite the adjustment screw connection, the quick release fitting engaging a removable crank handle for rotating the adjustment screw for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops.

19. The apparatus according to claim 16 wherein the adjustment screw further includes an enlarged diameter end flange opposite the gear housing, and engaging the adjacent carrier stop to limit carrier stop travel preventing disengagement with the adjustment screw.

20. An apparatus for plucking feathers from poultry and other avian, the apparatus comprising: (a) a frame having a top cross member including releasable carrier stops on each end for mounting adjustable carriers; (b) each carrier having a carrier support assembly and a latch assembly for engaging the carrier stops to hold the carriers in operating position; and (c) each carrier further including at least one picker bank support bracket for mounting of picker banks for defeathering.

21. The apparatus according to claim 20 wherein the carriers include carrier support assemblies capable of engaging the cross member for movement along the length of the cross member, the carrier support assemblies being attached to the upper end of a vertical column, and the vertical column further having at least one picker bank support bracket attached to the vertical column near the mid-point and extending below the mid point of the length of the vertical column.

22. The apparatus according to claim 21 wherein the carrier support assemblies further include a latch plate movably attached to the outer face of the carrier support assemblies and defining a notch at one end, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate to engage latch studs on the carrier stops in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops for movement of the carriers apart.

23. The apparatus according to claim 21 wherein the carrier support assembly includes at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the top surface of the cross member, the rollers including larger diameter outer flanges for stable engagement of the cross member.

24. The apparatus according to claim 23 wherein the carrier support assembly includes at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the top surface of the cross member, and at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the lower surface of the cross member, the rollers including larger diameter outer flanges.

25. The apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the notched latch plate is perforated at the end opposite the notch for engagement with a manual release handle, the latch plate containing two further perforations between the notch and the release perforation, for attachment of the latch plate to the carrier support assembly in a manner to allow the latch plate to move up and down within a confined distance in response to movement of the manual release handle.

26. An apparatus for plucking feathers from poultry and other avian, the apparatus comprising: (a) an elongated housing, (b) a set of picker members disposed in lateral alignment within the housing for abrading the feathers from poultry and other avian placed within and carried through the apparatus, (c) a drive system for operating the set of picker members, and (d) a motor for powering the drive system; (e) the drive system comprising a belt member adapted to engage each of the picker members in the set, the belt member being operably driven by the motor, the motor being disposed on the housing at a position centrally located in relation to the lateral alignment of the set of picker members, such configuration adapting the housing for uniform orientation placement within the apparatus.

27. The apparatus according to claim 26 in which the drive system further comprises the picker members being mounted on rotatable pulley members, the belt member being adapted to engage the pulley members in serpentine relationship, whereby movement of the belt member along the pulley members effects opposite relational rotation between adjacent pulley members.

28. The apparatus according to claim 27 in which each the pulley member is rotatable in either direction.

29. The apparatus according to claim 27 in which the pulley members have a toothed circumferential edge, the belt member having a double-sided toothed edge, the belt and the pulley members being adapted to engage in intermeshing relationship.

30. The apparatus according to claim 28 in which the pulley members have a toothed circumferential edge, the belt member having a double-sided toothed edge, the belt and the pulleys being adapted to engage in intermeshing relationship, whereby the belt is adapted to rotate the pulley members in forward and reverse direction.

31. The apparatus according to claim 27 in which a tensioner member is provided in the drive system for engaging the belt member with varying degree of force for adjusting slack in the belt member.

32. The apparatus according to claim 26 in which the apparatus is adapted to receive multiple sets of picker members placed in end-to-end alignment, each set of picker members being driven by a respective drive system having its respective motor disposed centrally in relation to the lateral alignment of picker members comprising the respective picker member set.

