Title:
FEED BELT POSITIONING ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An adjustment mechanism for use on a friction sheet feeding machine to permit selective lateral repositioning of one feed belt on the machine relative to at least one other feed belt on the machine.



Inventors:
Popejoy, William L. (Champlin, MN, US)
Bergman, Perry D. (Spring Lake Park, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/293191
Publication Date:
08/20/2009
Filing Date:
03/20/2007
Assignee:
THIELE TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H3/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCLAIN, GERALD
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SHERRILL LAW OFFICES (WHITE BEAR LAKE, MN, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, comprising: (a) a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, and (b) an adjustment mechanism for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt.

2. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 1 wherein the machine further includes a position-control carriage in operable association with each feed belt for controlling lateral positioning of the associated feed belt, and the adjustment mechanism effects lateral repositioning of a given feed belt by laterally repositioning the position-control carriage associated with the given feed belt.

3. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 1 wherein (i) the machine defines a right side and a left side, (ii) the machine includes at least three feed belts so as to define an outside feed belt on each side of the machine and at least one intermediate feed belt between the outside feed belts, and (iii) the adjustment mechanism is effective for laterally repositioning at least the outside feed belts.

4. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 2 wherein (i) the machine defines a right side and a left side, (ii) the machine includes at least three feed belts so as to define an outside feed belt on each side of the machine and at least one intermediate feed belt between the outside feed belts, and (iii) the adjustment mechanism is effective for laterally repositioning at least the outside feed belts.

5. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 3 wherein the outside feed belts are independently repositionable.

6. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 4 wherein the outside feed belts are independently repositionable.

7. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 1 wherein the machine defines a right side and a left side and further includes (i) panels on the right and left sides of the machine preventing side access to the feed belts, and (ii) at least one interface device located on the outside of a panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism.

8. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 2 wherein the machine defines a right side and a left side and further includes (i) panels on the right and left sides of the machine preventing side access to the feed belts and position-control carriages, and (ii) at least one interface device located on the outside of a panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism.

9. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 7 wherein the interface device is a manually rotatable knob.

10. The friction sheet feeding machine of claim 6 wherein the machine defines a right side and a left side and further includes (i) panels on the right and left sides of the machine preventing side access to the feed belts and position-control carriages, and (ii) a first interface device located on the outside of the right side panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition the outside feed belt on the right side, and (iii) a second interface device located on the outside of the left side panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition the outside feed belt on the left side.

11. A method of laterally repositioning at least one feed belt on a friction sheet feeding machine having a feed belt system for adjusting the effective width of the feed belt system, comprising the steps of: (a) obtaining a friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, comprising: (i) a feed belt system including a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, and (ii) an adjustment mechanism for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt, and (b) actuating the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein the adjustment mechanism is actuated while the feed belts are being driven in the longitudinal direction.

13. The method of claim 11 wherein the machine further includes a position-control carriage in operable association with each feed belt for controlling lateral positioning of the associated feed belt, and the adjustment mechanism effects lateral repositioning of a given feed belt by laterally repositioning the position-control carriage associated with the given feed belt.

14. The method of claim 11 wherein (i) the machine defines a right side and a left side, (ii) the machine includes at least three feed belts so as to define an outside feed belt on each side of the machine and at least one intermediate feed belt between the outside feed belts, and (iii) the adjustment mechanism is effective for laterally repositioning at least the outside feed belts.

15. The method of claim 11 wherein the machine defines a right side and a left side and further includes (i) panels on the right and left sides of the machine preventing side access to the feed belts, and (ii) at least one interface device located on the outside of a panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism.

16. A method of laterally repositioning at least one feed belt on a friction sheet feeding machine having a feed belt system for adjusting the effective width of the feed belt system, comprising the steps of: (a) obtaining a friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, comprising: (i) a feed belt system including a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, and (ii) an adjustment mechanism for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt, (b) loading a stack of sheets onto the machine, (c) operating the machine to feed individual sheets from the stack of sheets loaded onto the machine, and (d) actuating the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt while the machine is operating.

17. The method of claim 16 wherein the machine further includes a position-control carriage in operable association with each feed belt for controlling lateral positioning of the associated feed belt, and the adjustment mechanism effects lateral repositioning of a given feed belt by laterally repositioning the position-control carriage associated with the given feed belt.

18. The method of claim 16 wherein (i) the machine defines a right side and a left side, (ii) the machine includes at least three feed belts so as to define an outside feed belt on each side of the machine and at least one intermediate feed belt between the outside feed belts, and (iii) the adjustment mechanism is effective for laterally repositioning at least the outside feed belts.

