Title:
Fin stacker assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In the manufacture of heat exchangers, fins are produced in a fin press and shear from a sheet of stamped metal and are sheared from the sheet in rapid succession and placed on a fin stacker. The fin stacker includes vertical rods aligned for receiving the fins. The fin stacker is placed adjacent the fin press and shear in a docking bay that is adjustable for proper alignment of the stacker with the press. The rods are electrically connected with the control system but insulated from the stacker or ground, so that if a fin becomes jammed between the rods and the fin press and shear, a ground circuit is completed and the control system shuts down the fin press and shear. The control system also shuts down if the stacker becomes displaced, releasing a proximity switch located in the docking bay.



Inventors:
Milliman, James G. (Sturgis, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/341143
Publication Date:
08/17/2006
Filing Date:
01/27/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/452, 211/41.1
International Classes:
B65B69/00; A47G19/08; B65D85/48
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TAOUSAKIS, ALEXANDER P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FLYNN THIEL, P.C. (KALAMAZOO, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. In a material handling rack configured to arrange a plurality of perforated articles, the perforated articles grouped in adjacent sets, wherein the perforated articles are carried by the material handling rack on a plurality of elongate guide rods, and wherein adjacent sets are individually removable from the material handling rack, a mounting system for the plurality of elongate guide rods, comprising: a base plate arrangement for pivotally mounting the guide rods; at least one fixed plate arranged above the base plate arrangement and including a plurality of apertures for receiving the guide rods, the apertures having a width greater than a width of the guide rods in at least one direction; and at least one movable plate having a mechanism for selectively placing the movable plate in a first position immobilizing the guide rods within respective apertures and in a second position for releasing the guide rods to move freely within the respective apertures.

2. The mounting system of claim 1, wherein the at least one movable plate further comprises a plurality of apertures for receiving the guide rods and corresponding to the plurality of apertures of the at least one fixed plate.

3. The mounting system of claim 2, wherein the at least one movable plate further comprises a guide for directing the movable plate in sliding linear movement relative to the at least one fixed plate.

4. The mounting system of claim 2, wherein the at least one movable plate further comprises at least one slot.

5. The mounting system of claim 4, wherein the at least one slot of the movable plate and a corresponding aperture of the fixed plate define a passage substantially equal to the diameter of the guide rod when the movable plate is in the first position.

6. The mounting system of claim 5, wherein the corresponding aperture of the at least one fixed plate further comprises a slot.

7. The mounting system of claim 1, wherein the mechanism further comprises a swivel post for levering the movable plate between the first and second positions.

8. The mounting system of claim 1, wherein movement of the movable plate to the second position permits separation of the adjacent sets of perforated articles.

9. The mounting system of claim 8, wherein the movement of the movable plate is linear.

10. The mounting system of claim 1, wherein the mechanism is configured for linear movement of the movable plate.

11. A fin stacker assembly comprising: a module base plate having an array of receivers for carrying a plurality of rods; a rod-mounting plate with an array of keyhole apertures aligned with the array of receivers; an upper plate having an array of slots aligned with the array of receivers, with a first end of each slot aligned with the first end of the receivers; a slidable locking plate having an array of slots aligned with the array of receivers, the slots each having a first end and a second end, the slidable locking plate configured to slide between a first, locked position and a second, unlocked position, wherein the slidable locking plate is configured to engage at least one rod for securing the rod in a vertical position when in the first, locked position and for releasing the rod when in the second, unlocked position.

12. The fin stacker assembly of claim 11, wherein the plurality of rods include ball ends for engaging the array of receivers.

13. The fin stacker assembly of claim 12, wherein the rod-mounting plate is configured to engage ball ends of the plurality of rods for securing same in the array of receivers.

14. The fin stacker assembly of claim 12, wherein each of the plurality of rods includes a tapered upper end.

15. The fin stacker assembly of claim 11, further comprising a swivel post mounted to the module base plate and the slidable locking plate.

16. The fin stacker assembly of claim 15, the swivel post further comprising a locking mechanism for selectively holding the slidable locking plate in the first, locked position.

17. A fin stacker assembly comprising: a base plate assembly for mounting a plurality of rods in a substantially vertical arrangement; an upper plate having an array of apertures configured to receive the plurality of rods; a locking plate having an array of slots aligned with the array of apertures of the upper plate to receive the plurality of rods, and configured to slide between a locked position and an unlocked position, wherein at least one of the array of slots of the locking plate is configured to cooperate with a corresponding one of the array of apertures of the upper plate to hold a respective one of the plurality of rods in a vertical position when in the locked position and to release the respective rod for lateral movement when in the unlocked position.

18. The fin stacker assembly of claim 17, wherein the array of apertures comprises at least one slot.

19. The fin stacker assembly of claim 17, further comprising a swivel post mounted between the base plate assembly and the locking plate.

20. The fin stacker assembly of claim 19, the swivel post further comprising a locking mechanism for selectively holding the locking plate in the locked position.

21. In a material handling rack configured to arrange a plurality of perforated articles, the perforated articles grouped in adjacent sets, wherein the perforated articles are carried by the material handling rack on a plurality of elongate guide rods, and wherein adjacent sets are individually removable from the material handling rack, a mounting system for the plurality of elongate guide rods, comprising: a base plate arrangement for pivotally mounting the guide rods; a laterally fixed plate and a laterally movable plate arranged above the base plate arrangement, at least one of the laterally fixed plate and the laterally movable plate including a plurality of apertures for receiving the guide rods, the apertures having a width greater than a width of the guide rods in at least one direction; and a mechanism for selectively placing the movable plate in a first position laterally immobilizing the guide rods within respective apertures and in a second position for releasing the guide rods to move laterally within the respective apertures.

