EP2771263A1 - Packaging system, machine and transfer apparatus and method - Google Patents

Packaging system, machine and transfer apparatus and method

Info

Publication number
EP2771263A1
EP2771263A1 EP12791340.8A EP12791340A EP2771263A1 EP 2771263 A1 EP2771263 A1 EP 2771263A1 EP 12791340 A EP12791340 A EP 12791340A EP 2771263 A1 EP2771263 A1 EP 2771263A1
Authority
EP
European Patent Office
Prior art keywords
packaging
conveyor
articles
forward
bypass
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Withdrawn
Application number
EP12791340.8A
Other languages
German (de)
French (fr)
Inventor
Jean-Christophe Bonnain
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
WestRock Packaging Systems LLC
Original Assignee
WestRock Packaging Systems LLC
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to GB201118710A priority Critical patent/GB201118710D0/en
Application filed by WestRock Packaging Systems LLC filed Critical WestRock Packaging Systems LLC
Priority to PCT/US2012/062341 priority patent/WO2013115862A1/en
Publication of EP2771263A1 publication Critical patent/EP2771263A1/en
Application status is Withdrawn legal-status Critical

Links

Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B59/00Arrangements to enable machines to handle articles of different sizes, to produce packages of different sizes, to vary the contents of packages or to give access for cleaning or maintenance purposes
    • B65B59/02Arrangements to enable adjustments to be made while the machine is running
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B59/00Arrangements to enable machines to handle articles of different sizes, to produce packages of different sizes, to vary the contents of packages or to give access for cleaning or maintenance purposes
    • B65B59/005Adjustable conveying means
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B65/00Details peculiar to packaging machines and not otherwise provided for; Arrangements of such details
    • B65B65/003Packaging lines, e.g. general layout
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B65/00Details peculiar to packaging machines and not otherwise provided for; Arrangements of such details
    • B65B65/003Packaging lines, e.g. general layout
    • B65B65/006Multiple parallel packaging lines
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B17/00Other machines, apparatus, or methods for packaging articles or materials
    • B65B17/02Joining articles, e.g. cans, directly to each other for convenience of storage, transport, or handling
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B2210/00Specific aspects of the packaging machine
    • B65B2210/02Plurality of alternative input or output lines or plurality of alternative packaging units on the same packaging line for improving machine flexibility
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B53/00Shrinking wrappers, containers, or container covers during or after packaging
    • B65B53/02Shrinking wrappers, containers, or container covers during or after packaging by heat
    • B65B53/06Shrinking wrappers, containers, or container covers during or after packaging by heat supplied by gases, e.g. hot-air jets
    • B65B53/063Tunnels

Abstract

A packaging system (10) for packaging on or more articles the packaging system comprising two or more devices (14, 16, 20, 24, 32, 34) each for performing at least one packaging operation upon on or more articles, each of the two or more packaging devices being coupled to one another in a linear series by a first conveyor (19), the system comprising at least one bypass conveyor (26, 28) providing a forward bypass path and/or a reverse bypass path for bypassing one or more of the devices in a forward and/or reverse direction, and wherein there comprises one or more transfer switches (18, 22, 30, 36) for transferring one or more articles between the first conveyor and the at least one bypass conveyor.

Description

PACKAGING SYSTEM, MACHINE AND TRANSFER APPARATUS AND METHOD

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a packaging system, packaging machine for packaging articles a transfer apparatus and method of packaging articles, more specifically, but not exclusively to a packaging machine comprising at least two packaging operations performed in a sequence upon one or more articles in which the sequence of the packaging operations is adjustable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In the field of packaging it is often required to provide consumers with a package comprising multiple primary product containers, such multi-packs are desirable for shipping and distribution and for display of promotional information. For cost and environmental considerations, such cartons or carriers need to be formed from as little material as possible and cause as little wastage in the materials from which they are formed as possible. Another consideration is the strength of the packaging and its suitability for holding and transporting large weights of articles.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a versatile packaging system capable of producing multiple different packaging configurations, and to enable multiple packaging operations to be performed upon the primary product containers and the sequence in which the packaging operation are performed to be changed.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The present invention seeks to overcome or at least mitigate the problems of the prior art.

