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Title:
CLAMPING ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/231817
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A workpiece clamping assembly includes a fixed member and a movable member and the movable member is associated with a motor for movement toward and away from the fixed member. The motor is in communication with a controller that selectively signals for movement of the movable members in response to an operator's command.

Inventors:
DA SILVA PEDREGAL, Antonio (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2021/032377
Publication Date:
November 18, 2021
Filing Date:
May 14, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MELCO INTERNATIONAL LLC (US)
International Classes:
D05B1/00; D05B11/00; D05B19/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VOLPE, Anthony S. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A workpiece clamping assembly comprising: at least a pair of clamps that are spatially arranged on a support; each clamp in the at least a pair of clamps has a stationary member and a movable member that are vertically aligned to engage a workpiece that is located between them; each clamp in the at least a pair of clamps is associated with a motor that moves the movable member between a clamping position and an opened position; and, each motor communicates with a controller that controls activation of the associated movable member.

2. The clamping assembly of Claim 1, wherein the motor is a servo motor.

3. The clamping assembly of Claim 1, further comprising a battery pack that powers the motor and the controller.

4. The clamping assembly of Claim 1, further comprising a power line junction for powering the motor and the controller.

5. The clamping assembly of Claim 1, wherein the controller acts in response to commands from an operator control.

6. The clamping assembly of Claim 5, wherein commands between the operator control and the controller are transmitted wirelessly.

7. The clamping assembly of Claim 1, wherein the stationary member has a projection or a recess and the movable member has the other of a projection or a recess so there is a mating fit between the stationary and the movable member.

8. The clamping assembly of Claim 7, wherein the projection and recess are in the shape of a cross.

9. The clamping assembly of Claim 1 wherein the controller outputs a power shutoff signal that terminates power to the motor after the movable member is in the clamping position.

10. The clamping assembly of claim 1, wherein: each movable member in the at least a pair of clamps is associated with a respective motor; and, the controller communicates with each respective motor to control activation of the associated movable member.

11. The clamping assembly of Claim 10, wherein each respective motor is a servo motor.

12. The clamping assembly of Claim 10, wherein the controller has a plurality of modes.

13. The clamping assembly of Claim 12, wherein the plurality of modes include controlling sequential and simultaneous movement of the movable members.

14. The clamping assembly of Claim 12, wherein said controller includes a plurality of LEDs that indicate each of the respective modes among the plurality of modes.

15. The clamping assembly of Claim 10, wherein the controller outputs a power shutoff signal that terminates power to the motor after the movable members are in the clamping position.

16. A material clamping assembly comprising: a pair of spatially separated workpiece clamps that are mounted on a support; each workpiece clamp has a stationary arm and a movable arm and the movable arm of each workpiece clamp is associated with a motor that moves the moveable arm toward the stationary arm to grip a workpiece against the stationary arm; and, a controller that selectively activates a motor for movement of the moveable arm.

17. A motor operated workpiece holding assembly comprising: a support bracket; a pair of mounts; a pair of fasteners for connecting each of the mounts to the support bracket; a first pair of clamping jaws, each clamping jaw of the first pair of clamping jaws is attached to a respective mount; a second pair of clamping jaws, each clamping jaw of the second pair of clamping jaws is movably attached to a respective mount in vertical opposition to the clamping jaw of the first pair of clamping jaws attached to the respective mount; and, a pair of motors, each motor is attached to a respective mount and activates a respective one of the second pair of clamping jaws.

18. The assembly of claim 17 wherein, the pair of motors are in communication with a controller that selectively activates each of the pair of motors for movement of the second pair of clamping jaws.

19. The assembly of claim 18 wherein, the controller selective activates the respective motor assemblies individually or simultaneously.

20. The assembly of claim 17 wherein, the controller outputs a power shutoff signal that terminates power to the pair of motors after the second pair of clamping jaws are in the clamping position.

Description:
C LAMPING ASSEMBLY

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of the following U.S. Application, all of which are incorporated herein by reference: 15/931,861 filed on May 14, 2021.