22. The mounting system of claim 21, wherein at least one of the laterally fixed plate and the laterally movable plate is arranged for vertical movement relative to the base plate arrangement toward an upper end of the guide rods, with the guide rods received in the plurality of apertures, to laterally stabilize the guide rods, and the material handling rack includes a lift mechanism for effecting the vertical movement.

23. The mounting system of claim 21, further comprising a second laterally movable plate, at least one of the laterally fixed plate and the second laterally movable plate including a plurality of apertures for receiving a portion of the plurality of guide rods, and a second mechanism for selectively placing the second laterally movable plate in a first position laterally immobilizing the guide rods within respective apertures and in a second position for releasing the guide rods to move laterally within the respective apertures.

24. In a material handling rack configured to arrange a plurality of perforated articles, the perforated articles grouped in adjacent sets, wherein the perforated articles are carried by the material handling rack on a plurality of elongate guide rods, and wherein adjacent sets are individually removable from the material handling rack, a mounting system for the plurality of elongate guide rods, comprising: a base plate arrangement for pivotally mounting the guide rods; at least one fixed plate arranged above the base plate arrangement and including a plurality of apertures for receiving the guide rods, the apertures having a width greater than a width of the guide rods in at least one direction; and at least one movable plate having a mechanism for selectively placing the movable plate in a first position immobilizing the guide rods within respective apertures and in a second position for releasing the guide rods to move freely within the respective apertures.

25. A fin press and shear and a fin receiving and stacking assembly, comprising: a fin press and shear; a fin receiving and stacking assembly including: a receiving dock; a fin receiving and stacking cart configured for moving into and out of the receiving dock, and for receiving a plurality of fins from the fin press and shear, the cart including a plurality of elongate rods for receiving the fins and a mounting mechanism for the elongate rods; the mounting mechanism including a plurality of plates for selectively holding the elongate rods in one of a plurality of vertical positions and for supporting fins received on the plurality of rods, the mounting mechanism and the elongate rods being electrically insulated from the fin receiving and stacking cart; and the receiving dock including a cart elevation adjustment mechanism, and a plate elevation mechanism for selectively positioning at least one of the plurality of plates on the elongate rods for receiving the fins; a plurality of sensors mounted on one of the fin press and shear, the receiving dock and the fin receiving and stacking cart; and a control system configured to receive signals from the plurality of sensors and provide control signals to the fin press and shear and the fin receiving and stacking assembly.

26. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the control system is configured to send signals to the plate elevation mechanism to raise and lower the at least one of the plurality of plates, and to lower the at least one of the plurality of plates every 100 cycles of the fin press and shear.

27. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the receiving dock includes a base portion adjustably supported by a plurality of wheels for alignment with the fin press and shear.

28. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the plate elevation mechanism is configured to lower for a predetermined period every 100 cycles of the fin press and shear.

29. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the plate elevation mechanism is configured to lower at a constant rate during operation of the fin press and shear.

30. The assembly of claim 25, the fin receiving and stacking cart further comprising a plurality of wheels, the wherein the wheels are lifted from a support surface by the cart elevation adjustment mechanism.

31. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the plurality of sensors comprises a proximity switch assembly.

32. The assembly of claim 31, wherein the control system is configured to provide a power-on signal after a predetermined delay initiated by actuation of the proximity switch assembly.

33. The assembly of claim 31, wherein the control system is configured to activate the cart elevation mechanism upon actuation of the proximity switch assembly.

34. The assembly of claim 31, further comprising an electrical connection of the rods to the control system through the proximity switch assembly.

35. The assembly of claim 34, wherein an electrical grounding of the rods to the fin press and shear completes a circuit with the control system and initiates an automatic shutdown of the fin press and shear.

36. The assembly of claim 25, wherein an electrical grounding of the rods to the fin press and shear initiates an automatic shutdown of the fin press and shear by the control system.

37. The assembly of claim 25, the plate elevation mechanism further comprising upper and lower limit switches.

38. The assembly of claim 37, wherein the plate elevation mechanism further comprises rails having a height to receive the at least one of the plurality of plates and allow unobstructed lifting of the cart by the cart elevation adjustment mechanism.

39. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the rods and mounting system are electrically isolated from the cart by a non-conductive member.

40. The assembly of claim 25, wherein the receiving dock includes a floor base plate configured for adjustable alignment with the fin press and shear.

41. The assembly of claim 40, further comprising an adjustable bracket assembly for aligning the floor base plate relative to the fin press and shear and securing the floor base plate in place.

42. The assembly of claim 41, wherein the adjustable bracket assembly is configured for laterally, longitudinally and rotationally aligning the floor base plate relative to the fin press and shear.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application 60/649,872, filed Feb. 3, 2005, which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a material handling component for use in manufacturing. In one of its aspects, the invention relates to a material handler for perforated articles. In another of its aspects, the invention relates to an assembly for handling stacks of heat exchanger fins.

2. Description of Related Art

In the manufacture of heat exchangers, a plurality of fins is produced for attachment to looped tubing carrying a heat exchanger fluid. The fins are produced from a sheet of stamped metal and are sheared from the sheet in rapid succession. Each fin has been perforated to include holes for receiving the tubing. The plurality of fins must be removed from the press/shear and transported to a lacing area or station for mating with the tubing.

A known fin stacker assembly for receiving the fins from the fin sheet press/shear (such as shown in FIG. 1A), includes a plurality of arranged vertical tapered or guide rods that are configured to be received through the holes in the fins. The fin stacker assembly often receives multiple stacks of fins that are closely adjacent to each other. When there are multiple adjacent stacks of fins on the fin stacker assembly, the adjacent stacks of fins can become entangled. Then, as one attempts to remove the fin packs or stacks from the fin stacker assembly, the fins are prevented from ready movement by their entanglement.

