GB2247874A - Labelling articles, e.g. for security - Google Patents

Labelling articles, e.g. for security Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2247874A
GB2247874A GB9020268A GB9020268A GB2247874A GB 2247874 A GB2247874 A GB 2247874A GB 9020268 A GB9020268 A GB 9020268A GB 9020268 A GB9020268 A GB 9020268A GB 2247874 A GB2247874 A GB 2247874A
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GB
United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
strap
securing
article
around
printed
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Withdrawn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
GB9020268A
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GB9020268D0 (en
Inventor
Michael Deans
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.)
Linx Printing Technologies Ltd
Europa Packaging Co Ltd
Original Assignee
Linx Printing Technologies Ltd
Europa Packaging Co Ltd
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
Application filed by Linx Printing Technologies Ltd, Europa Packaging Co Ltd filed Critical Linx Printing Technologies Ltd
Priority to GB9020268A priority Critical patent/GB2247874A/en
Publication of GB9020268D0 publication Critical patent/GB9020268D0/en
Publication of GB2247874A publication Critical patent/GB2247874A/en
Withdrawn legal-status Critical Current

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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
    • B65B13/00Bundling articles
    • B65B13/18Details of, or auxiliary devices used in, bundling machines or bundling tools

Abstract

Apparatus for securing a strap (9) around one or more articles (5) and printing onto the strap at the time it is secured comprises a strapping machine 1 and an ink jet printer 3. A shaft encoder is used to inform the ink jet printer 3 when the strap 9 of the strapping machine is being moved past a printing head 13, enabling the printing operation of the printer 3 to be controlled appropriately. The apparatus has application in the attachment of straps around aircraft baggage for security reasons, for which application the strap is typically heat-bondable polypropylene. Other embodiments are suitable for providing secure labelling information on industrial components, in which case the strap may be a plastics material such as polypropylene, or may alternatively be metal and fastened by mechanical engagement. The invention has various uses for the improvement of security, the integrity of labelling, and assisting in the traceability of components. <IMAGE>

