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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
UNIVERSAL SHUTTLE FOR A BAGGER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/171722
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a shuttle device for placing product in a flexible package. The shuttle device includes a linear slide. The linear slide includes a lead screw. The shuttle device also includes a bottom support plate fixedly attached to a center point of the linear slide. Additionally, the shuttle device includes a pair of shuttle side walls wherein each shuttle side wall is mounted to a bracket. Each bracket is adjustably connected to the linear slide such that there is one bracket on either side of the bottom support plate. The brackets slidably move along a length of the linear slide when the lead screw is rotated. The shuttle device of the invention conveys products, such as absorbent articles, from a compressor to a flexible package.

Inventors:
CRIMM ROBERT P (US)
Application Number:
US2016/024618
Publication Date:
October 05, 2017
Filing Date:
March 29, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
KIMBERLY CLARK CO (US)
International Classes:
B65B39/02; B65B65/00; F16H25/20
Foreign References:
US5072573A1991-12-17
JPH05262318A1993-10-12
US6457300B12002-10-01
US6536184B12003-03-25
US5687544A1997-11-18
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DUDKOWSKI, Alyssa A. et al. (Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.2300 Winchester Roa, Neenah Wisconsin, 54956, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A shuttle device for placing product in a flexible package, the shuttle device comprising:

(i) a linear slide, wherein the linear slide includes a lead screw;

(ii) a bottom support plate attached to a center point of the linear slide; and

(iii) a pair of shuttle side walls, wherein each shuttle side wall is mounted to a bracket and each bracket is adjustably connected to the linear slide and wherein there is one bracket on a side of the linear slide separated by the bottom support plate.

2. The shuttle device of claim 1 wherein the linear slide includes a marking corresponding to a predefined position relative to the bottom support plate.

3. The shuttle device of claim 1 further comprising a cam lock.

4. The shuttle device of claim 3, wherein the lead screw and the cam lock are on the same side of the linear slide.

5. The shuttle device of claim 1 wherein each bracket includes at least one slide contact point.

6. The shuttle device of claim 1 , wherein the linear slide includes a second lead screw that is opposed to the lead screw.

7. The shuttle device of claim 6, wherein the lead screw and the second lead screw are connected to each other by a coupling underneath the bottom support plate.

Description:
UNIVERSAL SHUTTLE FOR A BAGGER

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure relates to a shuttle device for guiding product into flexible packaging as part of a manufacturing line. The shuttle device includes a linear slide that allows for in-place adjustment of the shuttle device for use with different sizes of flexible packaging. The shuttle device also includes a bottom support plate that is attached to a center point of the linear slide. On either side of the bottom support plate, there is a shuttle side wall that is adjustably connected to the linear slide by a bracket. The shuttle linear slide may have opposing lead screws connected by a coupling at the center, beneath the bottom support plate, to enable adjustment of the distance between the two shuttle side walls. The shuttle device also includes a cam lock that runs through the bottom support plate and the pair of brackets for the shuttle side walls to lock the shuttle side walls into position to provide equipment rigidity during operation.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

Flexible packaging is used for a variety of consumer products including foods,

pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. Flexible packaging is generally understood to mean a package or container made of flexible or easily yielding material that when filled or closed can change shape. Flexible packaging materials include paper, plastic film and foil. The formats in which these flexible packaging materials may come include rollstock, bags, pouches, labels, wraps, lidding, shrink sleeves and stretch film. Flexible packaging helps protect its contents from external conditions including air, humidity, water, dirt, contaminants and pests. The size of flexible packaging used in a particular operation is selected based on the size and quantity of product to be packaged.

In the manufacture of consumer products, such as absorbent articles, flexible packaging is used as both a primary package and a secondary package. When used as the primary package, the flexible packaging- for example, a bag- is the only packaging material used to bundle a desired quantity of absorbent articles for sale to consumers. When used as the secondary package, the flexible packaging bag bundles a desired quantity of absorbent articles and a desired number of bags are then packaged in a primary container, such as a corrugated box for sale to consumers. In an absorbent article manufacturing process, the size of the flexible packaging is selected based on the number of absorbent articles being bundled together to result in a desired finished unit (that is either ready for sale to consumers or that is further put in a primary container for sale to consumers).

Because absorbent articles can be bulky, they may be compressed prior to placement within the flexible packaging. Typically, an array of a set number of absorbent articles are compressed together and the array of articles is placed within the interior of the flexible packaging. There is equipment that is known for handling the array of compressed articles from the compression stage into the flexible packaging. An oscillating shuttle device may be used to transport the array of compressed articles from the compressor to the flexible packaging.

