Title:
Case packer with a segmented drivable riding strip and segmented drivable riding strip therefore
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed herein is a segmented, drivable riding strip receptive of product to move product along a grid section of a case packer. The riding strip is articulated and is driven by a drive. Further disclosed herein is a method for alleviating shingling in a case packer including employing a segmented, drivable riding strip and driving that strip to draw product along the grid section of the case packer.



Inventors:
Weaver, Michael J. (Madison, CT, US)
Application Number:
11/265381
Publication Date:
05/11/2006
Filing Date:
11/02/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/500, 198/851
International Classes:
B65B57/20; B65B1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
WEEKS, GLORIA R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CANTOR COLBURN LLP (Hartford, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. In a segmented drivable riding strip including a plurality of transport pods and a plurality of pairs of outer plates and a plurality of pairs of inner plates, the outer plates pivotally attached to the inner plates at pivot rollers and associated pins, each transport pod comprising: a body disposed between each outer plate of a pair of outer plates; a support surface at the body; and a foot surface at the body.

2. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the support is dimensioned and configured to cooperate with other supports to form a substantially continuous support surface over said plurality of transport pods.

3. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the support further comprises a beveled edge.

4. The transport pod as claimed in claim 3 wherein the edge is an edge substantially perpendicular to a longitudinal direction of the support.

5. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the body is recessed at a longitudinal end.

6. The transport pod as claimed in claim 5 wherein the recess is for clearance of a pivot roller.

7. The transport pod as claimed in claim 6 wherein the recess is stepped.

8. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the foot surface is longitudinally greater than fifty percent of the length of the support with which it is associated.

9. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the foot surface is dimensioned to prevent contact between link plates linking several transport pods and a surface supporting the transport pods.

10. The transport pod as claimed in claim 1 wherein the transport pod comprises plastic.

11. A segmented drivable riding strip comprising: a plurality of transport pods as claimed in claim 1 each pod being disposed within a roller chain between outer plates of a pair of outer plates of the roller chain and between the pivot rollers connected to the outer plates at articulation points of said plates wherein when interconnected and disposed linearly, the supports of the plurality of pods form a substantially linear continuous support surface.

12. The transport pod as claimed in claim 11 wherein the articulation point is two articulation points at longitudinal ends of the transport pod.

13. The transport pod as claimed in claim 12 wherein the two articulation points comprise one female point and one male point.

14. The transport pod as claimed in claim 12 wherein the two articulation points are male.

15. The transport pod as claimed in claim 11 wherein the articulation point is receptive to a pin.

16. A segmented drivable riding strip as claimed in claim 15 wherein the segmented drivable riding strip is drivable by a sprocket.

17. A segmented drivable riding strip as claimed in claim 16 wherein the sprocket drives the riding strip by contacting pivots of the riding strip.

18. A segmented drivable riding strip as claimed in claim 17 wherein the sprocket includes a recess receptive to a foot of the transport pod.

19. A method for conveying product on a riding strip having the transport pod as claimed in claim 1, comprising: driving the riding strip; supporting product on the support surface; shifting the riding strip to remove support for the product.

20. A method for conveying product on a riding strip as claimed in claim 19 wherein the driving includes preventing shingling by drawing product along the riding strip.

21. A case packer comprising: an infeed; a grid section in operational communication with the infeed, the grid section having a plurality of segmented drivable riding strips, the strips comprising a plurality of pairs of outer plates articulatively connected alternatively to a plurality of pairs of inner plates, the strip further including a plurality of transport pods each pod being disposed between two outer plates of a pair of outer plates; and a case feed in operable communication with the grid section.

22. A case packer as claimed in claim 21 wherein the packer further includes a counter to count products moving through the case packer.

23. A case packer as claimed in claim 21 wherein the packer further includes a drive motor to drive the driveable riding strip, said drive motor having a wide gear, so that a follower gear may move on an engagement surface of the wide gear and remain driven.

24. A case packer as claimed in claim 22 wherein the counter is optical.

25. A case packer comprising: an infeed; a grid section in operational communication with the infeed, the grid section having a plurality of segmented drivable riding strips, each drivable strip comprising a plurality of transport pods each having: a body; a male connector extending from the body; and a female connector extending from the body, the male and female connectors including pin holes receptive of articulation pins; and a case feed in operable communication with the grid section.

26. A case packer comprising: an infeed; a grid section in operational communication with the infeed, the grid section having a plurality of segmented drivable riding strips, each drivable strip comprising a plurality of transport pods each having: a body; a male connector extending from the body, the male connector having a pin fixedly mounted therein; a female connector extending from the body, the female connector having a pinhole and opening through which the pin of the male connector can pass into and be secured in the female pinhole; and a case feed in operable communication with the grid section.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/625,509 filed Nov. 5, 2004, which is incorporated in its entirety herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

A case packer is designed to pack containers (typically bottles or cans) into cases or trays at speeds up to 40 cases per minute (cpm), depending on product specifications.

