Title:
Book storage and transportation bin
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A rectangular bin for storing and transporting books at a sorting station in a library has a base on wheels with four side walls and a horizontal floor panel movable vertically within the bin. An optical sensor is mounted adjacent the upper rim and is controlled by a control unit such that during a filling mode of the bin, the detection of a book interrupting the beam lowers the floor panel so as to allow further filling of the bin up to the height of the optical sensor and during an unloading mode the operation is reversed. A battery pack is located in a cavity in the front wall and when being charged at a loading station the control unit automatically operates the filling mode and when disconnected the control unit automatically operates the unloading mode. The actuator has two pairs of levers and an electrically actuated screw for moving the floor panel with a lower end of the screw housed in a bottom housing hung below the base.



Inventors:
Mussche, Franklin H. (Edmonton, CA)
Application Number:
10/934780
Publication Date:
03/09/2006
Filing Date:
09/07/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B88/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ING, MATTHEW W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ADE & COMPANY INC. (WINNIPEG, MB, CA)
Claims:
1. A bin for storing and transporting books in a library comprising: a rectangular base; a plurality of wheels mounted on the base and arranged for transportation of the base over a floor; four side walls upstanding from the base at respective side edges of the base to an upper rim of the bin to define a rectangular container supported on the base for wheeled transportation therewith with an open top at the upper rim; one of the side walls defining a front wall having a manually graspable handle by which the bin can be manually propelled on the wheels; a horizontal floor panel mounted in the bin above the base for receiving thereon a load of books dropped onto the floor panel and supported thereby; the floor panel being movable vertically within the bin from a lowered position adjacent the base to a raised position adjacent the upper rim; edges of the floor panel being located immediately adjacent the respective side walls to prevent books loaded on the floor panel from passing between the floor panel and the side wall to the base; an optical sensor mounted adjacent the upper rim having a beam for detecting the presence of books located on the floor panel to a height within the bin reaching the height of the optical sensor; and an actuator assembly for causing movement of the floor panel for raising and lowering the floor panel within the bin; the actuator assembly being controlled by a control unit such that during a filling mode of the bin, the detection of a book interrupting the beam is arranged to cause the actuator to lower the floor panel by a predetermined distance so as to allow further filling of the bin up to the height of the optical sensor; the actuator assembly being controlled by the control unit such that during an unloading mode of the bin, the detection of no book interrupting the beam is arranged to cause the actuator to raise the floor panel by a distance so bring the books carried on the floor panel back up to the height of the optical sensor; the actuator assembly comprising: a first pair of levers spaced apart across the base and the floor panel with each of the first pair of levers being pivotally connected to the floor panel at one end and slidably connected to the base at the other end; a second pair of levers spaced apart across the base and the floor panel with each of the second pair of levers being pivotally connected to the base at one end and slidably connected to the floor panel at the other end; a pivot connection between the first and second pair of levers; a bridging beam extending across between the second pair of levers; and a drive member for applying a force from the base to the connecting beam so as to cause driving pivotal movement of the second pair of levers relative to the base to effect said movement of the floor panel on the first and second pairs of levers, the drive member comprising an electrically driven screw which extends from a pivot mounting on the base to the bridging beam.

2. The bin according to claim 1 wherein the bridging beam is fixed to the second pair of levers and wherein there is provided a link extending at right angles from the bridging beam to provide a lever action from the screw to the bridging beam.

3. The bin according to claim 2 wherein the link comprises a pair of lugs with an end of the screw connected between the lugs at a position spaced from the bridging beam.

4. The bin according to claim 1 wherein the pivot mounting of the screw at the base is located at a height below the ends of the levers attached to the base.

5. The bin according to claim 4 wherein the pivot mounting of the screw is housed in a bottom housing carried on the base below the base.

6. The bin according to claim 5 wherein the wheels are located on the base such that the bottom housing is located between the wheels.

7. The bin according to claim 1 wherein the floor panel carries wiper seals at the edges thereof for wiping over and inner surface of the side walls to prevent penetration of materials therebetween.

8. The bin according to claim 1 wherein the front wall is defined by two parallel wall elements defining a cavity therebetween and wherein the cavity contains electronic controls and a battery pack.

9. The bin according to claim 8 wherein manual switches for the electronic controls are located on a top wall of the front wall between the parallel wall elements.

