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Title:
ROD SAMPLER AND METHOD
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1997/007692
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a rod sampler (20) for providing a sample rod which comprises a sample inlet (18) and a sample holding zone (24) separated by a valve (22) which is moveable between a first position in which a sample rod can pass longitudinally through the valve (22) from the inlet (18) to the sample holding zone (24) and a second position in which the valve (22) pneumatically isolates the sample holding zone (24) from the inlet (18), and means for pneumatically transporting a sample in the sample holding zone longitudinally therefrom.

Inventors:
Wilson
Ronald
Frederick, Reeve
Brian
George
Application Number:
PCT/GB1996/002063
Publication Date:
March 06, 1997
Filing Date:
August 23, 1996
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
FILTRONA INSTRUMENTS & AUTOMATION LTD
Wilson, Ronald Frederick Reeve Brian George
International Classes:
A24C5/32; A24C5/34; (IPC1-7): A24C5/34; A24C5/32
Foreign References:
GB2241865A
EP0409443B1
DE1250364B
US4960350A
DE2240416A1
GB2068870A
FR2235652A1
GB1468154A
GB2020159A
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Claims:
C A I M S :
1. A rod sampler for providing a sample rod which comprises a sample inlet and a sample holding zone separated by a valve which is moveable between a first position in which a sample rod can pass longitudinally through the valve from the inlet to the sample holding zone and a second position in which the valve pneumatically isolates the sample holding zone from the inlet, and means for pneumatically transporting a sample in the sample holding zone longitudinally therefrom.
2. A rod sampler according to claim 1 wherein the valve is a 2way valve.
3. A rod sampler according to claim 1 or 2 wherein the valve in the second position provides a conduit which connects the pneumatic transport means and the sample holding zone.
4. A rod sampler according to any preceding claim wherein the valve is a ball valve.
5. A rod sampler according to any preceding claim which further includes a sensor for detecting the emergence or non emergence of a sample from the valve and the clearance or non clearance of a sample past the sensor into the sample holding zone.
6. A rod sampler according to any preceding claim in. combination with a sample probe for receiving a sample rod for conveyance to and through the inlet of the rod sampler, the sample probe comprising concentric inner and outer sleeves each having a longitudinal opening and being axially relatively rotatable to bring the openings into at least partial register for accepting a sample rod therethrough to rest within the inner sleeve and fully out of coincidence to form a substantially closed cylinder within which an accepted sample rod can be enclosed, and conveying means connected to the cylinder for conveyance of a sample therein to and through the inlet and the valve to the sample holding zone.
7. Rod handling apparatus comprising a rod sampler according to any preceding claim with its sample holding zone communicating with a rod receiver for arresting the downward passage of a rod and delivering it to its destination in suitable condition for testing, the rod receiver comprising a ventilated rod receiver chamber having an entrance through which a rod can drop longitudinally into the chamber, pneumatic cushion means for pneumatically cushioning and arresting downward passage of a rod through the chamber and having means for activating and deactivating the pneumatic cushion, and an exit through which a rod can drop longitudinally to its destination on deactivation of the cushion means.
8. Rod handling apparatus comprising a rod sampler according to any of claims 1 to 6 in combination with a rod reorientor for receiving a rod from the rod sampler in one orientation and transporting it in another, the rod reorientor comprising a chamber which is movable between a first position in which a rod can longitudinally enter the chamber from the rod sampler and a second transport position in which the chamber and contained rod are pneumatically isolated from the first position, means for pneumatically transporting a rod longitudinally from the chamber in the second position and means for reorienting the rod between its receipt and its transport.
9. Rod handling apparatus according to claim 8 with the rod reorientor chamber in its transport position communicating with a rod receiver for arresting the downward passage of a rod and delivering it to its destination in suitable condition for testing, the rod receiver comprising a ventilated rod receiver chamber having an entrance through which a rod can drop longitudinally into the chamber, pneumatic cushion means for pneumatically cushioning and arresting downward passage of a rod through the chamber and having means for activating and deactivating the pneumatic cushion, and an exit through which a rod can drop longitudinally to its destination on deactivation of the cushion means.
10. A method for providing a sample rod which comprises longitudinally conveying a sample rod from a sample inlet through a valve in a first position to a sample holding zone, moving the valve to a second position in which the sample holding zone and sample rod therein are pneumatically isolated from the inlet, and pneumatically transporting the sample rod longitudinally from the sample holding zone.
11. A method according to claim io wherein a second sample rod is received for conveyance from the inlet simultaneously with a first sample rod being longitudinally transported from the sample holding zone.
12. A method according to claim 10 or 11 wherein the valve in the second position simultaneously pneumatically isolates the sample holding zone from the inlet and provides a conduit via which the sample holding zone is pneumatically charged.
Description:
ROD SAMPLER AND METHOD

The present invention relates to a rod sampler and method of sampling a rod, for example a rod sampler and sampling method for cigarettes or cigarette filter rods.

When manufacturing cigarettes and cigarette filter rods (e.g. integral sextuple length filter rods, which are subsequently cut into individual filters) it is important that random samples are tested for the required quality and performance, for example weight, length, diameter, uniformity, density, pressure drop, etc. It is important that samples may be removed during manufacture, such as from a production line, e.g. from a mass flow, and transported to a test site without interruption of the manufacturing process.

According to the present invention there is provided a rod sampler for providing a sample rod which comprises a sample inlet and a sample holding zone separated by a valve which is movable between a first position in which a sample rod can pass longitudinally through the valve from the inlet to the sample holding zone and a second position in which the valve pneumatically isolates the sample holding zone from the inlet, and means for pneumatically transporting a sample in the sample holding zone longitudinally therefrom. The present invention can thus provide a sampler which is more compact than previous samplers, and which can transport sampled rods to a destination, such as a test site, at high speeds without the need for heavy duty valves, pipes or other large pneumatic apparatus. For example, the valve used in the sampler of the present invention may have outside dimensions the order of 50 mm x 60 mm, with a bore the order of 10 mm diameter.

