An airline ticket printer includes a magnetic reading and writing
station that has a read/write head for recording information on,
or reproducing information from, a magnetic stripe carried on a
ticket. The printer also includes a printing station located after
the magnetic read/write head. A plurality of separate storage bins
are provided for storing different ticket blanks; each bin has its
own feed device. The ticket blanks are prefed from the storage bins
along separate guide paths to separate staging areas prior to these
paths joining to form a common path. The magnetic read/write head
and the printer are located along this common path.
What is claimed is:
1. A transportation ticket printing device, said device comprising,
in combination, a print engine, at least first and second storage
bins for storing respective stacks of separate sheets of transportation
ticket blanks, each having a magnetic storage area thereon, at least
first and second feed devices for feeding said separate sheets from
said each of said first and second bins, respectively, along first
and second respective separate guide paths toward a common guide
path leading to said print engine, at least one magnetic read/write
station along said common guide path and a drive for moving respective
separate sheets from each of said first and second storage bins
to a separate staging point part way along its respective separate
guide path, a holding device for holding said respective separate
sheets at said respective separate staging points until a printing
operation is to be performed on said respective separate sheets
by said print engine.
2. A device as in claim 1 in which each of said bins is a different
distance from a start location of said common guide path, and said
separate staging points are adjacent said start location.
3. A device as in claim 1 in which each of said first and second
storage bin comprises a ticket-blank holding cassette, and said
separate sheets are separate ticket-blanks.
4. A method of printing magnetic record area-bearing transportation
tickets by moving blank ticket card stock selectively from one of
at least two sources of separate card stock to a print engine in
a printing device for printing desired information on said separate
card stock, said method comprising the steps of:
(a) moving separate card stock from a first storage location to
a first staging location on a first guide path adjacent the entrance
to a common guide path leading to a print engine;
(b) holding said separate card stock from said first storage location
at said first staging location until a printing operation requiring
that separate card stock is initiated;
(c) moving separate card stock from a second storage location to
a second staging location on a second guide path adjacent the entrance
to said common guide path leading to a print engine;
(d) holding said separate card stock from said second storage location
at said second staging location until a printing operation requiring
that card stock is initiated;
(e) selectively feeding said separate card stock from either said
first or second staging location to said common guide path, past
at least one magnetic read/write station while reading from and/or
recording on said magnetic area, and then on to said print engine
for printing upon demand, and
(f) printing desired ticket information on said separate card stock.
5. A method as in claim 4 wherein said first and second guide paths
are of different lengths.
This invention relates to printing apparatus and methods, and particularly
to apparatus and methods for printing vehicular transportation passenger
coupons such as airline tickets and the like.
Airline ticket printers are widely used to print tickets and boarding
passes, and other transportation documents for airline passengers.
One type of airline printer is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,851,864,
issued Jul. 25, 1989; U.S. Pat. No. 4,857,945, issued Aug. 15, 1989;
and U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,393, issued Oct. 9, 1990. A stand-alone
credit-card operated ticket printer of somewhat different capabilities
is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,928,133, issued May 22, 1990. Such airline
ticket printers are highly advantageous. Nonetheless, improvements
More specifically, it is an object of the invention to improve
the accuracy and reliability of the printing apparatus for recording
on and reading of information from a magnetic area or stripe on
It also is an object of the invention to provide a printer and
method in which the time required for printing tickets is reduced,
while the number of different ticket stocks upon which printing
may be accomplished is increased.
Another object of the invention is to provide means for making
the loading of ticket blanks into the printer easier and faster.
Another object of the invention is to print tickets more rapidly.
A further object of the invention is to provide such a printer
and method in which tickets can be revised quickly and easily, and
with good security.
It also is an object to provide a printer structure which simplifies
and reduces the cost of its manufacture and maintenance. Further,
it is an object of the invention to provide a printer which makes
maximum utilization of its electronic system.
In accordance with the present invention, the foregoing objects
are met by the provision of an airline ticket printer that includes
a magnetic reading/writing station that has a read/write head for
recording information on or reproducing information from a magnetic
stripe carried on a ticket, structure for guiding tickets past the
read/write head in such a way that the magnetic stripe of the ticket
is presented to the read/write head, and a drive mechanism that
drives the ticket past the read/write head with the drive mechanism
bearing against the ticket at a substantial distance from the read/write
head so that the magnetic stripe is free to flex independently of
the portion of the ticket that is in contact with the drive mechanism.
In this way more consistent contact of the read/write head with
the magnetic stripe may be achieved so as to minimize errors ("drop-outs",
A further feature of the invention is the provision of two magnetic
reading/writing stations in series along a ticket feed path so that
errors in reading or writing by the first station may be detected
and/or corrected at the second station. The two magnetic stations
allow magnetic reading and writing to be performed faster and more
In accordance with another feature of the invention, assembly of
the printer is made easier by providing a sheet feeding system in
the form of one or more modules that can be conveniently and precisely
mounted on pins extending from a vertical mounting plate. According
to a preferred embodiment of the invention, an airline ticket printer
includes a print engine, a vertical, centrally located mounting
plate, a plurality of mounting pins secured to and extending perpendicular
to the mounting plate, and one or more sheet feeding modules having
holes shaped and sized to receive the pins, the modules being mounted
on the mounting plate with the pins extending into the holes of
the modules, and fasteners holding the modules onto the pins.
A further feature of the invention reduces print cycle time by
pre-staging ticket blanks from a ticket storage bin to a staging
point. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, an
airline ticket printer includes a print engine, a storage bin for
storing ticket blanks, a feed path for feeding the ticket blanks
to the print engine from the bin along a guide path, and a mechanism
for moving a ticket blank along the guide path to a staging point
at which the ticket blank is held until a printing operation is
to be performed.
According to another feature of the invention, there are also provided
a second storage bin for storing ticket blanks and a mechanism for
moving blanks from the second storage bin to a separate staging
point at which the blank from the second bin also may be held until
a printing operation is to be performed on the blank from the second
bin. In this way, print cycle times for ticket printing may be reduced
while permitting selection of either of two kinds of ticket blanks.
Yet another feature of the invention makes it easier to load ticket
blanks into the printer by providing a ticket blank storage cassette
for an airline ticket printer. The cassette preferably includes
a horizontal, rectangular bottom wall having two side edges and
two end edges, a pair of opposed vertical side walls extending along
and rising from respective side edges of the bottom wall and set
apart from each other at a distance so that a stack of ticket blanks
may be held therebetween, a first of the side walls being substantially
higher than the other, a pair of opposed vertical end walls rising
from respective end edges of said bottom wall and extending between
the side walls, and a handle that is integrally formed with a top
edge of the first side wall and has an inverted U-shaped cross-section.
