Title:
PACKAGING METHOD, PACKAGING APPARATUS AND INJECTION-MOLDING INSTALLATION HAVING A PACKAGING APPARATUS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a packaging method by which plastic injection moldings designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged in end packaging units.

The invention provides that the K injection moldings are, prior to being distributed over the U sub-groups in the set-down plane, set down in a buffer store (12) by way of a second set-down apparatus (5) which is separate from the first set-down apparatus (18), in particular by way of a hose arrangement or by way of a gripper.




Inventors:
Czizegg, Wolfgang (Steisslingen, DE)
Boos, Christian (Gundelfingen, DE)
Application Number:
14/273154
Publication Date:
11/13/2014
Filing Date:
05/08/2014
Assignee:
WALDORF TECHNIK GMBH & CO. KG (ENGEN, DE)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/543, 425/110
International Classes:
B65B5/10; B65B35/36; B65B25/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FRY, PATRICK B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BACHMAN & LAPOINTE, P.C. (NEW HAVEN, CT, US)
Claims:
1. Packaging method by means of which plastic injection moldings (8) which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged in end packaging units (6, 20), comprising the following steps: simultaneously removing K injection moldings from K cavities, simultaneously setting down the K plastic injection moldings (8), in a uniformly distributed state over U sub-groups (7) and in a set-down plane, with the aid of first set-down means (5) comprising a gripper, removing K injection moldings from the K cavities, and uniformly distributing the K injection moldings over the U sub-groups (7), repeatedly until each sub-group (7) has L plastic injection moldings (8), wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings (8) of a sub-group (7) corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings (8) which can be accommodated in an end packaging unit (6, 20) or to a whole-numbered divisor of A, filling at least one end packaging unit with A plastic injection moldings (8), wherein the K injection moldings are, prior to being distributed over the U sub-groups (7) in the set-down plane, set down in a buffer store (12) by way of second set-down means (5) which are separate from the first set-down means (18), by way of a hose arrangement or by way of a gripper.

2. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein the set-down plane is horizontal.

3. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the buffer store (12) and distributed over the U sub-groups (7) prior to said buffer store being refilled with K plastic injection moldings (8).

4. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein only one injection shot's worth of K plastic injection moldings (8) is accommodated in the buffer store at any one time.

5. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein the K plastic injection moldings (8), together with the buffer store, are adjusted in rotational and/or translational fashion, between a loading position (13), in which the buffer store is loaded with exclusively K plastic injection moldings (8), and a removal position (14), in which the K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the buffer store, with the aid of the first set-down means (5), in order for the K plastic injection moldings (8) to be distributed over the U sub-groups (7), or wherein the buffer store (12) is arranged so as to be static and the K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the buffer store (12) by way of the first set-down means (5) or by way of a transfer gripper.

6. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein the set-down plane is formed by an interim store (17) from which a single end packaging unit (6, 20) is loaded at any one time or from which multiple end packaging units (6, 20) are loaded simultaneously, and wherein, as interim store (17), use is made of an interim store (17) with a multiplicity of set-down positions arranged adjacent to one another in a set-down plane, and wherein K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the K cavities and distributed uniformly over the U sub-groups (7) in the interim store (17) until each sub-group (7) has L plastic injection moldings, wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings (8) of a sub-group (7) corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings (8) that can be loaded into an end packaging unit (6, 20) or to a whole-numbered divisor of A, or wherein the operation of distributing the K plastic injection moldings (8) over the sub-groups (7) takes place in the at least one end packaging unit (6) exclusively during the operation of filling the end packaging unit, and wherein plastic injection moldings (8) are distributed over the sub-groups (7) until the at least one end packaging unit has been filled completely with A plastic injection moldings (8).

7. Method according to claim 5, wherein the K plastic injection moldings (8) are set down in the interim store (17) such that the number U of sub-groups (7) does not correspond, or corresponds, to the number V of end packaging units (6, 20) or to a whole-numbered multiple of V.

8. Method according to claim 5, wherein as an interim store (17), use is made of a plate with a number of depressions or plug-on elements corresponding to the number of set-down positions.

9. Method according to claim 1, wherein the plastic injection moldings (8) of a certain cavity or from certain cavities is/are always set down in a certain sub-group (7) or in certain sub-groups (7).

10. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the V packaging units are loaded in each case with a single sub-group (7) or in each case with multiple sub-groups (7).

11. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein the end packaging unit(s) (6, 20) is/are designed such that it/they can be used in an analyzer, and/or wherein the end packaging unit(s) (6, 20) is/are packaged individually or in groups in external packaging, and/or wherein the end pack(s) (6, 20) has/have a carrier part having exclusively A accommodating sites for accommodating the A injection moldings.

12. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein each sub-group (7), during each set-down cycle, is always increased by the same number of plastic injection moldings (8).

13. Packaging method according to claim 1, wherein the number A corresponds to a whole-numbered multiple of the number of cavities or does not correspond to a whole-numbered multiple of the number of cavities.