There is provided a packaging machine which is capable of packaging two or more different styles of packaging, including different carton types, for example trays, wrap around carriers, basket carrier, top gripping clips and fully enclosed cartons; some packages may require application of a shrink wrap.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a packaging system which can package the primary product container hereinafter referred to as articles; preferably the articles are arranged in groups of multiple articles. The groups of articles are packaged in a secondary package and the secondary articles may be placed in a tertiary package, the tertiary package may comprise a group of one or more secondary packages. In embodiments of the invention the packaging machine places the primary product containers directly in the tertiary package; optionally the primary products may be shrink wrapped, wrapped in a shrinkable material (for example by application of heat), before placement in the tertiary package. In some embodiments shrink wrap may be applied to groups or stacks of the secondary packages or tertiary packages.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a packaging system for packaging one or more articles the packaging system comprising two or more devices each for performing at least one packaging operation upon one or more articles, each of the two or more packaging devices being coupled to one another in a linear series by a first conveyor, the system comprising at least one bypass conveyor providing a forward bypass path and/or a reverse bypass path for bypassing one or more of the devices in either a forward and/or a reverse direction, and wherein there comprises one or more transfer switches for transferring one or more articles between the first conveyor and the at least one bypass conveyor.

Preferably, there is a transfer switch provided at the input and output of one or more of the packaging devices.

Preferably, the packaging system comprises an input end and an output end, the system having multiple paths between the input and output ends and there comprises a controller for controlling the path articles take between the input and output.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a packaging machine for packaging articles the packaging machine comprising a plurality of packaging devices arranged to perform a plurality packaging operaiions in a sequence, the packaging machine comprising at least one bypass conveyor for conveying articles in a forward and reverse direction so as to avoid one or more of the packaging devices such that the sequence of packaging operations performed upon the articles can be changed.

Preferably, one or more articles may be conveyed in the packaging machine such that one or more of the packaging operations can be omitted by bypassing the respective packaging device.

Preferably , one or more articles may be conveyed in the packaging machine such that one or more of the packaging operations can be repeated by returning the articles to an input end of the respective packaging device. According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a transfer device for changing an article's path through a packaging machine the transfer mechanism comprising a first section for transferring articles to and from a first conveyor and a second section for transferring articles to and from a second conveyor wherein the transfer device comprises a plurality of loading platforms disposed upon a conveyor mechanism having an endless path, the platforms being arranged to convey articles on both the forward and return paths of the conveyor.

Preferably, the second section is moveable between a first position and a second position such that articles can be transferred between the second section and either of the first and second conveyors.

Preferably, the first position is at a first elevation and the second position is disposed at a second elevation.

Preferably, the platforms are conveyed at a velocity matching that of the first or second conveyor in either the first or second section thereof

Preferably, the platforms comprise a loading surface which is disposed uppermost in both the forward and return paths of the conveyor mechanism.

Preferably, articles may be transferred to and from the return path of the conveyor mechanism.

Preferably, a forward path of one of the first or second sections is disposed at substantially the same elevation as a loading surface of a forward conveyor and a return path of the same section is disposed at substantially the same elevation as a loading surface of a re verse conveyor.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of packaging articles comprising providing a packaging machine having a plurali ty of packaging devices each for performing at least one packaging operation, the packaging devices being coupled to one another by a first conveyor for conveying one or more articles between the packaging devices, the packaging machine comprising at least one bypass conveyor for bypassing at least one packaging device in a forward direction and/or in a reverse direction, the method comprising; selecting the sequence of packaging operations to be performed upon one or more articles, transferring the one or more articles between the first conveyor and the at least one bypass conveyor so as to convey the one or more articles to the one or more packaging devices in an order such that the packaging operations are performed in the selected sequence. Within the scope of this application it is envisaged that the various aspects, embodiments, examples, features and alternatives set out in the preceding paragraphs, in the claims and/or in the following description and drawings may be taken independently or in any combination thereof. For example, features described in connection with one embodiment are applicable to all embodiments unless there is incompatibility of features.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGURE 1 is a perspective view from above of a packaging system according to a first embodiment of tire invention;

FIGURE 2 is a plan view from above of the packaging system of Figure 1 ;

FIGURE 3a is a plan view from above of the packaging system of Figure 1 in a first mode of operation;

