Mechanism and method of making an envelope
Machine and method for packaging travelers checks
Document stacking and conveying apparatus
Mechanism for folding an envelope around an insert
Mechanism for folding an envelope around an insert
Collating station for inserting machine
Mechanism for folding an envelope around an insert
Envelope stuffing apparatus
Container opening apparatus
Dynamic sequencer for sheets of printed paper
ApplicationNo. 11240604 filed on 10/03/2005
US Classes:270/52.14, Signature associating270/52.01, ASSOCIATING OR DISASSOCIATING270/52.16, Gathering line270/52.19, Insetting53/447, Stacking upon another before packaging53/540, Stacking one article or group of articles upon another53/429, Folding53/493, Of individual contents or group feed or delivery53/55, Concurrent control of contents and receptacle feeds53/56, Stopped by contents, manual reset53/569, Letter-type envelope53/75, Of package and filled receptacle closing or opening271/9.13With convergence to single path
ExaminersPrimary: Crawford, Gene O.
Assistant: Nicholson, III, Leslie A.
Attorney, Agent or Firm
Foreign Patent References
International ClassB65H 39/00
The present subject matter relates to a collating apparatus and method for merging documents. More particularly, the present subject matter relates to a collating apparatus and method for merging document sets, one or more of which may bepreviously collated, into a single collated packet prior to a mail processing insertion operation.
Various mailing systems and methods have been employed in the past for receiving materials from a number of sources and collating the materials, or combining them into a single packet of material. The single packet is then inserted into anenvelope at an envelope inserting station located further downstream.
In known mailing systems, the prime document is typically generated or fed and additional materials are added to the prime document as it traverses the mail processing system. Typically, the packet is comprised of a single stack of documents,wherein the order of the documents in the stack is predetermined by the process flow of the mail processing system.
Known track systems feed documents from a series of feed stations in a synchronized manner so that a document from each feed station is placed on top of a document from a preceding, up-stream feed station. A number of documents are collatedtogether to form a packet and at the end of the track the packet is inserted into an envelope. Usually the packet of documents comprises one prime document, such as an address bearing document, and several attachments, such as leaflets oradvertisements. The prime document includes the mailing address to which the package (e.g. envelope with packet inserted therein) is to be delivered and the collating must be done so that when the documents are placed in a window envelope, the addresswill be visible through the window. This process can be done by first feeding the prime document onto the track conveyor, face downwards, and adding the subsequent documents on top to form a packet which is then inserted into the envelope with the primedocument facing downwards.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,753,429 discloses a synchronous system that uses two fixed pins of different heights and provides a method of collation for two subsets of documents into a single packet. With this system, the document which is to be placed ontop of the packet must be transported by the first (shorter) set of pins in the synchronous transport.
In U.S. Pat. No. 6,915,184, a document collator includes a conveyor system, a prime document feeder station and a plurality of enclosure document feeder stations arranged at spaced locations along the conveyor system. The collator is anon-synchronous system that allows the order of a collation to be varied within a mail processing system by sequencing the order in which the documents are fed.
Accordingly, there remains room for improvement in the art for a synchronous collating apparatus and method for merging a plurality of document sets into a single set, in any desired order.
The present claimed subject matter improves on the concepts of known mailing systems with the use of pivotable pusher members such as pins. Serial document sets can be assembled in any order, and the height of the pusher pin is not dictated bythe collation process. The present claimed subject matter uses pivotable (or drop away) pusher pins in combination with fixed position pusher members, as well as an actuating deck plate which permits the document sets to be assembled in any order at acollation station. If, in fact, the address bearing document is allowed in the last position, there are additional benefits accrued when in the timing of placing the address bearing document into the synchronous raceway.
Moreover, present subject matter is combined with more traditional mail processing architecture and capable of achieving results similar to existing systems. The document sets are fed in customary sequence into a moving conveyor chain, whereeach pocket in the conveyor chain, contains a plurality of "sub-pockets" which are defined by one or more drop away pusher pins. At the collator, these document sets are combined into a single collated packet, in any desired order.