10. The bin according to claim 1 wherein there is provided an electrical supply connection for supplying charging current to a battery pack stored on the bin, the electrical supply connection being arranged for connection to and disconnection from a source at a sorting station where the bin is loaded and wherein the control unit is arranged such that the when the supply connection is connected the control unit automatically applies the filling mode and when the supply connection is disconnected the control unit automatically applies the unloading mode.

11. The bin according to claim 8 wherein there is provided an electrical supply connection for supplying charging current to a battery pack stored on the bin, the electrical supply connection being arranged for connection to and disconnection from a source at a sorting station where the bin is loaded and wherein the control unit is arranged such that the when the supply connection is connected the control unit automatically applies the filling mode and when the supply connection is disconnected the control unit automatically applies the unloading mode.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Automation of library processes has become an important commercial field to reduce the amount of arduous labour necessary for returning books to the required storage location. Automated sorting stations have therefore been provided which receive books automatically which are returned from the public or other authorized person with the sorting station arranged to sort the books into required storage bins. One important part of the sorting and transportation system is the storage bin where the books are dropped from the sorting system and are then carried by the bin to the required locations within the storage facility for return of the books to the required location. The storage bin must allow the books to be stored effectively without dropping from a height sufficient to cause damage and must allow the books to be presented to the user for easy manual removal from the bin for return to the storage location.

On example of a bin of the is general type is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,000,779 which uses cables to lift a floor panel of the bin from a lowered position adjacent the base to a raised position adjacent an upper lip of the bin. However this cable arrangement has some disadvantages so that potential improvements are available.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is one object of the invention to provide an improved book storage and transportation bin.

According to one aspect of the invention there is provided a bin for storing and transporting books in a library comprising:

a rectangular base;

a plurality of wheels mounted on the base and arranged for transportation of the base over a floor;

four side walls upstanding from the base at respective side edges of the base to an upper rim of the bin to define a rectangular container supported on the base for wheeled transportation therewith with an open top at the upper rim;

one of the side walls defining a front wall having a manually graspable handle by which the bin can be manually propelled on the wheels;

a horizontal floor panel mounted in the bin above the base for receiving thereon a load of books dropped onto the floor panel and supported thereby;

the floor panel being movable vertically within the bin from a lowered position adjacent the base to a raised position adjacent the upper rim;

edges of the floor panel being located immediately adjacent the respective side walls to prevent books loaded on the floor panel from passing between the floor panel and the side wall to the base;

an optical sensor mounted adjacent the upper rim having a beam for detecting the presence of books located on the floor panel to a height within the bin reaching the height of the optical sensor;

and an actuator assembly for causing movement of the floor panel for raising and lowering the floor panel within the bin;

the actuator assembly being controlled by a control unit such that during a filling mode of the bin, the detection of a book interrupting the beam is arranged to cause the actuator to lower the floor panel by a predetermined distance so as to allow further filling of the bin up to the height of the optical sensor;

the actuator assembly being controlled by the control unit such that during an unloading mode of the bin, the detection of no book interrupting the beam is arranged to cause the actuator to raise the floor panel by a distance so bring the books carried on the floor panel back up to the height of the optical sensor;

the actuator assembly comprising:

    • a first pair of levers spaced apart across the base and the floor panel with each of the first pair of levers being pivotally connected to the floor panel at one end and slidably connected to the base at the other end;

a second pair of levers spaced apart across the base and the floor panel with each of the second pair of levers being pivotally connected to the base at one end and slidably connected to the floor panel at the other end;

a pivot connection between the first and second pair of levers;

a bridging beam extending across between the second pair of levers;

and a drive member for applying a force from the base to the connecting beam so as to cause driving pivotal movement of the second pair of levers relative to the base to effect said movement of the floor panel on the first and second pairs of levers, the drive member comprising an electrically driven screw which extends from a pivot mounting on the base to the bridging beam.

Preferably the bridging beam is fixed to the second pair of levers and wherein there is provided a link extending at right angles from the bridging beam to provide a lever action from the screw to the bridging beam.

Preferably the link comprises a pair of lugs with an end of the screw connected between the lugs at a position spaced from the bridging beam.

Preferably the pivot mounting of the screw at the base is located at a height below the ends of the levers attached to the base.

Preferably the pivot mounting of the screw is housed in a bottom housing carried on the base below the base.

Preferably the wheels are located on the base such that the bottom housing is located between the wheels.

Preferably the floor panel carries resilient wiper seals at the edges thereof for wiping over and inner surface of the side walls to prevent penetration of materials therebetween.