Throughout all aspects of the present invention as set our herein, positive pressure, or where feasible partial vacuum (suction) , may be used to effect pneumatic transport or other pneumatic action.

References herein to "pneumatic" do not limit to the use of air as operating gas; any suitable gas may be used.

The valve used in the rod sampler of the present invention is preferably an at least 2-way valve. Preferably the valve in the second position provides a conduit which connects the pneumatic transport means and the sample holding zone. The valve is preferably actuated pneumatically. The valve is preferably rotated between first and second positions by a pneumatic reciprocal rotary actuator. The valve is suitably a ball valve.

The sampler of the present invention preferably further includes a sensor for detecting the emergence or non-emergence of a sample from the valve to the sensor and the clearance or non-clearance of a sample past the sensor into the sample holding zone. Under normal operating conditions the emergence of each sample from the valve to the sensor will be detected, as will its clearance past the sensor to the sample holding zone, after which the next stage in the operating sequence will commence. If non-emergence of a sample from the valve is detected, for example due to a fault or at the end of a testing run, the next step in the operating sequence will be postponed and the operating sequence will restart in a second attempt to introduce a sample through the inlet into the sampler after which the next stage in the operating sequence

will commence. If non-emergence of a sample is detected after ' this first restart a predetermined number of further restarts will be made after which if emergence is still not detected a fault will register and the sampler operation will shut down. If emergence of a sample from the valve to the sensor has been detected but non-clearance from the sensor to the sample holding zone is also detected, for example if a sample is stuck in the valve, the next step in the operating sequence will be postponed and a second attempt will be made to clear the sample from the sensor to the sample holding zone. If non-clearance is still detected after the first reattempt at clearance, a predetermined number of further reattempts will be made after which if non-clearance is still detected a fault will register and the sampler operation will shut down.

The present invention can further provide, in combination with the rod sampler of the present invention, a sample probe for receiving a sample rod for conveyance to and through the inlet of the sampler, the sample probe comprising concentric inner and outer sleeves each having a longitudinal opening and being axially relatively rotatable to bring the openings into at least partial register for accepting a sample rod therethrough to rest within the inner sleeve and fully out of coincidence to form a substantially closed cylinder within which an accepted sample rod can be enclosed, and conveying means connected to the cylinder for conveyance of a sample therein to and through the inlet and valve of the sample holding zone.

The conveying means of the sample probe is preferably pneumatic; for example it may comprise a supply of compressed air connected to the cylinder by conventional means to push a

sample therefrom, or may comprise a vacuum pump similarly connected to the cylinder to pull a sample therefrom.

Preferably the inner sleeve and outer sleeve of the sample probe are relatively axially rotatable by a rotary actuator, e.g. with the inner sleeve fixed and the outer sleeve rotatable. A preferred rotary actuator comprises a reciprocally rotatable main gear which is engageable either directly, or indirectly via a second gear, with a sleeve gear circumjacently attached to the rotatable sleeve. In this way the rotatable sleeve is axially rotatable in either clockwise or anti-clockwise directions according to whether the sleeve gear is directly engaged by the main gear or indirectly engaged via the second gear. For example, when the sample probe is placed within a mass flow of sample rods for acceptance of a sample therefrom it is desirable for the direction of closure of the rotatable sleeve to be the same as the direction of the mass flow to avoid entrapment of samples between the sleeves on sleeve closure, and thus the sample probe can cater for reversal of mass flow direction with only minor adjustment. The main gear may be moveable between a position where it can engage the sleeve gear and a position where it can engage the second gear within a guide or slot. The rotary actuator is preferably spring-loaded so as to be resiliently biased against the direction of cloεure of the rotatable sleeve. This feature provides a safety measure in that an item, for example a sample or finger, caught between the outer and inner sleeves on sleeve closure should not suffer significant damage but should merely be trapped therebetween until release (unlike a pneumatically operated actuator which could cause personal injury or severe damage to samples. The bias of the rotary actuator may be changed to

suit different conditions or samples by changing the spring for one of greater or less tension, and the degree of rotation of the main gear and hence the rotatable sleeve, for example substantially a right angle, may be limited by a stop. The actuator is suitably electromagnetic.

Preferably the circumferential orientation of the sleeve openings is adjustable by disengagement of the sample probe from the sampler, circumferential reorientation of the sample probe and hence the sleeve openings, and reengagement of the sample probe in the reoriented position by re-engaging the sleeve gear with the main gear or second gear as appropriate. When receiving sample rods from a mass flow the preferred circumferential orientation of the sleeve openings is down¬ stream, for example 30 degrees to the vertical; the "current" of sample rods in the mass flow is disturbed by the sample probe creating an eddy in sample rod flow at the down-stream side of the probe and thus allowing sample rods passing over the sleeves to drop into the sample probe with higher probability than if the sleeve openings were facing upstream or vertically. The degree of circumferential orientation down-stream from the vertical may be adjusted according to sample rod diameter. For example, for sample rods of small diameter the openings may be oriented at a greater angle from the vertical than for sample rods of larger diameter; the greater the angle from the vertical the smaller the vertically facing component of the opening width and hence the lower the probability of more than one small diameter sample rod passing into the sample probe.

The opening width "seen" by the sample rods in a mass flow may also be adjusted by adjusting the relative

orientations of the inner and outer sleeves at rest so that the sleeve openings are not fully registrable by rotation of the outer sleeve by the rotary actuator. Alternatively, the degree of rotation of the outer sleeve may be restricted by employing a stop (see above) or for fine adjustment by turning the rotary actuator within the guides or slots.

It is to be clearly understood that although the sample probe is preferably used in combination with the rod sampler of the present invention it is not limited to use therewith and that the sample probe with any one or more of the preferred features thereof described above is inventive per se and is included within the scope of the present invention.

The present invention further provides a method for providing a sample rod which comprises longitudinally conveying a sample rod from a sample inlet through a valve in a first position to a sample holding zone, moving the valve to a second position in which the sample holding zone and sample therein are pneumatically isolated from the inlet, and pneumatically charging the sample holding zone to longitudinally transport the sample rod therefrom.

