WO1988004085A1 - Method and system for handling consumable tooling and supplies - Google Patents

Method and system for handling consumable tooling and supplies Download PDF

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Publication number
WO1988004085A1
WO1988004085A1 PCT/US1987/003088 US8703088W WO8804085A1 WO 1988004085 A1 WO1988004085 A1 WO 1988004085A1 US 8703088 W US8703088 W US 8703088W WO 8804085 A1 WO8804085 A1 WO 8804085A1
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WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
machine
means
dispensing
program
items
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US1987/003088
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Larry G. Higgins
Original Assignee
Higgins Larry G
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

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F11/00Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles
    • G07F11/002Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles where the dispenser is part of a centrally controlled network of dispensers
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/08Logistics, e.g. warehousing, loading, distribution or shipping; Inventory or stock management, e.g. order filling, procurement or balancing against orders
    • G06Q10/087Inventory or stock management, e.g. order filling, procurement, balancing against orders
    • 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
    • G07F11/16Delivery means
    • G07F11/22Pushers actuated indirectly by hand, e.g. through cranks or levers
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F5/00Coin-actuated mechanisms; Interlocks
    • G07F5/18Coin-actuated mechanisms; Interlocks specially adapted for controlling several coin-freed apparatus from one place
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F7/00Mechanisms actuated by objects other than coins to free or to actuate vending, hiring, coin or paper currency dispensing or refunding apparatus
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F9/00Details other than those peculiar to special kinds or types of apparatus

Abstract

Machine for dispensing consumable tools. The problem associated with consumable items is that they are difficult and expensive to inventory, dispense, restock, reorder and track their use. A method and system for tracking the use of consumable items includes a machine (20) supplied with items, a memory and a program for ordering selected items and a keyboard (34) for entering data in the program to select items to be dispensed. A computer (42) is provided for identifying the item dispensed, the machine user, and for generating output data for controlling ordering, inventorying and tracking of the user of the dispensed items. A printer (52) is provided for generating hard copy of the selected data in the machine memory. Pneumatic matrix switching (250) is provided to control the pneumatic operation and dispensing of the selected item.

Description

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR HANDLING CONSUMABLE TOOLING AND SUPPLIES

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This application is a continuation-in-part of pending application Serial No. 06/756,340 filed on July 17, 1985.

This invention relates generally to a method and a system for handling consumable items, tooling and supplies, and more particularly relates to a machine, system and method which controls the dispensing, ordering, restocking, inventorying and recording of the end use of such consumable items.

The typical manufacturing or other facility utilizes many consumable tools and supplies for each operating shift. These items, which can take the form of drugs, tool inserts, drill bits, welding rod, gloves and a host of other items, are difficult and expensive to inventory, dispense, restock, reorder and track to their end use. At the present time, the handling of such consumable items is extremely labor intensive. Usually, a manuf cturing or other facility maintains one or more cribs or supply depots or supply rooms which contain an inventory of the many items, tools or supplies which will be needed in the facility. Such tool cribs or supply depots are expensive to supply and maintain because of the cost of the parts themselves; the cost of the space needed to maintain the crib or depot and store the parts; and the labor needed to con¬ trol the inventory, reorder and restock the items, and dispense the- items on a controlled basis.

Increased competition in. all forms of manufac- turing operations and other facilities has created a strong need and desire to provide a system or method which would substantially reduce the costs associated with the inventorying, dispensing, restocking, reorder¬ ing and tracking the end use of such consumable items in a manufacturing or other facility. The method and apparatus for handling tooling and supplies in accor¬ dance with the present invention meets this need by eliminating a tool crib or other central location for storing and dispensing the items, tools and supplies. The labor and overhead costs associated with these prior tool crib or supply depots are thereby substanti¬ ally reduced or eliminated. By utilizing the system, apparatus and method of this invention, items, tooling, supplies and other consumable items are dispensed throughout a manufacturing facility on a much more rapid and efficient basis than possible with prior systems. This invention also provides for controlled access to the item, tool or supply dispensing opera¬ tion, so that unauthorized personnel cannot utilize the system. The invention provides an automatic inventory control and creates a record of the use of .the items dispensed, and used. The present system also allows the use of" consignment methods of handling the items, tool¬ ing and supplies, so that major reductions in inventory costs can be realized.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The system and method in accordance with this invention places a uniquely designed dispensing machine at one or more selected locations in the manufacturing or other facility. The machine is located in close proximity to the work area where the consumable items, tools and supplies are needed to perform the daily manufacturing operations. The expensive time lost in transporting workers, items, tools and supplies between work stations and tool cribs or supply depots is there¬ by substantially reduced. The items, tools and supplies contained in each machine are selected to meet the needs of the particular work station. Each machine can be stocked with a single item, or can be supplied with a plurality of different items, depending on the needs of the users.

In one embodiment of the machine, a pneumatic system including matrix switching is used to control the dispensing of the selected items. The matrix switch¬ ing system substantially reduces the number of component parts needed for the dispensing system, and thereby substantially reduces the size of the machine and the costs related to both the initial machine construction and maintenance.

In accordance with this invention, each unique dispensing machine can operate as a stand-alone machine, or can function as a component of an integrated network which controls the item, tool and supply inventory and dispensing operation for the entire factory or other facility. In large manufacturing facilities this net¬ worked system could include a main frame computer or other central processing unit which would be programmed with the up-to-date inventory data for the parts and supplies to be utilized.

One embodiment of the system in accordance with this invention also includes a program and a data base which can be programmed and utilized to identify all authorized personnel who have access to the dispens- ing machine, whether the machine is a stand-alone or networked machine. Each machine in this embodiment includes a user identification device, such as card reader, which is coupled to the processing unit pro¬ vided in the system. This card reader can receive a card with encoded data, and will transmit the coded identification of the user into the machine program. The system then functions to automatically record this information in the memory of the central processing unit associated with the system. Each dispensing machine further includes an input device such as a keyboard which allows the user to enter the necessary data to identify and order the item, tooling or supplies needed from the machine. A special application computer, preferably of the single board type, is provided in each machine so that the operation of the keyboard identifies the components in the machine, responds to commands to order a particular component, and can automatically adjust the inventory of the dispensed component in the machine memory. The machines are easily converted into a net¬ worked system which can collect data from a plurality of machines and adjust the inventory for all or part of the operations of the manufacturing or other facility. The program provided in the special application corα- outer in each machine is variable, so that the machine can be set up and programmed to dispense different types of items in the same or a different manufacturing facility.

The system thereby provides controlled access to the machines, efficient tool and supply dispensing and restocking, and accurate inventory control and up¬ dating. The system in accordance with this invention permits the elimination of a central tool crib or sup¬ ply depot, and is adapted to allow the inventory in each machine to be provided by a tool or parts supplier on a consignment basis. _ _

The system and method of this invention pro¬ vides the above-described machine having a supply of consumable items with a memory and a program to select the items to be dispensed. Means are provided to enter data to select the item and to transmit the data to the machine memory. The machine then dispenses the selected item. The data stored in the machine memory can then be used to control the ordering, inventorying and track¬ ing of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine. The system can also be programmed to iden¬ tify and record the authorization of the machine user. The system allows each machine to be periodically re¬ stocked with replacement items in a manner which does not interfere with the basic operation of the manufac- turing facility. No pneumatic control system including matrix switching allows the machine to be expanded to handle a large number of items efficiently and economic¬ ally.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Further objects and features of this invention will become more apparent from the following description of illustrative embodiments of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which: FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a machine for dispensing consumable tools and supplies in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a top view of a user identi ication card which can be utilized with the dispensing machine shown in FIG. 1; FIG. 3 is a removed perspective view of a card reader incorporated into the machine shown in FIG.