33. A method of defeathering avian carcasses in a food processing facility comprising conveying the avian carcasses through an apparatus having a frame with a top cross member on each end for slidably mounting laterally adjustable carriers; each cross member having releasable carrier stops and a lateral position adjuster for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops; each carrier having a carrier support assembly and a latch assembly for engaging the carrier stops to fix the carriers in operating position; each carrier further having at least one picker bank support bracket for mounting of picker banks having a plurality of rotatable picker disks for defeathering; and at least one drive motor attached to each picker bank having a mounting location central to a plurality of picker disks.

34. The method according to claim 33 wherein the operating position of the carrier stops is adjusted with an adjustment screw attached to the upper side of the cross member and threadingly engaging the carrier stops, the adjustment screw having reverse threaded sections for adjustment of the carrier stops in opposing directions, and the carrier stops further including a latch stud capable of quick release engagement with the carriers, the carrier stops further including guide members extending downward from the carrier stops and engaging the vertical faces of the cross member for maintaining stable engagement along the length of the cross member.

35. The method according to claim 34 wherein the operating position of the carrier stops for defeathering is adjusted with the adjustment screw rotatably connected to an angled gear housing, the gear housing including a quick release fitting connected to a gear shaft opposite the adjustment screw connection, the quick release fitting engaging a removable crank handle for rotating the adjustment screw to move the carrier stops together or apart.

36. The method according to claim 33 wherein the carriers are moved to operating position engaging the carrier stops, the carriers including carrier support assemblies engaging the cross member for movement along the length of the cross member, the carrier support assemblies further including a latch plate movably attached to the outer face of the carrier support assemblies and defining a notch, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate to engage the carrier stop latch studs in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops for movement of the carriers apart, and wherein the notched latch plate is perforated at the other end for engagement with a manual release handle.

37. The method according to claim 36 the carriers are slidably moved into position with carrier support assemblies engaging the cross member for movement along the length of the cross member, the carrier support assemblies further including a latch plate movably attached to the outer face of the carrier support assemblies and defining a notch, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate to engage the carrier stop latch studs in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops for movement of the carriers apart, and wherein the notched latch plate is perforated at the other end for engagement with a manual release handle, and wherein the carrier support assemblies include a front carrier support plate and a rear carrier support plate attached to either face of a vertical column, and further including at least two connecting axles and rollers for slidably engaging the cross member, and the vertical column further including at least one picker bank support bracket attached to the vertical column near the mid-point.

38. The method according to claim 36 wherein the carriers are moved into operating position for defeathering, and the manual release handle is operated to engage the latch plate notches to the carrier stops latch studs.

39. The method according to claim 33 wherein defeathering is accomplished by conveying the avian carcasses between picker banks comprising an elongated housing, two or more mounting studs attached to each end of the housing, a set of picker members disposed in lateral alignment within the housing for abrading the feathers from poultry and other avian placed within and carried through the apparatus, a drive system for operating the set of picker members, and at least one motor for powering the drive system.

40. The method according to claim 39 wherein avian carcasses are defeathered by picker members mounted on rotatable pulley members wherein each pulley member is rotatable in either direction, the belt member being adapted to engage the pulley members in serpentine relationship, whereby movement of the belt member along the pulley members effects opposite relational rotation between adjacent pulley members.

41. The method according to claim 40 wherein the drive motor drives pulley members have a toothed circumferential edge, with a belt member having a double-sided toothed edge, the belt and the pulley members being adapted to engage in intermeshing relationship, whereby the belt is adapted to rotate the pulley members in forward and reverse direction, and a tensioner member is provided in the drive system for engaging the belt member with varying degree of force for adjusting slack in the belt member.

42. The method according to claim 40 wherein the defeathering is accomplished by multiple sets of picker members placed in end-to-end alignment, each set of picker members being driven by a respective drive system having its respective motor disposed centrally in relation to the lateral alignment of picker members comprising the respective picker member set.

43. The method according to claim 36 wherein the carriers are moved to inoperative position after defeathering, by operating the manual release handle to disengage the latch plate notches from the carrier stops latch studs, and manually sliding the carriers away from the operating position for cleaning and maintenance.

