US20130206785A1 - Automatic distributor device for objects - Google Patents

Automatic distributor device for objects Download PDF

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Publication number
US20130206785A1
US20130206785A1 US13/704,957 US201113704957A US2013206785A1 US 20130206785 A1 US20130206785 A1 US 20130206785A1 US 201113704957 A US201113704957 A US 201113704957A US 2013206785 A1 US2013206785 A1 US 2013206785A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
pick
objects
loading
window
opening
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
US13/704,957
Inventor
Augusto Santicchi
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.)
IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI Srl
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IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI Srl
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Filing date
Publication date
Priority to ITUD2010A000118A priority Critical patent/IT1400627B1/en
Priority to ITUD2010A000118 priority
Application filed by IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI Srl filed Critical IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI Srl
Priority to PCT/IB2011/001357 priority patent/WO2011158101A1/en
Assigned to IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI SRL reassignment IMMOBILIARE METALPROGETTI SRL ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: SANTICCHI, AUGUSTO
Publication of US20130206785A1 publication Critical patent/US20130206785A1/en
Abandoned legal-status Critical Current

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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47FSPECIAL FURNITURE, FITTINGS, OR ACCESSORIES FOR SHOPS, STOREHOUSES, BARS, RESTAURANTS OR THE LIKE; PAYING COUNTERS
    • A47F1/00Racks for dispensing merchandise; Containers for dispensing merchandise
    • A47F1/04Racks or containers with arrangements for dispensing articles, e.g. by means of gravity or springs
    • A47F1/12Racks or containers with arrangements for dispensing articles, e.g. by means of gravity or springs dispensing from the side of an approximately horizontal stack
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F11/00Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles
    • G07F11/02Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines
    • G07F11/04Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines in which magazines the articles are stored one vertically above the other
    • G07F11/045Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines in which magazines the articles are stored one vertically above the other for sheet shaped or pliable articles
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F11/00Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles
    • G07F11/02Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines
    • G07F11/04Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines in which magazines the articles are stored one vertically above the other
    • G07F11/06Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines in which magazines the articles are stored one vertically above the other supported individually on pivotally-mounted flaps or shelves
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F11/00Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles
    • G07F11/46Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from movable storage containers or supports
    • G07F11/58Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from movable storage containers or supports the articles being supported on or by endless belts or like conveyors

Abstract

Automatic distributor device for objects, in particular but not only for folded articles of clothing, such as for example garments, uniforms, overalls or other, comprising at least a box-like body provided at an ergonomic height with at least a pick-up window for the distribution of the objects and a loading window to supply the objects. The distributor device comprises a plurality of containing elements of the single-object type, which selectively have an open position for receiving and picking up the object, and a closed position for movement. The containing elements are configured to normally contain one object or a homogeneous plurality of objects. The distributor device comprises closed ring movement means which move the plurality of the containing elements inside the box-like body so as to position one of them on each occasion selectively facing toward the pick-up window or toward the loading window.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention concerns an automatic distributor device for substantially flat objects, in particular folded articles of clothing, such as for example garments, uniforms, overalls and others, but also newspapers, magazines, documents, trays and other.
  • In particular, the automatic distributor device according to the present invention is applied for the automated distribution of the objects and for the automated monitoring thereof both in the distribution step, the storage step, and also in the supply step. The invention is applied in particular for use in communities such as hospitals, schools, factories, institutions in general, where there is a need to periodically retrieve, for example daily, articles of clothing, personalized and otherwise, after they have been washed.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Automatic distributor devices are known, for the distribution of objects of various types, for example for use in communities, in particular for the distribution of clean and folded articles of clothing, such as for example garments, uniforms, smocks, overalls, work garments in general, or other equipment used for example in the medical field or hospital surgery.
  • A first type of known automatic distributor device provides a plurality of containing drawers, disposed inside a box-like body and associated with a rotary movement mechanism, for example a paternoster, which moves them cyclically along a closed path. Each drawer is therefore disposed, upon request, in a position adjacent to a pick-up window, allowing to remove the desired article or to load it.
  • Each containing drawer is normally filled with a predetermined quantity of objects of the same type, in particular folded articles of clothing, such as for example trousers or jackets of the same size. The positioning of a specific drawer adjacent to the distribution window is performed following the recognition of the user accessing the distribution service, for example after electronic recognition with a relative badge, or reading a bar code or introducing a univocal identification code.
  • This first known automatic distributor device, although it guarantees quick supply of the objects, does not allow to control an improper use, because when the drawer is positioned in correspondence with the pick-up window, it is not possible to prevent removal of two or more articles of clothing, which makes it impossible to effectively trace the removal of the articles taken.