1 for use in reading the data presented on the user card illustrated in FIG. 2; FIG. 4 is an enlarged view of the keyboard incorporated in the machine shown in FIG. 1 for use in identifying and selecting the items to be dispersed;

FIG. 5 is a front view of the machine in FIG. 1 shown in an opened condition to illustrate the inter¬ nal components of the machine;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged and removed partial sectional view of one of the magazines positioned within the machine to store and dispense selected tooling or supply items;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged and removed view in partial section of the ejection mechanism incorporated in the machine to eject a selected item from each of the storage magazines as shown in FIG. 6; FIG. 8 is an enlarged sectional side view taken along the line 8-8 in FIG. 5 showing the rela¬ tionship between the magazines and ejection mechanisms incorporated into the machine near the final stage of the dispensing operation; FIG. 8a is an enlarged sectional side view of the magazine and ejection mechanism shown in a return and charging stage of the dispensing operation;

FIG. 9 is a front sectional view of the maga¬ zine and ejection mechanism as viewed along the line 9-9 in FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a top view in partial section of the dispensing machine illustrating the arrangement for movably mounting a monitor within the machine;

FIG. 11 is a front view of a modified dispens- ing machine in accordance with this invention;

FIG. 12 is a flow chart representing the operation of the program incorporated into the machine shown in EIG. 1 to control the dispensing, ordering, restocking and reordering of the end use of the items stored and dispensed by the machine in accordance with this invention; FIG. 13 is a front view of a third embodiment of the machine in accordance with this invention which incorporates a pneumatic control system with matrix switching which adapts the machine for dispensing a large number of items;

FIG. 14 is a schematic side view of the machine illustrated in Figure 13;

FIG. 15A is a removed partial sectional view of the pneumatic dispensing cylinder included in the machine illustrated in Figures 13 and 14 showing the cylinder in the at-rest position before the dispensing operation is begun;

FIG. 15B is a removed partial sectional view of the pneumatic dispensing cylinder of Figure 15A shown in the actuated position for dispensing a selected item from the machine; and

FIG. 16 is a schematic representation of the control system included in the pneumatic dispensing machine shown in Figures 13 and 14 and illustrating the configuration and operation of the matrix switching_ system in accordance with this invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

A dispensing machine for use in the system and method for handling consumable items such as tool- ing and supplies in accordance with this invention is indicated by the reference numeral 20 in FIG. 1. The machine 20 comprises an enclosed cabinet made from sheet steel or other suitable material which can be positioned at a selected station within a manufacturing facility. In accordance with this invention, one or more of these machines 20 are located in stations which are in the proximity of the end user of the items, tools or supplies to be dispensed by the machine. Ad¬ justable support legs 22 allow the machine 20 to be supported in a level position. A movable front panel 24 is pivotally attached to the machine 20 by a piano hinge 26 to provide for easy access into the interior of the machine. A locking handle 28 is mounted on the panel 24 on the side opposite the hinge 25 so that access to the interior of the machine can be controlled.

Referring to FIG. 1 in more detail, the top portion of the front panel 24 includes a transparent viewing window 30 for viewing the monitor or video di-s- play terminal 32 incorporated in the machine 20. The central portion of the panel 24 includes a keyboard 34 interconnected with the monitor 32. The keyboard 34 is thereby positioned for easy access by the user of the machine. The types of keys typically provided on the keyboard 34 are illustrated by the enlarged view of t_i-_ keyboard shown in FIG. 4. Function keys 36 are pro¬ vided to perform the various functions of the program incorporated into the system of this invention. Cursor arrow keys 38 are also provided to allow the user of the machine to move the cursor to the desired position on the monitor 32 during the operation of the system. A numerical key pad 40 similarly allows the entry of numerical data into the computer during system opera¬ tion. A full view of the computer monitor 32 is shown in FIG. 5. The provision and location of the central processing unit (CPU) 42 of the computer is also illustrated in FIG. 5. The CPU 42 can be an IBM PC or other suitable standard computer unit, or can be a unit that is scaled down and custom made to perform only the computer functions needed in the dispensing system in accordance with this invention. A power source 44 is incorporated in the machine to drive the computer system including the CPU 42, the monitor 32 and the keyboard 34. The embodiment of the machine 20 illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 10 includes a rotatably shelf 46 for supporting the computer monitor 32. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 20, a mounting bracket 48 and pivot pin 50 sup- port the shelf 46 so that the monitor 32 can be pivoted between an inner and an outer location. In the inner location, as shown in FIG. 5 and shown in solid lines in FIG. 10, the monitor 32 is aligned with the viewing window 30. In the outer position, as shown in dotted lines in FIG. 10, the shelf 46 supports the monitor 32 in an outward position so that access can be gained to other internal components of the machine 20.

A modified embodiment of the machine 20A is shown in FIG. 11. The parts of the machine 20A are the same as in the machine 20 except for the computer system components. In the machine 20A the monitor 32A is re¬ duced in size and mounted on the front panel 24. Also the CPU 42A is illustrated as a custom-designed unit which is substantially reduced in size and cost com- pared to the standard CPU 42. This embodiment of the machine 20A further includes a printer 52, positioned in the lower portion of the machine. The printer 52 is interfaced with the CPU 42A and other components of the computer system to provide for a hard copy printout of the data generated by the use of the machine 20A.

As shown in FIG. 3, each embodiment of the machine 20 and 20A in accordance with this invention is adopted to be provided with an identification card reader 60. The reader 60 is mounted on the front panel 24 and defines a reading slot 62. The slot 62 includes a magnetic head 64 which is capable of reading the en¬ coded data carried on the magnetic strip 66 of a user identification card C. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the card C is designed to be provided to each authorized user of the machines 20 or 20A, and is very similar to identification cards currently in use in many manufac¬ turing facilities. The reader 60 is interfaced with the keyboard 34, the CPU 42 or 42A and the other com¬ ponents of the computer system to identify the machine user and allow access to the machine only to authorized personnel. A suitable reader 60 for performing these functions is a fixed head type reader available from TPS Electronics, Inc., 4047 Transport St., Palo Alto, Calif. 94303. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 11, each machine 20 or 20A includes twelve storage and dispensing magazines 70. In the illustrated embodiments each of the magazines 70 is identical in construction and is designed to store and dispense generally rectangular boxes of inserts 72, as seen in FIG. 8. If desired, a single machine 20 can be adapted to dispense a plurality of different items by substituting magazines of different size for one or more of the common magazines 70. Such a machine which is adapted to dispense a large number of items which can differ in size and shape is illustrated in Figures 13-16 by the machine 20B, as further described herein- below.

Six of the magazines 70, numbered 1 through 6 in FIGS. 5 and 11, form an upper bank of magazines which dispense items into a common upper collection chute 74. Six other magazines 70, numbered 7 through 12 in FIG. 8, form a lower bank of magazines which dispense items into a common lower collection chute 76. Support chains 78 or the like maintain the chutes 74 and 76 in the proper position below the related magazines 70. As shown in FIG. 1, the front panel 24 of the machine 20 or 20A includes an upper dispensing trough 80 aligned to receive the items collected and dispensed from the upper chute 74. In the same regard, the front panel 24 also includes a lower dispensing trough 82 aligned to receive the items collected and dispensed from the lower chute 76.

