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Patent Analysis of

Product flow regulator

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10000344

Application Number

US15/517979

Application Date

12 October 2015

Publication Date

19 June 2018

Current Assignee

ROTZINGER AG

Original Assignee (Applicant)

ROTZINGER AG

International Classification

B65G47/00,B65G47/14,B65G1/12,B65G47/51,B65G1/06

Cooperative Classification

B65G47/5127,B65G47/1492,B65G1/1376,B65G1/065,B65G47/5109

Inventor

PHILIPP, KURT

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10000344 Product flow regulator 1 US10000344 Product flow regulator 2 US10000344 Product flow regulator 3
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Abstract

A product flow regulator for temporary storage of products includes a frame, a conveying mechanism, and product carrier gondolas, which are conveyed with products from a product inlet area to a product outlet area and back empty. The frame includes a stationary guide track, along which the product carrier gondolas circulate self-controlled. The gondolas includes a drive mechanism and electrical control devices, which enable individual independent circulation.

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Claims

1. A product flow regulator, comprising: a closed loop circumferential guide track along which carrier gondolas are guided between a product inlet area and a product outlet area, each of the carrier gondolas is equipped with at least one independent guide and at least one independent drive, and the at least one independent drive includes a motor, wherein the closed loop circumferential guide track and the carrier gondolas take over products from an inlet belt of a production line at the product inlet area by product carrier trays arranged on the carrier gondolas loading the products, the carrier gondolas moving with the products on the product carrier trays to the product outlet area to thereby provide an intermediate storage of the products, the product carrier trays unloading the products to an outlet belt of the production line, and emptied carrier gondolas moving back to the product inlet area.

2. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein the at least one independent drive includes a drive shaft on which drive rollers are mounted, and the motor is a servo motor that drives the drive shaft.

3. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein the closed loop circumferential guide track includes a horizontal waiting section to extend an intermediate storage time of the products.

4. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, further comprising a fixed frame in which the closed loop circumferential guide track is arranged.

5. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein the closed loop circumferential guide track includes a turnout to slide individual carrier gondolas in and out.

6. A product carrier gondola for use in the product flow regulator according to claim 1, comprising a drive on at least two sides of the product carrier gondola.

7. The product carrier gondola according to claim 6, further comprising an electrical control system for individual guidance along the closed loop circumferential guide track that is stationary.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. A product flow regulator, comprising:
    • a closed loop circumferential guide track along which carrier gondolas are guided between a product inlet area and a product outlet area, each of the carrier gondolas is equipped with at least one independent guide and at least one independent drive, and the at least one independent drive includes a motor, wherein the closed loop circumferential guide track and the carrier gondolas take over products from an inlet belt of a production line at the product inlet area by product carrier trays arranged on the carrier gondolas loading the products, the carrier gondolas moving with the products on the product carrier trays to the product outlet area to thereby provide an intermediate storage of the products, the product carrier trays unloading the products to an outlet belt of the production line, and emptied carrier gondolas moving back to the product inlet area.
    • 2. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein
      • the at least one independent drive includes a drive shaft on which drive rollers are mounted, and the motor is a servo motor that drives the drive shaft.
    • 3. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein
      • the closed loop circumferential guide track includes a horizontal waiting section to extend an intermediate storage time of the products.
    • 4. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, further comprising
      • a fixed frame in which the closed loop circumferential guide track is arranged.
    • 5. The product flow regulator according to claim 1, wherein
      • the closed loop circumferential guide track includes a turnout to slide individual carrier gondolas in and out.
    • 6. A product carrier gondola for use in the product flow regulator according to claim 1, comprising
      • a drive on at least two sides of the product carrier gondola.
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Description

The invention relates to a product flow regulator for temporarily storing products with a frame, conveyor means and product carrier gondolas, which are conveyed with products from a product inlet area to a product outlet area and back empty.

Product flow regulators are most commonly used when freshly produced piece goods such as chocolate bars, candy bars and biscuits need to be carried to a packaging system. These piece goods are produced in series and should go to the packaging machine by the shortest route. The packaging process can be subject to disruptions and interruptions. On the other hand, the product should be produced continuously at a constant speed to achieve consistent quality. To solve this problem, product flow regulators are used between production and packaging, as described for example in EP 1586520. Given interruptions in the downstream packaging system, the product flow regulator labeled there as intermediate storage can hold the continuing production on product lines for a certain time. This amount of product is stored temporarily in the product flow regulator to be able to then release it at a higher speed when the packaging system starts up again. This is done during the production on the “first-in-first-out” principle and avoids the discarding of valuable product.