Preferably the method has removing and conveying steps comprising passing a sample rod through at least partially registered longitudinal openings in concentric inner and outer sleeves so that the sample rod rests within the inner sleeve, axially relatively rotating the sleeves to form a substantially closed cylinder within which the sample rod is enclosed, and conveying the sample from within the sleeves through the sample inlet and valve to the sample holding zone.

The sample is preferably conveyed pneumatically from within the sleeves through the sample inlet.

In its second position the valve, for example a ball valve, preferably simultaneously isolates the sample holding zone from the receiver and provides a conduit via which the sample holding zone is pneumatically charged.

In a first operating sequence of the rod sampler, a first sample rod is received (e.g. from a production line) and longitudinally conveyed through the inlet and valve in the first position to the sample holding zone. The valve is then moved to the second position, pneumatically isolating the sample holding zone and sample therein from the inlet, and the sample holding zone is then pneumatically charged to longitudinally transport the sample therefrom. The valve is then returned to the first position and a second sample rod is received and longitudinally conveyed through the inlet, and the sequence is repeated.

In a second operating sequence, when the first sample is being longitudinally transported from the sample holding zone a second sample is simultaneously being received, so that when the valve returns to the first position the second sample can be longitudinally conveyed through the inlet and valve without delay. Thus, this second sequence can receive and transport sample rods with greater frequency than the first sequence.

The appropriate mode of operation of the rod sampler will depend on the particular sampling circumstances. For example, in circumstances where sample rods are being removed from a

production line for testing, for maximum efficiency the time taken from removal of a sample from the production line to arrival at the test site should equal the time taken to test a sample, and the operating sequence should be chosen accordingly.

For operation of the rod sampler at optimum efficiency, the rod sampler components, for example valve and pneumatic transport means, may be synchronised using appropriate hardware and software, together with the sample probe components when in combination therewith , for example sleeve axial relative rotation means and pneumatic sample conveying means.

When a sensor is employed as described above, detection by the sensor of sample presence and clearance will trigger the subsequent operations of the rod sampler described above, i.e. the valve will be moved to the second position, etc. Thus, the operation sequence of the rod sampler and combination of rod sampler and sample probe can be controlled, as can any appropriate delays and other timing operations required.

An embodiment of the present invention will now be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which :

FIGURE 1 is a plan view of a combination of a rod sampler and sample probe according to the present invention;

FIGURE 2 is a side view of the combination of Fig.l;

FIGURES 3a and 3b show said first and second positions of the ball valve used in the present invention;

The sample probe [2] of the combination illustrated in

Figs.l and 2 comprises inner [4] and outer [6] sleeves and an air inlet [8] . The inner [4] and outer [6] sleeves both have longitudinal openings (not shown) of sufficient width and length for a sample rod to pass therethrough. The opening of the inner sleeve [4] is angled towards the viewer of Fig.l

(i.e. downstream in a mass flow of sample rods) and the outer sleeve [6] is rotatable about the inner sleeve [4] such that when the opening of the outer sleeve [6] is brought into coincidence with the opening of the inner sleeve [4] an opening is formed in the sample probe [2] through which a sample rod can drop.

The outer sleeve [6] is rotatable using a reciprocal rotary actuator [10] having a main gear [12] which engages sleeve gear [14] circumjacently attached to outer sleeve [6] .

A second gear (not shown) is positioned laterally of and engages the sleeve gear [14] , although in the embodiment shown in Figs.l and 2 the main gear [12] engages the sleeve gear

[14] directly and the second gear (not shown) does not actively participate in axial rotation of the outer sleeve

[6] . Thus, looking towards the main gear [12] from the air inlet [8] , if the main gear [12] is rotated clockwise using rotary actuator [10] , sleeve gear [14] and hence outer sleeve

[6] are rotated anti-clockwise.

The rotary actuator [10] is slidably engaged by slots [ 1 6] so as to be laterally moveable from the illustrated position in which it engages the sleeve gear [14] directly to

a position in which it engages the second gear (not shown) which in turn engages the sleeve gear [14] , and turnable within the slot for fine adjustment of outer sleeve rotation. In the latter arrangement, clockwise rotation of the main gear [12] causes clockwise rotation of sleeve gear [14] and hence outer sleeve [6] .

The sample probe [2] is threadedly engaged with inlet [18] of rod sampler [20] . The rod sampler [20] further includes a 2-way ball valve [22] which is movable between a first position (shown in Fig.l and Fig.3a) in which a sample rod can pass longitudinally therethrough from the sample probe

[2] and inlet [18] and a second position (shown in Fig.3b) in which it simultaneously pneumatically isolates sample holding zone [24] from inlet [18] and provides a conduit through which air may be injected from a source of compressed air (not shown) via air inlet [26] . The sample holding zone [24] forms part of a transport tube (not shown) along which sample rods are longitudinally transported from the sample holding zone

[24] in the direction of arrow A towards a test site.

The ball valve [22] is moved between said first and second positions by reciprocal pneumatic actuator [28] .

The rod sampler further comprises a sensor [30] which detects the emergence or non-emergence of a sample rod from the ball valve [22] and the clearance or non-clearance of a sample rod past the sensor [30] to the sample holding zone [24] . The consequences of the sensor [30] detecting absence and/or non-clearance of a sample are discussed below.

A first operating sequence of the combination of sample

probe [2] and rod sampler [20] shown in Figs.l and 2 is as follows:

1) . Rotary actuator [10] is activated, rotating outer sleeve [6] (via main gear [12] and sleeve gear [14] ) and bringing the outer sleeve longitudinal opening (not shown) into reference with the inner sleeve longitudinal opening (not shown) to create an opening in sleeves [4] and [6] .

2) . A sample (e.g. a filter cigarette or integral sextuple length filter rod) passes through the opening to rest within inner sleeve [4] , and, a predetermined time after stage 1 above (e.g. 2 seconds), outer sleeve [6] is rotated back to its previous position, bringing the longitudinal openings (not shown) out of coincidence thereby enclosing the sample within the sleeves [4] and [6] , which now form a substantially closed cylinder.

