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US20050027391A1 - Profiler system for mail articles - Google Patents

Profiler system for mail articles Download PDF

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Publication number
US20050027391A1
US20050027391A1 US10929164 US92916404A US2005027391A1 US 20050027391 A1 US20050027391 A1 US 20050027391A1 US 10929164 US10929164 US 10929164 US 92916404 A US92916404 A US 92916404A US 2005027391 A1 US2005027391 A1 US 2005027391A1
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Prior art keywords
mail
photo
tray
conveyor
invention
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.)
Abandoned
Application number
US10929164
Inventor
Shane Mills
Craig Peron
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Lockheed Martin Corp
Original Assignee
Lockheed Martin Corp
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.)
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B07SEPARATING SOLIDS FROM SOLIDS; SORTING
    • B07CPOSTAL SORTING; SORTING INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES, OR BULK MATERIAL FIT TO BE SORTED PIECE-MEAL, e.g. BY PICKING
    • B07C5/00Sorting according to a characteristic or feature of the articles or material being sorted, e.g. by control effected by devices which detect or measure such characteristic or feature; Sorting by manually actuated devices, e.g. switches
    • B07C5/04Sorting according to size
    • B07C5/10Sorting according to size measured by light-responsive means

Abstract

A profiler system is preferably mounted to a conventional roller conveyor frame rail used primarily in mail handling applications. The profiler system contains an array of photo sensors strategically placed to sense the height and length of a mail tray. The sensors are operably connected to a controller that is capable of filtering false signals and accommodating varying conveyor speeds. The controller classifies the object as one of the several types of mail trays or as an unknown object based upon blocked photo sensors. The tray type is reported to a higher-level control system via an industry standard controller communication bus for further processing downstream.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation application of U.S. Nonprovisional application Ser. No. 10/014,764 (now U.S. Pat. No. ______), entitled “PROFILER SYSTEM FOR MAIL ARTICLES” filed on Dec. 11, 2001.
  • STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
  • [[0002]]
    This invention was made partially with U.S. Government support from the United States Postal Service under Contract No. 512593-00-E-1440. The U.S. Government has certain rights in the invention.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    This invention relates generally to mail processing, and, more particularly to determining the exact profile or size characteristics of the container that contains the flat and letter mail.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    Package processing service companies, for example the USPS, process many different types of articles in their facilities. After local (in plant) processing (sorting), the mail needs to be routed to its next destination. Routing the mail to its next destination usually entails at least over the road travel, but usually a more common occurrence requires a combination of air and over the road shipping. Due to the competitive nature of the shipping industry, time is of the essence. The time critical nature of mail delivery is one of the most important factors the USPS and its competitors face other than delivery accuracy. After the flats and letter sortation processing occurs, the aggregate mail trays need to be dispatched to their next destination with speed and accuracy. The USPS uses over the road containers to ship bulk amounts of mail. These over the road containers are designed to handle certain types of mail trays. Due to this fact, mail streams need to be separated for efficient processing. A divert action needs to be made upstream of the dispatch conveyor system in order to process flats tubs in one mail stream and all other letter trays in another mail stream. In order to make this divert action, a divert decision needs to be made based on information and characteristics of the mail stream gathered by the mail article profiler. The type of article needs to be determined to correctly divert it in the mail stream for efficient processing.
  • [0005]
    In the past, this type of mail processing was done manually by human intervention, or by extra conveyor lines in order to keep the mail streams separate, making the task expensive, labor intensive and overall inefficient.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    The present invention is in the form of a profiler system mounted to the conventional roller conveyor frame rail used in object handling applications and, in particular mail handling applications. The present invention contains an array of conventional photo sensors strategically placed to sense the height and length of a mail tray. The photo sensors generate signals that are recognized by a controller, which has the ability to filter false signals and accommodate varying conveyor speeds. Based upon the length of time that individual and combination of photo sensors in the array are blocked, the controller classifies the object as one of numerous types of known objects, such as mail trays, or unknown objects. The tray type is reported to a higher-level control system via an industry standard controller communication bus, which are outside the scope of the present invention.
  • [0007]
    More specifically, the profiler of this invention includes photo sensors, a controller, a power supply, and system software. The present invention utilizes photo sensors in very specific areas as well as a controller to process data in order to make an accurate decision for further processing. The photo sensors are positioned in such a way that when a tray of mail comes through the system a “snap-shot” of the data is taken. This “snap shot” takes place as photo sensors mounted in the conveyor are blocked and unblocked by a passing mail tray. The data is then compared to a “look-up table” or matrix of photo sensors vs., for example, mail tray type and the decision is made for conveyor diversion. System software polls the sensors, filters and debounces data streams for more reliable results.
  • [0008]
    For a better understanding of the present invention, together with other and further objects thereof, reference is made to the accompanying drawings and detailed description and its scope will be pointed out in the appended claims.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0009]
    FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the present invention adapted to a conventional roller conveyor;
  • [0010]
    FIG. 2 is a pictorial representation of the profiler of the present invention in conjunction with an existing conveyor control system and conveyor;
  • [0011]
    FIG. 3 is a flow chart of the process for profiling an article according to the present invention;
