Title:
Modular signature feeders
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and apparatus for manufacturing books are disclosed. An example modular signature feeder includes a frame having a base configured to enable the modular signature feeder to be removably attached to another modular signature feeder or a signature transfer assembly associated with a signature collation feeder assembly. Removably attaching the modular signature feeder assembly to another modular signature feeder or a signature transfer assembly increases a footprint of the signature collation feeder assembly. A conveyor configured to move signatures and a hopper configured to hold a plurality of signatures are operatively coupled to the frame. A signature feeding device is disposed between the hopper and the conveyor and configured to feed the signatures from the hopper to the conveyor.



Inventors:
Sittinger, Michael R. (Lombard, IL, US)
Dooley, Ronald E. (Mattoon, IL, US)
Anker, Earl J. (Tinley Park, IL, US)
Drummond, David L. (Minooka, IL, US)
Harting, Hal B. (Winona Lake, IN, US)
Feldman, James L. (Warsaw, IN, US)
Kristmann, John T. (Palos Heights, IL, US)
Hennessey, Richard C. (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/991059
Publication Date:
05/18/2006
Filing Date:
11/17/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H39/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20090085271Bookmaking apparatusApril, 2009Nagasawa et al.
20090243181PROCESSING OF STACKS OF SHEETS OF SECURITIES INTO BUNDLES AND PACKS OF BUNDLESOctober, 2009Sauer
20100019433Sheet folding device, image forming apparatus, and sheet folding methodJanuary, 2010Sekine
20090090260FORMER ARRANGEMENTApril, 2009Behmel et al.
20080054543Hand warmer device known as "Z" muffMarch, 2008Marstall
20080224383Decurler and Stabilizer for Light-Weight PapersSeptember, 2008Feygelman
20080182740Sheet feeding device and post-processing apparatus and image forming system comprising the sameJuly, 2008Fukasawa et al.
20070210504Machine for trimming the fore-edge of books provided with a flapped coverSeptember, 2007Scarpellini et al.



Primary Examiner:
NICHOLSON III, LESLIE AUGUST
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HANLEY, FLIGHT & ZIMMERMAN, LLC (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A modular signature feeder, comprising: a frame having a base configured to enable the modular signature feeder to be removably attached to another modular signature feeder or a signature transfer assembly associated with a signature collation feeder assembly, wherein removably attaching the modular signature feeder assembly to another modular signature feeder or a signature transfer assembly increases a footprint of the signature collation feeder assembly; a conveyor operatively coupled to the frame and configured to move signatures; a hopper operatively coupled to the frame and configured to hold a plurality of signatures; and a signature feeding device disposed between the hopper and the conveyor and configured to feed the signatures from the hopper to the conveyor.

2. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the base is configured to engage a building surface during operation of the modular signature feeder.

3. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 2, wherein the building surface is a floor.

4. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the signature transfer assembly is configured to receive the signatures from the modular signature feeder and feed the signatures to a host pocket.

5. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 4, wherein the host pocket is configured to feed the signatures to a square-back bindery line or a saddle-stitch bindery line.

6. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the signature feeding device is a rotary signature feeder.

7. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the conveyor is driven by a servo motor.

8. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 7, wherein the servo motor is controlled based on information generated by an encoder operatively coupled to another conveyor.

9. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 8, wherein the other conveyor is associated with a signature squaring assembly configured to align the signatures.

10. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 7, wherein the conveyor is driven by the servo motor via a belt and a sprocket.

11. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the conveyor is configured to receive signatures from the other modular signature feeder via a belt-to-belt transfer.

12. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the conveyor is configured to deliver the signatures to the other modular signature feeder or to the signature transfer assembly via a belt-to-belt transfer.

13. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the frame or the base is configured to be operatively coupled to the signature transfer assembly via a signature squaring assembly.

14. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 13, further comprising at least one fastening component mechanically coupled to the frame or the base and configured to removably attach the modular signature feeder to the other modular signature feeder or the signature squaring assembly.

15. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the modular signature feeder is configured to feed a first signature and the other modular signature feeder is configured to feed a second signature different from the first signature.

16. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the base is coupled to a plurality of casters or a plurality of wheels configured to enable the modular signature feeder to be rolled from one location to another.

17. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 16, wherein the base is configured to engage a building surface via the plurality of casters or the plurality of wheels.

18. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the modular signature feeder is substantially similar to the other modular signature feeder.

19. A modular signature feeder as defined in claim 1, wherein the hopper is a side-loading hopper.

20. 20-40. (canceled)

41. A modular signature feeder, comprising: a frame having a base configured to engage a building surface during operation of the modular signature feeder and to enable the modular signature feeder to be removably attached to another modular signature feeder or a signature transfer assembly, wherein the base is configured to roll from one location to another; a conveyor operatively coupled to the frame and configured to move signatures; a hopper operatively coupled to the frame and configured to hold a plurality of signatures; and a signature feeding device disposed between the hopper and the conveyor and configured to feed the signatures from the hopper to the conveyor.

42. A modular signature feeder assembly as defined in claim 41, wherein the base is configured to roll via a plurality of casters or a plurality of wheels that are mechanically coupled to the base.

43. A modular signature feeder assembly as defined in claim 41, wherein the building surface is a floor.

Description:

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure relates generally to bindery lines and, more particularly, to modular signature feeders in bindery lines.