3) . A compressed air source is activated and air is injected through air inlet [8] thereby conveying the enclosed sample along the sample probe [2] and through inlet [18] and ball valve [22] in a first position (as shown in Fig.l and Fig.3a) to sample holding zone [24] . Sensor [30] has by now detected both the emergence and clearance of the sample which triggers step 4 below, and consequently the operating sequence will continue.

4) . Pneumatic actuator [28] is activated and ball valve [22] is moved to a second position (as shown in Fig.3b ) pneumatically isolating the sample holding zone [24] and sample therein from the inlet [18] , and a compressed air

source is activated and injects air through air inlet [26] and ball valve [22] into sample holding zone [24] pneumatically transporting the sample therein therefrom in the direction indicated by arrow A.

5) . The sample arrives at its destination, e.g. a test site. Typical transport time is up to 10 seconds (e.g. approximately 8 seconds) for 50 metres of transport tube.

6) . Pneumatic actuator [28] is activated (triggered when the sample rod has reached its destination) , moving ball valve [22] from the second position back to the first position, and rotary actuator [10] is activated to rotate outer sleeve [6] as in step 1 above to restart the sequence.

A second operating sequence of the combination of sample probe [2] and rod sampler [20] initially follows steps 1 to 4 above. However, while the sample is being transported to its destination (i.e. between steps 4 and 5 above) steps 1 and 2 above are repeated to enclose a second sample within the sleeves [4] and [6] . When the first sample reaches its destination (step 5 above) and the ball valve [22] is returned to the first position (step 6 above) , a second sample is already enclosed within the sleeves [4] and [6] and the sequence can proceed from step 3 above. Thus, in the second operating sequence a second sample is enclosed within sleeves [4] and [6] ready to be conveyed through inlet [18] when ball valve [22] is returned to the first position, thereby allowing samples to be transported to their destination with greater frequency than by the first operating sequence.

It is important that the operating sequence steps described above are correctly timed and that the various sample probe [2] and rod sampler [20] components are properly synchronised to attain optimum efficiency. This is achieved using appropriate hardware and software to control the rotary actuator [10] , pneumatic actuator [28] and compressed air sources (not shown) ; the hardware is programmed to ensure that apparatus components are switched on and off at the correct points in the operating sequence, and to insert the appropriate delays into the operating sequence (e.g. the length of time allowed for a sample to pass between the openings in the sleeves [4] and [6] , and the length of time for which the ball valve [22] remains in the second position to allow a sample to reach its destination) .

The operating sequence of the sample probe [2] and rod sampler [20] is triggered by external control, such as the above-mentioned control hardware and software. If the sensor indicates that no sample has emerged from the ball valve [22] , or that a sample has emerged but its clearance past the sensor [30] to the sample holding zone [24] is incomplete, then no further signal is sent and the subsequent operations are postponed.

In normal operation, a sample is enclosed within sleeves [4] and [6] and compressed air is injected through air inlet [8] to convey the sample through inlet [18] and ball valve [22] in the first position to sample holding zone [24] . If these operations are performed but emergence of a sample from the ball valve [22] is not detected by the sensor [30] , a signal is not sent to the control system. Compressed air is then reinjected through air inlet [8] a predetermined number

of times, e.g. three times, in case a sample is enclosed within the sleeves [4] and [6] but was somehow not conveyed through the inlet [8] and ball valve [22] to the sample holding zone [24] by injection of compressed air through inlet [8] during the normal operating sequence. If after this sequence the emergence of a sample from the ball valve [22] has still not been detected, steps 1 and 2 above are repeated thus restarting the operating sequence. If the presence of a sample is still not detected after the restart, compressed air is again injected through air inlet [8] a predetermined number of times and further restarts of the operating sequence are made in an attempt to convey a sample through the ball valve

[22] to the sensor [30] . If emergence from the ball valve

[22] has not been detected after a predetermined number of restarts, e.g. three restarts, the operating sequence is shut down. If emergence of a sample from the ball valve [22] is detected at any point during the restart sequence then the sensor will send the trigger signal and the operating sequence will continue as normal.

If emergence of a sample from the ball valve [22] to the sensor [30] has been detected but its clearance from the sensor [30] to the sample holding zone [24] is incomplete, no trigger signal is sent by the sensor [30] to the control system, and the operating sequence is postponed. Compressed air is reinjected a predetermined number of times through air inlet [8] , e.g. 5 times, in an attempt to shift a sample which may have jammed within the ball valve [22] or for some other reason has not cleared the sensor [30] . If after the predetermined number of injections of compressed air clearance of the sample past the sensor [30] to the sample holding zone [24] has still not been detected, then the operating sequence

will shut down to allow for the cause of the fault to be determined.

The rod sampler or method according to the invention as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified above (hereinafter termed "sampler or method [A]") can if desired be employed in conjunction with one or both of rod reorientor or reorienting method [B] and rod receiver or receiving method [C] as set out below.

Filter rods and cigarettes to be handled are typically substantially rigid and of a length of 100 mm; reorientation of a sample rod en route to a test site, for example from horizontal to vertical orientation, normally requires a large radius curve, for example of 2 metres radius, so that the sample may pass along the transport tube without jamming or breaking. Such large radius curves take up a considerable amount of space, space which is often unavailable or impractical to use adjacent to a production line or a test site. Reorientor and method [B] can reorient rod samples from sampler or method [A] in a confined area without the need for large radius curves of transport tubing.

Rod reorientor [B] , for receiving a rod from sampler [A] in one orientation and transporting it in another, comprises a chamber which is movable between a first position in which a rod can longitudinally enter the chamber from sampler [A] and a second transport position in which the chamber and contained rod are pneumatically isolated from the first position, means for pneumatically transporting a rod longitudinally from the chamber in the second position and means for reorienting the rod between its receipt and its

transport .

The method [B] of reorienting a rod comprises receiving a rod in a first orientation from sampling method [A] , passing the rod longitudinally into a chamber in a first position, moving the chamber to a second transport position in which the chamber and contained rod are pneumatically isolated from the first position, pneumatically transporting the rod longitudinally from the isolated chamber, and reorienting the rod between its receipt and its transport.