The typical case packer can be broken down into five major sections, the product infeed, case feed, lift table, grid and operator interface sections. These are each briefly described to provide an understanding of the context of the invention.

The product infeed section carries product toward the machine and separates it into the desired pack pattern using stainless steel lane guides. Product is typically monitored for volume and position throughout this section by a series of electronic contact sensors.

The case feed section transports empty cases into the lift table on a conveyor and discharges cases out of the machine after product has filled the cases. Cases are indexed into the lift table section using a series of stops, which prohibit cases from advancing in the case feed when activated. Case volume and positioning is monitored throughout this section by a series of electronic sensors.

The lift table section of prior art case packers lifts the cases to a point beneath the grid area and waits for product to enter the case before descending. This section prompts the up and down motion of the table. As the grid area is filled with product, the lift table rises. Once the product has successfully entered the case, the lift table lowers. The case feed then discharges the filled cases.

The grid section is responsible for releasing product into the empty cases on the lift table. This section is made up of two primary components: the riding strip on which the product rests as it enters the grid area; and the grid basket through which product descends once the riding strips are shifted. The grid components are typically changed to accommodate a new product size, depending on product specifications.

The operator interface section controls a system to manage the operation of the machine. In certain case packers of the prior art the interface is mounted on a swing boom which enables the operator to control the machine from either side.

Containers are fed into the product infeed from a product conveyor system. As the containers advance downstream, they are arranged into a nested pattern using a series of guides. The containers are monitored throughout the infeed using sensors such as a high-level detector, low level detector, void detectors and a down product detector.

Such packers work well in most instances. In some applications however, especially where bottle or can shapes tend to shingle, (such as with shapes having a cross-sectional aspect ratio of greater than one), efficiency of the packer can be reduced. Shingling causes slowdowns and jams, both of which result in packer automatic shut down. This requires remedial action, and results in a slow down of the whole line.

It has been discovered by the inventors hereof that one of the causes of shingling is pushing a line of product rather than pulling that product. Unfortunately, the state-of-the-art in packing systems utilizes a conveyor to accept and move product to the grid section and then pushes the product into the grid section (onto said riding strips). The force to move the product onto the riding strips is simply more product moving along the conveyor of the product infeed section. The cans or bottles are simply pushed along the riding strips. This type of arrangement promotes shingling, which as noted above, reduces efficiency and is therefore undesirable. The art is in need of a case packer that reliably packs bottles, cans, or other similar products and especially those having shingle prone shapes such as those having a cross-sectional shape with an aspect ratio greater than one.

SUMMARY

Disclosed herein is a segmented, drivable riding strip receptive of product to move product along a grid section of a case packer. The riding strip is articulated and is driven by a drive.

Further disclosed herein is a method for alleviating shingling in a case packer including employing a segmented, drivable riding strip and driving that strip to draw product along the grid section of the case packer

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring now to the drawings wherein like elements are numbered alike in the several figures:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of a segmented riding strip embodiment as disclosed herein;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a transport pod of the riding strip of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a side elevation view similar to FIG. 1 but including a sprocket;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the sprocket alone;

FIG. 5 is an elevation view of a complete segmented drivable strip riding strip assembly;

FIG. 6 is a view similar to that of FIG. 1 illustrating another embodiment of the segmented drivable riding strip;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another transport pod embodiment as used in the FIG. 6 embodiment;

FIG. 8 is a view similar to that of FIG. 1 illustrating another embodiment of the segmented drivable riding strip;

FIG. 9 is a plan view of an alternate transport pod embodiment;

FIG. 10 is an elevation view of the pod of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a plan view of an alternate transport pod embodiment; and

FIG. 12 is an elevation view of the pod of FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a portion of a segmented drivable riding strip is illustrated. The strip comprises a means to support product, which means is substantially continuous when the segmented strip is straightened. It is also however, moveable (or drivable) so than shingling is alleviated. In the FIG. 1 embodiment, the means is a plurality of transport pods 12 in operable communication with one another through an intermediary articulated member 14. The articulated member 14 in the FIG. 1 embodiment is a chain comprising outer plates 16, inner plates 18, pins 20, and rollers 22 at each pin. The rollers are only illustrated in two places but generally occur at each pin 20. In this embodiment, each transport pod 12 is interposed between two outer plates 16 and sequential rollers 22. From review of the drawing FIG. 1, it is apparent that the transport pods 12 are straightened at the top and bottom of the figure and create substantially continuous surfaces threat. At left and right sides of the drawing the segmented drivable riding strip is articulated around a sprocket (described hereunder). It is to be understood that the indication of top, bottom, right and left are employed merely to aid in understanding the structure disclosed and are not to be limiting of that disclosure. Orientations of the various embodiments herein are dictated only by the application in which they are used and not for any other purpose.