Description

LABELLING ARTICLES, E.G. FOR SECURITY The present invention relates to methods and apparatus for treating objects, for such purposes as labelling them, identifying them, securing them against tampering, marking them to show that they are secure, and rendering them tamper-evident. In addition to the security uses of the present invention, the labelling aspects of it may also be used for other purposes, such as identification of origin and batch marking for components, which may be useful in complying with British Standard 5750, relating to the traceability of components.
It is known to package articles by securing straps around them. Common examples of this are the use of metal straps to hold together loads of industrial components such as bricks, pipes, rods, etc., and the use of plastics or polymeric strap to hold the lid on boxes of photocopy paper and the like. The metal straps are normally attached by passing the strap around the object, and fastening the ends of the strap together by crimping or other mechanical engagement.
The ends of plastic strapping may be attached to each other either by crimps, or by heat-sealing.
Typically, straps are fastened tightly around the object concerned, and are substantially inextensible in normal use. The straps are normally removed by cutting through them. It is known, for marketing and corporate image purposes, to have the strap marked, typically by printing, at the time of manufacture, e.g. to -show a corporate name or logo as a repeating pattern along the length of the strap.
It is also known to use plastics strapping to secure baggage in an airport after it has been subject to X-ray screening. After it has been X-rayed, and it is determined that it contains no terroist devices, a strap is fastened tightly around a suitcase, passing through the handle of the suitcase. There are several benefits from this operation. First, because the strap passes through the handle of the suitcase, it cannot be removed from the suitcase and then replaced afterwards. On the other hand, since the strap is substantially inexpansible, the suitcase cannot be opened to permit a terrorist device to be inserted after the X-ray screening, unless the strap is removed. The strap can only be removed by cutting it, after which it cannot be replaced. Since the strap tends to be highly visible, it is evident if a strap has been removed from a suitcase.Therefore, this procedure provides an improved degree of security for aircraft baggage.
The present inventor has realised that the usefulness of this strapping can be improved by printing onto the strapping at or immediately prior to the act of applying the strapping to the object. In particular, it is proposed in the present invention that the information printed onto the strapping is variable.
The variable information may be data which is not related to the nature of the object, such as a consecutive serial number or the date and/or time of the printing and strapping operation. Alternatively or in addition, the apparatus can be arranged to print data relating to the nature of the object being strapped. For example, in the case of security strapping of luggage data items such as the flight number and destination airport and in the case of industrial products being strapped together in bundles and stacks data items such as batch number or intended customer.
Accordingly, in accordance with a first aspect of the present invention there is provided apparatus for printing onto a strap and securing the printed strap around an object. Conveniently, the printing onto the strap may take place while the strap is being passed around the object for securing to it. The printing may be carried out by an ink jet printer, such as a Linx 4000 printer, available from the co-applicant Linx Printing Technologies Limited. The strap may be passed around the object using a suitable strapping machine of known type, such as the Titan range made by Hoesch Verpackungssysteme GmbH and Titan Umreifungstechnik GmbH, of Berliner Strasse 51-55, D-5830 Schwelm, Germany, available from the co-applicant The Europa Packaging Company Limited, or the semi -automatic strapping machine manufactured by the Extend company in Taiwan.The strapping machine will normally have to be modified slightly so as to present the strap to the print head of the printer, and the printer can conveniently be controlled by providing a shaft encoder on a roller which turns as the strap moves. The shaft encoder can be used to provide both strap speed information and print go control signals to the ink jet printer.
The strapping device conveniently includes a track to guide the strap automatically around the object to be strapped. The track may include a removable portion, to enable the track to pass through an aperture in the object to be strapped such as the handle of an item of luggage, a hole in an industrial component or a pallet forming the bottom of a stack of industrial components. Where the item to be strapped is an item of luggage, it is preferable that the opening and closing operation of the movable portion of the track is manually controlled rather than being fully automatic, so that account can be taken of the difference in shape of different items of luggage.
Depending on the nature of the article to be strapped, the strap may be steel, a plastics material, or any other convenient material. In the case of security strapping of aircraft luggage, a polypropylene or polyester strap can conveniently be used. The surface of the strap may be roughened or pitted in order to hinder the removal of ink, particularly where the ink does not key well to a smooth surface of the strap material.
In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of labelling an object by securing a strap around the object and printing information on the strap at the time of securing the strap to the object.
The information may be the time and/or date of attaching the strap to the object, or may be batch or other information relating to the nature of the object.
In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of securing a movable, openable or disassemblable object by fastening a strap around it and printing onto the strap at the time of fastening it around the object.
In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of rendering articles tamper-evident by securing a strap around the article in a manner such that the article cannot be tampered with without removing the strap, and printing onto the strap at the time of securing it around the article.
In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of security marking articles to attach an indication to them which is difficult to falsify, comprising securing a strap around an article and printing onto the strap at the time of securing the strap around the article.
In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of treating objects in which a strap is fastened around an object and is printed onto at the time of fastening the strap around the object.
Preferably, the strap is secured tightly round the object, is inextensible under the normal conditions which the article will be subjected to, and cannot be removed without cutting the strap.
The embodiments of the present invention provide several advantages over the prior art arrangements discussed above. Even where there is no security requirement, the present invention provides an improved labelling system. Labels on, for example, stacks of industrial components can easily be torn off accidentally, and frequently this will not be noticed.
The strap holding the stack together is much more securely attached to the stack, and its absence is much more noticeable. Accordingly, the stack or other object is more securely labelled by printing labelling information onto the strap.
Additionally, components or stacks of components tend to remain strapped until the moment at which they are used. However, any labels may become detached earlier. Accordingly, if labelling information is printed onto the strap, this information is available at the point of use. This assists in the necessary record keeping to provide information for the traceability of components. Batch numbers or time and date information can be recorded from the strap at the time of using the component. Where the components are, for example, reinforcing members for a reinforced concrete structure, the strap can be added to the concrete mix with the reinforcing members.If it is ever subsequently necessary to analyse the reinforced concrete structure and determine the origin of the components used in it, the strap can be recovered from the concrete and the information printed on it can be used to trace the origin of the reinforcing components.
