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Title:
CONTAINER GRIPPER FOR HANDLING COLLAPSIBLE CONTAINERS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/175396
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to an automatic handling system for handling collapsible containers. The object of the present invention is to provide a container gripper and a container gripping system for handling unfolding folded collapsible containers for fast and easy handling. The object of the present invention is also to provide a method for handling and unfolding folded collapsible containers, where the method provides an unfolding process for unfolded collapsible containers for further processing. The pre- sent invention addresses this by providing a Container handling system for handling collapsible containers, where the container handling system comprises at least one con- tainer gripper having at least one first gripper part and at least one second gripper part, where the first gripper part has one or more first gripping means capable of gripping a first part of a lower part of the collapsible container, where said second gripping end has one or more second gripping means capable of gripping a second end of said lower part of the collapsible container, where one or more attachment means for attachment to a moveable device, where the moveable device engage said attachment means using a complementary attachment means, where the moveable device moves said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position, wherein the first container position the container is folded and in the second container position the con- tainer is unfolded, where the container gripper is capable of maintaining a firm grip, when unfolding a folded collapsible container, when the collapsible container is moved with a predefined movement sequence from said first container position to said second container position, where the second position is in an upside down position relative to the first container position.

Inventors:
WØHLK MICHAEL (DK)
THOMSEN KENNETH (DK)
MOLTSEN DANIEL HJORTNÆS (DK)
Application Number:
PCT/DK2021/050061
Publication Date:
September 10, 2021
Filing Date:
March 02, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BRUEEL SYSTEMS AS (DK)
International Classes:
B31B50/78; B65B43/16; B65B43/26; B65B55/24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATRADE A/S (DK)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. Container handling system for handling collapsible containers, where the container handling system comprises: - at least one container gripper having at least one first gripper part and at least one second gripper part, where the first gripper part has one or more first gripping means, and said second gripping end has one or more second gripping means, wherein first and second gripping means is capable of gripping said collapsible container,

- one or more attachment means is arranged in relation to the container gripper, - a moveable device, wherein the moveable device can engage said attachment means using a complementary attachment means, wherein the moveable device is capable of moving said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position relative to a predefined movement se quence in a predefined movement velocity, and thereby unfolding the collapsible con- tainer.

2. Container handling system according to claim 1, wherein the container gripper further comprises at least one moveable means, where said moveable means is capable of var ying the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means, when moving the second gripper part relative to the first gripper part.

3. Container handling system according to claim 2, wherein the container handling sys tem further comprises at least one controlling means, where said controlling means con trols the movement of the container gripper.

4. Container handling system according to claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein the first gripping means and the second gripping means are oblong and each has an attachment end which is attached to the respective first gripper part and the second gripper part, such that the container gripper has a U-shape form, wherein the first gripping means and the second gripping means are capable of being arranged along two opposite sides of a lower part of said collapsible container.

5. Container handling system according to claim 4, wherein a length of the first gripping means and a length of the second gripping means are at least 50% of the length of the opposite sides of collapsible container.

6. Container handling system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the moveable device comprises at least one pivotable joint, so the moveable device is capa ble of pivoting the container gripper.

7. Container handling system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said moveable device comprising at least one rotatable joint, so the moveable device is capable of rotating the container gripper.

8. Container handling system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one support device is moveable and arranged in a substantially vertical position in relative to the container gripper, and where in use the support device is arranged adja cent to one or more container sides of a unfolded collapsible container, and the container sides are pushed into a side locking position when the support device is providing a pressure to the inside of the container sides.

9. Container handling system according to claim 8, wherein the support device com prises at least two locking members.

10. Container handling system according to claim 9, wherein the support device com prises at least one displacement means, which are capable of displaceable the locking members relative to each other.

11. Container handling system for unfolding collapsible containers, wherein at least one conveyer is arranged relative to the container gripper, where in use the container gripper is capable of arranging said collapsible container or containers to and/or from the con veyer for further processing.

12. Method of unfolding collapsible containers comprising a container handling system according to claim 1-9, comprising the steps of: a) providing at least one folded collapsible container, b) gripping said folded collapsible container using said container gripper, c) moving said container gripper, while holding the folded collapsible container, using a moveable device, such that the sides of the collapsible container unfolds, when the moveable device moves said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position relative to a predefined movement sequence with a predefined move ment velocity.

