Title:
Machine for filling and closing two-piece capsules
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cleaning station for a capsule filling and closing machine has a number of segment blocks each having receptacles which carry some product residue that needs to be removed for the machine to operate efficiently and productively. A brush is placed in each receptacle to engage its interior wall, and compressed air is directed toward the interior wall just behind the brush. The moving brush and compressed air blast remove the product residue on the interior wall, and the dislodged residue, with assistance from a vacuum source, is moved out of the receptacle.



Inventors:
Gauthier, Darrell (Elon, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/198744
Publication Date:
02/08/2007
Filing Date:
08/08/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/282
International Classes:
B65B1/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DESAI, HEMANT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Robert W. Pitts (Winston-Salem, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. In a machine for filling and closing two-piece capsules of the type on which a plurality of segment blocks are secured to a movable table and are circumferentially movable to different stations, the segment blocks including a plurality of receptacles for receiving and supporting capsule bottoms and caps, means for filling the capsule bottoms with a chosen product, means for joining the capsule bottoms and caps to form finished product-filled capsules, and means for discharging the finished product-filled capsules from the segment blocks, the combination with the machine of a cleaning apparatus for removing product residue from the receptacles after the filled capsules have been discharged including brush means for cleaning the interiors of the receptacles, means for directing compressed air into the receptacles, and vacuum means for removing any remaining product residue proximate the receptacle locations.

2. The machine as claimed in claim 1 wherein the receptacles have a circular cross section and a selected length.

3. The machine as claimed in claim 1 wherein the brush means includes at least one brush substantially conforming to the cross section of the receptacles and a supporting stem secured at one end to the at least one brush and at the other end to a supporting member.

4. The machine as claimed in claim 3 wherein the vacuum means includes a vacuum source, a nozzle, and a length of tubing connecting the source to the nozzle.

5. The machine as claimed in claim 4 wherein the compressed air directing means includes a nozzle positioned to receive and direct compressed air from a compressed air source to a selected group of receptacles.

6. The machine as claimed in claim 2 wherein the brush means includes at least one circular brush substantially conforming to the circular cross section of the receptacles and a supporting stem secured at one end to a brush and at the other end to a supporting member.

7. The machine as claimed in claim 2 wherein the vacuum means includes a vacuum source, a nozzle, a hood and a length of tubing connecting the source to the nozzle near the hood.

8. The machine as claimed in claim 3 wherein the cross section of the receptacle is circular.

9. The machine as claimed in claim 3 wherein the receptacles have a circular cross section and a selected length.

10. A machine for filling and closing two-piece capsules, each capsule having a bottom and cap, comprising: a plurality of segment blocks secured to a rotatable table; a plurality of stations positioned around the periphery of the rotatable, the segment blocks including a plurality of receptacles for receiving and supporting capsule bottoms and capsule caps; means for filling the capsule bottoms with a selected product; means for joining the capsule bottoms and caps to form finished product filled capsules; means for discharging the finished product filled capsules from the conveyor device; and a cleaning apparatus for removing product residue from and around the segment blocks and in the receptacles after the filled capsules have been discharged, the apparatus including brush means for cleaning the interiors of the receptacles, vacuum means for cleaning the interiors of the receptacles, and suction means for removing the remaining product residue and other unwanted materials residing in and around the receptacle locations.

11. The machine as claimed in claim 10 wherein the brush means includes at least one circular brush that substantially conforms to the cross section of the receptacles and a supporting stem secured at one end to the brush and at the other end to a supporting member.

12. The machine as claimed in claim 10 wherein the compressed directing means includes a nozzle positioned to receive and direct compressed air from a compressed air source to a selected group of receptacles.

13. The machine as claimed in claim 10 wherein the vacuum means includes a vacuum source, a nozzle, a hood and a length of tubing connecting the source to the nozzle near the hood.

14. The machine as claimed in claim 10 wherein the receptacles have a circular cross section and a selected length.

15. The machine as claimed in claim 10 wherein the cross section of the receptacle is circular.

16. The machine as claimed in claim 1 wherein the compressed air is directed against the interiors of the receptacles at an angle of from 40 to 50 degrees.

17. The machine as claimed in claim 3 wherein the compressed air is directed against the interiors of the receptacles at an angle of from 40 to 50 degrees.

18. The machine as claimed in claim 6 wherein the compressed air is directed against the interiors of the receptacles at an angle of from 40 to 50 degrees.