The rod reoriention is preferably effected by a cam surface over and along which a rod can pass into the chamber and/or by reorientation of the chamber in its movement between first and transport positions.

The rod reorientor [B] is particularly useful for turning a rod through substantially a right angle. Normally, a rod will enter the rod reorientor substantially horizontally and be ejected therefrom substantially vertically.

When the rod reorientor has a cam surface it may be open or may form at least part of the inner surface of a channel through which a rod can pass to enter the chamber. For example, if the rod enters the rod reorientor at speed, as it may do if the rod is conveyed pneumatically directly to the rod reorientor from the sample holding zone of sampler [A] , such a channel is preferably used to contain and guide the rod to the chamber. However, if the rod enters the rod reorientor by, for example, dropping under gravity, the cam surface may be open as the rod may merely drop over and along the cam surface with low momentum under gravity into the chamber and

will not need containment to help ensure entry into the. chamber.

The pneumatic transport means may be arranged so that whilst a first rod is under transport from the rod reorientor the chamber is returned to the first position to receive a second rod, or may only be capable of transporting a rod from the rod reorientor whilst the chamber is in the transport position. The former system allows rods to be reoriented and transported from the rod reorientor with greater frequency.

The chamber may be laterally moveable, e.g. horizontally, and/or pivotally moveable, and is preferably moveable by a pneumatic actuator. Where there is reorientation, e.g. pivoting, of the chamber this may be arranged so that the leading end of a rod entering the chamber remains the leading end for transport; this can be important for a rod having different structures at its two ends - e.g. a filter cigarette or a multiple plug filter rod.

The rod reorientor preferably further includes a sensor positioned at the chamber entrance and/or exit for detecting entry and/or exit respectively of a rod to and/or from the chamber.

Operation of the rod reorientor is preferably controlled by a control system using appropriate hardware and software to ensure correct timing and synchronisation of operations for optimum efficiency.

Embodiments of the reorientor and corresponding method will now be described in detail by way of example with

reference to the accompanying drawings, in which :-

FIGURE 4 is a side view of a first rod reorientor;

FIGURE 5 is a cross-sectional view of a second rod reorientor showing how a rod enters the rod reorientor;

FIGURE 6 shows how a reoriented rod is transported from the rod reorientor of Fig.5; and

FIGURE 7 is a simplified side view of a third rod reorientor.

Referring to Fig.4, a first embodiment of the rod reorientor comprises a channel [102] for receiving a rod from a sampler [A] , the channel having upper and lower cam surfaces [104, 106] . The upper cam surface [104] is provided to contain rods conveyed into the reorientor at speed, such as those conveyed pneumatically directly from the sample holding zone of sampler [A] , and guide them towards a chamber [108] ; in the absence of the upper cam surface [104] , a rod conveyed into the reorientor at speed may continue along its path at entry and pass straight over the lower cam surface, thus going astray or being damaged.

The channel [102] is configured to guide rods past sensor [110] and into chamber [108] . In Fig.4 the chamber [108] is shown in broken lines in a first position for receiving rods longitudinally from channel [102] , and in full lines in a second, transport position for longitudinally transporting rods pneumatically from the rod reorientor. The chamber [108] is pivoted at point [112] and is pivotally moveable between

the first and transport positions about pivot [112] by pneumatic actuator [114] . The chamber [108] has an air inlet

[116] which is connected to a source of compressed air, and in the transport position a rod in the chamber [108] is pneumatically isolated by abutment of the chamber [108] with transport tube [118] .

In operation, a rod is passed into the channel [102] in the direction indicated by arrow A and is guided by upper and lower cam surfaces [104, 106] past sensor [110] into chamber [108] . The sensor [110] signals to a reorientor control system (not shown) that a rod has passed from channel [102] into chamber [108] . The control system then activates pneumatic actuator [114] and chamber [108] is pivotally moved about pivot [112] from the first position to the transport position. Once in the transport position the sample becomes pneumatically isolated within the chamber [108] and air is injected thereinto via air inlet [116] from a source of compressed air (not shown) to longitudinally transport the rod along transport tube [118] to its destination, e.g. a test site. Transport tube [118] may typically be the order of 50 metres in length with a corresponding rod transport time of approximately 8 seconds.

If no signal is sent by sensor [110] to the reorientor control system to indicate that a rod has entered the chamber

[108] the pneumatic actuator [114] and compressed air source

(not shown) will remain inactive and will not be activated by the control system until such a signal is sent.

The first embodiment is shown in Fig.4 attached to a vertical backplate [120] supported by legs [111] . In this

embodiment reorientation is effected partly by a cam surface and partly by reorientation of chamber [108] .

Referring to Figs.5 and 6, a second rod reorientor embodiment has an open cam surface [104'] over and along which a rod can fall under gravity.

A chamber [108'] is shown in Fig.5 in a first position for receiving rods that drop from the cam surface [104'] and in Fig.6 in a second, transport position in which a rod in the chamber is pneumatically isolated and in which a rod therein can be pneumatically longitudinally transported therefrom along transport tubing [118'] by injecting air through air inlet [116'] from a compressed air source (not shown). The chamber [108'] is horizontally laterally moveable between said first and transport positions by a pneumatic actuator [114'] .

Chamber [108'] is within a housing [107'] which also has a passage [109'] therein, the passage [109'] being positioned so as to be in the transport position when the chamber [108'] is in the first position. The passage [109'] allows the pneumatic transport means to be in a state of continuous activation (as opposed to being intermittently activated only when a rod is within chamber [108'] in the transport position, as in Fig.5); when the chamber [108'] is in the first position receiving a rod from cam surface [104'] the passage [109'] is in the transport position and thereby provides a conduit via which transport air can pass from inlet [116'] to transport tube [118'] . When a rod is being transported from the chamber [108'] in the transport position the chamber [108'] itself does of course provide the conduit through which the transport air passes. Thus, the presence of passage [109']

allows for a first rod to be transported from the rod reorientor by transport air injected through inlet [116'] simultaneously with a second rod being received by the chamber [108'] in the first position from cam surface [104'], thereby allowing rods to be reoriented and transported to their destination with greater frequency than in the case of Fig.5. With the arrangement of Figs.5 and 6, the only period for which the transport air has no free passage is the time taken for the chamber [108'] to be moved between said first and transport positions. This period is so short (less than 1 second) that no potentially damaging significant build-up of air pressure occurs, and transport of a rod from the rod reorientor to its destination, e.g. a test site, is not significantly interrupted.