FIGURE 3b is a plan view from above of the packaging system of Figure 1 in a second mode of operation;

FIGURE 3c is a plan view from above of the packaging system of Figure 1 in a third mode of operation;

FIGURE 4 is a perspective view from above of a packaging system according to a second embodiment of tire invention;

FIGURE 5 is a perspective view from above of a packaging system according to a third embodiment of the invention;

FIGURE 6 is a side view of the packaging system of Figure 5;

FIGURE 7 is a perspective view from above of a transfer device according to the third embodiment of Figure 6;

FIGURE 8 is a perspective view from above of a transfer device according to a fourth embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGURE 9 is a perspective view from above of the transfer device of Figure 8 in a second mode of operation.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Detailed descriptions of specific embodiments of the package, blanks and cartons are disclosed herein. It will be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely examples of the way in which certain aspects of the invention can he implemented and do not represent an exhaustive list of all of the ways the invention may be embodied, indeed, it will be understood that the packages, blanks and cartons described herein may be embodied in various and alternative forms. The figures are not necessarily to scale and some features may be exaggerated or minimised to show details of particular components. Well-known components, materials or methods are not necessarily described in great detail in order to avoid obscuring the present disclosure. Any specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the invention.

Referring to Figure I there is shown a perspective view of a packaging system 10 capable of accepting an input of primary products, such as, but not limited to, bottles or cans, hereinafter referred to as articles.

Articles are conveyed to an article grouping and metering device 14 upon an input conveyor 12. The article grouping and metering device 14 is coupled to a secondary packaging machine 16 by a first conveyor 19, the article grouping and metering device 14 is also coupled to a forward bypass conveyor 28, best illustrated in Figure 2.

A first transfer mechanism 18 is provided for switching the article processing path, the first transfer mechanism 18 couples the forward bypass conveyor 28 to the first conveyor 19 in the secondary packaging machine 16 and couples a reverse bypass conveyor 26 to the secondary packaging machine 16, in some embodiments the first transfer mechanism 18 couples the forward bypass conveyor 28 to the reverse bypass conveyor 26.

The secondary packaging machine 16 is coupled to a secondary package grouping apparatus 2.0 by the first conveyor 19, the first conveyor 19 couples the secondary package grouping apparatus 20 to a tertiary packaging machine 24.

A second transfer mechanism 18 is provided for changing the article processing path, the second transfer mechanism 18 is couples the first conveyor 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the reverse bypass conveyor 26; the second transfer mechanism 18 is disposed between the secondary package grouping apparatus 20 and the tertiary packaging machine 24.

The tertiary packaging machine 24 is coupled to a shrink wrap application apparatus 32 which in turn is coupled to an oven 34. A third transfer mechanism 30 is provided for changing the article processing path, the third transfer mechanism 30 is couples the first conveyor 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the reverse bypass conveyor 2.6; the third transfer mechanism 30 is disposed between the tertiary packaging machine 24 and the shrink wrap application apparatus 32.

The oven 34 is coupled to a second conveyor 40; a fourth transfer mechanism 36 is provided for changing the article processing path, the fourth transfer mechanism 30 is couples the first conveyor 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the reverse bypass conveyor 26; the fourth transfer mechanism 30 is disposed between the oven 34 and a second conveyor 40 which second conveyor 40 is coupled to a pailetizer (not shown).

Figure 3a illustrates the packaging system 10 in one mode of operation, in this mode the articles, such as bottles or cans, are conveyed on input conveyor 12 to the article grouping and metering device 14 the articles are grouped into groups of any size for example and array of 2x2 articles, then the grouped articles are packaged in a secondary cartons, such as, but not limited to, wraparound cartons, top gripping clips or basket carriers, by the secondary packaging machine 16 to form secondary packages, the secondary packages are grouped by the secondary package grouping mechanism 20, the grouped secondary packages are packaged in tertiary packs, such as, but not limited to. trays, in the tertiary packaging machine 2.4. In one embodiment the tertiary packages are shrink wrapped, preferably in groups, by the shrink wrap apparatus 32. and oven 34 before being conveyed to the pailetizer (not shown) on the output conveyor 40.

