Title:
Modular Stamper
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton includes a conveyor drum system including a plurality of clamps and a floor plate positioned adjacent the clamps. The system further includes a carton opening system positioned at a first station along the conveyor drum system, a pack stamping system positioned at a second station along the conveyor drum system, and a carton closing system positioned at a third station along the conveyor drum system. The clamps are opened to receive at least one carton and the floor plate moves upward to position the packs at a predetermined operating distance and wherein the clamps are closed to hold the carton at the predetermined operating distance while the carton is rotated through the carton opening system, pack opening system and carton closing system.



Inventors:
Quinn, Kerry (Palatine, IL, US)
Sloma, Adam (Arlington Heights, IL, US)
Levander, John (South Elgin, IL, US)
Arends, Tim (St. Charles, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/685568
Publication Date:
09/20/2007
Filing Date:
03/13/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/135.1
International Classes:
B65B61/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090302033AUTOMATED HAND HELD SEALERDecember, 2009Barr
20070209327Box loaderSeptember, 2007Kent et al.
20020017076Turret for bottle capping machineFebruary, 2002Martin
20070157575Package kit of bra strapsJuly, 2007Yasbeck
20030009989Vertical multipackJanuary, 2003Knoerzer et al.
20090173740FLEXIBLE COVER FOR PRODUCE CONTAINERJuly, 2009Ferguson
20080104930Sealing barMay, 2008Sparakowski et al.
20090065382PACKAGE SYSTEM FOR HOLDING PRODUCTSMarch, 2009Perri et al.
20080141620Air Packing Machine Using Ultrasonic Sealing And Methods And Products Relating To SameJune, 2008Szabo
20030196413Wedding gown cleaning and preservation systemOctober, 2003Schapiro
20080264806Appliance securing apparatus, kit and method for using sameOctober, 2008Trebilcock et al.



Primary Examiner:
DURAND, PAUL R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARDINAL LAW GROUP (Evanston, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, the system comprising: a conveyor drum system including a plurality of clamps; a floor plate positioned adjacent the clamps; a carton opening system positioned at a first station along the conveyor drum system; a pack stamping system positioned at a second station along the conveyor drum system; a carton closing system positioned at a third station along the conveyor drum system; wherein the clamps are opened to receive at least one carton and the floor plate moves upward to position the packs at a predetermined operating distance and wherein the clamps are closed to hold the carton at the predetermined operating distance while the carton is rotated through the carton opening system, pack opening system and carton closing system.

2. The system of claim 1 further comprising a second set of clamps configured to provide a second processing path.

3. The system of claim 1 wherein the clamps are removably attached to the conveyor drum system.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein the carton opening system is removably attached to the conveyor drum system.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein the pack stamping system is removably attached to the conveyor drum system.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein the carton closing system is removably attached to the conveyor drum system.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein the clamps, carton opening system, pack stamping system and carton closing system are modularly attached to the conveyor drum system.

8. The system of claim 1 wherein the predetermined operating distance is defined by a fixed ceiling plate.

9. A system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, the system comprising: means for positioning packs within at least one carton at an operating position; means for holding the packs at the operating position based on the positioning; means for rotating the held carton along a plurality of operating stations.

10. A method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, the method comprising: opening at least one clamp; receiving at least one carton within the open clamp; translating the at least one carton to position the carton at an operating position; closing the clamp; rotating the at least one carton about a plurality of operating stations, the operating stations disposed around a conveyor drum system, while holding the at least one carton at the operating position within the closed clamp.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising determining a malfunction in at least one clamp; removing the determined clamp and replacing the clamp.

12. The method of claim 10 further comprising determining a malfunction in at least one clamp; removing the determined clamp; and rotating the remaining clamps around the conveyor drum system.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein the operating position is defined by a ceiling plate.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/782,008 filed Mar. 14, 2006, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to stamping systems and in particular a stamping system for cigarette cartons.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many jurisdictions tax the sale of cigarettes. Cigarettes are most typically distributed in boxes, each box including 30 cartons of cigarettes, and each carton containing 10 packs of cigarettes, and each pack includes 20 cigarettes. There is no industry standard for the size of cigarettes or cartons. Therefore, cartons of cigarettes are distributed in a variety of heights and widths, depending on the brand and the dimensions of cigarettes for that brand. The packs are disposed inside each one of the cartons within an array comprising two rows of packs with each row of packs comprising five packs. In other words, the cigarette packs are disposed within an array comprising two rows and five columns.