BACKGROUND

Books, magazines, periodicals, and other book-like articles collectively referred to as books are typically manufactured using bindery lines. Books are generally formed by gathering a plurality of signatures in a predetermined order or sequence and binding the signatures. A traditional bindery line includes a plurality of host pockets located adjacent to and along the length of a signature-carrying conveyor or chain. Each host pocket has a signature hopper which is configured to hold a supply of signatures and feed the signatures toward the host pocket. Each host pocket is configured to repeatedly feed signatures from its hopper to the signature-carrying conveyor. A book having a plurality of different pages is formed by feeding signatures from one or more of the host pockets to the signature-carrying conveyor as the conveyor moves toward the end of the bindery line.

Bindery lines are typically used to mass produce large quantities of identical books such as, for example, subscription magazines. However, traditional bindery lines are often not capable of targeting specific needs of individual consumers, advertisers, and publishers. In particular, magazine publishers often want to target specific interests of their consumers or consumer groups. However, producing magazines to target specific interests of one consumer group often wastes advertisements or advertising space when the same magazines are delivered to consumers having different interests.

Publishers have addressed this issue by configuring bindery lines to produce different magazine versions of the same magazine. Each magazine version is customized to target a particular consumer or consumer group. Different magazine versions may be produced by adding more pockets to bindery lines and loading some hoppers with common signatures that are used in every magazine version and other hoppers with special interest signatures that are used in selected magazine versions. Different magazine versions are produced by selectively triggering each pocket via a computer program that tracks the production of each magazine as signatures are gathered along the bindery line. In this manner, two magazine versions may have different content (e.g., advertisements and/or other information) even though they have the same number of pages and/or a substantial number of common pages.

The number of host pockets and the amount of floor space required by a bindery line depends on the degree of customization required for each magazine version. For example, one or more host pockets may be added to a bindery line for each magazine version, thereby increasing the amount of floor space required to accommodate the bindery line. In this manner, the required floor space increases as the number of different magazine versions increases. As a result, the number of magazine versions that can be produced at one time on a given bindery line is often limited to the length, width, or available floor space of a facility within which the bindery line is located.

Recent developments have addressed the floor space limitation issue by using a plurality of multiple signature feeder assemblies capable of feeding multiple stacked or collated signatures to a single host pocket. Each multiple signature feeder assembly is arranged perpendicular to a signature-carrying conveyor or chain and typically includes two or more signature feeders, each having a respective hopper. Each of the signature feeders may be selectively triggered so that each multiple signature feeder assembly can deliver one or more selected signatures based on the magazine versions.

Some known multiple signature feeder assemblies include a fixed number of signature feeders. Other known multiple signature feeder assemblies are configured to have a predetermined number of removable signature feeders attached thereto. If more signature feeders are desired after a multiple signature feeder assembly has reached its limit, another multiple signature feeder assembly must be added to the bindery line. However, the number of multiple signature feeders that can be added is limited by the length of the bindery line and/or the length of the facility within which the bindery line is located.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates an example bindery line having a plurality of signature collation feeder assemblies.

FIG. 2 illustrates a side elevational view of an example signature collation feeder assembly that may be used to implement the example bindery line of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3A illustrates an external view of an example modular signature feeder that may be used to implement the example signature collation feeder assembly of FIG. 2.

FIG. 3B illustrates an internal view of the example modular signature feeder of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 4A illustrates a front elevational view of a top-loading hopper operatively coupled to an example modular signature feeder.

FIG. 4B illustrates a front elevational view of a side-loading hopper operatively coupled to the example modular signature feeder of FIG. 4A.

FIG. 5 illustrates an example book that may be formed by the example bindery line of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Although the following discloses example systems, it should be noted that such systems are merely illustrative and should not be considered as limiting. For example, it is contemplated that any or all of these example systems may be implemented in alternate configurations including more or fewer features than those described herein without departing from the scope or spirit of this application. Accordingly, while the following describes example systems and apparatus, persons having ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the examples provided are not the only way to implement such example systems and apparatus.

In general, the example systems and apparatus described herein may be used with bindery lines configured to form books, magazines, periodicals, and other book-like articles collectively referred to herein as books. Bindery lines are typically square-back bindery lines (i.e., perfect bound bindery lines) or saddle-stitch bindery lines. A typical bindery line includes a chain (for saddle-stitch binding) or a conveyor (for square-back binding) that traverses the length of the bindery line adjacent to a plurality of host pockets configured to feed signatures onto the chain or conveyor to form stacks or collections of signatures. Following the last host pocket, each stack or collection of signatures is bound to form a book.

Specifically, the example systems and apparatus described herein include modular signature feeders and signature collation feeder assemblies. In general, modular signature feeders and signature collation feeder assemblies may be used in a bindery line to customize or personalize books with information that targets specific consumers or consumer groups. For example, the example modular signature feeders and signature collation feeder assemblies may be configured to selectively feed particular signatures to a bindery line based on demographics and/or interests of particular customers or groups of customers.

The example modular signature feeders and signature collation feeder assemblies described herein are configured to be removably attached to a bindery line to suit page or customization requirements of particular production runs. A signature collation feeder assembly may include one or more modular signature feeders that are removably attached to each other. Each modular signature feeder is configured to hold and feed signatures to form signature collations in the signature collation feeder assembly. Signature collations typically include one or more signatures that are stacked and/or collated. The signature collation feeder assembly may be operatively coupled to a host pocket and configured to feed the signature collations to the host pocket, which may then feed the signature collations to a moving chain or conveyor.