A security advantage is provided by the combination of the strap and the printing, which cannot be provided by either of them alone. Normally, the strap cannot be removed from an article without destroying it and preventing it from being re-attached. Where articles are identified by labels, it can be a relatively simple matter to affix a replacement, different, label to an article or to exchange labels between two articles. Where the labelling information is printed on the strap, it is impossible to fix false labelling information to the article without access to apparatus which can print and secure a falsified replacement strap.
This advantage arises from the act of printing onto the strap at the time of strapping. This enables identifying variable information to be printed on the strap, such as batch number and the time and date of strapping. In the prior art, only constant information appeared on the strap and the identifying variable information had to be provided on a separate label which was therefore less secure.
In the field of securing articles against tampering the present invention provides a number of advantages.
In an airport, data may be printed onto a strap indicating the time and date of the strapping.
Further data may include flight number and destination airport, which will assist in the handling of the item of luggage. It may also provide security information such as the place where the security check and strapping was carried out. It may also include identifying information, such as the name of the passenger who checked in the luggage. This information may be used by baggage handling authorities for their own convenience, and reassurance as to the security status of the article. It may also assist investigators after an accident or a terrorist incident to identify which passenger checked in any given item of luggage which is believed to have exploded or not to have exploded.
Because all of this information is printed on the strap, it cannot be falsified without removing the strap and attaching another. Since this requires relatively large and sophisticated equipment, it will be difficult to do this surreptitiously in an airport after the baggage has been checked and strapped.
Additionally, any attempt to falsify other indications appearing on an item of baggage, for example by substituting the normal adhesive flight number and destination label, will be evident because the data printed on the label will no longer be consistent with the data printed on the strap.
The data printed onto a strap may be or include a machine readable code, such as a bar code or a dot code. This code may refer to a computer address where passenger information is stored, or it may be an arbitrary security code, or have any other convenient significance. Some or all of the data may be unreadable to the naked eye, e.g it may be printed with ink which absorbs only in the infra-red, to be read by a suitable scanner, or ink which fluoresces visibly when irradiated with ultra-violet light.
Depending on the circumstances under which the apparatus is intended to be used, and the nature of the information which it is wished to print on the strap, the apparatus may either operate independently, or may be integrated into other data processing operations of the installation. For example, if it is only desired to print time and/or date variable information on the strap (with or without constant information), the ink jet printer can be programmed to provide this information from an internal clock/calendar, and no connection with other data processing apparatus is required. Strapping operation serial number data, or quasi-serial number data, can also be provided automatically. In between repeats of the time and date, the printer can print successively incrementing numbers.Normally, several such numbers will appear on the strap around a single article, so that these numbers are quasi-serial numbers which do not have a one-to-one correspondence with the straps or the objects which are strapped. Alternatively, a signal could be provided to the ink jet printer for each sealing and cutting operation performed by the strapping machine, and the printed serial number would only be incremented on receipt of such a signal. This would provide a genuine serial number for each strap.
Where it is desired to print onto the strap variable information which can be the same for several different articles, such as aircraft flight number or manufacturer's batch number, the arrangement of the installation may be such that articles having the same such information are presented to the apparatus in succession. In this case, it is still convenient for the apparatus to be independent, and an operator can key in via the normal printer message interface the required data.
However, where the information to be printed on the straps on successive articles can change from article to article in an unpredictable manner, it may be convenient to provide at least the unpredictably changing information to be printed to the control system of the ink jet printer through an interface with further data processing apparatus in the installation. For example, some airport check-in arrangements are arranged such that luggage for any given flight may be presented simultaneously to various different check-in desks, while each check-in desk can check passengers in for several different flights, and the baggage is not divided by flight number until further handling operations have been performed.
Under these circumstances, unless the strapping operation is performed after the necessary baggage sorting operation has been carried out, the flight number for baggage presented to the apparatus will not be predictable. Additionally, if the passenger 5 name is to be printed, this information will not be predictable. Since this information is frequently entered into a computerised terminal at the time of checking-in, the information can automatically be provided to the printer from the computerised terminal.Alternatively, the terminal may print out an adhesive baggage identification label, which may include a bar code identifying a computer data location where the details of the passenger is stored, and if strapping is carried out at a subsequent point this information can be retrieved and fed automatically to the printer by reading the bar code by any conventional means.
Although an ink jet printer is preferred for the printing means of the present apparatus, any other suitable printing means could be used, such as a high speed impact printer, provided that the operation of the printer did not interfere with the movement of the strap as it is passed around the object to be strapped.
Where reference is made herein to an object or an article being strapped, this is intended to include references to strapping assemblages, groups and stacks of objects or articles.
Embodiments of the present invention, given by way of non-limiting example, will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Figure 1 shows from the side a first apparatus embodying the present invention; Figure 2 shows the apparatus of Figure 1 from above; Figure 3 shows the feeding mechanism and the sealing and cutting mechanism of the apparatus of Figure 1 in more detail; Figure 4 shows a second apparatus embodying the present invention from the front; Figure 5 shows the apparatus of Figure 4 from the side with a movable track portion lowered; Figure 6 shows a section through a first track construction; Figure 7 shows a section through a second track construction; Figure 8 shows a printing hole in the back wall of a track; Figure 9 shows a section through a modified track construction; Figure 10 shows a third apparatus embodying the invention; and Figure 11 shows a fourth apparatus embodying the invention.
Figure 1 shows a side view of apparatus according to a first embodiment of the present invention. Figure 2 is a top view of the apparatus of Figure 1, and Figure 3 is a detailed view of the strap feeding, sealing and cutting mechanism of the apparatus of Figure 1.
The apparatus of Figure 1 is intended for use in security strapping airport luggage. The apparatus comprises a strapping machine 1 and an ink jet printer 3. In use, a suitcase 5 is placed on a top surface 7 of the strapping machine 1, a length of strap 9 is fed by the strapping machine 1 and is passed manually through the handle 11 of the suitcase 5, and around the suitcase, and is then secured tightly round the suitcase by the normal action of the strapping machine 1. The path of the strap 9 is arranged to pass the printing head 13 of the ink jet printer 3, which prints variable information such as date, time and flight number, onto the strap 9 as it passes.
The operation of the device will be explained in further detail with reference to Figures 1 to 3, in which some internal parts of the strapping machine 1 are illustrated to assist comprehension.