  • A further disadvantage of this first known device is that it is not possible to diversify the distribution of the articles in a personalized manner, since each drawer contains objects of the same type. Furthermore, the number of distinct drawers defines the number of different articles that can be distributed, substantially limiting both variety and assortment.
  • A second known device is of the type that distributes food products, in which a rotary element with a vertical development is disposed inside a relative containing box-like body. The rotary element, which rotates around a vertical axis of rotation, comprises a plurality of horizontal shelves, of a circular shape, one on top of the other at a predetermined distance. The shelves are divided into circular sectors, in each of which a specific article is positioned. The rotation of the rotary element allows to position a predetermined and desired sector adjacent to a corresponding pick-up window, to allow the selected article to be removed.
  • Although it allows to guarantee the traceability of each article distributed and an adequate assortment of articles, this second type of known automatic distributor device needs a long supply time. Furthermore, since the circular sectors are rather narrow, it can be problematic to insert the objects, especially in the case of articles of clothing, and this compromises the quality of ironing of the garments.
  • A third type of known automatic distributor device comprises a containing cabinet with several compartments, each of which can be opened, again after recognition of the user enabled to access the distribution service.
  • Although it allows very quick supply operations, and allows to trace the removal of the individual articles, the third type of automatic distributor device does not allow a desired assortment regarding different types, sizes and/or colors of the articles contained, given the same space actually occupied.
  • One purpose of the present invention is to achieve an automatic distributor device for objects, with a mainly flat development, in particular but not only for articles of clothing, which allows to distribute, even in a personalized manner, a wide assortment of objects and to control effectively the distribution of each single article contained therein.
  • Another purpose of the present invention is to achieve an automatic distributor device for objects, in particular for articles of clothing, which has short supply times and does not compromise the quality of the possible ironing operation previously performed.
  • The Applicant has devised, tested and embodied the present invention to overcome the shortcomings of the state of the art and to obtain these and other purposes and advantages.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention is set forth and characterized in the independent claim, while the dependent claims describe other characteristics of the invention or variants to the main inventive idea.
  • In accordance with the above purposes, an automatic distributor device for objects, in particular but not only for folded articles of clothing, such as for example garments, uniforms, overalls or other, comprises at least a box-like body, provided at an ergonomic height with pick-up and loading means to distribute the objects and supply the objects in the distributor.
  • In some variants, the pick-up and loading means comprise at least a pick-up window to distribute the objects and/or a loading window, which may or may not coincide with the pick-up window.
  • According to one feature of the present invention, the automatic distributor device comprises a plurality of containing elements of the single-object type, selectively having an open position for receiving and picking up the object, and a closed position for movement; the containing elements are configured to normally contain one of said objects, or a homogeneous plurality of said objects. The automatic distributor device also comprises closed-ring movement means which move the plurality of the containing elements inside the box-like body so as to position one of them on each occasion selectively facing toward the pick-up and loading means.
  • According to another feature of the present invention, the closed-ring movement means comprise one or more belts or chains, to which the containing elements are attached. The attachment occurs on the opposite side with respect to the opening/closing side of the containing element. The belts or chains have a development comprising at least a rear return portion and a connected front portion which, in proximity with the pick-up and loading means, has at least a partly curvilinear segment. The convexity of the partly curvilinear segment faces toward the pick-up and loading means so as to define a curved operating zone which determines the angular distancing between the containing elements in the operating zone.
  • In some variant solutions, the operating zone is configured so that, when the containing element is around the top of the convexity of the at least partly curvilinear segment, it lies on a substantially horizontal plane and, when open, is suitable to receive the object to be loaded; on the contrary, when the containing element goes beyond the top of the convexity, below it, it is oriented downward, and when open promotes the fall of the object contained so it can be picked up by the user.
  • According to another feature of the present invention, each containing element in the closed position is conformed to define a housing seating, substantially flat and closed, in which the corresponding object contained remains stably during its movement inside the box-like body.
  • According to one feature of the present invention, each containing element is configured substantially as a folder and comprises a pair of flat supports, hinged in correspondence with a common edge and provided with clamping means in order to stably maintain the containing element in its closed position during its movement in the box-like body.
  • Therefore, the containing element in its closed position has an extremely limited thickness, allowing to house a large number of containing elements inside the same automatic distributor device and therefore a large assortment of objects, for example different articles of clothing and different sizes, obtaining a great personalization in the distribution thereof.
  • Furthermore, in its closed position, the containing element allows to efficiently preserve the object contained therein, preserving it from possible contaminating agents and also, in the case of an article of clothing, keeping it in efficient ironed conditions.