Known shuttle devices include a bottom plate and two side plates. The array of compressed articles are held in between the two side plates. During typical absorbent article manufacturing operations, it is necessary to change the number of articles being placed into the flexible packaging. During such a change-over, it is necessary to remove and to replace the shuttle device so that the shuttle device can handle the new number of articles. The size of the bottom plate required may be different, the height of the side plates needed may be different and the spacing between the side plates may require adjustment. Because of the typical location of the shuttle device within the manufacturing process, change-over of the shuttle device can be economically difficult and time- consuming. Typically, the bottom plate and the side plates need to be removed and replaced and this can be challenging because of the surrounding machine components. For safety of operations personnel, the absorbent article manufacturing line is completely enclosed for guarding, but this can limit access to the shuttle device during change-overs.

There remains a need for a shuttle device that can be changed-over to handle a different quantity of absorbent articles without requiring removal of the shuttle device from the manufacturing line. Additionally, there remains a need for a shuttle device that can be adjusted and locked in position from an operator's side of the manufacturing line. Further, there remains a need for a shuttle device that can be used for a variety of product counts and sizes of flexible packaging.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure is directed to a shuttle device for placing product into flexible packaging. The shuttle device includes a linear slide. The linear slide includes a lead screw that enables adjustments along the linear slide. The shuttle device also includes a bottom support plate that is attached to a center point of the linear slide. The bottom support plate is capable of holding the product passing through the shuttle device, so that the product does not drop through the shuttle. The shuttle device further includes a pair of shuttle side walls. Each of the shuttle side walls has a height; shuttle side walls of one or more heights may be used with the shuttle device of the invention. Each shuttle side wall is mounted by screws, bolts, welds- or other appropriate fasteners (nails, glue, contact cement, etc.)- to a bracket. Each bracket is adjustably connected to the linear slide in such a way that there is one bracket on either side of the center point where the bottom support plate is attached to the linear slide. As a result, there is one shuttle side/bracket combination on either side of the bottom support plate along the length of the linear slide. Each bracket has at least one slide contact point with the linear slide. Desirably, each bracket has at least two slide contact points adjustably connecting the bracket to the linear slide. The lead screw goes through the linear slide to the underside of the bottom support plate at the center point. The shuttle device may include opposing lead screws and the opposing lead screws may be connected to each other by a coupling underneath the bottom support plate at the center point. Either lead screw may be turned in a rotational direction to move the brackets- and, therefore, the shuttle side walls- along the length of the linear slide. When the opposing lead screws are connected by a coupling, the brackets move simultaneously upon turning of the lead screw either toward or away from the center point of the linear slide. When the opposing lead screws are not connected by a coupling, the brackets move independent of each other. The lead screws are used to adjust the spacing between the shuttle side walls as necessary to change the number of products that can be conveyed by the shuttle device in a given pass. As described herein, the brackets will move along the linear slide in response to turning (rotation) of the lead screw (or either lead screw if there are two and they are connected by a coupling). The linear slide may include pre- defined positions that correspond to the shuttle device handling a specific number of products or a specific number of a certain type of products. These pre-defined positions on the linear slide may correspond to specific flexible packaging sizes. For example one pre-defined position may correspond to a flexible package that holds ten products and another pre-defined position may correspond to a flexible package that holds twenty products. The pre-defined positions may be marked on the linear slide in a manner resembling the markings on a ruler. The pre-defined markings may be on both or either side of the linear slide as divided in half by the bottom support plate. The shuttle device may further include a cam lock that runs through the brackets and the bottom support plate. The cam lock may be turned in a rotational direction from a "locked" position to an "unlocked" position. The cam lock is used to keep the brackets in the desired position relative to the bottom support plate and to provide equipment rigidity during operation. The lead screw and the cam lock may be accessible for adjustment on the same side of the linear slide as divided in half by the bottom support plate.

Accessibility from the same side makes the shuttle device of the invention easier to use for operators during a product change-over. In addition to making contact with the linear slide, the at least one slide contact point between the bracket and the linear slide also moves in response to adjustment of the cam lock (between the "locked" and "unlocked" positions). When the cam lock is in the "unlocked" position, the at least one slide contact point is loosened to enable movement of the bracket along the linear slide. When the cam lock is returned to the "locked" position for operation, the at least one slide contact point is tightened and the bracket is fixed in a position. Typically, the at least one slide contact point that moves in response to adjustment of the cam lock is the contact point closer in physical proximity to the cam lock.