  • [0012]
    FIG. 4 is a table of a photo sensor list of blocked and unblocked photo sensors in accordance with this invention; and
  • [0013]
    FIG. 5 is an example of a bit map developed in accordance with this invention to track the sensors blocked by an object as it is transported through the conveyor system.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0014]
    The present invention is now described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which the preferred embodiment of the invention is shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art.
  • [0015]
    The preferred embodiment of the above invention provides a profiler or profiler system, being generally indicated by numerical designation 10, illustrated in the accompanying drawings, which preferably is adapted to a conventional conveyor control system and conveyor for diverting various sized mail trays or other objects to specific mail streams within the conveyor system, which are outside the scope of the present invention. As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the system 10 generally includes a plurality of sensors, preferably four sensors 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 14 d (interchangeably referred to herein as photo sensors and photo eyes) operably connected to a controller 18 and a power supply 20. The preferred embodiment sensors include photo eyes, such as Cutler Hammer 14156RDP17B1, Banner, Honeywell or any other manufacturers equivalent photo-eyes, with accompanying reflectors 16 a, 16 b, 16 c, and 16 c shown in FIG. 2. The preferred embodiment is shown mounted on the side rails 22 of a conventional roller conveyor 12, as illustrated in FIG. 2. Additionally, there are photo eyes positioned at the conveyor entrance 14 e and exit 14 f (interchangeably referred to herein as photo sensors 14 e and 14 f, photo eyes 14 e and 14 f, and entrance photo sensor (or eye) 14 e and exit photo sensor (eye) 14 f), with corresponding reflectors (not shown).
  • [0016]
    As shown in FIG. 2, the photo eyes 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 14 d can be arranged in any height above the conveyor surface 24 and at any distance along the conveyor rails 22 to accommodate all types of mail trays. The various types of mail trays used in this example to transport mail are up to 13.0″ in width and 26″ in length, with a maximum height of 8.5″ including combined height of mail and tray. Therefore, 9″ is used as the minimum container clearance height. For illustration purposes, the following trays are used in the preferred embodiment: full MM trays (25.5″ long×12.38″ wide×5″ high), half MM trays (13.75″ long×12.13∴ wide×5″ high), full EMM trays (24.5″ long×13″ wide×6.25″ high), half EMM trays (12.25″ long×13″ wide×6.25″ high), and flats tub (8.25″ long×13.25″ wide×11.5″ high). Additional trays may be added with the placement of photo eyes to recognize their presence. It should be further noted that this invention is not limited to mail trays but can also find applicability with any other type of objects that have to be sorted according to size.
  • [0017]
    FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate the profiler system and the process for handling an object, for this example a mail tray (not shown), being profiled for a future action, for this example downstream diversion of the mail tray. The process is initiated when the mail tray entering the conveyor 12 in the direction of arrow “A” and travels down the roller 24. The first step of the process is sensing the mail tray by photo sensor 14 e that activates or wakes the sleeping controller 18 to run conventional “debounce” logic, step 2, to check for false positives.
  • [0018]
    The controller 18 is programmed to filter false signals and accommodate varying conveyor speeds. Standard photo-sensor debounce logic, used in the preferred embodiment, is set, for example, at 150 msec (˜5.5″ of travel @ 180 fpm) to prevent false positives due to mail sticking out of the top of the tray, dust or any other miscellaneous articles that may come into contact with the conveyor or profiler. Debounce logic (not disclosed) is designed into the controller 18 software to limit the number of false readings that would ultimately affect the overall accuracy and performance of the profiler system. Debounce logic provides a time delay (for example 150 msec) between the time an object is sensed by the photo sensor 14 a and when the controller 18 recognizes the “on” signal that the photo-eye is sending, thereby increasing overall system reliability.
  • [0019]
    The third, fourth and fifth steps of the process occurs when the leading edge of a mail tray reaches photo sensor 14 a. In step 3, the states (blocked or not blocked) of photo sensor 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, and 14 d are sensed to determine the tray type as per a photo sensor matrix 26, as illustrated in FIG. 4. Due to tray lengths and photo sensor placement of the preferred embodiment, the photo sensor states are valid for up to 5.75″ of tray travel after photo sensor 14 a is blocked by the leading edge of a tray.
  • [0020]
    At steps 4 and 5, the tray is classified by setting a “Tray Type” bit, as illustrated in FIG. 5. This operation occurs approximately 150 msec (˜5.5″ of travel @ 180 fpm based on the debounce logic) after the leading edge of the tray passes photo sensor 14 a. Concurrently, a global “Tray Classified” bit is broadcast as a request for the controller 18 to poll for the tray type. When the tray arrives at the exit photo sensor 14 f of the conveyor 12, the tray type bits are reset to zero.
  • [0021]
    Now returning to FIG. 4, the controller 18 compares the photo sensor states to the photo sensor matrix 26 to identify the tray type. The controller 18 then forwards, step 6, the tray type information to the conveyor control system 28 for determining which mail stream 30 to diverge the tray downstream, as illustrated in FIG. 1.
  • [0022]
    Any combinations of photo sensor blocked v. not blocked which are not covered by the photo sensor matrix 26 are classified as unknown trays and diverted to a special handling area downstream. For example, when all sensors are blocked, the tray may be too long and too high for the downstream distribution stations to accommodate. Another situation may arise that sensors 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, and 14 d are not blocked when a tray passes sensor 14 f, indicating that a tray is shorter than excepted and its length is unknown. In these and similar cases, the controller 18 will signal the conveyor control system 28 that an unknown tray has exited the conveyor. The conveyor control system 28, in response to the signal by the controller 18, will divert the unknown tray downstream to a holding area.
  • [0023]
    Although the invention has been described with respect to various embodiments, it should be realized this invention is also capable of a wide variety of further and other embodiments within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