Further known issues with prior art fin stacker assemblies is the propensity of the fins being deposited by the fin press/shear to come off of the fin press/shear in an orientation other than in straight alignment with the rods of the fin stacker. When this occurs, the fins can become jammed on the rods of the fin stacker. When a jam occurs, continued working of the fin press/shear will further jam the fin stacker, potentially causing damage and increasing the difficulty of clearing the jam.

It would be advantageous to provide a material handling rack configured to arrange a plurality of perforated articles, such as a fin stacker assembly that can receive adjacent fins from a fin sheet press, and that is also configured to separate adjacent stacks of the fins in order to facilitate removal of the fin packs or stacks from the fin stacker without interference by the adjacent stack.

It would be further advantageous to provide a material handling rack configured for adjustable alignment with a corresponding fin press/shear. It would be further advantageous to provide a fin stacker interconnected with a control system of the fin press/shear to indicate a jamming condition of fins being dispensed by the fin press/shear, enabling the control system to automatically shut down operation of the fin press/shear.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A fin stacker assembly includes a plurality of arranged vertical rods aligned for receiving fin sheets through holes formed therein. The stacker is configured to receive multiple stacks of fins that are closely adjacent to each other. The rods are selectively lockable in a base so that the groups can be separated to facilitate removal of each stack of fins from the fin stacker assembly independently from the other without interference.

In a further embodiment, the fin stacker assembly includes a mounting assembly configured to isolate the rods from an electrical ground, such that a grounding of the rods indicates a jamming condition of the fin press/shear. A control system of the fin press/shear is configured to signal the grounded condition and shut down the fin press/shear in response thereto.

In a further embodiment of the invention, the fin stacker and mounting assembly are configured to be removably placed into a receiving dock which is itself adjustable with respect to the fin press/shear.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a fin stacker assembly according to the invention attached to a fin sheet press/shear.

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a prior art fin stacker assembly.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a fin stacker assembly module of the fin stacker assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a partial cut-away front elevation view of the fin stacker assembly module of FIGS. 1-2.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of the fin stacker assembly module of FIGS. 1-3.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged partial cut-away view of the fin stacker assembly module of FIGS. 1-4.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged partial cut-away view of the fin stacker assembly module of FIGS. 1-5.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a fin stacker assembly according to a further embodiment of the invention attached to a fin sheet press/shear.

FIG. 8 is an enlarged elevation of the fin stacker assembly of FIG. 7.

FIG. 8A is an enlarged perspective view of a further embodiment of the fin stacker assembly of FIGS. 7-8.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged perspective view of the fin stacker assembly of FIGS. 7-8.

FIG. 10 is an enlarged elevation of the fin stacker assembly of FIGS. 7-9.

FIG. 11 is an enlarged perspective view of the fin stacker assembly of FIGS. 7-10 in an unlocked position.

FIG. 12 is an elevation of the fin stacker assembly of FIGS. 7-11 in a receiving dock of the fin sheet press/shear.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a fin stacker assembly and fin press/shear according to a further embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13A is an enlarged perspective view of the interface between the fin stacker assembly and fin press/shear of FIG. 13.

FIG. 14 is a side view of the fin stacker assembly and fin press/shear of FIG. 13.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a receiving dock according to FIGS. 13-14.

FIG. 15A is an enlarged perspective view of a retracted threaded body cylinder in the receiving dock of FIG. 15.

FIG. 15B is an enlarged perspective view of an extended threaded body cylinder in the receiving dock of FIG. 15.

FIG. 16 is a reverse perspective view of the receiving dock according to FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is an enlarged perspective view of a proximity switch assembly mounted on the receiving dock of FIGS. 15-16.

FIG. 17A is an enlarged perspective view according to FIG. 17 with a fin stacker assembly cart in position.

FIG. 17B is an enlarged reverse perspective view according to FIG. 17A.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a fin stacker assembly cart according to FIGS. 13-14.

FIG. 19 is a rear view of the fin stacker assembly and fin press/shear according to FIGS. 13-14.

FIG. 20 is a front view of the fin stacker assembly cart of FIGS. 18-19.

FIG. 21 is a schematic illustration of a control system of the fin stacker assembly and fin press/shear of FIGS. 13-20.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Certain terminology will be used in the following description for convenience in reference only and will not be limiting. The words “up”, “down”, “right” and left” will designate directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The words “in” and “out” will refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the device and designated parts thereof. Such terminology will include derivatives and words of similar import.

Referring to FIG. 1, a material handling rack or fin stacker assembly 10 according to the invention is illustrated in a receiving dock 12 adjacent to a fin sheet press/shear 15. The fin stacker assembly 10 comprises a base plate 20 supported by a plurality of wheels 25. The fin stacker assembly 10 is configured to roll into the receiving dock 12 in proximity with the fin sheet press/shear 15 for receiving perforated articles in the form of newly stamped fins, and to be secured in place.

The base plate 20 has an upper surface 30, and includes a pair of side rails 35 mounted to the upper surface 30. The base plate 20 further includes a cut-out portion 37. The side rails 35 are configured for removably mounting a plurality of fin stacker assembly modules 40 (see FIG. 2) to the base plate 20. The fin stacker assembly modules 40 are mounted in parallel between the side rails 35 of the base plate 20.