Generally, payment of the tax is evidenced by application of a stamp to each pack of cigarettes prior to distribution to a retailer. However, cigarette manufacturers often do not know the retail destination of each carton, and therefore distribute un-stamped cartons to distributors, and the distributors apply the tax stamps. Typically, tax stamps are applied to a bottom surface of the pack. Generally speaking, then, the bottom surface of the pack, i.e. opposite the intended distribution hole for the cigarettes, is the upper surface of the pack when discussing stamping operations.

Distributors must, thus, open each carton of cigarettes, apply the correct tax stamp to each pack, and close the carton after application of the tax stamp. While these tasks can be performed manually, mechanical assistance is generally used in order to increase throughput.

Historically, an operator of the tax applicator manually adjusted the machine using a series of levers and knobs to adjust the machine to accommodate the differing dimensions of each carton due to brand variances. These machines generally include a common ceiling height and an adjustable floor. Based on the dimensions of a carton to be stamped, the adjustable floor is set to a height that brings the top of the carton to the common ceiling. Such machines reduce potential throughput by precluding stamping more than one height of cartons without adjustment. These machines can be advantageous when attempting to stamp a large number of cartons, but the need for mechanical adjustment makes deployment of such machines difficult in environments that feature smaller orders or require frequent changeover. An exemplary machine in accordance with this approach is disclosed in United States Patent 4,265,355 to Davis, assigned to the assignee of this application.

Another approach is to move each station to a different height based on the height of the cartons. For example, United States Patent Application Publication 2004/0084130 to Michalski, and assigned to the assignee of this application discloses such a machine. The Michalski machine uses a series of servo motors controlled by a programmable logic controller to adjust the location of the operable stations based on a measurement made by a measuring station. Meyercord Revenue, Inc., an ITW company, markets a stamping machine incorporating the Michalski technology as the LSM stamping machine. Meyercord Revenue, Inc. further manufactures a SSM stamping machine, as well as the M120, but neither of these devices provide multiple processing paths. Meyercord Revenue, Inc. also sold a dual processing path machine called the RS2000, but the paths could not be bypassed and did not offer redundant modules.

As jurisdictions increase cigarette taxes, distributors are attempting to reduce the length of time between application of a tax stamp and distribution to a retailer based on an order. Such attempts are targeted at reducing overhead costs.

Use of automated stamping machinery provides many advantages, but repair of the specialized machinery can be time consuming and expensive. Additionally, equipment malfunction can reduce throughput to suboptimal levels, further increasing the costs of repair.

Often, tax stamping machines are operated in harsh environments by labor unskilled in maintaining or repairing the specialized machinery. Further, the machines are often used in just-in-time inventory supply chains where even short periods of downtime can result in nonproportional economic impact. Current machinery provides only a single processing path requiring that the machinery be entirely down until trained service providers can repair the machinery.

Therefore, it would be desirable to provide a system for applying a stamp to packs that would overcome the aforementioned and other disadvantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the present invention provides a system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton that includes a conveyor drum system. The system includes a plurality of clamps and a floor plate positioned adjacent the clamps. The system further includes a carton opening system positioned at a first station along the conveyor drum system, a pack stamping system positioned at a second station along the conveyor drum system, and a carton closing system positioned at a third station along the conveyor drum system. The clamps are opened to receive at least one carton and the floor plate moves upward to position the packs at a predetermined operating distance and wherein the clamps are closed to hold the carton at the predetermined operating distance while the carton is rotated through the carton opening system, pack opening system and carton closing system.

Another aspect of the present invention provides a method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton. The method includes opening at least one clamp, receiving at least one carton within the open clamp, and translating the at least one carton to position the carton at an operating position. The method further includes closing the clamp and rotating the at least one carton about a plurality of operating stations disposed around a conveyor drum system, while holding the at least one carton at the operating position within the closed clamp.

Another aspect of the present invention provides a system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton. The system includes means for opening at least one clamp, means for receiving at least one carton within the open clamp, and means for translating the at least one carton to position the carton at an operating position. The system further includes means for closing the clamp and means for rotating the at least one carton about a plurality of operating stations disposed around a conveyor drum system, while holding the at least one carton at the operating position within the closed clamp.

