A desiccant feeder system comprising, a reservoir for desiccant
canisters, means for delivering the canisters through a transfer
tube to at a loading station, means for presenting the open end
of containers one at a time at the loading station, means for circulating
air at high velocity through the tubing including an adjustable
internal ring-shaped nozzle to deliver desiccant canisters from
the reservoir to the loading station, and a shuttle selectively
actuatable to discharge at least one desiccant cannister to the
containers at the loading station.
What is claimed is:
1. A shuttle assembly comprising of a shuttle top block and a bottom
block held in assembled relation by a draw latch, a shuttle slide
mounted for sliding movement in the shuttle bottom block between
a first limit position blocking pneumatic flow of desiccant canisters
through a discharge opening in the shuttle bottom block and a second
limit position wherein the discharge opening is aligned with the
opening in the bottom block to permit discharge of a predetermined
number of desiccant canisters to a container aligned with the discharge
2. A shuttle assembly as claimed in claim 1 wherein the shuttle
slide is cycled between limit positions by a spring bias solenoid.
3. A shuttle assembly as claimed in claim 1 wherein said shuttle
slide comprises as an entrance ramp located below the level of the
top of a discharge opening of said shuttle slide so as the shuttle
slide moves to its first limit position, desiccant canisters in
a stack rest on the ramp and ensure the release of the predetermined
number of canisters when the shuttle slide is activated to its second
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to improvements in desiccant feeder
systems and apparatus.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The prior art patents listed below show bottle unscrambling systems
and apparatus. However, these patent do not teach or suggest the
desiccant feeding system and apparatus of the present invention.
Omega Design Corp. U.S. Pat. No. 5421447
HIGH RATE TRANSFER WHEEL FOR ORIENTING
Issued: Jun. 6 1995
Omega Design Corp. U.S. Pat. No. 4655338
Issued: Apr. 7 1987
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The canister desiccant feeder of the present invention has seven
areas to be monitored for optimum machine performance. They are
reservoir hopper, pre-orienter, air transfer device, desiccant shuttle
system, container handling system, verification system, rejection
station and discharge conveyor.
The hopper supplies desiccant by gravity feed through a "stopper"
valve at the bottom of the reservoir. The stopper valve is actuated
by a connecting rod and lever attached to an air cylinder outboard
of the reservoir. The stopper is cycled open and closed when the
pre-orienter requires desiccants. The cycle time and the movement
of the stopper should not require adjustments during normal operation.
The pre-orienter begins the orienting process by forming a single
column of desiccants and transferring the column to the air transfer
device. A sensor called the pre-orienter sensor controls the quantity
of desiccants in the pre-orienter. This sensor signals the stopper
valve to open and close, hence delivering desiccants to the pre-orienter.
The level of desiccants directly affects the overall operating efficiency
of the pre-orienter.
Sorter discs are used to form a groove or trough in which the desiccants
are columnized. Sorter discs are exchanged at changeovers to form
different size grooves for different size/shape desiccants. Air
jets are used to help position the desiccants properly in the sorter
The air transfer device for the present invention transports the
oriented desiccants from the pre-orienter to the shuttle. The air
transfer device utilizes compressed air to transfer the desiccants.
Upon the exit from the pre-orienter a reducer is coupled to an air
amplifier, which is connected to a discharge tube and the desiccant
transfer tubing. Slots milled into the tubing regulate the fill
height of the desiccants to a determined height and once the slots
are blocked then the back pressure in the tubing will not allow
the transfer of any more desiccants. A sensor is mounted to confirm
the presence of desiccants within the tube. If the eye acknowledges
absence of desiccants, then the container handling system is stopped.
The desiccant shuttle system consists of a main housing (top and
bottom block), a linear electronic solenoid, a spring and a desiccant
transfer block. The desiccants are supplied to the shuttle by the
aforementioned transfer device and then are available for dispensing.
The shuttle is in a non-active (retracted) state and the proper
quantity of desiccants are stopped by a ridge on the bottom block
and allowed to stack. The desiccants will remain in this configuration
until activation. The activation is provided through a gate eye
sensor, which signals the linear solenoid to activate. Desiccants
are then moved within the transfer block to a position where the
desiccants can exit the transfer block into the bottle below. Exit
from the transfer block is assisted by an air nozzle to achieve
higher speed. The transfer block is maintained in its extended position
for a determined period of time. Next, the linear solenoid is deactivated
and a spring returns the transfer block to its original position.