In a further embodiment of the fin stacker assembly, similar to a prior art assembly shown in FIG. 1A, the plurality of modules 40 are received by support rails mounted on a base plate rotatably supported adjacent the fin press/shear. Multiple “banks” of modules 40 are mounted about the perimeter of the base plate. This alternate fin stacker assembly functions after the manner of a carousel or turnstile, so that while a particular “bank” of modules 40 are positioned to receive fins from the fin sheet press/shear, other “banks” that are not so engaged can be accessed by an operator and stacks of fins removed therefrom without interrupting production of the fin sheet press/shear.

With reference now to FIGS. 2-4, each fin stacker assembly module 40 comprises a plurality of parallel plates 45 arranged for movably mounting a plurality of tapered or guide rods 50 in a generally vertical orientation. In the disclosed embodiment, some elements of each fin stacker assembly module 40 include right and left portions 54, 55 that are symmetrical with respect to the center of the module, although asymmetrical arrangements are also anticipated. The symmetrical elements in the disclosed embodiment will be pointed out in the following description.

With further reference to FIGS. 5-6, a module base plate 60 includes a plurality of apertures 65, each having a spherical mouth 67. In the alternative, each of the apertures 65 can be recesses in the surface of the module base plate 60, but an aperture 65 is preferred to provide an outlet for dirt that might become trapped in spherical mouth 67. The recesses or apertures 65 are arranged in a pattern corresponding to the pattern of holes that will be found in a fin to be handled by the fin stacker assembly module 40. The module base plate 60 further includes a pair of swivel post mounting apertures 70 each for receiving a base end 75 of a swivel post 80. Each aperture 70 is configured for mounting a swivel bearing 85 for pivotally mounting the respective swivel post 80. A stanchion mounting aperture 90 (FIG. 5) is arranged outboard of each swivel post mounting aperture 70 in the module base plate 60. A stanchion 95 is mounted in each stanchion mounting aperture 90.

A rod-mounting plate 100 is slidably mounted onto the module base plate 60 and includes a plurality of chamfered keyhole apertures 105 arranged to correspond to the plurality of apertures 65 of the module base plate 60. Each keyhole aperture 105 has a narrow portion 110 and an enlarged portion 115. In a first position of the rod-mounting plate 100, the enlarged portion 115 of each keyhole aperture 105 is substantially centered over a respective aperture 65 of the module base plate 60. In a second position of the rod-mounting plate 100, the narrow portion 110 of each keyhole aperture 105 is centered over the respective aperture 65 of the module base plate 60. A locking cam 120 is rotatably mounted to the module base plate 60 and is configured to shift the rod-mounting plate 100 between the first position and the second position. Each spherical mouth 67 is configured to receive a lower, ball end 125 of a respective tapered rod 50. The ball ends 125 are configured to pass through the enlarged portion 115 of each keyhole aperture 105 until seated against the spherical mouth 67 of the respective aperture 65 of the module base plate 60. The rod-mounting plate 100 can then be moved so that the narrow portion 110 is over the respective spherical mouth 67. The narrow portion 110 is configured to retain the ball end 125 in the spherical mouth 67 for pivoting.

An intermediate plate 130 is arranged above and vertically spaced from the module base plate 60, and is supported by a pair of end blocks 135, 140 and by fixation to the stanchions 95 through stanchion apertures 145. The intermediate plate 130 includes a plurality of rod apertures 150 (FIG. 5) aligned in an offset relationship with the recesses or apertures 65 found in the module base plate 60, and a swivel post aperture 153 aligned in an offset relationship with the swivel post mounting aperture 70. The rod apertures 150 include an inboard extent 155 and an outboard extent 160 with respect to a centerline of the fin stacker assembly module 40. The inner extent 155 of each rod aperture 150 is aligned with the respective aperture 65 of the module base plate 60.

Referring to FIGS. 2-5, a guide frame 165 is movably mounted over the intermediate plate 130, and supports an upper plate 170. The guide frame 165 and the upper plate 170 are slidably connected to the stanchions 95 and aligned over the base and intermediate plates 60, 130. The guide frame 165 and the upper plate 170 are slidably mounted to the stanchions 95 by bushings 172, and are supported on the intermediate plate 130 by a spacer (not shown). A tongue 174 extends from each end of the guide frame 165. Referring to FIG. 1, the tongues 174 are configured to extend into the lift rails 17 of the dock 12.

The upper plate 170 further includes a plurality of slots 175. The slots 175 each include an inboard extent 180 and an outboard extent 185 with respect to the centerline of the fin stacker assembly module 40. The inboard extent 180 of each slot 175 is aligned with the inboard extent 155 of the corresponding aperture 150 in the intermediate plate 130. The upper plate 170 further includes a swivel post slot 190 having an inboard extent 195 aligned with the swivel post aperture 153 of the intermediate plate 130 and the swivel mounting aperture 70 of the module base plate 60.

A pair of slidable locking plates 200 is positioned over the upper plate 170. The slidable locking plates 200 are configured to slide on the upper plate 170 between a first inward position wherein the slidable locking plates 200 are substantially adjacent one another and a second outward position wherein the slidable locking plates 200 are separated from one another. Since the slidable locking plates 200 are identical in the disclosed embodiment, only one will be described here. In an anticipated asymmetric arrangement, the sliding plates will be similarly configured, but not identical.

The slidable locking plate 200 includes a swivel post aperture 205. The swivel post aperture 205 is configured for mounting a swivel bearing 210 for pivotally receiving the swivel post 80. The slidable locking plate 200 further includes a plurality of slots 215 corresponding to the slots and apertures of the aforementioned first, second and upper plates 60, 130, 170. The slots 215 of the slidable locking plate 200 each include an inboard extent 220 and an outboard extent 225. Unlike the slots 175 of the upper plate 170, however, the slots 215 of the slidable locking plate 200 are configured so that the outboard extent 225 of each slot 215 is configured to bear against a rod 50 and contain with minimal clearance the rod 50 between the inboard extent 180 of the corresponding slot 175 in the upper plate 170, when the slidable locking plate 200 is in the first inward position.