Each of the magazines 70 is removably mounted within the machine 20 or 20A in a manner that permits the magazines to be changed to suit the particular needs of the machine users. To accomplish this arrangement each magazine 20 includes a hanger bracket 84 fixed, such as by welding, to the top of the magazine. A pair 'of struts 86 extend across the interior of the machine 20 in the upper and lower portions of the machine and are adapted to receive the hanging brackets 84. A pair of braces 88 extend in a similar fashion across the upper and lower portions of the machine interior in positions parallel to the struts 86. As shown in FIGS. 6 and 8, the magazines 70 abut against and are held in the proper position by the braces 88 when the magazines are hanging from the supporting struts 86.

As shown in FIGS. 6 through 9, the lower end of each dispensing magazine 70 is provided with a dis- charge tray 90. The tray 90 is slidably mounted within opposed channels 92 formed in a bottom member 94. The bottom member 94 in turn is fixed to the lower end of the magazine 70. The tray 90 is formed from a bifur¬ cated slide 96 which is provided with an apertured extension 98 at the front end. A support plate 100 is positioned on the slide 96 and is firmly supported at the front end by a brace 102 extending across the bi¬ furcated slide. The plate 100 and the brace 102 are- spaced from the front end of the slide 96 to form a discharge opening 104 of a predetermined size in the slide 96. As seen in FIGS. 8 and 8a, the purpose of the opening 104 is to allow the items 72 to be dis¬ charged downwardly into the chute 76 during the opera¬ tion of the machine 20 or 20A. Thus, the size of the opening 104 is selected to accommodate the item 72 being dispensed. The slide 96 will be replaced with a slide having an opening of a different dimension when the machine is adapted to dispense items of different shapes or sizes. Each plate 100 is designed to support the column of items 72 stored in the magazine 70 as the lowermost item 72 is being dispensed into the adjacent chute 74 or 76. As shown in FIG. 8, the discharge tray 90 is therefore positioned adjacent the bottom end of the magazine 70 so that the plate 100 catches and sup¬ ports the second-lowest item 72 as the lowest item is being discharged. As also shown in FIGS. 8 and 8a, the bottom member 94 is positioned at the lower end of the magazine 70 to extend below the column of items 72 a sufficient distance to support the column. It has been found that sufficient support for the column of items 72 is provided if the member 94 extends below approxi¬ mately one half of the column.

Each magazine 70 also includes a spring- loaded pusher assembly 106 which is designed to main¬ tain the items 72 in an aligned vertical column to facilitate the dispensing operation. This assembly 106 comprises an elongated pusher shoe 108 which abuts against the items 72. The shoe 108 is maintained in a vertical position within the magazine 70 by a pair of horizontal mounting pins 110. The outer end of each pin 110 is slidably supported in an aperture in the magazine 70, as seen in FIG. 8. The inner end of each pin 110 is fixed to a boss 112 attached to the rear of the shoe 108. A compression spring 114 extends between the magazine 70 and the shoe 108 along each pin 110 in abutment with the adjacent boss 112. These springs function to bias the shoe 108 inwardly (to the left in FIG. 8) against the items 72 in the magazine 70. The pins 110 are adjustable so that the force of the shoe 108 on the items 72 is sufficient to maintain the items in a vertical column in a manner that will not inter¬ fere with the dispensing of the items from the magazine during the operation of the machine 20. The actuation of the discharge tray 90 in the machines 20 and 20A is controlled by a solenoid assembly 120. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 11, one solenoid assembly 120 is provided adjacent the lower end of each magazine 70 in the machine 20 or 20A. A pair of channel-shaped mounting bars 122 extend across the interior of the machine 20 or 20A to support these solenoid assemblies 120. As seen in FIG. 8, the mounting bars 122 are bolted to the transverse braces 88 positioned within the machine. The solenoid assembly 120 can be hydraulic, pneumatic or electrical, depending upon the needs of a particular application. In the illustrated embodiments shown in Figures 1 through 12, the solenoid assemblies 120 are electrically actuated, and thereby include a coil 124 and an armature plunger 126. As described further below, the dispensing system in the machine 20B illustrated in Figures 13-16 is pneumatically controlled.

Each solenoid plunger 126 in the machines 20 and 20A is attached to the extention 98 on- the front end of the associated discharge tray 90. The actuation of the solenoid assembly 120 thereby causes the tray 90 to slide horizontally through a distance equal to the stroke of the solenoid plunger 126. The solenoid assem¬ bly 120 is designed and positioned so that the stroke of the plunger 126 moves the tray 90 a sufficient distance to cause the discharge of the lowermost item 72 through the opening 104 into the associated chute 74 or 76. Such a discharging condition is illustrated in FIG. 8. As shown in FIG. 8a, the return stroke of the solenoid plunger 126 returns the tray 90 to its initial position so that the next item 72 is arranged to be dispensed.

The general sequence of operation of the machine 20 or 20A in accordance with this invention can be understood by reference to the flow chart set forth in FIG. 12. As indicated by the Power On block in FIG. 12, the computer and other power components of the machine are energized by a suitable switch or the like, not shown. As depicted by the Machine Active block, the machine 20 is thereby activated and the CPU 42 or

42A of the machine computer system is initialized. The machine 20 or 20A is now in condition to begin the dis¬ pensing cycle.

In the illustrated embodiments the machines are adapted to identify and verify the authorization of the user. Accordingly, as represented by the Enter Employee Identification block in FIG. 12, the next step in the operation of the system is to insert the employee identification card C into the card reader 60 on the front panel 24 of the machine. The movement of the card C through the card slot 62 causes the magnetic reading head 64 to scan the data provided on the mag¬ netic strip 66 on the card. The software in the machine computer system is programmed to compare the data entered by means of the card C and the reader 60 with an authorized user data base. If the card user is not authorized, a NO message is generated, as indicated in FIG. 12, and the dispensing cycle will not proceed. If a YES message is generated, the operation will be permitted to continue to the Enter Variable Data phase. At this next phase of operation the user employs the keyboard 34 of the machine 20 or 20A and enters pre¬ selected data which activates the video display ter¬ minal 32. As indicated by the Selection Menu block in FIG. 12, at this point in the cycle a menu identifying the types of items available from the particular machine 20 or 20A is displayed on the terminal 32.

In this Enter Variable Data phase of operation of the system the user enters data through the keyboard 34 which selects an item to be dispensed from the machine. A variety of other appropriate entries are also made, such as data which identifies the part, machine, operation, department and section numbers rela¬ ting to the selected item. If the item is not avail- able, or if the data was entered incorrectly, a NO message will be generated by the system. As depicted in FIG. 12, the system will then return to the previous phase and display the Selection Menu once again on the terminal 32. On the other hand, if the data is entered correctly and the selected item is available in the machine, a YES signal will be generated by the program, and the operation will proceed. The system continues by generating an electrical signal that activates the solenoid assembly 120 associated with the selected item 72 to be dispensed to the user.

As shown in FIGS. 8 and 8a, the operation of the solenoid assembly 120 moves the plunger 126 and the connected dispensing tray 90 through a predetermined horizontal stroke. As shown by the arrow in FIG. 8, this dispensing stoke draws the lowermost item 72 for¬ ward (to the left in FIG. 8) until the item is free from the support of the bottom member 94. The item 72 will then fall into the associated chute 74 or 76 and be presented to the user in the associated dispensing trough 80 or 82. Next, as shown by the arrow in FIG. 8a, the deactivation of the solenoid assembly 120 returns the plunger 126 and the connected dispensing tray 90 to the initial position shown in FIG. 8a. In this position the opening 104 becomes vertically aligned with the column of items 72, so that the next lowermost item 72 drops down into engagement with the bottom member 94. The magazine 70 and the machine 20 are now prepared to repeat the dispensing operation.