Desiccants are dispensed into the bottles at a predetermined speed
which is dependent upon the neck of the bottle. In accordance with
the verification system of the present invention, the eye verifies
if a desiccant has been inserted into the bottle. The eye is mounted
under the bottle in the container handling system and senses through
the bottle for the desiccant. The system also includes a leading
edge eye sensor and a trailing edge eye sensor. The leading edge
eye determines when a bottle is entering the verification area and
the trailing edge eye determines when it is leaving the area. If
a desiccant is not detected, then the bottle is rejected at the
rejection station. The rejection station rejects the bottle via
an air jet into a bin.
In accordance with the discharge conveyor of the present invention,
the discharge conveyor's tabletop chain speed should be adjusted
to provide a smooth transfer of containers through the system. A
sensor called the backlog sensor monitors the conveyor discharge
conditions at the edge of the canister desiccant feeder. Should
the conveyor backlog or overload, the backlog sensor will signal
the entire canister desiccant feeder to pause. Once the blockage
has cleared, the machine will automatically restart. Minor adjustments
to the timer settings of the sensor may be required to compensate
for actual in-plant operations, conveyor velocities and container
sizes and shapes.
The system of the present invention has many features. They include
the fact that the system may be mounted on an adjustable free-standing
mobile frame which can be easily moved into and over existing conveyor
systems. The system is fully automatic and provides on demand operation
with discharge backlog detection. The system is adaptable to a ten
gallon unit mounted floor-level hopper with vertical elevator to
minimize floor space requirements. The system is provided with a
desiccant drop verification and is fully guarded with interlocks.
The system does not require changing the parts for different sized
bottles or containers and provides positive container control through
variable speed side belts with shaft encoder to track container
speeds. The system and apparatus of the present invention also has
a container reject for missing desiccant with reject verification.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other objects of the present invention and various features
and details of the operation and construction thereof are hereinafter
more fully set forth with reference to the accompanying drawings,
FIG. 1 is a schematic side elevational view showing a system for
delivering a continuous stream of desiccant canisters to a shuttle
system, the shuttle discharging single or multiple desiccant canisters
into individual containers carried at high speed on a bottle unscrambling
FIG. 2 is a schematic plan view of FIG. 1 showing the desiccant
reservoir and pre-orienter, air transfer device, desiccant transfer
tubing, shuttle assembly, bottle unscrambling turret, conveyor,
rejection station and sensor locations.
FIG. 2A is a side elevational view partially in section showing
a typical bottle having a desiccant canister contained therein.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional side elevational view
taken on the line 33 of FIG. 2 showing details of the air transfer
device and a portion of the pre-orienter.
FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary side elevational view of the
detail contained within the dot and dash line shown in FIG. 3 and
designated in FIG. 4.
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary side elevational sectional view taken on
the line 55 of FIG. 2 showing details of the shuttle assembly with
its shuttle block in the forward or desiccant discharge position.
FIG. 6 is a fragmentary side elevational view similar to FIG. 5
showing the shuttle block in the retracted or desiccant loading
FIG. 7 is an isometric view of the shuttle original slide-design.
FIG. 8 is a sectional plan view taken on the line 88 of FIG. 5
showing additional details of the shuttle assembly.
FIG. 9 is a schematic side elevational sectional view taken on
the line 99 of FIG. 2 showing how the bottles carried in the pocket
assemblies of the bottle unscrambler have their bottom faces all
raised to a common plane by means of a ramp prior to passing over
a sensor so that the presence of a desiccant canister in each bottle
may be determined.
FIG. 10 is a schematic fragmentary side elevational view showing
a conveyor modification wherein a portion is broken away and in
section to show certain details of construction.
FIG. 11 is a plan view of FIG. 10.
FIG. 12a is a perspective view of a shuttle modification in accordance
with the present invention.
FIG. 12b is a top plan view of the modified shuttle slide.
FIG. 13a is a perspective view of a modified shuttle bottom block.
FIG. 13b is a top plan view of the shuttle block.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Referring now to the drawings and particularly to FIGS. 1 and 2
thereof, there is shown a system and apparatus for delivering desiccant
canisters (C) and depositing predetermined preselected canisters
in a container or bottle (B) in a continuous assembly line fashion.
The desiccant feeding and loading system is shown in association
with a bottle unscrambler, generally of the type shown in U.S. Pat.