19. The machine as claimed in claim 5 wherein the compressed air is directed against the interiors of the receptacles at an angle of from 40 to 50 degrees.

20. The machine as claimed in claim 12 wherein the compressed air is directed against the interiors of the receptacles at an angle of from 30 to 60 degrees.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a machine for filling and closing two-piece capsules and, more particularly, to a cleaning station for a machine joining capsule bottoms and caps, separating the bottoms and caps with the caps transported to receptacles of a different conveyor station and the bottoms transported to receptacles of yet another conveyor station. They are thereafter transported first to a filling apparatus, then to a monitoring apparatus and finally to a closing apparatus where the caps are put on the bottoms of the capsules. The closed capsules are then ejected from the machine, and the segment block with its empty receptacles is moved to the cleaning station for cleaning.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Cleaning stations of conventional capsule filling and closing machines usually involve the application of positive or compressed air flow to remove spilled product, defective capsule parts and other debris. While these applications have been enough to ensure an adequate finished product, they have not been sufficiently improved to provide higher product yield. Even after multiple air flow cleaning, there is still some residue remaining in and around the cap and bottom receptacles that may have an adverse effect in subsequent cycles. Thus there is a present need to have a more positive and efficient cleaning station activity associated with capsule fill and close machines, and it is to that need that the present invention is directed.

OBJECTIVES AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The machine according to the invention includes a much improved cleaning apparatus in operation and efficiency over prior art devices. Air flow, compressed and vacuum, is utilized, but the improved quality and quantity product production results from the provision of receptacle interior brushes in combination with compressed air flow. Brushes are grouped at the cleaning station in preferably parallel rows (“group”) and held within a segment block to match an identical grouping of receptacles that have been emptied at the previous station. The receptacle interiors are circular and long enough to accommodate complete capsules of varying length. The brushes are somewhat longer than the receptacle lengths, and each has a hollow shaft centered in a receptacle interior. A circular brush shelf configuration (“shelf”) is formed at the shaft upper end with sufficient bristle to conform closely to the receptacle interior wall. Additional brush shelves may be added to provide more efficient product residue removal. The shelves move into and upwardly within the matching receptacles and combine with compressed air flow to gently remove collected residue. A vacuum apparatus is positioned proximate the receptacle upper openings where the brushes emerge, and the residue or other foreign substances are immediately collected thereby.

From the foregoing summary, it can be observed that an important objective of the present invention is to provide a more positive, improved and efficient cleaning station for a machine for filing and closing two piece capsules than those that have been utilized in the past.

Another objective of the present invention is to provide an improved receptacle cleaning operation that has all of the advantages of prior art devices and more, and none of the disadvantages.

Still another objective of the present invention is to develop a receptacle cleaning station that will significantly increase production of product filled capsules and lower damaged product loss.

Yet still another objective of the present invention is to install brushes at the receptacle cleaning station which significantly increase receptacle cleaning activity when used in combination with compressed air and vacuum components.

Still another objective of the present invention is to provide a receptacle cleaning station that will ensure continuous cleaning, sweeping and blowing to keep the segments clean and keep the machine operating for an indefinite period of time without interruption.

Thus there has been outlined the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto. In that respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its arrangement of the components set forth in the following description and illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways.

It is also to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting in any respect. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the concept upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for designing other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of this development. It is important that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent methods and products resulting therefrom that do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention. The application is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by its claims, nor to limit its scope in any way.

Thus, the objectives of the invention set forth above, along with the various features of novelty, which characterize the invention, are noted with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming a part of this disclosure. For a better understanding of the invention, its operating advantages and the specific results obtained by its use, reference should be made to the following detailed specification taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein like characters of reference designate like parts throughout the several views.

The drawings are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification. They illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with their description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a simplified plan view of a capsule filling and closing machine embodying the present inventive concept;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the receptacle cleaning station with the brushes in the lowered inactive position;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the receptacle cleaning station with the brushes in the raised active position after the brushes have moved from the lowered position of FIG. 2 to sweep the receptacle interior wall surfaces;

FIG. 4 is a perspective and partial view of the cleaning station of the present invention showing the top of the segment block holding the receptacle group to be cleaned and the brushes in a withdrawn and inactive position;

FIG. 5 is perspective and partial view of four brushes carried by tubular center posts which are connected to and operable with the blow-out box;

FIG. 6 is a sectional and side elevational view of a tubular center post which support the brushes like those shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of a single spiral brush like those shown in FIG. 5; and

FIG. 8 is a front elevational view of the segment block group receptacles without the brushes showing the air flow passages within the segment block.