According to a further feature of a preferred embodiment, the weight
of the ticket storage cassette is reduced, and tickets are reliably
fed from the cassette, by providing a feed mechanism that is mounted
to the ticket printer. In a preferred embodiment of the invention,
there is provided in a ticket printing device, an apparatus for
removing tickets from a cassette which holds a stack of vertically
oriented tickets, the apparatus including a structure for receiving
and holding the cassette, a mechanism for upwardly feeding from
the cassette a first ticket of the stack, and a bias mechanism for
biasing the stack in a lateral direction so that the first ticket
is engaged by the feed mechanism.
Still another feature of the invention makes it more convenient
to print a new ticket when an old ticket is returned, by providing
a mechanism for inserting the old ticket into the printer, reading
information that was magnetically encoded on the old ticket, and
using the information to print a new ticket. According to a preferred
embodiment of the invention, an airline ticket printer includes
a mechanism for transporting a ticket blank with a magnetic stripe
through a first magnetic stripe read/write station and then to a
print engine, a housing, a mechanism within the housing for recirculating
a previously printed ticket through a second magnetic stripe read/write
station, the recirculation mechanism including an inlet opening
in the housing, a guide structure for guiding the ticket inserted
through the opening towards the second read/write station, a drive
mechanism for moving the ticket through the second read/write station
to read the information from the ticket, circuitry for receiving
information read from the ticket and for receiving new information
and for controlling the print engine to print a new ticket using
the read information and the new information, and a receptacle in
the housing for securely holding the recirculated ticket.
Also in accordance with the invention there is provided a control
system for an airline ticket printer which includes a mother board
having a plurality of board slots, a dual microprocessor system
for controlling the printer, and formatting data to be printed,
mounted on a board plugged into one of the slots, and at least one
personal computer mounted on another board plugged into one of the
slots, the personal computer being connected to send data to the
dual microprocessor system and also being adapted to perform general
In this way, the electric components of the printer can be used
for a variety of tasks in addition to ticket printing. In a preferred
embodiment, two or more personal computers are mounted in respective
slots, so that the printer can be shared by more than one input/output
Another feature helps to extend the life of a thermal print head
used in the printer. According to this feature, there is provided
an apparatus for printing information on a ticket that has a thickness
T. The apparatus includes a frame, a platen mounted for rotation
on the frame and a print head for printing information on the ticket.
There is also a means for mounting the print head on the frame adjacent
to the platen to form a gap between the platen and the print head.
At least one of the platen and the mounting means is displaceable
with respect to the other.
The apparatus further includes a feed mechanism for feeding the
ticket toward the gap along a feed path. A sensor is disposed in
the feed path for sensing the feeding of the ticket and for providing
a feed time signal upon sensing the feeding of the ticket. The apparatus
also includes control circuitry for receiving the feed time signal
and for generating engage signals at a timed interval after receiving
the feed time signal. Also included is an engage mechanism that
includes a stepper motor responsive to the engage signals, for moving
at least one of the platen and the print head in steps between a
first relative position in which the gap is wider than the thickness
T of the ticket and a second relative position in which the ticket
is engaged between the platen and the print head. The print head
is disengaged from said platen except when the ticket is present
According to this feature there is also provided a method of operating
an apparatus for printing information on a ticket, where the apparatus
includes a platen and a print head and the ticket has a thickness
T. The method includes the steps of maintaining a gap between the
platen and the print head when the ticket is not present between
them, the gap being wider than the thickness T of the ticket; feeding
the ticket toward the gap; sensing the feeding of the ticket; and
at a timed interval after sensing the feeding of the ticket moving
at least one of the platen and the print head toward the other in
steps until the ticket is engaged between the platen and the print
This feature allows the engaging force between the platen and the
print head to be controlled more reliably than prior art systems
in which a solenoid was used to engage the ticket between the print
head and the platen, thereby extending the life of the print head
while maintaining a desired print quality.
It is not intended that the invention be summarized here in its
entirety. Rather, further features, aspects and advantages of the
invention will be set forth in or apparent from the following description
and drawings. In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a portion of an airline ticket
counter at an air terminal, showing several individual stations,
each of which has one of the printers of the invention;
FIG. 2 shows an airline flight coupon printed by use of the printer
and method of the present invention;
FIG. 3 shows a reservation/confirmation coupon printed by use of
the printer and method of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram showing the computer network
to which the individual sales terminals and printers are connected
in the sale of airline tickets and other coupons;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the printer of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a schematic right side elevation view of the printer
of FIG. 5 with its cover removed;
FIGS. 6A-6C are schematic right side elevation views of a print
engine that is part of the printer of FIG. 5;
FIG. 7 is a rear elevation view of the printer of FIG. 5 with its
FIG. 8 is a plan view of the printer of FIG. 5 with its cover removed;
FIG. 9 is a left side elevation view of the printer of FIG. 5 with
its cover removed;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a ticket storage cassette used
with the printer of FIG. 5;
FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the ticket cassette of FIG.
10 taken along the line 11--11;
FIG. 12 is an exploded perspective view of a typical ticket feed
module of the printer of FIG. 5;
FIG. 13 is an assembled perspective view of the ticket feed module
of FIG. 12;
FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of a typical feed module of the
printer of FIG. 5, showing electrical connections with printed wiring
boards of the feed module;
FIG. 15A is a side view, with the cover removed, of a feed module
of the printer of FIG. 5;
FIG. 15B is a rear elevational view, with the cover removed, of
the feed module of FIG. 15A;
FIG. 15C is a partial plan cross-sectional view of the feed module
of FIG. 15A taken along line 15C--15C of FIG. 15B;
FIGS. 16A and 16B show details of a magnetic head and pressure
pad assembly that make up parts of the feed module of FIG. 15A;
FIG. 17 is a block diagram that illustrates the electronic components
of the printer of FIG. 5;
FIGS. 18A-18D are a flow chart that illustrates a procedure for
printing and magnetically recording information on tickets by use
of the printer of FIG. 5;
FIG. 19 is a flow chart that illustrates a procedure for recirculating
an old ticket into the printer of FIG. 5 and using the printer to
print a new ticket.
FIG. 1 shows a typical airline ticket selling counter 30 with individual
ticket selling stations shown at 32, 34, and 36. At each station
there is a counter top 38, an input/output device 40, a relatively
low baggage-receiving and weighing surface 42, and a coupon printer
44. Printed tickets or other coupons are issued through an outlet
opening 48 in the front of the printer. Each input/output device
has a video screen and a keyboard enabling the operator to input
passenger and other information and retrieve information regarding
seat availability, etc.
As it is shown in FIG. 4, each input/output device 40 is connected
by modems and other equipment (not shown) through remote links 80
to a central computer system 82 in a regional or nationwide network
involving a plurality of different input/output stations at locations
72, 74, 76, 78 etc.
If desired, each location can contain as few as one input/output
device 40 and one printer 44, as in the case of the location 72,
which might be a travel agent's office, for example, or it can contain
a large number of such combinations as in an airline terminal 78.
The computer system 82, an example of which is called "Apollo",
computes, stores and sends reservation data and other data necessary
to enable the ticket sales personnel to sell tickets, and to enable
the printers to print coupons.