Signature feeding capabilities of a bindery line may be easily modified using the example signature collation feeder assemblies and the modular signature feeders described herein without tearing down and/or building sections of the bindery line between production runs. As previously mentioned, known book customization bindery lines are often limited by the available floor space in the areas surrounding the bindery lines. In contrast to these known bindery lines, the example signature collation feeder assemblies and the modular signature feeders described herein are configured to use floor space in an efficient and dynamic manner. More specifically, the floor space requirement or footprint of a signature collation feeder assembly varies in proportion to the number of modular signature feeders that are operatively coupled thereto. Floor space use and requirements of the example signature collation feeder assembly and the example modular signature feeders are described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 1.

FIG. 1 illustrates an example bindery line 100 having a plurality of example signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c. The example bindery line 100 may be implemented in combination with a printing press (not shown) so that printed signatures may be delivered to the example bindery line 100 from the printing press. Although the example bindery line 100 is shown by way of example as a square-back or perfect bound bindery line, the example bindery line 100 may alternatively be implemented as a saddle-stitch bindery line. In other words, the signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c may be configured to be operatively coupled to and function cooperatively with a square-back bindery line or a saddle-stitch bindery line. However, for purposes of clarity the example systems and apparatus are described herein with respect to a square-back bindery line.

Each of the example signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c includes a plurality of example modular signature feeders 104, an example signature squaring section 106, an example transfer assembly 108, and an example host pocket 110. As shown, the modular signature feeders 104 may be operatively coupled to one another and to their respective squaring sections 106, the squaring sections 106 may be coupled to their respective transfer assemblies 108, and the transfer assemblies 108 may be coupled to their respective host pockets 110.

The signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c are configured to produce signature collations 112. A signature collation 112 includes one or more signatures. For example, each of the signature collations 112 may include a plurality of collated or sequentially arranged signatures that may be stacked or collated with other signature collations to form the pages (e.g., the pages 502 of FIG. 5) of a book (e.g., the example book 500 of FIG. 5). An example detailed view of one of the signature collations 112 is shown as having four signatures 114a-114d. Of course, each of the signature collations 112 may include fewer or more signatures. For example, some of the signature collations 112 may contain only one signature.

The signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c deliver the signature collations 112 to the host pockets 110. The host pockets 110 then feed the signature collations 112 to a main conveyor 116 to form stacks of signatures 118 as the main conveyor 116 moves in a direction generally indicated by arrow 120. Although only three signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c are shown, any number of signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c may be operatively coupled to the example bindery line 100.

In general, each of the modular signature feeders 104 is configured to feed signatures to a next or adjacent one of the modular signature feeders 104 to form the signature collations 112 that are delivered to the squaring section 106. More specifically, a supply of signatures associated with particular pages of a book may be loaded into each of the modular signature feeders 104. In some cases, signature supplies of two or more of the modular signature feeders 104 may correspond to the same pages of a book, but have different information. For example, the modular signature feeders 104 of the signature collation feeder assembly 102a may be loaded with signatures corresponding to pages 1-4 of a book (e.g., a magazine). However, each of the modular signature feeders 104 may have a different version of pages 1-4. For example a first version may include advertisements directed to Chicago residents, a second version may include advertisements directed to New York residents, and a third version may include advertisements directed to Seattle residents. As described below, a book such as a magazine may be customized using a software program that selectively triggers each of the modular signature feeders 104 based on customer information such as the recipient city of residence.

Subscription magazines may be customized to target particular consumers or consumer groups by producing several magazine versions of a particular magazine issue based on consumer information such as names, addresses, and the interests or demographic information of each consumer. In particular, each of the modular signature feeders 104 may be selectively triggered to feed its respective signatures based on the consumer information and the content of those signatures. Consumer information may be loaded into a software program or application that customizes each magazine by selectively communicating trigger commands or signals to the modular signature feeders 104 based on the consumer information. In this manner, each magazine includes information relevant to its intended recipient. For example, a magazine recipient who lives in Chicago may receive information related to Chicago and a magazine recipient who lives in New York may receive information related to New York.

The example modular signature feeders 104 may be operatively coupled to and removed from the example signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c based on the customization or page requirements of a particular production run. As described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 2, each of the modular signature feeders 104 includes a base portion (e.g., bases 211a and 211b of FIG. 2) configured to engage a building surface such as, for example, a floor, during operation of the modular signature feeder. Each of the modular signature feeders 104 is mechanically self-supported via its base such that removing one of the modular signature feeders 104 from one of the signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c reduces a footprint or an amount of floor space required by that signature collation feeder assembly. In this manner, the floor space requirements of a bindery line (e.g., the bindery line 100) may be flexible and configured to suit the floor space constraints of a manufacturing area. For example, if a particular manufacturing area is relatively wide compared to the length of a bindery line (e.g., the bindery line 100), a large number of modular signature feeders (e.g., the modular signature feeders 104) may be coupled to a relatively small number of signature collation feeder assemblies placed along the bindery line to advantageously use the width of the available floor space. On the other hand, if a floor space is significantly longer than wide, a greater number of signature collation feeder assemblies, each having relatively few modular signature feeders attached thereto, may be placed along the bindery line to advantageously use the length of the available floor space.