The embodiment of Figs.5 and 6 further comprises a sensor [110'] positioned adjacent the chamber [108'] exit in said transport position for detecting exit of rods from chamber [108'] .

In operation a rod (shown in broken lines) falls under gravity over and along cam surface [104'] into chamber [108'] .

Transport air is continuously being injected from a compressed air source (not shown) through air inlet [116'] and passage

[109'] , and along transport tube [118'] . Once a rod is within chamber [108'] the pneumatic actuator [114'] is activated and the chamber [108'] and rod therein are moved from the first position to the transport position (Fig.6) . As transport air is continuously being injected, the rod in the chamber [108'] is immediately pneumatically transported therefrom when the chamber [108'] reaches the transport position. Exit of the rod from the chamber [108'] and along the transport tube

[118'] to its destination, e.g. a test site, is detected by sensor [110'] which sends a signal to the control system (not shown) which activates the pneumatic actuator [114'] to return the chamber [108'] to the first position to receive another rod from cam surface [104']; meanwhile, with transport air continuously injected, the rod in transport tube [118'] continues to be transported to its destination. Once the first rod has arrived at its destination a signal is sent to the control system which then causes the chamber [108'] containing the second rod to be moved to the transport position as before and the operating sequence is repeated. If a rod has passed over and along the cam surface [104'] whilst the chamber [108'] is in the transport position it will merely rest on the housing [107'] until the chamber [108'] returns to the first position, when the rod will simply drop into the chamber [108'] .

In this embodiment, reorientation is effected by the cam surface.

In a third embodiment, a simplified side view of which is shown in Fig.7, the rod reorientor comprises a chamber (108'') which is rotatable about a pivot (112'') between a first position in which a rod from sampler [A] is received (usually substantially horizontally as shown) and a differently oriented second transport position (broken lines) in which a rod is transported (usually substantially vertically as shown) . A rod pneumatically transported from the sample holding zone of sampler [A] enters the chamber

(108'') directly from transport tubing (119'') as indicated by arrow A, without passing over a cam surface. Rotation of the reorientor chamber (108'') from the first to the transport

position may be clockwise or anti-clockwise; in Fig.7 the chamber (108'') rotates from first to transport position clockwise and returns in the opposite direction, and pneumatic supply (not shown) for rod transport is to the pivoted end of the chamber. Direction of rotation can be chosen advantageously according to circumstances, for example such as when the rods to be reoriented are filter cigarettes which are preferably transported along transport tubing filter end first to avoid damage to the more fragile tobacco rod. If a filter cigarette, to be reoriented by the embodiment of Fig.7 as illustrated, entered the reorientor chamber [108''] from transport tubing [119''] filter end first, it would be transported therefrom tobacco rod end first. Hence, for reorienting such filter cigarettes the embodiment of Fig.7 as illustrated would be adjusted so as to rotate the chamber anti-clockwise from the first to an alternative second transport position (not shown) in which the filter is uppermost so that the filter cigarette is transported filter end first; in this case pneumatic supply (not shown) for rod transport would be to the mouth end of chamber [108"] and the opposite pivoted end would communicate with tube [118"] ; in addition means may need to be provided to retain the rod in chamber [108"] until it reaches the transport position.

In this embodiment, reorientation is effected solely by reorientation of the chamber.

Fig.7 is a simplified side view of the third embodiment and hence certain practical detail is not shown, for example sensors, means for moving the chamber [108''], and pneumatic transport means. However, the same principles and considerations apply to this third embodiment as to the first

and second embodiments and it is hence clear to those skilled in the art from the earlier disclosure how the third embodiment may be employed. In addition, other practicalities not shown in Fig.7 may need to be considered when employing the third embodiment; for example, means for preventing a rod entering the rod reorientor as shown by arrow A from colliding with the far end of the chamber [108''] may be provided, such as by establishing a pneumatic cushion within chamber [108''] to arrest a rod therein or by having sufficient ventilation in transport tubing [119''] to slow passage of a rod therefrom into chamber [108''] .

The specific embodiments of the rod reorientor and method [B] described above are merely to illustrate various features and in no way limit any feature to the specific context of an embodiment. For example, the first embodiment has a cam surface incorporated as part of an enclosed channel in conjunction with a sensor at the entrance to a pivotally moveable reorientor chamber and pneumatic transport means which is intermittently rather than continuously activated; whereas the second embodiment has an open cam surface, a laterally moveable reorientor chamber, a sensor at the chamber exit, and pneumatic transport means in a continuous state of activation. It is to be clearly understood that combinations of these features different from those of the specific embodiments are possible for reorientor and method [B] .

As indicated above, in the embodiments of Figs.4 and 7, the reorientor can receive pneumatically transported rods directly and longitudinally from the sample holding zone (24 in Figs.l and 2) of sampler A - into cam passage [102] in the case of Fig.4 and directly into the reorientor chamber in the

case of Fig.7. In the embodiment of Figs.5 and 6, however, a transport tube from sampler [A] might deliver the rods to a hopper or a rotating fluted drum from which they drop onto the reorientor cam surface, or the rods might simply drop from the end of a horizontal or inclined such transort tube onto the cam surface.

Rod sampler or method [A] , or rod orientor or method [B] fed by sampler or method [A] , may pneumatically transport sampled rods to a remote rod receiver or receiving method [C] for receiving the rod and presenting it for a subsequent operation - e.g. rod testing.

Our preferred method of testing a cigarette or cigarette filter rod involves dropping a sample longitudinally into test apparatus which will measure a particular property. The test site may comprise a series of measuring modules in stacked formation, each module testing a particular property. In such an arrangement a sample rod is dropped into the uppermost module and is sequentially passed through the series of modules having its various properties tested until it finally passes from the lowermost module to a bin.

