Title:
Bagging machines for adjustably controlling packing density
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Bagging machines for controlling the packing density of material being packed into a container may include one or more density control apparatus or assemblies. The density control apparatus may include an elongate density control member having first and second forward ends operatively coupled to the bagging machine and a central portion extending rearwardly therefrom to provide a density control assembly of a first configuration. The elongate density control member also may be operatively associated with at least one pair of density-setting posts operatively coupled to a portion of the bagging machine to selectively provide a density control assembly of at least one additional configuration. Additionally or alternatively, the bagging machines may include a forward wheel assembly operatively coupled to a forward region of the bagging machine to enable the bagging machine to move over a ground surface. The density control apparatus further may include a forward brake assembly operatively associated with a forward wheel assembly operatively coupled to a forward region of the bagging machine.



Inventors:
Cullen, Steven R. (Astoria, OR, US)
Application Number:
11/253002
Publication Date:
04/19/2007
Filing Date:
10/17/2005
Assignee:
SRC Innovations, LLC
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/576
International Classes:
B65B1/24; B65B43/42
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
TRUONG, THANH K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLISCH HARTWELL, P.C. (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A bagging machine for bagging agricultural material, the bagging machine comprising: a material-forming enclosure having a floor assembly; at least one pair of density-setting posts disposed on the floor assembly; an elongate density control member having first and second forward ends operatively coupled to the bagging machine and having a central portion extending rearwardly to provide a density control assembly of a first configuration; wherein the elongate density control member is operatively associated with the at least one pair of density-setting posts to selectively provide a density control assembly of at least one additional configuration.

2. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the floor assembly has a first end and a second end, wherein the at least one pair of density-setting posts is adapted to center the density control assembly between the first and second ends of the floor assembly when the density control assembly is disposed in the at least one additional configuration.

3. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the density-setting posts include an upstanding member having an upper end and a first cross-sectional dimension, and wherein the density-setting posts further include a cap member disposed adjacent the upper end and having a second cross-sectional dimension greater than the first cross-sectional dimension.

4. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the central portion of the elongate density control member extends rearwardly having spaced apart forward legs joined by a rearward portion, wherein the density control assembly first configuration includes forward legs spaced apart by a first distance, and wherein each of the at least one additional configurations includes forward legs spaced apart by a distance distinct from the distance of the first configuration and the other additional configurations.

5. The bagging machine of claim 4, wherein the forward legs each include an adjustment region adapted to extend transversally to selectively and operatively associate the density control member with one of the at least one pair of density-setting posts to thereby selectively provide the at least one additional configuration.

6. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the at least one pair of density-setting posts includes a single pair of density-setting posts, wherein each of the density-setting posts is selectively and adjustably positionable on the floor assembly.

7. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein one or more of the density-setting posts is adapted to retain the elongate density control member in a selected configuration during operation of the bagging machine when the density control member is disposed in the at least one additional configurations.

8. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the floor assembly includes a base member and a cover member, wherein the at least one pair of density-setting posts is disposed on the base member, and wherein the cover member is operatively associated with the base member and the density-setting posts to cover the density-setting posts during operation of the bagging machine and to allow access to the density-setting posts during adjustment of the density control assembly.

9. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein at least one of the forward ends of the elongate density control member is releasably coupled to the bagging machine.

10. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein at least one of the forward ends of the elongate density control member is coupled to the bagging machine via a coupling to the material-forming enclosure.

11. The bagging machine of claim 1, wherein the at least one pair density-setting posts are adapted to be spaced apart on the floor assembly in a manner corresponding to a plurality of density control assembly configurations for bagging agricultural material under a plurality of different conditions.

12. A bagging machine for packing agricultural material into a container, the bagging machine comprising: a mobile frame having a forward region and a rearward region; a material-forming enclosure having an intake region coupled to the rearward region of the mobile frame, and an output region extending rearwardly from the mobile frame; a material-filling apparatus coupled to the mobile frame and adapted to pack the agricultural material into the material-forming enclosure to thereby move the bagging machine forward; a forward wheel assembly coupled to the forward region of the mobile frame and adapted to enable the bagging machine to move over a ground surface, wherein the forward wheel assembly is spaced apart from the material-filling apparatus; a density control apparatus operatively coupled to the mobile frame and extending rearwardly therefrom in operative association with the material in the material-forming enclosure to provide resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine; and a forward brake assembly operatively associated with the forward wheel assembly and adapted to provide selective auxiliary resistance to forward movement of the bagging machine.

13. The bagging machine of claim 12, further comprising a rearward wheel assembly coupled to the rearward region of the mobile frame and adapted to enable the bagging machine to move over the ground surface, and further comprising a rearward brake assembly operatively associated with the rearward wheel assembly adapted to provide additional resistance to forward movement of the bagging machine.

14. The bagging machine of claim 12, wherein the density control apparatus includes at least one density control setting configured to provide a predetermined resistance during a bagging operation.

15. The bagging machine of claim 12, wherein the density control apparatus includes at least one drag member adapted to extend rearwardly beneath the material in the material-forming enclosure.

16. The bagging machine of claim 12, wherein the density control apparatus includes at least one cable, wherein at least a portion of the at least one cable is disposed within the material-forming enclosure.

17. The bagging machine of claim 16, wherein the at least one cable forms at least one cable loop having a rearward portion disposed behind the material-filling apparatus.

18. The bagging machine of claim 12, wherein the material-filling apparatus is spaced apart from the ground surface by a driving force height, and wherein the density control apparatus is disposed at a resistance height that is lower than the driving force elevation.

19. The bagging machine of claim 18, further comprising a rearward wheel assembly and corresponding rearward brake assembly adapted to provide an additional resistance force, and wherein the auxiliary resistance force provided by the forward brake assembly is greater than the additional resistance force provided by the rearward brake assembly.

20. The bagging machine of claim 12, wherein the density control apparatus is provided at least in part by an extended material-forming enclosure.

21. The bagging machine of claim 20, wherein the extended material-forming enclosure has an effective diameter, D, and has a length from the intake end to the output end of between about 0.5 D and about 2 D, and wherein the length of the material-forming enclosure is adapted to provide a predetermined resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine.

22. The bagging machine of claim 21, wherein the extended material-forming enclosure is adapted to be adjustable between at least two configurations having different lengths.

23. The bagging machine of claim 21, wherein the extended material-forming enclosure has a length from the intake end to the output end of between about 0.8 D and about 1.5 D.

24. The bagging machine of claim 20, further comprising an ancillary density control apparatus disposed in operative association with the material in the material forming enclosure to provide ancillary resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine.

25. The bagging machine of claim 24, wherein the ancillary density control apparatus includes at least one drag member adapted to extend rearwardly beneath the material in the material-forming enclosure.

26. The bagging machine of claim 24, wherein the ancillary density control apparatus includes at least one cable, wherein at least a portion of the at least one cable is disposed within the material-forming enclosure.

27. The bagging machine of claim 26, wherein the at least one cable forms at least one cable loop having a rearward portion disposed behind the material-filling apparatus.

28. A bagging machine for packing agricultural material into a container, the bagging machine comprising: a mobile frame having a forward region and a rearward region; a material-forming enclosure having a floor assembly and having an intake region coupled to the rearward region of the mobile frame and an output region extending rearwardly from the mobile frame; a material-filling apparatus coupled to the mobile frame and adapted to pack the agricultural material into the material-forming enclosure to thereby move the bagging machine forward; at least one pair of density-setting posts disposed on the floor assembly of the material-forming enclosure; a forward wheel assembly operatively coupled to the forward region of the mobile frame and adapted to enable the bagging machine to move over a ground surface; an elongate density control member having first and second forward ends operatively coupled to the bagging machine and having a central portion extending rearwardly to provide a density control assembly of a first configuration, wherein the elongate density control member is operatively associated with the at least one pair of density-setting posts to selectively provide a density control assembly of at least one additional configuration, and wherein the density control assembly formed by the elongate density control member is adapted to provide a predetermined resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine; and a forward brake assembly operatively associated with the forward wheel assembly and adapted to provide selective auxiliary resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine.

29. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein the density-setting posts include an upstanding member having an upper end and a first cross-sectional dimension, and wherein the density-setting posts further include a cap member adjacent the upper end and having a second cross-sectional dimension greater than the first cross-sectional dimension.

30. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein the central portion of the elongate density control member extends rearwardly having spaced apart forward legs joined by a rearward portion, wherein the density control assembly first configuration includes forward legs spaced apart by a first distance, and wherein each of the at least one additional configurations includes forward legs spaced apart by a distance distinct from the distance of the first configuration and the other additional configurations.

31. The bagging machine of claim 30, wherein the forward legs each include an adjustment region adapted to extend transversally to selectively and operatively associate the density control member with one of the at least one pair of density-setting posts to thereby selectively provide the at least one additional configuration.

32. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein the at least one pair of density-setting posts includes a single pair of density-setting posts, wherein each of the density-setting posts is selectively and adjustably positionable on the floor assembly.

33. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein one or more of the density-setting posts is adapted to retain the elongate density control assembly in a selected configuration during operation of the bagging machine when the density control assembly is disposed in the at least one additional configuration.

34. The bagging machine of claim 33, wherein each of the configurations of the density control assembly is selectable by a user to provide a distinct, predetermined resistance during a bagging operation.

35. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein the floor assembly includes a base member and a cover member, wherein the at least one pair of density-setting posts is disposed on the base member, and wherein the cover member is operatively associated with the base member and the density-setting posts to cover the density-setting posts during operation of the bagging machine and to allow access to the density-setting posts during adjustment of the density control assembly.

36. The bagging machine of claim 28, wherein the material-filling apparatus is spaced apart from the ground surface by a driving force height, and wherein the density control assembly is disposed at a resistance height that is lower than the driving force elevation.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This disclosure relates to bagging machines for adjustably controlling the packing density of material, such as silage, compost, or the like, packed into an elongate bag or container.

BACKGROUND

Agricultural feed bagging machines have been employed for several years to fill, pack, or bag silage or the like into elongated plastic bags. In these bagging machines, silage or the like is supplied to the forward or intake end of the bagging machine and is fed to a rotor that conveys the silage into a tunnel on which the bag is positioned so that the bag is filled. As silage is loaded into the bag, the bagging machine moves away from the filled end of the bag in a controlled fashion so as to achieve uniform compaction of the silage material within the bag. These machines included a pair of drums rotatably mounted on the bagging machine with a brake associated therewith for braking, or resisting, the rotation of the drum with a selected brake force. A cable or chain was wrapped around the drum and was released with rotation of the drum. A backstop structure was disposed at the closed end of the agricultural bag and was coupled to the bagging machine via the chains or cables to resist the movement of the bagging machine away from the filled end of the agricultural bag as silage is forced into the bag.

In more recent bagging machines, a variety of density control assemblies, which included one or more cables, have been positioned in the flow of the silage material being bagged. In order to vary the density of the material in the machine, more or fewer cables would be employed based on the material being packed. For example, corn silage flows easy and would require more cables. Similarly, alfalfa packs hard and would require fewer cables.

In other bagging machines, a single cable forming a loop has been employed with adjustment mechanisms allowing a user to lengthen or shorten the loop behind the bagging machine. In still other bagging machines, one or more ends of the loop have been coupled to movable trolleys to allow a user to adjust the configuration of the cable loop, such as by widening or narrowing the cable loop, during the bagging operation to adjustably control the packing density.

Control of the packing density during the bagging operation is important because a single bag may include material having different properties that packs differently. For example, a single bag may be several hundred feet long and be packed with agricultural material, such as alfalfa, from all parts of a farm or region. The alfalfa is brought to the bagging machine in a number of separate loads, some of which may be wetter than others or some of which may include alfalfa cut longer than the alfalfa in other loads. The wet alfalfa or long alfalfa will pack more densely in a given cable loop configuration than will dry or short alfalfa. Accordingly, a user may prefer to adjust the configuration of the cable or other density control apparatus in accordance with the material properties of the material being packed. Unfortunately, the extent and impact of the differences between the materials is rarely known until the material is packed into the bag and the difference evidences itself as loose packing or a bagging machine that is stuck due to the unexpectedly dense packing.

Previous bagging machines with adjustable density control apparatus allow the user to control the packing density during operation, but it often takes several feet of packing distance before the desired change is completed. For example, if the forward end of a cable loop is narrowed, the rearward end will trend narrower as it moves forward but it will not be as narrow as the forward end for at least several inches, if not several feet, of bagging machine movement. Accordingly, there is a delay between the control signal and the attainment of the configuration adapted to provide the selected packing density. Depending on the circumstances, that delay may lead to undesirable loose packing for several inches or feet of the bag length or may cause the machine to become stalled due to the resistance force being greater than the available forward force. Alternatively, the loose packing wastes available storage space and may decrease the storage quality. A stalled machine interrupts the bagging operation and wastes many resources trying to free the machine from the packed bag and restarting the bagging operation. A bagging machine that provides for greater control over the packing density is described herein.

SUMMARY

The present disclosure is directed towards bagging machines for controlling the packing density of material being packed into a container. The bagging machines may include a mobile frame having a forward region and a rearward region. A material-forming enclosure having an intake region may be coupled to the rearward region of the mobile frame. An output region of the material-forming enclosure extends rearwardly from the mobile frame. A material-filling apparatus may be coupled to the mobile frame and may be adapted to pack the agricultural material into the material-forming enclosure to thereby move the bagging machine forward. A forward wheel assembly may be coupled to the forward region of the mobile frame to enable the bagging machine to move over a ground surface. A density control apparatus is operatively coupled to the mobile frame and extends rearwardly therefrom in operative association with the material in the material-forming enclosure. The density control apparatus provides resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine. The bagging machines further may include a forward brake assembly operatively associated with the forward wheel assembly. The forward brake assembly may be adapted to provide auxiliary resistance to forward movement of the bagging machine.

The bagging machine may additionally or alternatively include a density control apparatus adjustable between at least two predetermined configurations. The bagging machine may include a material-forming enclosure having a floor assembly. At least one pair of density-setting posts may be disposed on the floor assembly. Additionally, an elongate density control member has first and second forward ends coupled to the bagging machine and has a central portion extending rearwardly within the material forming enclosure to thereby provide a density control assembly of a first configuration. The elongate density control member is also operatively associated with the at least one pair of density-setting posts to selectively provide a density control assembly of at least one additional configuration.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of a bagging machine having a forward brake assembly and a density control apparatus coupled to the bagging machine.

FIG. 2 is a side view of a bagging machine having a forward brake assembly and an alternative density control apparatus.

FIG. 3 is a side view of a bagging machine have a forward brake assembly and another alternative density control apparatus.

FIG. 4 is a rear view of a material-forming enclosure including a density control assembly in a first configuration.

FIG. 5 is a rear view of the material forming enclosure of FIG. 4 showing the density control assembly in an additional configuration.

FIG. 6 is a rear view of the material forming enclosure of FIG. 4 including a floor assembly that includes a base member and a cover member and showing the density control assembly in two alternative additional configurations.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a packing machine 10 according to the present disclosure. Packing machine 10 also may be referred to herein as bagging machine 10. As used herein, “packing” and “bagging” are used interchangeably to refer to the act of pressing material into a container for storage. Bagging machine 10 may include a mobile frame 12 having a forward region 14 and a rearward region 16. In some implementations of the present disclosure, bagging machine 10 may include an operator's cab 18. Additionally, bagging machine 10 may include a motor 20 to power one or more components of the bagging machine. Additionally or alternatively, bagging machine 10 may be coupled to the power take-off of an auxiliary tractor (not shown). Additionally or alternatively, bagging machine 10 may include a truck, such as a substantially traditional truck, having a bagging machine apparatus coupled to the truck bed, such as at the rear end thereof. Examples of a truck-mounted bagging machine are found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,784,865, which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

Bagging machine 10 also may include a material-filling apparatus 22 and a material-forming enclosure 24. Material-forming enclosure 24 may be adapted to cooperate with a bag or other container (not shown) into which material-filling apparatus 22 packs the material. Material-forming enclosure 24 may include a number of components to facilitate or otherwise aid the cooperation between the bag and material-forming enclosure 24. For example, material forming enclosure 24 may include one or more bag retainers adapted to retain the bag on the material-forming enclosure and gradually release the bag as needed. Material-filling apparatus 22 may be adapted to include a feed tray 30, a hopper 32, and a rotary packer 34. Material-filling apparatus 22 may alternatively or additionally include other components adapted to move material into material-forming enclosure 24.

Packing machine 10 may be adapted to pack a variety of materials. For example, packing machine 10 may be adapted to bag compost material or agricultural material into bags or containers for storage and/or composting. As material-filling apparatus 22 moves material into the bag, the bag fills and the material is pressed or compressed within the bag. As additional material is packed into the bag, the bagging machine 10 will move forward releasing the bag as needed to provide additional room for the material. Accordingly, material-filling apparatus 18 may be adapted to move the bagging machine forward.

A density control apparatus 36 may be operatively coupled to bagging machine 10, or to mobile frame 12, and may extend rearwardly from its point of coupling. Density control apparatus 36 is disposed in operative association with the material in material-forming enclosure 24 to provide resistance to the forward movement of the bagging machine. The amount of resistance provided by density control apparatus 36 cooperates with material-filling apparatus 22 to control the rate at which bagging machine 10 moves away from the closed end of the bag.