  • According to the present invention, the automatic distributor device comprises opening and closing means, operatively disposed in the operating zone and drivable in coordination with the movement means. The opening and closing means are suitable to cooperate with the clamping means of at least one containing element positioned in the operating zone, in order to determine the switching between its open position and its closed position.
  • A variant of the present invention provides that the opening and closing means are movable between at least a first position in which they are operatively disposed in proximity with said pick-up window, to determine the opening of a containing element facing toward it, and a second position in which they are operatively disposed in proximity with said loading window, to determine the opening of a containing element facing toward it.
  • In some forms of embodiment, the opening and closing means comprise grippers able to cooperate with the edges of the hinged supports, passing from a wide apart configuration, in which the containing element is open, to a close-up configuration, in which the containing element is closed.
  • In some variants of the present invention, the grippers comprise first peg or push rod means able to cooperate with relative holes made in the supports, and second peg or push rod means able to cooperate with the clamping means.
  • In some variant solutions, moreover, the device according to the present invention comprises counter means associated with the chains and configured to supply a first counting signal of the folders, able to determine the functioning of the chains to position a desired containing element in substantial correspondence with the operating zone.
  • Furthermore, in other variants, the device according to the present invention comprises position sensor means associated with the opening and closing means and configured to provide a second signal able to determine the functioning of the chains for the precise positioning of a desired containing element in correspondence with the opening and closing means.
  • In other variants, the device according to the present invention comprises mechanical positioning means configured to cooperate with a desired containing element so as to determine the stable alignment with the opening and closing means.
  • According to another variant, the automatic distributor device also comprises discharge means suitable to facilitate the transfer of an object from the containing element to the pick-up means.
  • According to another variant, the automatic distributor device comprises user interface means for the selection of the objects to be picked up.
  • According to another variant, the automatic distributor device comprises electronic identification means, operatively connected to the user interface means, able to identify univocally each specific user, provided with an identification device and/or to identify univocally each object inserted into each of the containing elements. In this way it is possible to guarantee an effective traceability of the objects distributed and of the users who have actually picked up each specific object.
  • According to a first solution, the electronic identification means comprise at least a radiofrequency reader of the RFID type, able to cooperate with RFID tags individually associated with each object.
  • It comes within the spirit of the present invention to provide that the distributor device comprises electronic communication means to connect to each other two or more distributor devices and to allow the coordinated functioning thereof, so as to distribute two or more objects substantially simultaneously, through the corresponding pick-up windows. Therefore, in this way it is possible to increase the assortment and personalization of the objects to be distributed, further reducing the distribution times, especially in particular working contexts such as factories and suchlike.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • These and other characteristics of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of a preferential form of embodiment, given as a non-restrictive example with reference to the attached drawings wherein:
  • FIG. 1 is a three-dimensional view, partly in section, of an automatic distributor device for objects according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a lateral view of FIG. 1;
  • FIGS. 3A, 3B are enlarged views of a detail of FIG. 2;
  • FIG. 4A is a lateral schematic view of a containing element of the distributor device in FIG. 1, in a first operating configuration;
  • FIG. 4B is a front schematic view of the containing element of the distributor device in FIG. 4A, in a second operating configuration;
  • FIG. 5 is an enlarged view of a detail of the automatic distributor device for objects according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 6 is a simplified functional three-dimensional view of the automatic distributor device for objects according to the present invention;
  • FIGS. 7 and 8 are lateral schematic views of the automatic distributor device in two different operating configurations;
  • FIG. 9 is a schematic representation of a variant of the opening and closing of a containing element according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 10 is a lateral view of the automatic distributor device in FIG. 1 in a step of positioning the containing element for loading the objects;
  • FIG. 11 is a schematic representation of the steps for controlling the positioning of the containing element for opening and closing;
  • FIG. 12 is a lateral view of the automatic distributor device in FIG. 1 during the step of loading the objects into the containing element;
  • FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a loading door of the automatic distributor device in FIG. 1 during the step of loading the objects into the containing element;
  • FIG. 14 is a lateral perspective view, partly in section, of the loading door in FIG. 13, during the step of loading the objects into the containing element;
  • FIG. 15 is a lateral view of the automatic distributor device in FIG. 1 in a step of picking up the objects from the containing element; and
  • FIG. 16 is a lateral perspective view, partly in section, of the pick-up step in FIG. 15, through a pick-up door.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERENTIAL FORM OF EMBODIMENT
  • With reference to the attached drawings, an automatic distributor device for substantially flat objects, hereafter distributor 10, is used for the substantially automatic distribution of folded articles of clothing or objects 11, such as for example garments, uniforms, overalls or other.
  • The distributor 10 comprises a box-like body 12, provided with a pick-up window 21 and a loading window 22, a plurality of containing elements or folders 18, of the single-object type, each for containing a single and predetermined article 11. The distributor 10 also comprises a movement mechanism 24 and a user interface display 30, used to select the article 11 to be picked up.