The structure of the shuttle device of the invention overcomes several of the deficiencies of current shuttle device designs. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a front perspective view of a prior art shuttle device.

Fig. 2 is a top perspective view of the shuttle device of the invention.

Fig. 3 is a bottom perspective view of the shuttle device shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 4 is an upstream-facing perspective view showing the shuttle device of the invention within the flexible packaging portion of an absorbent article manufacturing line. Fig. 4 includes depiction of product, such as compressed absorbent articles, shown in phantom as they would be located in the shuttle device of the invention.

Fig. 5 is a downstream-facing perspective view showing the shuttle device of the invention within the flexible packaging portion of an absorbent article manufacturing line. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISLOSURE

The present invention relates generally to a shuttle device for placing product into flexible packaging. An example of a product with which the shuttle device may be used is an absorbent article. Absorbent articles include disposable diapers for infants, training pants for toddlers, youth pants for nighttime enuresis, feminine hygiene pads for women, incontinence pads for men and women and incontinence garments for men and women. Typically, absorbent articles may be bulky and it may be desirable to compress them prior to packaging them for increased efficiency of placement on store shelves and for increased efficiency of distribution and shipping costs. Absorbent articles may be packaged in one or more flexible packages for sale to consumers. The flexible packaging protects the absorbent articles from moisture, dirt, debris and pests. Packages of absorbent articles may be sold in different product counts from smaller packages that contain three articles to large packages that contain as many as three hundred articles. In the flexible packaging operation for absorbent articles, it is necessary to execute count changes to accommodate the demand for different sizes of packages. One component of machinery that currently needs to be changed during a count change is the shuttle device that oscillates back and forth to take an array of compressed absorbent articles and to place them inside a flexible package. Fig. 1 representatively shows a front perspective view of a known (prior art) shuttle device. The known shuttle device of Fig . 1 includes a bottom plate and two side plates. During a count change or other type product changeover, the parts of the known shuttle device (the bottom plate and the two side plates) typically need to be completely removed from the packaging line and replaced with a different shuttle device or adjusted to a new position. Removal of a known shuttle device may be economically difficult and time-consuming.

Fig . 2 shows a top perspective view of a shuttle device 100 of the invention . The shuttle device 100 of the invention includes a linear slide 200 with at least one lead screw 225. The lead screw 225 moves brackets attached to the linear slide 200 along the length of the linear slide 200 by a turning motion. The shuttle device 100 also includes a bottom support plate 300 attached to the center point 350 of the linear slide 200. The bottom support plate 300 is fixed in position on the linear slide 200 and does not move when the lead screw 225 is turned. The linear slide 200 may have opposing lead screws 225, beneath the bottom support plate 300, to enable adjustment of the distance between the two shuttle side walls 400. The opposing lead screws 225 may be connected by a coupling at the center point 350. The shuttle device 100 includes a pair of shuttle side walls 400 that are adjustable along the length of the linear slide 200. Each of the shuttle side walls 400 has a height; shuttle side walls 400 of one or more heights may be used with the shuttle device 100 of the invention. Each shuttle side wall 400 is mounted to a bracket 425 and each bracket 425 is adjustably connected to the linear slide 200. The brackets 425 slide along the length of the linear slide 200 in response to turning of the lead screw 225. If there are opposing lead screws 225 that are connected by a coupling, the brackets 425 will slide along the length of the linear slide 200 in response to turning of either lead screw 225. If there are opposing lead screws 225 that are not connected by a coupling, the brackets 425 will move along the linear slide 200 independent of each other (each bracket 425 moving in response to the lead screw 225 associated with it). Each bracket 425 moves toward or away from the bottom support plate 300 at the center point 350, but the brackets 425 do not move past the bottom support plate 300. The brackets 425 and their associated shuttle side walls 400 are adjusted relative to the center point 350 depending on the number of compressed products to be handled by the shuttle device 100. The linear slide 200 may include one or more grade markings 250 that indicate a predefined position (corresponding to a pre-defined distance between the shuttle side walls 400) for the brackets 425 relative to the bottom support plate 300. Each grade marking 250 may also correspond to a position for handling a certain number of products between the shuttle side walls 400. The shuttle device 100 may also include a cam lock 500 that fixes the brackets 425 in a pre-defined position, such as may be indicated by a grade marking 250. The cam lock 500 passes through both brackets 425 and the bottom support plate 300. The cam lock 500 is rotated to move it from an "unlocked" to a "locked" position. When the cam lock 500 is in the "locked" position, it provides equipment rigidity during operation. With the shuttle device 100 of the invention, both the lead screw 225 and the cam lock 500 are accessible from the same side of the shuttle device 100 (which corresponds to the same side of the linear slide 200) where they can be manipulated by a machine operator. The shuttle device 100 of the invention may be adjusted to different product counts without removal of one or more parts of the shuttle device 100 from the product manufacturing line.