Accordingly, the present claimed subject matter is an improved collating apparatus for merging a plurality of document sets prior to their arrival at a high-speed inserting device.
It is desirable to provide collating apparatus comprising a substantially elongated raceway conveyor adapted to convey a plurality of document sets consecutively along a substantially horizontal conveying pathway from an initial upstream positionto a downstream position. A plurality of pivotable pusher members are movably mounted to the raceway conveyor adapted to advance a first document set. A plurality of fixed positioned pusher members are movably mounted to the raceway conveyor and areadapted to advance a second document set. An actuating deck plate is positioned on a upper surface of the raceway conveyor and parallel to the substantially horizontal conveying pathway, and a selective actuating mechanism is adapted to raise one end ofthe actuating deck plate from an initial position substantially flush with the upper surface of the raceway conveyor to a predetermined position above the upper surface of the raceway conveyor. A collating station comprising a first elevated platformmounted on the upper surface of the raceway conveyor downstream from the actuating deck plate.
In accord with the present concepts disclosed herein, there is provided a method of combining a plurality of document sets into a merged packet. The method comprises the following sequential steps conveying a first document set along a firstconveying pathway from an initial upstream position toward a downstream collation station with at least one pivotable pusher member movably mounted to a raceway conveyor. A second document set is conveyed behind the first document set with at least onefixed positioned pusher member movably mounted to the raceway conveyor. Conveyance of the first document set is stopped at the collation station following a backward pivoting of the pivotable pusher member from an upright position to a downward positionbelow the conveying pathway. A selective actuating mechanism is then to elevate one end of an actuating deck plate to an inclined position. The second document set is conveyed to a second conveying pathway above the first conveying pathway such thatthe second document set passes across the actuating deck plate and onto a first elevated platform mounted on the upper surface of the raceway conveyotr. The first and second document sets are simultaneously advanced at an instance when the fixedpositioned pusher member arrives at the collation station and, thereby, conveying the second document set. The first and second document sets are merged on the first conveying pathway, such that the second document set overlays the first document setand forms the merged packet.
It is also desirable to provide collating apparatus comprising a substantially elongated raceway conveyor adapted to convey a plurality of document sets consecutively along a substantially horizontal conveying pathway from an initial upstreamposition to a downstream position. A plurality of pivotable pusher members are movably mounted to the raceway conveyor adapted to advance a plurality of document sets. A plurality of fixed positioned pusher members are movably mounted to the racewayconveyor and are adapted to advance another document set. An actuating deck plate is positioned on a upper surface of the raceway conveyor and parallel to the substantially horizontal conveying pathway, and a selective actuating mechanism is adapted toraise one end of the actuating deck plate from an initial position substantially flush with the upper surface of the raceway conveyor to plurality of predetermined positions above the upper surface of the raceway conveyor. A collating station is presentand comprises at least two elevated platforms mounted one on top of the other on the upper surface of the raceway conveyor downstream from the actuating deck plate. The plurality of fixed positioned pusher members are spaced from each other at regularintervals intermediate to at least two consecutive pivotable pusher members.
Additional advantages and aspects of the present subject matter will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, wherein embodiments of the present subject matter are shown and described, simply byway of illustration of the best mode contemplated for practicing the present subject matter. As will be described, the present subject matter is capable of other and different embodiments, and its several details are susceptible of modification invarious obvious respects, all without departing from the spirit of the present subject matter. Accordingly, the drawings and description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature, and not limitative.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The following detailed description of the embodiments of the present subject matter can best be understood when read in conjunction with the following drawings, in which the various features are not necessarily drawn to scale but rather are drawnas to best illustrate the pertinent features, and in which like reference numerals are employed throughout to designate similar features.