Referring now to FIG. 2, one of the transport pods 12 illustrated in FIG. 1 is represented alone in perspective view. Transport pod 12 comprises a support 24, extending in one direction from a body 26 and a foot 28, extending from the body 26 in a direction substantially opposite the direction of extension of support 24 from body 26. Support 24 in the illustrated embodiment includes beveled corners 30 and a substantially planar surface 32. In a slightly altered embodiment, each edge of surface 32 is beveled to reduce “catching” by product on the surface edges. Surface 32 is intended to become substantially coplanar with the same surface of other transport pods 12 when the pods are positioned in an articulated member 14 and straightened, forming the segmented drivable riding strip product interface 34 (see FIG. 1).

To allow pod 12 to operatively communicate with articulated member 14, body 26 of pod 12 is specifically shaped. As can be seen in FIG. 2, body 26 includes scallops 36 and bushing 38. Scallops 36 are dimensioned and configured to provide a clearance fit with pair of inner plates 18 on each longitudinal end of pod 12. Bushings 38, also on each longitudinal end of pod 12, bear against rollers 22 adjacent body 26 but without any preload, rather there is intended to be, a clearance fit. Bushings 38 will therefore contact rollers 22 intermittently.

Articulated member 14 is supported by each foot 28 of pods 12 such that it does not make contact with a guide surface 62 (see FIG. 5) along which each foot 28 of a plurality of pods rides while the pods 12 support product.

Each pod foot 28 is calculated to have sufficient stability inducing size and shape to hinder articulated member 14 and each pod 12 from assuming a position counter productive to the stated purpose of drawing product along the riding strip to prevent shingling. In one embodiment, therefore, the foot 28 of pod 12 is about as wide as the support 24 and about 25% or more of the length of pod 12 in the longitudinal direction. Pod length is dictated by support 24 length, which in turn is dictated by or dictates plate length of the articulated member 14. Pods 12 comprise lubricious material such as plastic. In one embodiment the material of manufacture is acetyl resin.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the above described articulated member 14 and the plurality of pods 12 are cooperable with a sprocket 50. Sprocket 50 is uniquely capable of drivingly engaging the segmented riding strip 10 disclosed hereinabove. Referring to FIG. 4, the tooth pattern of sprocket 50 is visible. Each tooth is spaced by a margin about equal to the arc that would be occupied by another tooth in a conventional sprocket. Sprocket 50 includes recess 52, which provides a tailored nest for a foot 28 of pod 12 as is visible in FIG. 3. Each recess 52 comprises a base wall 54 and two sidewalls 56. Base wall 54 is of a length sufficient to receive a foot 28 while side walls 56 are sufficiently tall to facilitate creation of a roller bearing surface 56 to drive the articulated member 14. Surface 56 is a contact surface for rollers 22 of the articulated member 14 and function to impart a driving force to the rollers similar to bicycle or chainsaw chains. In one embodiment and as illustrated, teeth 58 are positioned and configured to engage every other roller 22 of articulated member 14. This facilitates the provision of recess 52.

The components of the segmented drivable riding strip 10 described above, are again illustrated in a complete riding strip unit in FIG. 5. The described components are assembled relative to a frame 60 that provides guide surface 62 to the strip 10. Strip 10 is illustrated in FIG. 5, as supported by guide surface 62. Strip 10 is also driven along guide surface 62 by a drive sprocket 50a and an idler sprocket 50b. Upon inspection, it is clear that drive sprocket 50a in this embodiment is driven by a square shaft 64. In a complete machine, this shaft 64 may extend through several of these riding strips 10. Moreover, since the riding strips must be laterally displaceable as is known from the prior art, the square shaft is also movable in a direction parallel with its axis. In order to maintain drive, the drive gear upon which the square shaft is driven is wide so that even while the shaft is displaced, driving contact with the gear is maintained by the square shaft drive gear remaining in mesh with the teeth of the wide gear somewhere over the width of the wide gear. It will be appreciated that the square drive shaft is but one configuration capable of driving the driven sprocket, many other shapes and arrangements are useable and familiar to the art.

On the idler side of the frame 60, an idler sprocket 50b is spring tensioned by compression spring 66. Other biasing means can also be employed to maintain the segmented drivable riding strip under sufficient tension to stay engaged with the sprockets.