In an alternative embodiment the tertiary packages bypass the shrink wrapping operation; the tertiary packages are transferred to the forward bypass conveyor 28 by the third transfer mechanism 30, the tertiary packages are conveyed on the forward bypass conveyor 28 and subsequently by the output conveyor 40 to the pailetizer (not shown), in this way the tertiary packages avoids the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34.

Figure 3b illustrates the packaging system 10 in alternative mode of operation, in this mode the articles, such as bottles or cans, are conveyed on input conveyor 12 from a preceding processing station, such as bottling machine (not shown), to the article grouping and metering device 14 the articles are grouped into groups of any size for example and array of 2x4 articles, then the grouped articles are packaged in a secondary carton, such as, but not limited to, a fully enclosed cartons, by the secondary packaging machine 16 to form secondary packages, the secondary packages are grouped by the secondary package grouping mechanism 20. The grouped secondary packages bypass or avoid the tertiary packaging machine 2.4; the secondary packages are transferred to the forward bypass conveyor 28 by the second transfer mechanism 22 and are conveyed past the tertiary packaging machine 24 on the forward bypass conveyor 28.

In one embodiment the secondary packages are conveyed on the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the output conveyor 40 to the palletizer and also bypass the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and the oven 34. in an alternative embodiment the secondary packages are heat or shrink wrapped, preferably after being stacked in groups, by the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34 before being conveyed to the palletizer on the output conveyor 40. In this embodiment the third transfer mechanism 30 switches the articles back onto the first conveyor 19 from the forward bypass conveyor 28.

Figure 3c illustrates the packaging system in yet another mode of operation, in this mode the articles, such as bottles or cans, are conveyed on input conveyor 12 to the article grouping and metering device 14 the articles may be grouped into groups of any size for example and array of 2x3 articles, then the grouped articles are conveyed from the article grouping and metering device 14 upo the forward bypass conveyor 28 to the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34 where they are shrink wrapped. The articles bypass the secondary packaging machine 16, the secondary package grouping apparatus 20 and the tertiary packaging machine 24. Once the article have passed the secondary packaging machine 16, the secondary package grouping apparatus 20 and the tertiary packaging machine 24 they are transferred from the forward bypass conveyor 28 to the first conveyor 19 by the third transfer mechanism 30.

In one embodiment the shrink wrapped articles are then conveyed upon the reverse bypass conveyor 26 back to the input of the tertiary packaging machine 24; the shrink wrapped articles are transferred form the first conveyor 19 to the reverse bypass conveyor 26 by the fourth transfer mechanism 36. The shrink wrapped articles are transferred from the reverse bypass conveyor 26 to the first conveyor 19, upstream of the tertiary packaging machine 24, which conveys the articles into the tertiary packaging machine 24, by the second transfer mechanism 22. The tertiary packaging machine 24 applies, or loads the articles into a tertiary package such as,but not limited to, a tray. The tertiary packages are then transferred from the first conveyor 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 28 by the third transfer mechanism 30, The tertiary packages are conveyed on the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the output conveyor 40 to the paf!etizer (not shown), thus the tertiary packages avoid processing by the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34. in an alternative embodiment the shrink wrapped articles are conveyed from the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34 to the input end of the secondary packaging machine 16 on the reverse bypass conveyor 26 bypassing the tertiary packaging machine 24. The shrink wrapped articles are transferred from the reverse bypass conveyor 26 to the secondary packaging machine 16 by the first transfer mechanism 18. The shrink wrapped articles are packaged in secondary cartons to form secondary packages; the secondary packages are grouped together in the secondary package grouping mechanism 20. The grouped secondary- packages are then conveyed upon the first conveyors 19 to the tertiary packaging machine 24. The tertiary packages are then transferred from the first conveyor 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 28 by the third transfer mechanism 30. The tertiary packages are conveyed on the forward bypass conveyor 28 and the output conveyor 40 to the palletizer (not shown) and thus avoid the shrink wrap apparatus 32 and oven 34.

Referring now to Figures 4 to 9, there is shown alternative embodiments of the present invention. In the alternative illustrated embodiment, like numerals have, where possible, been used to denote like parts, albeit with the addition of the prefix "100" or "200" and so on to indicate that these features belong to an alternative embodiment. The alternative embodiments share many common features with the first embodiment and therefore only the differences from the embodiment illustrated in Figures 1 to 3c will be described in any greater detail.