As shown in the last block in the flow chart depicted in Fig. 12, the final phase of the operation of the machine 20 comprises the Update of the Record phase. At this point in the cycle, the data base stored in the computer system provided in the machine 20 or 20A, or a data base stored in a central computer system interfaced with the machine, is updated with the data which identifies the user of the machine and item or items that have been dispensed. The system is also programmed so that the entry of such data automatically updates the status of the inventory records relating to the items that were dispensed.

The printer 52 provided in the modified machine 20A shown in FIG. 11 can be used to print a hard copy of the updated information concerning the identification of the machine user, the type and quantity of the items dispensed, and the present status of the inventory for the items dispensed. In addition to or in lieu of such hard copy printouts, the printer 52 can be adapted to generate copies of other documents useful to the user of the machine 20A. For example, the printer 52 can respond to a program to produce a copy of the current blueprint relating to the piece being altered, the tool being used, or other item being dispensed. Job method or procedure cards or the like relating to a selected job can also be produced by the printer 52. The computer system incorporated into the machine 20 can be programmed to produce other documents which are responsive to the needs of the machine user. The third embodiment of the machine 20B, as illustrated in Figures 13-16 is constructed to dispense a large number of items which vary in size and shape. As an example, the machine 20B incorporating the pneumatic dispensing and matrix switching system as illustrated in Figures 15-16, is adapted to efficiently and economic¬ ally dispense up to one hundred and forty-four separate items. Furthermore, the matrix switching system pro¬ vides the machine 20B with the flexibility to dispense an even larger number of items without the expensive and inefficient duplication of component parts in the pneumatic switching system. The machine 20B likewise comprises an en¬ closed cabinet made from sheet steel or other suitable material that can be positioned at a selected location, or at a plurality of locations, within the facility where the items are to be dispensed. Movable front doors 24B are attached to the machine 20B by suitable hinges to provide easy access to the interior of the machine. In this embodiment, a plurality of collection troughs 80B are mounted on the doors 2 B and extend below dispensing magazines 70B-E of differing sizes when the doors 24B are closed.

As described with respect to the machines 20 and 20A, the machine 20B includes a front panel 24B for receiving a video display monitor 32B, a keyboard 34B, a printer 52B and a card reader 60B. A light bar 61B also can be provided to illuminate the panel 24B.

These components of the machine 20B perform essentially the same operations and perform in substantially the same manner as the same components described above with respect to machines 20 and 20A. As shown schematically in Figure 14, the machine 20B includes a pneumatic power source and storage tank 200 in its lower portion so that the machine 20B will have a self-contained pneumatic dispensing control system.

As described above with respect to the machines 20 and 20A, each of the dispensing magazines 70B-E in - IS - machine 20B comprise a bank of side-by-side magazines, each of which is adapted to dispense a separate item. Each magazine 70B-E can be constructed similar to the magazines 70 incorporated into the machines 20 and 20A. However, since it is contemplated that the machine 20B be arranged to dispense up to 144 separate items, the size and shape of the magazines 70B-E will be varied to accommodate the size and shape of the items to be dispensed by a particular magazine. This concept of varying the size and shape of the magazines is illus¬ trated schematically by the varying sizes and shapes of the magazines 70B through 70E shown in Figure 14.

The pneumatic control system embodied in the machine 20B operates in the same manner to dispense an item from the machines regardless of the size or shape of the item. For purposes of illustration, the pneumatic control system components shown in Figures 15A and 15B are adapted to actuate each column in the bank of magazines 70B. Again for purposes of illus- tration, the magazines 70B are shown in Figures 15A and 15B to be essentially the same size and shape as the magazines 70 described above with respect to machines 20 and 20A.

As shown in Figures ISA and 15B, each magazine 70B is arranged to store and individually dispense items 72B, which are held in a column in the magazine, into the dispensing trough 80B. For purposes of illus¬ tration, the components of the magazine 70B are the same as described above for magazine 70, and have been provided with the same reference numerals. However, the discharge tray 90B has been modified in Figures 15A and 15B to accommodate the pneumatic control system incorporated into the machine 20B.

More particularly, the tray 90B is formed from a bifabricated slide 96B which is sized and shaped to receive and dispense the items 72B. The tray 90B is further provided with an apertured extension 98B at its rear, rather than at the front as shown in Figure 8 for the machine 20. The rearward positioning of the extension 98B on the tray 90B allows the extension 98B to be attached to the pneumatic actuating cylinder 220 which is placed within machine 20B rearwardly of each magazine 70B. In accordance with this invention, each pneumatic cylinder 220 is a double-acting cylinder which includes a front pressure chamber 222 and a rear press¬ ure chamber 224. A piston 225 connected to a rod 228 divides the chambers 222 and 224. The piston 226 carries a conventional sealing ring (not shown) to pneumatically seal off the chambers 222 and 224 from each other. As shown in Figures 15A and 15B, the piston rod 228 is connected to the extension 98B so that the action of the piston rod causes the trans- lational movement of the dispensing tray 90B. Pneumatic lines 230 and 232 are connected to the cylinder chambers 222 and 224, respectively, to apply pneumatic pressure to either the front side (left in Figures 15A and B) or back side (right in Figures 15A and B) of the piston 226, to thereby cause the piston rod 228 and the tray 90B to be translated during the dispensing operation.

The arrangement shown in Figure 15A shows the dispensing machine 20B and the pneumatic cylinder 220 in the dwell condition, where no product such as the item 72B is being dispensed. This condition is main¬ tained by the constant application of pneumatic press¬ ure through the line 230 in the front chamber 222 of the cylinder 220. Such pressure maintains the piston 226 in its dv/ell position within the cylinder 220, as shown in Figure 15A. This condition also positions the tray 90B beneath the magazine 70B, and maintains the items 72B in a column in the magazine 70B ready to be dispensed.

Figure 15B illustrates the magazine 70B and the pneumatic cylinder 220 in the dispensing condition. To achieve this dispensing condition, the pneumatic pressure in line 230 and front chamber 222 is relieved, and pressure instead is applied to line 232 and in the rear chamber 224. This pressure switching causes the piston 226 and the rod 228 to be actuated forwardly (to the left in Figures 15A and B) . In turn, the tray 90B is translated forwardly to dispense the lowermost item 72B from the magazine 70B into the dispensing trough 80B. After a selected period of time, the pneumatic pressure in the lines 230, 232 and chambers 222 and 224 is again reversed to recycle the piston 226 and rod 228, as well as the tray 90B, back to the initial dwell position as shown in Figure 15A.

Figure 16 illustrates the matrix pneumatic switching system which selectively actuates the pneumatic cylinders 220 to control the dispensing of the items 72B from the magazines 70B. This system substantially reduces the cost of construction and maintenance of the machine 20B by substantially reducing the number of component parts needed to control the action of each of the plurality of cylinders 220, and provides the machine 20B with flexibiltiy.

The control system for the machine 20B shown in Figure 16 includes a central processing unit (CPU) 42B which can be an IBM PC or other suitable computer, or an I Buss Computer with its own eprom. The computer 42B includes a video monitor 32B, and operates in the same manner as described above to respond to input from a keyboard 34B. The system further includes an identi- fication card reader 60B which functions in the same manner as the reader 60, described above, to identify the user, and verify that the user is authorized to operate the machine 20B. A thermal printer 52B is also included in the system and is interfaced with the CPU 42B for recording a hard copy printout of the data generated by each use of the machine 20B. An auxiliary 80 column printer 52C can also be provided, and inter¬ faced with the CPU 42B to generate a hard copy log or journal of all machine transactions over a selected period, such as daily or weekly reports, or reports of usage since the machine was last stocked.