No. 4655338 entitled, BOTTLE UNSCRAMBLER, which issued Apr. 7
1987 and is owned by Omega Design Corp., assignee of the present
application. The bottle orienting system comprises a rotating turret
(10) having a plurality of pocket assemblies (12) disposed at equi-spaced
locations circumferentially around the turret (10). The bottles
(B) are fed into a feeding station (S.sub.f) in either a top down
or top up condition and as they are rotated by the turret (10),
they are oriented to a top up position at a desiccant feeding and
loading station (S.sub.d) where desiccant canisters (C) are discharged,
for example, one to a bottle (B) and then delivered to a discharge
The basic elements of the desiccant feeder system include a reservoir
(30) wherein desiccant canisters (C) are fed in random fashion and
are delivered to a pre-orienter (32) which orients the canisters
(C) single file, end to end, for delivery to an infeed tube (34)
of an air transfer device (36). The air transfer device (36) releases
a predetermined amount of compressed air at high velocity through
an internal ring-shape nozzle to drive the desiccant canisters (C)
through desiccant transfer tubing (T.sub.d)connecting the air transfer
device (36) to a desiccant shuttle assembly (50) at the desiccant
feeding and loading station (S.sub.d). As explained in more detail
hereafter, the air released through the nozzle creates a strong
vacuum drawing additional ambient air through the infeed tube (34)
and pulling additional surrounding air through the rear of the air
transfer device while pushing the ambient air in front. This creates
a very efficient delivery system at relatively low air pressures,
in the order of 10 psi.
The desiccant delivery station (S.sub.d), as best illustrated in
FIGS. 1 and 5 includes a shuttle assembly (50), which in the present
instance, is mounted on an upstanding support frame (53) so that
it may be selectively adjusted in a vertical direction for ease
of aligning the shuttle assembly (50) with respect to the bottle
unscrambler turret (10). The shuttle assembly (50) is of relatively
simplified construction and comprises a top block (52) and a bottom
block (54) which are held in assembled relation by a draw latch
(56). A shuttle slide (60) having a discharge opening (62) is mounted
for sliding movement in the shuttle bottom block (54) between a
first limit or rest position (FIG. 6) blocking flow of desiccant
canisters (C) through the discharge opening (63) in the shuttle
bottom block (54). In this position, the discharge opening (62)
is aligned with the stack of desiccants in the accumulator tube
(66). A second discharge limit position (FIG. 5) wherein the discharge
opening (62) is aligned with the opening in the bottom block (63),
thus permitting discharge of a single canister (C) to a bottle (B).
The shuttle slide (60) is cycled between the limit positions by
a spring biased solenoid (67) having a rod (68) connected to the
shuttle slide (60) and a conventional extension spring (70) normally
biasing the shuttle slide (60) to its second blocking limit position
(FIG. 6). When the solenoid is energized, it moves the shuttle slide
(60) to the discharge limit position (FIG. 5). The shuttle top block
(52) mounts a fitting (72) connected through a line (74) to the
pressurized air supply to direct air through an internal channel
(76) and propel desiccant canisters (C) directly into the bottle
(B) in the manner shown in FIG. 5.
The shuttle slide (60) has an entrance ramp (61) cut below the
level of the top of the discharge opening (62) so that as the shuttle
slide (60) is moved to its first limit position, the desiccant canisters
(C) in the stack rest on the ramp and ensure the release of a predetermined
number of canisters (C) in the manner shown and described.
Conventional sensors operatively connected to various components
of the system are provided for synchronizing the feed and delivery
of the desiccants to the open containers as they are moved at a
constant speed through the desiccant discharge and feeding station
(S.sub.d). To this end, a so-called gate sensor (80) is disposed
in the path of the pocket assemblies and is operatively connected
to the shuttle slide (60), solenoid (67) so that if it senses a
pocket assembly coming into the station as having a bottle (B),
then it activates the solenoid (67) to cycle the shuttle slide (60)
to feed a desiccant canister (C) to the bottle (B). If the pocket
assembly entering the station is not loaded with a bottle (B), the
gate eye sensor (80) does not activate the solenoid (67).
Downstream of the desiccant loading and feeding station (S.sub.d)
is a verification sensor (90) which is mounted in an upwardly inclined
ramp (92). The leading edge sensor (94) and trailing edge sensor
(96) in cooperation with the verification sensor (90) are operatively
connected to a reject mechanism (100) so that bottles (B) passing
through the station without a desiccant canister (C) are discharged
from the conveyor at the rejection station (S.sub.r).