A drum 15 inside the strapping machine 1 carries a supply of polypropylene strap. The surface of the strap is pitted. Most inks available for ink jet printers do not key well to a smooth polypropylene surface, and the pitting improves the resistance of the printing on the strap to being rubbed or scraped off. If a different strap material is used, or the strap is suitably coated, the surface which is printed onto may be smooth. This may be useful in obtaining a higher print definition.
In order to permit the strap 9 to be printed onto, it passes from the drum 15 out of the main body of the strapping machine 1 into an auxiliary housing 17. An arrangement of rollers 19,21,23,25 guides the strap 9 so that it passes vertically upwards past the horizontally arranged printing head 13 of the ink jet printer 3. At the level of the printing head 13, the strap 9 passes over a plate 27, which serves to receive the ink if the printer 3 prints when the strap 9 is not correctly positioned, and may also be used to hold the strap 9 steady and in the correct orientation as it passes the printing head 13. The rollers 19,21,23,25 and the plate 27 are all mounted on a mounting plate 29, which extends from the main body of the strapping machine 1.
After the printed strap has left the rollers 23,25 it undergoes a 1800 twist, so that the printed surface of the strap 9 is visible after it has been fastened around the suitcase 5. The rollers 23 and 25 are arranged as pinch rollers, to prevent the twist from propagating backwards to the level of the plate 27 and the printing head 13. If the twist did propagate backwards, the printer 3 would not print correctly on the desired surface of the strap 9.
The rollers 19,21,23,25, the plate 27 and the mounting plate 29 are enclosed by the auxiliary housing 17.
This also has a tubular opening through which the printing head 13 of the ink jet printer 3 extends.
The tubular opening supports the printing head 13, and locates it in the correct position relative to the plate 27 and strap 9. The inner surface of the tubular opening is lined with damping material 31 to minimise the transmission of vibration from the strapping machine 1 to the printing head 13.
Vibration of the printing head 13 might degrade the print quality of the printing on the strap 9.
As the strap 9 passes the printing head 13, it rotates the roller 21. The supporting shaft of roller 21 passes through the mounting plate 29 to a shaft encoder 33 (see Figure 2). The output of the shaft encoder 33 is provided to the ink jet printer 3, and provides the ink jet printer 3 both with the information that fresh strap is passing the print head 13, so that printing should take place, that also indicates the speed of travel of the strap 3.
The ink jet printer 3 is programmed so that the continued reception of signals from the shaft encoder 33 result in repeated "print go" commands to the printing system of the ink jet printer 3. Following each "print-go" command, the ink jet printer 3 will print a pre-set format message containing variable information, such as date and time of printing.
Other data may also be printed, as has been discussed above. The "print-go" commands may be provided, for example, in response to every nth impulse received from the shaft encoder 33, where n is selected in accordance with the characteristics of the shaft encoder 33 and the length of the standard format message to be printed. Additionally, the rate at which pulses are received from the shaft encoder 33 is used to control the speed of the printing operation of the ink jet printer 3, to compensate for variations in the speed at which the strap 9 moves past the printing head 13.
If the supply of strap 9 on the drum 15 is exhausted, the roller 21 will not be rotated, and consequently the shaft encoder 33 will not provide the corresponding signals to the ink jet printer 3, and consequently the printer does not print.
From the rollers 23,25 the strap 9 re-enters the main casing of the strapping machine 1, and passes through a feeding mechanism 35, which is used to drive the strap. From the feeding mechanism 35 the strap 9 passes through a sealing and cutting mechanism 37 and then runs freely under the suitcase 5 in a groove 39 in the top surface 7 of the strapping machine. In use, an operator controls the feeding mechanism 35 to feed a suitable length of strap 9 (which will be printed onto as it is fed). The operator then passes the strap through the handle 11 of the suitcase 5, over the top of the suitcase and down into the groove 39 behind the suitcase. The strap 9 is then pushed forwards along the groove 39 until its free end enters the sealing and cutting mechansim 37.The sealing and cutting mechanism 37 clamps the free end of the strap 9, and the feeding mechanism 35 then operates in reverse to tighten the strap 9 around the suitcase 5.
When the strap is tightened, the sealing and cutting mechanism 37 seals the strap 9 to itself to secure it tightly around the suitcase 5, and then cuts it between the seal and the feeding mechanism 35.
The construction and operation of the feeding mechanism 35 and sealing and cutting mechanism 37 will be described in more detail with reference to Figure 3, which shows the components of these mechanisms from the side.
The feeding mechanism 35 comprises a first upper roller 41, a first lower roller 43, a second upper roller 45 and a second lower roller 47. While the strapping machine 1 is in operation, the first upper roller 41 is driven continuously anti-clockwise, for feeding the strap 9 in the reverse direction, and the second upper roller 45 is driven continuously clockwise, for feeding the strap 9 in the forward direction. While the strap 9 is not to be fed in either direction, both of the lower rollers 43,47 are spaced downwardly slightly from the respective upper rollers 41,45, so that the strap 9 resting on the lower rollers 43,47 does not contact the upper rollers 41,45 and is not fed. In order to feed the strap 9 in the forward direction, the second lower roller 47 is raised, pressing the strap 9 against the second upper roller 45.In order to feed the strap in the reverse direction, the first lower roller 43 is raised to press the strap 9 against the first upper roller 41.
From the feeding mechanism 35, the strap 9 passes through an aperture 49 in the floor of the groove 39, and then comes to the sealing and cutting mechanism 37. As shown in Figure 3, the sealing and cutting mechanism 37 comprises a first clamping member 51, a sealing member 53, a second clamping member 55, a heated plate 57 and a top plate 59.
The strap 9 passes through an aperture 61 in the first clamping member 51, over the sealing member 53 and the clamping member 55, and along the groove 39. The heated plate 57 is normally retracted horizontally, so as not to extend in the line of the groove 39 and the path of the strap 9. The top plate 59 normally extends over the strap 9 and the first clamping member 51, the sealing member 53 and the second clamping member 55.
When the free end of the strap 9 is passed along the groove 39 from behind the suitcase 5, it passes over the top of the first clamping member 51 and the sealing member 53, and is then detected by a microswitch (not shown). The first clamping member 51 then moves upward, clamping the free end of the strap 9 against the top plate 59. The microswitch is positioned so that the free end of the strap 9 is clamped before it reaches the position of the second clamping member 55.
The first lower roller 43 is then raised, pressing the strap 9 against the first upper roller 41 and feeding it in the reverse direction. The portion of the strap 9 passing through the aperture 61 in the first clamping member 51 is not held by the first clamping member 51, and therefore the strap 9 can be fed in the reverse direction until it is tight around the suitcase 5. Further reverse feeding then becomes impossible, and the strap 9 pressed against the first upper roller 41 stops the roller from rotating, stalling the motor (not shown) driving the roller.
Following detection of the stalling of the motor, the second clamping member 55 moves upward, clamping the strap 9 against the top plate 59. The first lower roller 43 moves down again, ending the reverse feeding operation. Both ends of the portion of the strap 9 around the suitcase 5 are now firmly held against the top plate 59, but the lengths at the ends of this portion of the strap 9 which overlap over the sealing member 53 are not tensioned.
The heated blade 57 then moves horizontally to be inserted between the two parts of the strap 9, and heat their facing surfaces. The sealing member 53 moves up and the heated blade 57 retracts, so that the sealing member 53 acting against the top plate 59 presses the two heated surfaces of the strap 9 together, making a heat seal. The sealing member 53 slides over the first clamping member 51, and co-operates with the top surface of the aperture 61 in the first clamping member 51 to cut the strap 9 as it moves upwards to press the heated strap surfaces together.After a moment's delay to permit the bond to form, the first clamping member 51, the sealing member 53 and the second clamping member 55 move downward, and the top plate 59 moves horizontally out of the line of the groove 39, releasing the strap 9 and permitting the strapped suitcase 5 to be removed from the strapping machine 1.