13. Method according to claim 12, comprising further steps between step b and c, ad justing a second gripper part relative to a first gripper part, such that the distance be- tween the first gripping means and the second gripping means is arranged relative to a lower part of said folded collapsible container.

14. Method according to claim 12 or 13, comprising further steps: placing the unfolded collapsible container sides adjacent to at least one support device, such that the support device is arranged inside the unfolded collapsible containers, forcing the unfolded con tainer sides against the support device, and pushing the container sides into a side locking position.

Description:
CONTAINER GRIPPER FOR HANDLING COLLAPSIBLE CONTAINERS

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an automatic handling system for handling collapsible containers.

Background of the Invention

Collapsible containers are often used for the food industries, where the collapsible con tainers are used for storing goods, such as food and/or liquids. The collapsible contain- ers are often recycled. During the recycling process, the collapsible container is either folded or unfolded. When the goods are removed from the collapsible container, the collapsible container is folded and stacked on pallets. This way, the collapsible con tainer will not take up unnecessary space during transport. When the folded collapsible containers reach the destination, the collapsible containers must be cleaned carefully before being refilled with goods. Each of the collapsible con tainers must be handled in order to be unfolded and emptied of garbage or leftovers, before the collapsible container enters the washing process. Today, the folded collapsible containers must be placed on a first conveyor, often using manpower for this purpose of moving the folded collapsible containers from a pallet to the first conveyor. The folded collapsible container must be arranged so that the lower part of the collapsible container is resting on the first conveyor, with the container side folded on top of the lower part of the collapsible container. The folded collapsible con- tainer will enter an unfolding apparatus, which first unfolds two opposite overlying con tainer sides, and then unfolds the two opposite underlying container sides. The unfolded collapsible container is then moved away from the unfolding apparatus, and the garbage is removed from the unfolded collapsible container. The unfolded collapsible container may then enter a second conveyor or another apparatus which rotates the unfolded col- lapsible container upside down, in order to arrange the collapsible container in an upside down position on a third conveyor, where the upside down position is preferred when washing the collapsible container. The handling of the collapsible containers comprises many time-consuming steps, which makes the entire pre-washing process slow. The conveyers’ and the apparatuses’ need to get the collapsible container ready for washing is expensive and take up a lot of space. Also, the maintenance is high due to the number of conveyers and the apparat uses’ need in the pre-washing process.

Object of the Invention

The object of the present invention is to provide a container gripper and a container handling system for handling and unfolding folded collapsible containers in a fast and easy manner. The object of the present invention is also to provide a method for han dling and unfolding folded collapsible containers, where the method provides an un folding process providing unfolded collapsible containers for further processing.

Description of the Invention

The present invention addresses this by providing a container handling system for han- dling collapsible containers, where the container handling system comprises:

- at least one container gripper having at least one first gripper part and at least one second gripper part, where the first gripper part has one or more first gripping means, and said second gripping end has one or more second gripping means,

- one or more attachment means arranged in relation to the container gripper, - a moveable device, where the moveable device engages said attachment means using a complementary attachment means, where the moveable device moves said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position relative to a predefined movement sequence in a prede fined velocity.

The container handling system is capable of handling and/or unfolding folded collapsi ble containers. The unfolding process is executed using the container handling system which grips a folded collapsible container and unfolds the container in a fast and easy manner. The container handling system comprises at least one container gripper for gripping and holding the unfolded collapsible container or containers during the unfold ing process. The container gripper may be provided with gripping means for gripping the lower part, e.g. the bottom part, of the collapsible container. The gripping means may vary in relation to each other, so the container gripper is capable of handling different sizes and shapes of collapsible containers. The container gripper maintains a firm grip when unfolding a folded collapsible container or containers. The collapsible container may be moved in a predefined movement sequence, when the collapsible con tainer finally may be arranged in an upside down position. The gripper part and the gripping means may be provided in different shapes and/or sizes for different shapes and sizes of the collapsible containers.