As shown in FIGS. 1-3, bagging machine 10 may include a forward wheel assembly 38 and a rearward wheel assembly 40 adapted to enable the bagging machine to move over ground surface 42 as the driving force of material-filling apparatus 22 overcomes the resistance force of density control apparatus 36. Forward wheel assembly 38 may be coupled to forward region 14 of mobile frame 12. Similarly, rearward wheel assembly 40 may be coupled to rearward region 16 of mobile frame 12. In some embodiments, forward wheel assembly 38 and rearward wheel assembly 40 may be spaced apart. For example, depending on the length of the mobile frame 12, forward wheel assembly 38 and rearward wheel assembly 40 may be spaced apart by at least about four feet, as measured from wheel center to wheel center. Forward wheel assembly 38 and rearward wheel assembly 40 may be spaced apart by between about four feet and about fourteen feet. In some embodiments, forward wheel assembly 38 and rearward wheel assembly 40 may be spaced apart by between about eight feet and about 12 feet. While bagging machine 10 is illustrated with wheel assemblies 38,40, the wheel assemblies may be replaced or supplemented by other support and transport systems. For example, bagging machine 10 may include a skid in place of rearward wheel assembly 40. Additionally or alternatively, wheel assemblies 38,40 may cooperate with a track assembly rather than traditional tires.

When bagging machine 10 includes wheel assemblies, the wheel assemblies may include tires 44 and other components of traditional wheel systems, such as axels, suspension systems, steering systems, and the like. The configuration of each wheel assembly will be determined by its function. Additionally, bagging machine 10 may include additional wheel assemblies to provide additional support for the bagging machine, to provide greater contact with the ground, to operate one or more track assemblies, or for other reasons. For example, two rearward wheel assemblies may be provided. Additionally or alternatively, a wheel assembly may be provided in the mid-section of the mobile frame.

A brake assembly 46 may be operatively associated with one or more of the wheel assemblies. Brake assembly 46 may include braking mechanisms of any suitable configuration. For example, brake assembly 46 may include air brakes configured as S-cam brakes, wedge brakes, disc brakes, or other suitable brake configurations. Similarly, brake assembly 46 may include brakes of configurations other than air brakes.

Brake assembly 46 in operative association with one or more of the wheel assemblies may be adapted to provide auxiliary resistance to the forward movement of bagging machine 10. As described above, the resistance forces on the bagging machine operate to slow the forward motion of bagging machine 10 to increase the packing density of the material packed into the bag by material-filling apparatus 22. Brake assemblies 46 in operative association with one or more of the wheel assemblies may be adapted to cooperate with density control apparatus 36 to control the packing density of the bagging operation.

For example, density control apparatus 36 may be disposed in a configuration determined by the operator to provide an estimated minimum amount of resistive force for the intended bagging operation, such as a particular configuration suitable for bagging alfalfa or different configurations suitable for bagging barley, corn, wheat, etc. Alternatively, bagging machine 10 and density control apparatus 36 may only have one configuration available. As the bagging operation proceeds, the operator may observe that greater resistance is necessary to obtain the desired packing density. Accordingly, the operator may engage one or more brake assembly 46 to increase the friction of one or more of the wheel assemblies with the ground surface, thereby providing auxiliary resistance to forward movement and increasing the combined resistance forces on bagging machine 10.

In some aspects of the present disclosure, the auxiliary resistance provided by brake assembly 46 may enable an operator to have greater and/or more timely control over the packing density. As discussed above, altering the configuration of density control apparatus 36 during the bagging operation often incurs some delay between the time the operator initiates the configuration change and the time the change is fully effected. The resultant delay may waste valuable bag space if the bag is being packed too loosely. Alternatively, if the bag is being packed too densely, it may be impossible for the bagging machine to continue its forward progress and the operator's efforts to change the configuration of density control apparatus 36 may be in vain. One of the worst scenarios under previous bagging machines was when the packing density would be too great and the resulting resistance force on the density control apparatus would stall the bagging machine. When the resistance force from the density control apparatus overpowered the maximum force that could be applied by the material-filling apparatus, the operator had to stop the bagging operation and free the density control apparatus from the packed material, which often involved wasted agricultural material and wasted resources.

Brake assembly 46 provides bagging machine 10 with an auxiliary resistance force that can be increased or decreased with significantly reduced delays. In some applications, the effect of brake assembly 46 may enable an operator to change the packing density substantially instantaneously. Considering the situation where the packing density is observed to be too low, the operator may increase the auxiliary resistance by applying greater braking power. The increased resistance is translated to the bag and the packing density increases as material-filling apparatus packs the bag against a greater combined resistance. Similarly, if the resistance force is too great, such as when the supplied agricultural material is wet, the operator may reduce the braking power applied by brake assembly 46 and may decrease the combined resistance force to allow the bagging machine to move forward at the desired rate to attain the desired packing density. Because the entire resistance force is not provided by the density control apparatus in association with the packed material, the operator's change may be more immediate and/or more effective in responding to the varying bagging conditions.

Bagging machine 10 may be provided with one or more brake assemblies 46 of the same or different configurations. For example, forward wheel assembly 38 and rearward wheel assembly 40 may include brake assemblies of different configurations and/or braking strength. Alternatively, bagging machine 10 may include the same brake assembly on all wheel assemblies or on all wheel assemblies that are associated with a brake assembly. However, regardless of the brake assembly's configuration or ability to brake the rotation of the wheel, the amount of auxiliary resistance provided by brake assembly 46 will be determined by the interaction between the wheel assembly and the ground surface 42. A number of factors may affect this interaction to increase or decrease the ability of brake assembly 46 to provide auxiliary resistance. For example, a wet ground surface or worn tire treads may decrease the amount of auxiliary resistance available.

In some implementations within the scope of the present disclosure, the operation of bagging machine 10 may apply greater or lesser loading on one or more of the wheel assemblies. For example, forward wheel assembly 38 may experience greater loading than rearward wheel assembly 40. Similarly, some implementations of bagging machine 10 may apply greater loading on rearward wheel assembly 40. A number of factors may affect which of the wheel assemblies experiences greater or lesser loading. For example, the construction of bagging machine 10 may dispose a greater proportion of the weight closer to one of the wheel assemblies.

Additionally or alternatively, the operation of bagging machine 10 may apply a number of forces on machine 10, the result of which may be a rotational force on the machine. For example, and with continued reference to FIG. 1, density control apparatus 36 may be coupled to bagging machine 10 above ground surface 42 at a resistance height 48. Similarly, material-filling apparatus 22 may be configured such that the driving force provided by the material-filling apparatus is spaced apart from the ground surface at a driving force height 50. In some implementations, the spacing between these two forces and the point at which the forces are applied may produce an upward force in rearward region 16 of mobile frame 12 and a corresponding downward force in forward region 14 of mobile frame 12. Other factors, such as the trajectory of material exiting material-filling apparatus 22 and the angle at which density control apparatus 36 applies its resistance force, may influence the degree to which the rearward region experiences an upward force and the forward region experiences a downward force.

Bagging machine 10 according to the present disclosure may include brake assemblies 46, wheel assemblies 38,40, material-filling apparatus 22, and/or density control apparatus 36 configured to optimize the amount of auxiliary resistance force provided by the one or more brake assemblies. While any one or more of these components may be modified to optimize the auxiliary resistance force, it has been found that a bagging machine having a density control apparatus 36 and a forward brake assembly 52 provide a suitable combined resistance force. Bagging machines incorporating a rearward brake assembly 54 in combination with forward wheel assembly 52 and density control apparatus 36 also provide satisfactory results.

In some applications, it has been found that increasing the spacing between forward wheel assembly 38 and material-filling apparatus 22, such as rotary packer 34, may increase the downward forces applied to the forward wheel assembly. Accordingly, the space between forward wheel assembly 38 and material-filling apparatus 22 may be varied to optimize the amount of auxiliary resistance force brake assembly 46 is able to provide. In some implementations, forward wheel assembly 38 may be spaced from material-filling apparatus, or a component thereof such as the rotary packer, by between about four feet and about fifteen feet. In other implementations, the spacing may range from about six feet to about twelve feet. In still other implementations, between about eight feet and about ten feet may separate forward wheel assembly 38 and material-filling apparatus 22, or a component thereof. The spacing implemented in a given bagging machine may be selected based on factors such as the intended bagging conditions, the expected transport needs for the bagging machine, the cooperating density control apparatus configuration, or other factors.

In operation, bagging machine 10 begins by packing material into the bag. As the available space in the bag is filled, density control apparatus 36 resists the forward motion of bagging machine 10 until its resistance force is overcome by the driving force of material-filling apparatus 22. As bagging machine 10 begins to move forward, the packing density in the bag may be observed to be too low or too high. An operator may then adjust one or more of the components applying a resistance force to control the packing density. For example, if the packing density is too low, the operator may apply forward brake assembly 52 to provide auxiliary resistance and to increase the packing density. Additionally or alternatively, the operator may apply rearward brake assembly 54.