14. Packaging apparatus by means of which plastic injection moldings (8) which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged in end packaging units (6, 20) designed for implementing a packaging method according to claim 1, comprising: removal means (4) designed for simultaneously removing K injection moldings from K cavities, first set-down means (5) comprising a gripper and designed for simultaneously setting down the K plastic injection moldings (8), in a uniformly distributed state over U sub-groups (7), feeding means (22) for feeding end packaging units (6, 20), and discharging means (23) for discharging filled packaging units from the packaging apparatus (16), means for filling at least one end packaging unit with A plastic injection moldings (8), control means (9) for activating the removal means (4) and/or the first set-down means (18), the control means being designed to activate these such that K injection moldings can be removed from the K cavities, and can be distributed uniformly over the U sub-groups (7), repeatedly until each sub-group has L plastic injection moldings (8), wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings (8) of a sub-group (7) corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings (8) which can be accommodated in an end packaging unit (6) or to a whole-numbered divisor of A, wherein in addition to the first set-down means (18), second set-down means (5) which are formed by the removal means (4) or which are separate from said removal means and which can be activated by the control means (9) are provided by which K plastic injection moldings, prior to their being distributed over the U sub-groups (7) in the set-down plane, are set down in a buffer store (12).

15. Packaging apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the control means (9) are designed to activate a drive of the buffer store (12) such that exclusively K plastic injection moldings (8), together with the buffer store (12), are adjusted, in rotational and/or translational fashion, between a loading position (13), in which the buffer store (12) can be loaded with exclusively K plastic injection moldings (8) from the second set-down means (5), and a removal position (14), in which the K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the buffer store, with the aid of the first set-down means (18), in order for the exclusively K plastic injection moldings (8) to be distributed over the U sub-groups (7), or wherein the buffer store is arranged so as to be static and the control means (9) are designed to activate the first set-down means (18) or a transfer gripper such that the K plastic injection moldings (8) are removed from the buffer store by way of the first set-down means (18) or by way of a transfer gripper.

16. Packaging apparatus according to 14, wherein the set-down plane is formed by an interim store (17) from which the at least one end packaging unit (6, 20) can be loaded with the aid of the filling means, and wherein, as interim store (17), use is made of an interim store (17) with a multiplicity of set-down positions arranged adjacent to one another in a set-down plane, and wherein the control means (9) are designed to activate the removal means (4) and/or the first and/or second set-down means (5, 18) such that K plastic injection moldings (8) can be removed from the K cavities and distributed uniformly over the U sub-groups (7) in the interim store (17) until each sub-group has L plastic injection moldings (8), wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings (8) of a sub-group (7) corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings (8) that can be loaded into an end packaging unit (6, 20) or to a whole-numbered divisor of A, or wherein the control means (9) are designed to activate the removal means (4) and/or the first and/or second set-down means (5, 18) such that the operation of distributing the K plastic injection moldings (8) over the sub-groups (7) by the filling means that preferably form the first set-down means (18) takes place in the at least one end packaging unit exclusively during the operation of filling the at least one end packaging unit, and such that plastic injection moldings (8) are distributed over the sub-groups (7) until the at least one end packaging unit has been filled completely with A plastic injection moldings (8).

17. Packaging apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the feeding means (22) and/or the discharging means (23) comprise a transporting belt and/or a rotatable table, by means of which the end packs (6, 20) can be conveyed in the empty state to a filling position, at which said end packs are loaded with the A plastic injection moldings (8), and/or by means of which the filled end packs and can be discharged from the packaging apparatus (16).

18. Injection-molding installation having an injection-molding apparatus, with K cavities for simultaneously producing K as pipette tips or medical reaction vessels, and having a packaging apparatus (16) according to claim 14.

19. Injection-molding installation according to claim 18, wherein the packaging apparatus (16) has arranged downstream of it an external-packaging apparatus, by means of which the end packs (6, 20) filled by means of the packaging apparatus (16) can be packaged individually or in groups in external packaging.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a packaging method by means of which injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged, and to a packaging apparatus by means of which plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged. The invention also relates to an injection-molding installation having such a packaging apparatus, wherein the injection-molding installation is designed for the production of plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels.

In the case of known packaging methods by means of which plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels, in particular for blood analysis, are packaged, K plastic injection moldings are removed simultaneously from K cavities of an injection-molding apparatus and are stored on an interim basis in the form of bulk material. End packaging units are then each loaded with A plastic injection moldings from said interim store. The disadvantage with the known method is that packaged plastic injection moldings are not associated in any way with certain cavities. It is therefore no longer possible to ascertain clearly the cavity or cavities from which the plastic injection moldings of a certain end packaging unit originate. Even in the case of just a single defective plastic injection molding in an end packaging unit, this results in the entire production run having to be recalled, rather than just the end packaging units filled with plastic injection moldings from a certain cavity or from certain cavities.