The apparatus of Figures 1, 2 and 3 can be conveniently provided by modifying an Extend semiautomatic strapping machine and a Linx 4000 ink jet printer. Details of the operation of an ink jet printer similar to the Linx 4000 can be found in Specification WO 89/03768.
The apparatus of Figures 1 to 3 can be used in a method according to the present invention for improving airport security. In this method, an area is formed around airport check-in desks, and entry into this area is only permitted through a security checkpoint. At the security checkpoint, suitcases are given a security check, e.g. by searching and/or X-ray. Following the security check, a strap is secured around the suitcase using the apparatus of Figures 1 to 3, before being returned to the passenger. The date and time will be printed on the strap 9 by the apparatus. The passenger then approaches a check-in desk, and checks in for a flight in the normal manner. The check-in clerks can be instructed only to accept baggage secured by a security strap, and the date and time printed on the strap provide a further security guarantee.
In operation of the apparatus of Figures 1 to 3, the re-winding of the strap 9 to tighten it around the suitcase 5 may have the consequence that part of the length of strap onto which the printing head 13 has printed is not fastened around the suitcase 5, but remains to be fed forward again and secured around the next suitcase. This does not matter provided that the information printed on the strap 9 is not specific to the individual suitcase. For example, it does not matter if the only variable information printed by the printing head 13 is the date and time, nor if the printing head 13 also prints the flight number but the suitcases are arranged so that successive suitcases presented to the strapping machine 1 are destined for the same flight.
Where more personalised information is to be printed, such as the name of the passenger, steps may need to be taken to ensure that the personalised information appears on the length of strap 9 secured around the correct suitcase 5.
Figures 4 and 5 illustrate a front view and a side view of a second apparatus embodying the present invention Parts of this apparatus are the same as corresponding parts of the embodiment of Figures 1 to 3, or are conventional for a strapping machine or an ink jet printer, and so for the sake of clarity Figures 4 and 5 only show the parts most useful for an understanding of this embodiment. In each Figure, some parts shown in the other Figure are not shown, for clarity.
The embodiment of Figures 4 and 5 uses a track to guide the strap 9. Guide tracks for the strap of a strapping machine are known. Such tracks typically have a cross-section as shown in Figure 6 or Figure 7.
The track 63 is a U-section, and the mouth of the U is closed to form a tube. As can be seen in Figure 5, the track 63 extends around the article to be strapped, and as the strap 9 is fed it passes along the closed tube provided by the track 63 until it has passed all around the object to be strapped, and the free end has reached the sealing and cutting mechanism 37.
In order for the strap 9 to be tightened around the object to be strapped, the strap 9 has to pull out of the track 63 when the feeding mechanism 35 feeds it in the reverse direction. In Figure 6, the track 63 is closed by a hinged lid 65, which is urged closed by a spring. During reverse feeding, the track presses against the lid, and opens it against the spring, and thereby escapes from the track 63. In Figure 7, the track 63 is closed by opposed sets of stiff bristles 67, and the strap 9 escapes from the track 63 by bending the bristles 67 against their stiffness.
In the embodiment of Figures 4 and 5, the suitcase 5 is supported by a plurality of rollers 69, which enable it to be moved easily into the correct position for strapping, and then to be moved on after strapping. A vertically extending portion 71 of the track 63 at the front of the apparatus is movable up and down between a lower position as shown in Figure 5, and an upper position as shown in Figure 4. This movement enables the track portion 71 to be inserted through the handle 11 of the suitcase 5, so that the strap 9 can be passed through the handle 11. Movable track portions for strapping machines are known, but typically they are moved between their open and closed positions automatically. The track portion 71 of Figures 4 and 5 is moved manually.
In use, a suitcase is moved over the rollers 69 until it reaches the position shown in Figures 4 and 5, in which the front surface of the suitcase is immediately behind the position of the front upright portion of the track 63. This track portion is the movable portion 71, and it is in its raised position as shown in Figure 4 while the suitcase 5 is moved. The handle 11 of the suitcase is grasped by the operator and is held to extend outwardly from the front surface of the suitcase 5 while the movable track portion 71 is brought down between the handle 11 and the suitcase 5, as shown in Figure 5. Because of the need to hold the handle 11 in an appropriate position, and because of the variation in size and shape of suitcases and suitcase handles, this operation is best conducted manually.
While the suitcase 5 is moved into position and the track portion 71 is moved down to complete the track 63, the free end of the strap 9 is in the sealing and cutting mechansim 37, at the position where it was formed by cutting the strap in the sealing operation for the previous suitcase. When the track portion 71 comes fully down, it activates a microswitch 73. In response, the feeding mechanism 35 is operated to feed the strap 9 around the track 63 until the free end re-enters the sealing and cutting mechanism 37. The strap is then tightened, sealed and cut as has been described with reference to Figure 3, and during the tightening operation the strap 9 pulls out of the track 63 as has already been described.
In this embodiment, the printing head 13 is positioned along the top run of the track 63, and prints onto the outer surface of the strap 9 through a hole 75 provided in the back of the track 63 as shown in Figure 8. The width of the track 63 at this point is selected to be only very slightly greater than the width of the strap 9, so as to position the strap 9 correctly in line with the printing head 13. Since the surface of the strap 9 onto which the ink jet printer 3 prints is the upper surface for this portion of the track 63, it will not tend to come into contact with the track 63 and smear the ink before it dries.
However, if it is desired to position the printing head 13 elsewhere, so that the printed surface of the strap 9 rests against the track 63, the back surface of the track 63 can be dished slightly, as shown in Figure 9, to hold the ink away from the track 63 while it dries.
In this embodiment, the guiding arrangements for the strap 9 between the drum 15 and the feeding mechanism 35 are simplified, and there is no need for a twist.
Because the reverse feeding operation does not create any slack between the feeding mechanism 35 and the position of the printing head 13, the shaft encoder 33 used to control the operation of the ink jet printer 3 is mounted on the shaft of the second lower roller 47, which is used for forward feeding. From the beginning of the feeding operation, the ink jet printer 3 waits for a predetermined number of pulse signals from the shaft encoder 33, to allow the free end of the strap 9 to reach the position of the printing head 13, before beginning to print.
The embodiment of Figures 4 and 5 can be modified in various ways. In a first modification, the ink jet printer 3 prints only on a predetermined length of strap 9 after the free end reaches the printing head 13. This predetermined length is selected to be shorter than the total length of strap secured around most suitcases. When the information printed on the strap 9 is specific to the suitcase in question, such as the name of the passenger, this assists in ensuring that the portion of the strap 9 bearing this specific information is secured round the appropriate suitcase 5.