The brake assemblies 46 may be operated from within operator's cab 18 via one or more controls. For example, forward brake assembly 52 may include a control system adapted to be operated from the operator's cab. Accordingly, the operator may selectively engage forward brake assembly 52, rearward brake assembly 54, or both. Alternatively, forward brake assembly 52 and rearward brake assembly 54 may include control systems that are integrated into a single control in the operator's cab. In such configurations, the operator may engage a single control to increase or decrease the auxiliary resistance force provided by brake assembly 46, whether it includes brake assemblies on one or more of the wheel assemblies. Moreover, brake assembly 46, whether there be one or more brake assembly, may be controlled from locations other than the operator's cab. For example, controls may be provided on the sides of the bagging machine or remote from the bagging machine.

As discussed above, bagging machine 10 may include a substantially conventional truck having forward wheels, rearward wheels, and a truck cab. In such configurations, forward and/or rearward brake assemblies 52,54 may be conventional brake systems provided to the truck and may be useful for braking the bagging machine truck both during bagging operations and during transport of the truck. Additionally or alternatively, one or more of the brake assemblies may be adapted for use during bagging operations but not for use in transport of the bagging machine truck. Similarly, one or more of the brake assemblies may be adapted to be selectively configurable by an operator between one setting for use during bagging operations and another setting for use during transport of the truck.

Brake assemblies 46 may be used in combination with any suitable density control apparatus 36. Exemplary combinations are illustrated in FIGS. 1-3. Density control apparatus 36 may be adapted to provide one or more configurations. Accordingly, density control apparatus 36 may provide at least one density control setting. When density control apparatus 36 provides only one density control setting, brake assembly 46 may be operated to adjust the total resistance force by varying the auxiliary resistance applied by the brake assembly. When density control apparatus 36 includes a plurality of density control settings, the density control apparatus and brake assembly 46 may cooperate to allow the user to select the total resistance force. As will be understood by the discussion herein, density control apparatus 36 may be adapted to provide a single configuration, or density control setting. Additionally or alternatively, density control apparatus 36 may be adapted to provide a plurality of configurations, each of which may be selected prior to beginning bagging operations, the selection of which is unchangeable during the bagging operation. Density control apparatus 36 may also be adapted to provide a plurality of configurations selectable before beginning the bagging operations and during the bagging operations.

One example of density control apparatus 36 having one or more of these characteristics is illustrated in FIG. 1. As illustrated, density control apparatus 36 includes an elongate density control member 56 having first and second forward ends 58 coupled to bagging machine 10. Density control member 56 additionally includes a central portion 60 that extends rearwardly within material-forming enclosure 24 to provide a density control assembly 62. As shown, density control member 56 includes a cable that may form a cable loop 64 having a rearward portion 66 disposed behind the material-filling apparatus. Density control apparatus 36 may include other elongate density control members extended rearwardly within the material-forming enclosure. For example, density control apparatus 36 may include a hanging anchor, such as may be formed by a single cable extending rearwardly to an anchor or other structure. Additionally or alternatively, more than one elongate density control member may be implemented, either as a loop or as a hanging anchor.

Density control member 56, such as cable loop 64, may be coupled to bagging machine 10 in any suitable manner. For example, one or more of forward ends 58 may be selectively or substantially permanently coupled to material-forming enclosure 24, to mobile frame 12, or to another component of bagging machine 10. Furthermore, density control member 56 may be entirely disposed within material-forming enclosure 24 or may have portions that extend outside of material-forming enclosure 24. For example, forward ends 58 may extend outside of material-forming enclosure 24 by extending through one or more of the side walls or the front wall. Similarly, rearward portion 66 may extend beyond the rearward end of material-forming enclosure 24.

As discussed above, density control apparatus 36 may be adapted to provide one or more density control settings and may be adapted to be fixed during operation or adjustable during operation. Density control apparatus 36 illustrated in FIG. 1 of the present application is illustrative and exemplary of the various elongate density control members that may be operatively coupled to bagging machine 10 to provide resistance to the forward of the bagging machine. Other density control apparatus including elongate density control members are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,297,377; 5,425,220; 5,463,849; 5,517,806; 5,671,594; 5,775,069; 5,857,313; 6,655,116; 6,694,711; and RE38,020, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in their entirety for all purposes.

With reference to FIG. 2, density control apparatus 36 may additionally or alternatively include a drag member 68. Drag member 68 may be a single sheet member or a plurality of drag members. Drag member 68 may also have one or more configurations that may be fixed or adjustable during the bagging operation. Density control apparatus 36 including one or more drag members are described in U.S. Pat. No, 6,748,724 and U.S. Patent Application Publication 20050016132A1, for which the issue fee has been paid, both of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety for all purposes.

Turning now to FIG. 3, material-forming enclosure 24 is illustrated as providing density control apparatus 36 by way of an extended material-forming enclosure 70. As can be seen in FIG. 3, extended material-forming enclosure 70 is coupled to the mobile frame and extends rearwardly therefrom in operative association with the material in the material-forming enclosure. The extended length of the material-forming enclosure increases the contact area between the material-forming enclosure and the material packed therein. The increased contact area increases the frictional resistance applied by the interior surfaces of extended material-forming enclosure 70.

In some implementations of bagging machine 10, extended material-forming enclosure may have a length that is proportional to the effective diameter of the enclosure. The effective diameter of the material-forming enclosure may be the distance between opposing sidewalls of the enclosure. The relationship between the effective diameter of the extended material-forming enclosure and the length of the enclosure may affect the resistance against forward movement of the bagging machine in a manner similar to the principles of fluid flow in pipes or other channels. In some implementations, the effective diameter of the material-forming enclosure may range from about 6 feet to about 20 feet, with enclosures having diameters from about 8 feet to about 14 feet being more conventional. With the effective diameter of the material-forming enclosure represented as “D,” the length of extended material-forming enclosure may range from about 0.5 D to about 2 D. For example, when the effective diameter is 8 feet, the length of the extended material-forming enclosure may range from about 4 feet to about 16 feet. Other suitable lengths may be used. For example, the material forming enclosure may range from about 4 feet to about 16 feet long. In some embodiments, extended material-forming enclosure may range from about 8 feet to about 12 feet long. The length of the extended material-forming enclosure may be selected to provide a predetermined amount of resistance to forward movement. Other factors, such as intended transportation or storage needs for the bagging machine may affect the length of the material-forming enclosure. In some implementations, the length of the tunnel may range from about 0.8 D to about 1.5 D. A length of 0.8 D may be preferred in light of the various factors, such as transportation, storage, etc.

Bagging machines 10 may include a variety of material-forming enclosures, including the extended material-forming enclosures described above. Some bagging machines may include adjustable material-forming enclosures. Suitable material-forming enclosures are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,355,659; 6,834,479; and 6,907,714 and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/020,646, filed on Dec. 22, 2004, and entitled “BAGGING MACHINE WITH A TUNNEL AT LEAST PARTIALLY FORMED OF FLEXIBLE MATERIAL;” and Ser. No. 11/022,043, filed on Dec. 22, 2004, and entitled “BAGGING MACHINE WITH AN ADJUSTABLE TUNNEL,” all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety for all purposes. Extended material-forming enclosure 70 may be adapted to be lengthened or shortened either before beginning bagging operations or during bagging operations.

As described above, bagging machine 10 with brake assembly 46 may be used with a variety of density control apparatus 36. FIGS. 4-7 illustrate various aspects of a multi-hub density control apparatus 72 that may be used with a bagging machine, with or without a brake assembly. FIG. 4 illustrates a rear view of material-forming enclosure 24 that may be coupled to a bagging machine. Material-forming enclosure 24 includes an intake end that may be permanently or selectively coupled to the rearward region of a bagging machine or a mobile frame thereof. Material-forming enclosure 24 illustrated in FIG. 4 is representative of any suitable material-forming enclosure that may be used in conjunction with multi-hub density control apparatus 72. The material-forming enclosures described above, whether fixed or adjustable, are suitable for use with the multi-hub density control apparatus.

As shown in FIG. 4, material-forming enclosure 24 includes a floor assembly 74. Floor assembly 74 may extend from one side wall 76a of material-forming enclosure 24 to the other side wall 76b. Alternatively, floor assembly 74 may be configured to extend rearwardly from the front wall 78 of material-forming enclosure 24 without touching or otherwise coupling to the side walls. Similarly, floor assembly 74 may be coupled to bagging machine 10, the mobile frame 12 thereof, or some other component thereof, independent of material-forming enclosure 24. For example, floor assembly 74 may be added to an otherwise conventional bagging machine after manufacturing to reconfigure the bagging machine to cooperate with a multi-hub density control apparatus.