  • The box-like body 12 has a supporting base 13, a rear portion 14, normally close to a wall, a front portion 16 and respective lateral portions 15 with a containing and supporting function. The box-like body 12 also has an inner frame, not indicated in the drawings, to support the movement mechanism 24 and the relative components and drive members. The sizes of the box-like body 12 are such as to allow it to be positioned in a corridor or access zone. The box-like body 12 can also comprise wheels, not shown, provided in correspondence with the base 13, to facilitate the positioning, and attachment feet.
  • The front portion 16 comprises a first segment, substantially inclined, and a second vertical segment. The first segment has an inspection window, not shown, so that the staff responsible for maintenance can visually control the correct functioning of the distributor 10.
  • On the first segment of the front portion 16 there is also the user interface display 30, such as for example a touch screen display, to select the article to be removed.
  • On the second segment of the front portion there is respectively the pick-up window 21, associated with an inner drawer in which the selected article 11 is deposited, and above it the loading window 22, used to periodically supply the distributor 10.
  • The distributor 10 also comprises an electronic processing and control unit, not shown, of a known type, such as a PLC or an industrial processor such as a PC104. The electronic processing and control unit is provided with or associated with electronic memorization means, and is connected to the display 30 and to at least a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag reader to read the corresponding RFID tag contained in each article 11.
  • In fact, all the articles 11 are provided with a radiofrequency identification device of the low-frequency, single-read type, or the high-frequency multi-read type, disposed in a suitable position.
  • Each article 11 is therefore classified according to model, color and size, and to the position of the specific containing folder 18, and everything is registered in the electronic memorization means of the processing and control unit.
  • The distributor 10 can therefore deliver the articles 11 of clothing according to a correspondence in function and role of the users, divided by model, color and size. The distribution of the articles 11 can also be personalized by associating to each user his/her own article 11 or uniform that belongs to him/her.
  • In another form of embodiment, instead of the RFID reader, the distributor 10 comprises a bar code reader for reading the corresponding codes impressed on the articles 11 of clothing.
  • In another form of embodiment it is possible to provide that, instead of using the RFID reader or the bar code reader, the individual articles 11 are identified by manually inserting the relative identification code, for example by means of the touch screen of the user interface display 30, in coordination with the actual loading of each article 11.
  • The distributor 10 can also provide a badge reader, to recognize users and authorize them for use.
  • The movement mechanism 24 allows to move the folders 18 inside the box-like body 12 and to selectively position them facing on each occasion toward the pick-up window 21 or toward the loading window 22. In particular, the mechanism 24 comprises two transmission chains 25, to which the folders 18 are attached.
  • The chains 25 are disposed according to a corresponding closed-ring development 26, each of which lies on a relative plane, vertical to the base 13 and parallel to the lateral portions 15. The chains 25, that is, the relative lying planes, are also positioned at a predetermined reciprocal distance, correlated to the width of the folders 18.
  • In this case, the developments 26 are conformed in a triangle geometry. In one form of embodiment the triangle geometry is of the isosceles type and comprises a return segment 27, corresponding to the base, and two inclined segments, respectively a lower segment 28 and an upper segment 29.
  • The return segment 27, substantially rectilinear, develops vertically at a predetermined distance from the rear portion 14 of the box-like body 12, correlated to the transverse bulk of the folders 18. The lower segment 28 and the upper segment 29 develop toward the front portion 16 of the box-like body 12 and are connected to the return segment 27 in correspondence with return and transmission wheels 34, positioned at the base tops of the triangle.
  • The lower segment 28 and the upper segment 29, in turn rectilinear, are connected in correspondence with the third top of the triangle, so as to define in correspondence with the pick-up window 21 and the loading window 22, a curvilinear segment 32 with a convexity facing or protruding toward the windows 21, 22. This allows to define a curved operating zone 50 which, thanks to the passage from the rectilinear development to the development of the curvilinear surface of the chains 25, determines the progressive angular distancing of the containing elements 18 transiting along the operating zone 50. Furthermore, when the folder 18 is around the top of the convexity of the curvilinear segment 32, it lies on a plane substantially horizontal to the height of the loading window 22 and, when open, can receive the object 11 to be loaded; on the contrary, when the folder 18 goes beyond the top of the convexity of the curvilinear segment 32, toward the lower segment 28, it finds itself facing downward, and when it is open, it facilitates the fall of the object 11 contained therein, so that it can be picked up by the user. The folders 18 in the operating zone 50 are thus opened, for the corresponding article 11 to be picked up or loaded, by means of opening/closing means which will be described in more detail hereafter, without interfering mechanically with adjacent folders 18, thanks to the angular distancing between them due to the special convex conformation protruding toward the outside of the curvilinear segment 32. The subsequent passage from the curvilinear zone to the rectilinear zone of the chains 25 causes the folders 18 to be moved progressively closer to each other until, after the pick-up window 21, they are again compacted and compressed.