FIELD OF INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to devices for clamping a workpiece in a desired position. More particularly, the invention relates to clamping a workpiece in a stitch applying machine. Most particularly, the invention relates to a device that enables selective clamping of a workpiece in an embroidering machine.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Clamping devices for holding a workpiece are known in the apparel industry and in related industries. The known devices are used for embroidering and monogramming a variety of workpieces including shirts, pants, sweaters, jackets, hats, handkerchiefs, towels and the like.

[0004] The known devices include manually operated devices where the user opens and closes the clamps by hand to position and hold the workpiece. In certain environments, manually-operated devices may be difficult to use. Additionally, manual actuation is time consuming and costly where high volume output is required, and manual operation of the clamp levers can result in overtightening which may lead to excessive wear and premature failure of the clamp or its parts. Furthermore, manual operation is undesirable where it is necessary for the user to have two hands available for holding the workpiece in position before clamping.

[0005] Pneumatically operated clamping systems are available. These pneumatic clamping systems typically use a compressor, which is often noisy and can involve piping which make them undesirable. SUMMARY

[0006] In view of the known problems and disadvantages of prior manual and pneumatic devices, the present invention provides an efficient clamping assembly that utilizes a servo motor for opening and closing the clamp arms. The servo motor is actuated by a controller and the system incorporates a feedback system to warn against unsafe operation in the event a clamp is in the open position. This warning system also avoids damage to the embroidering machine in addition to possible operator injury. The operator control for the system maybe wireless or wired, as is preferred. The system preferably includes a self-contained power pack to avoid the need for additional electrical cables around the equipment and improve portability.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0007] The invention will be described in conjunction with the following drawings in which like reference numerals designate like elements,

[0008] Figure 1 is a perspective view of an embroidering machine;

[0009] Figure 2 illustrates a portion of a motherboard of the type associated with an embroidering machine like that in Figure 1;

[0010] Figure 3 illustrates a clamping apparatus according to the present invention attached to an existing part of an embroidering machine;

[0011] Figure 4 is an exploded view of the clamping apparatus in Figure

3 as it appears when separated from the embroidering machine;

[0012] Figure 5 is a further exploded view of the clamping apparatus in

Figure 4;

[0013] Figure 6 is an enlarged view of the portion identified as 6 in Figure

3;

[0014] Figure 7 is an enlarged view of the control device in Figure 3; and,

[0015] Figure 8 illustrates the connection and adjustment of the upper and lower arms of the clamping assembly. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS [0016] The environment for utilizing the present invention will be described with reference to Figures 1 and 2. Known embroidering machines, such as models EMT 16, ENT 16 Plus and EMT-X, which are available from Melco in Westminster, Colorado, have a needle array "B", a carriage "C" and a thread supply "D." A removable cover E that overlies a motherboard, identified in Figure 2 as MB, has been modified to provide access to a plurality of USB ports "F." With reference to Figure 2, the motherboard "MB" controls the operation of the needle array B during the embroidering operation and the additional USB ports "F' provide the interconnection between the clamping apparatus and the machine operation.

[0017] Figure 3 illustrates the clamping apparatus 10 mounted on a carriage "C" that is show apart from the embroidery machine "A" for clarity. The support bracket 18 is attached to the carriage "C" with screws 30 in a mounting location for the positioning the clamping assemblies 42, 46 toward the operator and horizontally within the slots 34 and 38. The bracket 18 has elongated slots 34 and 38 for attaching the workpiece clamping assemblies 42 and 46 and spacing them according to the workpiece by threading the thumb screws 54 into the mounting block 58 as shown in Figure 5.

[0018] With reference to Figure 4, an elongated mounting block 86 extends toward an operator position and is connected to the base of the mounting block 58. Mounting blocks 58 and 86 may be made as a single block but it is currently preferred to make them individually so size adjustments can be made in either mounting block. In addition, the mounting block 86 has a relief or cut portion where the lower arm 70 can be connected so it is vertically aligned with the upper arm 66 without any sacrifice of strength in the remaining mounting block 86. A third mounting block 94 is secured to the elongated mounted block 86. The mounting blocks 58, 86 and 94 form the basic structure that is carried by the bracket 18 for mounting the clamping components.