The container gripper may comprise a gripper part with one or more first and second gripping means capable of gripping two opposite sides of a lower part of the collapsible container. The container gripper may alternatively have a first and a second gripper part, which may vary relative to each other. The first gripper part may be provided with at least one first gripping means capable of gripping a first part of a lower part of the collapsible container, where the second gripper part may be provided with at least one second gripping means capable of gripping a second end of a lower part of the collaps- ible container. The first gripper part and the second gripper part combined is capable of gripping two opposite sides of a lower part of the collapsible container. The container gripper may comprise attachment means for attachment to a moveable device. The at tachment means arranged on or at the container gripper may also be in hydraulic and/or electrical contact with the moveable device.

The unfolding process includes moving the collapsible container in a predefined move ment sequence. The predefined movement sequence comprises movement that uses the gravity and/or the centripetal force unfolding the folded collapsible container, when the collapsible container is lifted and/or inverted rapidly. The unfolding of a folded collaps- ible container may be performed in a quickly and smoothly manner, when providing the predefined movement sequence in a predefine movement velocity. If the movement se quence is inaccurate, the folded collapsible container may not unfold correctly. If the movement velocity is to slow, the folded collapsible container may not unfold correctly or if the movement velocity is to fast, the folded collapsible container may be damaged. Both the movement sequence and the movement velocity must be taken into consider ation when using the gravity and/or the centripetal force to unfold a folded collapsible container. At the same time when unfolding the collapsible container, most of the waste located which is accumulated inside the folded collapsible container may be emptied from the collapsible container, when performing the unfolding process. The waste may be re moved when unfolding the collapsible container. Alternatively the waste may for ex- ample be blasted or vacuumed using a disposal system in the unfolding process.

The container gripper may also comprise holding means for holding the folded collaps ible container in position, when the collapsible container is rotated. By controlling the holding means the unfolding of the sides can be controlled in the predefined movement sequence, which is preferable for the type of collapsible container in the container grip per in the unfolding process.

In an advantageous embodiment of the invention, the container gripper further com prises at least one moveable means, where said moveable means is capable of varying the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means, when moving the second gripper part relative to the first gripper part.

The moveable means provide the possibility to alter the distance between two opposite sides of the container gripper. The moveable means may vary the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means, by displacing the first gripper part and the second gripper part relative to each other. The moveable means may comprise a motor, belt and/or piston etc.

In a further advantageous embodiment of the invention, the container handling system further comprises at least one controlling means, where said controlling means controls the movement of the container gripper.

The moveable means provided on the container gripper may be controlled manually or automatically. If the folded collapsible containers all have the same size and shape, the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means do probably not need to vary during the pre-washing process. This may easily be handled manually. If the folded collapsible containers all have different sizes and shapes, the moveable means may be capable of varying the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means, when moving the second gripper part relative to the first gripper part or vice versa. This may be accomplished by using an automatic setting of the dis tance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means during the pre washing process. The vary of the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means relative to each other may be provided by using a controlling system controlling the movement of the first gripper part and the second gripper part hydraulically and/or electrically. Moveable device comprising one or more complementary attachment means, where at least one container gripper is capable of attachment to the moveable device, where said container gripper’s attachment means engage said rotatable device’s complementary attachment means, where said container gripper is capable of maintaining a firm grip of a lower part of a collapsible container, when the rotatable device is rotating the container gripper and a folded collapsible container into an inverted position, where the folded collapsible container becomes an unfolded collapsible container.

The container gripper may be attached to a moveable device. The moveable device may be capable of arranging the container gripper in a position where the container gripper may interact with a collapsible container. The collapsible container may be pushed into the container gripper using pushing means. The moveable device may place the con tainer gripper beside a conveyer and/or the collapsible container, where the collapsible container is then pushed in between the gripping means on the container gripper. The collapsible container may alternatively be picked up by the container gripper using grip- ping means. The distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means is varied so the collapsible container is in a fixed position.

The moveable device may be a device standing on a floor in a predefined and/or move- able position, where the container gripper may interact with the collapsible containers. The moveable device may be a device hanging over a predefined and/or moveable po sition, where the container gripper may interact with the collapsible containers. The moveable device may hang in a rail system above a conveyor for transporting the col lapsible containers to the washing apparatus. In a further advantageous embodiment of the invention the first gripping means and the second gripping means are oblong and each has an attachment end which is attached to the respective first gripper part and the second gripper part, such that the container grip per has a U-shape form, wherein the first gripping means and the second gripping means are capable of being arranged along two opposite sides of a lower part of said collapsible container.