A packaging method which is improved in relation to the problem outlined above provides for the plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels to be transferred from the cavities into the end packaging units directly without being set down in an interim store, i.e. without being stored on an interim basis. For this purpose, the plastic injection moldings are conveyed to the end packaging units via hoses. The disadvantage here is that the number A of plastic injection moldings which can be delivered in an end packaging unit has to correspond to the number K of cavities, or that the number A of plastic injection moldings which can be transferred in an end packaging unit has to be a whole-numbered multiple of the number K of cavities. It is particularly disadvantageous that such an installation requires a vast amount of space for the hose arrangement and its cycle time is comparatively slow.

A packaging method which is improved in relation to the aforementioned problem, and an associated packaging apparatus, is described by the applicant in EP 2 323 930 B1. The improved method provides for the K plastic injection moldings removed simultaneously from the K cavities to be set down in an interim store, immediately after the removal process, simultaneously in a distributed state over U sub-groups, and for K plastic injection moldings to be removed from the K cavities, and distributed over the U sub-groups in the interim store, repeatedly until each sub-group has L plastic injection moldings, wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings of a sub-group corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings which can be loaded in an end packaging unit or to a whole-numbered divisor of A. This method has proven successful, but attempts are being made to shorten the cycle times of the packaging method by means of which plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged.

WO 2004/054778 A1 describes an apparatus for packaging injection moldings in end packs, wherein the plastic injection moldings are set down in a horizontal set-down plane by a robot arm with corresponding gripping tools, and has a buffer store for grip changing purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Proceeding from the aforementioned prior art, it is an object of the invention to indicate a packaging method, by means of which plastic injection moldings which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels are packaged, which is further optimized in terms of cycle time as well as a correspondingly improved packaging apparatus and an injection-molding installation having such a packaging apparatus, wherein the method is preferably intended to ensure that it is possible to ascertain clearly the cavity or cavities from which the plastic injection moldings of an end packaging unit originate, it being possible for the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings which can be loaded in an end packaging unit to be selected independently of the fixed number K of cavities of an injection mold. Furthermore, the construction of the apparatus should be as straightforward and robust as possible and, in addition, the risk of damage to the plastic injection moldings should be minimized.

This object is achieved, in respect of the packaging method, packaging apparatus and injection-molding installation as disclosed herein.

Advantageous developments of the invention are also disclosed herein. The invention covers all combinations of at least two features disclosed in the description, the claims and/or the figures.

In order to avoid repetition, features which are disclosed in relation to the method should count as being disclosed in relation to the apparatus and should be claimable as such. Likewise, features which are disclosed in relation to the apparatus should count as being disclosed in relation to the method and should be claimable as such.

The invention is based on the concept of the K plastic injection moldings that are removed simultaneously from the K cavities, before being set down in an interim store (which is optional, that is to say is not imperatively provided but is preferably provided) and/or in the end packs, being set down in a buffer store, specifically by way of set-down means which are separate from, that is to say provided in addition to, the set-down means by which the K plastic injection moldings are grouped to form sub-groups in the interim store or in the at least one end pack. In other words, therefore, at least one additional, in particular horizontal set-down plane is provided in the form of an interim store in which the K plastic injection moldings, preferably exclusively K plastic injection moldings are buffer-stored, that is to say set down briefly, before being allocated to sub-groups in an interim store and/or in at least one end pack, preferably in multiple end packs. A surprising result of this measure is a speed advantage, that is to say the cycle time can be further reduced in relation to known methods and apparatuses without a buffer store of said type. This can be attributed primarily to the fact that any required raster travel movements can be distributed across multiple set-down means or grippers. In this way, the second set-down means can have considerably reduced functionality and can thus be realized with a lower mass, which then surprisingly results in the desired speed advantage despite an additional interim set-down step in the buffer store. The second set-down means by which the K plastic injection moldings are set down in the interim store may in the simplest case be formed by removal means by which the K plastic injection moldings are removed from the K cavities. It is however preferable, for a further speed optimization, for the second set-down means to be handling means which are separate from, that is to say provided in addition to, the removal means.

It is in principle possible, as second set-down means for the setting-down of one injection shot's worth of K plastic injection moldings in the buffer store, to provide a hose arrangement into which the K plastic injection moldings are transferred after or during the removal from the K cavities, with said K plastic injection moldings being conveyed within said hoses to the buffer store by means of compressed air. To minimize a risk of damage to the plastic injection moldings and in order to optimize installation space, however, it is advantageous for the second set-down means to comprise a gripper, wherein, in general, a gripper is to be understood within the context of the present application to be a vacuum-type gripper and/or mechanical gripper, that is to say a handling device which picks up the K plastic injection moldings at a receiving position and then moves said K plastic injection moldings to a set-down position, in particular by way of a pivoting or translational movement, and offloads said K plastic injection moldings at the set-down position.