Claims (2)

  1. 1. An object handling system for use in conjunction with a conveyor system comprising:
    first means for sensing an object that is being transported along the conveyor system, wherein said first means senses a height and a length of the object; and
    second means for analyzing the height and the length of the object to classify the object as a type, wherein said second means being operably connected to the first means.
  2. 2. A method for a mail tray profiler for use in conjunction with a conveyor comprising the steps of:
    sensing information of an object as it is transported along the conveyor;
    comparing the sensed information of the object with a standard, wherein the standard comprises an array of object types; and
    assigning an object type to the object.
US10929164 2001-12-11 2004-08-30 Profiler system for mail articles Abandoned US20050027391A1 (en)

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US10014764 US6847860B2 (en) 2001-12-11 2001-12-11 Profiler system for mail articles
US10929164 US20050027391A1 (en) 2001-12-11 2004-08-30 Profiler system for mail articles

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US10929164 US20050027391A1 (en) 2001-12-11 2004-08-30 Profiler system for mail articles

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US10929164 Abandoned US20050027391A1 (en) 2001-12-11 2004-08-30 Profiler system for mail articles

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* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US6975747B2 (en) * 2001-08-14 2005-12-13 Acuity Cimatrix, Inc. Method and system for monitoring and controlling workpieces
US6847860B2 (en) * 2001-12-11 2005-01-25 Lockheed Martin Corporation Profiler system for mail articles

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US2033645A (en) * 1931-09-21 1936-03-10 Mathews Conveyer Co Distributing system for classifying objects
US2982403A (en) * 1955-05-13 1961-05-02 Reed Res Inc Long-short separator for serially conveyed units
US3061732A (en) * 1958-09-18 1962-10-30 United States Steel Corp Device for measuring a linear dimension of moving articles
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US3666093A (en) * 1970-08-18 1972-05-30 Forrest Paschal Machinery Co Apparatus for sensing and ejecting bricks of improper size
US4063820A (en) * 1975-11-10 1977-12-20 Rca Corporation Apparatus for measuring a dimension of an object
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US4276467A (en) * 1978-07-17 1981-06-30 The Mead Corporation Apparatus for receiving empty beverage containers
US4360108A (en) * 1981-01-05 1982-11-23 Joule' Technical Corporation Method and apparatus for checking letter thickness
US4419384A (en) * 1982-09-27 1983-12-06 Armstrong World Industries, Inc. Apparatus and process for ultrasonically identifying and coating articles having differing characteristics
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US5020675A (en) * 1986-11-12 1991-06-04 Lockwood Graders (Uk) Limited Apparatus for sorting conveyed articles
US5331118A (en) * 1992-11-27 1994-07-19 Soren Jensen Package dimensional volume and weight determination system for conveyors
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US6323452B1 (en) * 1999-08-05 2001-11-27 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Feeding system and method for placing a plurality of objects on a tray of an automated sorting system
US6382515B1 (en) * 1995-12-18 2002-05-07 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated system and method for identifying and measuring packages transported through a laser scanning tunnel
US6616048B2 (en) * 1995-12-18 2003-09-09 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated system and method for identifying and measuring packages transported through an omnidirectional laser scanning tunnel
US6699007B2 (en) * 1996-11-26 2004-03-02 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Method and apparatus for palletizing packages of random size and weight
US6705526B1 (en) * 1995-12-18 2004-03-16 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated method of and system for dimensioning objects transported through a work environment using contour tracing, vertice detection, corner point detection, and corner point reduction methods on two-dimensional range data maps captured by an amplitude modulated laser scanning beam
US6847860B2 (en) * 2001-12-11 2005-01-25 Lockheed Martin Corporation Profiler system for mail articles
US6941796B2 (en) * 2001-07-03 2005-09-13 Ishida Co., Ltd. Package handling apparatus detecting package height