The control system shown in Figure 16 also includes a pair of relay boards 240 and 242 which are electrically interfaced or coupled to the CPU 42B. Each board 240 and 242 includes a selected number of electrical relays R of standard construction which are designed to be selectively actuated and to generate an electrical signal in response to the operation of the CPU 42B. Since the illustrated machine 20B is designed to dispense 144 separate items, each relay board 240 and 242 includes twelve relays R, as further explained below.

The pneumatic matrix switching system in accor¬ dance with this invention is depicted in Figure 16 by the grid 250. This grid 250 comprises twelve rows of a selected number of aplha valves which, in the illus¬ trated embodiment, comprise the twelve valves VA through VL as shown in Figure 16. The grid 250 further includes twelve columns of a selected number of numerical valves which in the illustrated embodiment comprises the valves numbered VI through V12 in Figure 16. Each valve VA-L and Vl-12 is an electrically actuated two-directional . valve which is designed to open or close pneumatic ports in response to an electrical signal. The valves may be designed to avoid any venting to the atmosphere by recycling the air to continued in-line use in the pneumatic system, or may vent to atmosphere at the end of each cycle of operation. As further shown in Figure 16, each valve is separately electrically connected to one of the relays R on the relay boards 240 and 242.

Each valve therefore will be actuated in response to an electrical signal generated by the CPU 42B through the connected relay R.

The grid 250 in accordance with this inven- tion further includes a selected number of pneumatic cylinders C arranged in a matrix of columns and rows. In the illustrated embodiment the grids 250 includes 144 cylinders C arranged in an equal number of twelve rows of alpha cylinders CA through CL, and twelve columns of numerical values Cl through C12. The number of cylinders C in the machine 20B (144) corresponds to the equal number (144) of items capable of being dispensed from the machine. Each cylinder C in Figure 16 is a double-acting pneumatic cylinder, and is constructed and operates as described above with respect to the cylinder 220 shown in Eigures 15A and 15B.

All of the alpha cylinders C in each row are pneumatically coupled through a suitable manifold or T-connections (not shown) to each other and to the aligned alpha valve V. Thus, all cylinders in Row CA are pneumatically coupled together and to valve VA; all cylinders in Row CB are coupled together and to valve VB, and so on throughout all rows. Likewise, all numerical cylinders C in each column of the matrix are pneumatically coupled, through a suitable manifold or T-connections (not shown) to each other and to the aligned numerical valve V. Hence, all cylinders in column Cl are coupled together and to valve VI; all cylinders in column C2 are coupled together and to valve V2, and so on. By this arrangement, the alpha valve VA simultaneously supplies pneumatic power to the entire row of cylinders CA; and the other alpha valves VB-L likewise supplying pneumatic power to the corresponding row of cylinders CB-L. In the same regard, the numer¬ ical valve VI simultaneously supplies pneumatic power to the entire column of cylinders Cl; and the remaining numerical valves V2-12 supply pneumatic power to the corresponding column of cylinders C2-12. As shown in Figure 16, the column of valves

VA-L and the row of valves Vl-12 are each connected by suitable fluid lines to a pneumatic power source 200. This power source 200 includes the conventional pneu¬ matic components such as a motor, compressor, regula- tors, lubricators, pressure switch and tank storage.

These components of the pressure source 200 operate in the conventional manner to supply a selected pressure to each valve Vl-12 and VA-L in the control system. As stated above, the valves are two-directional valves that may return the air to in-line use to the source 200, or vent to atmosphere, after the selected actuation of the cylinders C.

In accordance with this invention, each valve in one bank of valves, such as the alpha valves VA-L, is normally open, and the other bank, such as the numerical valves Vl-12, are closed. Also, each cylinder C in all the columns and rows is normally closed. As described above with respect to Figures 15A, the main¬ tenance of the cylinders C (each comprising the cylinder 220 in Figure 15A) closed maintains the related item 72B in the magazine 70B in condition to be dispensed. This arrangement is accomplished by connecting the normally-open alpha valves VA-L to the forward chamber 222, through the line 230, in each of the cylinders C1-C12 in the related row of cylinders. Also, the normally closed numerical valves Vl-12 are connected to the rearward chamber 224 through the line 232, in each of the cylinders CA-L in the related column of cylinders. Thus, the open valves VA-L direct pneumatic pressure to the cylinder chambers 222, and the closed valves Vl-12 relieve the pressure in the chambers 224, so that each cylinder C (230 in Figure 15A) is normally held in the dwell position shown in Figure 15A.

The electrical components of the system shown in Figure 16 are powered by a suitable electrical source (not shown) connected to a power supply buss bar P. An auxiliary power receptacle PE can also be provided for use with auxiliary equipment. Suitable electrical con¬ nections, as shown in Figure 16, couple the other elec¬ trical components of the system to the power source through the buss bar P.

The operation of the pneumatic switching system shown in Figure 16 begins by the insertion of the identification card of the machine user into the card reader 60B. If the user is authorized, he then proceeds to enter the data on the keyboard 34B which identifies the one item 72B out of a selection of 144 items to be dispensed. The computer 42B responds to the keyboard data input by generating an electrical signal to a selected relay R on each relay board 240, 242. As an example, the signal is generated to the uppermost relay R associated with valve VA on the board 240, and to the lowermost relay R associated with the valve VI on board 242. As explained further below, there is preferably a small, i.e., nanosecond, time delay between the signals, controlled by the computer 42B, so that the signal actuates the valve VA slightly before the valve VI.

As set forth above, the alpha valves, includ¬ ing valve VA, are normally open. When the signal through the relay board 240 actuates valve VA, the valve closes and simultaneously relieves the pressure in the forward chambers 222 in each cylinder 230 in the entire related row of cylinders C1-C12. Each cylinder C1-C12 is thus poised for actuation. Next, with the slight time delay noted above, the signal from the board 242 opens the related normally closed valve VI, so that the pneumatic system attempts to apply pressure in the rearward chamber 224 of every cylinder 230 in the related column of cylinders CA-L. However, since the alpha valves VB-L remain open, the cylinders CB-L in the column related to numeric valve VI will not be actuated due to a pressure balance between the chambers 222 and 224 in each cylinder. Only the cylinder Cl, CA is not so balanced, since the closing of the related valve VA relieved the pressure in the chamber 222 of the cylinder Cl, CA.

As a result, the cylinder Cl, CA will be actu¬ ated and the piston 226 and rod 228 in that cylinder will move forward (to the left in Figure 15) from the dwell position shown in Figure 15A into the actuated position shown in Figure 15B. The attached slide 90B will also be translated to dispense the item 72B from the associated magazine 70B. The dispensed item 72B corresponds to the item selected by the user by the entry of the data on the keyboard 34B.