As will be explained in more detail further below, there are in principle two alternatives with regard to the construction of the packaging apparatus or with regard to the configuration of the packaging method. In a first, preferred alternative, there is provided in addition to the buffer store an interim store which then forms the claimed, in particular horizontal, set-down plane, wherein the K plastic injection moldings are grouped in the interim store by first set-down means which comprise a gripper. In an alternative embodiment, an interim store of said type is intentionally dispensed with, and the grouping is realized (for the first time) in at least one end packaging unit which then defines the claimed set-down plane, preferably simultaneously in multiple end packaging units which are in particular arranged adjacent to one another in a horizontal plane. If an interim store is predefined, it is possible for a single end packaging unit to be loaded from said interim store at any one time (and for multiple end packaging units to be loaded successively), or alternatively for multiple end packaging units to be loaded from said interim store simultaneously. At any rate, the maximum number of plastic injection moldings that can be accommodated in an end packaging unit is equal to or preferably less than the maximum number of parts that can be accommodated in the interim store, wherein the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings that can be accommodated in an end packaging unit preferably corresponds to a whole-numbered divisor of the maximum number of parts provided in the interim store. The end packaging units are preferably loaded in uninterrupted fashion, regardless of whether this takes place directly or indirectly via the interim store.

It is essential that the packaging units which are used within the context of the method and of the device, which packaging units are either loaded from the interim store or in which packaging units sub-groups are directly formed, are end packaging units which, once filled completely, are delivered to end users, wherein the delivery steps to the end users, or transfer to a hauler or similar means of transport, is a method step according to a development, which, hereby, should count as being disclosed in claimable form. The end packaging units here are preferably dimensioned such that they contain either 32, 48, 60, 84, 96, 105 or 120 plastic injection moldings. The end packaging units are preferably delivered to the end users in external packaging, wherein either the end packs are provided individually, i.e. each with external packaging or, as an alternative, a plurality of end packs are grouped and provided together with external packaging, for example with an external carton or a sheet-material pack. The end packaging units used are expressly not interim-storage workpiece carriers, from which end packaging units are then packaged in a later step, in particular following a storage period in an interim store. It is also the case that the end packs are not constituted by an interim store which rotates within the packaging apparatus and/or remains in the same, like the interim store which is described in EP 2 323 930 B1, the end packaging units only then being filled therefrom.

The essential factor, therefore, is that the end packaging units do not remain permanently, and thus, for example, rotate, in the packaging apparatus; rather they are fed to the packaging process by suitable feeding means and, following the loading operation, are discharged from the packaging apparatus by suitable discharging means.

Each end packaging unit preferably comprises a carrier, for example made of plastic or metal, having a plurality of openings each for accommodating a plastic injection molding. These carriers are, quite particularly preferably, metallic carriers, for example made of aluminum, which are produced in a highly precise manner and, after having been used as intended by the end user, in particular in an analyzer, can pass back in an empty state to the packaging process and be refilled again. In addition, or as an alternative, to the in each case A openings or depressions, the end packaging units may have A plug-on elements, on which the plastic injection moldings can be plugged.

As an alternative, the end packaging units may be disposable carriers (single-use carriers), e.g. made of plastics. Irrespective of the material selected for the carrier, these are particularly preferably designed, and intended, to be used in an analyzer, in particular in a blood analyzer. The carriers (end packaging units) are preferably coordinated with known analyzers such that they can be inserted into the same, in which case the analyzers can remove pipette tips or medical reaction vessels, preferably automatically, from the carrier.

The method designed in accordance with the concept of the invention is ideally used when the number A of plastic injection moldings which is to be provided for each end packaging unit does not correspond to the number of cavities or to a whole-numbered multiple of the number of cavities.

It is in principle conceivable for more than one injection shot's worth of K plastic injection moldings to be situated in the buffer store simultaneously.

The buffer store is however preferably designed such that, at any one time, it can accommodate no more than one injection shot's worth of K plastic injection moldings, and/or the method is designed such that only ever one injection shot's worth of K cavities is situated in the buffer store at any one time.

According to one refinement, it is provided that K plastic injection moldings are removed from the buffer store and distributed over the U sub-groups (either in the buffer store or alternatively directly in the end packaging units or in the single end packaging unit) prior to said buffer store being refilled with K plastic injection moldings.

There are different options relating to the number of end packaging units to be filled simultaneously. Accordingly, it is in principle possible for only a single end packaging unit to be filled at any one time, or for multiple end packaging units to be filled simultaneously. The filling process takes place in particular either by virtue of sub-groups being formed directly in the at least one end packaging unit or, alternatively, by virtue of the sub-groups being transferred into the end packaging unit, from an interim store that is preferably provided, until the at least one end packaging unit contains A plastic injection moldings, wherein, if an interim store is provided, it is preferable for the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings to correspond to the total number of plastic injection moldings accommodated in the interim store. It is however preferable for the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings to be accommodated in an end packaging unit to be lower than the maximum number of plastic injection moldings that can be accommodated in the interim store, in order to make it possible for multiple end packaging units to be filled (simultaneously or in succession) from one interim store, specifically either individually in succession or groupwise in succession or, alternatively, all at the same time. It is very particularly preferable for the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings that can be provided in an end packaging unit to correspond to a whole-numbered divisor of the maximum number of plastic injection moldings that can be accommodated in the interim store.