44. A method of defeathering avian carcasses in a food processing facility comprising conveying the avian carcasses through an apparatus including a frame having a top cross member on each end for mounting adjustable carriers, each cross member including releasable carrier stops and a lateral position adjuster for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops.

45. A method according to claim 44 where the operating position of the apparatus is adjusted with two threaded carrier stops slidably engaging the cross member and threadingly engaged with an adjustment screw attached to the upper side of the cross member, the adjustment screw having reverse threaded sections for adjustment of the carrier stops in opposing directions, the carrier stops include guide members extending downward from the carrier stops and engaging the vertical faces of the cross member for maintaining stable engagement along the length of the cross member, and the carrier stops further including a latch stud capable of quick release engagement with the carriers.

46. A method according to claim 44 wherein the operating position is adjusted with an adjustment screw rotatably connected to an angled gear housing, the gear housing including a quick release fitting connected to a gear shaft opposite the adjustment screw connection, the quick release fitting engaging a removable crank handle for rotating the adjustment screw for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops.

47. A method according to claim 46 wherein the adjustment screw is rotated by rotating the removable crank handle in the desired direction for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops, following which the crank handle is removed to prevent further movement of the carrier stops during operation.

48. A method of defeathering avian carcasses in a food processing facility comprising conveying the avian carcasses through an apparatus including a frame having a top cross member including releasable carrier stops on each end for mounting adjustable carriers, each carrier having a carrier support assembly and a latch assembly for engaging the carrier stops to hold the carriers in operating position, and each carrier further including at least one picker bank support bracket for mounting of picker banks for defeathering.

49. The method according to claim 48 wherein the carriers include carrier support assemblies capable of engaging the cross member for lateral movement along the length of the cross member, the carrier support assemblies being attached to the upper end of a vertical column, and the vertical column further having at least one picker bank support bracket attached to the vertical column near the mid-point and extending below the mid point of the length of the vertical column.

50. The method according to claim 49 wherein the carrier support assemblies further include a latch plate movably attached to the outer face of the carrier support assemblies and defining a notch at one end, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate to engage latch studs on the carrier stops in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops for movement of the carriers apart.

51. The method according to claim 49 wherein the carrier support assembly includes at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the top surface of the cross member, the rollers including larger diameter outer flanges for stable engagement of the cross member.

52. The method according to claim 51 wherein the carrier support assembly includes at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the top surface of the cross member, and at least two connecting axles and rollers for engaging the lower surface of the cross member.

53. The method according to claim 50 wherein the notched latch plate of the apparatus is perforated at the end opposite the notch for engagement with a manual release handle, the latch plate containing two further perforations between the notch and the release perforation, for attachment of the latch plate to the carrier support assembly in a manner to allow the latch plate to move up and down within a confined distance in response to movement of the manual release handle.

54. The method according to claim 53 wherein the carriers are moved into operating position for defeathering, and the manual release handle is operated to engage the latch plate notches to the carrier stops latch studs.

55. The method according to claim 53 wherein the carriers are moved to inoperative position after defeathering, by operating the manual release handle to disengage the latch plate notches from the carrier stops latch studs, and manually sliding the carriers away from the operating position for cleaning and maintenance.

56. A method of defeathering avian carcasses in a food processing facility comprising conveying the avian carcasses through an apparatus comprising picker banks including an elongated housing, a set of picker members disposed in lateral alignment within the housing for abrading the feathers from poultry and other avian placed within and carried through the apparatus, a drive system for operating the set of picker members, and at least one motor for powering the drive system.

57. The method according to claim 56 wherein the drive system of the apparatus further comprises the picker members being mounted on rotatable pulley members wherein each pulley member is rotatable in either direction, the belt member being adapted to engage the pulley members in serpentine relationship, whereby movement of the belt member along the pulley members effects opposite relational rotation between adjacent pulley members.

58. The method according to claim 57 in which the pulley members of the apparatus have a toothed circumferential edge, the belt member having a double-sided toothed edge, the belt and the pulley members being adapted to engage in intermeshing relationship, whereby the belt is adapted to rotate the pulley members in forward and reverse direction.