After a time interval controlled by the com¬ puter 42B elapses, the above-described operating sequence is reversed, and the magazine 70B associated with cylinder Cl, CA is returned to a condition where it is ready to dispense another item 72B. More spec¬ ifically, the valve VI is closed, removing the pressure from the chambers 224 of each cylinder 230 in the column of cylinders CA to CL, including cylinder Cl, CA. • Then, valve VA is opened, thereby applying press- ure to the chambers 222 in each cylinder 230 in the related row of cylinders Cl-12, including the cylinder - . -

Cl, CA. The cylinder Cl, CA is thereby returned from the activated and dispensing position shown in Fig¬ ure 15B to the dwell condition shown in Figure 15A. The above-described operation of valves VI and VA, and cylinder Cl, CA, was stated by way of example. The same operation can be repeated to selec¬ tively activate any one of the 144 cylinders C, to dispense one of 144 items, by controlling the operation of the related valves. As a further example, the cylinder C7, CF can be activated by closing the normally-open valve VF and opening the closed valve V7. It will also be apparent that the connections and opera¬ tion of the banks of alpha and numerical valves can be reversed to accomplish the same purposes. The pneumatic matrix switching and control system embodied in the machine 20B provides a number of advantages. A substantial cost savings in construction and maintenance of the machine 2OB results from the fact that the number of valves V required is only twice the square root of the number of cylinders C and the items to be thereby dispensed. There is also a reduc¬ tion in the number and size of related items, such as the relay boards 240, 242, as "well as the cost and size of the entire machine. Also, the matrix field can be easily expanded or contracted to change the number of items to be dispensed by the machines. For example the addition of two valves, so that each column and row included 13 valves instead of 12, with the addition of a column and row of cylinders C, would increase the dispensing capacity of the machine from 144 items to

169 items, i.e., the square of the number of valves in each column or row. These advantages of matrix switch¬ ing would accrue from a minimum of 4 cylinders and 2 valves up to any desired number of cylinders (n) and 2 times the square root of (n) valves, i.e., the square root of (n) valves in each column and row. As set forth above, the machines 20, 20A or 20B can be used as stand-alone machines to dispense single items or a plurality of items at a single loca¬ tion. Alternatively, the machines can.be networked to provide a system which allows a variety of items to be available for dispensing to users at a plurality of locations. Also, additional changes and modifications to the machines, methods or systems of this invention can be devised by those skilled in the art without de- parting from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the accompanying claims.