In a refinement of this modification, a further shaft encoder 33 is fitted to the shaft of the first lower roller 43, so as to measure the length by which the strap 9 is fed in the reverse direction while it is tightened around the suitcase 5. A control system for the apparatus can be provided with data specifying the length of strap 9 which has been fed but not been printed onto (which will be equal to the total length fed, or the length around the track 63, less the length onto which the ink jet printer 3 prints), and the length by which the strap 9 has been reverse fed during tightening, as detected by the shaft encoder on the first lower roller 43.It can then be detected if the strap 9 was fed in the reverse direction so far that some of the printed portion of the strap passes back through the sealing and cutting mechanism, and will remain part of the main run of the strap 9 after cutting instead of being fastened around the suitcase 5. In this case, the strap can be fed forward by an appropriate amount and re-cut, to prevent this printed portion from being secured round the next suitcase, thereby avoiding the possibility that variable information specific to one suitcase incorrectly appears on the strap 9 fastened around another. As a further refinement, the strap 9 may be re-fed past the ink jet printer 3, which is controlled to overprint the printed information, and then reverse fed to the appropriate position to cut off the printed portion.
The overprinting improves the security provided by the apparatus, by preventing any strap offcuts from bearing legible information printed by the ink jet printer 3.
In another modification, a series of optical sensors 77 may be provided, to determine the approximate size of the suitcase 5, and the length of strap onto which the ink jet printer 3 prints may be varied accordingly. This enables the apparatus to print onto most of the length of the strap 9 which is fastened around the suitcase 5, even in the case of a large suitcase, while reducing the possibility that there will be excess printed length of strap 9 which does not extend around the suitcase after the strap 9 has been tightened.
As shown in broken lines in Figure 5, the ink jet printer 3 may be connected to receive data to be printed from a data processing system 79 at the installation where the apparatus is used. The data processing system 79 may be a computerised check-in terminal or a check-in computer.
In a method embodying the present invention, and using the apparatus of Figures 4 and 5, a passenger is checked in for a flight in an airport using a computerised check-in terminal. The apparatus of Figures 4 and 5 is provided at the check-in desk, and the passenger's suitcases are strapped by the apparatus as part of the check-in procedure. The terminal provides flight number and passenger name information to the ink jet printer 3, which also has an internal clock/calendar, and the current time and date, together with flight number and passenger name are printed on the strap 9 secured around each suitcase 5.
The check-in terminal also provides data to a central check-in computer, which stores the data and informs the terminal of the storage location for that data.
The terminal prints a conventional adhesive baggage label, to be fastened around the handle 11 of each suitcase 5, bearing the flight number, destination airport and a bar code or other machine readable mark identifying the computer storage location notified to the terminal by the check-in computer. Alternatively, all the information normally printed on the adhesive label may be printed onto the strap 9, in which case it may not be necessary to provide the adhesive label at all.
The suitcase 5 is then passed through security checks in the normal manner. If it is decided that the suitcase must be opened for security reasons, the strap 9 is cut, and after the security check is completed the suitcase is re-strapped in a further apparatus as shown in Figures 4 and 5. The operator of this further apparatus uses a bar code reader to read the bar code or other mark on the adhesive luggage label attached to the suitcase 5 (or, as discussed above, on the first strap 9 before it is cut) , and a control system for the apparatus uses this information to fetch the relevant passenger data from the check-in computer, and this information is provided to the ink jet printer 3 so that the replacement strap 9 bears the appropriate variable information.
The apparatus used for re-strapping luggage after it has been opened in a security check may use differently coloured strap 9, differently coloured ink in the ink jet printer, or may be programmed to print a non-varying message such as "re-strapped after security inspection". This enables people handling the baggage subsequently to identify which suitcases have been opened and re-strapped during a security check. Such information may be useful in deciding on the further handling of baggage, thereby rendering airport security arrangements more effective and/or more cost-efficient.
In a modification, the apparatus has two ink jet printing heads 13, one of which prints with visible ink and one with invisible ink. Variable information useful for baggage handling is printed with visible ink, such as passenger name, date, flight number and destination airport. The visible printing also indicates to an operator the approximate location on the strap of invisible printing. The invisible printing includes a machine readable security code, and either the visible or the invisible printing includes a machine readable computer address code. A computer stores, at the address indicated by the address code, passenger details and a security code corresponding to the security code printed on the strap.
In a security check on a strapped suitcase, the machine readable security and address codes are read by appropriate equipment connected to the computer, and the address code is used to access the computer.
The computer provides to the operator passenger details to be checked against the visible information on the strap. It also compares the security code read from the strap with the stored security code, and informs the operator if the result of this comparison is "pass" or "fail". Neither the invisible security code read from the strap nor the security code stored in the computer are communicated to the security check operator.
With such an arrangement, it would be difficult to secure an unauthorised strap to a suitcase which would pass the security check.
Those skilled in the art will readily be able to devise other useful ways of using codes printed on the strap and/or invisible printing.
Figure 10 shows a third apparatus embodying the present invention, and Figure 11 shows a fourth apparatus embodying the present invention. These embodiments are suitable for use at industrial premises for providing batch number, loading date, customer identification and similar information on industrial products or stacks thereof.
The embodiment of Figure 10 includes a track 63, having a movable track portion 71, in a manner generally similar to the embodiment of Figures 4 and 5, except that the movement of the track portion 71 is fully automated. In this case, the movable track portion 71 forms the lower horizontal run of the track 63, and is used to pass through an aperture in a pallet 81 so that an industrial component 83 may be strapped to the pallet 81.Since it is generally not practical to provide the sealing and cutting mechanism 37 on the movable track portion 71, this is provided above the industrial component 83 rather than beneath it. Consequently, the sealing and cutting mechanism will typically be spaced vertically above the industrial component 83, and accordingly it (together with a short portion of the track 63 on either side) is vertically movable so as to move down onto the industrial component 83 for the sealing and cutting operation In this embodiment, the printing head 13 of the ink jet printer is arranged to print through a hole 75 in an upright portion of the track 63.
The embodiment of Figure 11 is shown being used to strap a stack of articles 85 resting on a plinth 87.
The strap 9 passes entirely round the articles and the plinth 87. This embodiment does not have a track, and is generally similar to the embodiment of Figures 1 to 3, except that the printing head 13 of the ink jet printer 3 is provided inside the main casing of the strapping machine 1, printing upwardly onto the strap 9 as it runs in the groove 39. The groove 39 downstream of the position of the printing head 13 is dished, in a manner similar to the dishing of the track shown in Figure 9, to avoid smearing the ink before it dries. This arrangement of the ink jet printer 3 is conveniently compact, and simplifies the path of the strap 9 as the auxiliary housing 17 and its associated parts are not required. However, extra care needs to be taken in this embodiment to ensure that vibration from the strapping machine 1 does not adversely affect the quality of the printing performed with the printing head 13.
Various embodiments of apparatus according to the present invention have been provided, to illustrate some of the possible arrangements. Other possible arrangements will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Also, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that features from one embodiment may be combined with features from another embodiment to provide alternative arrangements of the apparatus.