59. The method according to claim 57 in which the apparatus includes a tensioner member in the drive system for engaging the belt member with varying degree of force for adjusting slack in the belt member during operation.

60. The method according to claim 57 in which defeathering is accomplished by multiple sets of picker members, the sets of picker members placed in end-to-end alignment, each set of picker members being driven by a respective drive system having its respective motor disposed centrally in relation to the lateral alignment of picker members comprising the respective picker member set.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority based on Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/539,294, filed Jan. 26, 2004.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

None.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a picker apparatus for defeathering or plucking of poultry and other avian in a food processing facility. More particularly, one aspect of the present invention is concerned with an improved belt drive system for driving a plurality of rotatable devices, and another aspect of the present invention is concerned with a quick release positioning adjustment for the operating components of a picker apparatus.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In typical poultry/avian processing facilities, birds are shackled to an overhead conveyor that sequentially passes the carcasses from equipment that stuns, kills, and scalds the birds, to plucking equipment that removes the feathers, and then to other equipment for evisceration and further processing. Generally, picker machines use rubber fingers mounted on rows or banks of contra-rotating discs or drums to rub the feathers off of the birds. Often opposing banks of discs and/or multiple banks of discs having a variety of orientations are utilized to make contact with, and thus pluck feathers from, all sides of the carcass.

In many picker machines in which opposing banks of discs are employed, the disc banks are mounted to a frame with a carrier that allows for horizontal adjustment of the opposing banks with respect to each other. Such horizontal adjustment is necessary to allow the opposing banks to be moved apart from each other for routine cleaning and maintenance. The horizontal adjustment of the picker banks is usually controlled by a crank screw that is connected to each of the bank carriers. Adjustment with the crank screw is slow, as hand cranks are usually utilized due to the corrosive nature of food processing facilities, which greatly reduces the life of electric motors. More importantly, each time the carriers are adjusted from an operating position to a cleaning position, it is difficult to readjust the carriers back to the exact same operating position.

The drive mechanism for existing picker machines includes a drive motor located at one end of the bank of picker discs. Each picker disc is connected to a drive pulley, and a flat belt is connected to the drive motor and intertwined with drive pulleys such that alternating discs are rotated by the drive belt in opposite directions. Such is accomplished by winding the belt around the top of one pulley, around the bottom of the next pulley, around the top of the next, and so forth. Motor inefficiency and wear are extremely high for such drive systems because the motor, being located at either end of the bank of pickers, must pull all pulleys from a single point. Similarly, the forces exerted on the pulley located furthest away from the drive motor in a disc bank are extremely high. In addition, substantial belt tension is required to prevent the belt from slipping on the pulleys, making replacement of the belt and/or the motor difficult and increasing the wear on all components in the system. Another disadvantage resulting from the location of the motor at either end of the banks of picker discs is that such requires two variations for each picker bank, one having the motor at one end, and another having the motor at the opposite end, depending upon the installation location of the picker banks. For example, a particular installation might require that all motors be located toward the front of the picker machine. Thus picker banks located on the left side of the machine (with the picker discs facing inward) would require the motor to be located to the right side of the bank, and the bank on the right side of the machine would require that the motor be located on the left side of the bank.

Accordingly, it is desirable to provide a method and apparatus that permits fast, easy adjustment of picker banks while at the same time maintaining a desired operating position for the picker banks, and a drive system for a picker machine that has higher efficiency, decreased wear, and which is universal for various installation locations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

There is, therefore, provided in the practice of the invention an apparatus and method for defeathering or plucking of poultry in a food processing facility, including an apparatus that permits fast, easy adjustment of picker banks while at the same time maintaining a desired operating position for the picker banks, and further including a drive system for a picker machine that has higher efficiency, decreased wear and which is universal for various installation locations.