Sample rods transported pneumatically along a transport tube to a remote test site can be made to travel at considerable speed; however, a sample travelling at speed into a test site can cause considerable damage to the testing equipment and the sample itself. As a result, in previous arrangements it was necessary to transport samples at low speed and consequently more than one sample rod at a time had to be transported along the transport tubing if testing was to occur with reasonable frequency. This caused transport

difficulties, for example air-flow problems.

Rod receiver and receiving method [C] allow rods travelling at speed, for example 50 metres of transport tubing in approximately 8 seconds, to be received and presented without causing damage to the test site or sample rod - thus allowing for testing samples at reasonable frequencies (for example one sample tested every 6 to 10 seconds) whilst avoiding or reducing rod or apparatus damage and whilst avoiding previous problems associated with multiple rod transport.

Rod receiver [C] is for arresting the downward passage of a rod and delivering it to its destination in suitable condition for testing, and comprises a ventilated rod receiver chamber having an entrance through which a rod can drop longitudinally into the chamber, pneumatic cushion means for pneumatically cushioning and arresting downward passage of a rod through the chamber and having means for activating and deactivating the pneumatic cushion, and an exit through which a rod can drop longitudinally to its destination on deactivation of the cushion means.

Method [C] of receiving a rod and arresting its downward passage for delivery to its destination in suitable condition for testing comprises dropping a rod longitudinally into a ventilated rod receiver chamber via an entrance, providing a pneumatic cushion to arrest downward passage of the rod through the tube, and removing the pneumatic cushion thereby allowing the rod to drop from the chamber through an exit for delivery to its destination.

In a manufacturing environment the test site may be remote from rod sampler [A] and the transport tubing may typically run vertically upwards from the rod sampler, or from a reorientor [B] fed thereby, to or through the ceiling, turn to the horizontal and run at or above ceiling level towards the receiver, then turn vertically downwards back through or from the ceiling to the receiver. The transport tube may be vented along the horizontal section so that the samples may drop into the receiver mainly or solely under gravity, affording greater control over the passage of sample rods to and through the receiver.

Even with such a vent in the horizontal transport tube section, some residual transport air is likely to pass vertically downwards into the receiver, and hence the rod chamber is ventilated. Thus there may be an upper vent, at or adjacent the chamber entrance and usually in the chamber wall; there may also be a lower vent, at or adjacent the pneumatic cushion and again usually in the chamber wall. In one type of embodiment the rod receiver [C] may accordingly include first (upper) and second (lower) vents disposed between the cushion means and entrance for ventilation of the chamber; in some operations, a main purpose of the upper vent(s) is for ventilation of residual transport air from the receiver, with the lower vent(s) being mainly for ventilation of the pneumatic cushion. In another type of embodiment, the chamber may simply have one or more vents at its entrance end.

The receiver preferably includes a stop movable in and out of a position in which it can support a sample rod adjacent the exit before the sample rod drops to its destination.

The pneumatic cushion means preferably includes a venturi air mover.

The rod receiver preferably has a sensor for detecting arrival of a rod at the receiver and clearance of a rod from the sensor downwards through the receiver.

In practical use, operation of the rod receiver is preferably controlled by a control system (employing appropriate hardware and software) to ensure correct synchronisation of the apparatus, in particular operation of the pneumatic cushion means, with rod transport apparatus (e.g. sampler and/or orientor) and with apparatus below the receiver, e.g. test apparatus.

Embodiments of rod receiver and method [C] will now be described in detail by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which :

FIGURE 8 is a side view of a first rod receiver; and

FIGURE 9 shows a side view of a rod receiver chamber of a second rod receiver.

The rod receiver shown in Fig.8 comprises a rod receiver chamber in the form of a tube [202] having an entrance [204] , first and second vents [206 and 208] and an inlet [210] through which a pneumatic cushion is provided. The entrance [204] adjoins a transport tube [212] (only the end of which is shown) along which sample rods can be pneumatically transported from a rod sampler towards the rod receiver tube [202] . First and second vents [206 and 208] are positioned

between the cushion and entrance [204] and are open to ambient, atmosphere; the first vent [206] is for exhaust of the majority of any residual transport air and is positioned towards the entrance and the second vent [208] is for exhaust of the majority of any cushion air and is positioned towards inlet [210] , at or adjacent (in this case a little above) the air cushion. The test site into which sample rods drop from the rod receiver is positioned below the rod receiver in the direction of arrow A.

The inlet [210] is adjacent a venturi air mover [214] which operates in the opposite way to a conventional venturi to create a positive air pressure or cushion onto which a sample rod will fall to arrest its passage through the tube

[202] . The venturi air mover is connected to a source of compressed air (not shown) . Air from the compressed air source is injected through the venturi air mover causing air to be sucked through the inlet and into the tube to create the pneumatic cushion, i.e. the venturi air mover provides an air cushion as opposed to a conventional venturi which provides a vacuum. The venturi air mover is arranged such that substantially all the air sucked through the inlet is sucked upwardly to provide the cushion.

A stop [216] is provided across the width of the tube [202] adjacent tube exit [218] to support a sample rod before delivery to the test site. In this way a second sample rod can rest on the stop [216] ready for testing whilst a first sample rod is being tested. The stop [216] has a linear sliding action and is movable into and out of position across the tube by a linear actuator (not shown) . In use, a sample rod drops a fixed distance from stop [216] to its destination.

A sensor [220] is provided between the transport tube

[212] and receiver entrance [204] . The sensor [220] detects arrival of a rod at the receiver and also the clearance of a rod from the sensor [220] downwards into the receiver. If the presence and/or clearance of a rod is not detected by sensor [220] then the normal operation sequence of the rod receiver will be interrupted, either to allow for a rod to enter the receiver or to allow for any fault to be detected.