Figure 4 illustrates a perspective view of a packaging system 1 10 capable of accepting an input of articles upon an input conveyor 1 12, the input stream of articles is grouped and metered by an article metering device 1 14. The article metering device 114 is coupled to a secondary packaging machine 116 which places the grouped articles into secondary cartons to form secondary packages. A first conveyor 1 19 couples the secondary packaging machine 116 to a tertiary packaging machine 124. A first transfer mechanism 122 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 110. The first transfer mechanism 122 is disposed between the secondary packaging machine 136 and the tertiary packaging machine 124. The first transfer mechanism 122 couples the first conveyor 1 19 to a forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126. Whereas in the first embodiment the forward bypass conveyor 28 and a reverse bypass conveyor 26 were each disposed alongside the first conveyor 19 and the packaging components forming the packaging system 10 and the forward bypass conveyor 28 and a reverse bypass conveyor 26 were disposed alongside each other, in this embodiment the forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126 are each disposed below the first conveyor 1 19. in the illustrated embodiment the forward bypass conveyor 128 and reverse bypass conveyor 126 are disposed substantially alongside one another, in alternative embodiments it is envisaged that the forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126 may be disposed at different elevations below the first conveyor 1 19 and in some embodimen ts each of the first conveyor 1 19, forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126 may be disposed in substantially vertical registry with one another in other words above and below one another in an over and under configuration.

The forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126 extend beneath the tertiary packaging machine 124 such that articles can bypass the tertiary packaging machine 124 in either direction.

The tertiary packaging machine 124 is coupled to a shrink wrap apparatus 132 and oven 134 by the first conveyor 1 19, the forward bypass conveyor 128 and reverse bypass conveyor 126 extend beneath the shrink wrap apparatus 132 and oven 134 such that articles can bypass the shrink wrap apparatus 132 and oven 134 in either direction.

A second transfer mechanism 130 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 1 10. The second transfer mechanism 130 is disposed between the tertiary packaging machine 124 and the shrink wrap apparatus 132. The second transfer mechanism 130 couples the first conveyor 1 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 128 and the reverse bypass conveyor 126,

A third transfer mechanism 136 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 1 10. The third transfer mechanism 136 is disposed between the oven 134 and an output conveyor 140 which conveys the articles to a palletizer (not shown). The third transfer mechanism 136 couples the first conveyor 1 19 to the forward bypass conveyor 128 and the reverse bypass conveyor 126.

Figure 5 illustrates a perspective vie w of a packaging system 210 capable of accepting an input of articles upon an input conveyor 212, the input stream of articles is grouped and metered by an article metering device 214. The article metering device 214 is coupled to a secondary packaging machine 216 which places the grouped articles into secondary cartons to form secondary packages. A first conveyor 219 couples the secondary packaging machine 216 to a tertiary packaging machine 224. A first transfer mechanism 222 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 210. The first transfer mechanism 222 is disposed between the secondary packaging machine 216 and the tertiary packaging machine 224. The first transfer mechanism 222 couples the first conveyor 219 to a forward bypass conveyor 228 and a reverse bypass conveyor 226. Whereas in the embodiinent of Figure 4 the forward bypass conveyor 128 and a reverse bypass conveyor 126 were each disposed beneath the first conveyor 139 and extended below the packaging components forming the packaging system 110, in this embodiment the forward bypass conveyor 228 and a reverse bypass conveyor 226 are each disposed above the first conveyor 219 and extend over the packaging components forming the packaging system 210. In the illustrated embodiment the forward bypass conveyor 228 and a reverse bypass conveyor 226 are disposed substantially side by side one another at different vertical elevations best illustrated in Figure 6.

The forward bypass conveyor 228 and a reverse bypass conveyor 2.26 extend above the tertiary packaging machine 224 such that articles can bypass the tertiary packaging machine 224 in either direction.

The tertiary packaging machine 224 is coupled to a shrink wrap apparatus 232 and oven 234 by the first conveyor 219, the forward bypass conveyor 228 and a reverse bypass conveyor 226 extend above or over the shrink wrap apparatus 232 and oven 234 such that articles can bypass the shrink wrap apparatus 232 and oven 234 in either direction.

