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Title:
SORTING APPARATUS ESPECIALLY FOR COLOURED BOTTLES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/122071
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Apparatus (10) for sorting coloured bottles or other articles comprises: a conveyor (12); an orientation zone (20) for orienting the bottles; a colour recognition zone (40) for determining the colour of the bottles; and a plurality of discharge zones (51, 52, 53) at which bottles of a particular colour can be discharged. The apparatus further comprises a control gate (56, 57, 58, 59) associated with each discharge zone, each control gate being responsive to colour detection from the colour identifying device so as to adopt its closed or open position. The apparatus can also be used to sort articles according to some other feature or characteristic instead of colour by replacing the colour recognition zone with a feature recognition zone and having the gates responsive to this identifier device.

Inventors:
HARKINS, Peter William (Tobruk Homestead, RMB 116 Old Northern RoadMaroota, New South Wales 2756, AU)
Application Number:
AU2008/000465
Publication Date:
October 16, 2008
Filing Date:
April 02, 2008
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HARKINS, Peter William (Tobruk Homestead, RMB 116 Old Northern RoadMaroota, New South Wales 2756, AU)
International Classes:
B07C5/00; B07C5/342
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMEETON, Anthony Richard et al. (Davies Collison Cave, Level 14255 Elizabeth Stree, Sydney New South Wales 2000, AU)
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Claims:

CLAIMS

1. Apparatus for sorting coloured bottles or other articles the apparatus comprising

(i) a conveyor having an upstream end and a downstream end for transferring the bottles or other articles in a downstream direction;

(ii) an orientation zone towards the upstream end of the conveyor for orientating the bottles or other articles for travel along the conveyor; (iii) a colour recognition zone which includes a colour identifier device for determining the colour of the bottles or other articles as they pass through the colour recognition zone;

(iv) a plurality of discharge zones at which bottles or other articles of a particular colour can be discharged;

(v) a control gate associated with each discharge zone and operable so as to be able to adopt a closed or open position, each control gate being responsive . to colour detection from the colour identifying device so as to adopt its closed or open position.

2. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said conveyor includes at least one conveying path along which bottles or other articles travel.

3. Apparatus according to claim 2 wherein said conveyor path includes a pair of spaced apart rails which extend in the direction of travel of the conveyor, the spacing being such that the bottles or other articles are supported on the rails but smaller articles can pass through the rails.

4. Apparatus according to claim 3 wherein said rails are substantially parallel.

5. Apparatus according to claim 2, 3 or 4 wherein the conveyor includes a plurality of said conveyor paths.

6. Apparatus according to claim 5 wherein each path includes a pair of said rails, wherein one of said rails at adjacent conveyor paths is common thereto.

7. Apparatus according to any one of claims 2 to 6 wherein each gate includes a section of one of said rails said rail section being displaceable between the open and closed positions.

8. Apparatus according to claim 7 further including a plurality of actuators, each being associated with a respective rail section to cause displacement thereof.

9. Apparatus according to claim 8 wherein said actuators comprise pneumatic cylinders.

10. Apparatus according to any preceding claim wherein each discharge zone has a collecting chute thereat.

11. Apparatus according to any preceding claim wherein said conveyor is adapted to vibrate to cause transfer of the bottles or other articles therealong.

12. Apparatus for sorting articles according to a feature or characteristic of the articles the apparatus comprising

(i) a conveyor having an upstream end and a downstream end for transferring the articles in a downstream direction;

(ii) a feature or characteristic recognition zone which includes an identifier device for determining the feature or characteristic of the articles as they pass through the recognition zone;

(iii) a plurality of discharge zones at which articles of a particular feature or characteristic can be discharged;

(iv) a control gate associated with each discharge zone and operable so as to be able to adopt a closed or open position, each control gate being responsive to detection from the identifier device so as to adopt its closed or open position.

Description:

SORTING APPARATUS ESPECIALLY FOR COLOURED BOTTLES

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates generally to apparatus for sorting articles according to differing features or characteristics such as different colours, shape, weight and the like and more particularly, but not exclusively, to apparatus for sorting containers such as bottles which may be glass or plastics bottles.