Floor assembly 74 includes at least one pair of density-setting posts 80. As illustrated in FIG. 4, floor assembly 74 may include four pairs of density-setting posts (80a, 80b, etc). Configurations with one, two, three, four, five, six, or more pairs of density-setting posts are possible. Each of the density-setting posts 82 may be substantially permanently coupled to floor assembly 74, such as by welding or other substantially permanent means. Additionally or alternatively, density-setting posts 82 may be integrally formed with the floor assembly. Moreover, density-setting posts 82 and floor assembly 74 may be adapted to selectively couple density-setting posts 82 to the floor assembly to allow removal or addition of density-setting posts as desired. Illustrative examples of selectively coupled density-setting posts are discussed in relation to FIGS. 7-12. In operation, the forces on density-setting posts 82 will be fairly significant and the coupling of the density-setting posts to the floor assembly should be strong enough to withstand those forces to reduce the risk of breakage during operation.

The at least one pair of density-setting posts 80 may be disposed on floor assembly 74 substantially equidistantly between a floor assembly first end 84 and a floor assembly second end 86. With reference to FIG. 4, a pair of density-setting posts 80a is illustrated as including two density-setting posts 82, one of which is a first density-setting post 82a and the other of which is a second density-setting post 82b. First density-setting post 82a may be spaced apart from floor assembly first end 84 and second density-setting post 82b may be spaced apart from floor assembly second end 86. First density-setting post 82a and second density-setting post 82b may be spaced apart from their respective floor assembly ends by substantially the same distance.

Floor assembly 74 may include a base member 88 and a cover member 90. As illustrated in FIG. 4, density-setting posts 82 may be disposed on base member 88. Cover member 90 may be operatively associated with base member 88 and density-setting posts 82 to cover the density-setting posts during operation of the bagging machine and to allow access to the density-setting posts to adjust the multi-hub density control apparatus. Cover member 90 and base member 88 further may be adapted to not impede the packing operation. Additionally or alternatively, base member 88 and cover member 90 may be adapted to functionally interact with the material being bagged to aid in the bagging operation. Base member 88 and cover member 90 will be described in more detail in connection with FIG. 6.

With continuing reference to FIG. 4, density-setting posts 82 are illustrated as coupled to floor assembly 74. Density-setting posts 82 may include an upstanding member 92 having an upper end 94 and having a first cross-sectional dimension. Density-setting posts 82 may additionally include a cap member 96 adjacent upper end 94 that has a second cross-sectional dimension that is greater than the first cross-sectional dimension. As illustrated in FIG. 4, upstanding member 92 is substantially cylindrical and extends vertically from floor assembly 74. Upstanding member 92 may be formed in other configurations, such as to have an elliptical cross-section or other cross-sectional configuration. Due to the interaction of upstanding member 92 with the elongate density control member, rounded edges may be preferred for upstanding member 92 rather than sharp corners or edges. FIG. 4 illustrates density-setting posts 82 in a substantially linear arrangement on floor assembly 74. Density-setting posts 82 may be disposed in any suitable manner on floor assembly 74, such as in alternating forward and rearward positions so that adjacent density-setting posts are offset from each other.

As illustrated, cap member 96 is disc-shaped. Cap member 96 may be of uniform thickness, may have a center portion that is thicker than the edge portion, or other configuration. Cap member 96 may be centered on upstanding member 92 or may be offset in any direction. Similar to upstanding member 92, cap member 96 may have a variety of cross-sectional configurations in addition to the disc-shaped configuration illustrated in FIG. 4. For example, cap member 96 may be elliptical, square, rectangular, or other suitable configuration. Because the edges of cap member 96 do not interact with the elongate density control member during bagging operations, cap member 96 may include rounded and/or sharp corners or edges. As mentioned above, cap member 96 may have a cross-sectional dimension greater than the cross-sectional dimension of upstanding member 92. The larger cross-sectional dimension enables cap member 96 to retain the elongate density control member in operative association with the density-setting posts, as will be discussed in greater detail herein.

With continued reference to FIG. 4, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 includes an elongate density control member 102 having first and second forward ends 104a, 104b coupled to the bagging machine. Elongate density control member 102 also includes a central portion 106 extending rearwardly within the material forming enclosure to provide a density control assembly 108. Density control assembly 106 functions during the bagging operation in manner similar to conventional cable loops in that the loop portion extending rearwardly interacts with the packed material to resist the forward movement of the bagging machine.

FIG. 4 illustrates density control assembly 108 in a first configuration where first and second forward ends 104a, 104b are coupled to the bagging machine and the central portion 106 extends directly therefrom without coupling to any of the density-setting posts. More specifically, first forward end 104a is selectively coupled to the bagging machine through a passage 110 in front wall 78 leading to a releasing mechanism 112. Second forward end 104b is coupled to mounting post 114, which is disposed inside material-forming enclosure 24 on floor assembly 74. FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary first configuration where central portion 106 extends directly from the coupling points of the first and second forward ends 104 of the density control member.

The first configuration of density control assembly 108 may include a number of variations from the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4. For example, second forward end 104b may be selectively coupled to a releasing mechanism. Similarly, both forward ends 104 may be coupled to releasing mechanisms or to mounting posts. Whether coupled to releasing mechanisms or to mounting posts, forward ends 104 may extend through material-forming enclosure 24 either through front wall 78 or side wall 76.

Releasing mechanism 112 may include one or more moving parts that selectively position releasing mechanism 112 in a locked position. In the locked position, releasing mechanism secures forward end 104 of elongate density control member 102. Upon freeing releasing mechanism 112 from the locked position, the releasing mechanism allows the forward end to be uncoupled from the bagging machine. During bagging operations, uncoupling one forward end of the density control member facilitates conclusion of the bagging operation as the bagging machine frees itself from the packed material.

Mounting post 114 is illustrated in FIG. 4 as including an upstanding member to which density control member 102 is coupled. Mounting post 114 may include any suitable features to ensure density control member 102 is securely coupled during bagging operations. Suitable configurations will vary depending on the nature and configuration of density control member 102. Mounting post 114 may be configured similar to density-setting posts 82, including an upstanding member and a cap member. In some applications, it may be desirable for mounting post 114 to be substantially permanently coupled to one forward end of the density control member. Alternatively, mounting post 114 may provide for a fixed coupling during bagging operation and provide for convenient release of density control member 102 when not in a bagging operation. For example, it may be desirable to completely remove density control member 102 during storage or transport of the bagging machine or material-forming enclosure 24.

Multi-hub density control apparatus 72 further may be modified from the embodiment of FIG. 4 by repositioning forward ends 104. As illustrated in FIG. 4, forward ends 104 are coupled to the bagging machine at points outward from the outermost pair of density-setting posts 80. Forward ends 104 may be coupled to the bagging machine at any suitable location. For example, one or more of forward ends 104 may be coupled to the bagging machine inwardly from the outermost pair of density-setting posts 82. In some configurations, there may be one or more pairs of density-setting posts inward and/or outward of the forward ends of elongate density control member 102.

With continued reference to FIG. 4, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may additionally include one or more guide post 116. Guide post 116 may be disposed on floor assembly 74 and may be operatively associated with elongate density control member 102 to appropriately position the elongate density control member for use during the bagging operation. As shown in FIG. 4, guide post 116 is adapted to position the elongate density control member so that forward end 104a passes directly through passage 110 without applying pressure on the sides of the passage and so that the forces applied to releasing mechanism 112 by elongate density control member 102 are directed in a desired direction. One or more guide posts 116 may be disposed in operative association with elongate density control member 102 depending on the arrangement of the remaining components of multi-hub density control apparatus 72.

FIG. 5 illustrates multi-hub density control apparatus 72 and material-forming enclosure 24 of FIG. 4 with elongate density control member 102 operatively associated with the at least one pair of density-setting posts 80 to provide a density control assembly 108 of an additional configuration. As in FIG. 4, density control assembly 108 of FIG. 5 includes elongate density control member 102 including forward ends 104 coupled to the bagging machine and central portion 106 that extends rearwardly within material-forming enclosure 24. The first configuration illustrated in FIG. 4 and the additional configuration illustrated in FIG. 5 each include spaced apart forward legs 118 that extend rearwardly and that are joined by a rearward portion 120. However, the additional configuration of FIG. 5 illustrates forward legs 118 including an adjustment region 122 adapted to extend transversally to operatively couple elongate density control member 102 to one of the at least one pair of density-setting posts 80.