Preferably the front wall is defined by two parallel wall elements defining a cavity therebetween and wherein the cavity contains electronic controls and a battery pack.

Preferably manual switches for the electronic controls are located on a top wall of the front wall between the parallel wall elements.

Preferably there is provided an electrical supply connection for supplying charging current to a battery pack stored on the bin, the electrical supply connection being arranged for connection to and disconnection from a source at a sorting station where the bin is loaded and wherein the control unit is arranged such that the when the supply connection is connected the control unit automatically applies the filling mode and when the supply connection is disconnected the control unit automatically applies the unloading mode.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

One embodiment of the invention will now be described in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a storage and transportation bin according to the present invention showing the floor panel in the raised position.

FIG. 2 is a side elevational I view of the bin of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is isometric view showing the bin of FIG. 1 with the side walls removed to expose the actuation assembly for operating movement of the floor panel.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view along the lines 44 of FIG. 2.

In the drawings like characters of reference indicate corresponding parts in the different figures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In FIG. 1 is shown a bin generally indicated at 10 with upstanding side walls 11 and 12, an upstanding rear wall 13 and an upstanding front wall 14. The side walls are connected together at a base generally indicated at 15. The base carries a pair of fixed wheels 16 at the wall 13 and a pair of castor wheels 17 at the wall 14. The side walls are connected together to form a rectangular container with an open top 19 defined by a peripheral rim 20 formed by the top edge of each of the walls. At each of the four corners is provided a bumper element 21 which fastens around the corner onto each of the respective walls at the corner to provide a suitable bumper for engaging obstacles to prevent damage to the walls. The walls may be stiffened with vertical ribs (not shown) to increase strength while allowing a reduction in gauge of the metal walls to reduce weight.

Each of the walls 11, 12 and 13 is formed from a single upstanding sheet. The wall 14 is defined by an inner sheet 14A and an outer sheet 14B defining therebetween a cavity 14C (see FIG. 2). Within the cavity 14C is located a battery pack schematically indicated 25 and a control unit schematically indicated at 26 for controlling the operation of a device as described hereinafter. The battery pack 25 is connected by a cable 27 to a charging receptacle 28 mounted on the bin at a suitable location. The battery pack provides power to the control unit 26 through a cable 29 and the control unit is manually actuated by switches schematically indicated at 30 through cable 31. The switches together with indicator lights and the plug or receptacle 28 are mounted on a horizontal top surface of the wall 14 underneath the handle.

Within the bin is provided a floor panel 32 which is horizontal within the bin and can be raised and lowered from a position closely adjacent the upper lip 20 to a position adjacent the base 15. The floor panel 32 includes four moulded flexible, resilient wiper elements 33 each arranged along a respective edge of the panel 32 and each forming a lip which wipes over the respective inside surface of the respective side wall. The lip thus prevents any materials such as pages or covers of the book from penetrating between the rigid floor panel 32 and the rigid side wall by providing the resilient wiping action which seals the gap there between. On the front wall 14 is mounted a handle 34 which includes a paid of upstanding side legs 35 and a transverse rail 36 extending across the top of the wall 14 above the top edge of the wall 14 so as to provide a hand grasp section by which a manual user can propel the bin across a floor surface on the ground wheels and can control the direction of the bin in movement by steering action using the castor wheels 17.

As best shown in FIG. 3 and 4, the base 15 comprises four peripheral members 15A, 15B, 15C and 15D arranged along the four sides of the rectangular structure. The members 15A and 15C comprises simply transverse structural members of suitable cross section to provide the necessary strength. The members 15B and 15D provide a guide channel for the roller 40 at the bottom of the lever system for lifting the floor panel 32.

Thus the lever system comprises a first pair of levers 41 and 42 which are parallel and linked by a transverse stiffening element 43 which transfer torque between the levers 41 and 42. Each of the levers is mounted on a pivot pin 44 so that each of the levers 41 and 42 is pivotally connected to the panel 32 at one edge of the floor panel and is slidable mounted at the lower end on the roller 40 relative to the side rails 15B and 15D.

Symmetrically the lever system includes a second pair of levers 46 and 47 which are pivotally mounted at there lowers ends on pivot pins 48 carried at one end of the base adjacent the base member 15A and are slidable mounted at the upper end on tracks 32A and 32B of the floor panel 32 at the sides of the floor panel.