Referring again to FIG. 1, the printers 44 are fitted into relatively
narrow and restricted cabinet spaces in the counters. The printers
are constructed to roll outwardly from the cabinets so as to give
the operator ready access to the printer mechanism. The printer
44 shown in the lower right hand portion of FIG. 1 has been withdrawn
from its cabinet in the manner described. Preferably, a key must
be inserted into a lock (not shown in FIG. 1) on the front of the
unit to release it from the cabinet so it that can be pulled out.
This lock preferably disables high voltage circuitry within the
printer mechanism so as to allow operators to handle it without
FIGS. 2 and 3 show two different types of coupons which can be
printed by the printer mechanism 44 for use in airline transportation
FIG. 2 shows a passenger ticket and baggage check form 50. The
form 50 has a stub end portion 52 which is intended for use in stapling
the forms together and thus is excluded from the area to be printed
on. The portion 52 is separable from the body of the form by perforations
at 54. The form also has a boarding pass portion 56 at the opposite
end. The boarding pass 56 is easily separable from the remainder
of the coupon by means of a perforation 58.
The form 50 includes spaces for printing all relevant passenger
ticketing information, including the amount of the fare and the
total cost. It also includes a space for printing baggage information
so that the coupon can be used by the passenger to reclaim his or
Each of the forms 50 includes a pre-printed serial number indicated
at 64. The forms are numbered serially so that strict accounting
can be had for all forms issued. Each ticket agent or travel agent
is held strictly accountable for every form issued to him or her.
For example, during the shift of a ticket agent at one of the ticket
counters shown in FIG. 1, the agent will be issued a group of serially-numbered
forms, and the agent must account for all of those forms at the
end of his or her shift. Thus, there is a significant need for the
printer to avoid losing or damaging forms in the printing process.
Furthermore, if two forms are fed simultaneously or a jam occurs,
the operator should correct the situation immediately, in order
to avoid the loss of a form. The printer should not require the
operator to destroy forms in the process.
Still referring to FIG. 2, on the rear surface of the form 50 is
a magnetic stripe 62 shown in dashed lines extending the entire
length of the form near its upper edge as shown in FIG. 2. Data
regarding the passenger and the transaction are recorded on the
magnetic stripe 62 and can be read by magnetic reading means to
input the data quickly into the central computer for use in its
operations, or for a variety of other purposes.
The coupon 66 shown in FIG. 3 is a reservation confirmation coupon
or form for automobile rentals made by the passenger through a travel
agent or airline ticket agent. The form 66 is not perforated.
Reservation confirmation form 66 also can be used for confirming
hotel reservations or any similar matter to be handled by the ticket
agent or travel agent. Both types of travel coupons 50 and 66 shown
in FIGS. 2 and 3 can be stored in and printed by the printer 44
upon demand. Other forms having the same size and shape as coupons
50 and 66, such as airplane boarding pass blanks, can also be used
with printer 44.
Referring now to FIG. 5, printer 44 includes a cabinet 100 with
a front panel 102, which includes an inclined upper portion 104.
Upper portion 104 has a display section 106 and a key pad 108. Display
section 106 may include, for example, an LED display and/or LCD
Upper portion 104 also has a recess 110 in which are located outlet
opening 48 and inlet opening 112. Cabinet 100 is mounted on casters
114 (FIGS. 6 and 9) which allow printer 44 to be rolled in and out
of ticket counter 30, as discussed above.
TICKET FEED PATHS
Referring now to FIG. 6, there will now be described in general
terms feed paths for tickets within printer 44. Held within cabinet
100 are removable ticket blank supply cassettes 130 and 132. As
shown in FIG. 6, cassette 132 holds a plurality of ticket forms
50 and cassette 130 holds a plurality of reservation forms 66. It
will be appreciated that it is possible to store identical ticket
blanks in both cassettes 130, 132 if only one type of blank is required.
Blanks 50 and 66 are held in a substantially vertical orientation
within cassettes 132 and 130.
As schematically shown in FIG. 6, blanks may be withdrawn from
either cassette 130 or cassette 132 and advanced to respective staging
points 134 and 135, at which the blanks are held until a printing
operation is initiated, as will be discussed in more detail below.
A ticket blank from cassette 130 and a ticket blank from 132 may
be simultaneously held at staging points 135 and 134 respectively.
From the staging points a feed path 136 is defined which leads
to print engine 138. Located along feed path 136 is a magnetic read/write
station 140 at which data may be recorded on, or reproduced from,
a magnetic stripe 62 of a ticket blank.
A feed path 142 leads from inlet opening 112. A magnetic read/write
station 144 is located along feed path 142.
It will be observed that feed path 144 initially proceeds rearwardly
from inlet opening 112 and then downwardly and forwardly while first
feed path 136 extends upwardly from staging point 134 and than forwardly
and downwardly. The two feed paths 136 and 142 converge to form
a common feed path section 146 which leads on to print engine 138.
Located along feed path section 146 is a magnetic read/write station
The feed paths are constructed with feed modules 150, 152 and 154,
which will be described in more detail below.
After passing through print engine 138, tickets may be either fed
out to outlet opening 48 or through stacker door 156 or diverted
to secure holding bin 158.
As will be discussed below with respect to FIGS. 18A-18D, if an
error occurs in magnetic recording or reading of information on
a ticket 50, the ticket may be reversed along feed path section
146 so that it may be advanced a second time past magnetic read/write
station 148. Moreover, in a high speed mode of operating printer
44, tickets may be fed in rather close proximity to each other so
as to achieve a time between tickets of approximately 0.463 seconds.
In such a high speed mode, a first ticket may be advanced past magnetic
read/write station 148 at the same time that a second ticket is
advanced past magnetic read/write station 140. In that case, if
there is an error in reading or recording information on the first
ticket, it may be desired to run the feeding mechanism of feed module
152 in reverse so that reading of or recording on the first ticket
may be reattempted. In order to prevent the second ticket (i.e.
the one near station 140) from being fed back into staging points
134 and 135 and causing jams therein, feed module 152 is provided
with a check valve 160 at its inlet 159. Check valve 160 includes
a gravity gate member 161 that is mounted on a pivot 162. Gate member
161 freely rotates upward (i.e. clockwise, as seen in FIG. 6) from
its position shown in FIG. 6 so that blanks fed from staging points
134 and 135 may freely advance into inlet 159 of feed module 152.
However, gate member 161 is prevented from rotating downward (i.e.
counter-clockwise) beyond the position shown in FIG. 6, so that
when a second ticket is reversed past station 140, the second ticket
is diverted by gate member 161 into a temporary holding area 163.
When the first ticket is advanced again past station 148, the second
ticket will be simultaneously advanced from holding area 163 past
Print engine 138 includes a platen 164 and a thermal transfer unit
165 which cooperates with platen 164 to transfer characters and
other printed images from a thermal printing ribbon 166 onto tickets
50 that are fed in between platen 164 and transfer unit 165. Ribbon
166 is unwound from supply reel 168 and is taken up by take-up reel
Details of print engine 138 are shown in FIGS. 6A-6C.