19. The method of claim 16 wherein the machine defines a right side and a left side and further includes (i) panels on the right and left sides of the machine preventing side access to the feed belts, and (ii) at least one interface device located on the outside of a panel for effecting actuation of the adjustment mechanism.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/784,120, filed Mar. 20, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A wide variety of friction sheet feeding machines are available for feeding individual sheets from the bottom of an essentially vertical stack of sheets. Exemplary friction sheet feeding machines are shown and described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,991,831, 5,143,365, 5,244,198, 5,642,877, 5,772,199 and 6,932,338.

These machines typically include (i) a tray for holding a stack of sheets in an essentially vertical position, (ii) a nip for feeding a lowermost sheet from the stack, (iii) a driven friction roller or feed belt for contacting the downward facing major surface of the lowermost sheet in the stack and pulling the lowermost sheet from underneath the sheet stack towards the nip, and (iv) a friction retard surface positioned above the driven friction roller for contacting the leading edge(s) and any exposed upward facing major surface(s) of the sheet(s) positioned directly above the lowermost sheet for retarding advancement of the sheet(s) directly above the lowermost sheet and thereby facilitating separation of the lowermost sheet from the immediately overlying sheet prior to introduction of the lowermost sheet into the feed nip.

Friction sheet feeding machines need to be sufficiently versatile to feed sheets over a wide range of lengths and widths. In order to accommodate the feeding of sheets over a wide range of widths, the machines typically employ a plurality of laterally spaced and laterally adjustable feed belts. While generally effective for expanding the versatility of the machine, lateral adjustment of the conveyor belts tends to be awkward, cumbersome and potentially dangerous.

Accordingly, a need exists for a friction sheet feeding machine having a plurality of feed belts which may be quickly, easily and safely laterally repositioned for accommodating the feeding of sheets over a wide range of sheet widths.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A first aspect of the invention is a friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction. The machine includes (i) a feed belt system, and (ii) an adjustment mechanism. The feed belt system includes a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction. The adjustment mechanism is effective for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt.

A second aspect of the invention is a method of laterally repositioning at least one feed belt on a friction sheet feeding machine having a feed belt system for adjusting the effective width of the feed belt system.

A first embodiment of the second aspect of the invention comprises the steps of (i) obtaining a friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, comprising: (A) a feed belt system including a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, and (B) an adjustment mechanism for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt, and (ii) actuating the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt.

A second embodiment of the second aspect of the invention comprises the steps of (i) obtaining a friction sheet feeding machine for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, comprising: (A) a feed belt system including a plurality of laterally spaced feed belts for feeding individual sheets from a stack of sheets in a longitudinal direction, and (B) an adjustment mechanism for permitting selective lateral repositioning of at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt, (ii) loading a stack of sheets onto the machine, (iii) operating the machine to feed individual sheets from the stack of sheets loaded onto the machine, and (iv) actuating the adjustment mechanism to laterally reposition at least one of the feed belts relative to at least one other feed belt while the machine is operating.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the invention shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Nomenclature