The U-shaped container gripper may comprise an oblong first and an oblong second gripping means capable of gripping two opposite sides of a lower part of the collapsible container. The first and the second gripping means may be rods. The rods are capable of resting along the sides of the lower part of the collapsible container. The lower part of the collapsible container may be the bottom part. The container gripper receives the lower part of the collapsible container in the U-shaped gripper arrangement. The con tainer gripper adjusts the rods such that the rods are pressed towards each other. The rods are pressed against the opposite sides of the collapsible container in a firm grip. The container gripper maintains the grip while unfolding the collapsible container.

A stack of folded collapsible containers may be stacked with the bottom part downwards or the bottom part upwards. The U-shaped container gripper grips the collapsible con- tainer from one or more of the container’s side. If the container gripper received the bottom part upwards, the moveable device may just elevate the folded collapsible con tainer and thereby unfold the collapsible container. If the container gripper received the bottom part downwards, the moveable device may elevate and rotate the folded collaps ible container and thereby unfold the collapsible container. U-shaped container gripper is not dependent of the positioning of the folded collapsible container. The container handling system is capable of handling and unfolding folded collapsible containers in a fast and easy manner, without having to turn all the folded collapsible containers in the same direction/position before unfolding the collapsible containers. This reduces the manpower costs and handling costs per collapsible container in the unfolding process, and thereby increases the productivity.

All or some of the sides of the collapsible container will partly or fully unfold by the use of gravity and/or centrifugal force applied to the sides of the collapsible container. If the collapsible container is elevated quickly, the sides will be forced outwards in the movement. If the collapsible container is elevated slowly, the sides will be forced less outwards in the movement, than if lifted quickly.

In a still further advantageous embodiment of the invention, a length of the first gripping means and a length of the second gripping means are at least 50% of the length of the opposite sides of the collapsible container.

The U-shaped container gripper may engage the folded collapsible container from a gripping side along the bottom part such that the first gripping means and the second gripping means are arranged along two opposite sides which are arranged adjacent to the gripping side. The container gripper has a firm grip formed as a U along the opposite sides and the gripping side between the opposite sides. The length of the container grip per of the first gripping means and a length of the second gripping means are at least 50% of the length of the opposite sides of collapsible container. This will ensure a firm grip at the collapsible container and thereby stabilising the movement of the collapsible container during the unfolding process. This will reduce damage to the container gripper and/or the collapsible container. In an advantageous embodiment of the invention, the moveable device comprises at least one pilotable joint, so the moveable device is capable of pivoting the container gripper.

To be able to use the gravity and/or the centripetal force when unfolding the collapsible container, the collapsible container may be lifted, rotated, and/or inverted rapidly at the same time. The unfolding process, where the collapsible container is influenced by the movement, will unfold the container sides automatically. The unfolding of a folded col lapsible container may be performed quickly and smoothly. In a further advantageous embodiment of the invention, said moveable device compris ing at least one rotatable joint, so the moveable device is capable of rotating the con tainer gripper. The moveable device may be similar to a robot arm with at least one rotatable joint. The moveable device may be computer controlled, and the moveable device may rotate the individual joint using electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic means. The container gripper may be in communication with the moveable device using electrical, hydraulic or pneu- matic means. The container gripper may be controlled and/or programed through the moveable device. The container gripper may be controlled and/or programmed from an external controlling device directly using wire or wireless communication. The movea ble device may be controlled and/or programmed from an external controlling device directly using wire or wireless communication.

In a still further advantageous embodiment of the invention, at least one support device is moveable and arranged in a substantially vertical position in relative to the container gripper, and where in use the support device is arranged adjacent to one or more con tainer sides of a unfolded collapsible container, and the container sides are pushed into a side locking position when the support device is providing a pressure to the inside of the container sides.

The collapsible container or containers may comprise a snap-lock system, locking the container sides to each other. To ensure a complete unfolded collapsible container, the container sides may be locked together to prevent the container sides from collapsing during the washing process.

In a further advantageous embodiment of the invention, the support device comprises at least two locking members.