The objects of the invention are accomplished through the use of a picker machine that includes a frame having a cross member for mounting horizontally adjustable carriers. The carriers are slidably mounted to the frame cross member. Picker banks are attached to the carriers for horizontal adjustment with the carriers. The carriers each include a releasable connection to a carrier stop. The carrier stops are threadingly engaged with a crank screw in the same manner in which the carriers of the prior art are engaged with the crank screw.

In operation, the carriers are connected to the carrier stops and the crank screw is rotated to provide fine-tuning adjust of the carriers. In a preferred embodiment, the crank screw will have reverse threads on each side of the screw (i.e. one side left-handed threads, the other right-handed), such that one carrier stop is engaged with each side and rotation of the screw will result in the two stops either moving together or apart depending upon the direction of rotation. Once the desired adjustment is achieved for the operating position, no further rotation of the crank screw is required. When necessary to adjust the carriers apart for cleaning or maintenance, the connection between the carriers and the carrier stops is released and the carriers are slid apart from each other. When cleaning or maintenance is completed, the carriers are slid back together and reconnected to the carrier stops. In this fashion, the carriers can be quickly and easily returned to their original operating position.

The drive system of the invention includes a drive motor centrally located within the bank of picker discs. The motor is connected to the pulleys of the picker discs with a ribbed drive belt. In a preferred embodiment each picker bank has two drive motors which are located in the middle of a plurality of disks. A spring loaded tensioner is provided in a preferred embodiment to permit easy removal and replacement of the drive belt.

In operation the ribbed belt allows the drive motor to both pull and also push the pulleys of the picker discs. This results in decreased wear on the motor versus the prior art systems in which the motor is only pulling the pulleys. In addition, the use of the ribbed belt reduces the amount of belt tension necessary for the machine. Thus, easy removal and replacement of the belts with the spring loaded tensioner is possible. The location of the motor within the bank of pickers, versus at one end of the bank, reduces the forces on pulleys located away from the motor. Furthermore, the central location of the motor allows a single bank design to be universal regardless of the bank's installation orientation (i.e. right or left side of the machine).

The foregoing and other objects are intended to be illustrative of the invention and are not meant in a limiting sense. Many possible embodiments of the invention may be made and will be readily evident upon a study of the following specification and accompanying drawings comprising a part thereof. Various features and subcombinations of invention may be employed without reference to other features and subcombinations. Other objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein is set forth by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further features of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which the present invention relates from reading the following description with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a left side perspective view of the picker machine of the invention with the carriers connected to the carrier stops and the picker banks in an operational position;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the first end frame of the machine shown in FIG. 1, showing the frame end assembly and the carrier assemblies;

FIG. 2A is an enlarged fragmentary view of first end frame shown in FIG. 2, showing the carrier support assemblies, the carrier stops and the lateral position adjuster;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the first end frame shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4A shows an enlarged fragmentary view of the right carrier support assembly and latch plate of the carrier assembly shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4B shows an exploded enlarged fragmentary view of the right carrier support assembly and latch plate of the carrier assembly shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 4C shows an exploded enlarged fragmentary view of the lateral position adjuster shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5A is a front elevational view of the picker bank support bracket of the carrier assembly shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5B shows an exploded perspective front elevational view of the picker bank support bracket of the carrier assembly shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of the first end frame of the machine shown in FIG. 1, with the carrier assemblies in an operational position;

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of the first end frame of the machine shown in FIG. 1, with the carrier stop latches in a released position;

FIG. 8 is a front elevational view of the first end frame of the machine shown in FIG. 1, with the left carrier assembly in operational position and the right carrier assembly in a non-operational position;

FIG. 9 is a front elevational view of the first end frame of the machine shown in FIG. 1, with both carrier assemblies in a non-operational position;

FIG. 10A is a top perspective view of a picker bank assembly of the machine shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 10B is a view of the inner face of the picker bank assembly shown in FIG. 10A, with the picker disks removed;

FIG. 10C is an end view of the picker bank assembly shown in FIG. 10A;

FIG. 11 is a front view of a picker bank assembly of the machine shown in FIG. 1, with motors installed and cover removed to show details of the drive belt arrangement.

