Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PACKAGING SIDING PANELS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for sorting and packaging vinyl siding panels. The apparatus comprises a panel receiving section for positioning in line with a panel extrusion line, pins for inverting and stacking the panels atop each other with the pins being coupled to a frame supporting the panel receiving section and situated below the panel receiving section, a panel accumulation section situated below the panel receiving section and the pins, and a mechanism means, preferably a ram mechanism, situated at a first end of the panel accumulation section for pushing the panels from the panel accumulation section and into a container, such as a pre-made carton, situated at a second end of the panel accumulation section that is opposite the first end. The apparatus substantially reduces ergonomic issues associated with the current apparatus for packaging vinyl siding panels and substantially increases the vinyl siding panel extrusion rate. A method is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Regelski, Joseph (Tipp City, OH, US)
Anderson, Michael (Mckinney, TX, US)
Strozensky, Mark (Pottsboro, TX, US)
Galloway, Craig (Denison, TX, US)
Coley, John (Fisherville, VA, US)
Jackson, Gregg Greg (Lithia Springs, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/624019
Publication Date:
07/17/2008
Filing Date:
01/17/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/541, 53/564
International Classes:
B65B35/50
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GERRITY, STEPHEN FRANCIS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LATHROP GPM LLP (OVERLAND PARK, KS, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus for packaging siding panels, said apparatus comprising: a panel receiving section for positioning in line with a panel extrusion line; a panel accumulation section situated below said panel receiving section; a panel movement and holding system intermediate said panel receiving section and said panel accumulation section, for moving one panel into an orientation with respect to another panel such that the panels engage each other based on their geometries to define and engaged pair of panels, and temporarily holding at least one engaged pair of panels until said at least one engaged pair of panels is sent to said panel accumulation section; and a mechanism means situated at a first end of said panel accumulation section for pushing said panels from said panel accumulation section and into a container situated at a second end of said panel accumulation section opposite said first end.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said panel movement and holding system comprises: pins for inverting and stacking said panels atop each other, said pins coupled to a frame supporting said panel receiving section and situated below said panel receiving section and above said panel accumulation section.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said siding panels comprise vinyl siding panels.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said mechanism means comprises a ram mechanism.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said container comprises a pre-made carton.

6. An apparatus for packaging siding panels, said apparatus comprising: a panel receiving section for positioning in line with a panel extrusion line; pins for inverting and stacking said panels atop each other, said pins coupled to a frame supporting said panel receiving section and situated below said panel receiving section; a panel accumulation section situated below said panel receiving section and said pins; and a mechanism means situated at a first end of said panel accumulation section for pushing said panels from said panel accumulation section and into a container situated at a second end of said panel accumulation section opposite said first end.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said siding panels comprising vinyl siding panels.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said mechanism means comprises a ram mechanism.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said container comprises a pre-made carton.

10. A method of packaging siding panels comprising: an apparatus for packaging said panels, said apparatus comprising a panel receiving section for positioning in line with a panel extrusion line, pins for inverting and stacking said panels atop each other, said pins coupled to a frame supporting said panel receiving section and situated below said panel receiving section, a panel accumulation section situated below said panel receiving section and said pins, and a mechanism means situated at a first end of said panel accumulation section for pushing said panels from said panel accumulation section and into a container situated at a second end of said panel accumulation section opposite said first end; shifting said panels from said panel extrusion line to said panel receiving section; dropping said panels from said panel receiving section onto said pins, said pins inverting said panels, said panels being stacked in said panel accumulation section; and said mechanism means pushing said stacked panels into said container.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein said siding panels comprise vinyl siding panels.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein said mechanism comprises a ram mechanism.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein said container comprises a pre-made carton.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to production line machinery for sorting and packing articles, and in particular to such an apparatus for sorting and packing vinyl siding panels.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Vinyl siding is commonly used in construction as the exterior cladding for homes and other structures and has the advantage of low maintenance and high resistance to weathering. Vinyl siding is easily applied by home remodelers and do-it-yourselfers. This siding is made by a known extrusion process with a common panel size of 8 inches wide by 12 feet long, although other lengths and widths can be used as appropriate. The siding is normally formed with a hanger strip along one edge which interlocks with a mating strip along the edge of an adjoining strip. These hanger strips complicate packing the strips in stacks within a box or carton, and to achieve maximum space efficiency, the strips are normally packed in alternate orientation. Moreover, stacking and packing of the panel strips is done by hand in most manufacturing plants. Accordingly, repetitive hand and wrist movement is required, which can lead to repetitive stress injury. In current practice, the panel strips are stacked in boxes or cartons which are then sealed and routed for shipment. The current work design, in some instances, also forces a reduction in extruder throughput because the packer cannot keep up.