The support device may comprise more than one locking member. The locking member may be moveable and /or rotatable, such that the locking member is capable of pushing the container sides into a side locking position, when the locking member provides a pressure to the inside of the container sides. The locking member may be a rod or sim- ilar. The locking member may be rotatably or pivotally attached in one end to a base member of the support device. The locking members are rotated or pivoted using move- able means. The locking members are capable of moving in each selected direction pushing some or all sides of the container in to locking position at the same time. The locking members perform an efficient locking of the unfolded collapsible container. In a still further advantageous embodiment of the invention the support device com prises at least one displacement means, which are capable of displacing the locking members relative to each other.

The locking member may be rotatably or pivotally attached to at least one displacement means. The displacement means may form part of a base member. The displacement means is capable of moving the locking members into a position inside the collapsible container. The locking members are moved from one position to another using displace- ment means. The locking members may slide from one position to another using dis placement means. The locking members are capable of moving in each selected direc tion pushing some or all sides of the container into locking position at the same time. The locking members will then perform an efficient and rapid locking of the unfolded collapsible container.

A support device may be provided on or relative to the container gripper, the conveyer, or as a stand-alone support device. The moveable device moves the unfolded collapsible container into a second position, where the support device may be arranged inside the unfolded collapsible container. The moveable device moves a container side towards the support device one by one. The container sides are pushed into a side locking posi tion when the supporting device is providing a pressure to the inside of the container sides. Alternatively, the container may be kept steady and the support device is movea ble. The support device may be divided into 2 parts or more, moving in one or more directions at the same time, and pushing two or more sides into a side locking position.

In a further advantageous embodiment of the invention, at least one conveyer is ar ranged relative to the container gripper, where in use the container gripper is capable of arranging said collapsible container or containers to and/or from the conveyer for fur ther processing.

Container handling system for unfolding collapsible containers comprises at least one container gripper arranged in relation to at least one rotatable device. At least one con veyer is arranged in relation to the container gripper, so the folded collapsible containers, so the container gripper is capable interact with the collapsible containers arranged on the conveyer.

In a first embodiment, the containers handling system may comprise only a moveable device comprising a container gripper and one conveyor. The moveable device moves the container gripper into a predefined position where the container gripper retrieves a folded collapsible container from a first position, which may be located on a pallet. During the transition between the first position to a second position on the conveyor, the moveable device moves/rotates the container gripper so that the folded collapsible container unfolds when turning the collapsible container upside down. The collapsible container is then placed on the conveyor, where the conveyor transports the unfolded collapsible containers to a washing area.

In a second embodiment, the container handling system may comprise only a moveable device comprising a container gripper and two conveyors. The moveable device moves the container gripper into a predefined position where the container gripper retrieves a folded collapsible container from a first position, which may be located on a first con veyor. During the transition between the first position at the first conveyor to a second position on a second conveyor, the moveable device moves/rotates the container gripper so that the folded collapsible container unfolds when turning the collapsible container upside down. The unfolded collapsible container is then placed on the second conveyor, where the second conveyor transports the unfolded collapsible containers to a washing area.

Method of unfolding collapsible containers comprising a container gripper according to claim 1 and a moveable device according to claim 4, comprising the steps of: a) providing at least one folded collapsible container, b) arranging said folded collapsible container in said container gripper, where the con tainer gripper is capable of gripping a folded collapsible container, c) moving the folded collapsible container using controlling means, so the sides of the collapsible container unfold. where the moveable device moves said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position relative to a predefined movement sequence with a pre defined movement velocity. Container handling system easily and fast unfolds the folded collapsible containers. The container handling system comprises at least one container gripper having at least one first gripper part and at least one second gripper part. The first gripper part has one or more first gripping means capable of gripping a first part of the lower part of the col lapsible container. The second gripping end has one or more second gripping means capable of gripping a second end of the lower part of the collapsible container. One or more attachment means is attached to the container gripper. The moveable device is capable of engaging the attachment means using a complementary attachment means. The moveable device is capable of moving said container gripper from a first container position to a second container position. The collapsible containers is folded when being in a first container position. The container is unfolded when being in the second con tainer position. The container gripper is capable of maintaining a firm grip, when the collapsible container is moved in a predefined movement sequence from the first con- tainer position to the second container position. The unfolded collapsible container in the second position is in an upside down position relative to the folded collapsible con tainer in the first container position.