Any number and configurations (e.g., combinations) of signature collation feeder assemblies (e.g., the signature collation feeder assemblies 102a, 102b, and 102c) and modular signature feeders (e.g., the modular signature feeders 104) may be used to configure bindery lines to suit particular floor space geometries. For example, different combinations of signature collation feeder assemblies and modular signature feeders may be used to suit different building shapes and floor space shapes (e.g., L-shaped floor spaces, square-shaped floor spaces, rectangular-shaped floor spaces, etc.). In addition, different combinations of signature collation feeder assemblies and modular signature feeders may also be used to suit different factory floor plans. For example, a factory floor plan may have an oddly-shaped (e.g., L-shaped, T-shaped, an area with various widths, etc.) vacant floor space due to previously installed bindery lines, machines, storage areas, etc. Any suitable combinations or configurations of signature collation feeder assemblies and modular signature feeders may be used to install a bindery line in the oddly-shaped vacant floor space that would otherwise be wasted.

As shown in FIG. 1, each of the signature collation feeders assemblies 102a-102c includes a different number of the modular signature feeders 104 and, thus, has a different footprint or floor space requirement. The signature collation feeder assembly 102a is operatively coupled to one less modular signature feeder 104 than the signature collation feeder assembly 102b. Thus, the signature collation feeder assembly 102a has a smaller footprint and requires less floor space than the assembly 102b as indicated by an empty space 122. The signature collation feeder assembly 102c has two less modular signature feeders 104 than the signature collation feeder assembly 102b and, thus, has a smaller footprint and requires less floor space than either of the signature collation feeder assemblies 102a and 102b.

The signature squaring section 106 is configured to receive the signature collations 112 from the modular signature feeders 104 and square or align edges (e.g., the edges 504, 506, 508, and 510 of FIG. 5) of the signature collations 112. As shown in connection with the signature collation feeder assembly 102c, each of the signature squaring sections 106 includes vertical squaring conveyors 128, a horizontal squaring conveyor 130, and a vacuum conveyor 132. Based on the direction in which signatures are fed or delivered by the modular signature feeders 104, the vertical squaring conveyors 128 and the horizontal squaring conveyor 130 may be used to align head/foot edges (e.g., the head edge 504 and the foot edge 506 of FIG. 5) of the signatures or fore edges (e.g., the fore edge 508) of the signatures. For example, if signatures are fed with a leading fore edge 508 or back edge (e.g., the back edge 510 of FIG. 5), the vertical squaring conveyors 128 may be used to square or align the head edges 504 and foot edges 506 of the signatures and the horizontal squaring conveyor 130 may be used to align the fore edges 508 and back edges 510 of the signatures.

The vertical squaring conveyors 128 may be implemented in combination with edge sensors (not shown) configured to sense when, for example, foot edges and head edges of signatures are not aligned with each other. The edge sensors may also detect an amount by which the signatures are misaligned. The vertical squaring conveyors 128 move closer or further from the signature edges (e.g., the head edge 504 and the foot edge 506 of FIG. 5) via repositionable rolls to square or align the edges of signatures based on information provided by the edge sensors.

The horizontal squaring conveyor 130 includes a plurality of alignment pins 134 spaced from one another along the length of the conveyor 130 by a distance that enables the signature collations 112 to be disposed between the alignment pins 134. As the horizontal squaring conveyor 130 receives one of the signature collations 112 and moves toward the vacuum conveyor 132, the alignment pins 134 engage the signature collation 112 and align, for example, the fore edges (e.g., the fore edge 508 of FIG. 5) of signatures in the signature collation 112.

The vacuum conveyor 132 receives the signature collations 112 from the horizontal squaring conveyor 130 and moves the signature collations 112 toward the transfer assembly 108. The vacuum conveyor 132 enables printers and label applicators to be used to further personalize the signature collations 112. Specifically, the vacuum conveyor 132 uses air instead of pins (e.g., the alignment pins 134) to move the signature collations 112 and, thus, is free from protrusions that would otherwise damage the printers and label applicators.

As shown in connection with the example signature collation feeder assembly 102a, a label applicator 136 is positioned adjacent to the vacuum conveyor 132. The label applicator 136 is configured to apply adhesive labels 138 to the signature collations 112 as they are moved by the vacuum conveyor 132. The adhesive labels 138 may include, for example, advertisements, special content alerts, and/or any other type of information. A computer program or application may be configured to cause the label applicator 136 to apply the adhesive labels 138 to selected signature collations 112 based on the interests of the intended recipients. Although only the label applicator 136 is shown, any number of label applicators may be used in combination with any of the signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c. Additionally or alternatively, label applicators may also be placed along the main conveyor 116.

The squaring sections 106 deliver the signature collations 112 to the transfer assemblies 108 which, in turn, deliver the signature collations 112 to the host pockets 110. Each of the transfer assemblies 108 includes one or more signature transfer conveyors (e.g., the signature transfer conveyor 250 of FIG. 2) configured to receive the signature collations 112 from the squaring sections 106 and move the signature collations 112 toward a respective one of the host pockets 110. The signature transfer conveyors may be implemented using opposing strip belts that capture the signature collations 112 therebetween and expose surface portions of the signature collations 112. As shown in connection with the signature collation feeder assembly 102a, a printer 140 may be located adjacent the transfer assembly 108 so that printing elements (not shown) of the printer 140 face the exposed surface portion of each of the signature collations 112 as each signature collation passes by the printer 140. In this manner, the printer 140 may be used to print personalized indicia (e.g., the personalized indicia 514 and 516 of FIG. 5) on the signature collations 112 and/or the labels 138.

The transfer assemblies 108 deliver the signature collations 112 to the host pockets 110, which are configured to feed or drop the signature collations 112 onto the main conveyor 116 to generate the stacks of signatures 118. For example, in a square-back bindery line, the host pockets 110 may be square-back host pockets that feed signature collations (e.g., the signature collations 112) having one or more signatures onto a flat conveyor such as the main conveyor 116 shown in FIG. 1. In a saddle-stitch bindery line, the host pockets 110 may be saddle-stitch pockets that feed signature collations (e.g., the signature collations 112) consisting of one signature onto a chain conveyor.