A second transfer mechanism 230 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 210. The second transfer mechanism 230 is disposed between the tertiary packaging machine 224 and the shrink wrap apparatus 232. The second transfer mechanism 230 couples the first conveyor 239 to the forward bypass conveyor 228 and the reverse bypass conveyor 226.

A third transfer mechanism 236 is provided for switching the articles' path through the packaging system 1 10. The third transfer mechanism 236 transfers articles to a packaging conveyor (not shown) which conveys the articles to a palletizer (not shown). The third transfer mechanism 236 couples the first conveyor 219 to the forward bypass conveyor 228 and the reverse bypass conveyor 226.

Figure 7 illustrates an enlarged perspective view of a transfer mechanism; the transfer mechanism illustrated is the first transfer mechanism 222 it is envisaged the second and third transfer mechanisms 230, 236 will be of substantially similar construction. The transfer mechanism 222 is a substantially S or Z shaped conveyor, and comprises a first horizontal portion 250 and a second horizontal portion 252, the second horizontal portion 252 being disposed at a higher elevation than the first horizontal portion 250, the first and second horizontal portions 250, 252 are coupled to one another by a substantially vertical - I I - portion 256. The conveyor comprises multiple platforms 254 each for receiving one or more articles. The platforms 254 are disposed between a pair of endless chains or belts 251. 253, 255, 257. The endless chains or belts 251 , 253, 255, 257are driven by a drive means (not shown) such as an electric motor, preferably a servo motor. The platforms 254 are maintained such that an upper loading surface is maintained substantially horizontal and uppermost throughout the platforms' path upon the forward path F and return path R of the conveyor, in order to maintain the orientation of the platforms 254 throughout the entire cycle of the conveyor each platform 254 is individually coupled to the endless chains or belts 251, 253, 255, 257. Each platform 254 may be coupled to each endless chain 2 1, 253, 255, 257 of the pair by a pair of coupling devices one disposed at a leading portion of the platform 254 and the other disposed at a trailing portion of the platform 254. The coupling device or fixing means may comprise a bolt or clip, coupled such that the platform 254 can rotate or pivot about each coupling point with respect to the chains or belts 251 , 253, 255, 257. In some embodiments the trailing coupling devices are coupled to a second chain 251 , 253 separate to the first chain 255, 257 to which the leading coupling devices are coupled to. The first and second chains 255/257, 251/253 follow different paths when the platforms 254 are changing elevation, the paths of the first and second chains 255/257, 251/253 are parallel to one another such that the platforms 254 remain horizontal when changing height, for example when moving between the forward path F and the return path R of the conveyor or whilst being conveyed upon the vertical portion 256 of the conveyor, in those portions of the conveyor path where the platforms undergo a change in elevation the first and second chains or belts 255/257, 2 1/253 are separated from one another by a distance substantially equal to the distance between the leading and trailing coupling points. In order that the platforms remain horizontal and the upper surface remains the same surface on the forward and return paths F, R, the leading edge of each platform in the forward path becomes the trailing edge of the platform in the return path and vice versa when transitioning from the return path to the forward path.

The forward, upper, path of first horizontal portion 250 of the conveyor is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the forward, upper, path of the first conveyer 219. A pusher or guide mechanism PI is provided to selectively transfer articles from the first conveyor 219 to a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222. In some embodiments the articles may be transferred by a pick and place robot.

The pusher or guide mechanism Pi may be employed to selectively transfer articles from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 to the first conveyor 219; alternatively a separate pusher or guide mechanism may be provided to transfer articles from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 to the first conveyor 219. It is envisaged that articles will be transferred to and from the first conveyor 219 onto or from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 whilst the articles and platforms 254 are being conveyed in the forward direction, as indicated by direction arrow Dl, in the region where the first conveyor 219 is disposed alongside the first horizontal portion 250 of the conveyor.

The forward, upper, path of second horizontal portion 252 of the conveyor is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the upper path of the forward bypass conveyer 228. A pusher or guide mechanism P3 is provided to selectively transfer articles from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 to the forward bypass conveyer 228.

The return, lower, path of second horizontal portion 254 of the conveyor is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the upper path of the reverse bypass conveyer 226. A pusher or guide mechanism P2 is provided to selectively transfer articles from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 to the reverse bypass conveyer 226.