[0019] With reference to Figures 3-5, the clamping arm assembly 42 and the clamping arm assembly 46 preferably have lower arms or jaws 70 that are mirror images of each other and identical upper arms or jaws 66. The projected length of the lower arms 70 and upper arms 66 can be varied in length depending upon the location of the carriage "C" and or the needs for a given workpiece.

[0020] With reference to Figure 3, the forward or operator facing edge of the bracket 18 has a plurality of position markers 50. The position markers 50 are aligned with depressions on the bottom surface of the bracket 18. When a clamp arm assembly 42, 46 passes over a position marker 50, there is an auditable clicking sound to aid in conveniently and accurately positioning the claiming assemblies along the slots 34 and 38 according to the workpiece.

[0021] The upper arm 66 is typically designated as the arm moveable that moves vertically between opened and closed positions for clamping a workpiece against a typically stationary lower arm 70 or releasing a workpiece.

[0022] The movable upper arm 66 receives a thumb screw 74, see Figures 3-5, for adjusting the upper arms 66 at a desired height, based upon the material’s thickness, to define the space for holding the workpiece in place. Turning the height adjustment thumb screw 74 clockwise threads the screw 74 in to the mounting block 142 and lowers the upper clamp arm 66; turning counterclockwise raises the upper arm 66. By utilizing the thumb screw 74, an operator can determine the gap in the closed position. The interconnection between the upper arm 66 and the mounting block 142 is illustrated in Figure 8. As illustrated in Figure 8, the mating fit of "T" shaped portions 75 and 143 provides a stable connection in two planes while the screw 74 accounts for adjustments in a third plane.

[0023] To further aid in retaining a workpiece without damaging it, one of the arms 66 and 70 has a compressible strip 78 to make contact with the workpiece and the other arm has an opposing raised and elongated bead 77 of a generally non-compressible material, such as silicone to make contact and secure the workpiece against movement. The upper arms 66 are also provided with a plurality of equally hash marks 68 to serve as a depth guide to facilitate proper orientation of the workpiece within the clamping assemblies 42, 46. [0024] Referring now to Figure 4, the motor mounting block 94 is mounted to the lower clamp arm mounting block 86 using suitable hardware, such as screws 114. Preferably, a servo motor 90 is mounted to block 94 for operation of the movable upper arm 66 in each clamp arm assembly 42, 46. As best shown in Figures 4 and 5, each mounting block 94 has threaded bores that receive the internally threaded spacers 106 and align with the flanges 102 on the housing of servo motor 90. Screws 98 thread into the pillars or spacers 106 and hold the motor 90 in position on mounting block 142 for actuation of the movable arm 66. A presently preferred servo motor is the Miuezth 25 KG 270 Degree High Torque RC Digital Servo.

[0025] While the motors 90 may be powered by an available electric line power supply, it is currently preferred to use battery power, which improves portability between machines. As illustrated in Figure 2, the battery power source 118 is a 2000 mAh battery pack comprises of a plurality of batteries arranged in parallel. The housing 122 for power source 118 is preferably attached to the carriage "C" or bracket 18 using suitable hardware to avoid additional power cable and provide portability.

[0026] Each motor 90 has limited clockwise and counter-clockwise rotational movement that moves the upper arm 66 between the desired raised and lowered positions. As best seen in Figures 4 and 5, the bearing 126 has a reduced portion 127 that fits within the through opening 96 in mounting block 94 and has a central opening 128 that receives the armature of the servo motor 90. As best illustrated in Figures 4 and 5, the pin 134 engages the oblong race 146 in mounting block 142. The pin 134 is within the bearing 126 and that carries a rotatable roller 138, which is preferably made of brass. The clockwise and counterclockwise movements of the servo motor 90 will cause rotation of the bearing 126, which in turn will cause the pin 134 and roller 138 to move within the horizontal race 146 and move the upper arm 66 between open and closed positions. A shoulder screw 150 that extends through slot 154 located in the upper clamp arm mounting block 142 is connected to the mounting block 94 and limits lateral movement of the upper clamp arm 66 with respect to the lower clamp arm 70.