10 Friction Sheet Feeding Machine

10r Right Side of Friction Sheet Feeding Machine

10s Left Side of Friction Sheet Feeding Machine

20 Frame

21r Right Side Panel

21s Left Side Panel

26 Support Rod

30 Drive Assembly

40 Drive Belt

50 Friction Feed Roller

60 Friction Feed Belts (60i, 60r and 60s)

60i Intermediate Feed Belt

60r Right Side Feed Belt or Outside Feed Belt

60s Left Side Feed Belt or Outside Feed Belt

200 Lateral Spacing Adjustment Mechanism

210 Position Control Carriages or Carriages (210i, 210r and 210s)

210i Intermediate Carriage or Fixed Position Carriage

210r Right Carriage or Repositionable Carriage

210s Left Carriage or Repositionable Carriage

211 Guide Pins on Carriages

212 Sleeve over Guide Pins

215 Follower Pin

218 Lateral Bore Through Carriages (218i, 218r and 218s)

218i Lateral Bore Through Intermediate Carriage

218r Lateral Bore Through Right Side Carriage

218s Lateral Bore Through Left Side Carriage

219 Lateral Channel Along Bottom of Carriage

220 Guide Bar

220r Right End of Guide Bar

220s Left End of Guide Bar

221 Machine Screw

222r Set of Machine Screws

222s Set of Machine Screws

230 Mounting Block

240r Right Side Stanchion

240s Left Side Stanchion

250r Right Side Knob or Right Side Interface Device

250s Left Side Knob or Right Side Interface Device

260r Right Side Worm Screw

260s Left Side Worm Screw

261 Proximal End of Worm Screw

262 Distal End of Worm Screw

269 Threaded Bore in Proximal End of Worm Screw

270 E-Clip

281 Bearings

285 Spacer

x Longitudinal Direction

y Lateral Direction

z Transverse Direction

Construction

Friction sheet feeding machines 10 generally include a frame 20, a tray assembly (not shown), a gating assembly (not shown) and a drive assembly 30. The machines 10 are capable of serially feeding individual sheets (not shown) in a longitudinal direction x from the bottom (unnumbered) of a generally vertical stack of sheets (not shown) retained within the tray assembly (not shown).

A typical configuration of the frame 20 is a generally rectangular frame 20 having (i) a generally horizontal base plate (not shown), (ii) a right side panel 21r extending upward from the base plate (not shown) and defining a right side 10r of the machine 10, (iii) a left side panel 21s also extending upward from the base plate (not shown) and defining a left side 10s of the machine 10, (iv) a rear end plate (not shown) extending upward from the base plate (not shown) and laterally interconnecting the side panels 21r and 21s, (v) at least one lateral cross member (not shown) transversely spaced above the base plate (not shown) and interconnecting the side panels 21r and 21s for supporting the gating assembly (not shown), and (vi) a plurality of laterally extending support rods 26 extending between and interconnecting the side panels 21r and 21s. Other frame configurations may also be employed, such as a cross-beam construction rather than the plate construction shown in FIG. 1. Exemplary frames 20 suitable for use are shown and described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,991,831, 5,143,365, 5,244,198, 5,642,877, 5,772,199 and 6,932,338.

The tray assembly (not shown) is effective for holding a stack of individual sheets (not shown) in a substantially vertical position with a slight biasing of at least the lower portion (unnumbered) of the stack (not shown) towards the gating assembly (not shown) and the drive assembly 30.

One means for achieving the desired biasing of the stack (not shown), is to incline the floor (not shown) of the tray assembly (not shown) towards the gating assembly (not shown) and the drive assembly 30. Other means are known and may also be employed, such as a transversely extending strip (not shown) positioned within the tray assembly (not shown) for supporting the trailing edges (not shown) of the sheets (not shown) in the stack (not shown) wherein the lower portion (unnumbered) of the support strip (not shown) is curved towards the gating assembly (not shown) and the drive assembly 30. Suitable tray types, styles and configurations are shown and described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,991,831, 5,143,365, 5,244,198, 5,642,877, 5,772,199 and 6,932,338.

A typical gating assembly (not shown) includes a friction retard roller (not shown) driven by an auxiliary electric motor (not shown) for contacting the upward facing major surface (not shown) of sheets (not shown) as they approach the friction feed belts 60 for assisting in separation of a lowermost sheet (not shown) from the immediately overlying sheet (not shown) to prevent the simultaneous feeding of multiple sheets (not shown). Typical gating assemblies are shown and described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,991,831, 5,143,365, 5,244,198, 5,642,877, 5,772,199 and 6,932,338.

Generally, the drive assembly 30 includes a primary drive motor (not shown) and a friction feed roller 50 driven by the primary drive motor (not shown). The friction feed roller 50 drives friction feed belts 60 which contact the sheets (not shown).

The drive assembly 30 on friction sheet feeding machines 10 typically includes a conveyor system (not shown) downstream from the friction feed belts 60 for receiving individual sheets (not shown) fed from the sheet stack (not shown) by the friction feed belts 60 and conveying the fed sheets (not shown) to the desired location, typically a conveyor belt (not shown) timed to receive and collate sheets (not shown) fed from several aligned friction sheet feeding machines 10.

Referring generally to FIG. 1, one embodiment of a suitable drive assembly 30 includes a primary drive motor (not shown), and a plurality of longitudinally x aligned laterally y spaced friction feed belts 60i, 60r and 60s, each mounted onto a driven friction feed roller 50 and an idler roller (not shown) longitudinally x spaced from the friction feed roller 50. The friction feed roller 50 is rotatably attached to the side panels 21r and 21s. Similarly, the idler roller (not shown) extend parallel with the friction feed roller 50 and is rotatably attached to the side panels 21r and 21s. The friction feed roller 50 is driven by the primary drive motor (not shown) via drive belt 40.