  • The transmission chains 25 are selectively movable in opposite directions of rotation, by means of the return and transmission wheels 34, which are in turn driven by a relative movement member of a known type, such as an electric motor, not indicated, commanded by the electronic processing and control unit.
  • The movement mechanism 24 comprises guides 31 which develop in a rectilinear manner along the segments 27, 28 and 29, defining corresponding sliding and supporting seatings for the chains 25.
  • The folder 18 (FIGS. 4A and 4B) comprises two rigid supports 19, substantially flat, having the same rectangular shape, which are hinged in a first rear edge 19 a in correspondence with which they are attached to the transmission chains 25. Each folder 18 is also operatively attached to the chains 25 so that during rotation the supports 19 are substantially perpendicular to each segment 27, 28 and 29 of the chains 25.
  • The folder 18 has a closed position (FIG. 4B) in which the two supports 19 are positioned one above the other so as to define a housing seating 20 between respective internal surfaces 19 c, in order to retain the article 11 stably and securely during its movement inside the box-like body 12. In one form of embodiment the sizes of each folder 18 in the corresponding closed position are about 50 cm in length, 30 cm in depth and 2 cm in height. In this form of embodiment the distributor 10 can comprise about one hundred folders 18.
  • The folder 18 is held stably in the closed position by means of respective clamping portions 39, made in correspondence with a second edge 19 b of a first of the two supports 19 which cooperate with mating attachment portions, not indicated, of the second support 19.
  • In one form of embodiment, not shown, instead of the clamping portions 39, on each support 19 the folder 18 has magnetic elements that cooperate reciprocally by means of magnetic attraction so as to keep the folder 18 stably in its closed position during its movement.
  • The folder 18 also has an open position (FIG. 4A), in which the two supports 19 are made to rotate by a predetermined angle. In this position, automatically determined when the folder 18 is disposed adjacent to the pick-up window 21 and the specific article 11 has been selected, part of the housing seating 20, comprising the surface of the lower support 19, is disposed inclined so as to facilitate the discharge of the selected article toward the drawer 23 and then toward the pick-up window 21.
  • Each folder 18 can be disposed in its open position substantially automatically, even when it is in correspondence with the loading window 22, to allow a new article 11 to be loaded.
  • Each support 19 also has an opening hole 40 made in correspondence with the second edge 19 b, which develops in a direction parallel to the edge 19 b itself. Each hole 40 cooperates with corresponding grippers 44, or other means for opening and closing the folder 18, disposed on one side and the other with respect to the folders 18. The grippers 44 are configured to cooperate with the edges of the hinged supports 19, passing from a wide open configuration, in which the containing element 18 is open, to a close-up configuration, in which the containing element 18 is closed.
  • The grippers 44 are operatively disposed in correspondence with the operating zone 50 and have first push rods, pegs or pins 45, which are inserted during use into the respective holes 40 of a folder 18, stationary and positioned in correspondence with the pick-up window 21 or the loading window 22. The first push rods 45, once inserted, are reciprocally moved closer or apart so as to determine respectively the opening or closing of the supports 19 and hence of the folder 18.
  • Furthermore, in some fauns of embodiment (FIG. 9) each of the grippers 44 is equipped with a corresponding second push rod, peg or pin 47, disposed on one side and the other with respect to the folder 18, and drivable linearly so as to cooperate with an attachment tongue 49 of the clamping portions 39, made in this case on the edges of an upper support 19, housed in a corresponding eyelet 43 made in this case on the edges of a support 19. The attachment tongue 49, as can easily be seen in the enlarged detail in FIG. 9, is shaped mating with the eyelet 43, so as to determine therewith a geometric coupling. The attachment tongue 49 has properties of flexibility, so that the thrust by the second push rods 47, or lack of thrust, determines the selective displacement of the attachment tongue 49 between a position of non-interference with the edges of the eyelet 43, in which the two supports 19 are free to rotate one with respect to the other, and a position of interference, in which the attachment tongue 49 is geometrically coupled with the eyelet 43 to determine the reciprocal coupling of the supports 19.
  • In some forms of embodiment, the grippers 44 are movable, for example by means of a hydraulic actuator with pistons or other suitable member, between a first position in which they are disposed in proximity with the pick-up window 21, that is, of the drawer 23, to determine the opening of the folder 18 and its subsequent closure, and a second position in which they are operatively disposed in proximity with the loading window 22 to determine the opening of the folder 18 and to allow a predetermined article 11 to be loaded into a folder 18, stationary and positioned there.