As can be seen with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5, the at least one pair of density-setting posts 80 are operatively associated with elongate density control member 102 to allow density control member 102 to be selectively coupled to a given pair to provide a density control assembly of a configuration different from the first configuration provided by the coupling of the density control member to the bagging machine directly without coupling via a pair of density-setting posts. The position of the pair of density-setting posts 80 determines the distance between the spaced apart forward legs 118 of the various density control assembly configurations. For example, without coupling to any of the density-setting posts, such as illustrated in FIG. 4, forward legs 118 of density control member 102 are spaced apart by a first distance. Whereas, in the configuration illustrated in FIG. 5, forward legs 118 are spaced apart by a distance distinct from the first distance. With reference to FIG. 6, when density control member 102 is coupled to a given pair of density-setting posts 80, forward legs 114 are spaced apart from each other by a distance that is distinct from the spacing of forward legs 114 when density control member 102 is coupled to a different pair of density-setting posts 80.

Accordingly, each pair of density-setting posts 80 is adapted to be operatively associated with elongate density control member 102 to provide a density control assembly 108 of a configuration distinct from the density control assembly configuration provided by the remaining pairs of density-setting posts 80. The position of density-setting posts 82 and the spacing between the posts may be varied based on a number of factors to provide a plurality of predetermined configurations for density control assembly 108. For example, a multi-hub density control apparatus may include just one pair of density-setting posts 80 to provide two available configurations. Additionally or alternatively, a multi-hub density control apparatus may include between about two and about six pairs of density-setting posts 80 to provide greater variations in the predetermined configurations of density control assembly 108. Some bagging machines may be intended for use in a narrow range of applications, such as always bagging alfalfa or corn. Other bagging machines may be intended for use in a much broader range of bagging applications, such as bagging alfalfa, barley, wheat, oats, corn, and compost material. Accordingly, the number and position of density-setting posts 82 may vary according to the intended application of the multi-hub density control apparatus.

Multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may include one or more pairs of density-setting posts 80 in a variety of arrangements, as discussed above. However, each pair of density-setting posts 80 may be configured to position elongate density control member 102 to provide a density control assembly in a configuration suitable for the intended bagging operations. For example, density-setting posts 82 may be adapted to retain the elongate density control member in the selected configuration during operation of the bagging machine. As described above, density-setting posts 82 may include cap members 96 or other features adapted to maintain the density control member's association with the density-setting posts during operation.

Additionally or alternatively, each of the one or more pairs of density-setting posts 80 may be adapted to center density control assembly 108 within material-forming enclosure 24. As discussed above, each density-setting post 82 of each of the pairs 80 may be disposed equidistantly from the ends of floor assembly 74. Additionally or alternatively, each density-setting post 82 of each of the pairs 80 may be disposed equidistantly from the centerline of material-forming enclosure 24.

FIG. 6 illustrates the multi-hub density control apparatus of FIGS. 4 and 5 showing density control member 102 disposed to provide a density control assembly in two of the selectable additional configurations. As discussed above, each of the additional configurations of density control assembly 108 are distinct from the others and from the first configuration of FIG. 4 at least in the spacing between forward legs 118. Moreover, each of the configurations may be distinct in the distance to which the rearward portion 120 extends rearwardly behind the material-filling apparatus 22.

As discussed above, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may include one or more pairs of density-setting posts 80 depending on the intended usage of the density control apparatus. FIG. 6 illustrates elongate density control member 102 associated with a first pair of density-setting posts 80, shown as density control assembly 108a in solid lines, and associated with a second pair of density-setting posts 80, shown as an alternative density control assembly 108b in dashed lines. As discussed above, density control assembly 108 may be provided in different configurations depending on the material to be bagged. In general, a narrower configuration may be preferred for bagging material such as alfalfa and legumes. A wider configuration may be preferred for bagging material such as barley, wheat, oats, and triticali. An even wider setting may be preferred for bagging material such as corn or sorghum. Local conditions such as moisture content, material particle size, and other factors may vary the desired configuration for a particular material. An operator of a bagging machine with a multi-hub density control apparatus will associate elongate density control member 102 with a particular pair of density-setting posts 80 based on the material to be bagged and the local conditions of the bagging operation.

In some applications, the operator may select the configuration of density control assembly 108 from among the available first configuration and one or more additional configurations to provide the narrowest configuration that is expected to be required for suitable bagging of the material. A narrow configuration will generally provide less resistance against forward movement than a wider configuration. While a particular configuration may be appropriate for bagging dry material, a load of wet material may apply too much resistance. Accordingly, density control assembly 108 may be disposed in a configuration suitable for bagging wet material.

In the event that all the material bagged is wet material of substantially the same constitution, the predetermined configuration of density control assembly 108 would provide optimum bagging conditions. However, among the many loads of material packed into a conventional bag, there is often a fair amount of variation. Accordingly, a bag packed by a bagging machine including only a multi-hub density control apparatus may include variations in packing density along the length of the packed bag. In some applications, such variation is acceptable.

However, many operators of bagging machines according to the present disclosure desire, for a number of reasons, a bag packed to substantially the same density throughout the vast majority of the bag. Accordingly, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may be used as the only density control apparatus in a bagging machine or may be combined with other suitable density control apparatus that provide adjustable density control features. As one example, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may be used with brake assembly 46, including forward brake assembly 52, rearward brake assembly 54, or both, such as described above. Other exemplary density control apparatus that may be used in conjunction with multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may include a variable length extended material-forming enclosure or a variable drag member, such as described above and in the patents and patent applications previously incorporated herein. Additionally or alternatively, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may be provided with one or more forward ends that extend through the front or side walls of material-forming enclosure 24 to a winch adapted to let out or draw in lengths of the elongate density control member. The winch may be adapted to vary the configuration of the density control assembly formed by the density control member, particularly the distance to which density control assembly extends rearwardly of the material-filling apparatus. Accordingly, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 provides a density control assembly having at least two user-selectable configurations that provide a fixed separation between the forward legs of the density control assembly during operation of the bagging machine.

FIG. 6 further illustrates base member 88 and cover member 90 that may form part of floor assembly 74. As discussed briefly above, density-setting posts 82 may be disposed on base member 88. Cover member 90 may be operatively associated with base member 88 and density-setting posts 82 to cover the posts during operation of the bagging machine and to allow access to the posts to adjust the multi-hub density control apparatus. As illustrated in FIG. 6, cover member 90 may be pivotally coupled to front wall 78 of material-forming enclosure 24. Additionally or alternatively, floor assembly 74 and/or base member 88 may include one or more upstanding members to which cover member 90 may be coupled. When a cover member is included in floor assembly 74, any suitable operative association between cover member 90 and base member 88 may be implemented that enables cover member 90 to suitably cover the density-setting posts of the multi-hub density control apparatus.

A floor assembly including a cover member and a base member may be configured with a single cover member or with two or more cover members. As shown in FIG. 6, floor assembly 74 includes two cover members 90a, 90b, each covering approximately half the length of the floor assembly. Cover member 90 may be configured to provide access to density-setting posts to allow an operator to selectively adjust the configuration of density control assembly 108. As illustrated, cover member 90 does not extend the full width (measured from the forward end of floor assembly 74 to the rearward end of floor assembly 74) of the floor assembly. Base member 88 may provide a flat surface, on which density-setting posts 82 are disposed, and an angled surface sloping downwardly from the flat surface. Cover member 90 may be adapted or disposed to provide a substantially continuous downward sloping surface during bagging operations.

Additionally or alternatively, cover member 90 and/or base member 88 may include bevels, inclined regions, or other changes in slope to further control or alter the path of the material being packed into the bag. Furthermore, cover member 90 may be associated with base member 88 to provide a narrow opening when cover member 90 is closed during bagging operations. As illustrated in FIG. 6, elongate density control member 102 extends rearwardly between cover member 90 and base member 88. The narrow opening between cover member 90 and base member 88 may be provided and maintained simply by the cover member resting on elongate density control member 102. Additionally or alternatively, density-setting posts 82 may be configured to provide a rest to support cover member 90 in its closed position. Cover member 90 may be supported in its closed position to provide the narrow opening in a number of other suitable manners. For example, and not as a limitation, base member 88 may include support posts at the forward end near the coupling of the cover member or near the rearward location where the cover member rests in the closed position.

As shown in FIG. 6, cover member 90 extends the entire width of material-forming enclosure 24. Alternatively, cover member 90 may be only as long as floor assembly 74, which, as described above, need not be as long as the width of material-forming enclosure 24. Cover member 90 may also be sized to only provide coverage of density-setting posts 82 in the region where material is exiting material-filling apparatus 22. Floor assembly 74 may include base members, cover members, and/or additional suitable components in various configurations to accommodate density-setting posts 82 and the multi-hub density control apparatus 72.

As discussed above, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may include density-setting posts 82 that are selectively coupled to floor assembly 74. FIGS. 7-12 illustrate a number of manners in which a density-setting post may be operatively coupled to the floor assembly. While illustrative, the embodiments of FIGS. 7-12 are only exemplary and other suitable configurations are within the scope of the present disclosure. Where appropriate, elements in FIGS. 7-12 that are similar to elements in FIGS. 4-6 will be identified with the same reference numerals.