Claims

- . -What is Claimed is:
1. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising the steps of: providing a machine having a supply of consum¬ able items; providing the machine with a memory and a program for ordering a selected item; entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; dispensing the selected item from the machine; and outputting the data from the machine memory to con¬ trol the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the dispensed consumable items.
2. The method in accordance with claim 1 includ¬ ing the steps of providing a program routine which identifies authorized machine users, entering data in the program to identify the user, and verifying the authorization of the user before dispensing the selected item.
3. The method in accordance with claim 1 or 2 including the steps of providing the machine with a plurality of items to be selected, and identifying the plurality of items to the user before data is entered into the program to select the item to be dispensed.
4. The method in accordance with claims 1 or 2 including the step of restocking the machine with a resupply of consumable items to replace the items dispensed. _
5. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising the steps of: providing a machine having a supply of a plurality of consumable items; providing the machine with a memory and a program for identifying authorized users and for order¬ ing a selected item; entering data in the program to identify the user; verifying the authorization of the user; entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; dispensing the selected item from the machine; and outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the dispensed consumable items.
6. The method is accordance with claim 1 or 5 including the step of providing a hard copy printout of the output data from the machine memory.
7. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations comprising the steps of: providing a plurality of machines each having a supply of consumable items at selected dispensing stations; providing each machine with a memory and a program for ordering a selected item; entering data in the program of each of the machines to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of the machine from' which the item is to be dispensed; dispensing the selected item from each machine; and outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network.
8. The method in accordance with claim 7 includ¬ ing the steps of providing the program in each machine with a program routine which identifies authorized machine users, entering data in the program of each machine to identify the user, and verifying the author¬ ization of the user before dispensing the selected items from each machine.
9. The method in accordance with claim 7 or 8 including the steps of providing each machine with a plurality of items to be selected, and identifying the plurality of items to the user of each machine before data is entered into the program of each machine to select the item to be dispensed.
10. The method in accordance with claim 7 or 8 including the step of restocking the machine with a resupply of consumable items to replace the items dis¬ pensed.
11. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing sta¬ tions comprising the steps of: providing a machine at each dispensing station having a supply of consumable items; - Si -
providing each machine with a memory and a program for identifying authorized users and for order¬ ing a selected_ item; entering data in the program to identify the user of each machine; verifying the authorization of the user of each machine; entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed from each machine; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of each machine; dispensing the selected item from each machine; and outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network.
12. The method in accordance with claim 11 in¬ cluding, the step of transmitting data identifying each machine user to the machine memory.
13. The method in accordance with claim 11 or 12 including the step of providing each machine in the network with a plurality of different consumable items to be dispensed.
14. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising the steps of: providing a machine having a supply of selected consumable items in the facility in the proximity of the user of the items; providing the machine with a memory and a program for ordering a selected item; having the user enter data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; dispensing the selected item from the machine to the user; and outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine.
15. The method in accordance with claim 14 in¬ cluding the steps of providing a program routine which identifies authorized machine users, entering data in the program to identify the user, and verifying the authorization of the user before dispensing the selected item.
16. The method in accordance with claim 14 or 15 including the steps of providing the machine with a plurality of items to be selected, and identifying the plurality of items to the user before data is entered into the program by the user to select the item to be dispensed.
17. The method in accordance with claim 14 or 15 including the step of restocking the machine with a resupply of consumable items to replace the items dis¬ pensed.
18. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items in a production facility which . _
utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising the steps of: providing a machine having a supply of a plurality of consumable items in the facility in the proximity of the end user of the consumable items; providing the machine with a memory and a program for identifying authorized users and for ordering a selected item; having an authorized user enter identifying data in the program; verifying the authorization of the user; having the verified user enter data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; dispensing the selected item from the machine to the user; and outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine in the production facility.
19. The method is accordance with claim 18 in¬ cluding the step of transmitting data identifying the machine user to the machine memory.
20. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising the steps of: providing a plurality of machines each having a supply of consumable items at selected dispensing stations in the facility in the proximity of the end user of the items to be dispensed; providing each machine with a memory and a program for ordering a selected item; having the user enter data in the program of each of the machines to select the item to be dispensed; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of the machine from which the item is to be dispensed; dispensing the selected item from each machine to the user; and outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network in the production facility.
21. The method in accordance with claim 20 in¬ cluding the steps of providing the program in each machine with a program routine which identifies author¬ ized machine users, having the user enter identifying data into the program of each machine, and verifying the authorization of the user before dispensing the selected items from each machine.
22. The method in accordance with claim 20 or 21 including the steps of providing each machine with a plurality of items to be selected, and identifying the plurality of items to the user of each machine before data is entered into the program of each machine to select the item to be dispensed.
23. The method in accordance with claim 20 or 21 including the step of restocking each machine with a resupply of consumable items to replace the items dis¬ pensed. _ _
24. A method of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing sta¬ tions in a production facility which utilizes a plural¬ ity of consumable tools and supplies comprising the steps of: production facility which utilizes a plural¬ ity of consumable tools and supplies comprising the steps of: providing a machine at each dispensing station having a supply of consumable items in the proximity of the end user of the items to be dispensed; providing each machine with a memory and a program for identifying authorized users and for order¬ ing a selected item; having the user of the machine enter identi¬ fying data into the program of each machine; verifying the authorization of the user of each machine; having the user enter data in the program to select the item to be dispensed from each machine; transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of each machine; dispensing the selected item from each machine to the user; and outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network in the production facility.
25. The method is accordance with claim 24 in¬ cluding the steps of transmitting data identifying each machine user to the machine memory and providing a hard copy printout of the data transmitted to the machine memory.
26. The method in accordance with claim 24 or 25 including the step of providing each machine in the network with a plurality of different consumable items to be dispensed.
27. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a machine having a supply of consumable items; memory means and program means provided for the machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; dispensing means for dispensing the selected item from the machine; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the. use of the dispensed consumable items.
28. The system in accordance with claim 27 where¬ in said program includes a program routine which identi¬ fies authorized machine users, and further wherein said machine includes means for entering data in the program to identify the user and means to verify the authoriza¬ tion of the user before said dispensing means is opera¬ tive to dispense the selected item.
29. The system in accordance with claim 27 or 28 wherein said machine includes a plurality of items to be selected, and further includes means to identify the plurality of items to said user before said data enter- _ _
ing means is operative to select the item to be dispensed.
30. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a machine having a supply of a plurality of consumable items; memory means and program means for identify¬ ing authorized users and for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program to identify the user; means for verifying the authorization of the user; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the dispensed consumable items.
31. The system in accordance with claim 30 where¬ in said machine includes means for transmitting data identifying the machine user to the machine memory and printing means for providing a hard copy printout of selected data transmitted to said machine memory.
32. A system of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations comprising: . _
a plurality of machines positioned at selected dispensing stations and each having a supply of consumable items to be dispensed; memory means and a program provided for each machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program, of each of the machines to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item.to the memory of the machine from which the item is to be dispensed; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network.
33. The system in accordance with claim- 32 where¬ in the program for each machine includes a program routine which identifies authorized machine users; and wherein the system includes means for entering data in the program of each machine to identify the user and further includes means for verifying the authorization of the user before said dispensing means is operative to dispense the selected item from each machine.
34. The system in accordance with claim 32 or 33 wherein each machine is provided with a plurality of items to be selected, and further including means iden¬ tifying the plurality of items to the user of each machine before said data entry means is operative to select the item to be dispensed. . _
35. A system of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing sta¬ tions comprising: a machine at each dispensing station having a supply of consumable items; memory means and program means for each machine for identifying authorized users and for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program to identify the user of each machine; means for verifying the authorization of the user of each machine; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed from each machine; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of each machine; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network.
36. The system in accordance with claim 35 includ¬ ing means for transmitting data identifying each machine user to each machine memory.
37. The system in accordance with claim 35 or 36 wherein each machine in the network is provided with a plurality of different consumable items to be dispensed.
38. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising: a machine having a supply of selected consum¬ able items positioned in the facility in the proximity of the user of the items; memory means and program means for each machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program means to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory means; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory means to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine.
39. The system in accordance with claim 38 where¬ in said program means includes a program routine which identifies authorized machine users, and wherein said system includes means for entering data in the program to identify the user and verifying the authorization of the user before said dispensing means is operative to dispense the selected item.
40. The system in accordance with claim 38 or 39 wherein said machine is provided with a plurality of items to be selected, and said system includes means for identifying the plurality of items to the user before said data entry means is operative to select the item to be dispensed.
41. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising: a machine having a supply of a plurality of consumable items positioned in the facility in the proximity of the end user of the consumable items; memory means and program means for identifying authorized users and for ordering a selected item; means for entering data into said program means for identifying the authorized user; means for verifying the authorization of the user; means to enter data in the program means to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to said machine memory means; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory means to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine in the production facility.
42. The system in accordance with claim 41 where¬ in said system includes means for transmitting data identifying the machine user to the machine memory.
43. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising: a plurality of machines each having a supply of consumable items positioned at selected dispensing stations in the facility in the proximity of the end user of the items to be dispensed; memory means and program means provided for each machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in said program means of each machine to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory means of the machine from which the item is to be dispensed; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory means to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network in the production facility.
44. The system in accordance with claim 43 where¬ in each program means includes a program routine which identifies authorized machine users, and further where¬ in said system includes means for entering identifying data into the program of each machine and for verifying the authorization of the user before said dispensing means is operative to dispense the selected items from each machine.
45. The system in accordance with claim 43 or 44 wherein each machine is provided with a plurality of items to be selected, and said system includes means for identifying the plurality of items to the user of each machine before said data entry means is operative to enter data into the program of each machine to select the item to be dispensed.
46. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations in a production facility which utilizes a plurality of consumable tools and supplies comprising: _ _
a machine provided at each dispensing station in the proximity of the end user of the items to be dispensed and having a supply of consumable items; memory means and program means provided for each machine for identifying authorized users and for ordering a selected item; means for entering data into the program of each machine to identify the user and for verifying the authorization of the user; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed from each machine; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of each machine; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine network in the production facility.
47. The system in accordance with claim 46 includ¬ ing means for transmitting data identifying each machine user to the machine memory.
48. The system in accordance with claim 46 or 47 wherein each machine in the network, is provided with a plurality of different consumable items to be dispensed.
49. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a dispensing machine having a plurality of magazines each provided with a plurality of consumable items; a computer system including program means and memory means provided in association with said machine; video display means for displaying the selec¬ tion of items available within the machine; input keyboard means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; dispensing means operatively connected to each magazine to dispense the selected item from the magazine in response to a dispensing signal; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to said memory and for generating said dispensing signal; and means for outputting the data from said machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine.
50. The system in accordance with claim 49 where¬ in said dispensing means comprises a solenoid actuated slide means which, responds to said dispensing signal to dispense a selected item from the associated magazine.
51. The system in accordance with claim 49 where¬ in said dispensing means comprises a fluid-actuated slide means which responds to said dispensing signal to dispense a selected item from the associated magazine.
52. The system in accordance with claim 51 where¬ in said fluid-actuated slide means is hydraulically actuated.
53. The system in accordance with claim 51 where¬ in said fluid-actuated slide means is pneumatically actuated.
54. The- system in accordance with claim 49 where¬ in said means- for outputting the data includes a printer interfaced with said computer system to provide hard copy printouts of selected data from said machine memory.
55. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a machine having a supply of consumable items; memory means and program means provided for the machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine comprising a selected number of dispensing means arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispensing; and means to activate one of said first and second activating means to condi¬ tion the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispensing means in the intersection of the activated column and row is operated to dispense the selected item; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and track¬ ing of the use of the dispensed consumable items. _
56. A system in accordance with claim 55 wherein each dispensing means comprises _a pneumatic cylinder and said first and second actuators comprise pneumatic valves.
57. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a machine having a supply of a plurality of consumable items; memory means and program means for identify¬ ing authorized users and for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program to identify the user; means for verifying the authorization of the user; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the machine memory; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine comprising a selected number of dispensing means arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispensing; and means to activate one of said first and second activating means to condi¬ tion the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispens¬ ing means in the intersection of the activated column and row is operated to dispense the selected item; and means for outputting the data from the machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and track¬ ing of the use of the dispensed consumable items.
58. A system of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing stations comprising: a plurality of machines positioned at selected dispensing stations and each having a supply of consumable items to be dispensed; memory means and a program provided for each machine for ordering a selected item; means for entering data in the program of each of the machines to select the item to be dispensed; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of the machine from which the item is to be dispensed; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine comprising a selected number of dispensing means arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispensing; and means to activate one of said first and second activating means to condi¬ tion the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispens¬ ing means in the intersection of the activated column and row is operated to dispense the selected item; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dis¬ pensed from the machine network.
59. The system in accordance with claim 58 where¬ in the program for each machine includes a program routine which identifies authorized machine users; and wherein the system includes means for entering data in the program of each machine to identify the user and further includes means for verifying the authorization of the user before said dispensing means is operative to dispense the selected item from each machine.
60. A system of dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items from a network of dispensing sta¬ tions comprising: a machine at each dispensing station having a supply of consumable items; memory means and program means for each machine for identifying authorized users and for order¬ ing a selected item; means for entering data in the program to identify the user of each machine; means for verifying the authorization of the user of each machine; means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed from each machine; means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to the memory of each machine; means for dispensing the selected item from each machine; means for dispensing the selected item from the machine comprising a selected number of dispensing means arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispensing; and means to activate one of said first and second activating means to condi¬ tion the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispens¬ ing means in the intersection of the activated column and row is operated to dispense the selected item; and means for outputting the data from each machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dis¬ pensed from the machine network.
61. The system in accordance with claim 60 in¬ cluding means for transmitting data identifying each machine user to each machine memory.
62. A system for dispensing and tracking the use of consumable items comprising: a dispensing machine having a plurality of magazines each provided with a plurality of consumable items; a computer system including program means and memory means provided in association with said machine; video display means for displaying the selec¬ tion of items available within the machine; input keyboard means for entering data in the program to select the item to be dispensed; means operatively connected to each magazine to dispense the selected item from the magazine in re¬ sponse to a dispensing signal; said dispensing means for dispensing the selected item from the machine com¬ prising-a selected number of dispensing means arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispensing; and means to activate one of said first and second activating means to condition the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispensing means in the intersection of the activated column and row is oper¬ ated to dispense the selected item; and means for transmitting data identifying the selected item to said memory and for generating said dispensing signal; and means for outputting the data from said machine memory to control the ordering, inventorying and tracking of the use of the consumable items dispensed from the machine.
63. The system in accordance with claim 62 where¬ in said dispensing means comprises slide means which responds to the actuation of said dispensing means to dispense a selected item from the associated magazine.
64. In a machine for separately dispensing a plural¬ ity of consumable items, a matrix switching and control system comprising: a plurality of dispensing means corresponding to the number of items to be separately dispensed and arranged in columns and rows; first actuator means connected to the dispensing means in each column and operative to condi- tion each dispensing means in the associated column for dispensing; second actuator means connected to each dispensing means in each row and operative to condition each dispensing means in the associated row for dispens¬ ing; and means to actuate one of said first and second actuating means to condition the dispensing means in one of said rows and one of said columns for dispensing so that only the dispensing means in the intersection of the actuated column and row is operated to dispense the selected item.
65. The invention in accordance with claim 64 wherein the number of items to be dispensed and the number of dispensing means is 'N', the dispensing means are arranged in an equal number of columns and rows, and the number of first actuator means and second actuator means provided in the system comprises the square root of 'N' .
66. The invention in accordance with claim 64 or 65 wherein the dispensing means each comprises a double- acting fluid cylinder and said first and second actuator means comprise fluid valves.
67. The invention in accordance with claim 66 wherein said cylinders comprise pneumatic cylinders and said valves comprise pneumatic valves.
68. A fluid matrix switching and control system comprising: a plurality of fluid cylinders arranged in an equal number of columns and rows; first actuator means fluidly coupled to the cylinders in each column and operative to condition each cylinder in the associated column for actuation; second actuator means fluidly coupled to each cylinder in each row and operative to condition each cylinder in the associated row for actuation; and means to operate one of said first and second activating means to condition the cylinders in one of said rows and one of said columns for actuation; said cylinders being operatively arranged so that only the cylinder in the intersection of the activated column and row is activated.
69. A system in accordance with claim 68 wherein each cylinder comprises a double-acting fluid valve and the first and second activator means comprise fluid valves.
70. A system in accordance with claim 69 or 70 wherein the number of cylinders is lN! , wherein the number of cylinders in each column and row is the square root of 'N' ; and further wherein the number of first and second actuator means each comprise the square root of 'N*.
PCT/US1987/003088 1986-11-19 1987-11-18 Method and system for handling consumable tooling and supplies WO1988004085A1 (en)