It is envisaged that the first conveyor 219, the transfer mechanism 222 and the forward and reverse bypass conveyors 228, 226 will be matched in speed during transfer of articles between the transfer mechanism 222 and tire conveyors.

Turning now to Figures 8 and 9 there is shown a transfer mechanism 322 according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention. The transfer mechanism 322 comprises a first, input, horizontal section 350 which has a forward reach F which is at substantially the same elevation as the first conveyor 319. A first pusher PI transfers articles from the first conveyor 319 to the first, input, horizontal section 350. A second, output, horizontal section 352 comprises a forward reach F which is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the first conveyor 319 and a second pusher P2 transfers articles from the transfer mechanism 322 to the first conveyor 319 as illustrated in Figure 8. The first, input, horizontal section 350 is coupled to the second, output, horizontal section 352 by a vertical portion 356.

The pusher or guide mechanism PI may be employed to selectively transfer articles from a platform 354 of the transfer mechanism 322 to the first conveyor 319 or alternatively a separate pusher or guide mechanism may be provided to transfer articles from a platform 354 of the transfer mechanism 322 to the first conveyor 319, such that articles may be transferred to and from the first conveyor 219 onto or from a platform 254 of the transfer mechanism 222 whilst the articles and platforms 254 are being conveyed in the forward direction, as indicated by direction arrow Dl, in the region where the first conveyor 219 is disposed alongside the first horizontal portion 250 of tire conveyor. The second, output, horizontal section 352 is moveable from the position in which it is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the first conveyor 319 to a position in which the forward, upper, reach F is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the upper path of the forward bypass conveyer 328 and the return, lower, reach R is disposed at substantially the same elevation as the upper path of the reverse bypass conveyer 326. A third pusher P4 transfers articles from the transfer mechanism 322 to the forward bypass conveyer 328 and a fourth pusher P3 transfers articles from the reverse bypass conveyer 326 to the transfer mechanism 322, in some embodiments a single pusher may be provided in place of the third and fourth pushers P3, P4, this single pusher being moveable to be operable in a first position and a second position to perform respective the functions of third and fourth pushers P3, P4. It is envisaged that the second, output, horizontal section 352 is moveable between the upper and lower positions of Figures 8 and 9 whilst the platforms 354 are being conveyed about the endless path such that articles are conveyed upon the transfer device 322 whilst the second, output, horizontal section 352 is being raised and lowered between the upper and lower positions of Figures 8 and 9. In yet further embodiments the second, third and fourth pusher functions may be provided by a single device moveable between each of three operable positions to affect the transfer to and from the transfer device 322.

An advantage of providing separate pushers P3, P4 is that articles can be simultaneously transferred to and from the transfer mechanism 322 on both the forward and return paths of the second, output, horizontal section 352.

The transfer device 322 when in the configuration illustrated in Figure 8, wherein the first and second horizontal sections 350, 352 are disposed at the same elevation as the first conveyor 319 may transfer articles from or to the transfer device 322 at both the location where the first horizontal section 350 is disposed adjacent to the first conveyor 319 and at the location where the second horizontal section 352 is disposed adjacent to the first conveyor 319, in this way the transfer device 322 may be used to introduce a delay to a selected article or group of articles by transferring the article or group of articles to the transfer device 322 at one of the locations and returning the article or group of articles to the first conveyor 319 at the other of the locations.

It can be appreciated that various changes may be made within the scope of the present invention, for example, the size and shape of the platforms may be adjusted to accommodate articles of differing size or shape. It will be recognised that as used herein, directional references such as "top", "bottom", "front", "back", "end", "side", "inner", "outer", "upper" and "lower" do not limit the respective features to such orientation, but merely serve to distinguish these features from one another.