Referring generally to FIGS. 1 and 2, the friction sheet feeding machine 10 is provided with a lateral spacing adjustment mechanism 200 for permitting selective lateral y repositioning of one or more feed belts 60. The specific embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 permits selective and independent lateral y repositioning of the outside feed belts 60r and 60s.

The lateral y position of each of the feed belts 60 is controlled by a position control carriage 210 (i.e., the lateral y position of the intermediate feed belt 60i is controlled by an intermediate carriage 210i, the lateral y position of the right outside feed belt 60r is controlled by a right carriage 210r and the lateral y position of the left outside feed belt 60s is controlled by a left carriage 210s). Each carriage 210 has a pair of transversely z extending and laterally y spaced guide pins 211 carrying a rotatable sleeve 212. The guide pins 211 project upward from the position control carriage 210 for accommodating passage of the return portion (unnumbered) of a respective feed belt 33 therebetween. When a sleeve 212 is moved into engagement with a side edge (unnumbered) of a feed belt 60, the feed belt 60 is “pushed” away from the guide pin 211 and thereby laterally y repositioned along the length of the friction feed roller 50 and the idler roller (not shown).

Each position control carriage 210 has a laterally extending channel 219 along the bottom (unnumbered) of the carriage 210 for slidably engaging a laterally y extending guide bar 220. The guide bar 220 extends between the side panels 21r and 21s and is mounted to the frame 20 via mounting blocks 230.

The intermediate carriage 210i is rigidly attached to the guide bar 220 by machine screw 221, thereby preventing lateral y sliding of the intermediate control carriage 210i along the guide bar 220.

The repositionable carriages 210r and 210s each have a lateral bore 218 extending completely through the carriage 210r and 210s. A right worm screw 260r extends completely through the lateral bore 218r in the right carriage 210r and a left worm gear 260s extends completely through the lateral bore 218s in the left carriage 210s. The worm screws 260r and 260s are spirally threaded for cooperatively engaging a follower pin 215 extending into the lateral bore 218 in each of the repositionable carriages 210r and 210s, whereby rotation of the worm screw 260r and 260s causes the repositionable carriage 210r and 210s to travel along the length of the rotated worm screw 260r and 260s, respectively.

The distal ends 262 of the worm screws 260r and 260s are rotatably supported within a lateral bore 218i in the intermediate carriage 210i.

A threaded bore 269 is provided in the proximal ends 261 of each worm screw 260r and 260s for attachment of a corresponding knob 250r and 250s, for effecting independent manual rotation of the worm screws 260r and 260s by rotation of the corresponding knob 250r and 250s. The knobs 250r and 250s are rotatably supported by stanchions 240r and 240s mounted proximate the lateral y ends 220r and 220s of the guide bar 220 by machine screws 222r and 222s respectively.

Bearings 281 are preferably provided at each end (unnumbered) of each bore 219 through each carriage 210 to facilitate rotation of the worm screws 260r and 260s relative to the carriages 210.

An e-clip 270 can be provided on each worm screw 260r and 260s proximate the distal end 262 of the worm screw 260r and 260s for serving as a stop to continued inward travel of the repositionable carriages 210r and 210s along the length of the corresponding worm screw 260r and 260s. Other mechanical stops are well known to those of routine skill in the art and may be substituted for the e-clip stop 270 shown and described.

Use

The friction sheet feeding machine 10 of the present invention is used to feed individual sheets (not shown) from the bottom (not shown) of an essentially vertical stack of sheets (not shown) by loading a stack of sheets (not shown) onto the tray (not shown) of the machine 10, and (ii) rotating the right knob 250r as necessary and appropriate to move the right carriage 210r and thereby the right side feed belt 60r so that the right side feed belt 60r contacts the sheets (not shown) fed from the machine 10 along a right side margin (not shown) of the sheet (not shown), and (ii) rotating the left knob 250s as necessary and appropriate to move the left carriage 210s and thereby the left side feed belt 60s so that the left side feed belt 60s contacts the sheets (not shown) fed from the machine 10 along a left side margin (not shown) of the sheet (not shown). The repositionable carriages 210r and 210s can be repositioned before or during use of the machine 10 to feed sheets (not shown). Since the knobs 250r and 250s are located on the outside of the panels 21r and 21s respectively, and only interact with the drive assembly 30 via contact between the rotatable sleeves 212 on the adjustable carriages 210r and 210s and the outside feed belts 60r and 60s, a user may safely interface with the knobs 250r and 250s and repositioned the outside feed belts 60r and 60s even while the machine 10 is operating.