Patent Citations (31)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US2033645A (en) * 1931-09-21 1936-03-10 Mathews Conveyer Co Distributing system for classifying objects
US2982403A (en) * 1955-05-13 1961-05-02 Reed Res Inc Long-short separator for serially conveyed units
US3061732A (en) * 1958-09-18 1962-10-30 United States Steel Corp Device for measuring a linear dimension of moving articles
US3512624A (en) * 1968-07-03 1970-05-19 Sparton Corp Conveyed article positioning apparatus
US3592326A (en) * 1969-01-31 1971-07-13 Ncr Co Parcel post singulating and orienting apparatus
US3666093A (en) * 1970-08-18 1972-05-30 Forrest Paschal Machinery Co Apparatus for sensing and ejecting bricks of improper size
US4063820A (en) * 1975-11-10 1977-12-20 Rca Corporation Apparatus for measuring a dimension of an object
US4271967A (en) * 1978-03-01 1981-06-09 Fuji Electric Co., Ltd. System for sorting elongated members
US4276467A (en) * 1978-07-17 1981-06-30 The Mead Corporation Apparatus for receiving empty beverage containers
US4360108A (en) * 1981-01-05 1982-11-23 Joule' Technical Corporation Method and apparatus for checking letter thickness
US4419384A (en) * 1982-09-27 1983-12-06 Armstrong World Industries, Inc. Apparatus and process for ultrasonically identifying and coating articles having differing characteristics
US4678920A (en) * 1985-06-17 1987-07-07 General Motors Corporation Machine vision method and apparatus
US5020675A (en) * 1986-11-12 1991-06-04 Lockwood Graders (Uk) Limited Apparatus for sorting conveyed articles
US5606534A (en) * 1989-09-01 1997-02-25 Quantronix, Inc. Laser-based dimensioning system
US5656799A (en) * 1991-04-10 1997-08-12 U-Ship, Inc. Automated package shipping machine
US5331118A (en) * 1992-11-27 1994-07-19 Soren Jensen Package dimensional volume and weight determination system for conveyors
US5719678A (en) * 1994-07-26 1998-02-17 Intermec Corporation Volumetric measurement of a parcel using a CCD line scanner and height sensor
US5703784A (en) * 1995-10-30 1997-12-30 The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of Agriculture Machine vision apparatus and method for sorting objects
US6382515B1 (en) * 1995-12-18 2002-05-07 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated system and method for identifying and measuring packages transported through a laser scanning tunnel
US6705526B1 (en) * 1995-12-18 2004-03-16 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated method of and system for dimensioning objects transported through a work environment using contour tracing, vertice detection, corner point detection, and corner point reduction methods on two-dimensional range data maps captured by an amplitude modulated laser scanning beam
US6616048B2 (en) * 1995-12-18 2003-09-09 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Automated system and method for identifying and measuring packages transported through an omnidirectional laser scanning tunnel
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US6005212A (en) * 1997-01-31 1999-12-21 Neopost Industrie Feed device for feeding mail items of various dimensions
US6226081B1 (en) * 1997-03-24 2001-05-01 Optikos Corporation Optical height of fill detection system and associated methods
US5984078A (en) * 1997-08-04 1999-11-16 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Automated shuttle sorter for conveyors
US6023034A (en) * 1997-11-13 2000-02-08 Hitachi, Ltd. Inter-article gap adjustor for controlled delivery to a sorting device using a plurality of gap sensors
US6135292A (en) * 1998-12-21 2000-10-24 Pitney Bowes Inc. Method and system for presorting mail based on mail piece thickness
US6323452B1 (en) * 1999-08-05 2001-11-27 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Feeding system and method for placing a plurality of objects on a tray of an automated sorting system
US6941796B2 (en) * 2001-07-03 2005-09-13 Ishida Co., Ltd. Package handling apparatus detecting package height
US6847860B2 (en) * 2001-12-11 2005-01-25 Lockheed Martin Corporation Profiler system for mail articles

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Publication number Publication date Type
US20030109955A1 (en) 2003-06-12 application
US6847860B2 (en) 2005-01-25 grant
WO2003049878A1 (en) 2003-06-19 application

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