The freshly produced product lines are loaded at the inlet of the product flow regulator on product carrier trays. These product carrier trays are arranged one on top of the other and designed to be joined in groups into a product carrier gondola labeled as transport rack. These product carrier gondolas are generally moved on both sides with circulating chains and devices arranged in pairs from the inlet into the product flow regulator to its outlet, and if there are interruptions in the packaging are also backed up. The backup zone with product is usually in the upper area of the product flow regulator before its outlet. In the outlet of the product flow regulator, the product carrier gondolas are unloaded and the products are sent on conveyor belts to the downstream packaging machines. The emptied product carrier gondolas then go in the lower area of the product flow regulator through a backup zone back to its inlet, to then be reloaded with product lines. The product flow regulator is therefore always defined by an inlet area in which the product carrier gondolas are loaded with product, an upper backup zone through which the interruptions and disruptions of the downstream packaging system are compensated, and an outlet area in which the product lines are unloaded for the packaging system, as well as a backup zone in the lower return run where the emptied product carrier gondolas wait for their next speed-dependent loading. The product flow regulator thus has a certain number of product carrier gondolas, which are recirculated in a circle and loaded at the inlet with product lines and unloaded at the outlet.

All systems known, for example, from EP 1586520, DE 60308229 and other documents work with simple product carrier gondolas that are circulated at very high mechanical and electrical cost. This means that all the necessary mechanisms to circulate the simple gondolas are located stationary in each functional area of the machine. This requires a large number of drives with the associated sensors and a high cost for their electrical control and electrical installation.

The known systems also have the disadvantage that with each change of direction from vertical to horizontal and vice versa, there must be a transfer of the gondolas from one conveyor to the next. These transfer movements reduce the system's performance, because this process takes a certain amount of time during which the circulation of the product carrier gondolas must be interrupted.

Another disadvantage of the known systems is that the conventional mechanical backup of the product carrier gondolas causes noise and mechanical stress on the gondolas, and also stress on the product itself from the vibrations and oscillations this causes.

The invention is based on the object of designing a product flow regulator that manages without this high cost and avoids the named disadvantages.

According to the invention, this object is solved by the gondolas being equipped with individual independent drive devices and their own sensors, and by circulating in a self-controlled manner on fixed guide and transport rails.

The proposed new product flow regulator thus functions on a different principle than the intermediate storage known from the prior art. The system causing the transport of the gondolas with frame, conveyor chains, drives, etc. is replaced by a frame having only fixed guide and conveyor rails on which the gondolas circulate. The product carrier gondolas, by contrast, are conceptualized and designed such that they move self-controlled through the product flow regulator.

A stationary circulating guide track is installed on both sides in the product flow regulator frame. The mobile product carrier gondolas are received in this guide track and then can move self-controlled along this guide track.

Each product carrier gondola is equipped on both sides with drive and guide means that enable each product carrier gondola to be moved individually through the various functional areas of the product flow regulator along this guide track. The shape of this circulating guide track is arbitrary in terms of height and length. In this way, existing premises can be optimally utilized.

Below the outlet of the product flow regulator, individual product carrier gondolas can be backed out and slid back in, in a defined and automated manner, by opening the guide track. This is often used when the product carrier gondolas must be cleaned externally. The process of sliding individual product carrier gondolas in and out can also take place during operation.

Through the new concept, the product carrier gondolas can be individually and continuously moved and held along the guide track. The required backup in the backup zones occurs in a defined manner without the individual product carrier gondolas mechanically touching each other. The change of direction from vertical to horizontal and vice versa can be carried out continuously, without mechanically complicated transfer movements. Due to the contactless backup possibility for the product carrier gondolas, the necessary backup mechanics like interruption and separation devices can be dispensed with. These serious disadvantages are systematically avoided by the proposed approach and therefore no longer relevant.

Below, preferred embodiments of the invention's product flow regulator are described based on the attached drawings. In the drawings are shown:

FIG. 1a-c a schematic representation of a product flow regulators in three views

FIG. 2 an enlarged representation of the guide and drive device of a gondola

FIG. 3 another embodiment of the guide and drive device

FIG. 4 a schematic representation of an embodiment variant of the system

FIG. 5 a schematic representation of an embodiment variant of the system

In the side view of FIG. 1a is shown, as in the known product flow regulators, a product flow regulator 1 between a product inlet belt 2 and a product outlet belt 3. FIG. 1b shows a top view of the system and FIG. 1c shows a section along plane A-A of FIG. 1a. Products come from manufacturing on the product inlet belt and are carried further to the packaging system. As is known, they are stored temporarily in the product flow regulator.