Environmental awareness has led to an increase in the requirement for the recycling of many type of articles. Glass and plastics containers such as bottles and the like have for many years been collected for reuse. Such articles are often formed from plastics and glass of different colours and it is generally required that the articles be sorted prior to processing for reuse. This sorting procedure has commonly been a manual task which is extremely time consuming and expensive. There has been more recently sorting machines proposed but these systems suffer from the problems of complexity and expense. It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved sorting device which alleviates one or more of the aforementioned disadvantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided apparatus for sorting articles according to a feature or characteristic of the articles the apparatus comprising: a conveyor having an upstream end and a downstream end for transferring the articles in a downstream direction; a feature or characteristic recognition zone which includes an identifier device for determining the feature or characteristic of the articles as they pass through the recognition zone; a plurality of discharge zones at which articles of a particular feature or characteristic can be discharged; a control gate associated with each discharge zone and operable so as to be able to adopt a closed or open position, each control gate being responsive to detection from the identifier device so as to adopt its closed or open position.

According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided apparatus for sorting coloured articles such as containers including bottles, the apparatus comprising a conveyor having an upstream end and a downstream end, the conveyor being adapted to transfer the articles in a downstream direction towards the downstream end. The apparatus

further includes an orientation zone which is disposed towards the upstream end of the conveyor for orientating the articles for travel along the conveyor. The apparatus further includes a colour recognition zone which includes a colour identifier device for determining the colour of the articles as they pass through this zone. The apparatus further includes a plurality of discharge zones at which articles of a selected colour can be discharged, there being a control gate associated with each discharge zone and operable so as to be able to adopt a closed or an open position, each control gate being selectively responsive to the colour identifying device so as to adopt either its open or closed position.

In one form, the conveyor includes at least one conveying path along which the articles can travel. The conveyor path may be in the form of a channel which in one form may include a pair of spaced apart rails which extend in a direction of travel of articles along the conveyor. In one form the rails may be substantially parallel to one another. The spacing of the rails may be the same or vary along the length of the conveyor. In other arrangements the rails may taper towards or away from one another along the conveyor at least over part of their length such as in certain zones. Preferably a plurality of conveyor paths are provided, these being disposed side by side. Each path may include a pair of the aforementioned rails. In some cases the rails of adjacent side by side conveyor paths may be common thereto; that is the common rail forms one of the rails for each of the adjacent side by side conveyor paths. Preferably each conveyor path has a control gate associated therewith at each discharge zone. Each gate may include a section of one of the rails, that section being displaceable between the open and closed positions. Each gate may include an actuator associated therewith to cause the displacement thereof between the open and closed positions. The actuator may be in the form of a linear actuator such as for example, a pneumatic, hydraulic or electrically powered cylinder assembly. Selective actuation of each gate is in response to a signal received from the colour identifier device.

Preferably each discharge zone has a collecting chute which when the gate is in the open position collects the articles which are discharged therefrom.

The conveyor may be in the form of a vibratory conveyor which causes the transfer of the articles therealong. As a result of the vibratory motion of the conveyor articles are propelled along the conveyor path. In addition or alternatively to a cushioning system may be provided to assist in transport of articles along the conveyor. Furthermore ejection

devices such as electric or air systems may be provided to eject some articles or waste from the conveyor.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Preferred embodiments of the invention will hereinafter be described with reference to the accompanying drawings and in those drawings:

Fig. 1 is a schematic isometric view of apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 2 is a detail of that part of the apparatus circled in figure 1; Fig. 3 a is plan view of the apparatus shown in figures 1 and 2;

Fig. 4 is a side elevation of the apparatus shown in figures 1 to 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings there is shown apparatus generally indicated at 10 which comprises a main conveyor 12 having an upstream end 13 and a downstream end 14. The conveyor 12 comprises a main body 15 having side walls 16 and 17 with a plurality of side by side conveying paths 23, 24, 25 and 26 therebetween (Fig. 2). A feed conveyor 80 is provided at the upstream end of the main conveyor for feeding articles thereto. The main conveyor 12 is in the form of a vibratory conveyor which as a result of its vibratory motion causes movement of the articles therealong.