The foregoing and other features and advantages of the invention will become further apparent from the following detailed description of the presently preferred embodiments, read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. The detailed description and drawings are merely illustrative of the invention, rather than limiting the scope of the invention being defined by the appended claims and equivalents thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a flowchart illustrating one example of a method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, in accordance with another aspect of the invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a flowchart illustrating one example of a method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, in accordance with another aspect of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating another method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, in accordance with another aspect of the invention and

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating another method for applying a stamp to packs within a carton, in accordance with another aspect of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a system for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. System 100 includes a conveyor drum system 110, including a plurality of clamps 120. Conveyor drum system 100 further includes a plurality of operating systems, including carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150. Carton opening system 130 is positioned at a first station along the conveyor drum system. Pack stamping system 140 is positioned at a second station along the conveyor drum system. Carton closing system 150 is positioned at a third station along the conveyor drum system. Floor plate 160 is positioned near a loading station 170.

As shown in FIG. 1, system 100 includes clamps 120 configured in pairs such that conveyor drum system 100 provides dual processing paths and provides capability to process two cartons substantially simultaneously. In one embodiment, four pairs of clamps are provided, while in other embodiments, any number of other pairs can be implemented. In one embodiment, clamps 120 are implemented in accordance with the disclosures of U.S. Patent Application 60/782,005 (atty docket 20108 1231/8), the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

Cartons are loaded at loading station 170. In one embodiment, the cartons are fed into the loading station by a conveyor system including feeding housings configured to ensure that cartons are appropriately oriented when fed into the loading station. Further, loading station 170 is implemented near an exit conveyor system to remove stamped cartons from the conveyor drum system 100.

The conveyor drum system 100 rotates about an axis and is powered by a power source (not shown). Each clamp is further powered by a power source. The clamps can be powered electrically, and the opening and closing of the clamps can be hydraulic or pneumatic. Each clamp is removably affixed to the conveyor drum by an electrical cable, hydraulic or pneumatic connector, and a connection device. The connection device can include screws or latches. For example, each clamp can connect to the conveyor drum with 4 screws, an electrical cable, and a hydraulic or pneumatic connector.

Additionally, each of the carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150 connect to the conveyor drum system with an electrical cable, hydraulic or pneumatic connector if needed, and a connection device such as screws or latches. For example, the pack stamping system 140 connects to the conveyor drum system with 6 screws. These attachments provide a modular system, such that the systems are modularly attached to the conveyor drum system.

Use of clamps and operating devices with few or reduced connection points to the drum allows malfunctioning devices to be easily and quickly removed and replaced. Alternatively, the devices can be removed, and the conveyor drum can continue to operate at a reduced throughput until the malfunctioning device can be replaced or repaired. Furthermore, since the devices are modular, redundant devices can be maintained so that a malfunctioning device can be quickly replaced with a previously redundant device.

An alternate embodiment includes redundant devices. For example, in place of a single device 140 processing two cartons at a time, the machine could incorporate a pair of devices 140 sitting adjacent to each other where each device processes only one carton at a time. In this manner, the concept of modularity is extended to the devices so that failure of a single device also does not require the machine to stop operating—instead cartons can be routed within the machine away from failed devices and towards the redundant, unfailed, devices.

FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary method 200 for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one aspect of the invention. Method 200 begins by opening at least one clamp at step 210. In one embodiment, the clamp is attached to a conveyor drum system configured to rotate the clamp through a series of operational stations. The clamp can be opened mechanically, or with the use of pneumatic or hydraulic mechanisms. In one example, the clamp is configured with a cam that is triggered by extension of an arm that is hydraulically or pneumatically driven. In one embodiment, the clamp includes a paired clamp providing dual path processing. Opening the clamp further includes positioning a first and second arm at a widest configuration, and positioning a floor plate at a longest configuration. The widest configuration is associated with positioning the arms of the clamp at a position with the greatest designed distance between the two arms. The longest configuration is associated with the greatest distance between the floor plate and a fixed ceiling plate. In combination, the widest configuration and the longest configuration ensure that all cartons regardless of dimensions will be accepted by the clamp.