In a first case of lifting the container gripper with a moveable device, which moves in a vertical plane, the gravity will involve a “pulling” force to the container gripper. When the bottom of the folded collapsible container is arranged in the container gripper, and the folded collapsible container sides is arranged downwards and away from the con tainer gripper, the gravity force will force the sides of the folded collapsible container away from the container gripper, forcing the folded collapsible container to unfold.

In a second case of swinging the container gripper around on the end of the rotatable device in a horizontal plane, the centripetal force will involve a “push” force to the container gripper. When the bottom of the folded collapsible container is arranged in the container gripper, and the folded collapsible container sides is arranged away from the container gripper, the centripetal force will force the sides of the folded collapsible container away from the container gripper, forcing the folded collapsible container to unfold. The folded collapsible container may be unfolded using both the gravity and the cen tripetal force to unfold the sides of the container, when moving the folded collapsible container from a first container position to a second container position relative to a pre defined movement sequence in a predefined movement velocity.

A plurality of folded collapsible containers may be arranged one a pallet or one by one placed on a conveyer. The container gripper may comprise recognition means, such as sensors or cameras, to identify each of the folded collapsible containers and the position to retrieve the folded collapsible containers. The folded collapsible container is then fixed between the first and the second gripping means provided on the container gripper.

Unfolding the collapsible container with the use of gravity and/or the centripetal force, actuates when the collapsible container is lifted and/or inverted rapidly. The unfolding of a collapsible container may be performed quickly and smoothly. At the same time, the garbage will be emptied from the collapsible container.

The method comprising further steps between step b and c, adjusting said second grip per part relative to a first gripper part, so the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means fits the lower part of said folded collapsible container. Even though the collapsible container may have different shapes and different sizes, when arranged on a pallet or provided one by one on a conveyor, the container gripper may easily adjust the second gripper part relative to a first gripper part so the distance between the first gripping means and the second gripping means fits the lower part of said folded collapsible container adjusted quickly to the size of the bottom of the folded collapsible container.

The method comprising further steps: placing the unfolded collapsible container sides adjacent to at least one support device, so the support device is arranged inside the un folded collapsible containers, forcing the unfolded container sides against the support device, so the container sides are pushed into a side-locking position.

The present invention provides a container gripper, container gripping system for han dling and unfolding folded collapsible containers for fast and easy handling. Further more, the present invention also provides a method for handling and unfolding folded collapsible containers, where the method provides a pre-washing process for unfolded collapsible containers for further processing. The invention provides products which reduce the time/costs per collapsible container being handled effectively and agilely during the pre-washing process. Also maintenance costs are reduced due to the use of less equipment.

The invention has now been explained with reference to a few embodiments which have only been discussed in order to illustrate the many possibilities and varying design pos sibilities achievable with the container gripper and the container handling system to the present invention.

Description of the Drawing

The embodiments of the invention are described in the following with reference to:

Fig. 1 : Illustrating a container handling system for unfolding collapsible containers. Fig. 2: Illustrating an embodiment of a container gripper attached to a rotatable device. Fig. 3: Illustrating an embodiment of a container gripper.

Fig. 4: Illustrating a container handling system having a plurality of handling stations for unfolding collapsible containers.

Fig. 5: Illustrating an alternative embodiment of a container gripper 3.

Fig. 6: Illustrates an alternative embodiment of a container gripper 3 in another viewing angle.

Fig. 7: Illustrates an alternative embodiment of a support device 6.

Detailed Description of the Invention

An embodiment of the invention is explained in the following detailed description. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its scope to the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or carried out in various ways.

Fig. 1 illustrates a container handling system 1 for unfolding collapsible containers 2 in non-sorted sizes. The container handling system 1 comprises a moveable device, which in this embodiment is a rotatable device 4, which is arranged on a floor-standing base. The rotatable device comprises one container gripper 3, which is attached in one end of the rotatable device 4 opposite the floor-standing base. The rotatable device 4 is arranged with a plurality of rotatable joints, which provide an agile movement between the two conveyors 5,7.