Thermal transfer unit 165 includes a print head 400 which is mounted
on head carrier bar 402. Carrier bar 402 is mounted on pivot 404
for pivotal motion in a generally upward or downward direction.
Also mounted on pivot 404 is spring keeper 406 which extends longitudinally
above and generally parallel to the top surface of carrier bar 402.
Spring keeper 406 is pivotable for movement in a generally upward
or downward direction. Pivot 404 is mounted to a fixed structure
of printer 44, such as frame 399 (FIGS. 6B, 6C).
A distal end 408 of spring keeper 406 rests upon a compression
spring 410 (FIG. 6A) and serves to retain compression spring 410
in a recess 412 that is formed in the upper surface of head carrier
Also mounted on pivot 404 is torsion spring 414. Spring 414 has
legs 416 and 418. Leg 416 contacts a pin 420 that is mounted on
the frame 399 of printer 44, while leg 418 contacts pin 422 that
is mounted on carrier bar 402. Spring 414 is arranged to bias carrier
bar 402 in an upward (i.e. clockwise) direction.
A head return stop pin 424 is mounted on the frame 399 of printer
44 above head carrier bar 402 and provides back-up or overrun protection
to limit the upward motion of carrier 402.
A rocker arm 426 is pivotally mounted on the frame 399. Rocker
arm 426 has tangs 428 and 430 which extend tangentially from rocker
arm 426 at substantially a right angle from each other. Tang 428
extends in a generally horizontal direction and contacts the upper
surface of end 408 of spring keeper 406.
Tang 430 extends in a generally upward direction. A spring 432
connected between the frame 399 of printer 44 and tang 430 biases
rocker arm 426 in a counterclockwise direction (FIG. 6A). Stop pins
434 and 436 are respectively mounted to the left and right of tang
430. Pin 434 limits the movement of tang 430 and rocker arm 426
in the counterclockwise direction and pin 436 limits the movement
of tang 430 and rocker arm 426 in the clockwise direction.
Referring to FIG. 6B, rocker arm 426 has a pulley 438 mounted thereto.
Pulley 438 is connected via belt 440 to a head engagement stepper
Located to the right of platen 164 is drive roller 444. Idler roller
446 is paired with drive roller 444.
Referring to FIG. 6C, a common drive belt 447 allows both platen
164 and drive roller 44 to be driven in a counterclockwise direction
by a card drive stepper motor 448.
As best seen in FIGS. 6A and 6C, a sensor 450 is disposed between
platen 164 and roller 444. Sensor 450 has a pivotally displaceable
flag 452 that extends upwardly into a card feed path (indicated
by arrows 454) between the nip of rollers 444 and 446 and toward
a gap 456 that is formed between platen 164 and print head 400.
A sensor 458 is located to the left of platen 164. Sensor 458 has
a pivotally displaceable flag 460 which extends generally downward
into card exit path 462.
In a preferred embodiment of printer 44, sensor 450 and 458 are
of a type in which displacement of their respective flags to the
positions shown in phantom on FIG. 6A, breaks an optical connection
that is maintained when the respective fags are in their normal
positions, as shown by solid lines, particularly in FIG. 6A.
There will now be described operation of print head 400 for engagement
and disengagement. Rocker arm 426 is normally held in its home position
(shown in solid lines) by the biasing force of spring 432, and with
tang 430 in contact with stop pin 434.
When rocker arm 426 is in its home position, the biasing force
of spring 414 holds carrier bar 402 in such a position (the "disengaged"
position) that head 400 is spaced apart from platen 164 by a gap
distance of approximately 0.010 to 0.015 in. As is well known to
those skilled in the art, a typical card to be printed has a thickness
T of about 0.007 in, so that the gap 456 between platen 164 and
head 400 is wider than the thickness T of the ticket when head 400
is in the disengaged position. The upward movement of head carrier
bar 402 is limited by tang 428 of rocker 426, which acts on carrier
bar 402 through spring keeper 406 and compression spring 410. In
a preferred embodiment of printer 44, pin 424 is also present as
overrun protection to stop upward movement of head carrier bar 402.
When a ticket blank is driven by rollers 444 and 446 toward platen
164, the leading edge of the ticket displaces flag 452, tripping
sensor 450. Sensor 450 is connected (connections not shown) to print
engine control (PEC) electronics, which are described below, and
provides a feed time signal to PEC electronics. After a predetermined
period after receipt of the feed time signal and under software
control, head engagement motor 442 is driven, as described just
below, to move head 400 downwardly so that the ticket is engaged
between head 400 and platen 164. Preferably engagement occurs when
the leading edge of the ticket has progressed through the head/platen
gap 456 to the extent of 0.05 in.
Engagement of a ticket between head 400 and platen 164 will now
be described. At a timed interval after receipt of the feed time
signal, the PEC supplies engage driving signals (i.e. pulse signals)
to stepper motor 442 (for simplicity, the connection between motor
442 and the PEC is not shown). Under control of pulses received
from the PEC, stepper motor 442 rotates in steps in a clockwise
direction E (FIG. 6B) causing rocker arm 426 to be rotated clockwise.
Tang 428 of rocker arm 426 is rotated a few degrees downwardly,
thereby pressing on spring keeper 406 (FIG. 6A), which in turn compresses
spring 410. Spring 410 then moves head carrier bar 402 downwardly
in steps against the biasing force of spring 414, so that the ticket
is engaged between head 400 and platen 164. It will therefore be
appreciated that spring 410 transmits a downward force from rocker
arm 426 to carrier bar 402.
In a preferred embodiment, rocker arm 426 is driven by motor 442
so that in its engaged position (shown in phantom), tang 430 is
a short distance to the left of stop pin 436. Stop pin 436 thus
functions as an overrun protection pin so that an excessive force
is not applied to head 400. The printer control electronics are
programmable to reduce the distance between the engaged position
of tang 430 and pin 436 if it is desired to adjust print quality
by arranging tighter engagement of the ticket between head 400 and
platen 164. Stepper motor 442 is a high torque, low inertia motor
so that in the event of a power outage, the force of spring 414
will be sufficient to rotate carrier bar 402 upwardly (and thereby
rotate rocker 426 in a counterclockwise direction) so that head
400 is disengaged from platen 164.
Printing upon the ticket is carried out in accordance with the
timing of the detection of the ticket by sensor 450. When printing
is complete and the ticket has been advanced so far that the trailing
edge of the ticket is approximately 0.05 in. from exiting gap 456,
motor 442 is pulsed to rotate in the counterclockwise direction
so that rocker arm 426 also rotates counterclockwise. The pressure
of tang 428 on spring keeper 406 is thereby lessened, allowing carrier
bar 402 to move upwardly (clockwise) under the force of spring 414,
so that head 400 is disengaged from the ticket and platen 164, and
rocker arm 426 and spring keeper 406 return to their home positions.
It will be understood that the ticket continues onward along path
462 to exit the printer 44, with platen 164 acting as an exit roller.