Claims

CLAiMS
A packaging system for packaging one or more articles the packaging system comprising two or more devices each for performing at least one packaging operation upon one or more articles, each of the two or more packaging devices being coupled to one another in a linear series by a first conveyor, the system comprising at feast one bypass conveyor providing a forward bypass path and/or a reverse bypass path for bypassing one or more of the devices in either a forward and/or a reverse direction, and wherein there comprises one or more transfer switches for transferring one or more articles between the first conveyor and the at least one bypass conveyor.
A packaging system according to claim 1 wherein a transfer switch is provided at the input and output of one or more of the packaging devices.
A packaging system according to either of claims i or 2 wherein the packaging system comprises an input end and an output end, the system having multiple paths between the input and output ends and there comprises a controller for controlling the path articles take between the input and output.
A packaging machine for packaging articles, the packaging machine comprising a plurality of packaging devices arranged to perform a plurality packaging operations in a sequence, the packaging machine comprising at least one bypass conveyor for conveying articles in a forward and reverse direction so as to avoid one or more of the packaging devices such that the sequence of packaging operations performed upon the articles ca be changed.
A packaging machine according to claim 4 wherein one or more articles may be conveyed in the packaging machine such that one or more of the packaging operations can be omitted by bypassing the respective packaging device.
A packaging machine according to either of claims 4 or 5 wherein one or more articles may be conveyed in the packaging machine such that one or more of the packaging operations can be repeated by returning the articles to an input end of the respective packaging device.
A transfer device for changing an article's path through a packaging machine the transfer mechanism comprising a first section for transferring articles to and from a first conveyor and a second section for transferring articles to and from a second conveyor wherein the transfer device comprises a plurality of loading platforms disposed upon a conveyor mechanism having an endless path, the platforms being arranged to convey articles on both the forward and return paths of the conveyor.
8. A transfer device according to claim 7 wherein the second section is configured for transferring articles to and from a third conveyor, the third conveyor being disposed at a lower elevation with respect to the second conveyor.
9. A transfer device according to either of claims 7 or 8 wherein the second section is moveable between a first position and a second position such that articles can be transferred between the second section and either of the first or second conveyors.
10. A transfer device according to of claims 7 to 9 wherein the first position is at a first elevation and the second position is disposed at a second elevation.
1 1. A transfer device according to any of claims 7 to 10 wherein the platforms are driven, in at least the first or second section, at a velocity matching that of the first or second conveyor respectively.
12. A transfer device according to any of claims 7 to 1 1 wherein the platforms comprise a loading surface which is disposed uppermost in both the forward and return paths of the conveyor mechanism.
13. A transfer device according to any of claims 7 to 12 wherein articles may be transferred to and from the return path of the conveyor mechanism.
14. A transfer device according to any preceding claim wherein a forward path of one of the first or second sections is disposed at substantially the same elevation as a loading surface of a forward conveyor and a return path of the same section is disposed at substantially the same elevation as a loading surface of a reverse conveyor.
15. A method of packaging articles comprising providing a packaging machine having a plurality of packaging devices each for performing at least one packaging operation, the packaging devices being coupled to one another by a first conveyor for conveying one or more articles between the packaging devices, the packaging machine comprising at least one bypass conveyor for bypassing at least one packaging device in a forward direction and/or in a reverse direction, the method comprising;
selecting the sequence of packaging operations to be performed upon one or more articles, transferring the one or more articles between the first conveyor and the at least one bypass conveyor so as to convey the one or more articles to the one or more packaging devices in an order such that the packaging operations are performed in the selected sequence.
A method of packaging articles substantially as described herein with reference to and/or as illustrated by the accompanying Figures.
An apparatus for packaging articles substantially as described herein with reference to and/or as illustrated by the accompanying Figures.
EP12791340.8A 2011-10-28 2012-10-28 Packaging system, machine and transfer apparatus and method Withdrawn EP2771263A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

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GB201118710A GB201118710D0 (en) 2011-10-28 2011-10-28 Packaging system,machine and transfer apparatus
PCT/US2012/062341 WO2013115862A1 (en) 2011-10-28 2012-10-28 Packaging system, machine and transfer apparatus and method

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EP2771263A1 true EP2771263A1 (en) 2014-09-03

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US (1) US20140305075A1 (en)
EP (1) EP2771263A1 (en)
CN (1) CN103958371A (en)
GB (1) GB201118710D0 (en)
WO (1) WO2013115862A1 (en)

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GB201118710D0 (en) 2011-12-14
CN103958371A (en) 2014-07-30
US20140305075A1 (en) 2014-10-16
WO2013115862A1 (en) 2013-08-08

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