The first conveyor 5 handles the folded collapsible containers 2, transporting the col- lapsible containers 2 to the pick-up destination. Alternatively, the folded collapsible containers 2 are transported to the pick-up destination on a pallet, where the folded collapsible containers 2 are palletised. The rotatable device 4 uses the container gripper

3 to grip the folded collapsible containers 2. The rotatable device 4 rotates the folded collapsible containers 2' quickly, so that the container sides of the folded collapsible containers 2' unfold as the folded collapsible containers 2' are turned upside down. At the same time, the unfolded collapsible containers 2' will be emptied for any garbage and unwanted items etc.

The rotatable device 4 then moves the unfolded collapsible containers 2' to the support device 6, where the support device 6 in this example is arranged on a bench next to the conveyor and the rotatable device 4. The rotatable device 4 places the unfolded collaps ible containers 2' over the support device 6, so that the support device 6 is arranged inside the cavity of the unfolded collapsible containers 2'. The support device is ar ranged adjacent to each of the container sides of an unfolded collapsible container, one by one, where the container sides are pushed into a side locking position, when the supporting device provides a pressure on the inside of the container sides. Then the folded collapsible containers 2' 'are moved to the second conveyor 7 for further pro cessing. In the case of lifting the container gripper 3 with a moveable/rotatable device 4 in a vertical plane, the gravity will involve a “pulling” force to the container gripper 3. When the bottom of the folded collapsible container 2 is arranged in the container gripper 3, and the folded collapsible container sides is arranged downwards and away from the container gripper 3, the gravity force will force the sides of the folded collapsible con- tainer away from the container gripper, forcing the folded collapsible container to un fold.

In the case of swinging the container gripper 3 around on the end of the rotatable device

4 in a horizontal plane, the gravity and/or centripetal force will involve a “push” force to the container gripper 3. When the bottom of the folded collapsible container 2 is arranged in the container gripper 3, and the folded collapsible container sides is ar ranged away from the container gripper 3, the gravity and/or centripetal force will force the sides of the folded collapsible container away from the container gripper, forcing the folded collapsible container to unfold.

Fig. 2 illustrates an embodiment of a container gripper 3 attached to a connection head 12 of the rotatable device 4. The rotatable device 4 comprises complementary attach ment means which is complimentary to the container gripper 3 attachment means, which is not showed on the fig. 2. The container gripper’s 3 attachment means engage said rotatable device’s 4 complementary attachment means and connect the electric or hy draulic controlling of the container grippers 3 at the same time.

The container gripper 3 has an attachment side 8 and a container side opposite the at- tachment side. The container gripper 3 is capable of maintaining a firm grip of a lower part of a collapsible container, using the first gripping means 9' arranged in the first gripping end and second gripping means 9" arranged in the second gripping end. The distance between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9" are con trolled by an electric driving system, where a driver drives a motor 11, which drives a belt 10. Alternatively, the distance between first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9" may be moved in relation to each other using a piston.

The electric driven belt system comprises sensors to control the grip of the folded col lapsible container. The size of the folded collapsible container may vary within the pre- defined vary distance of the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9" .

Fig. 3 illustrates an embodiment of a container gripper 3, which is divided into a first and a second gripper part 13 ,13 ". The first gripper part 13 'is attached to the connection head. The container gripper 3 comprises moveable means, such as an electrically driven belt system in communication with a moveable rail 14, where the moveable means is capable to vary the distance dl between the second gripper part 13" relative to the first gripper part 13'. The motor 11 of the electrically driven belt system is attached to the first gripper part 13'. The moveable rail 14 is attached between the first and a second gripper part 13 ',13". The second gripper part 13" is moveably attached to the first gripper part 13'. The second gripper part 13" is moveable in a longitudinal direction relative to the first gripper part 13', using the moveable rail 14 and the motor 11 driven belt 10. The moveable rail 14 is in communication with the belt 10. When the belt 10 is driven in a first direction, the moveable means 14 increase the distance dl between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9". When the belt 10 is driven in an opposite direction to the first direction, the moveable rail 14 decreases the distance dl between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9".

The motor may control the movement of the container gripper. Alternatively, the motor is in communication with an external controller, where the communication is through the connection head 12. The controller and/or the motor 11 controls the distance dl between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9". The controller and/or the motor 11 control the grip on the lower part of the collapsible container. The controller and/or the motor 11 control the release of the lower part of the collapsible container.