To further optimize the cycle time, it is provided according to a refinement that the buffer store is arranged so as to be adjustable between a loading position, in which it is loaded preferably exclusively, and simultaneously, with K plastic injection moldings with the aid of the second set-down means, and a removal position, in which the K plastic injection moldings are removed in order for them to be distributed over the U sub-groups, wherein the grouping to form the sub-groups and/or the setting-down in a corresponding set-down plane is performed by way of first set-down means, wherein it is particularly preferable for the K plastic injection moldings to also be removed from the buffer store at the removal position with said first set-down means. It is also alternatively conceivable for the removal to be performed by way of a transfer gripper which transfers the K plastic injection moldings to the first set-down means. There are different options relating to the manner of an adjustment of the buffer store. The buffer store is preferably arranged so as to be adjustable in rotational and/or translational fashion between the loading position and the removal position. In the case of the translational adjustability of the buffer store, it is preferable for the adjustment travel to be arranged perpendicular to an adjustment travel of removal means which serve for the removal of the K plastic injection moldings from the K cavities of the injection molding apparatus. In an alternative embodiment, the buffer store is arranged so as to be static, and the K plastic injection moldings are removed from the buffer store, and transported to the interim store or directly to the end packs, with the aid of a gripper, wherein said gripper may be formed by the first set-down means or by a transfer gripper provided additionally thereto, by means of which transfer gripper the plastic injection moldings are removed directly from the buffer store and transferred to the first set-down means or initially to a further transfer gripper.

The removal position is preferably situated above the set-down plane, that is to say above an interim store or above the end packs, such that the set-down means need merely perform substantially one vertical movement for the removal of the K plastic injection moldings from the buffer store and for the subsequent grouping to form sub-groups in the set-down plane (aside from a possible raster travel movement). To realize this, it is then necessary for the buffer store to be moved in the direction of the loading position again before the setting-down of the K plastic injection moldings in the set-down plane.

As already indicated several times, there are in principle two different embodiment variants of the method and of the device; a first with an interim store for grouping purposes, and a second expressly without an interim store of said type, with the grouping taking place in the at least one end packaging unit after the removal from the buffer store.

Accordingly, in the first alternative, the set-down plane is formed by an interim store from which the single end packaging unit is loaded (with multiple end packaging units preferably being loaded in succession) or the multiple end packaging units are loaded, wherein, as an interim store, use is made of a preferably plate-shaped interim store with a multiplicity of set-down positions arranged adjacent to one another in a set-down plane, and wherein K plastic injection moldings are removed from the K cavities and (after firstly being set down in the buffer store) distributed uniformly over the U sub-groups in the interim store until each sub-group has L plastic injection moldings, wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings of a sub-group corresponds to the maximum number A of plastic injection moldings that can be loaded into an end packaging unit or to a whole-numbered divisor of A. Said embodiment is based on the concept of the K plastic injection moldings which are removed from the K cavities and which are firstly briefly buffer-stored in the buffer store being offloaded in the interim store in an ordered manner in sub-groups, that is to say being distributed uniformly over the U sub-groups in said interim store. Here, it may be provided that, during each set-down cycle, only ever one plastic injection molding is set down per sub-group, or else multiple plastic injection moldings are set down per sub-group, specifically the same number of injection moldings in each subgroup. In any case, multiple set-down cycles are required for filling the sub-groups, wherein the buffer store preferably holds a considerably greater number of plastic injection moldings than an end packaging unit. The removal of K injection moldings from the interim store and the setting-down in the sub-groups by way of the first set-down means is performed multiple times and is repeated until there is a number L of plastic injection moldings in each sub-group, wherein the number L of plastic injection moldings of a sub-group corresponds to the number A of plastic injection moldings to be loaded (the maximum number of plastic injection moldings that can be loaded) in the end packaging unit, or corresponds to a whole-numbered divisor of A. With the proposed variant, it is possible, regardless of the fixed number K of cavities of the injection mold, for end packaging units to be filled with any desired number A of plastic injection moldings, in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels, without any leftover excess. For example, in an injection-molding installation with 32 cavities, it is possible for packaging units to be populated with 105 plastic injection moldings, without it being necessary for 32 packaging units to be filled simultaneously. This may be realized for example in that, in 105 set-down cycles, a total of 32 sub-groups each with 105 plastic injection moldings are formed on the interim store, and in that, after the 32 sub-groups have been made up, for example one, preferably more, in particular 2, 4, 8, or 32, of the packaging units is/are populated, in succession, in groups, or all at the same time, in each case with 105 plastic injection moldings. It is likewise possible for 32 sub-groups each with 21 plastic injection moldings to be formed, wherein then, in each case five sub-groups can be combined to form an end packaging unit. Production traceability is provided in that, for each end packaging unit, it is possible to make a defined statement regarding exactly which five cavities the plastic injection moldings originate from. Analogously, it is possible for 32 subgroups each with seven plastic injection moldings to be formed, and for in each case 15 subgroups to be combined to form an end packaging unit. It is likewise possible for 32 subgroups each with three plastic injection moldings to be formed and for in each case 35 subgroups to be combined per end packaging unit. The number V of end packaging units to be loaded simultaneously preferably does not correspond to the number of cavities K. It is very particularly preferable for the number V of end packaging units to be loaded to correspond to a whole-numbered divisor of A. It is accordingly also possible for only ever one end packaging unit to be populated from the interim store at any one time, or for multiple end packaging units to be populated simultaneously or in succession. It is in principle possible for a single interim store to be used in the apparatus. It is preferable for multiple interim stores to be provided, which interim stores are preferably adjustable, for example adjustable in rotational or translational fashion, and are for example in the form of workpiece carriers.