Sensor 460 is provided to detect whether the ticket has for some
reason failed to properly exit printer 44, e.g. because of a jam.
It will be understood from the foregoing that head 400 is disengaged
from platen 164 at all times except when a ticket is interposed
therebetween. By preventing direct contact between head 400 and
platen 164 the life of the print head is extended by minimizing
abrasion and by assuring that the ticket is available for diffusion
of heat produced by head 400.
In a preferred embodiment of printer 44, tickets are driven within
feed module 152 at a rate of 21 inches per second, for rapid feeding
of tickets from cassettes 130 and 132 to print engine 138. Feeding
within print engine 138 (i.e. by rollers 444 and 446 and platen
164) is the rate of 4 inches per second. Accordingly, roller 444
is driven with a one way clutch, so that when a ticket is fed from
module 152 to the nip of rollers 444 and 446, roller 444 is free
to be accelerated by the ticket to allow the ticket to continue
to advance at the rate of 21 inches per second. At a point where
the leading edge of the ticket is approximately 1/4 inch from flag
452 of sensor 450 the trailing edge of the ticket is ejected from
the nip of the last feed roller of module 152 and is immediately
decelerated by roller 444 and 446 so that the ticket is thenceforward
driven at a rate of 4 inches per second through the action of rollers
444 and 446, platen 164 and ticket drive motor 448.
Although in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6A-6C, platen 164 is
rotatable about a fixed axis, with head 400 being mounted for movement
between retracted and engaged positions, it will be appreciated
that alternative embodiments are possible in which head 400 is fixedly
mounted and platen 164 is retractable therefrom. It will also be
appreciated that both platen 162 and head 400 may be mounted for
retracting movement with respect to each other.
It will be appreciated that other types of printing mechanisms,
such as a direct thermal print engine or an ion deposition engine,
may be used instead of the thermal transfer print engine 138 shown
in FIG. 6.
The overall internal structure of printer 44 will now be described
with reference to FIGS. 7-9. Vertical mounting plate 180 runs longitudinally
near the center of cabinet 100 and is mounted on base 182 which
forms the floor of cabinet 100. Plate 180 is rigid and substantial
and supports many of the mechanical and electrical components of
printer 44. Plate 180 may support frame 399 (FIGS. 6B, 6C) or may
integrally include frame 399.
A plurality of mounting pins 184 extend perpendicularly from mounting
plate 80, as best seen in FIG. 7. Feed modules 150, 152 and 154
are secured to mounting plate 80 by pins 184. Ticket cassettes 130
and 132 are placed adjacent to plate 180 and below module 150. Passing
through plate 180 are sockets 188 which permit interconnections
between electronic components of the tape modules and the electronic
control components of printer 44 which are located on the opposite
side of plate 180.
Among the electrical and electronic components are power supply
190, PC/AT card 192 and printer electronics board 194. Both PC/AT
card 192 and printer electronics board 194 are received within slots
195 of mother board 196. Empty slots 195 may be used to accommodate
optional electronics modules such as additional PC/AT cards, communications
and LAN cards, a fax card, a video card, memory expansion cards,
and the like.
PC/AT card 192 controls floppy disk drive 198, to which it is connected
through mother board 196.
Power supply 190 is located in the upper part of cabinet 100 to
aid in dissipation of heat produced by power supply 190.
STRUCTURE OF TICKET CASSETTES
The structure of ticket cassette 132 (which is identical to cassette
130) will now be described with reference to FIGS. 10 and 11.
Ticket cassette 132 is preferably constructed of a thin walled
material, such as metal or plastic, and includes a horizontal, rectangular
bottom wall 202 which has relatively long side edges 203 and 204
and relatively short end edges 205 (FIG. 10) and 206 (FIG. 7).
A relatively low rectangular side wall 207 extends along and rises
from side edge 204 of bottom wall 202. Located opposite to wall
207 is a relatively high vertical side wall 208 which extends along
and rises from side edge 203 of bottom wall 202. Vertical end wall
209 is substantially L-shaped add rises from end edge 205 of bottom
wall 202. End wall 209 extends between side walls 207 and 208. As
shown in FIG. 7, a second vertical end wall 210 rises from end edge
206 of bottom wall 202. End wall 210 also extends between side walls
207 and 208. End wall 210 is cut at an angle so that its height
varies from that of side wall 208 to that of side wall 207. Referring
again to FIGS. 10 and 11, a handle 211 is formed integrally with
the upper edge of high side wall 208 and has a cross section that
is an inverted U-shape.
A stack of ticket blanks 50, including a first ticket blank 50-1
and a last ticket blank 50-L, is held between opposed side walls
207 and 208 and is supported by bottom wall 202. As previously noted,
the stack of ticket blanks is held in a vertical orientation. Ticket
blank 50-1 is held adjacent to end wall 210.
In a preferred embodiment of cassette 132, bottom wall 202 is 33/8
in. wide (i.e. end edges 205 and 206 are 3 3/8 in. long) so as to
rather closely accommodate a vertical stack of standard tickets
blanks that are 31/4 by 8 in. In that embodiment, bottom wall 202
is 8 in. long, side wall 208 is 61/2 in. high and side wall 207
is 11/4 in. high.
Referring again to FIG. 6, a tray 212 is fixed to the bottom of
cabinet 100. Tray 212 includes two slots 213 and 214, each of which
is sized to receive a respective one of cassettes 130 and 132. Slots
213 and 214 respectively receive and hold cassettes 130 and 132.
Bias means 215 and 216 are both mounted on plate 180. Mounted on
each bias means is a push plate 217. A spring, such as a constant
force spring, or another biasing mechanism biases push plate 217
so that it exerts a force (represented by Arrow F in FIG. 10) on
the last ticket 50-L of the stack of tickets held in a respective
ticket cassette 130 or 132. Push plate 217 is accommodated by the
L-shape of end wall 209 so that it is in contract with ticket 50-L.
Thus, each push plate 217 biases a respective stack of ticket blanks
in a lateral direction. The first ticket 50-1 of each stack is brought
into engagement with a feed means such as a feed roller 218. In
cooperation with the force exerted by its respective push plate
217, each feed roller 218 upwardly feeds the first ticket so that
it is removed from its ticket cassette and is fed into feed module
FEED MODULE STRUCTURE
As shown in FIGS. 12 and 13, a typical section of a feed module
includes frame halves 220 and 222.
Frame halves 220 and 222 respectively include module walls 224
and 226. Extending respectively from walls 224 and 226 are guide
halves 228 and 230. Formed in each guide half is an aperture break
Frame halves 220 and 222 also include assembly bosses 234 and PWB
slots 236. Frame halves 220 and 222 further include mounting holes
238 that are sized to receive a mounting pin 184. Frame halves 220
and 222 also have holes 240 for receiving stepped shafts 242 on
which are mounted rollers 244.
The module is assembled by aligning corresponding assembly bosses
of the frame halves 220 and 222 and bringing the bosses into abutment.