  • In some forms of embodiment, the movement of the folders 18 by means of the chains 25 is accurately controlled in order to take the desired folder 18, associated with its own identification device, into precise cooperation with the grippers 44 which perform the opening operation in correspondence with the loading window 22 and the closing operation in correspondence with the pick-up window 21. To this purpose, in some forms of embodiment, a counter device 33 is provided, associated with the chain 25 and located in this case in correspondence with the curvilinear segment 32, behind the containing elements 18 (FIG. 10). The counter device 33 is able to count the folders 18 and, depending on the identification of the desired folder 18, supplies a signal to stop the chain 25, so that the selected folder 18 is positioned in substantial correspondence with the loading window 22, thus performing a function of roughly positioning the desired folder 18 in a zone where the grippers 44 operate.
  • In particular, the counter device 33 comprises inside it three photocells, suitably positioned, that are excited by the passage of a tongue 55 made from the back of the rear support of the folder 18 (FIGS. 10 and 11). Of the three photocells, two photocells distanced from each other, at the passage of the tongues 55, supply two signals of the on/off type, the combination of which allows to derive the direction of rotation and to count the folders 18, while a third photocell is excited by a longer tongue which determines the zero of the count. The position of the counter device 33 is not constrained to a specific zone of the chain 25, but it is preferable that its distance from the loading and unloading point is a multiple of the distance between one tongue 55 and the other.
  • Furthermore, position sensors 52, 54 are provided to determine a precise positioning and centering of the folder 18 with respect to the grippers 44, in correspondence with the loading window 22 or pick-up window 21. The position sensors comprise in this case two photocells 52, 54 disposed so as to detect the correct positioning of the folder 18 with respect to the grippers 44, sighting the start and finish of the folder 18 in a correlated fashion.
  • Moreover, to ensure the cooperation between the first push rods 45 and the corresponding holes 40, and also between the second push rods 47 and the attachment tongues 49, the invention provides that, on one side and the other of the folder 18, there are mechanical positioning elements 56, for example shown as the fork type in FIG. 11, disposed in a position coordinated with that of the first push rods 45 and second push rods 47. The mechanical positioning elements 56 are mobile linearly from and toward the folder 18 and are configured to engage with the edges of the folder 18, once it has been positioned accurately thanks to the position sensors 52, 54, so as to ensure the precise and stable alignment of the push rods 45 and second push rods 47 and the corresponding holes 40 and eyelets 43 so that they can subsequently be inserted correctly and without interference and blockages to open and close the folder 18.
  • Advantageously, together with the grippers 44, movable as described above, the position sensors 52, 54, and the mechanical positioning elements 56 can also be positioned so that it is possible to repeat the same centering operation described above in correspondence with the loading window 22 and the pick-up window 21.
  • In some forms of embodiment, the loading window 22 is provided with a shutter door 122 (FIGS. 13 and 14) selectively mobile automatically along a vertical opening/closing travel and on command by the operator who has to load the articles 11 in the desired folder 18 once the latter has been positioned in correspondence with the loading window 22 (FIGS. 12 and 14).
  • In some forms of embodiment, the pick-up window 21 (FIG. 15) is provided with a pivoting door 121 (FIG. 16) easily opened when thrust by the user who has to pick up the article 11 which has been deposited in the drawer 23.
  • According to a variant embodiment, instead of a distinct loading window 22 and pick-up window 21, the distributor 10 provides the possibility of loading and unloading by means of the loading window 22, which in this way functions as a pick-up window too. In this solution, the loading function remains unchanged, whereas the distributor 10 does not provide the pick-up window 21 and the articles 11 are always loaded or unloaded through the loading window 22. The distributor 10 positions and opens the chosen folder 18 in correspondence with the loading window 22 and opening the shutter door 122 allows the user to pick up the content of the folder 18. Once the pick-up step is finished, the user closes the shutter 122 manually, declares the operation concluded and the distributor 10 is ready for a new operation.
  • In one form of embodiment, several distributors 10 are associated operatively to achieve an automatic distributor with a multiplied distributive capacity. In this form of embodiment the processing and control units are connected electronically by means of a line of communication of a known type, such as a MODBUS data communication bus or other, and a predetermined control unit is the main unit or master unit, whereas the other control units are slave units. In this solution, it is possible to activate only one display 30, for example the display of a central distributor, by means of which it is also possible to identify which specific distributor will distribute the specific article 11. The distributor 10 as described heretofore functions as follows.