Also easily appreciable in FIG. 5 is the substantially continuous riding surface formed by the plurality of supports 24.

In another embodiment of the segmented riding strip, inner plates 18 are eliminated by integrating a transport pod 112 into an articulated member 114 to form a segmented riding strip 118. This embodiment is illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7. Referring to FIG. 7, the transport pod 12 comprises a support 24, identical to the foregoing embodiment and a body 126 and a foot surface 128. In this embodiment, there is no foot per se extending from the body but it rather is integrated into the body as a surface of body 126. In one embodiment the material of body 126 may be somewhat thickened in the area where foot surface 128 is. This will provide a wear surface to increase service life of the riding strip. Body 126 is constructed with clearance holes 130 to receive pins 22 extending therethrough. The pins have a length, relative to the clearance holes 130, sufficient to protrude therefrom on either side of the pod 112 to engage outer plates 16 with an interference fit. Rounded surface 132 on each end of pod 112 is of a radius substantially similar to that exhibited by roller 22 of FIG. 1 and thereby presents a bearing surface for surface 56 of sprocket 50. In other respects the pod 112 functions as does pod 12.

In yet another embodiment of the segmented drivable riding strip, a pod 212 replaces pod 12 or 112. Referring to FIG. 8, a view similar to that of FIG. 6 is presented. It can be seen that pod 212 is now in male/female configuration relative to the formation of an articulated member 214. Further understanding of pod 212 will be gained by reference to FIGS. 9 and 10.

Referring to FIGS. 9 and 10, pod 212 comprises body 226 having a support surface 224 and a foot surface 228. In this embodiment, extending members are not necessary as the articulated member 214 is composed of links consisting of the pods and therefore has no components that extend into contact with the riding strip guide, other than the pod itself. FIG. 9 makes clear that this embodiment employs a male/female configuration so that each pod 212 is the same as each other pod 212 and is assemblable with a plurality of pods 212 to form articulated member 214. Pins 20 (same as in FIG. 1) are utilized to pivotally retain the pods 212 together. Each pod 212 also includes a drive cavity 250 to receive sprocket teeth to drive the strip. In FIG. 10, pinholes 230 are visible. It is important to view pin holes 130 in FIG. 10 with FIG. 9 to obtain perspective on the male and female configuration with which holes 230 and pins 20 communicate. The male connector 252 is configured to be received by female connector 254. Female connector 254 comprises two pivot plates 250 having a space therebetween whose dimension is similar to the outside dimension of connector 252 when viewed in plan view. Thereby, a plurality of pods can be joined together as stated above by aligning pin holes 130 in each of male connector 252 and the two pivot plates 256 of the female connectors and inserting a pin 20 therein.

In yet another alternate embodiment, referring to FIGS. 11 and 12, it will be appreciated that most of the components are similar to those of FIGS. 9 and 10. Description of these components will not be repeated here but rather distinctions for this embodiment will be identified. This embodiment is a snap-together embodiment and therefore needs no pins 20 to be installed to create an articulated member. Referring to FIG. 11, male connector 352 is constructed with a pin 370 already installed therein. Pin 370 may be molded in or pre-installed as a press fit or may be otherwise fixedly installed. In order to assemble an articulated member utilizing pin 370, a pair of openings 372 are created in pivot plates 354. The pin is snappable through openings 372 to enter pin hole 330 and become articulatingly secured therein. In other respects the embodiment is similar to the foregoing embodiments.

In one embodiment of a case packer utilizing a transport pod as disclosed here, the packer comprises an infeed, a grid section in operational communication with the infeed, the grid section having a plurality of segmented drivable riding strips, the strips comprising a plurality of pairs of outer plates articulatively connected alternatively to a plurality of pairs of inner plates, the strip further including a plurality of transport pods each pod being disposed between two outer plates of a pair of outer plates and a case feed in operable communication with the grid section. The packer may include a counter to count products moving through the case packer, which may be an optical sensor. Moreover the case packer includes, in this embodiment, a drive motor to drive the drivable riding strip. The drive motor has a wide gear, so that a follower gear may move laterally on an engagement surface of the wide gear and remain driven.

Alternately, the packer may employ transport pods each having a body, a male connector extending from the body, and a female connector extending from the body, the male and female connectors including pin holes receptive of articulation pins.

In another alternate, the packer may employ transport pods each having a body, a male connector extending from the body, the male connector having a pin fixedly mounted therein, a female connector extending from the body, the female connector having a pin hole and opening through which the pin of the male connector can pass into and be secured in the female pin hole, and a case feed in operable communication with the grid section.

While preferred embodiments have been shown and described, modifications and substitutions may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is to be understood that the present invention has been described by way of illustrations and not limitation.