Fig. 3 is a bottom perspective view of the shuttle device 100 shown in Fig. 2. The underside of the linear slide 200 is visible in Fig. 3 along with a view to how the brackets 425 are adjustably connected to the linear slide 200. Each bracket 425 has at least one and may have two slide contact points 440 with the linear slide 200. The underside of the bottom support plate 300 and the pair of shuttle side walls 400 are also visible in Fig. 3. Fig. 3 also provides a clear view of how the cam lock 500 may run through the brackets 425 and the bottom support plate 300. The lead screw 225 and the cam lock 500 are shown as being accessible on the same side of the linear slide 200 as divided by the bottom support plate 300. In addition to making contact with the linear slide 200, the at least one slide contact point 440 between the bracket 425 and the linear slide 200 also moves in response to adjustment of the cam lock 500 (between the "locked" and "unlocked" positions). When the cam lock 500 is in the "unlocked" position, the at least one slide contact point 440 is loosened to enable movement of the bracket 425 along the linear slide 200. When the cam lock 500 is returned to the "locked" position for operation, the at least one slide contact point 440 is tightened and the bracket 425 is fixed in position. Typically, the at least one slide contact point 440 that moves in response to adjustment of the cam lock 500 is the contact point 440 closer in physical proximity to the cam lock 500.

Fig. 4 is an upstream-facing perspective view showing the shuttle device 100 of the invention within the flexible packaging portion of a product, such as an absorbent article, manufacturing line. In operation, the shuttle device operates forward and backward with the motion of product through the manufacturing line. The linear slide 200 is visible in Fig. 4 from an operator's side of the

manufacturing line. Both the lead screw 225 and the cam lock 500 are visible and accessible from the operator's side. The shuttle device 100 does not need to be removed from the manufacturing line during count changes or other product change-overs. The cam lock 500 is rotated to an "unlocked" position before the lead screw 225 is rotated to slidably adjust the brackets 425 mounting the shuttle side walls 400 to the linear slide 200. The lead screw 225 is rotated until the brackets 425 are in the desired pre-defined position relative to the bottom support plate 300. When the brackets 425 are in the desired pre-defined position, the cam lock 500 may be rotated back to the "locked" position to fix the location of the brackets 425. In order to illustrate the position of compressed products within the shuttle device 100 during operation, Fig. 4 includes an array of compressed products shown in phantom. The shuttle device 100 conveys the compressed products from the compressor unit to the flexible packaging. The compressed products may be pushed into and out of the shuttle device 100 by an overhead conveyor pusher (not shown in Fig. 4). Fig. 4 shows a pair of guide tracks 600 through which the overhead conveyor pusher moves as it acts on the array of compressed products. The guide tracks 600 remain in a fixed location- even when the shuttle device 100 is adjusted during a count change or other product change-over. The array of compressed products being conveyed by the shuttle device 100 to the flexible packaging will vary in number, and consequently, size, depending on the number of compressed products intended to be placed in the flexible packaging. Fig. 5 is a downstream-facing perspective view showing the shuttle device 100 of the invention within the flexible packaging portion of a product, such as an absorbent article, manufacturing line. The view shown in Fig. 5 is facing toward the portion of the manufacturing line where the array of compressed products are put within a flexible package, such as a bag. A suction pick-up device 700 for the individual bags is visible in Fig. 5 as is a stack of flexible packages 900. As the shuttle device 100 oscillates in a forward direction, it moves the array of absorbent articles into the bag with the assistance of the overhead conveyor pusher (not visible in Fig. 5). After the shuttle device 100 conveys the array of compressed products into the bag, the bag, with product contained in it, is further conveyed by the shuttle device 100 toward a pair of guides 800 that are in front of a welding station. The welding station seals the flexible packaging (bag). The shuttle device 100 of the invention provides an advantaged design and construction to improve manufacturing efficiency. The design of the shuttle device 100 reduces or removes the need for machine operators to use economically undesirable positions when changing product counts on a manufacturing line. While the devices of the invention have been described in detail with respect to specific aspects thereof, it will be appreciated that those skilled in the art, upon attaining an understanding of the foregoing, may readily conceive of alterations to, variations of and equivalents to these devices. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention should be assessed as that of the claims and any equivalents thereto.