The opened clamp receives at least one carton at step 220. For example, the carton can be received from a conveyor belt. In one embodiment, the conveyor belt feeds the opened clamp through an assembly configured to ensure that the received carton is appropriately positioned to be clamped by the clamps.

At step 230, the carton is translated to position the carton at an operating position. Translating the carton includes moving the floor plate toward the fixed ceiling plate so that the carton is securely pressed against the ceiling plate. The ceiling plate defines the operating position, in one embodiment. For example, the floor plate can be translated with mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic devices until resistance against the translation movement is experienced. After a short delay configured to ensure that the carton is held between the floor plate and ceiling plate, a mechanical lock is applied to the floor plate to ensure that the floor plate does not move, and ensuring the carton will be held at the desired position such that the portion of the carton in contact with the ceiling plate is maintained at the same position.

After applying the mechanical lock, the clamp arms are closed at step 240. The clamp arms can be closed using mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic devices until resistance against the translation movement is experienced.

After closing the clamps, the carton is rotated about a plurality of operating stations disposed around a conveyor drum system while the carton is held at the operating position within the closed clamp at step 340. The operating stations include a carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150. After rotating the held carton through the conveyor drum system, the clamp arms are opened to release the held carton, and the formerly held carton is translated away from the conveyor drum system such as with a conveyor belt.

FIG. 3 illustrates one exemplary method 300 for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one aspect of the invention. Method 300 begins at step 310 by determining a malfunction. For example, a malfunction can include a clamp that does not open or a clamp that does not close. Alternatively, the malfunction can include a floor plate that does not properly translate. The malfunction can be determined via operation observation, or via electronic sensors. In other examples, the malfunction can affect at least one of the carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150.

Based on the determined malfunction, method 300 proceeds to step 320 to remove the determined part (such as clamp 120 or the carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150), and replace the determined part with a new part. The affected part is removed from the conveyor drum system by removing any pneumatic/hydraulic connections and any electrical connectors, as well as removing any screws attaching the determined part to the conveyor drum. Operating the device in this fashion provides for redundant modules.

FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary method 400 for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one aspect of the invention. Method 400 begins at step 410 by determining a malfunction. For example, a malfunction can include a clamp that does not open or a clamp that does not close. Alternatively, the malfunction can include a floor plate that does not properly translate. The malfunction can be determined via operation observation, or via electronic sensors. In other examples, the malfunction can affect at least one of the carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150.

Based on the determined malfunction, method 400 proceeds to step 420 to remove the determined clamp. After removing the determined clamp, the conveyor drum is operated to rotate the remaining clamps around the conveyor drum system at step 430. In such a fashion, the modular conveyor drum can operate until repaired, albeit at a reduced throughput rate. Additionally, operation of the devices during step 430 bypasses at least one processing path. Alternatively, the conveyor drum can be rerouted to avoid the determined part.

FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary method 500 for applying a stamp to packs within a carton in accordance with one aspect of the invention. Method 500 begins at step 510 by determining a malfunction. For example, a malfunction can include a clamp that does not open or a clamp that does not close. Alternatively, the malfunction can include a floor plate that does not properly translate. The malfunction can be determined via operation observation, or via electronic sensors. In other examples, the malfunction can affect at least one of the carton opening system 130, pack stamping system 140, and carton closing system 150.

Based on the determined malfunction, method 500 proceeds to step 520 to redirect cartons flow away from failed devices and to at least one redundant device which is still functional. Based on the redirection, the system continues to operate at step 530.

Operating a tax stamp machine as disclosed herein provides a modular dual path processing system. Operation of a conveyor drum provides for a reduced footprint compared to linear systems, and the modular nature of the disclosed system provides for reducing downtime resulting from malfunctions. The modular teachings disclosed herein can also be applied to linear conveyor systems.

It is important to note that the figures and description illustrate specific applications and embodiments of the present invention, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure or claims to that which is presented therein. Upon reading the specification and reviewing the drawings hereof, it will become immediately obvious to those skilled in the art that myriad other embodiments of the present invention are possible, and that such embodiments are contemplated and fall within the scope of the presently claimed invention.

While the embodiments of the invention disclosed herein are presently considered to be preferred, various changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is indicated in the appended claims, and all changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalents are intended to be embraced therein.