Each conveyor path 23, 24, 25 and 26 is in the form of a channel formed by parallel spaced apart rails 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37. The spacing between the pair of rails which form each conveyor path is such that articles which are required to be sorted can be supported by the rails. As best seen in figure 2 rail 34 is common to paths 24 and 25. Articles such as wrappers, small articles and other rubbish fall between the rails.

At the upstream end of the conveyor there is an orientation zone 20 which causes the articles to align in one of the conveying paths. For example, in the case of bottles the vibratory action causes the bottles to orientate in one of the conveyor paths from head to tail. Downstream of the orientation zone 20, there is a colour recognition zone 40 which includes a scanner device 42. The scanner device 42 comprises a plurality of scanning heads 46 each associated with a respective one of the conveyor paths and which can

- A - determine the colour of the article as it passes through this zone. Colour scanners of this type are known and it is not proposed to describe it in any detail in this specification.

Downstream of the colour recognition zone 40 there is a series of discharge zones 51, 52, 53, each being arranged to discharge therefrom an article of particular colour. Each discharge zone includes a gate 56, 57, 58, 59, associated with respective conveyor paths which are adapted to adopt either an open position or a closed position, hi the open position articles moving along the conveyor path are caused to drop into a chute which is disposed below the conveyor, hi the form shown three discharge zones are shown, one being for brown bottles, another being for green bottles and another for clear bottles. Upstream of these discharge zones is further chute 50 which collects small articles or broken articles, wrappers, labels, lids and any other rubbish.

Each gate is formed by a section 64, 65, 66, 61 of one of the rails which form the conveying paths. Each of these rail sections is operatively connected to an actuator 70, 71, 72, 73 which in the form shown is a pneumatic cylinder. In use the cylinder is adapted to receive a signal from the scanner which causes the selected gate to open.

At the downstream end of the conveyor there is a final discharge region 75 where unidentified bottles and large waste can be removed.

The operation of the apparatus will hereinafter be described with reference to its application for sorting coloured glass bottles. Bottles and other debris to be sorted are fed by feed conveyor 80 to the upstream end 13 of the main conveyor which is in the form of a vibratory conveyor 12. The bottles tend to position themselves in one of the conveyor paths 22, 23, 24 or 25. The vibratory conveyor 12 when activated tends to orient the bottles head to tail in one of the conveyor paths in the orientation zone 20. The spacing between the rails forming each conveyor path is such that the bottles are supported by the rails and propelled in a downstream direction by the vibratory motion of the conveyor. Smaller articles and debris tend to fall through the spacing between the rails.

The bottles are transferred along the conveyor paths to a colour recognition zone 40. This zone has a device 42 therein which includes a scanner having a scanner head associated with each conveyor path. The scanner head determines the colour of a bottle in that conveyor path as it passes through the zone 40. The device is adapted to generate a signal which is recognised by one of the discharge zones 51, 52 or 53 downstream of zone 40. The signal causes activation of a selected one of the gates 57, 58, or 59 depending

upon the colour of the bottle recognised in zone 40. If a gate is opened a bottle can fall through to the chute with which it is associated. For example zone 51 may identify brown bottles, zone 52 green bottles and zone 53 clear bottles. Unidentified bottles can pass to the downstream end of the conveyor. Suitable section systems may be provided to assist in the removal of waste for the various sections of the conveyor.

Throughout this specification and the claims which follow, unless the context requires otherwise, the word "comprise", and variations such as "comprises" or

"comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or step or group of integers or steps but not the exclusion of any other integer or step or group of integers or steps.

Finally, it is to be understood that various alterations, modifications and/or additions may be incorporated into the various constructions and arrangements of parts without departing from the spirit or ambit of the invention.