In some instances, it is desired to feed two desiccant canisters
(C) to each bottle (B). In this instance, the system can be easily
modified to accommodate feeding two at a time. The shuttle block
bottom assembly is simply removed and replaced with one wherein
the shuttle slide (60) has a discharge opening twice the height
of a desiccant canister. To do this, the draw latch and hinge are
simply disengaged. Then, the new bottom block assembly can be mounted
and in all other respects operates the same as in the manner described
Considering now the air transfer assembly, the construction and
details thereof are best shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. As shown therein,
air transfer assembly comprises an air amplifier infeed tube (120)
having a central bore (123) of a diameter (D) slightly larger than
the diameter (D.sub.1) of the desiccant canisters (C) and has an
enlarged inner end (121) terminating at a circumferentially extending
frusto-conical face (122) which is stepped as at 124 at it inner
terminal end to define a circumferentially extending air inlet chamber
(126). The assembly further includes an elongated tubular air amplifier
throat member (130) having a frusto-conical face (132) complementing
and confronting the frusto-conical face (122) of the air amplifier
infeed tube. The air amplifier throat member (130) and air amplifier
infeed tube (120) are held in the abutting relationship shown in
FIG. 3 by a nozzle reducer (140). The assembly further includes
an amplifier discharge tube (142) having an outwardly diverging
flared inner face (142.sub.a) adjacent its inner end which confronts
the air amplifier infeed tube (120) and which serves as a pilot
section directing the desiccant canisters (C) to the discharge tube
in the manner shown in FIG. 3. An intermediate sleeve (146) is mounted
on the inner end of the amplifier discharge tube (142) and has external
threads which mate with threads on the air amplifier throat (130).
A nut (150) is used to secure the parts in place in the manner
shown in FIG. 3. The sleeve (146) has a annular undercut at its
inner end defining an air chamber (152). A fitting (153) connects
the air chamber (152) to a pressurized air supply (S.sub.a). The
flexible tube (T.sub.d) as illustrated is connected at its inner
end to the air amplifier discharge tube (142). As shown by the arrows,
pressurized air from a source enters the fitting and flows into
the annular chamber (152) and from there the air is directed inwardly
through the annular chamber (124) to the bore of the amplifier discharge
tube. This arrangement creates a vacuum, thereby pulling additional
air from the ambient environment through the amplifier infeed tube
(34) as shown by the arrows designated X.
Consider briefly, the operation of the system and apparatus as
described. Desiccant canisters (C) flow from the reservoir (30)
to the pre-orienter (32) and into the amplifier infeed tube (34)
where they arrive in an end to end configuration. This tube as shown
has a diameter slightly larger than the diameter of the canisters
(C) so that they accumulate in the air infeed tube in an end to
end array. Pressurized air drives the canisters (C) through the
desiccant transfer tubing (T.sub.d) and deliver the canisters (C)
to the accumulator tube (66) at the desiccant loading station (S.sub.d).
An opening is provided in the tubing and accumulation tube at points
154 and 156 (as shown in FIG. 5). The transfer assembly will continue
to automatically feed desiccant canisters (C) through the system
until the supply of desiccant canisters in the accumulator tube
(66) reaches the upper limit at 156. At such point, back pressure
within the transfer tubing (T.sub.d) will prevent the transfer of
desiccants. When the level of desiccant canister (C) falls below
the lower limit (154), the bottle handling machine is stopped. If
this condition lasts longer than the predetermined time, an alarm
is triggered. The tubing is preferably of a fluorinated ethylene
propylene (FEP) which is available under the trade name Chemfluor.
There is shown in FIGS. 10 and 11 a conveyor modification where
it may be desired to locate the desiccant feeding and loading system
of the present invention along the path of a conveyor rather than
in association with the bottle unscrambler as described above. In
this instance, the downflex conveyor section shown in FIGS. 10 and
11 is simply placed in the location desired for sensing bottles
(B) and the desiccant loading station is appropriately positioned
upstream of the downflex conveyor section. As illustrated, the conveyor
belt (159) is diverted downwardly by a suitable modification and
three sensors (160) are located across the width of the conveyor
for sensing whether bottles (B) moving through this section of the
conveyor are filled with the appropriate desiccant canister. The
drive system for moving bottles (B) through the sensor station includes
a series of rollers (158) and belts (159) and a suitable drive motor
(164) for advancing the bottles (B) moving on the conveyor in the
direction indicated through the sensing station.
It is shown in FIGS. 12a-13b, inclusive, a modified form of shuttle
assembly in accordance with the present invention which is generally
similar in construction of the arrangement to that described previously
except the slide is generally rectangular rather than rounded at
its front and rear end. Accordingly, similar reference numerals
have been assigned with the subscript "A".
It has been found that this form of the shuttle assembly is easier
and more economical to manufacture.
Even though particular embodiments of the present invention have
been illustrated and described herein, it is not intended to limit
the invention and changes and modifications may be made therein
within the scope of the following claims.