DETAILED DISCLOSURE OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to the drawings and particularly FIG. 1, a machine shown generally as 10, for filling and closing capsules “c” made up of a capsule bottom “a” and a cap “b” mounted on the capsule, has a 12 piece feed wheel 14 rotated in increments about a vertical axis at stations 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38. The individual segment blocks are arranged along the path of revolution as shown. At station 16, the empty capsules c to be filled are placed in random order and then delivered straightened and in order to the feed wheel 14. At station 18, the caps b are then separated from the capsule bottoms a, and both parts are checked by a checking device 40 for their presence and intactness. At station 20, the caps b are separated from the capsule bottoms so that at stations 22, 24 and 26 product can be placed in the capsule bottom a. At station 28, any capsule bottoms a and caps b that have been found defective are expelled. At station 30, the caps b are pushed back into alignment with capsule bottoms a, and at stations 32, 34 they are connected again with capsule bottoms a. At station 36, the correctly filled and sealed capsules c are expelled and carried away. Finally, in station 38, cleaning of receptacles 44 takes place.

The improvement emphasized herein is a cleaning apparatus for removing product residue arising when capsule bottoms, upon being filled with a granular or liquid substance, are thereafter reconnected with a cap b, and then discharged. The empty receptacle 44 (FIG. 4) retains a small portion or residue of the filling substance either at its lower portion or clinging to its interior wall surface or both. Under normal conditions and utilizing conventional machines to fill and close two piece capsules, cleaning the receptacles after a product filled capsule has been discharged is usually accomplished by directing a blast of compressed air into the receptacles. Alternatively, some producers shut down the machines after an operating period of two to three hours, remove and wash or otherwise clean the receptacle groups, realign and install the groups and then restart. This shut down period takes on average about one hour which is significant nonproductive down time.

The present invention is a significant improvement over traditional machines and procedures and results in a major increase in productivity. The new station 38 in the present invention includes a cleaning apparatus shown generally as 42 which has a compressed air source (not shown) directing a flow of air into the receptacles 44 and brushes 48 (one for each receptacle) to skim and thereby clean receptacle interior walls and a vacuum device to recover any product residue or other substances that might be present.

The compressed air source in cleaning apparatus 42 provides compressed air from a source (not shown but designated 50 in FIG. 8) through tubular member 52 and thereafter through tubular member 54 and on to tubular members 56 extending as a tubular center post in the center of each receptacle 44. Tubular center posts 56 are mounted on a blow-out box 58 which is hollow and has a connection via tubular member 52 with compressed air source 50 all as shown in FIG. 8.

A tubular center post 56 is shown in FIG. 6 and has a nozzle 60 designed to discharge compressed air at a 45 degree angle as illustrated in FIG. 6. This angle of discharge is helpful in peeling away the product residue clinging to the wall of receptacle 44 and making the interior wall of receptacle 44 as clean as possible when the brushes 60 traverse the length of receptacle 44.

A perspective view of post 56 and brush 60 is shown in FIG. 5. Brush 60 is made up of shelves of bristles 62. When brush 60 is moved upwardly to initiate the cleaning process, bristles 62 extend to about a one millimeter overlap against the product residue clinging to the receptacle interior wall which exerts a reasonable but not aggressive contact to remove this material. As the brushes are moved upwardly with their bristles contacting the clinging residue, compressed air is introduced into tubular center posts 56 just behind the moving brushes to create a sweeping effect against the residue. This combined action results in effective, efficient and reliable residue removal.

Several comparisons have been submitted that include running a conventional machine using compressed air against the apparatus comprising the present invention. One company reported using a conventional machine in a production line 4 hours and then stopping to clean the receptacles and associated components. When this same customer changed to the unit of the present invention, he ran the machine a minimum time of 16 to 24 hours without stopping.

Several other users of applicant's machine have reported similar stories including running applicant's machine for much longer periods of time with the running period terminated only when the product supply was exhausted.

From the preceding description, it can be seen that an apparatus has been provided that will meet all of the advantages of prior art devices and offer additional advantages not heretofore achievable. With respect to the foregoing invention, the optimum dimensional relationship to the parts of the invention including variations in size, materials, shape, form, function, and manner of operation, use and assembly are deemed readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed herein.

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, and it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described. All suitable modifications and equivalents that fall within the scope of the appended claims are deemed within the present inventive concept.