Referring to FIG. 2, the left-hand slidable locking plate 200 is shown in the second outward position and the right-hand slidable locking plate 200 is shown in the first inward position. The slidable locking plates 200 further include longitudinal grooves 230 arranged on side edges 235 thereof. A pair of L-shaped guides 240 is shown attached to each side face 245 of the upper plate 170, with one leg of each “L” engaging the longitudinal groove 230 of the slidable locking plate 200 to keep the sliding plates 200 aligned with and held against the upper plate 170, while still allowing sliding movement.

Each stanchion 95 passes from the module base plate 60 through the second and upper plates 130, 170. A locking cradle 250 is fixed to an upper end 252 of each stanchion 95. The locking cradle 250 includes an upstanding portion 255 having a through aperture generally in the form of an oblong slot 260 having a vertical orientation. On an outboard face 265 of the upstanding portion 255, an indented catch 270 is formed adjacent the oblong slot 260. The catch 270 includes an upper edge 275 having a generally horizontal orientation.

Each swivel post 80 is connected to the module base plate 60 and a respective slidable locking plate 200 by the swivel bearings 85, 210. Each swivel post 80 extends upwardly from the slidable locking plate 200 to an upper end 280. A locking mechanism 285 is pivotally attached to the upper end 280 of each swivel post 80. The locking mechanism 285 includes a U-shaped bracket 290 pivotally attached to the upper end 280 of the swivel post 80, a rod 295 attached to the U-shaped bracket 290, and a ball-shaped handle 300 attached to the rod 295 opposite the U-shaped bracket 290. The rod 295 includes a collar 305 adjustably positioned on a central portion thereof and a cross-pin 310 secured outboard of the collar.

The locking mechanism 285 is configured to extend from the upper end 280 of the swivel post 80 through the oblong slot 260 in the locking cradle 250 at the upper end 252 of each stanchion 95. The rod 295 is slidably received through the oblong slot 260. The collar 205 is arranged on the rod 295 inboard of the locking cradle 250 and is larger than the width of the oblong slot 260, forming an inner limit stop preventing the rod 295 from moving outwardly through the oblong slot 260 beyond a preconfigured point. The cross-pin 310 extends horizontally from the rod 295 and is arranged outboard of the locking cradle 250. The cross-pin 310 extends beyond the width of the oblong slot 260, thus forming an outer limit stop preventing the rod 295 from moving inwardly beyond a preconfigured point. The cross-pin 310 is further configured to engage the indented catch 270 formed in the outboard face 265 of the upstanding portion 255 of the locking cradle 250 adjacent the oblong slot 260, thus selectively holding the rod 295 in a fixed position on the locking cradle 250.

Alternate Embodiment

A further embodiment of a fin stacker assembly 350 is shown in FIGS. 7-12. The fin stacker assembly 350 is illustrated in the receiving dock 12 having lift rails 17 connected to lift mechanism 19. The fin stacker assembly 350 includes a base plate 355 supported by wheels 360. A handle 365 is mounted to the base plate for maneuvering the assembly 350 into the receiving dock 12.

The assembly 350 further includes a pair of mounting rails 370 attached to an upper face 375 of the base plate 355. The mounting rails 370 are configured for attaching at least one fin stacker assembly module 380. The module 380 is secured in place on each mounting rail 370 by a mounting toggle 385 (FIG. 8). As shown in FIG. 8A, in a further embodiment of the invention, the mounting rails 370 include a plurality of indexing detents 387 on an underside thereof. The detents 387 are uniformly spaced at a typical spacing of holes used in the fins, such that the module 380 is readily mounted to the rails 370 at an appropriate spacing. The module 380 includes a spring-biased pin 388 configured to engage the detents 387 and give a tactile indication of the proper positioning of the module 380. The module 380 can then be locked in place using the toggle 385.

The fin stacker assembly module 380 includes a base plate 390 and a rod-mounting plate 395 substantially similar to those of the first embodiment, the rod-mounting plate 395 having a plurality of keyhole apertures 397 for holding a plurality of rods to the base plate 390. The base plate 390 also includes a swivel post mounting aperture 400 and a stanchion mounting aperture 405. A swivel post 410 is pivotally mounted to the base plate 390 by a swivel bearing 415. A stanchion 420 is fixed to the base plate 390.

A spacer 425 is mounted on the stanchion 420 adjacent to the base plate 390. The spacer 425 serves to support a guide frame 430 and an upper plate 435. The upper plate 435 is slidably mounted on the stanchion 420 by a bushing 440 mounted in aperture 442. The upper plate 435 includes a swivel post slot 445 to permit the swivel post 410 to pivot about the bearing 415 unobstructed, and a plurality of rod slots (not shown) after the teaching of the first embodiment. The guide frame 430 includes a tongue 447 at each end thereof configured for cooperating with the lift rails 17.

A locking plate 450 is slidably received on the upper plate 435. The locking plate 450 includes a plurality of rod slots 455 and a swivel post aperture 460. The swivel post 410 is pivotally connected to the locking plate 450 by a swivel bearing 465. The locking plate 450 includes longitudinal grooves 470 that are engaged by L-shaped guides 475 attached to the upper plate 435. The L-shaped guides 475 center the locking plate 450 on the upper plate 435 and allow it to slide longitudinally thereon.