  • During the distribution of an article 11, an authorized user is identified for example by the automatic recognition of his/her RFID tag or badge, choosing with the touch screen display 30 the type of article 11 to be picked up or, in the case of a personalized distribution, confirming a choice proposed on the display 30 according to the data already memorized in the electronic memorization means.
  • As shown in FIGS. 6-8, which for the sake of simplicity show only the transmission mechanism 24 and the folders connected to it, after verifying the user's authorization the processing and control unit activates the transmission mechanism 24 by driving the relative wheels 34, so as to make the chains 25 rotate in one or the other of the two directions indicated by the arrow L.
  • The movement of the chains 25, for example at constant speed, continues until the specific folder 18 containing the chosen article 11 is positioned, also according to its identification device, in proximity with the operating zone 50, that is, the curvilinear segment 32, also thanks to the intervention of the counter device 33 which determines the rough positioning of the desired folder 18. In particular, the specific folder 18 is stopped in a position adjacent to the drawer 23 and the pick-up window 21 in which it is positioned with the supports 19 partly inclined. The rotation of the chains 25 takes place in a specific direction of rotation which minimizes the time that the folder 18 containing the desired article 11 takes to move to the operating zone 50.
  • Subsequently, once the position sensors 52, 54 have determined a precise positioning and the positioning elements 56 have intervened, the grippers 44, normally disposed in their first position, are activated so as to insert the relative first push rods 45 on the four holes 40 of the folder 18, and to lift them, exerting a lifting force greater than the closing force exerted by the clamping portions 39, or by the magnetic elements in the corresponding form of embodiment, and determining the opening of the folder 18 due to the rotation of the relative supports 19. In some solutions, as we said, it is also possible to provide the activation of the second push rods 47 which influence the position of the attachment tongues 49 to allow the opening of the folder 18. The opening of the folder 18 causes the article 11 to slide due to gravity toward the drawer 23 of the pick-up window 21. In one foam of embodiment the distributor 10 provides a mechanical discharge unit or other type, such as for example a blower, to facilitate the sliding of the article 11 toward the drawer 23. The folder 18 is closed by means of an inverse operation to the opening operation.
  • In the operating zone 50, thanks to the convex geometry of the curvilinear segment 32, the folders 18 can be opened for pick-up or loading, or the supports 19 that make up the folders 18 can be rotated in the open condition, by means of the grippers 44 or other opening/closing means, without interfering mechanically with each other, since the convex geometry automatically determines the reciprocal angular distancing of one folder 18 and the other in said zone, whereas the opening/closing is a function that the grippers 44 perform. Vice versa, in the other segments 27, 28 and 29, substantially rectilinear, the folders 18 are disposed very close to each other, allowing the distributor 10 to manage a large number of articles 11.
  • The articles 11 picked up by each user are counted by the processing and control unit in real time. When the inventory relating to a determinate model and size of article 11 indicates that the number of articles 11 held is less than a predetermined minimum value, the processing and control unit sends a warning, for example by means of a data transmission and reception unit, such as a GSM/GPRS modem, a data transmission network or other, so that it is possible to supply the relative articles 11 before they run out.
  • The distributor 10 is supplied periodically by a wardrobe operator who, having activated the procedure to supply the system by means of the touch screen display 30, identifies by means of the RFID reader the RFID tag or the bar code of each article 11 to be supplied, positioning it for example near the loading window 22.
  • After having recognized correctly the code of the article 11 to be inserted, the processing and control unit determines the rotation of the chains 25 in one of the two directions indicated by the arrow L. The movement of the chains 25, for example at constant speed, continues until an empty folder 18 is positioned in proximity to the operating zone 50, that is, the curvilinear segment 32. In particular, the specific folder 18 is stopped in a position adjacent to the loading window 22, above the position used for distribution. The rotation of the chains 25 occurs in the direction of rotation that minimizes the time for the movement of the folder 18 to the operating zone 50.
  • Subsequently, the grippers 44 are moved to their second position and activated so as to insert the relative first push rods 45 on the four holes 40 of the folder 18 and to lift them, determining the opening of the folder 18 by rotation of the relative supports 19, possibly also activating the second push rods 47. In this case too, the position sensors 52, 54, and the positioning element 56 enters into action, for the correct centering as described above. The operator introduces the article 11 into the open folder 18 and the processing and control unit memorizes the association folder 18/article 11. In this case too, the folder 18 is closed by means of an inverse operation to the opening operation. In particular, the grippers 44 are therefore closed, that is, the first push rods 45 are brought together to determine the closing of the supports 19 and then removed from the holes 40, allowing to load a subsequent empty folder 18.