FIG. 12 is a partially exploded view of the picker bank assembly of FIG. 11, showing details of the motor mount, drive belt, belt tensioner and pulley assemblies.

FIG. 13 shows enlarged and exploded enlarged views of the belt tensioner shown in FIG. 12.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention will now be described with reference to the drawing figures, in which like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout. For purposes of clarity in illustrating the characteristics of the present invention, proportional relationships of the elements have not been maintained in the Figures. Instead, the sizes of certain small components have been exaggerated for illustration.

The picker apparatus of the invention, as shown in FIG. 1, includes a frame 100 which supports multiple carrier assemblies 200. The carrier assemblies in turn hold the picker bank assemblies 300. The frame holds the carriers and picker banks in line with a conveyor (not shown), so that avian carcasses are passed between the picker bank assemblies 300 to be defeathered. The carrier assemblies 200 allow the picker bank assemblies 300 to be moved between their operational position and their inoperative and spread apart maintenance position.

The frame 100 has a plurality of side members 101 and 102, cross members 103, and corner members 104, with sufficient strength and stiffness to support the operational components of the apparatus. The frame members 101, 102, 103, and 104 may be joined together with any type of suitable fasteners or in any other manner known to those skilled in the art. While the drawing figures show frame members 101, 102, and 103 in horizontal arrangement, and corner members 104 in vertical arrangement, the invention contemplates frame members in other arrangements; for example, frame members 101 and 102 defining an “X” in joining two corner members 104, and/or corner members arranged at an angle where the lower ends of pairs of corner members 104 are farther apart than the respective upper ends, and/or the cross members 103 defining an angle, the vertex of which may be either above or below the horizontal. The apparatus further includes a plurality of carrier assemblies 200 slidably mounted on the cross members 103, and a plurality of picker bank assemblies 300 supported by the carrier assemblies 200, the details of which are further described below.

An embodiment of the invention includes at least four corner frame members 104 arranged in a rectangular pattern, wherein pairs of corner frame members 104 that define each side of the length of the apparatus are connected by at least two side frame members 101, and at least two side frame members 102, and further including at least one cross member 103 attached to the top of each pair of corner frame members 104 defining the ends of the apparatus. The apparatus further includes a conveyor rail 105 attached to the underside center point of each of the cross members 103 and running the length of the apparatus for conveying avian carcasses through the apparatus for defeathering. The apparatus further includes at least four carrier assemblies 200 slidably mounted in opposing pairs on the cross members 103, and at least two picker bank assemblies 300 on each side of the apparatus (FIG. 1), the picker bank assemblies 300 being supported at each end by the carrier assemblies 200, the details of which are described below. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, four picker bank assemblies 300 are mounted in pairs, one in upper position and one in lower position, on each side of the apparatus.

The carrier assemblies 200 of the invention, as shown in FIG. 2, FIG. 2A, and FIG. 3, include vertical columns 201; carrier support assemblies 202 for slidably engaging the cross member 103; releasable adjustable carrier stops 203 and a lateral position adjustment assembly 204 for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops 203; a moveable latch plate 205 for engaging the carrier stops 203 to fix the carrier assemblies 200 in operating position; manual release handles 206 for releasing latch plates 205 from engagement with carrier stops 203; and picker bank support brackets 207 for mounting the picker bank assemblies 300.

The lateral position adjustment assembly of the invention, as shown in FIG. 2, FIG. 2A, FIG. 3 and FIG. 4C, includes two threaded carrier stops 203 slidably engaging the cross member 103 and threadingly engaged with an adjustment screw 208 attached to the upper side of the cross member, the adjustment screw 208 having reverse threaded sections for adjustment of the carrier stops 203 in opposing directions, thus by rotating the adjustment screw 208 the carrier stops 203 are moved closer together, and by rotating the adjustment screw 208 in the opposite direction the carrier stops 203 are moved apart in order to set the operating position appropriate to the size of avian to be defeathered. The carrier stops 203 further include a latch stud 210 capable of quick release engagement with the carrier support assemblies 202. The latch stud 210 further includes a groove for receiving the latch plate 205.