The fin stacker assembly 380 includes a locking mechanism 490 attached to the upper end of each swivel post 410, and a corresponding locking cradle 495 attached to the upper end of each stanchion 420, after the teaching of the first embodiment.

Operation

Operation of the fin stacker assembly 10 will be hereinafter described referring to the first embodiment of FIGS. 1-6. The embodiment of FIGS. 7-12 operates in a similar fashion.

A plurality of fin stacker assembly modules 40 are mounted within the fin stacker assembly 10 and positioned in the dock 12 adjacent the fin sheet press/shear 15. The tongues 174 of the guide rail 165 are received within the lift rails 17 of the dock 12. The lift mechanism 19 is then engaged to raise the lift rails 17 and the guide rail 165 of the module 40. In the raised position of the lift rails (shown as 17′ in FIGS. 1, 7 and 12), the guide rail 165, the upper plate 170 and the slidable locking plate 200 support the rods 50 at an upper extent thereof for receipt of fins from the fin sheet press/shear 15. The fin sheet press/shear 15 operates to produce perforated fins in a manner known to those skilled in the art. The fins are deposited on the tapered rods 50 of each module 40 of the fin stacker assembly 10. As the rods 50 receive multiple fins, the lift mechanism 19 lowers the lift rails 17, carrying with it the guide rail 165 and the upper plate 170, and both locking plates 200 onto which the fins are being stacked. As the upper plate 170 lowers, the fin stack lowers, enabling the rods 50 to receive additional fins. At the completion of a fin press cycle, the lift mechanism 19 lowers to its starting position so that the tongues 174 are no longer supported by the lift rails 17, but are free to be removed from within the lift rails 17.

The fin stacker assembly 10 is then removed from the fin sheet press/shear 15 to transport the fins to an unloading location or position. When the fins are ready for unloading, the fin stacker assembly module 40 is operated in the following manner to permit removal of one stack of fins, held on a set of tapered rods 50, from the fin stacker assembly module 40 without interference from the adjacent stack of fins held on an adjacent set of tapered rods 50.

Each set of tapered rods 50 is held in the first inward position as a result of the slidable locking plate 200 being borne inwardly by the swivel post 80, mounted pivotally in the swivel bearings 85, 210. The swivel post 80 is pivotally mounted at its lower end to the module base plate 60, in its central portion to the slidable locking plate 200 and at its upper end to the locking mechanism 285. An operator can grasp and lift the handle 300 to move the rod 295 inwardly until the cross-pin 310 abuts the outboard face 265 of the upstanding portion 255 of the locking cradle 250. With the cross-pin 310 against the outboard face 265, the operator can then lower the handle 300 so that the cross-pin 310 enters the indented catch 270. The rod 295 is thus prevented from sliding outwardly through the oblong slot 260, and the swivel post 80 is held in position such that the slidable locking plate 200 is in the first inward position.

In order to release the swivel post 80, and move the slidable locking plate 200 to the second outward position, the operator grasps the ball-shaped handle 300 and lifts upwardly to release the cross-pin 310 from the indented catch 270. The operator then pulls the rod 295 outwardly through the oblong slot 260 until the collar 305 on the rod 295 abuts the locking cradle 250. Since the collar 305 is adjustable, the degree of movement of slidable locking plate 200 can be selected. As the rod 295 moves outwardly, the swivel post 80 pivots about the swivel bearing 85 in the module base plate 60, drawing the slidable locking plate 200 to its second outward position. As the slidable locking plate 200 moves toward the second outward position, each tapered rod 50 is freed to rotate outwardly about its lower ball end 125, away from the other set of tapered rods 50. Each tapered rod 50 can also rotate independently except to the extent that it is linked to other rods 50 by a fin sheet. An operator will generally hold the rods 50 in the vertical position during the unlocking operation by grasping the outermost occupied rod 50. As the slidable locking plate 200 is moved, it will exert an outward frictional force on the stacks of fins due to the weight of the fins on the locking plate 200. This outward force can inadvertently separate multiple stacks of fins that will lean together toward the swivel post 80. It is preferable to remove one stack at a time, beginning adjacent to the swivel post 80.

In order for each stack of fins to be removed from the fin stacker assembly module 40, the fins must be moved away from an adjacent stack of fin sheets. Each stack of fins will reside on one or more rods 50 on the right or left portion 54, 55 of the module 40, multiple stacks may reside adjacent each other on the same side of the module 40, or a stack may extend between the right and left portions 54, 55. In order to separate the adjacent stacks, the fin sheets can be pulled apart manually or mechanically. The stacks of fins are free to move with the tapered rods 50 about their lower ball ends 125. Once free of the adjacent stacks of fins, a stack can be removed from the module 40 by an operator. Generally, an operator will insert hairpins (bent tubes) or picking rods inserted into corresponding holes in the fins to maintain the stack during removal from the module 40 and transfer to the fin/tube lacing station. The operator can then repeat the removal operation for each subsequent stack of fins. In order to access additional modules 40, and central portions of each module 40 in the assembly 10, the base plate 30 includes the cut-out portion 37 to enable the operator to step into the center of the assembly 10.

Alternate Embodiment

A further embodiment of a fin stacker assembly and receiving dock 500, in conjunction with a fin press/shear, is illustrated in FIGS. 13-21. Referring to FIGS. 13-16, the receiving dock 12 is capable of being adjustably positioned adjacent to the fin press/shear 15. A floor base plate 502 (FIG. 13A) for supporting the receiving dock 12 is adapted for resting on a floor surface adjacent to the fin press/shear 15, and is connected thereto by an adjustable bracket assembly 504. The adjustable bracket assembly 504 includes a pivoting connector 505, and a plurality of adjustment plates 506 having slotted apertures 507. The adjustable bracket assembly 504 provides a first manner of aligning the fin stacker assembly and receiving dock 500 with the fin press/shear 15. The adjustable bracket assembly 504 allows for lateral, longitudinal and rotational adjustment. Once the floor base plate 502 is in alignment with the fin press/shear 15, fasteners (not shown) secure the adjustable bracket assembly 504 in place.