Automated sorting and packing processes for siding have been developed, including the vinyl siding sorting and packing machine disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,202,391 issued to K-Ter Imagineering, Inc. The patent discloses a siding panel sorting and packing machine having a siding receiving section, lifting and flipper arms for nesting the panels, a panel accumulation section, and a box folding section, However, the panels are placed into a pre-made carton by the operator. This lowers the overall production rate and allows ergonomic issues such as risk of injury to an operator, to persist.

There exists a need, therefore, for an apparatus and method for packaging siding panels that does not require the operator to place the siding panels into a pre-made carton. Such an apparatus and method would be instrumental in increasing the extrusion rate of the vinyl siding panels and reducing the ergonomic strain on the operator.

The object of the present invention, therefore, is to provide an apparatus and method for packaging siding panels that does not require the packer to place the siding panels into a carton and, therefore, substantially reduce the ergonomic strain on the packer while substantially increasing the vinyl siding panel packaging rate.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an apparatus and method for packaging vinyl siding panels. The apparatus comprises a panel receiving section for positioning in line with a panel extrusion line, pins for inverting and stacking the panels atop each other with the pins being coupled to a frame supporting the panel receiving section and situated below the panel receiving section, a panel accumulation section situated below the panel receiving section and the pins, and a mechanism means, preferably a ram mechanism, situated at a first end of the panel accumulation section for pushing the panels from the panel accumulation section and into a container, such as a pre-made carton, situated at a second end of the panel accumulation section that is opposite the first end.

The method comprises moving the panels from the panel extrusion line to the panel receiving section and dropping the panels from the panel receiving section onto pins that invert and arrange received panels. When dropped, the panels are inverted as they hit the pins and drop into the panel accumulation section where they are stacked. The mechanism means, preferably a ram mechanism, pushes the stacked panels into the the pre-made carton and the carton is closed and ready for shipping. In this manner, the apparatus of the present invention facilitates an automated packing process which significantly reduces the level of operator participation in its operation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 depicts an end view of an automated packaging apparatus in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2A depicts a top view of an automated packaging apparatus in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2B depicts a side view of an automated packaging apparatus in accordance with the present invention;

FIGS. 3A-3J depict the operation of an automated packaging apparatus in accordance with the present invention; and

FIGS. 4A-4F further depict the operation of an automated packaging apparatus in accordance with the present invention.

FIGS. 5A-5C

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is designed to automatically package extruded vinyl siding or similar material such as vinyl soffit panels, in containers after manufacture. The apparatus of the present invention generally comprises a receiving section, a panel accumulation section and a transfer mechanism to transfer accumulated product into cartons. An end view of an apparatus in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. As depicted therein, in a preferred embodiment, a packer 100 comprises receiving arms 101 adapted to receive manufactured siding, soffit material or the like after the extrusion process is complete. Disposed beneath receiving arms 101 are inverting pins 102 which operate to orient and nest extruded siding or soffit elements after being received by receiving arms 101. Receiving arms 101 and inverting pins 102 are designed to swing through pre-determined arcs in concert with one another to perform an orientation and nesting operation within packer 100. Nested siding panels are then positioned at the bottom of packer 100 where a predetermined number are allowed to accumulate. The precise quantity, positioning, transport and orientation of panels processed by packer 100 is controlled in part by electric motors 108, 109, 110, 104, 105, 114, and 115. In this regard, motors 112 and 113 operate accumulation pins 103, thereby allowing the number of accumulated panels stacked below the accumulation pins 103 to be adjusted, while motors 114 and 115 operate to adjust jackscrews 106 and 116 respectively. Jackscrews 106 and 116 adjust the level of pins 102 upwardly or downwardly as desired by the packer 100 operator.

Packer 100 further comprises a motor 104 which operates a ram 118 for transferring stacked panels into cartons as explained below. Grabber motor 117 resides atop packer 100 and is connected to a roller which guides extruded siding toward receiving arms 101 for package processing.

During operation of packer 100, accumulation pins 103 remain retracted until a predetermined number of panels is accumulated at the bottom of packer 100 (see FIG. 5J). When the desired number of panels to be packaged is accumulated, pins 103 are extended (see FIG. 5A) thereby causing panels to accumulate on pins 103 and preventing further accumulation of panels at the bottom of packer 100. In this manner, pins 103 control the number of panels contained in a package.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2A-2B, jackscrews 111 and 107 operate to adjust the level of receiving arms 101 and are driven by motors 201 and 202 respectively. FIG. 2A depicts a top view of a packer 100 in accordance with the present invention and shows the layout of electric motors 113, 112, 201, 202, 108, 109, 110, 105, 201 and 202. FIG. 2B depicts a side view of packer 100, more clearly depicting ram 118 and the orientation of grabber motor 117.