Claims (22)

CLAIMS:
1. Apparatus for securing a strap around one or more articles, which prints information onto the strap at the time of securing it around the article or articles.
2. Apparatus according to claim 1, which is arranged to print variable information onto the strap.
3. Apparatus according to claim 2 in which the variable information which is printed is determined relative to the article or articles around which the strap is secured.
4. Apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 3 which prints the information using ink jet printer means.
5. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, which secures the strap around the article or articles by thermally bonding first and second portions of the strap to each other.
6. Apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 4, which secures the strap around the article or articles by mechanically engaging first and second portions of the strap with each other.
7. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, having a track for guiding the strap around the article or articles before securing.
8. Apparatus according to claim 7, in which the track has a manually movable portion to enable the track to be passed through an aperture in the or a article or in an assembly of articles.
9. A method of treating an object or a collection of objects comprising securing a strap around the object or collection and printing on the strap at the time of the securing operation.
10. A method of labelling an article or a collection of articles comprising securing a strap around the article or collection and printing labelling information on the strap at the time of the securing operation.
11. A method of securing an article against an action comprising securing a strap around the article such that the action cannot be performed without removing the strap, and printing on the strap at the time of the securing operation.
12. A method of rendering an article tamper-evident comprising securing a strap around the article such that tampering with the article in at least one manner requires the removal of the strap, and printing on the strap at the time of the securing operation.
13. A method of indicating that an article or a collection of articles has been security checked by securing a strap around the article or the collection after or in association with carrying out a security check on it, and printing on the strap at the time of the securing operation.
14. A method according to any one of claims 9 to 13 in which variable information is printed on the strap.
15. A method according to any one of claims 9 to 14 in which data is printed on the strap indicating that the securing operation has been carried out using authorised apparatus.
16 A method according to any one of claims 9 to 15 in which data is printed on the strap which represents the apparatus used in the securing operation.
17. A method according to any one of claims 9 to 16 in which a machine readable code is printed on the strap.
18. A method according to any of claims 9 to 17 in which information not visible to the naked eye is printed on the strap.
19. A method according to any one of claims 9 to 18 in which a security code is printed on the strap.
20. A method according to any of claims 9 to 19, in which the operation of securing the strap around the object, article or collection comprises a first step of passing the strap around the object, article or collection and a second step of fastening the strap, and the strap is printed onto during or prior to the first step.
21. Apparatus for securing a strap substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
22. A method of securing a strap substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
GB9020268A 1990-09-17 1990-09-17 Labelling articles, e.g. for security Withdrawn GB2247874A (en)