FIG. 2 illustrates a detailed side elevational view of an example signature collation feeder assembly 200 that may be used to implement the example bindery line 100 of FIG. 1. The example signature collation feeder assembly 200 may be substantially similar or identical to the example signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c of FIG. 1. The signature collation feeder assembly 200 includes two example modular signature feeders 202a and 202b, an example signature squaring section 204, and an example transfer assembly 206. Although shown as having the two modular signature feeders 202a and 202b, the signature collation feeder assembly 200 may have fewer or more modular signature feeders attached thereto to suit the needs of a particular application.

The example modular signature feeders 202a and 202b, the example squaring section 204, and the example transfer assembly 206 may be operatively coupled to one another in a removably attached manner via example fastening components 208. For example, the example fastening components 208 of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may be configured to couple the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b to one another, to other modular signature feeders, and/or to the squaring section 204. In this manner, the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may work cooperatively to create the signature collations 112 (FIG. 1) and deliver the signature collations 112 to the squaring section 204. In some cases, the squaring section 204 may be integral with the transfer assembly 206 or may be omitted from the example signature collation feeder assembly 200 and the modular signature feeder 202a may be coupled directly to the transfer assembly 206. The example fastening components 208 may be screws, clips, clevis pins, and/or any other suitable fasteners.

The example modular signature feeders 202a and 202b, the example squaring section 204, and the example transfer assembly 206 may also include a plurality of wheels 209 (e.g., casters) to facilitate moving (e.g., rolling) the example signature collation feeder assembly 200 and each component thereof from one location to another. For example, the fasteners 208 and the wheels 209 enable the signature collation feeder assembly 200 to be relatively easily configured to suit a particular production run by adding and/or removing components such as the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b.

The modular signature feeders 202a and 202b include respective frames 210a and 210b mechanically coupled to respective bases 211a and 211b. The bases 211a and 211b are coupled to the wheels 209 and configured to engage a building surface such as, for example, a floor, via the wheels 209. The wheels 209 may be used to facilitate moving or rolling the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b from one location to another such as, for example, toward or completely away from the signature collation feeder assembly 200. As described above, adding modular signature feeders to the signature collation feeder assembly 200 increases the footprint of and the amount of floor space required by the signature collation feeder assembly 200 and removing modular signature feeders reduces the footprint and the amount of required floor space.

The modular signature feeders 202a and 202b are substantially similar or identical to one another and the modular signature feeders 104 of FIG. 1. The modular signature feeders 202a and 202b include respective hoppers 212a and 212b, each of which is configured to hold a respective plurality of signatures 214a and 214b. The plurality of signatures 214a may be different from the plurality of signatures 214b. For example, the plurality of signatures 214a may include information directed to a first consumer group and the plurality of signatures 214b may include information directed to a second consumer group.

Each of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b includes a signature ingress 216, a signature egress 218, and a plurality of conveyors and rolls (described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 3B) that are configured to receive signatures or signature collations (e.g., the signature collations 112 of FIG. 1) from another modular signature feeder, combine signatures from the pluralities of signatures 214a and 214b with each of the received signatures or signature collations 112, and deliver the signature collations 112 to another modular signature feeder or the example squaring section 204. For example, the modular signature feeder 202a delivers one of the signatures 214a to the modular signature feeder 202b, which feeds one of the signatures 214b and stacks it onto or collates it with the received one of the signatures 214a to form one of the signature collations 112. The modular signature feeder 202b then delivers the signature collation 112 to the squaring section 204.

Signature collations 112 are transferred from the example modular signature feeder 202a to the example modular signature feeder 202b or from the modular signature feeder 202b to the example squaring section 204 via belt-to-belt transfers 220 and 222, respectively. More specifically, the signature ingress 216 and the signature egress 218 of each of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b are configured to form belt-to-belt transfers. For example, when the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b are operatively coupled to each other, the signature egress 216 of the modular signature feeder 202a and the signature ingress 218 of the modular signature feeder 202b form the belt-to-belt transfer 220. Similarly, when the modular signature feeder 202b is coupled to the squaring section 204, the signature egress 218 of the modular signature feeder 202b and the squaring section 204 form the belt-to-belt transfer 222. The belt-to-belt transfers 220 and 222 eliminate the need to provide a unitary belt that traverses through the entire length of the example signature collation feeder assembly 200, thus facilitating the addition or removal of modular signature feeders to reconfigure the signature collation feeder assembly 200. During operation, the rates at which adjacent modular signature feeders feed and receive the signature collations 112 may be matched to facilitate operation of the belt-to-belt transfers 220 and 222. Operating the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b at substantially the same rates (e.g., linear belt speed) substantially minimizes or prevents the signature collations 112 from tearing, crumpling, marring, or becoming jammed in the belt-to-belt transfers 220 and 222.

The squaring section 204 is substantially similar or identical to the squaring sections 106 of FIG. 1 and includes vertical squaring conveyors 224 (one is shown), a horizontal squaring conveyor 226, and a vacuum conveyor 228. The vertical squaring conveyors 224, the horizontal squaring conveyor 226, and the vacuum conveyor 228 are substantially similar or identical to the vertical squaring conveyors 128, the horizontal squaring conveyor 130, and the vacuum conveyor 132 (FIG. 1), respectively. The squaring section 204 also includes a first motor 230, a second motor 232, a motor controller 234, an encoder 236, and a vacuum 238.