The transfer of the sub-groups into the end packaging units, that is to say the filling of the at least one end packaging unit, from the interim store is preferably performed by way of at least one gripper which is separate from the first set-down means and from the second set-down means.

In the second alternative embodiment, the interim store that is used in the first alternative for forming the sub-groups is dispensed with, and instead, the sub-groups are formed by way of the first set-down means directly and simultaneously in a single end packaging unit, or alternatively simultaneously and preferably in multiple end packaging units. In other words, the single end packaging unit is, or the multiple end packaging units are, filled in stages by virtue of the operation of distributing K plastic injection moldings, which have previously been removed from the buffer store, over the sub-groups of the single end packaging unit, or in the multiple end packaging units, being performed multiple times in succession. Here, K plastic injection moldings are distributed every time until each end packaging unit is filled with A plastic injection moldings, that is to say with the maximum possible number of parts that can be inserted into said end packaging units. It is in principle possible for the number of end packaging units to be filled simultaneously by way of the first set-down means to correspond to the number K of cavities. In this case, the end packaging units are filled with rows of cavities, that is to say each end packaging unit receives a single sub-group preferably with plastic injection moldings from a single cavity. Within the context of the second alternative, it is however also possible, and preferable, for the number of end packaging units that are simultaneously filled to be lower than the number of cavities provided. In this case, each end packaging unit preferably receives the same number of sub-groups, preferably in each case at least two sub-groups, wherein the at least two sub-groups of each end packaging unit are simultaneously increased, during every set-down step, by in each case one, preferably exclusively one, plastic injection molding. In the extreme case, it is conceivable for only a single end packaging unit to be filled at any one time—said single end packaging unit then receives all of the plastic injection moldings from all of the cavities during each set-down step. It is however preferable for at least two end packaging units to be filled simultaneously, that is to say, if the groups are formed or increased simultaneously in at least two end packaging units, until the end packaging units are completely filled in each case with the maximum possible number of A plastic injection moldings.

In the end packaging units, the plastic injection moldings are set down adjacent to one another in each case in a preferably horizontal set-down plane, wherein it is particularly preferable if, in the case of multiple end packaging units being filled simultaneously, these are arranged in a common plane or form a common set-down plane.

It is particularly expedient if, independently of the implementation of the first or second alternative the sub-groups in the set-down plane (interim store or end packaging units), the plastic injection moldings of a sub-group are arranged in a fixed relative position with respect to one another. It is quite particularly preferred if it is possible to identify the sub-groups in the set-down plane, and this can be realized by the sub-groups being spaced apart from one another, although this is not imperative. The essential factor is for a control unit (control means) to identify the position of the plastic injection moldings belonging to a certain sub-group. It is possible here, in principle, for a plurality of plastic injection moldings of different sub-groups to be arranged directly one beside the other.

It is particularly expedient, in the case of an interim store being provided, for the K plastic injection moldings to be set down in said interim store such that the number U of sub-groups does not correspond, or alternatively corresponds, to the number V of end packaging units or to a whole-numbered multiple of V.

It is particularly expedient if, if an interim store is used, a plate-shaped interim store is provided which has a number of depressions or plug-on elements corresponding to the maximum number of set-down positions. A single buffer store is thus provided. It is also possible for multiple buffer stores to be provided, in particular for accommodating in each case a single injection shot's worth of plastic injection moldings, which buffer stores are adjusted, in the manner of workpiece carriers, on a movement path between a loading position and a removal position.

The invention also leads on to a packaging apparatus which is preferably intended and designed for carrying out the method according to the invention. The essence of the packaging apparatus is a control unit (control means) which activates the handling means, that is to say removal means and/or first set-down means and/or second set-down means and/or any transfer gripper that may be provided and/or an adjustment mechanism for the optional buffer store, such that the method as described above can be executed.