Priority Applications (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB9020268A GB2247874A (en) 1990-09-17 1990-09-17 Labelling articles, e.g. for security

Applications Claiming Priority (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB9020268A GB2247874A (en) 1990-09-17 1990-09-17 Labelling articles, e.g. for security

Publications (2)

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GB9020268D0 GB9020268D0 (en) 1990-10-31
GB2247874A true GB2247874A (en) 1992-03-18

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO2007068387A1 (en) * 2005-12-17 2007-06-21 Klaus Lamprecht Banding machine
WO2012097032A1 (en) * 2011-01-12 2012-07-19 Illinois Tool Works Inc. Debris sweep and dry assist device for strap printing
US8950163B2 (en) 2008-04-17 2015-02-10 Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Ag Packaging machine for goods in blister shell moldings to be sealed with a blister film
DE102014213791A1 (en) * 2014-07-16 2016-01-21 Krones Aktiengesellschaft Apparatus and method for producing strapping packages
WO2016176272A1 (en) * 2015-04-29 2016-11-03 Avery Dennison Retail Information Services Llc Banding device

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GB1021729A (en) * 1963-05-21 1966-03-09 Midland Engineering & Machine Tape wrapping machine
US3996719A (en) * 1975-02-27 1976-12-14 Rexnord Inc. Automatic bag strapper
US4229925A (en) * 1978-06-06 1980-10-28 Stirniman James P Skein and ball banding machine
GB2047194A (en) * 1979-04-19 1980-11-26 Gerrard Ind Ltd Luggage strapping apparatus
EP0133544A2 (en) * 1983-08-11 1985-02-27 Yoshida Kogyo K.K. Method of and apparatus for binding elongate products
GB2221205A (en) * 1988-07-28 1990-01-31 Opti Patent Forschung Fab Equipment for bundling slide fasteners

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB1021729A (en) * 1963-05-21 1966-03-09 Midland Engineering & Machine Tape wrapping machine
US3996719A (en) * 1975-02-27 1976-12-14 Rexnord Inc. Automatic bag strapper
US4229925A (en) * 1978-06-06 1980-10-28 Stirniman James P Skein and ball banding machine
GB2047194A (en) * 1979-04-19 1980-11-26 Gerrard Ind Ltd Luggage strapping apparatus
EP0133544A2 (en) * 1983-08-11 1985-02-27 Yoshida Kogyo K.K. Method of and apparatus for binding elongate products
GB2221205A (en) * 1988-07-28 1990-01-31 Opti Patent Forschung Fab Equipment for bundling slide fasteners

Cited By (7)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO2007068387A1 (en) * 2005-12-17 2007-06-21 Klaus Lamprecht Banding machine
US8950163B2 (en) 2008-04-17 2015-02-10 Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Ag Packaging machine for goods in blister shell moldings to be sealed with a blister film
WO2012097032A1 (en) * 2011-01-12 2012-07-19 Illinois Tool Works Inc. Debris sweep and dry assist device for strap printing
US9003750B2 (en) 2011-01-12 2015-04-14 Signode Industrial Group, LLC Debris sweep and dry assist device for strap printing
DE102014213791A1 (en) * 2014-07-16 2016-01-21 Krones Aktiengesellschaft Apparatus and method for producing strapping packages
WO2016176272A1 (en) * 2015-04-29 2016-11-03 Avery Dennison Retail Information Services Llc Banding device
CN107592850A (en) * 2015-04-29 2018-01-16 艾利丹尼森公司 Binding apparatus

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