[0027] The various mounting blocks are preferably separate assembled components for ease of manufacturing, but they may be formed as a one piece. [0028] With reference to Figures 3, 4 and 7, a control unit 158 for the present invention is illustrated. The illustrated unit has a mounting flange 162 attached to the housing 122 so it can be mounted preferably on the bracket 18 but alternatively on the carriage "C" with suitable fasteners or screws. Depending on the mounting location, a power cable will extend between the housing 122 and the control unit 158. In the event an available electric supply is used the power cable will need to be configured accordingly.

[0029] The front panel 170 of control unit 158 has a plurality of LED status lights 174 that, in this configuration, are labeled “Left”, “Right”, “Both”, "On", and "Pairing." The “Left”, “Right”, and “Both” lights to correspond with either a sequential or a simultaneous operation of the clamp arm assemblies 42 and 46. The “On” and “Pairing” LEDs are associated with pairing or establishing a wireless connection between a foot pedal and the control unit 158. [0030] One suitable pedal is a potentiometer type pedal that responds to the pressure and speed applied by the operator's foot is available from Bernina or a Hall Effect encoder which is readily available. The pedal may be connected to the motherboard "MB" by a USB cable connected to one of the USB ports "F" or wireless by placing an associated dongle in one of the USB ports "F." In this latter case, the foot pedal is battery operated.

[0031] While a hard-wired connection between the foot pedal and the motherboard "MB" is preferred, the control unit 158 may also be connected wireless using the plurality of USB ports.

[0032] The control unit 158 has a plurality of buttons 194 and 195 for operational selections. Each time the button 194 is depressed, the control unit 158 toggles between “Left,” “Right,” and “Both" LEDs to control which of the clamp arm assemblies 42 and 46 is activated. With the current servo motor 90, it takes approximately 0.5 seconds to operate an upper arm 66. Once both clamp arm assemblies are locked in place, the information is provided to the embroidering machine to permit embroidering to begin.

[0033] When the workpiece is in place, the assemblies are activated by the operator, such as with a foot pedal, which is current preferred because it leaves the operator's hand free. The preferred pedal has a potentiometer, like a Hall Effect sensor, that provides feedback to the control unit 158. As the pedal is depressed from 0% to about 80% of a fully depressed position, it produces progressive movement of one or both upper arms 66. The approximately remaining 20% of pedal movement is reserved to confirm that the pedal has been fully depressed. Once the foot pedal is fully depressed for a predetermined period of time, between 0.2, and 0.5 seconds, the clamping arms are locked in place. If it is necessary for the user to readjust the material held within the clamp arm assemblies 42, 46, the operator can actuate the foot pedal 182 multiple times in rapid succession to unlock one or both clamp arms 66.

[0034] Once the machine embroidery operation commences, the motherboard MB sends a lock signal to the control unit 158. The control unit or controller 158 preferably also has a gyroscope that detects movement and signals the control unit to lock down. This is a preferred safety feature in case communication between the motherboard and the controller is lost. At the end of the design execution, there will be an unlock signal from the motherboard and, if desired, it could be coupled with automated opening of the clamps. The motherboard will preferably execute this command and not the gyroscope because the machine may be idled for other reasons, such as a thread break or an operator does not intervene in time, which could confuse the gyroscope. [0035] Once the clamp arm assemblies 42 and 46 are closed on the workpiece, the workpiece is held in place mechanically by the camming action and power to the servo motors 90 may be removed to preserve power. Power can be restored to the motors 90 to open the clamp arm assemblies 42 and 46 on a signal from the motherboard. This is similar to the intelligent door lock systems Bolt locks in vehicles where a single signal from the remote key moves the mechanism between locked and unlocked positions and stays in selected position until a change is commanded.

[0036] Sequential operation of the left and right clamp arm assemblies 42 and 46 may be desirable for certain types of workpieces. For example, when embroidering a dog collar or belt, an operator may choose to first clamp one side of the workpiece at a predetermined depth and then position the opposite side of the within at the corresponding hash mark to assure proper orientation prior to clamping and embroidering.

[0037] In other cases, it may be desirable to stretch the workpiece prior to embroidering. Sequential operation of the left and right clamp arm assemblies 42, 46 enables clamping of one side of the workpiece then straightening and stretching the workpiece prior to clamping the opposite side.