The dock 12 is further supportable on each side by a retractable wheel assembly 510. The wheel assembly 510 is capable of being extended by a screw-type adjuster 512, whereby the wheel assembly 510 supports the dock 12 for fore and aft movement relative to the fin press/shear 15. The wheel assembly 510 is positioned at or near the center of gravity of the receiving dock 12 to facilitate balancing of the receiving dock 12 by an operator during adjustment. Once the receiving dock 12 is in the correct position, the screw-type adjusters 512 can be used to raise/retract each wheel assembly 510. With the wheel assemblies 510 retracted, the receiving dock 12 rests on screw-adjustable legs 515 positioned about the perimeter of the receiving dock 12, such as at the corners, as is illustrated in FIGS. 13-16. With the receiving dock 12 in the correct lateral, longitudinal and rotational position with respect to the fin press/shear 15, the screw-adjustable legs 515 can be used to fix the altitude and the attitude of the receiving dock 12. The receiving dock 12 is thereby adjustable to the height and angle of the fin press/shear 15.

Referring to FIG. 15, the receiving dock 12 includes wheel stops 520, lateral guide rails 525, a cart lifting mechanism 530, and a rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 (as described in the previous embodiments). Referring to FIG. 16, a proximity switch assembly 535 is provided to detect proper positioning of a cart 545 within the receiving dock 12. The proximity switch assembly 535 further includes an isolated spring pin 540 electrically connected to a control system 550 of the fin press/shear 15. The proximity switch assembly 535 further includes a threaded aperture 552 for receiving a proximity switch 553 (FIGS. 17A, 17B). The proximity switch 553 is preferably a magnetic proximity switch and is positioned at the level of the base plate 355 to detect the presence of the cart 545.

Once the receiving dock 12 is properly aligned with the fin press/shear 15, it is set to receive the fin stacker assembly cart 545. The cart 545 is supported by a plurality of wheels 555, generally positioned at the forward extent and the rearward extent of the cart 545. The fin stacker assembly cart 545 is of a fixed width so that as the cart 545 is rolled into the receiving dock 12, the body of the cart is correctly positioned laterally by the lateral guide rails 525. The wheels 555 positioned at the forward extent of the cart 545 are positioned to engage the wheel stops 520 for establishing a longitudinally forward positioning of the cart 545 within the receiving dock 12. This forward positioning places the base plate 355 proximate the proximity switch 553 to signal the control system 550 that the cart 545 is in position. The proper forward positioning of the cart 545 will also enable an engagement of the isolated spring pin 540 by a contact plate 558. The contact plate 558 is attached to the cart 545 by an isolation mount 560 on the cart 545. The isolation mount 560 can be formed of nylon or Micarta® or other known non-conductive materials.

Upon engagement of the proximity switch assembly 535, the control system 550 of the fin press/shear 15 receives a signal from the proximity switch 553, and activates the cart lifting mechanism 530. The cart lifting mechanism 530 comprises threaded body cylinders 532 positioned for engaging the corners of the cart 545. The threaded body of the cylinders 532 provide for a pre-lift positioning, then the cylinder is activated (FIGS. 15A, 15B), i.e. pneumatically or hydraulically raising a piston 533, to engage the cart 545, lifting the cart 545 off of the wheels 555, thereby stabilizing the lateral and longitudinal position of the cart 545, and the vertical position of the cart 545, with respect to the receiving dock 12. The lift rails 17 of the rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 are positioned to allow the tongues 447 to enter each rail 17 as the cart 545 is rolled into the receiving dock 12. Each rail 17 is further dimensioned to permit the raising of the cart 545 by the cart lifting mechanism 530 without the tongues 447 binding against the rails 17.

After a suitable delay, such as two seconds, the control system 550 signals the rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 to activate so that the lift rails 17 engage the tongues 447 attached to the rod alignment plate 445 on the fin stacker assembly module 380 mounted on the cart 545, and carry it to an uppermost starting position (shown as 17′). The lifting mechanism 19 is further provided with upper and lower limit switches 565, 570 (FIG. 21) to signal the control system 550 when the lift rails 17 are in the uppermost and lowermost positions respectively. When the lift rails 17 reach the uppermost position (17′), the control system 550 will stop the lifting mechanism 19 and signal the operator that the fin press/shear 15 may be started or continue its production cycle. In a fully automated system, the control system 550 will directly control the fin press/shear 15.

During the production cycle of the fin press/shear 15, the fins (not shown) will be deposited on the rods 50 of the fin stacker assembly module 380, and will settle onto the rod alignment plate 445. As the fin press/shear 15 continues to produce fins, it becomes necessary to lower the rod alignment plate 445, so that the rods 50 remain exposed to receive fins deposited by the fin press/shear 15. In one configuration, the control system 550 is configured to periodically activate the rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 to lower the alignment plate 445. In this configuration, the control system 550 will lower the rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 a predetermined distance every one hundred cycles of the fin press/shear 15 in order to lower the stack of fins and expose the upper ends of the rods 50 to accept additional fins. The magnitude of the predetermined distance and number of cycles can be varied as production conditions warrant. In a further anticipated configuration, the control system 550 is configured to lower the rod alignment lifting mechanism 19 continuously at a rate corresponding to the rate of production of the fin press and shear 15, so that the upper ends of the rods are maintained in an exposed condition for receiving fins produced by the fin press and shear 15. Other forms of control devices such as rotary encoders may also be used to properly locate the rod alignment plate to press shear production.