Turning now to FIG. 7, material forming enclosure 24 includes a floor assembly 74, which includes base member 88 and cover member 90. Base member 88 includes a support member 124 and a sloped member 126. Support member 124 may be provided by any suitable structure to which one or more density-setting posts 82 may be mounted or operatively coupled. In FIG. 7, support member 124 is provided by a beam such as square beam 128, which may begin as a substantially hollow, square tube. Sloped member 126 may be provided by any suitable material, such as sheet metal, to provide the sloped face of the floor assembly. Sloped member 126 may be coupled to support member 124 or may be otherwise coupled to a portion of the floor assembly to form base member 88. As discussed above, cover member 90 and base member 88 may be adapted to provide a substantially smooth, sloped surface during the bagging operation. Accordingly, sloped member 126 may be adapted to cooperate with support member 124 and cover member 90 to provide a substantially continuous downwardly sloping surface.

With continuing reference to FIG. 7, a plurality of post-receiving holes 130 may be provided in square beam 128. Post-receiving holes 130 may be adapted to receive a density-setting post 82 to operatively couple the density-setting post to square beam 128. Density-setting post 82 is illustrated in FIG. 7 as a peg-style density-setting post 134, which is illustrated in better detail in FIG. 8. Peg-style density-setting post 134 may be configured to include a lower portion adapted to be inserted into a post-receiving hole and to include an upper portion adapted to extend above the support member to provide a density-setting post adapted to operatively associate with the elongate density control member 102. Multi-hub density control apparatus 72 of FIG. 7 may include any suitable number of post-receiving holes spaced at any suitable interval to provide each post with sufficient strength to withstand the operational forces placed thereon and to provide the operator of the packing machine with a desired degree of variability in the available spacings between forward legs 118 of density control assembly 108.

As illustrated in FIG. 7, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 includes just two peg-style density-setting posts 134, which form the at least one pair of density-setting posts 80 discussed above. Additional peg-style density-setting posts may be provided as desired. Additionally, FIG. 7 illustrates first and second ends 104a, 104b of elongate density control member 102 coupled to the packing machine in the same manner as described above for FIGS. 4-6. It is within the scope of the present disclosure that first and second ends 104a, 104b may be coupled to the packing machine in any suitable manner, such as those described above. Moreover, first and second ends 104a, 104b may be coupled to selectively removable posts, such as peg-style density-setting posts 134.

FIG. 8 provides a perspective view of an exemplary support member 124, illustrated as a square beam 128. As illustrated, square beam 128 has a first end 84 and a second end 86 with a number of post-receiving holes 130 spaced along the length of the beam. FIG. 8 also illustrates square beam 128 including a hinge 131 disposed substantially in the midsection thereof, between first intermediate region 127 and second intermediate region 129. The hinge and coupling in the midsection is shown somewhat schematically in FIG. 8 and is representative of the numerous ways that two beams can be adjustably coupled together. As described in greater detail above, material forming enclosure 24 may take a number of different forms, including collapsible or folding material forming enclosures such as described above and in other patents and patent applications previously incorporated herein by reference. Similar to hinge 131 disposed in square beam 128, other elements of material forming enclosure 24, such as sloped member 126, may be appropriately adapted to enable folding of the material forming enclosure when desired.

As discussed above, post-receiving holes 130 may be spaced at any suitable interval, such as two inches, three inches, four inches, five inches, or six inches center-to-center. Similarly, the diameter or effective size of the post-receiving holes 130 may be of any suitable size, which may depend on the dimensions and material of the support member 124 and/or the dimensions and materials of the peg-style density-setting post 134. Continuing with the example of a circular post-receiving hole, post-receiving hole 130 may have a diameter measuring one inch, one and a half inches, two inches, or another measurement larger than, smaller than, or within that range. Post-receiving holes 130 may be substantially circular, as illustrated, or may be formed in other suitable shapes to accommodate the peg-style density-setting posts 134, which may include a lower portion adapted or formed to coordinate with the post-receiving holes. Exemplary alternative configurations include square-shaped, oval-shaped, and other shapes, including more complicated geometries.

As illustrated in FIG. 8, peg-style density-setting post 134 includes a lower post segment 136, an upper post segment 138, a lower washer member 140, and a cap member 142. Peg-style density-setting post 134 may be formed of one or more separate pieces fixedly or adjustably coupled together. For example, lower post segment 136 and upper post segment 138 may be formed of an integral post and be divided only by lower washer member 140 welded or otherwise secured in place. Alternatively, upper and lower post segments 136, 138 may include separate posts welded or otherwise coupled together, directly or indirectly, to form peg-style density-setting posts 134. Additionally or alternatively, lower washer member 140 and cap member 142 may be coupled to peg-style density-setting post 134 in a number of suitable manners. For example, lower washer member 140 may be welded or threadedly coupled to the density-setting post. Threaded coupling of the lower washer member may provide a variable height peg-style density-setting post 134. While peg-style density-setting post 134 may include a cylindrical lower post member 136 as illustrated, other configurations of lower post member 136 are also within the scope of the present disclosure. As discussed above, the configuration of the peg-style density-setting posts and the post-receiving holes may be the same or similar. Additionally or alternatively, the configurations may be different by corresponding to allow peg-setting density-setting post 134 to be disposed in post-receiving hole 130, as illustrated by arrow 144 in FIG. 8.

Square beam 128 may be adapted to accommodate and hold peg-style density-setting posts 134 in a number of manners. As one example, post-receiving holes 130 may include corresponding holes provided in the top and bottom of square beam 128. The lower portion of peg-style density-setting post 134 may extend through both of the holes with lower washer member 140 resting against the top of square beam 128. Similarly, a hole may be provided in the top of square beam 128 and a corresponding recess may be provided on the interior surface of the bottom of square beam 128. The recess may be sized to receive the lowermost end of lower post segment 136 and may be configured to allow the peg-style density-setting post to be vertically stable without the need for a lower washer member. The holes provided in square beam 128 may be simple holes, may be reinforced with ribs or other structures, and/or may include additional elements adapted to cooperate with density-setting posts 82.

With continued reference to FIG. 8, post-receiving holes 130 are illustrated as including sleeve 132 disposed vertically within square beam 128 opening at least to a hole in the upper surface of square beam 128. Similar to the discussion above, sleeve 132 may have an open bottom or a closed bottom. Sleeve 132 may have the same cross-section as the hole in the upper surface or may have a different cross-section, by size or by shape. Sleeve 132 may be adapted to provide greater stability to peg-style density-setting post 134 when it is disposed in the post-receiving hole 130. Sleeve 132 may additionally or alternatively be adapted to provide additional strength to the square beam 128 in the vicinity of the post-receiving holes 130. Only two sleeves 132 are illustrated in dashed lines in FIG. 8; however, each of post-receiving holes 130 may be similarly provided with a sleeve 132.

In operation, multi-hub density control apparatus 72 of FIGS. 7 and 8 may operate in a manner similar to that described above in relation to FIGS. 4-6. The operator determines the desired configuration of density control assembly 108 and the desired spacing between the forward legs 118. When using the density control apparatus of FIG. 7, however, the operator is able to position the selectively coupled peg-style density-setting posts 134 in any of the post-receiving holes 130 rather than being limited by the post positions selected by the packing machine manufacturer. The ability to place the two or more peg-style density-setting posts in any of the available post-receiving holes 130 may provide greater variability in the base density settings available to the operator, thereby allow the operator to closer approximate the density control provided by the density control assembly 108 to the density control desired during operation and allowing the brake assembly or other density controlling assembly to provide fine tuning density control resistance over a smaller range.

FIG. 9 illustrates another exemplary configuration of multi-hub density control apparatus 72 having selectively coupled, or selectively positionable, density-setting posts 82. In the embodiment of FIG. 9, the support member of base member 88 is provided by I-beam 146 and density-setting posts 82 are provided by sliding density-setting posts 148. The remaining elements of density control apparatus 72 and material forming enclosure may be as described above.

FIG. 10 illustrates a perspective view of a section of I-beam 146 showing the relationship between sliding density-setting posts 148,150 and the I-beam. I-beam 146 includes top flange 152, bottom flange 154, and upright member 156. FIG. 10 illustrates the density-setting posts in two exemplary sliding density-setting posts 148, 150. Sliding density-setting posts 148, 150 may include features adapted to couple the density-setting post to the support member 124 while allowing the posts to slide horizontally along the length of support member 124. Sliding density-setting posts 148, 150 are discussed in greater detail in relation to FIGS. 11 and 12.