Priority Applications (3)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US93293086 true 1986-11-19 1986-11-19
US932,930 1986-11-19
CA 592058 CA1324648C (en) 1986-11-19 1989-02-24 Method and system for handling consumable tooling and supplies

Applications Claiming Priority (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
DE19873790766 DE3790766T1 (en) 1986-11-19 1987-11-18 Method and system for handling consumable werkzeugausruestungen and supply medium
GB8817106A GB8817106D0 (en) 1986-11-19 1987-11-18 Method & system for handling consumable tooling & supplies

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Publication Number Publication Date
WO1988004085A1 true true WO1988004085A1 (en) 1988-06-02

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JP (1) JP2612060B2 (en)
CA (1) CA1324648C (en)
FR (1) FR2606896A1 (en)
GB (1) GB8817106D0 (en)
WO (1) WO1988004085A1 (en)

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WO1997032264A1 (en) * 1996-03-01 1997-09-04 I.S.R. (Logistics) Limited An apparatus for the control of inventory
WO1999009499A1 (en) * 1997-08-19 1999-02-25 Imaging Technologies Pty. Limited Improved electronic ordering and vending systems
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US8996162B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2015-03-31 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9104990B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2015-08-11 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9286617B2 (en) 2011-08-12 2016-03-15 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for applying parental control limits from content providers to media content
US9348822B2 (en) 2011-08-02 2016-05-24 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for generating notifications related to new media
US9390577B2 (en) 2012-03-07 2016-07-12 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for optimizing utilization of inventory space for dispensable articles
US9524368B2 (en) 2004-04-15 2016-12-20 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for communicating vending information
US9569911B2 (en) 2010-08-23 2017-02-14 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Secondary media return system and method
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US9785996B2 (en) 2011-06-14 2017-10-10 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for substituting a media article with alternative media
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WO1997028510A1 (en) 1996-02-01 1997-08-07 Imaging Technologies Pty. Ltd. Improved electronic ordering device and electronic retailing and vending systems
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US9524368B2 (en) 2004-04-15 2016-12-20 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for communicating vending information
US9865003B2 (en) 2004-04-15 2018-01-09 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for vending vendible media products
US9558316B2 (en) 2004-04-15 2017-01-31 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for vending vendible media products
US9104990B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2015-08-11 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9830583B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2017-11-28 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9489691B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2016-11-08 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US8996162B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2015-03-31 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9542661B2 (en) 2009-09-05 2017-01-10 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for exchanging an inoperable article for an operable article
US9582954B2 (en) 2010-08-23 2017-02-28 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Article vending machine and method for authenticating received articles
US9569911B2 (en) 2010-08-23 2017-02-14 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc Secondary media return system and method
US9785996B2 (en) 2011-06-14 2017-10-10 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for substituting a media article with alternative media
US9348822B2 (en) 2011-08-02 2016-05-24 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for generating notifications related to new media
US9615134B2 (en) 2011-08-12 2017-04-04 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for applying parental control limits from content providers to media content
US9286617B2 (en) 2011-08-12 2016-03-15 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for applying parental control limits from content providers to media content
US9390577B2 (en) 2012-03-07 2016-07-12 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for optimizing utilization of inventory space for dispensable articles
US9916714B2 (en) 2012-03-07 2018-03-13 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for optimizing utilization of inventory space for dispensable articles
US9747253B2 (en) 2012-06-05 2017-08-29 Redbox Automated Retail, Llc System and method for simultaneous article retrieval and transaction validation

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date Type
FR2606896A1 (en) 1988-05-20 application
CA1324648C (en) 1993-11-23 grant
JP2612060B2 (en) 1997-05-21 grant
GB8817106D0 (en) 1988-08-24 grant
GB2208327A (en) 1989-03-22 application
JPH01501774A (en) 1989-06-22 application

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