The first motor 230 may be configured to power the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b via a belt and sprocket assembly 240 as described below. The second motor 232 may be configured to power the conveyors (e.g., the vertical squaring conveyors 224 and the horizontal squaring conveyor 226), rolls, and other portions of the squaring section 204. The motors 230 and 232 may be implemented using any suitable motor including, for example, servo motors. The vacuum 238 may be configured to power the vacuum conveyor 228.

The conveyors, rolls, and other portions of the example modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may be mechanically powered or driven using belts and sprockets that transfer drive power from other modular signature feeders or from the example squaring section 204. For example, the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b include sprockets 242a and 242b, respectively. The sprockets 242a and 242b may be operatively coupled to the conveyors and rolls of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b via belts, gear mesh, or any other power transfer configuration. In this manner, the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may be operated by rotating the sprockets 242a and 242b.

As shown, a first belt 244a couples the first sprocket 242a to the belt and sprocket assembly 240 and a second belt 244b couples the first sprocket 242a to the second sprocket 242b. In this manner, the first motor 230 may power the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b and cause the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b to operate at substantially similar or identical feeding rates. The sprockets 242a and 242b may be double-width sprockets or wide enough to each accommodate two belts such as the two belts 244a and 244b that are accommodated by the first sprocket 242a. The belts 244a and 244b are removable to facilitate the removal of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b from the signature collation feeder assembly 200.

The motor controller 234 and the encoder 236 may be communicatively coupled and used to substantially synchronize or match the feeding rates or operating speeds of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b with the feeding rate of the squaring section 204. For example, the encoder 236 may be used to measure the operating speeds of the second motor 232 and/or the conveyors 224 and 226 and communicate the measured speed to the motor controller 234. The motor controller 234 may then control the first motor 230 to rotate at a speed that causes the feeding rates or operating speeds of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b to substantially match the feeding rate or operating speed of the squaring section 204.

In an alternative implementation, each of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may include a motor (e.g., the motor 318 of FIG. 3A) and may be powered by its own motor. In this case, the motor controller 234 may be communicatively coupled to each motor and configured to control the speed of each motor so that the feed rates of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b and the squaring section 204 are substantially matched or synchronized. Additionally, each of the modular signature feeders 202a and 202b may include its own motor controller that may be communicatively coupled to the encoder 236.

As described in detail above in connection with FIG. 1, the squaring section 104 is configured to align or square edges (e.g., the edges 504, 506, 508, and 510 of FIG. 5) of signatures (e.g., the signature collations 112 of FIG. 1). For example, if the signature collations 112 are delivered to the squaring section 112 with a leading back edge (e.g., the back edge 510 of FIG. 5) or fore edge (e.g., the fore edge 508 of FIG. 5), the vertical squaring conveyors 224 align head edges (e.g., the head edge 504 of FIG. 5) and foot edges (e.g., the foot edge 506 of FIG. 5). The horizontal squaring conveyor 226 may align the fore edges 508 and/or the back edges 510 of the signature collations 112 via a plurality of alignment pins 246 that are substantially similar or identical to the alignment pins 134 of FIG. 1.

The squaring section 104 may square the edges of a signature to the direction of travel of the signature through the squaring section 104 and may align the edges of a plurality of stacked signatures to one another. In particular, if a signature is fed to the squaring section 104 with a leading back edge (e.g., the back edge 510 of FIG. 5), the squaring section 104 may square the back edge and the fore edge (e.g., the fore edge 508 of FIG. 5) of the signature so that the back edge and fore edge are perpendicular to the direction of travel of the signature. In this manner, if a printer (e.g., the printer 140) prints information on the signature, the information is printed at a correct location on the signature while substantially minimizing or eliminating any skew between the printed information and the signature. Additionally, squaring a signature ensures that a label applicator (e.g., the label applicator 136 of FIG. 1) applies a label (e.g., the labels 138 of FIG. 1) at a correct location on the signature. The squaring section 104 may also be configured to square edges of a plurality of stacked signatures (e.g., a plurality of stacked signatures that forms one of the signature collations 112) to one another. For example, if one of the signature collations 112 includes a plurality of signatures, the squaring section 104 may align the edges of the plurality of signatures to one another in addition to squaring the edges with respect to the direction of travel of the signature collation 112.

The horizontal alignment conveyor 226 is configured to deliver the signature collations 112 to the vacuum conveyor 228, which then delivers the signature collations 112 to the transfer assembly 206 via a belt-to-belt transfer 248. The transfer assembly 206 may then deliver the signature collations 112 to a host pocket (e.g., one of the host pockets 110 of FIG. 1) via a signature transfer conveyor 250. Although not shown, the signature transfer conveyor 250 may include one or more conveyors that move between the belt-to-belt transfer 248 and a host pocket (e.g., one of the host pockets 110 of FIG. 1) to transfer the signature collations 112 from the signature squaring section 204 toward the host pocket.

One or more of a plurality of printers 252a, 252b, and 252c may be located as shown in the example signature collation feeder assembly 200. The printers 252a-252c may be substantially similar or identical to the printer 140 of FIG. 1 and may be used to print personalized indicia on the signature collations 112. Because the vacuum conveyor 228 is free from moving protrusions or pins such as the alignment pins 246, the printer 252a may be placed above the vacuum conveyor 228 to print on the faces of the signature collations 112. The printers 252b and 252c may be placed adjacent to different portions of the transfer assembly 206 to enable printing on opposing sides of the signature collations 112.