Claims (15)

1. Automatic distributor device for objects including folded articles of clothing comprising at least a box-like body provided at an ergonomic height with pick-up and loading means for the distribution and supply of the objects, wherein the device further comprises:
a plurality of containing elements of the single-object type to normally contain one of said objects, or a homogeneous plurality of said objects, which are configured substantially as a folder and comprise a pair of flat supports, hinged in correspondence with a common edge so as to be selectively mobile between an open position to receive and remove the article, and a closed movement position in which a housing seating is defined, substantially flat and closed, in which the corresponding object contained remains in a stable manner during the movement inside the box-like structure, each of said containing elements being provided with clamping means able to cooperate reciprocally in order to stably maintain the containing element in the closed position during its movement in the box-like body,
closed-ring movement means which move the plurality of the containing elements inside the box-like body so as to position one of them on each occasion selectively facing toward said pick-up and loading means, said movement means comprising one or more belts or chains, to which the containing elements are attached, said attachment occurring on the opposite side with respect to the opening/closing side of the containing element, said belts or chains have a development comprising at least a rear return portion and a connected front portion which has, in proximity with said pick-up and loading means, at least a partly curvilinear segment, the convexity of which faces toward said pick-up and loading means so as to define a curved operating zone which determines the angular distancing between the containing elements;
opening and closing means operatively disposed in said operating zone and drivable in coordination with said movement means, said opening and closing means being able to cooperate with the clamping means of at least one containing element positioned in said operating zone, in order to determine the switching between said open and said closed position.
2. The device as in claim 1, wherein said development of said one or more belts or chains is conformed as a triangle.
3. The device as in claim 1, wherein said pick-up and loading means comprise a loading window.
4. The device as in claim 3, wherein said loading window also acts as a pick-up window.
5. The device as in claim 1, wherein said pick-up and loading means comprise a pick-up window distinct from said loading window.
6. The device as in claim 1, wherein said curved operating zone is configured so that when the containing element is around the top of the convexity of the partly curvilinear segment, the containing element lies on a substantially horizontal plane and, when open, is suitable to receive the object to be loaded, and when the containing element goes beyond the top of the convexity, the containing element is oriented downward, and when open promotes the fall of the object contained so the object can be picked up by the user.
7. The device as in claim 5, wherein the opening and closing means are movable between at least a first position in which they are operatively disposed in proximity with said pick-up window and a second position in which they are operatively disposed in proximity with said loading window.
8. The device as in claim 1, wherein the opening and closing means comprises grippers able to cooperate with the edges of said hinged supports, passing from a wide open configuration in which the containing element is open, to a close-up configuration in which the containing element is closed.
9. The device as in claim 8, wherein said grippers comprise first peg or push rod means able to cooperate with relative holes made in said supports and possible second peg or push rod means able to cooperate with said clamping means.
10. The device as in claim 1, wherein said clamping means comprise magnetic elements or attachment tongues.
11. The device as in claim 1, comprising counter means associated with said chains and configured to supply a first counting signal of the folders able to determine the functioning of the chains for positioning a desired containing element in substantial correspondence with said operating zone.
12. The device as in claim 1, comprising position sensor means associated with said opening and closing means and configured to supply a second signal able to determine the functioning of the chains for the precise positioning of a desired containing element in correspondence with said opening and closing means.
13. The device as in claim 1, comprising mechanical positioning means configured to cooperate with a desired containing element so as to determine the stable alignment thereof with said opening and closing means.
14. The device as in claim 1, comprising electronic identification means, operatively connected to user interface means, for the selection of the objects to be removed, able to identify univocally each specific user who picks up one or more objects and/or to identify univocally each object inserted into each of the containing elements.
15. The device as in claim 1, comprising electronic communication means to connect to each other two or more distributor devices and to allow the coordinated functioning thereof, so as to distribute two or more objects substantially simultaneously, through the corresponding pick-up means.
US13/704,957 2010-06-17 2011-06-17 Automatic distributor device for objects Abandoned US20130206785A1 (en)

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ITUD2010A000118A IT1400627B1 (en) 2010-06-17 2010-06-17 AUTOMATIC DISTRIBUTOR DEVICE FOR OBJECTS.
ITUD2010A000118 2010-06-17
PCT/IB2011/001357 WO2011158101A1 (en) 2010-06-17 2011-06-17 Automatic distributor device for objects

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US (1) US20130206785A1 (en)
EP (1) EP2583259B1 (en)
IT (1) IT1400627B1 (en)
WO (1) WO2011158101A1 (en)

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Also Published As

Publication number Publication date
EP2583259A1 (en) 2013-04-24
ITUD20100118A1 (en) 2011-12-18
IT1400627B1 (en) 2013-06-14
EP2583259B1 (en) 2020-02-26
WO2011158101A1 (en) 2011-12-22

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