FIG. 1 illustrates an example of a collating apparatus situated within a mail processing system;
FIG. 2 is an elevated side plan view of the collating apparatus;
FIG. 3 is a side plan view of the collating apparatus;
FIG. 4 of the drawings is a top plan view of the collating apparatus;
FIG. 5 is a partial side plan view of another example of a collating apparatus; and
FIG. 6 is a side plan view of another example of a collating apparatus.
The present collating apparatus is configured to function with a conventional in-line mail processing. As exemplified in FIG. 1, collating apparatus 20 is situated between a downstream inserter station 22 and upstream insert feeders 21 within anin-line mail processing system 100. Directional arrow C indicates the direction of documents traveling along the in-line mail processing system 400. Additional mail processing components positioned downstream from inserter station 22 may include forexample a sealer, envelope feeder, diverter, conveyor, and flat conveyor, all of which are well known in the industry and are not shown in the FIG. 1 for illustrative simplicity. Additional components positioned upstream from inserter 22 may includeconventional input stations (not shown) and the like.
The collating apparatus 20 is adapted to advance sequentially delivered document sets, one or more of which may be previously collated, and assemble the document sets into a single collated packet for mailing. Each document set includes one ormore sheets or pages of paper material or other articles intended for mail delivery. Non-limiting examples of mailable materials, other than sheets of paper, include compact discs (CD) and digital video discs (DVD). This is accomplished byincorporating two or more pathways into a single collation device as shown in FIG. 2. Drop-away pusher pins 5 that advance a lead document set 8, disappear below the raceway surface and the lead document set 8 is left deposited at a collating station,being trail edge registered. A second set of fixed-position pusher pins 4 advances the trailing document set into trail edge registration with the previously deposited lead document set 8. The second set of fixed position pusher pins 4 removes andassembles both sets of documents 7 and 8 into a single trail edge registered mail packet 9. The single trail edge registered mail packet 9 is then advanced by the second set of fixed position pusher pins for further processing, e.g. at an envelopeinserting or stuffing station. The inserting or stuffing station is adapted for receiving, supporting, and sequentially feeding envelopes, one at a time, into the document feed path at an area adjacent the downstream portion of the conveyor. Thestuffing station is constructed for positioning envelopes, one at a time, for receiving therein a collated set of documents. After each envelope is sequentially stuffed by having a collated set of documents inserted into the fixed envelope, the stuffedenvelope is conveyed to the downstream end of the raceway conveyor for additional handling.
A first example of the architecture for the collating apparatus 20 is depicted in FIGS. 2 to 4. Collating apparatus 20 includes a substantially elongated synchronous raceway conveyor 25 having an upper surface 26. Raceway conveyor 25 isconfigured to advance a plurality of document sets consecutively along the substantially horizontal conveying pathway 27 from an initial upstream position A to a downstream position B in the direction indicated by directional arrow C. The plurality ofdocument sets is merged into a combined mail packet before being inserted into an envelope at a downstream inserter. Each document set includes one or more sheets or pages of paper material or other article(s) intended for mail delivery.
The components of the mail packet 9 to be assembled are transported along the conveying pathway 27 of collating apparatus 20 as a series of sequential document sets which can be selectively combined in a predetermined order at a collationstation. During normal operation of collating apparatus 20, two different document sets are shown in FIG. 2. A prime document set 7 and a second set 8 are depicted in FIG. 2. In this example, the prime document set is the address bearing document. The second document set 8 can include one or more pages of inserts that were previously assembled in a conventional fashion as a synchronized conveyor (not shown) passes under upstream insert feeders 21 (depicted in FIG. 1).