As mentioned, the method and the device serves for the packaging of the plastic injection moldings into end packaging units which are fed to the packaging apparatus and which must be discharged from the latter again after being filled. There are different options relating to the design of the feeding and/or discharging means. A particularly preferred embodiment is one involving, at least in part, combined feeding and discharging means comprising, for example, a common transporting belt or a common rotatable table, wherein, in the case of a rotatable table being provided, the latter can be used to transport a single end packaging unit, or simultaneously a plurality of end packaging units, to a loading position for loading and, once the end packaging unit or units has/have been filled completely in each case with A plastic injection moldings, to rotate the same out of the loading position and thus discharge the same from the packaging apparatus.

If appropriate, the packaging units are fed from the turntable back to a delivery belt. It is also conceivable for the single end packaging unit or the plurality of end packaging units to be filled directly on a transporting belt or, following the filling operation, rather than being conveyed on a delivery belt, to be conveyed on a removal or discharging belt that differs from said delivery belt. It is also possible to provide circulating workpiece carriers in the form of combined feeding and/or discharging means, the end packaging units being transported thereon, the setting-down on the workpiece carriers and/or the removal from the workpiece carriers being performed for example by means of a gripper.

The invention also leads on to an injection-molding installation having an injection-molding apparatus with K cavities for simultaneously producing K plastic injection moldings having injection moldings, wherein the injection-molding installation is designed such that pipette tips or medical reaction vessels can be produced by means thereof. Said injection-molding installation comprises not only the injection-molding apparatus but also a packaging apparatus designed according to the concept of the invention. It is preferable for an opening and closing direction of the injection mold to be oriented parallel to a direction of translational adjustment of the buffer store.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further advantages, features and details of the invention can be gathered from the following description of preferred exemplary embodiments and with reference to the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 shows an injection-molding apparatus having an injection mold which, in the exemplary embodiment shown, has a fixed number of K=16 cavities for simultaneously producing K plastic injection moldings designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels,

FIGS. 2a and 2b show four end packaging units following in each case a different number of set-down cycles, wherein, in the exemplary embodiment shown, two sub-groups (as an alternative just a single group or more than two sub-groups) are produced in each end packaging unit, these sub-groups being increased by one injection molding during each set-down cycle, i.e. following each removal from the buffer store—with regard to a more preferred embodiment with interim store, reference is made, as an exemplary embodiment, to EP 2 323 930 B1, and in particular to FIGS. 2a to 3 and the associated description of the figures in said document, wherein a buffer store is additionally positioned upstream thereof,

FIG. 3 shows a packaging apparatus for carrying out the method according to the invention, and

FIG. 4 shows, in a schematic illustration, an injection-molding installation having a packaging apparatus which has a buffer store that is adjustable in translational fashion.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Like elements and elements of like function are identified in the figures using like designations.

FIG. 1 shows, as part of an injection-molding installation, an injection-molding apparatus 1, comprising an injection mold 2, having K=16 cavities 3 for simultaneously producing K=16 plastic injection moldings 8 which are designed in the form of pipette tips or medical reaction vessels. The injection-molding apparatus 1 is assigned removal means 4 which are designed for example in the form of suction grippers, preferably with a number of suction elements corresponding to the number K of cavities, said removal means 4 being indicated merely in stylized form as an arrow and being part of a packaging apparatus 16. In the exemplary embodiment shown, the removal means 4 serve exclusively for removing the injection moldings 8 from the cavities 3, wherein the injection moldings 8 removed by the removal means 4 are transferred to set-down means 5 in the form of a (transfer) gripper, by way of which the setting-down or buffer storage in a buffer store (not illustrated here) is then performed. From the buffer store, the injection moldings are either, in a first alternative, grouped in a preferably plate-shaped interim store and transferred from the interim store into end packaging units after the grouping process, or, in a second alternative, an interim store is dispensed with and the grouping to form sub-groups is performed directly in the end packaging units. The grippers of the removal means and of the second set-down means may for example be designed in the form of mechanical grippers and/or vacuum-type grippers.

FIGS. 2a and 2b now show the embodiment referred to above as second alternative, in which a buffer store is dispensed with and the grouping is performed directly in the end packaging units. With regard to the preferred embodiment, in which an interim store is not dispensed with and the K plastic injection moldings are rather, after buffer storage in the buffer store, grouped in an interim store, reference is made to EP 2 323 930 B1, and in particular to FIGS. 2a to and the associated description of the figures in said document, wherein said document (self-evidently) does not discuss the buffer store according to the invention, but describes the grouping to form sub-groups in the interim store, such as is preferably also used in the method according to the invention. A buffer store is, conceptually, situated upstream of the described interim store.