In an embodiment of the invention as shown in FIG. 3 and FIG. 4C the carrier stops 203 include guide members 212 extending downward from the carrier stops 203 and engaging the vertical faces of the cross member 103 for maintaining stable engagement along the length of the cross member. The adjustment screw 208 is rotatably connected to an angled gear housing 214, the gear housing including a quick release fitting 216 connected to a gear shaft opposite the adjustment screw connection, the quick release fitting 216 engaging a removable crank handle (not shown) for rotating the adjustment screw 208 for adjustment of the operating position of the carrier stops 203.

In another embodiment of the invention the adjustment screw 208 further includes an enlarged diameter end flange 218 opposite the gear housing 214, and engaging the adjacent carrier stop 203 to limit carrier stop travel preventing disengagement of the carrier stop 203 from the adjustment screw 208.

In an embodiment of the invention the carrier support assemblies 202 include, as shown in FIG. 4B, a front carrier support plate 220 and a rear carrier support plate 221 attached to either face of vertical column 201; at least two connecting axles (not shown) and rollers 222 for slidably engaging the cross member 103. In another embodiment, to avoid bouncing of the carrier assemblies 200, each carrier support assembly 202 includes at least two connecting axles and rollers 222 for engaging the top surface of the cross member 103, and at least two connecting axles and rollers 222 for engaging the lower surface of the cross member 103, the rollers 222 having larger diameter outer flanges for stable engagement with the vertical faces of cross member 103.

In an embodiment of the invention the latch plate 205 is movably attached to the front carrier support plate 220, the latch plate 205 including a notch 224 at one end, the latch plate moving adjacent the notched end in a manner that allows the latch plate 205 to engage the carrier stop latch studs 210 in operating position and be disengaged from the carrier stops 203 for movement of the carrier assemblies 200 apart. The latch plate 205 is perforated at the other end for engagement 226 with manual release handle 206 for moving latch plate 205 up and down to effect engagement with, or disengagement from the carrier stop latch studs 210. Thereby, the operating position of the carrier stops 203 can be set using the lateral position adjustment assembly 204, after which the carrier assemblies 200 can be quickly and easily latched into operating position or released using release handle 206 and moved apart for routine maintenance of the apparatus as shown in FIG. 6, FIG. 7, FIG. 8, and FIG. 9.

The notched latch plate 205 is perforated 226 at the end opposite notch 224 for engagement with the manual release handle 206, the latch plate 205 containing an additional oblong or curved slot 228 near notch 224 to allow pivot, and a further perforation 230 between slot 228 and release handle perforation 226, for attachment to connection 232 and pivot connection 234 on the front carrier support plate 220 in a manner to allow latch plate 205 to move up and down within a confined distance in response to movement of the manual release handle 206.

In an embodiment of the invention, at least one picker bank support bracket 207 is attached to vertical column 201 near the mid-point and extending below the mid point of the length of vertical column 201, wherein, as shown in FIG. 5A and FIG. 5B, the picker bank support bracket 207 includes a support plate 236 having slots 238 for slidably mounting eyelets 240 on adjustable support assemblies 242 engaging adjustment screws 246. The adjustment screws 246 are connected to the support plate 236 through mounts 248 in a manner that allows rotation of adjustment screws 246. The eyelets 240 and support assemblies 242 are capable of securely engaging the picker bank assemblies 300 (FIG. 1) in a manner that allows the alignment of the operating face of the picker bank assemblies 300 (FIG. 1) to be adjusted at a forward or reverse angle from vertical for optimum contact with the avian carcass being defeathered.