I-beam 146 is representative of a number of beams and other support members that may be adapted to cooperate with sliding density-setting posts. For example, a square beam, such as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, may be provided with grooves in one or more of the side surfaces to cooperate with sliding density-setting posts. I-beam 146 or other support member 124 adapted to operatively couple to a sliding density-setting post may include other features to facilitate the coupling of the sliding density-setting post. For example, one or more ends of the I-beam may include a region where top flange 152 is narrowed to facilitate installation, removal, and/or replacement of sliding density-setting posts. Additionally or alternatively, the support member may be provided with ridges, notches, serrated edges, rubberized edges, or other features adapted to enable sliding motion of the sliding density-setting post and adapted to increase the resistance to sliding motion during operation of the bagging machine.

With reference to FIGS. 11 and 12, and with continued reference to FIG. 10, illustrative embodiments of sliding density-setting posts 148, 150 are illustrated in perspective view. FIG. 11 illustrates a sliding density-setting post 148 including a density setting post 82 mounted or operatively coupled to a sliding coupler 164. Density-setting post 82 may include an upstanding member 160, which may be at least substantially similar to the upstanding member 92 of FIG. 4. Density-setting post 82 also may include a cap member 162, which may be at least substantially similar to cap member 96 described above.

FIG. 11 further illustrates that sliding density-setting post 148, and particularly sliding coupler 164 may include a coupling region 166. Coupling region 166 may take any suitable form for coupling sliding density-setting post 148 to support member 124. As described above, support member 124 may be configured in a number of manners to cooperate with sliding density-setting posts. Accordingly, one or more coupling region 166 and support member 124 may be adapted to cooperate and slidingly engage the other. As illustrated in FIG. 11, sliding density-setting post 148 includes a J-shaped sliding coupler having a single coupling region 166 including a curved portion 168 adapted to bend around the edge of an I-beam flange. Coupling region 166 also includes a tongue 170 extending from the curved portion 168 and adapted to couple the sliding density-setting post 148 to the support member 124. In the example of an I-beam 146 as support member 124 and a J-shaped sliding density-setting post 148, coupling region 166 may be adapted to extend around the rear edge of the top flange 152 of the I-beam 146.

J-shaped sliding density-setting post 148 may be slide into position or may be placed onto the I-beam 146 at the desired position. Once the elongate density control member 102 is operatively associated with the J-shaped density-setting post 148, such as being wrapped around a portion thereof, and the material is being bagged by the machine, the rearward force on the elongate density control member applies at least a rearward force on the density-setting post. The coupling region 166 is adapted to prevent sliding density-setting post from being pulled rearwardly.

Depending on the configuration of the elongate density control member and the sliding density-setting posts, the elongate density control member 102 may also apply a lateral force on the sliding density-setting posts 148 during operation of the packing machine. Lateral sliding of the sliding density-setting posts 148 may be inhibited or at least substantially precluded in a number of ways. For example, the rearward force on the sliding density-setting posts 148 may be strong enough to create sufficient frictional force between support member 124 and the density-setting posts 148. Additionally or alternatively, a rubberized material or other material may be applied to one or more of the sliding coupler 164 and the support member 124 to increase the frictional resistance to lateral sliding. Additionally or alternatively, one or more of the sliding coupler 164 and the support member 124 may be adapted to include one or more of notches, grooves, sawteeth, protrusions, fingers, or other structures or elements adapted to cooperatively create some degree of mechanical resistance to lateral sliding. As just one of the many suitable combinations, the rearward edge of the top flange 152 of the I-beam 146 may be provided with a plurality of fingers, which may be formed by cutting a plurality of notches into an otherwise standard I-beam, and the curved portion 168 of the sliding coupler 166 may be provided with one or more notches, recesses, cutouts, or the like adapted to cooperate with the fingers on the I-beam. As one other example, density setting post 82 may be coupled to coupling member 166 in a way that enables the operator to clamp the density-setting post in place on the support member, such as threadedly coupling the upstanding member 160 to sliding coupler 164 such that upstanding member 160 can be screwed down through sliding coupler 164 to apply force on the support member 124. While a coupling member 164 and an I-beam 146, or other support member 124, may be used without any further modifications, one or more of the modifications discussed herein or other modifications may be made. As discussed above, the sliding coupler 164 of J-shaped sliding density-setting post 148 and the support member 124 may be configured in any suitable manner to enable sliding density-setting post 148 and support member 124 to be selectively and adjustably coupled together to enable an operator to position the density-setting posts 148 at a desired position prior to commencing bagging operations and to be fixedly coupled together during the bagging operation.

The sliding density-setting post 148 has been discussed structurally and operationally as an independent element. However, as discussed herein at least one pair of sliding density-setting posts 148 may be used together to provide the pair of density-setting posts 80 discussed above. Accordingly, sliding density-setting posts 148 may cooperate with other aspects of the material forming enclosure 24 to provide a multi-hub density control apparatus 72.

FIG. 12 illustrates yet another variation of a sliding density-setting post suitable for use in a multi-hub density control apparatus according to the present disclosure. As illustrated, C-shaped sliding density-setting post 150 is similar to J-shaped sliding density-setting post 148 but includes two coupling regions 166 rather than just one. Accordingly, C-shaped sliding density-setting post 150 is adapted to wrap around both the forward edge and the rearward edge of support member 124. Otherwise, C-shaped sliding density-setting post 150 may be substantially similar to the J-shaped sliding density-setting post 148 described above, including the many variations, applications, and uses described above. The C-shaped configuration of the sliding density-setting post may provide additional options for countering whatever lateral forces may be applied to the sliding density-setting posts during operation. Additionally or alternatively, the C-shaped configuration may more securely couple the sliding density-setting posts to the support member when the bagging machine is not bagging material.

Other configurations are available for the sliding density-setting posts. The configuration implemented in a particular multi-hub density control apparatus 72 may depend on one or more of the nature of the bagging operation, the remaining components of the bagging machine, whether the multi-hub apparatus is coupled to the bagging machine pre- or post-manufacture of the bagging machine, the configuration of support member 124, or other factors. As just one example, the sliding density-setting posts may be adapted to couple to a square support member 124, such as the square beam 128 shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, by configuring the coupling region 166 accordingly, such as by extending the dimensions of the curved portion 168. Other variations to one or more of support member 124 and the sliding density-setting posts are within the scope of the present disclosure.

As discussed above, support member 124 is adapted to be operatively coupled to sloped member 126. When support member 124 is formed at least in part by I-beam 146, sloped member 126 may be operatively coupled to the forward edge of the top flange 152, such as by welding or otherwise. However, with reference to FIGS. 10 and 12, it can be seen that when C-shaped density-setting post 150 is coupled to the top flange 152 of I-beam 146, the forward coupling region 166 of the sliding density-setting post wraps around the forward edge of the top flange 152 of I-beam 146. Accordingly, sloped member 126 may be coupled to I-beam 146 to not interfere significantly with sliding density-setting posts 150. In some configurations, sloped member 126 may be coupled to another portion of the I-beam 146. For example, sloped member 126 may be coupled to the bottom flange, the upright member 156, or to the joint between the upright member 156 and the top flange 152, which is indicated as joint 158 in FIG. 10.

Multi-hub density control apparatus 72 utilizing sliding density-setting posts, whether of a J-shaped configuration, a C-shaped configuration, or some other configuration, may be adapted to provide the same or substantially the functionality as the multi-hub density control apparatus 72 discussed above in connection with FIGS. 4-6. As with the configurations illustrated and discussed in connection with FIGS. 7 and 8, the sliding density-setting posts discussed and illustrated in connection with FIGS. 9-12 may provide the operator of the bagging machine with a greater degree of customization in determining the spacing between forward legs 118 of density control assembly 108.

It is believed that the disclosure set forth above encompasses multiple distinct inventions with independent utility. While each of these inventions has been disclosed in its preferred form, the specific embodiments thereof as disclosed and illustrated herein are not to be considered in a limiting sense as numerous variations are possible. The subject matter of the inventions includes all novel and non-obvious combinations and subcombinations of the various elements, features, functions and/or properties disclosed herein. Similarly, where the claims recite “a” or “a first” element or the equivalent thereof, such claims should be understood to include incorporation of one or more such elements, neither requiring, nor excluding, two or more such elements.

It is believed that the following claims particularly point out certain combinations and subcombinations that are directed to one of the disclosed inventions and are novel and non-obvious. Inventions embodied in other combinations and subcombinations of features, functions, elements and/or properties may be claimed through amendment of the present claims or presentation of new claims in this or a related application. Such amended or new claims, whether they are directed to a different invention or directed to the same invention, whether different, broader, narrower or equal in scope to the original claims, are also regarded as included within the subject matter of the inventions of the present disclosure.

Although the present invention has been shown and described with reference to the foregoing operational principles and preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The present invention is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variances that fall within the scope of the appended claims.