A plurality of pusher pins positioned within the conveying pathway 27, deliver document sets 7, 8, along synchronous raceway conveyor 25. FIG. 5 depicts the conveying pathway 27 is formed with a pair of parallel, spaced part, longitudinallyextending slots 27b through which drop away pusher pins 5 and fixed position pusher pins 4 extend. As shown in FIG. 5, pusher pins 4, 5 are coupled to and move along a grooved track 12 positioned below the longitudinally extending slots 27b and advancedwith a chain (not shown). Fixed position pusher pins 4 are fastened to a chain by way of pins and clips, such as E-clips). The clips retain the pins and pick it to the chain. An anti-rotation pin is used with the fixed position pusher pins 4 as wellsuch that the position of the pin is maintained or fixed. The drop away pusher pins 5 are secured to the chain by way of a mounting pin, such as one or more pick mounting pins. The pusher pins 4, 5 are adapted to intercept, contact, push and advancethe document sets downstream along the conveying pathway 27.
Document sets 7, 8 are delivered to the synchronous raceway conveyor 25 by conventional mail processing methods from upstream insert feeders 21. In FIG. 2, each document set 8 is conveyed by the drop away pusher pins 5. Drop away pusher pins 5are designed to drop away at the precise moment that a document set 8 is transported downstream to collation station 2a, as shown in FIG. 3. For document set 8, an actuating deck plate 1 is in the horizontal or down position, so the collation point fordocument set 8 is at the raceway conveyor 25 level. The advancement of document set 8 is halted at the point when the drop away pusher pins 5 pivot downward from an upright drive position down to a position below the synchronous raceway conveyor 25 andout of contact with document set 8. The mechanism is designed such that once support is removed from the "foot" 5b of the drop away pusher pin, the weight of the foot 5b causes the drop away pusher pin to pivot backwards (rotate clockwise) by way ofgravity. In other words, the weight of the foot 5b causes the drop away pusher pin 5 to rotate clockwise to a position below the synchronous raceway conveyor 25. This mechanism can be augmented by a torsion spring for faster rotation drop away pusherpin 5. As a result of the drop away pusher pin 5 rotating below the synchronous raceway conveyor 25, and out of contact with document set 8, document set 8 is deposited at collation station 2a.
In FIG. 5, the backward pivoting action of the drop away pusher pins 5 is illustrated. Drop away pusher pins 5 are designed to rotate backwards at the precise moment that document set 8 is delivered downstream to collation station 2a. Drop awaypusher pins 5 rotate backwards once they clear edge 10 of the raceway conveyor 25, as illustrated in FIG. 5. Drop away pusher pins 5 are spaced from each other along the chain(s) of the conveying pathway 27. Similarly, fixed-position pusher pins 4 arelongitudinally spaced from each other along the chain(s) of the conveying pathway 27 and are positioned intermediate the drop away pusher pins 5. Meanwhile, document set 7 is immediately trailing document set 8 and is advanced by the fixed-positionpusher pins 4. Fixed position pusher pins 4 are fixed or maintained in an upright position and do not drop away below the synchronous raceway conveyor 25, as with the drop away pusher pins 5. As document set 7 approaches the actuating deck plate 1, thedeck plate is raised to an upwardly angled position such that document set 7 is advanced across the top surface of the raised actuating deck plate 1 to a second conveying pathway 28 (FIG. 2) elevated above conveying pathway 27. The region defined by theelevated second conveying pathway begins at approximately the point at which document set 7 begins to cross over the raised actuating deck plate and ends at the point when document sets 7 and 8 are merged together on conveying pathway 27.
When the fixed-position pusher pins 4 reach the collation point 2a, they will come into contact with the stationary document set 8. At that point of contact at collation point 2a, the fixed-position pusher pins 4 simultaneously advance bothdocument sets 7 and 8. Document set 7 is next transported down the fixed ramp 3 and merged, trailing end registered, with document set 8. When the document sets 7 and 8 arrive at the collation point 2a, the document set 7 can be selectively (asdetermined by operator selection or by the design implementation) positioned either on top of the insert document set 8 or, alternatively, underneath the insert document set 8. The selectivity can be fixed, such that the packet being pushed by the dropaway pusher pin is always deposited on the bottom of the assembled packet. Alternatively, the selection can be specified by the operator as part of the normal "job" configuration that is necessary for a typical inserter system. The now assembled mailpacket 9 is next transported along the conveying pathway 27 for additional processing at an envelope inserting station positioned downstream.