Although not shown, other apparatus may be placed along the example signature collation feeder assembly 200 to enable further customization or personalization of the signature collations 112 or to enable other bindery line features. For example, one or more label applicators such as the label applicator 136 (FIG. 1) may be placed adjacent to the squaring section 204 and/or the transfer assembly 206. In addition, missing-signature sensors such as proximity sensors, laser sensors, and/or optical sensors may be placed at various locations along any portion of the signature collation feeder assembly 200 to generate feedback for error correction and quality assurance purposes.

FIG. 3A illustrates an external view and FIG. 3B illustrates an internal view of an example modular signature feeder 300 that may be used to implement the example signature collation feeder assembly of FIG. 2. The example modular signature feeder 300 is configured to function in a substantially similar manner as the modular signature feeders 104, 202a, and 202b described above in connection with FIGS. 1 and 2. For example, the example modular signature feeder 300 is configured to be operatively coupled in a removable manner to other modular signature feeders. In addition, the modular signature feeder 300 may be operatively coupled to a squaring section such as the example squaring sections 106 and 204 of FIGS. 1 and 2.

As shown in FIG. 3A, the example modular signature feeder 300 includes a frame 302, a base 304, a fastening component 306, wheels 308, and a hopper 310. As shown, the frame 302 and the base 304 are integrally formed. The fastening component 306, the wheels 308, and the hopper 310 may be substantially similar or identical to the fastening components 208, the wheels 209, and the hoppers 212a and 212b (FIG. 2), respectively. The modular signature feeder 300 also includes a signature ingress 312, a signature egress 314, a signature feed actuator assembly 316, and a motor 318. The modular signature feeder 300 is configured to receive signatures or the signature collations 112 (FIG. 1) from another modular signature feeder via the signature ingress 312 as the signature collations 112 travel in a direction generally indicated by arrow 318. The example modular signature feeder 300 may then add one of a plurality of signatures 320 to each of the signature collations 112 and deliver the signature collations 112 via the signature egress 314 to another modular signature feeder or to a squaring section (e.g., the squaring section 106 of FIG. 1 or the squaring section 204 of FIG. 2).

The signature feed actuator assembly 316 may be operatively coupled to the hopper 310 and configured to cause the hopper 310 to feed one of the plurality of signatures 320 to a signature feeding apparatus and a plurality of conveyors (e.g., the signature feeding apparatus 352 and the conveyors 354, 356, 358, and 360 described below in connection with FIG. 3B) of the example modular signature feeder 300. In an example implementation, the signature feed actuator assembly 316 may feed a signature in response to a trigger signal communicated by, for example, a computer or other processor-based system that may be executing instructions, code, software, etc. The operating speed or feed rate of the feed actuator assembly 316 may be substantially synchronized or matched to a feed rate or operating speed of other modular signature feeders or a squaring section (e.g., the squaring sections 204 of FIG. 2 and 106 of FIG. 1) coupled to the modular signature feeder 300.

The motor 318 may be substantially similar to the motor 230 described above in connection with FIG. 2 and may be used to power the example modular signature feeder 300. For example, the motor 318 may be communicatively coupled to a motor controller and an encoder (e.g. the motor controller 234 and the encoder 236 of FIG. 2). The motor controller and encoder may be configured to control the speed of the motor 318 so that the feed rate or operating speed of the modular signature feeder 300 is substantially synchronized or matched to the feed rate or operating speed of other modular signature feeders or a squaring section coupled to the modular signature feeder 300.

As shown in FIG. 3B, the example modular signature feeder 300 includes a signature feeding apparatus 352, a feed conveyor 354 operatively coupled to the signature feeding apparatus 352, a transfer conveyor 356, an upper interposing conveyor 358, and a lower interposing conveyor 360. The signature delivery conveyors 354, 356, 358, and 360 are contained within the modular signature feeder 300 so that they do not extend outside the signature feeder and, thus, do not traverse or travel through more than one modular signature feeder. This conveyor configuration facilitates reconfiguration of a signature collation feeder assembly (e.g., the example signature collation feeder assemblies 102a-102c of FIG. 1) to include more or fewer modular signature feeders. For example, adding the modular signature feeder 300 to another modular signature feeder or to a squaring section (e.g., the squaring sections 106 of FIG. 1) does not require reinstalling signature delivery conveyors that traverse all of the modular signature feeders in a signature collation feeder assembly.

The signature feeding apparatus 352 is configured to obtain a signature from the hopper 310 each time the feed actuator assembly 316 (FIG. 3A) causes the hopper 310 to feed a signature. The signature feeding apparatus 352 then delivers the signature to the transfer conveyor 356 via the feed conveyor 354 and the upper interposing conveyor 358. The signature feeding apparatus 352 is shown as a rotary signature feeder. However, the modular signature feeder 300 may be implemented using any other suitable signature feeding apparatus.

The transfer conveyor 356 and the lower interposing conveyor 360 oppose one another along a common plane to form a receiving portion of a belt-to-belt transfer (e.g., the belt-to-belt transfer 220 of FIG. 2) at the signature ingress 312. After receiving a signature or one of the signature collations 112 (FIG. 1) from another modular signature feeder, the signature collation 112 is captured between the transfer conveyor 356 and the lower interposing conveyor 360, which work cooperatively to transfer the signature collation 112 toward the signature egress 314. The feed conveyor 354 and the upper interposing conveyor 358 may feed or deliver one of the plurality of signatures 320 to the signature collation 112 as the signature collation 112 is transferred toward the signature egress 314. The feed conveyor 354 and the transfer conveyor 356 form a delivery portion of a belt-to-belt transfer (e.g., the belt-to-belt transfers 220 and 222 of FIG. 2) at the signature egress 314 via which the signature collations 112 may be delivered to another modular signature feeder or a squaring section (e.g., the squaring section 106 of FIG. 1 or the squaring section 204 of FIG. 2).