The fin stacker assembly module 380 of the instant embodiment is mounted to the cart 545 by mounting rails 575. More specifically, the mounting rails 575 each include a non-conductive member 580 forming a non-conductive barrier between the cart 545 and a conductive mounting block 582. The fin stacker assembly module 380 is attached to the conductive mounting block 582 and is thereby isolated from electrical ground by the non-conductive member 580. The non-conductive member 580 can be formed of nylon or Micarta® or other known non-conductive materials. Necessarily, the tongues 447 or the lift rails 17 are also formed of a non-conductive material to electrically isolate the fin stacker assembly module 380 from the receiving dock 12. The fin stacker assembly module 380 is thereby electrically isolated from ground under normal operating conditions. The contact plate 558 is electrically connected to the conductive mounting block 582. The isolated spring pin 540 of the proximity switch assembly 535 electrically connects the fin stacker assembly module 380 to the control system 550 through the contact plate 558 and electrical conductors (e.g. wires, not shown).

During operation of the fin press/shear 15, a fin will occasionally fail to properly align with the rods 50, or will fail to be cleanly deposited by the fin press/shear 15 onto the rods 50, becoming jammed or wedged between the fin press/shear 15 and the rods 50. With a fin jammed between the fin press/shear 15 and the rods 50, continued operation of the fin press/shear 15 can cause further jamming and damage to the fin press/shear 15 and to the fin stacker assembly module 380. As shown schematically in FIG. 21, when the fin (F) is jammed between the fin press/shear 15 (which is connected to ground) and the rods 50 of the fin stacker assembly module 380, the fin forms an electrically conductive path, completing a circuit between the control system 550, through the isolated spring pin 540 and the fin stacker assembly module 380 to the ground defined by the fin press/shear 15. The control system 550 is configured to interpret the completed circuit as a jam and stop the fin press/shear 15 until the jam can be cleared, thus preventing damage to the fin stacker assembly module 380 or the fin press/shear 15.

As the fin press/shear 15 continues production, the rod alignment lift mechanism 19 will continue to lower the lift rails 17 until the lower limit switch 570 is activated. The lower limit switch 570 will provide a signal to the control system 550, which will subsequently stop production by the fin press/shear 15. The control system 550 will then activate the cart lifting mechanism 530 to lower the cart 545 onto its wheels 555 within the receiving dock 12. The cart 545 can then be rolled out of the receiving dock 12 by an operator and a fresh cart 545 with empty fin stacker assembly module(s) 380 can be rolled into the receiving dock 12 in its place. The above procedure is then repeated with each subsequent cart 545.

While the invention has been described in the specification and illustrated in the drawings with reference to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the claims. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment illustrated by the drawings and described in the specification as the best mode presently contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include any embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.

fin stacker assembly 10end blocks 135, 140
fin press/shear 15stanchion apertures 145
base plate 20rod apertures 150
plurality of wheels 25swivel post aperture 153
upper surface 30inboard extent 155
side rails 35outboard extent 160
cut-out portion 37guide frame 165
fin stacker assemblyupper plate 170
modules 40bushing 172
parallel plates 45slots 175
tapered or guide rods 50inboard extent 180
right/left portions 54, 55outboard extent 185
module base plate 60swivel post slot 190
plurality of apertures 65inboard extent 195
chamfered mouth 67slidable locking plates 200
swivel post mountingswivel post aperture 205
aperture 70swivel bearing 210
base end 75plurality of slots 215
swivel post 80inboard extent 220
swivel bearing 85outboard extent 225
stanchion mountinglongitudinal grooves 230
aperture 90side edges 235
stanchion 95L-shaped guides 240
rod-mounting plate 100side face 245
chamfered keyholelocking cradle 250
apertures 105upper end 252 of each
narrow portion 110stanchion 95
enlarged portion 115upstanding portion 255
locking cam 120oblong slot 260
lower, ball end 125outboard face 265
intermediate plate 130indented catch 270
upper edge 275locking plate 450
upper end 280rod slots 455
locking mechanism 285swivel post aperture 460
U-shaped bracket 290swivel bearing 465
rod 295longitudinal grooves 470
ball-shaped handle 300L-shaped guides 475
collar 305locking mechanism 490
cross-pin 310locking cradle 495
fin stacker assembly 350fin stacker assembly and
base plate 355receiving dock 500
wheels 360floor base plate 502
handle 365adjustable bracket
mounting rails 370assembly 504
upper face 375pivoting connector 505
fin stacker assemblyadjustment plates 506
module 380slotted apertures 507
mounting toggle 385retract. wheel ass'y 510
base plate 390screw-type adjuster 512
rod-mounting plate 395screw-adjustable legs 515
keyhole apertures 397wheel stops 520
swivel post mountinglateral guide rails 525
aperture 400cart lifting mechanism 530
stanchion mountingthreaded body cylinders
aperture 405532
swivel post 410piston 533
swivel bearing 415proximity switch ass'y 535
stanchion 420isolated spring pin 540
spacer 425fin stacker ass'y cart 545
guide frame 430control system 550
upper plate 435threaded aperture 552
bushing 440proximity switch 553
aperture 442wheels 555
swivel post slot 445contact plate 558
tongue 447isolation mount 560
upper/lower limit switchesnon-conductive member 580
565, 570conductive mounting block
mounting rails 575582