Shafts 242 are held between the frame half 220 and 222 by holes
240. It will be seen that four rollers 244 form an upper and lower
pair of rollers and that the upper pair carries an endless driving
Guide halves 228 and 230 join to form document guide 248 and PWB
slots 236 also join to form a slot for holding a printed wiring
board. Further, aperture breaks 232 of the respective guide halves
join to form a driving aperture 250, through which belt 246 engages
lower rollers 244 in order to drive a ticket blank 50.
The module is mounted to mounting plate 180 with a mounting pin
184 passing through respective holes 238 of frame halves 220 and
222. Clip 252 includes a slot 254 which engages pin 184 and allows
clip 252 to be inserted into a circumferential locating groove 256
of pin 184 to secure the module to plate 180.
FIG. 14 shows a typical interconnection of printed wiring boards
for feed modules. A PWB backplane 280 is connected to a socket 188
in mounting plate 180.
Socket 188 is preferably a 48-pin or 96-pin socket of a known type
and is connected via conventional flex circuits (not shown) to electric
components of printer 44 located to the left of plate 180 (those
electric components are not shown in FIG. 14; see FIGS. 7-9).
Referring again to FIG. 14, a host printed wiring board 282 and
a slave printed wiring board 284 are both connected to backplane
MAGNETIC READ/WRITE STATIONS
Details of the magnetic read/write stations will now be discussed
with reference to FIGS. 15A, 15B and 15C.
FIG. 15A is a side elevation view of feed module 152 with its outer
module wall removed. Module 152 includes magnetic read/write stations
140 and 148. Each station 140 and 148 includes a driving belt 246
carried on a first pair of rollers 244. A biasing means such as
springs 300 urges belt 246 and its rollers 244 towards a second
pair of rollers 244 so that belt 246 engages the second pair of
rollers in order to drive ticket blanks 50.
Rollers 244 and driving belt 246 are disposed substantially in
the center of the width of document guide 248 so as to engage ticket
blanks 50 in an area A (FIG. 2) which is substantially in the center
of the width of ticket blank 50.
Each magnetic read/write station also includes a magnetic head
302 and a pressure pad 304. As best seen in FIGS. 16A and 16B, pressure
pad 304 is mounted to pivot arm 306 which in turn is mounted on
module wall 226 by means of pivot 308. Spring 310 biases pivot arm
306 so that it pivots to urge the pressure pad 304 into contact
with magnetic head 302. The mounting of pressure pad 304 on pivot
arm 306 is via gimbal pin 311. Pressure pad is fixedly mounted around
pin 311, but an end of pin 311 is somewhat loosely mounted in pivot
arm 306 allowing pad 304 a few degrees of movement in any direction.
This arrangement effectively gimbals the pressure pad 304, so that
it provides compliance to magnetic head 302 and ticket blanks 50
in more than one direction. Thus when a ticket blank 50 is driven
through a magnetic read/write station, pressure pad 304 contacts
the face of ticket blank 50 urging magnetic stripe 62 carried on
the back of ticket blank 50 into contact with magnetic head 302
for recording of information on or reproducing of information from
magnetic stripe 62.
Referring again to FIGS. 15B and 15C and to FIG. 2, it will be
observed that magnetic head 302 and pressure pad 304 are offset
a distance D along the width of document guide 248 from rollers
244 and drive belt 246. This distance D is sufficiently large so
that the portion of ticket blank 50 bearing stripe 62 is free to
flex independently from the portion of ticket bank 50 that is in
contact with belt 246 and its opposed rollers 244. Pressure pad
304 is therefore able to act on ticket blank 50 so as to achieve
satisfactory contact of magnetic strip 62 with magnetic head 302.
Feed module 152 includes a motor 312 for driving the various ticket
feeding elements of module 152. Driving connections between motor
312 and the ticket feeding elements are not shown.
Module 152 also has a number of sensors 314, arranged at appropriate
locations along feed path 136, for sensing the presence of a ticket
50 at the respective location. Connections for carrying signals
between sensors 314 and electric components such as PWBs 282 and
284 are not shown.
As will be understood by those skilled in the art, feed modules
150 and 154, which are shown schematically in FIG. 6, have drive
motors, ticket feeding elements such as pairs of opposed rollers
or drive belts with opposed rollers, driving connections between
the motors and the feeding elements, ticket position sensors, and
so forth. For the most part, these elements are not shown in FIG.
The electronic components of printer 44 will now be described in
more detail, with reference to FIGS. 7 and 17.
As previously mentioned with respect to FIG. 7, printer 44 includes
a mother board 196 which has a plurality of slots (for example,
five slots). Slots 195 will accept PC/AT compatible printed circuit
boards. Mother board 196 is arranged to provide interconnections
among boards installed in slots 195, and between such boards and
the feed modules, the print engine and other components of printer
44. Mother board 196 also includes non-volatile memory which may,
for example, comprise 2K bytes of static RAM backed up with a lithium
battery. As shown in FIGS. 7 and 17 a PC/AT card 192 and a printer
electronics board 194 are installed in respective slots 195. Installed
in another slot 195 is a special purpose peripheral card 340 such
as a fax card, a LAN card or WAN card. Card 340 is compatible with
the PC/AT standard bus (known as an "ISA" bus).
PC/AT card 192 may be specially designed for multi-microcomputer
use, or may be a conventional 386SX PC/AT plug-in card that includes
an Intel 80386SX microprocessor, an Intel 80387SX numeric coprocessor,
8 megabytes of DRAM, a BIOS EPROM, battery-backed-up 32K.times.8
SRAM, an expansion card with VGA and two RS-232 ports, a PC/AT chip
set (such as that available from VLSI Technology known as the "Scamp"
chip set that includes a model VL82C311 system controller and bus
controller chip, and a model VL82C106 combo interface chip that
includes two VL16C450 UARTS), a parallel printer interface, a Keyboard/mouse
controller and a real time clock, a model WD37C65C floppy disk subsystem
controller chip (available from Western Digital), and suitable bus
connections between components of the PC/AT card.
If PC/AT card 192 is of the specially-designed type mentioned above,
it may also include a bus-tie strap/connector 341 to eliminate bus
contention when multiple microcomputer boards are in use on the
same physical bus. This bus-tie strap/connector arrangement also
accommodates a daughter board 339, which contains an optional VGA
video subsystem and two additional serial ports. The daughter board
339 permits a complete PC/AT type microcomputer to fit into a single
card slot 195, so that other slots are not required for video or
additional serial ports.
PC/AT card 192 is connected to a terminal 40, which includes a
display 342 and keyboard 346. Appropriate cabling connects keyboard
346 to PC/AT card 192, and another cable connects display 342 to
daughter board 339. Terminal 40 may be used to control operation
of, and exchange data with, printer 44.
PC/AT card 192 may also connected to a page printer 343, which
it controls. PC/AT card 192 is also connected to, and controls,
floppy disk drive 198 and a hard disk drive 344. One or more additional
PC/AT cards 192' and terminals 40' (shown in phantom in FIG. 17)
may be connected to printer 44 via remaining slots 195, so that
a single printer 44 can easily be shared by several terminals 40.