The signature feeding apparatus 352 and the signature delivery conveyors 354, 356, 358, and 360 illustrated in FIG. 3B are configured to stack signatures for use in a square-back bindery line. However, other signature feeding and delivery apparatus may be used such as signature feeding and delivery apparatus configured to insert signatures into one another to form signature collations that can be dropped onto or delivered to a chain in a saddle-stitch bindery line.

FIG. 4A illustrates a front elevational view of a top-loading hopper 402 operatively coupled to an example modular signature feeder 400. The modular signature feeder 400 includes a signature feeding apparatus 404 and opposing rolls 406 and 408 that form a signature egress 410. For purposes of clarity, other portions or elements of the modular signature feeder 400 are not shown. In general, the modular signature feeder 400 may be substantially similar or identical to any of the example modular signature feeders described above in connection with FIGS. 1 through 3B and the signature feeding apparatus 402 may be substantially similar or identical to the signature feeding apparatus 352 of FIG. 3B.

The top-loading hopper 402 is substantially similar to the hoppers 212a and 212b of FIG. 2 and the hopper 310 of FIGS. 3A and 3B and operates in a manner substantially similar to those hoppers. A plurality of signatures 412 are loaded into the hopper 402 and held in a vertical stack. The number of signatures that can be loaded into the hopper 402 at any given time is typically constrained by the height of the hopper 402. For cases in which signatures are loaded by a machine (e.g., a fork lift), the hopper 402 may be relatively high. However, having large amounts of space between bindery lines for access by, for example, fork lifts or other hopper loading machinery is often expensive and reduces the amount of space available for expanding bindery lines or installing new bindery lines. Thus, many hoppers are configured for manual loading (i.e., loading by a person). In this case, the height of the hopper 402 is typically constrained by a height that can be reasonably accessed by a person loading the hopper 402.

FIG. 4B illustrates a front elevational view of a side-loading hopper 452 operatively coupled to the example modular signature feeder 400 of FIG. 4A. The side-loading hopper 452 is configured to feed one of a plurality of signatures 454 to the signature feeding apparatus 404. The side-loading hopper 452 includes a signature loading portion 456 and a signature delivery portion 458. Signatures may be loaded by a person or a machine via the signature loading portion 456. During operation, the signatures 454 move toward the signature delivery portion 458 and are delivered to the signature feeding apparatus 404.

The side-loading hopper 452 is configured to hold a large number of signatures and facilitate loading signatures by a person. More specifically, an angle α at which the side-loading hopper 452 extends from the example modular signature feeder 400 enables the size and the holding capacity of the side-loading hopper 452 to be increased while maintaining the signature loading portion 456 at a height accessible by a person. Any suitable angle that enables the plurality of signatures 454 to move toward the signature delivery portion 458 and maintains the signature loading portion 456 at a reasonable height may be used to implement the angle α.

FIG. 5 illustrates an example book 500 that may be formed by the example bindery line 100 of FIG. 1. The example book 500 may be formed using a plurality of collated signatures (e.g., the signature collations 112 of FIG. 1) that are saddle-stitch bound or square-back bound as described above in connection with FIG. 1. The example book 500 may be, for example, a magazine, a flyer, a pamphlet, etc. that includes fewer or more pages than shown in FIG. 5.

The example book 500 includes a plurality of pages 502, each having a head edge 504, a foot edge, 506, a fore edge 508, and a back edge 510. The example book 500 further includes a label 512 and personalized indicia 514. As described above in connection with FIG. 1, the plurality of pages 502 are formed by gathering a plurality of signatures or the signature collations 112 (FIG. 1) in the bindery line 100 (FIG. 1). The edges 504, 506, 508, and 510 are aligned or squared in a squaring section (e.g., the squaring section 106 of FIG. 1 or the squaring section 204 of FIG. 2) via vertical squaring conveyors (e.g., the vertical squaring conveyors 128 of FIG. 1 and 224 of FIG. 2) and horizontal squaring conveyors (e.g., the horizontal squaring conveyors 130 of FIG. 1 and 226 of FIG. 2). For example, with reference to FIG. 1, the vertical squaring conveyors 128 may align the head edges 504 and foot edges 506 and the horizontal squaring conveyor 130 may align the fore edges 508 and the back edges 510 if the signature collations 112 are delivered to the squaring section 106 with a leading back edge (e.g., the back edge 510).

The label 512 may be substantially similar or identical to the labels 138 of FIG. 1 and may be applied to the example book 500 by the example label applicator 136. The label 512 may include indicia 516 that is pre-printed or printed on the bindery line (e.g., the bindery line 100). For example, one or more of the printers 140 (FIG. 1) or 252a-252c of FIG. 2 may be configured to print the indicia 516 and/or the personalized indicia 514. The personalized indicia 514 and/or the indicia 516 may be information that is specific to a particular consumer or consumer group. For example, the indicia 514 and 516 may include a person's name, special offers associated with a person's interests, and/or any other information.

Although certain methods, apparatus, and articles of manufacture have been described herein, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. To the contrary, this patent covers all methods, apparatus, and articles of manufacture fairly falling within the scope of the appended claims either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.