The picker bank assemblies 300 of the apparatus, as shown in FIG. 10A, FIG. 10B, FIG. 10C, FIG. 11, FIG. 12, and FIG. 13, include a housing 301 and frame 302 for supporting the picker disk drive system, including at least one drive motor 305, at least one drive belt 307, at least one drive pulley 309, a plurality of picker disks 303 and picker disk pulleys 311, at least one drive belt tensioner 313 for engaging drive belt 307 with varying degree of force for adjusting slack in the drive belt, a plurality of mounting studs 317 attached to the frame end plate 319 for engaging the picker bank support brackets 207, and at least one return pulley 315 to return the drive belt 307 to engagement with tensioner 313.

In one embodiment the picker bank drive system of the apparatus includes at least one drive motor 305 centrally located along the picker bank frame 302 within a set of picker discs 303 disposed in lateral alignment within the housing, the drive motor 305 and drive pulley 309 being engaged with the picker disk pulleys 311 with a double-ribbed drive belt 307, the drive system further including at least one spring loaded drive belt tensioner 313. The configuration of the mounting studs 317 is identical on each end of the picker bank assemblies 300 of the invention, thus the picker bank assemblies 300 of the invention are capable of installation on either side of the apparatus, in either the upper or lower position.

In another embodiment, as shown in FIG. 10B and FIG. 11, each picker bank assembly 300 has at least two drive motors 305 and drive pulleys 309, each of which are located along the picker bank frame 302 in a position central to a set of picker discs 303 disposed in lateral alignment within the housing, at least two drive belts 307, each engaging separate drive motors 305, drive pulleys 309 and sets of picker disk pulleys 311, at least two spring loaded drive belt tensioners 313, and at least two return pulleys 315 comprising a common idler assembly mounted at an angle to maintain uniform spacing of the picker disk pulleys 311 at the end of each set of picker discs 303 relative to the spacing of the picker disk pulleys 311 within each set of picker discs 303.

In an embodiment of the invention as shown in FIG. 13, the spring loaded drive belt tensioners 313 include a compression spring guide 327 threaded on at least one end and penetrating the frame end plate 319. The compression spring guide 327 may be interference fit to the end plate 319, or loose fit to the end plate 319 and retained by any suitable fastener on the outside face of end plate 319. The spring loaded drive belt tensioners 313 further include a pulley 321 for engaging drive belt 307, a pivot block 323, pivot shaft 324, mounting bracket 325 attached to frame 302, compression spring retainer 328, and limit collar 329 to limit compression of the compression spring 331. The compression spring retainer 328, limit collar 329, and compression spring 331 slide onto compression spring guide 327 and are retained in place with washer 333 and nut 334.

In operation, the apparatus of FIG. 1 is assembled with a plurality of picker fingers (not shown) installed on each picker disk 303, picker bank assemblies 300 are mounted to support brackets 207 on carrier assemblies 200. Carrier stops 203 are adjusted to optimum position by rotation of adjustment screw 208, and the carrier assemblies 200 are then latched in operational position with latch plates 205 engaged with latch studs 210 of carrier stops 203. The drive motors 305 are started causing picker disks 303 to rotate, avian carcasses are placed in shackles for conveying along the conveyor rail 105, and are then conveyed through the apparatus for defeathering.

After defeathering of the avian carcasses is complete, the drive motors 305 are stopped, and the operator quickly and easily releases each carrier support assembly 202 by pulling release handle 206 to the raise latch plate 205 to disengage from the latch stud 210, as shown in FIG. 7, and then slides the carrier assembly 200 away from the center of the apparatus, as shown in FIG. 8. In this manner each carrier support assembly 202 can be released and the carrier assemblies 200 with picker bank assemblies 300 can be fully moved away from the center of the apparatus, as shown in FIG. 9 for easy cleaning and maintenance, following which the carrier assemblies 200 can be quickly returned and latched in operational position.

While preferred embodiments and particular applications of this invention have been shown and described, it is apparent to those skilled in the art that many other modifications and applications of this invention are possible without departing from the inventive concepts herein. It is, therefore, to be understood that, within the scope of the appended claims, this invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described, and the invention is not to be restricted except in the spirit of the appended claims. Though some of the features of the invention may be claimed in dependency, each feature has merit if used independently.