A lower portion of the tube [202] between the venturi air mover [214] and second vent [208] is transparent, preferably made of perspex, and is provided as an inspection tube [222] . The primary use of the inspection tube [222] is for calibration of the rod receiver, for example when first setting up or when changing the rod transport means. The pneumatic cushion provided by the venturi air mover [214] should be of sufficient pressure to cushion a rod and prevent it from dropping directly through the tube [202] by arresting its passage but should not be of sufficient pressure to blow a rod back up the tube [202] from whence it came. Using the inspection tube [222] a tolerance band of acceptable pneumatic cushion pressure can be established by adjusting the supply of compressed air to the venturi air mover [214] and inspecting the position of a rod on the pneumatic cushion through the inspection tube [222] . The provision of the inspection tube [222] allows for a single adjustment to be made for calibration of the rod receiver, i.e. adjustment of the pneumatic cushion pressure. The inspection tube [222] is also removable to create a gap between the venturi air mover [214] and second vent [208] to allow for manual insertion of rods through this gap and thereby allow for testing of measuring modules using rods already removed from a production line

without the need for setting up and running the complete apparatus, for example for pre-operation testing purposes.

The normal operating sequence of the rod receiver is as follows. A rod is pneumatically transported along transport tube [212] from, for example, a rod sampler or sample probe or rod reorientor as described above. The pneumatic cushion has been activated in readiness for a rod to drop into the tube [202] , activation of the pneumatic cushion being triggered by activation of the rod transport air either simultaneously therewith, if the rod transport time from sampler/sample probe to receiver is insignificant, or after a time delay if the rod transport time is significant; for example, for an 8 second rod transport time a delay of approximately 4 seconds would be suitable. The rod enters the rod receiver through entrance [204] and drops into tube [202] . The sensor [220] will have detected the arrival and clearance of the rod and sends a signal to the receiver control system (not shown) which will consequently deactivate the pneumatic cushion after a short delay (typically a half to one second) . This short delay must allow enough time for the rod to fall from the entrance [204] down the tube [202] and be arrested by the pneumatic cushion.

The delay must thus be longer than the time taken for the rod to fall from the entrance [204] to the venturi air mover

[214] , or else the rod will drop straight through the rod receiver; but not significantly longer than this drop time, or else the sample will spend unnecessary time supported by the pneumatic cushion in tube [202] . The passage of the sample rod is thus arrested by the pneumatic cushion, the sample rod bounces off the cushion and travels up the tube to a position roughly between the first and second vents [206 and 208] , and the pneumatic cushion is shut down (according to the

predetermined short delay) to allow the sample rod to fall the relatively short distance down tube [202] to rest upon stop [216] with insignificant damage to the sample rod. The stop [216] is slid away from the tube [202] by the linear actuator (not shown) when the measuring modules below (not shown) are ready to receive a next rod for testing; this also activates the sampler pneumatic transport means which pneumatically transports a second rod along the transport tube to the receiver. The majority of any residual rod transport air from transport tube [212] is exhausted through first vent [206] and the majority of any residual cushion air is exhausted through second vent [208] . The transport tube [212] has an additional vent (not shown) before the point of entry of the rod receiver for exhaust of transport air which affords a greater degree of control over a rod passing through the rod receiver than in its absence.

If the sensor [220] does not detect the arrival and clearance of a rod then the receiver control system (not shown) will initiate a fault condition and the normal operation sequence will be interrupted. If the presence of a rod is detected by the sensor [220] but its clearance from the sensor [220] into tube [202] is not then the control system (not shown) will initiate a fault condition and the operation sequence will be interrupted to allow for the cause of the fault to be detected. Sample non-clearance may result from blockage of tube [202] , for example stop [216] or a measuring module below (not shown) is not operating correctly and rods are stacking up within tube [202] .

In a second rod receiver, a ventilated rod receiver chamber [202'] (shown in Fig.9) can have a plurality of

(e.g.6) entrances [204'] (two being shown in Fig.9) though . which rods can enter the chamber [202'] from (usually ventilated) transport tubes [212'] . This receiver will still take rods only one at a time, but rods may enter the chamber

[202'] with great frequency and from different sources. The chamber [202'] will preferably have a dedicated vent [207'] but in addition or instead one or more of the transport tubes [212'] for the time being not in use may effect venting. The rod receiver pneumatic cushion means and exit are not shown in Fig.9, but those employed for the embodiment of Fig.8 are of course suitable for use with the embodiment of Fig.9, as are the sensor and stop shown in Fig.8 - Fig.9 shows a rod receiver chamber for use in the rod receiver apparatus as an alternative to that used in the embodiment of Fig.8. The flow of air from the pneumatic cushion means is indicated by arrow B in Fig.9. The portion [209'] of chamber [202'] which leads to the pneumatic cushion means (not shown) is of flared internal configuration; the flared portion [209'] is preferably trumpet shaped as shown.

The flared configuration [209'] allows for rods of different lengths, diameters and masses to be received from any of entrances [204'] and positioned for delivery through the exit (not shown) without adjustment of the pneumatic rod transport means or the pneumatic cushion means - rods of different sizes and masses are safely arrested and positioned by the pneumatic cushion at a constant pneumatic cushion pressure due to the flow pattern of cushion gas over the flared surface [209'] .

Rod sampler or method [A] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein may be employed

in combination with rod receiver or method [C] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein. Thus the holding zone of the sampler may be connected by transport tubing to an entrance of the ventilated rod receiver chamber of rod receiver [C] , so that sampled rods may be transported pneumatically towards the receiver at a remote location. Rod sampler or method [A] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein could be employed in conjunction with rod reorientor or method [B] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein, with a sampled rod being transported pneumatically to or towards the reorientor to be received in the reorientor chamber in the first position; rod reorientor or method [B] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein, fed by sampler [A] , may in turn be employed in combination with rod receiver or method [C] as broadly defined or more specifically described or exemplified herein - thus the reorientor chamber in the second position may be connected by transport tubing with an entrance of the ventilated rod receiver chamber of receiver [C] , so that a reoriented rod may be transported pneumatically towards the receiver at a remote location.

There will of course be overall (e.g. microprocessor) control over timing and operation of any combination of [A] with [B] and/or [C] to give efficient delivery to and through each stage and to deal with malfunction or interruption at any stage.