The product flow regulator has a frame 4 on which a stationary circumferential guide track 5 is arranged. Along this guide track move product carrier gondolas 6 equipped in a known manner with a number of product carrier trays. In contrast to the known product flow regulators, the individual gondolas are not connected to a rotating drive mechanism, such as conveyor chains, but move independent of each other.

The guide track has a vertical ascent section 7 on the product inlet side, a horizontal waiting section 8 connected to it for filled gondolas, a descent section 9 following it on the product outlet side, and a waiting section 10 for empty gondolas arranged in the lower area of the frame. The guide track is closed, but has a turnout 11 between the descent section and the lower waiting section where the individual gondolas can be slid out.

The guide track has a circumferential guide rail 12, with which the gondolas are guided. Accordingly, the gondolas are equipped with guide rollers 17, as will be further described below with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3. In the vertical sections and the lower horizontal section, an additional guide rail 13 is provided so the guide rollers of the gondolas are guided there on both sides.

The guide track further comprises a circumferential toothed rail 14 arranged next to the rail, which engages a drive wheel 18 of the gondola form-fitting.

Each gondola is provided with its own independent guide and drive means 15, arranged approximately in the upper third of the gondola. An embodiment of this guide and drive means of a gondola is shown in FIG. 2. On a continuous drive shaft 16 on both sides of the gondola are arranged a freely rotatable guide roller 17 and a drive roller 18 non-rotatably connected with the shaft. The guide roller runs, as already mentioned, on the guide track and the drive roller engages the toothed rail. At one end of the drive shaft is arranged a servomotor 19 that drives the shaft. Opposite the outside of the motor a bus bar 20 is mounted on the frame that supplies the motor with power, preferably without contact.

The toothed rail is made of an elastomeric material in the manner of a toothed belt. Of course, other embodiments are possible.

The commands to the servomotor necessary for advancing the gondolas on the guide track are controlled in a known manner through a central computer.

In the embodiment variant shown in FIG. 3, the guide rail 21 at the same time serves as the power supply. The drive is provided by a linear motor 22.

The inventive solution with independently moved product carrier gondolas has the advantage that the shape of the system can be largely customized and thus easily adapted to existing spaces. FIG. 4 shows a variant in which the frame is adapted to a narrow high space. Here the vertical sections can be shared for the waiting position of the gondolas. FIG. 5 shows a variant adapted to a more complicated room shape. A conventional product flow regulator with gondolas suspended from chains could hardly be installed in such a space at a reasonable cost.

Another advantage of the inventive solution is that the gondolas can be guided so they do not touch in the waiting positions. This provides a significant reduction of the considerable noise with gondolas suspended on chains. In addition, the vibrations acting on the product are greatly reduced by eliminating the transfer processes at the transitions from vertical to horizontal chain strands and rails.

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Patent Valuation

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35.0/100 Score

Market Attractiveness

It shows from an IP point of view how many competitors are active and innovations are made in the different technical fields of the company. On a company level, the market attractiveness is often also an indicator of how diversified a company is. Here we look into the commercial relevance of the market.

33.0/100 Score

Market Coverage

It shows the sizes of the market that is covered with the IP and in how many countries the IP guarantees protection. It reflects a market size that is potentially addressable with the invented technology/formulation with a legal protection which also includes a freedom to operate. Here we look into the size of the impacted market.

67.91/100 Score

Technology Quality

It shows the degree of innovation that can be derived from a company’s IP. Here we look into ease of detection, ability to design around and significance of the patented feature to the product/service.

33.0/100 Score

Assignee Score

It takes the R&D behavior of the company itself into account that results in IP. During the invention phase, larger companies are considered to assign a higher R&D budget on a certain technology field, these companies have a better influence on their market, on what is marketable and what might lead to a standard.

17.59/100 Score

Legal Score

It shows the legal strength of IP in terms of its degree of protecting effect. Here we look into claim scope, claim breadth, claim quality, stability and priority.

Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
Method and Apparatus for Delivering Items to Destination Areas OPEX CORPORATION 03 January 2011 28 April 2011
Speicher für Warenstücke KLÖCKNER HÄNSEL GMBH 14 January 1994 20 July 1995
Intermediate buffer ROTZINGER AG 09 November 2004 19 October 2005
Material Handling Apparatus for Sorting or Retrieving Items OPEX CORPORATION 30 January 2012 24 May 2012
Device for the accumulation and release of products,especially products arranged in ranks feeding packaging lines for such products CT PACK S.R.L. 31 January 2008 06 May 2010
See full citation <>

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