At any rate, FIGS. 2a and 2b illustrate four end packaging units 6 which are filled simultaneously during each set-down step. In the exemplary embodiment shown, each end packaging unit has A=16 set-down locations for accommodating at most A=16 plastic injection moldings 8, wherein A (instead of 16) may also be any other whole number. In the exemplary embodiment shown, the task is for each end packaging unit 6 to be filled with in each case U=two sub-groups 7 of plastic injection moldings 8, wherein each sub-group 7, in the exemplary embodiment shown, should be cavity-specific, i.e. should contain plastic injection moldings just from one cavity. In the exemplary embodiment shown, each sub-group comprises L=eight plastic injection moldings 8. In order for the end packaging units 6 to be filled completely, it is therefore necessary to have eight removal and set-down cycles in the end packaging units (in each case after prior setting-down in the buffer store) if, during each set-down cycle, each sub-group 7 is increased by one plastic injection molding and two plastic injection moldings 8 are set down simultaneously for each end packaging unit 6.

FIG. 2a here shows the filling situation following a single set-down cycle, and FIG. 2b shows the filling situation following two successive set-down cycles. It is expressly not the case that the plastic injection moldings 8 have been pre-grouped in an interim store, as is described in detail and preferred in EP 2 323 930 B1. All of the end packaging units 6, as described above, are each to be filled with a plurality of cavity-specific sub-groups 7. For this purpose, a control unit 9 (control means), which is indicated in FIG. 1, correspondingly activates the removal means 4 and the second set-down means 5 and further, first set-down means (not shown).

FIG. 3 shows a packaging apparatus 16. Said packaging apparatus comprises removal means 4 by which K plastic injection moldings can be removed simultaneously from K cavities of a plastic injection-molding device (not shown). The removal means can perform a (short) removal stroke 10, wherein said removal stroke takes place in the opening direction of an injection mold. After the removal process, the removal means 4 are moved, perpendicular to the opening direction of the tool, along the axis 11 in order to pass into the region of second set-down means 5 by which the plastic injection moldings 8 are picked up from the removal means 4 and, after a pivoting movement downward through 90°, are set down in a buffer store 12.

In the exemplary embodiment shown, the transfer of the K plastic injection moldings from the removal means 4 is performed directly by means of the second set-down means 5 that comprise a gripper, wherein alternatively, a transfer gripper may also be used in between. FIG. 3 shows both pivoting positions of the second set-down means 5 (sideward for transfer, and downward for setting-down in the buffer store). For the setting-down process, the gripper of the removal means can perform a vertical stroke. The buffer store 12 is loaded into a loading position 13 in a region below the second set-down means 5 and is then adjusted, by way of example in this case and preferably in translational fashion (alternatively for example in a rotational fashion by way of a turntable), from the loading position into a removal position 14, wherein the movement direction 15 between the loading position and the removal position 14 is perpendicular to the axis 11 and parallel to the opening direction of the injection mold and parallel to the removal stroke 10. This permits a particularly space-saving arrangement. In the exemplary embodiment shown, the removal position 14 is situated above an interim store 17 in which the K plastic injection moldings that have been removed from the buffer store 12 are distributed over sub-groups. The removal of the K plastic injection moldings from the buffer store and the setting-down in the sub-groups in the interim store 17 is performed with the aid of first set-down means 18.

For this purpose, the first set-down means 18 perform only vertical movements, substantially aside from the group adjustment stroke (raster stroke movement), which is possible by virtue of the fact that the loading position 13 of the buffer store 12 is situated above the interim store 17. After the removal of the K plastic injection moldings from the interim store, the buffer store 12 must be moved out of the removal position.

The loading (not shown) of end packaging units 6 is then performed from the interim store 17, wherein it is preferable for end packaging units 6 to be filled in succession, specifically in each case with a single sub-group 7, or a multiplicity of the sub-groups 7, from the interim store 17. Alternatively, multiple end packaging units 6 are filled simultaneously from the interim store 17, in each case with a single sub-group 7 or with a multiplicity of the sub-groups 7.

In an alternative embodiment, the interim store 17 is dispensed with, and instead of the interim store 17, at least one end packaging unit 6, preferably multiple end packaging units simultaneously, is/are situated substantially at the position shown, in which packaging unit or packaging units the grouping is then performed directly by way of the first set-down means 18.

FIG. 4 shows, again in highly schematized form, the packaging apparatus 16 as per FIG. 3, wherein here, to complete the image, an entire injection-molding installation with injection-molding apparatus 1 is shown.

The figure shows an opening direction 19 of the injection mold, which runs parallel to a removal stroke. Also shown is the axis 11 along which the removal means 4 are adjustable. Also shown is the buffer store 12 in the loading position 13, in which said buffer store is loaded by way of second set-down means 5. The buffer store 12, after being loaded, moves along the axis 15 to a removal position 14 (illustrated by dashed lines) above an interim store 17 (or alternatively preferably above end packaging units). The K plastic injection moldings from the buffer store 12 are set down in the interim store 17 by way of first set-down means 18. The loading of end packaging units 6, 20 is performed by way of a further gripper mechanism 21. In an embodiment in which the grouping is performed directly in the end packaging units, said gripper mechanism 21 may be dispensed with if required. The end packaging units 20 are fed to the packaging apparatus 16 by way of feeding means 22, and are discharged from the packaging apparatus again with the aid of discharging means 23, which in this case, in the exemplary embodiment shown, are combined with the feeding means 22.