Fig. 4 illustrates a container handling system having a plurality of handling stations 15 for unfolding collapsible containers. Each container handling station 15 1 , 15 2 , 15 3 , 15 4 is capable of unfolding collapsible containers 2 in non-sorted sizes. Each container han- dling station 15 1 , 15 2 , 15 3 , 15 4 comprises a moveable device, which may be a moveable and rotatable device 4. The moveable and rotatable device 4 is arranged on a stand.

The first conveyor 5 is arranged below or partly below the second conveyor 7. The first conveyor transports the collapsible containers 2 to the pick-up destination at one of the handling stations 15 1 , 15 2 , 15 3 , 15 4 . The first conveyor 5 continually feeds the handling stations 15 1 , 15 2 , 15 3 , 15 4 with folded collapsible containers. The folded collapsible containers may be arranged in a stack. The folded collapsible containers are entered into the bottom part of the stand. The stack of folded collapsible containers is then step by step elevated such that one folded collapsible container is elevated up to the upper part of the stand. When the folded collapsible container is at the upper part of the stand the container gripper is capable of gripping the folded collapsible container which is to be unfolded. The rotatable device 4 provides an agile movement of the collapsible con tainer during unfolding and arranged the unfolded collapsible container on the second conveyor 7. The second conveyor 7 continually conveys the containers away from the handling stations.

Fig. 5 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a container gripper 3. The container grip- per 3 comprises a first and a second gripper part 13', 13". The first gripper part 13 is attached to a middle part. The first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9"are oblong and each has an attachment end which is attached to the respective first gripper part 13' and the second gripper part 13", such that the container gripper has a U-shape form. The first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9"are capable of being arranged along two opposite sides of a lower part of said collapsible container 2'.

The first and the second gripping means 9', 9" may be elongated members such as rods. The first and the second gripping means 9', 9" are capable of resting along the sides of the lower part of the collapsible container 2'. The lower part of the collapsible container 2 may be the bottom part.

The container gripper '3 receives the lower part of the collapsible container in the U- shaped gripper arrangement. The container gripper 3 comprises moveable means, which is not showed in the fig. 5. The moveable means is capable to vary the distance dl between the second gripper part 13" relative to the first gripper part 13'. The container gripper is capable of increasing or decreasing the distance dl between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9". The container gripper 3 adjusts the first and the second gripping means 9', 9", such that the first and the second gripping means 9', 9" are pressed towards each other.

The length of the first gripping means and a length of the second gripping means are in the embodiment equally long. The length may be at least 50% of the length of the op posite sides of the collapsible container 2'. The length may be at least 75% of the length of the opposite sides of collapsible container 2'. This will ensure a firm grip at the col- lapsible container 2', during the unfolding process.

The first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9" are capable of gripping the lower part of the collapsible container. When the folded collapsible container is un folded the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9 release the firm grip of the lower part of the collapsible container by increasing the distance dl between the first gripping means 9' and second gripping means 9 ".The container gripper 3 may easily be adapted to handle different shapes and/or sizes for different shapes and sizes of the collapsible containers 2'.

Fig. 6 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a container gripper 3 in another viewing angle. The attachment side 8 comprises attachment means for attachment to a moveable device. The container gripper 3 comprises holding means 16 for holding the folded col lapsible container in position, when the container is rotated. By controlling the holding means 16 the unfolding of the sides can be controlled in the predefined movement se quence, which is preferable for the type of collapsible container in the container gripper 3.

Fig. 7 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a support device 6. The support device 6 comprises four locking members 20. The locking member 20 may be moveably and /or rotatably attached to the moveable part 21. The locking members are rotated or pivoted using moveable means 22. The moveable means 22 may comprise a step motor. The moveable means 22 capable of pivoting the locking member is capable of pushing the container sides into a side locking position, when the locking member provides a pres- sure to the inside of the container sides. The locking members 20 in this embodiment are rods 20. The rods 20 are rotatably attached in one end to moveable part 21. The rods 20 are capable of rotating in each selected direction.

The support device comprises displacement means 21,23. The displacement means 21,23 are capable of displacing the locking members 20 towards or away from each other. The displacement means 21,23 may form part of a base member. The displace ment means comprises a rail 23 wherein the moveable part 21 is capable of sliding. The locking members 20 slides from one position to another position. The locking members 20 are then capable of moving in each selected direction pushing some or all sides of the container in to locking position at the same time.