The levers 46 and 47 are pivotally connected to the levers 41 and 42 by a pivot rod 50 which extends across an intersection between the levers. Thus raising and lowering movements of the floor panel is effected by symmetrical pivoting and sliding action of the two pairs of levers while those pairs remain in parallel aligned positions respective to one another and while the pairs pivot relative to one another about the transverse pivot member 50.

The actuation of the lifting is effected by a screw 51 which is mounted at its lower end on a mounting 52 carried on the base 15. At its upper end the screw 51 is attached to link 53 mounted on a transverse beam 54 connected across the levers 46 and 47. Thus the beam 54 is rigidly attached to the levers to hold them connected an parallel and also communicates rotational torque to the levers to effect the lifting action. The beam 54 is pivoted around the pivot axis of the levers at the pins 48 by the link 53 which is defined by a pair of lugs 53A and 53b rigidly attached to that beam 54. Thus the upper end of the screw 52 is located between the lugs at a position spaced away from the axis of the beam 54 to provide force on the levers rotating the levers about their pivot axis.

The lower end of the screw 51 at the mounting 52 is carried within a bottom housing 55 which hangs down underneath the base 15. The base is thus closed by the depending housing 55 together with panels 56, 57 and 58 which are mounted across the member of the base. Thus the depending housing 55 is narrower than the base and shorter than the base and extends from a position between the fixed wheels 16 to a position spaced away from the castor wheels 17. The top of the depending housing 55 is open into the base so as to allow the components of the lifting mechanism to depend into that housing as required to lower the floor panel to a position closely adjacent the base.

The link 53 allows the screw to effect the lifting action when the levers are lowered to the bottom position since the links are located at a position above the bottom end of the screw so the screw can effect a pivoting action around the axis of the levers 46 and 47 even though the screw is lowered at an angle close to horizontal.

An extra pair of lugs similar to the lugs 53A and 53B is provided on the opposite side of the beam 54 which are attached to an assist spring 53C which provides a spring force tending to resist the weight of books on the floor panel thus reducing the force necessary from the screw. The spring is under compression and the compression of the spring is reduced as the floor panel moves upwardly thus automatically reducing the spring force as the load is reduced and increases as the panel is loaded downwardly. The angle of the lugs on the beam 54 allows the spring to act at the required angle as the levers 46 and the beam 54 lie down in the bottom of the bin as the floor panel moves downwardly. A bottom wall of the housing 55 may provide an access panel to allow access for repair or replacement of the spring 53C and the screw.

Turning into FIG. 2, the control system includes an optical sensor 60 together with the switches 30. The optical sensor is arranged to detect the height of books on the floor panel which reaches the optical sensor which is located just below the top rim of the bin.

The control unit 26 is arranged in response to imputes from the switches 30, the optical sensor 60 and the charging connector 28 for the battery pack to control the system as follows.

When the battery pack is being charged by a connection of the receptacle 28 to a power supply at the sorting machine, the control unit switches the system into filling or loading mode in which the floor panel is moved to the upper most raised position. As soon as the optical sensor is obstructed or interrupted by the presence of a book reaching the height of the sensor, the control unit actuates the screw so as to lower the floor panel to a position where the optical sensor is no longer obstructed. This allows further books to be loaded onto the panel and onto books resting on the panel without any of the books having to fall by any considerable distance. This process is continued until the bin is fully loaded so the floor panel is moved to the lowest position or during a period of time so it is partially loaded. When the operator wishes to remove the bin when fully or partially loaded, the power supply to the coupling 28 is disconnected which automatically moves the control unit into the unloading mode.

In the unloading mode the operation is reversed so that the floor panel is moved upwardly until the optical sensor is obstructed and then the floor panel halts at this position to allow books to be remove by the operator. As soon as the optical sensor is exposed because the books have been removed from that area, the control unit operates the screw so as to raise the floor panel until the optical sensor is again obstructed by the presence of further books.

The optical sensor may have a receiver on the opposite side or may have a mirror on the opposite side for a transmit receive system and in the embodiment shown, a mirror is indicated at 62.

The switches 30 include a first switch providing an on/off action shutting off the control the unit and actuating the control unit. The switches also include a second switch which allows manual operation of the screw to move the floor panel to a position determined by the operator.

Since various modifications can be made in my invention as herein above described, and many apparently widely different embodiments of same made within the spirit and scope of the claims without department from such spirit and scope, it is intended that all matter contained in the accompanying specification shall be interpreted as illustrative only and not in a limiting sense.