The operation of the packer 100 will now be described with reference to FIGS. 2, 3, 4A-4C and FIGS. 5A-5C. After siding or soffit panels have undergone the extrusion and manufacturing process, completed panels are guided towards grabber motor 117 and its associated conveyor, which transports individual extruded panels onto receiving arms 101. With reference to FIG. 3A, an extruded panel is shown positioned on receiving arms 101. At this point, receiving arms 101 are oriented such that the panel 301 remains level. Also shown in FIG. 3A is a short stack of 2 extruded siding panels that are resting on accumulating pins 103. Below the accumulating pins 103 resides a completed stack of siding panels that is ready for placement in a carton.

It should be noted that the conditions depicted in FIGS. 3A thru 3J illustrate specific moments in time during the execution of a specific packaging profile in accordance with the present invention. Other packaging profiles are operator selectable and can be initiated to provide options in packaging specifics such as allowing an operator to vary the orientation and nesting of panels being processed by packer 100 and change the number of panels that are allowed to accumulate prior to packaging for example.

Accordingly, FIGS. 3A-3J illustrate the implementation of one of several possible packaging profiles. To process an extruded panel for packaging after placement on pins 101, and as depicted in FIGS. 3B and 3C, the right side array of receiving arms 101 is swung away from the underside of panel 301 causing panel 301 to tilt and fall away from the left side receiving arm 101 which remains level. As shown in FIG. 3D, the orientation of pins 102 causes the fallen panel 301 in FIG. 3C, to come to rest at an angle and upside down with respect to its original position in FIG. 3A.

Referring now to FIG. 3E, when the panel 301 of FIG. 3D comes to rest, another panel 301, is positioned on receiving arms 101 while the first panel 301 rests on pins 102. As is depicted in FIG. 3F, this panel is allowed to fall near vertically by moving receiving arms 101 away from the panel such that when it comes into contact with the first panel 301 released in FIG. 3A, the two panels form a nested pair as shown in FIG. 3G.

Referring now to FIG. 3H, once a nested pair of panels is established as shown in FIG. 3G, the nested pair is released by moving inverting pins 102 away from the nested pair, thereby allowing the nested pair to fall on top of the accumulating panels resting on accumulating pins 103 as shown in FIG. 3I. As noted, earlier panels are accumulated on accumulating pins 103 only when the desired number of panels to be packaged has been reached at the bottom of packer 100 (as shown below accumulating pins 103 in FIGS. 3A thru 31). Thus, initial accumulation of panels in packer 100 occurs below accumulation pins 103 as depicted in FIG. 3J wherein panels are shown accumulating at the bottom of packer 100 and below accumulation pins 103.

Referring again to FIG. 31, when a stack of the desired size is achieved below pins 103 of FIG. 3I, a packaging sequence is initiated. A description of the packaging sequence follows with reference to FIGS. 4A-4C and FIGS. 5A-5C. As shown in FIG. 4A, when a sufficient number of panels 402 has accumulated in a packer 100 in accordance with the present invention, a packaging sequence begins comprising a carton 401 mounted on a movable sled 403. In a preferred embodiment the movable sled 403 is pneumatically operated. The packaging operation begins when a carton 401 is moved towards the packer 100 on sled 403. As shown in FIGS. 4B and 4C when carton 401 is in close proximity to packer 100 and longitudinally and vertically aligned with panels 402, ram 118 is activated to drive the panels 402 into carton 401. In a preferred embodiment, cartons used in the present invention are erected and assembled by a carton erector 404 shown at the far end of sled 403 and as shown in FIGS. 4A-4C.

With reference now to FIGS. 5A-5C, once panels 402 are placed in carton 401, ram 118 is withdrawn to its original position as shown in FIG. 5A and the carton 401 is withdrawn from packer 100 as shown in FIG. 5B. After withdrawal from packer 100 the loaded carton 401 is elevated as shown in FIG. 5C and positioned for transfer from the packaging line.

Referring now to FIG. 3J, depicted therein is the condition of packer 100 after accumulated panels have been transferred to a carton as described above with reference to FIGS. 4A-4C and 5A-5C. As depicted therein, once panels have been transferred from the bottom of the packer 100, accumulation pins 103 are retracted and panels 301 are allowed to accumulate below accumulation pins 103. When the desired quantity of panels 301 are accumulated, the condition depicted in FIG. 3A, wherein accumulation pins 103 are extended and panels 301 are allowed to accumulate on accumulation pins 103 until the accumulated panels located below accumulation pins 103 are cleared by the cycle described above in relation to FIGS. 4A-4C and 5A-5C.

While specific embodiments of the invention has been described in detail, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications and alternatives to those details could be developed in light of the overall teachings of the disclosure and may be otherwise embodied within the scope of the appended claims.