The actuating deck plate 1 is controlled by a two-state actuator such as a solenoid, a pneumatically operated cylinder or the like. The actuating deck plate, as depicted in FIG. 2, is comprised of three platforms connected by a common mechanicallinkage such that all of the deck plates are positioned by a common actuator. In FIG. 2, a solenoid 6 is depicted which is adapted to raise one end of the actuating deck plate 1 to substantially the same height as platform 2b. Platform 2b is anelevated platform mounted on the upper surface of the raceway conveyor downstream from the actuating deck plate 1. In FIG. 3, document set 7 is advanced with fixed-position pusher pins 4 across the top surface of the elevated actuating plate 1, suchthat document set 7 will continue to advance on and across the surface of platform 2b.
In another example, the collating device 20 comprises a conveying pathway that is formed with a single, spaced part, longitudinally extending slot through which drop away pusher pins 5 and fixed position pusher pins 4 extend. A single column ofalternating drop away and fixed position pushers pins extend through the longitudinally extending slot of the conveying pathway. The actuating deck plate is comprised of two deck platforms with the conveying pathway running between the two deckplatforms. The actuating deck plate is raised and lowered with a two-state actuator. First and second document sets are advanced in a similar manner as previously discussed. As the fixed-position pusher pin reaches the collation point, it will comeinto contact with the document set already deposited at the collation point via the drop away pusher pin. At the point of contact at the collation point, the fixed-position pusher pin simultaneously advances both document sets. The second document setis transported down a fixed ramp from the platform and merged with the first document set. The platform is positioned above the conveying pathway and over the collation point and is separated with a gap through its middle section to permit the fixedposition pusher pin to pass through platform.
In another example, the collating apparatus 20, can accommodate multiple document sets 7. As shown in FIG. 6, a first document set 7 (not shown) is advanced with a drop away pusher pin 5' and a second trailing document set 7 (not shown) isadvanced with drop away pusher pins 5''. The number of consecutive drop away pusher pins will correspond with the number of levels of platform (2b', 2b'', etc.) above the raceway level. An actuator with finer resolution, such as a stepper motor anddrive linkage are necessary to accommodate multiple document sets in this example. As an example, a document set that is being advanced by a drop away pusher pin is capable of being deposited on any platform (2b', 2b'', etc.). Each platform level canaccept one document set delivered by a drop away pusher pin. The actuator is designed to insure that the actuating deck plate is raised to a proper position at each level of the platform. The association of a document set to a specific platform levelcan be fixed or selective by a configuration "job".
The operation of the present collating apparatus 20 can be controlled by means of a microprocessor 100 which may adjust the speed of a variable speed motor 200 in accordance with a desired program. The motor 200, as seen in FIG. 2, is operableto drive the chains that move the fixed-position and drop away pusher pins. The microprocessor 100 is adapted to operate other components of the collating apparatus 20, including the two-state actuator, in accordance with the speed chosen for operatingthe motor 200.
One or more sensing devices 300, including conventional photocell, infrared-type or other conventional sensing devices, that are capable of detecting preset conditions including limit errors, read errors, integrity errors and handling errors canbe included with the collating apparatus 20. Sensing device(s) 300 are linked through wiring to microprocessor 100.
In the previous description, numerous specific details are set forth, such as specific materials, structures, processes, etc., in order to provide a better understanding of the present subject matter. However, the present subject matter can bepracticed without resorting to the details specifically set forth herein. In other instances, well-known processing techniques and structures have not been described in order not to unnecessarily obscure the present subject matter.
Only the preferred embodiments of the present subject matter and but a few examples of its versatility are shown and described in the present disclosure. It is to be understood that the present subject matter is capable of use in various othercombinations and environments and is susceptible of changes and/or modifications within the scope of the inventive concept as expressed herein.
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