As shown in FIG. 17, printer electronics board 194 includes an
executive processor (EP) section 350, a print engine control (PEC)
section 352 and a print engine control I/O (PEC I/O) section 354.
EP 350 has a bi-directional data path connection via mother board
196 with PC/AT card 192, and serves as a communication link between
printer 44 and PC/AT card 192. EP 350 preferably includes an Intel
80188 processor, 128K bytes of EPROM and 128K bytes of DRAM with
hardware refresh. At least some non-volatile memory located on mother
board 196 is addressable by EP 350, for internal storage of configuration
parameters and error information.
PEC 352 preferably includes an Intel 80188 processor, 1 Mbyte of
DRAM and a 64K ROM (or EPROM) for storing executable code, fonts
and graphic images. PEC I/O 354 handles interchange of data between
EP 350 and PEC 352. Additional executable code fonts and graphics
may be downloaded for storage and use in PEC 352.
PEC 352 is connected to print engine 138 and controls the print
head of print engine 138 to print graphics and bit mapped pixel
images corresponding to data (in ASCII form, for example) received
from EP 350.
Executive processor 350 is connected to serial party-line bus (PLB)
356 which is preferably a Phillips I.sup.2 C bus. Executive processor
350 is connected through PLB 356 to the following the electronic
components of printer 44: reinsert control electronics module 358;
magnetic read/write control module 359; ticket movement electronics
module 360; front panel electronics module 362; and drum motor controller
Magnetic read/write control module 359 includes a Phillips 8XC552
microcontroller connected to an internal ROM and an external RAM.
The microcontroller is in communication with EP 350 via PLB 356
and controls read and write operations of magnetic heads 302 of
stations 140, 144 and 148.
Ticket movement module 360 includes a Phillips 8XC552 microcontroller
with an internal ROM and RAM. This microcontroller controls all
the drive motors for ticket feeding, including motors for picking
tickets from cassettes 130 and 132. The same controller also receives
signals from the various sensors that sense the presence of cassettes
130 and 132 or that sense presence of tickets in, or passage of
tickets through, various parts of the ticket feed paths. This controller
also is in communication with EP 350 via PLB 356.
Reinsert control module 358 is identical to module 360 in terms
of hardware, but preferably has stored control software that is
somewhat different from module 360's software.
Front panel electronics module 362 handles the input and output
devices contained in the upper portion 104 of printer 44's front
panel. Module 362 controls a solenoid that causes diversion of tickets
to escrow bin 158 and also receives signals from sensors that indicate
whether tickets have been properly ejected from printer 44 and whether
the escrow bin 158 or an external storage bin (not shown) is full.
(Use of an external storage bin with a ticket printer is well known
and is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,393, cited above.) Module
362 also receives signals that indicate whether doors of cabinet
100 are closed and locked, whether an external storage bin is present
and plugged into printer 44 and whether there is a ticket jam at
an exit point from printer 44. Module 362 also controls motors for
ejecting tickets from printer 44.
Module 362 is in communication via PLB 356 with EP 350 and preferably
includes a microcontroller of the 8051 family.
Module 362 is connected to a socket 363 (see also FIG. 5) through
which external devices may be directly connected to PLB 356. Module
362 is also adapted to be connected to the electronics module of
an external storage bin (not shown).
Drum motor controller 364 includes a microprocessor that communicates
with EP 350 over PLB 356. Controller 364 is connected to print engine
138 and receives encoder signals that indicate the speed of the
drum motor of print engine 138. Controller 364 is suitably connected
to control the drum motor's speed and is also interfaced to a heater
(if a thermal print engine is used) so as to control the drum temperature.
EP 350 is also connected by PLB 356 to control diagnostic circuitry
of print engine 138.
While printer 44 is operable with only a single PC/AT card 192
installed in one of slots 195 to act as a front-end and console
processor for printer 44, the specially-designed card 192 described
above is such that several cards 192 may be installed in slots 195
for connection to a standard PC/AT (ISA) bus for independent and
An important part of the design of the specially-designed cards
192 is the above-mentioned bus-tie strap 341 which allows cards
192 to be connected to the bus as masters controlling peripheral
cards plugged into the bus. The bus-tie strap can be removed from
a card 192, permitting the card 192 to operate independently and
simultaneously with other cards connected to the bus without interference
In a preferred mode of operating printer 44, one PC/AT card 192
installed in a slot 195 serves as a system front-end or "master"
processor, and has its bus-tie strap in place. Master PC/AT card
192 communicates with EP 350 through the ISA bus to control printer
data streams and functions. (It will be understood that EP 350 is
interfaced to the bus as an ISA peripheral board.) Master PC/AT
card 192 also exchanges data with other peripheral cards for receiving
host data, accessing disk drives, etc.
Other PC/AT cards 192 are installed in respective slots 195 but
have their bus-tie straps removed to allow them to operate independently
for providing console and PC functions to additional users. Each
of the other cards 192 communicates with master PC/AT card 192 via
RS232 serial ports, with the master PC/AT card 192 concentrating
print data streams, buffering the data, and metering the data out
to EP 350.
Preferably each card 192 has non-volatile (e.g. battery-backed-up)
RAM on-board, for the purpose of preserving host data between the
time it was received and the time of printing. In the event of a
power outage, the data stream is thus preserved for resumption of
printing when power is restored. This permits complete accounting
for ticket blanks 50, which as noted before are to be strictly controlled.
MAGNETIC READ/WRITE OPERATIONS
Reading of information from, and writing of information upon, magnetic
stripes 62 of ticket blanks 50 will now be described with reference
to FIGS. 18A-18D.
Upon commencing a form feeding operation, it is first determined
(step 1000) whether ticket blanks have been pre-staged to staging
points 134 and 135. If not, a ticket blank is pre-staged to each
staging point at which a ticket blank is not present (step 1002).
Following step 1002, or directly following step 1000, as the case
may be, is step 1004, at which it is determined whether the form
to be fed is one of the type stored in the primary bin (i.e. cassette
132). If not, a ticket blank is fed from staging point 135 (step
1006). Otherwise, a ticket blank is fed from staging point 134 (step
Following either step 1006 or step 1008, as the case may be, is
step 1010, at which it is determined whether a stock control number
(SCN) or other pre-encoded information is to be read from the ticket
blank. If so, step 1012 follows at which the SCN or other information
is read at the first read/write station (i.e. station 140). Following
step 1012 is step 1014 at which it is determined whether the sensor
(not shown) for the appropriate staging point is clear. In other
words, a test is made to determine whether proper feeding to station
140 occurred. If not, an alarm is sounded (step 1016) and the feed
routine ends to permit jam clearance, etc.
If the sensor was found to be clear at step 1014, then step 1018
follows, at which a blank from the appropriate cassette 130 or 132,
as the case may be, is fed to the staging point from which a ticket
blank has just been fed to station 140.
After step 1018 is step 1020, at which it is determined whether
the reading of the SCN was successfully performed. If not, step
1021 follows, in which an alarm is sounded and the ticket is fed
into escrow bin 158. The routine then ends. Alternately, at step
1021 the ticket may be fed to print engine 138 where "VOID"
or a similar marking is printed on the ticket.
If at step 1020 it is found that the SCN was successfully read,
step 1022 follows step 1020. At step 1022 it is determined whether
information is to be written into the magnetic stripe 62 of the
ticket blank which has just been read at read/write station 140.
If so, the information is encoded and verified at the second station,
i.e. station 148 (step 1024).
Following step 1024 is step 1026, at which it is determined whether
the encoding of information successfully occurred at step 1024.
If not, step 1028 follows, at which it is determined whether this
was the third attempt to write information into the current ticket
form. If so, an alarm is sounded (step 1030) and the routine ends
to permit remedial action by the operator. Otherwise, step 1032
follows step 1028. At step 1032 the current ticket form is fed-backward
and then passed again through station 148 in another attempt to
record the information into magnetic stripe 62 (step 1034). Following
step 1034, the routine returns again to step 1026 to determine whether
the additional attempt was successful.
Again considering step 1026, if successful writing of information
is found at that step, the routine proceeds to step 1036, at which
the card is advanced through the feed path to print engine 138 and
information is printed on the ticket form.
From step 1036 the routine proceeds to step 1038 at which it is
determined whether the ticket just printed is the last one to be
fed. If so, the feed routine ends. Otherwise, the routine proceeds
to step 1040 to initiate an additional ticket form feed and print
cycle. Thus after step 1040 the routine proceeds to step 1004 as
Returning again to consideration of step 1010, if at that step
it was determined that SCN or other information was not to be read
from the current ticket form, then the routine proceeds from step
1010 to step 1042, at which it is determined whether data is to
be written into magnetic stripe 62 of the current ticket form. If
not, the routine proceeds to step 1036, which was described above.
Otherwise, the routine proceeds to step 1044, at which information
is written by read/write station 140 onto magnetic stripe 62 of
the current card.
Following step 1044 is step 1046, at which it is determined whether
the staging point from which the ticket has just been fed is clear.
If not, an alarm is sounded (step 1048) and the feed routine ends
to permit jam clearance, etc. Otherwise, step 1050 follows step
1046. At step 1050 another ticket blank is fed from cassette 130
or 132, as the case may be, to refill the staging point from which
the current ticket blank was just fed. Following step 1050 is step
1052, at which it is determined whether the write operation performed
at step 1044 was successful. If not, the routine proceeds to step
1024, described above, so that writing can be attempted at read/write
station 148. If at step 1052 the write operation at 1044 was found
to be successful, then the routine proceeds to step 1036, also described
above, for printing of the present ticket form.
REINSERTION OF OLD TICKETS
There will now be described, with reference to FIG. 19, a procedure
in which a ticket is reinserted into printer 44.
The procedure begins with step 1100, in which a ticket is fed into
printer 44 via reinsertion slot 112 (FIGS. 5 and 6). The ticket
may be, for example, a ticket which has just been printed but on
which an error has been found, or may be one that a customer is
returning for credit. The reinserted ticket will sometimes be referred
to as the "old ticket".
Returning to FIG. 19, step 1102 follows step 1100. At step 1102,
the old ticket is fed along feed path 142 past magnetic read/write
station 144. Information recorded on the magnetic strip of the old
ticket is then read (step 1104). Following step 1104 is step 1106,
at which it is determined whether the reading operation of step
1104 was successful.
If so, step 1107 follows, at which it is determined whether data
recorded on the ticket is valid (i.e. contains proper codes, has
not been tampered with, etc.). If the ticket is valid, step 1108
follows, at which it determined whether an overprinting operation
is to be carried out in the old ticket. If so, new information,
such as a new flight number and other data, a different seat number,
or other data is printed on the old ticket (step 1109), assuming
that there is available space on the old ticket. Alternatively,
step 1109 may include printing "VOID" or a similar legend
on the old ticket. It will be understood that the overprinting operation
of step 1109 also includes recording of appropriate data on the
old ticket's magnetic stripe.
After overprinting, the old ticket is advanced to outlet 48 for
ejection from the printer 44 (step 1110).
Returning to step 1108, if it is determined at that step that the
old ticket is not to be overprinted, step 1111 follows, during which
the old ticket is fed along feed path 142 and common feed path section
146 to secure holding bin 158 (FIG. 6).
Following step 1111 is step 1112, at which a new ticket is printed
in accordance with the procedure illustrated in FIGS. 18A-18B. The
information read from the old ticket's magnetic strip at step 1104
(FIG. 19) is used in the magnetic recording operation with respect
to the new ticket carried out in accordance with step 1024 (FIG.
18B) or step 1044 (FIG. 18D). Alternatively, or in addition to use
of information read at step 1104 in a magnetic recording operation
(step 1024 or 1044), information read from the old ticket's magnetic
strip at step 1104 may be used in printing the new ticket as per
step 1036 of FIG. 18C. Preferably the information printed and/or
magnetically encoded on the new ticket also includes new information
input via a terminal 40 connected to printer 44.
Again considering step 1107, if a that step the old ticket is not
found to be valid, steps 1111 and 1112, as just described, follow
Returning now to step 1106 of FIG. 19, if it was determined at
that step that the magnetic reading operation of step 1104 was not
successful, step 1113 follows step 1106. At step 1113, it is determined
whether reading of the old ticket's magnetic strip is to be attempted
again. If so, step 1114 follows step 1113. At step 1114 the old
ticket is driven in reverse along feed path 142 (FIG. 6), i.e. towards
insertion slot 112, until the old ticket is in a position between
slot 112 and magnetic read/write station 144. Step 1102 and so forth,
as described above, then follow step 1114.
Returning again to step 1113, if it was determined at that step
that reading of the old ticket's magnetic strip was not to be reattempted,
then step 1116 follows step 1113. At step 1116, it is determined
whether the old ticket is to be stored in secure holding or "escrow"
bin 158. If so, the old ticket is fed along feed paths 142 and 146
to escrow bin 158 (step 1118). Otherwise, step 1120 follows step
1116. At step 1120 the old ticket is transported in a reverse direction
along feed path 142 towards and out of insertion slot 112.
It will be recognized that the old ticket may be inserted again
into slot 112 after it has been rejected as per step 1120. One reason
why that might be done, for example, is if the ticket was initially
inserted into slot 112 upside down, or otherwise oriented so that
its magnetic stripe could not be read by the magnetic read/write
station. If a ticket is reinserted, the routine of FIG. 19 is again
It should also be recognized that before or instead of feeding
the old ticket to the escrow bin (as in step 1118), new information
can be recorded on the old ticket's magnetic stripe, either at magnetic
station 148, or, after reversing the old ticket, at station 144.
The above description of the invention is intended to be illustrative
and not limiting. Various changes or modifications in the embodiments
described may occur to those skilled in the art and these can be
made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention.