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Title:
PACKING, LABELING AND SORTING OF ARTICLES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/030168
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Method of packing, labeling and sorting an article to a destination includes placing an article to be sorted within a cavity of a double-walled container. The cavity is formed by an inner wall of the container. An air-storage chamber is formed between the inner wall and an outer wall of the container. The method further includes introducing air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber and sealing the air-storage chamber and adding an identifier to an outer surface of the container. The method also includes determining one destination receptacle of a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the article. The method additionally includes transporting the article and depositing the article at the destination receptacle.

Inventors:
SERSTAD JAMES M (US)
FUTCH MICHAEL C (US)
Application Number:
US2020/045326
Publication Date:
February 18, 2021
Filing Date:
August 07, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TOMPKINS INT (US)
International Classes:
B65B31/06; B07C3/00; B07C3/10; B65C3/26
Domestic Patent References:
WO2019055188A12019-03-21
Foreign References:
KR20180128591A2018-12-04
US5487470A1996-01-30
KR20090025604A2009-03-11
US20060062949A12006-03-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MATHAVAN, Parthiban A. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A system comprising: an article supply location, wherein the article supply location includes a plurality of articles to be packed, labeled and sorted; an article packing device configured to remove air from a cavity of a double- walled container and seal the cavity, the cavity formed by an inner wall of the container, the article packing device further configured to introduce air into an air-storage chamber, the air- storage chamber formed between the inner wall and an outer wall of the container; a labeling device configured to add an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and a control system configured to: direct placing of an article to be sorted within a cavity of a double- walled container; introduce air into the air- storage chamber to inflate the air- storage chamber, and seal the air-storage chamber; add an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and determine one destination receptacle of a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the article.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the system further comprises a transport vehicle configured to transport and deposit the article into a proximal receptacle; and wherein the control system is further configured to direct the transport vehicle to transport the article and deposit the article at the destination receptacle.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the system further comprises a scale for measuring a weight of the article.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein the control system is further configured to calculate a price of the article based on the weight of the article and a unit price value for the article.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the control system is further configured to add the price of the article to an outer surface of the container.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the control system is further configured to direct a linear sorter or a loop sorted to transport the article and deposit the article at the destination receptacle.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the control system is further configured to remove air from the cavity and seal the cavity.

8. The system of claim 4, wherein the steps of removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity is computer-controlled.

9. The system of claim 2, wherein the control system is further configured to: identify a first order associated with the identifier in an orders database; and direct the transport vehicle to deposit the article at the destination receptacle associated with the first order.

10. The system of claim 2, wherein the system is configured to direct the transport vehicle to deposit the article by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the step of placing an article in the cavity is computer-controlled.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein the step of introducing air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber and sealing the air-storage chamber is computer controlled.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein the article is associated with a customer order.

14. The system of claim 2, wherein a tray, belt, or carrier attached to the transport vehicle engages the article, wherein a characteristic is determined for the article.

15. The system of claim 1, wherein the air removed from the cavity is introduced into the air- storage chamber.

16. A method of packing, labeling and sorting an article to a destination, the method comprising: placing an article to be sorted within a cavity of a double- walled container, the cavity formed by an inner wall of the container, an air-storage chamber formed between the inner wall and an outer wall of the container; introducing air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber and sealing the air-storage chamber; adding an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and, determining one destination receptacle of a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the article.

17. The method of claim 16, further comprising transporting of the article by a transport vehicle, and depositing of the article at the destination receptacle by the transport vehicle.

18. The method of claim 16, further comprising measuring a weight of the article by a scale.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising calculating a price of the article based on the weight of the article and a unit price value for the article.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising adding the price of the article to an outer surface of the container.

21. The method of claim 16, further comprising transporting of the article and depositing of the article at the destination receptacle by a linear sorter or a loop sorter.

22. The method of claim 16, further comprising removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein the steps of removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity is computer-controlled.

24. The method of claim 17, further comprising: identifying a first order associated with the identifier in an orders database; and directing the transport vehicle to deposit the article at the destination receptacle associated with the first order.

25. The method of claim 17, further comprising directing the transport vehicle to deposit the article by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle.

26. The method of claim 16, wherein the step of placing an article in the cavity is computer-controlled.

27. The method of claim 16, wherein the step of introducing air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber and sealing the air-storage chamber is computer controlled.

28. The method of claim 16, wherein the identifier is associated with one or more of an end destination where the article is to be delivered, a weight of the article, and a price associated with the article.

29. The method of claim 17, wherein a tray, belt, or carrier attached to the transport vehicle engages the article, wherein a characteristic is determined for the article.

30. The method of claim 16, wherein the air removed from the cavity is introduced into the air- storage chamber.

Description:
PACKING, LABELING AND SORTING OF ARTICLES

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS [0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application 62/884,693 filed on August 9, 2019, the contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to a material handling system and in particular to a system for packing, labeling and sorting articles, with a computer-controlled transport vehicle transporting each packed, labeled and sorted article to a specified container.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Packing, labeling and sorting items to fill a customer order requires care, especially when it comes to articles such as groceries and glass items, for example. In many applications, automated picking is utilized to reduce labor cost and to improve customer service by reducing the time and cost associated with filling customer orders. However, inadequate packing can result in damage to the fragile article during the picking, labeling and sorting steps of fulfilling a customer order. In addition, there are economic advantages accruable from minimizing the weight of the packaging associated with an article such that the total weight of the article and the package is minimized such that the processes and costs associated with labeling, sorting and shipping the packed article to a customer destination is optimized.

[0004] Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an apparatus and method that will allow for packaging, labeling and sorting of articles, particularly fragile articles including food products and non-food products, in a simplified manner with an automated arrangement.

SUMMARY

[0005] This summary is provided to introduce in a simplified form concepts that are further described in the following detailed descriptions. This summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it to be construed as limiting the scope of the claimed subject matter.

[0006] Disclosed herein is a system. The system includes an article supply location, wherein the article supply location includes a plurality of articles to be packed, labeled and sorted; an article packing device configured to remove air from a cavity of a double-walled container and seal the cavity, the cavity formed by an inner wall of the container, the article packing device further configured to introduce air into an air-storage chamber, the air- storage chamber formed between the inner wall and an outer wall of the container; a labeling device configured to add an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and a control system. The control system is configured to: direct placing of an article to be sorted within a cavity of a double- walled container; introduce air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber, and seal the air-storage chamber; add an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and determine one destination receptacle of a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the article.

[0007] According to one or more embodiments, the system further comprises a transport vehicle configured to transport and deposit the article into a proximal receptacle; and wherein the control system is further configured to direct the transport vehicle to transport the article and deposit the article at the destination receptacle.

[0008] According to one or more embodiments, the system further comprises a scale for measuring a weight of the article.

[0009] According to one or more embodiments, the control system is further configured to calculate a price of the article based on the weight of the article and a unit price value for the article.

[00010] According to one or more embodiments, the control system is further configured to add the price of the article to an outer surface of the container.

[00011] According to one or more embodiments, the control system is further configured to direct a linear sorter or a loop sorted to transport the article and deposit the article at the destination receptacle.

[00012] According to one or more embodiments, the control system is further configured to remove air from the cavity and seal the cavity.

[00013] According to one or more embodiments, the steps of removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity is computer-controlled.

[00014] According to one or more embodiments, the control system is further configured to: identify a first order associated with the identifier in an orders database; and direct the transport vehicle to deposit the article at the destination receptacle associated with the first order.

[00015] According to one or more embodiments, the system is configured to direct the transport vehicle to deposit the article by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle.

[00016] According to one or more embodiments, the step of placing an article in the cavity is computer-controlled.

[00017] According to one or more embodiments, the step of introducing air into the air- storage chamber to inflate the air- storage chamber and sealing the air- storage chamber is computer controlled.

[00018] According to one or more embodiments, the article is associated with a customer order.

[00019] According to one or more embodiments, a tray, belt, or carrier attached to the transport vehicle engages the article, wherein a characteristic is determined for the article.

[00020] According to one or more embodiments, the air removed from the cavity is introduced into the air-storage chamber. [00021] Disclosed herein is a method of packing, labeling and sorting an article to a destination. In various embodiments, the method includes: placing an article to be sorted within a cavity of a double-walled container, the cavity formed by an inner wall of the container, an air-storage chamber formed between the inner wall and an outer wall of the container; introducing air into the air-storage chamber to inflate the air-storage chamber and sealing the air-storage chamber; adding an identifier to an outer surface of the container; and, determining one destination receptacle of a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the article.

[00022] According to one or more embodiments, the method further comprises directing a transport vehicle to transport the article and deposit the article at the destination receptacle.

[00023] According to one or more embodiments, the method further comprises transporting of the article and depositing of the article at the destination receptacle by a linear sorter or a loop sorter.

[00024] According to one or more embodiments, the method further comprises removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity.

[00025] According to one or more embodiments, the steps of removing air from the cavity and sealing the cavity is computer-controlled.

[00026] According to one or more embodiments, the method further comprises identifying a first order associated with the identifier in an orders database; and directing the transport vehicle to deposit the article at the destination receptacle associated with the first order.

[00027] According to one or more embodiments, the method further comprises directing the transport vehicle to deposit the article by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle.

[00028] According to one or more embodiments, the step of placing an article in the cavity is computer-controlled.

[00029] According to one or more embodiments, the step of introducing air into the air- storage chamber to inflate the air- storage chamber and sealing the air- storage chamber is computer controlled.

[00030] According to one or more embodiments, the identifier is associated with one or more of an end destination where the article is to be delivered, a weight of the article, and a price associated with the article.

[00031] According to one or more embodiments, the air removed from the cavity is introduced into the air-storage chamber.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [00032] The foregoing, as well as the following Detailed Description of preferred embodiments, is better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purposes of illustration, there is shown in the drawings exemplary embodiments; however, the presently disclosed subject matter is not limited to the specific methods and instmmentalities disclosed.

[00033] The embodiments illustrated, described, and discussed herein are illustrative of the present invention. As these embodiments of the present invention are described with reference to illustrations, various modifications, or adaptations of the methods and or specific structures described may become apparent to those skilled in the art. It will be appreciated that modifications and variations are covered by the above teachings and within the scope of the appended claims without departing from the spirit and intended scope thereof. All such modifications, adaptations, or variations that rely upon the teachings of the present invention, and through which these teachings have advanced the art, are considered to be within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Hence, these descriptions and drawings should not be considered in a limiting sense, as it is understood that the present invention is in no way limited to only the embodiments illustrated.

[00034] FIG. 1 is a schematic structural diagram of an article placed in a cavity of a double-walled container, according to the present invention.

[00035] FIG. 2 is a schematic structural diagram of a double- walled container placed on a conveyor and positioned proximal a vacuum sealing device, according to the present invention.

[00036] FIG. 3 is a schematic structural diagram of a vacuuming needle of a vacuum sealing device being inserted within a cavity of a double-walled container placed on a conveyor, according to the present invention.

[00037] FIG. 4 is a schematic structural diagram of a vacuuming needle of a vacuum sealing device removing air from within a cavity of a double-walled container placed on a conveyor, according to the present invention.

[00038] FIG. 5 is a schematic structural diagram of an inflating needle of an inflating and sealing device inflating an air-storage chamber of a double- walled container placed on a conveyor, according to the present invention.

[00039] FIG. 6 is a schematic structural diagram of a double- walled container placed on a conveyor and positioned proximal a labelling station, according to the present invention.

[00040] FIG. 7 is a schematic structural diagram of a packing, labeling and sorting system, according to the present invention.

[00041] Fig. 8 is a flow diagram of a method of packing, labeling and sorting, according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS [00042] Below, the technical solutions in the examples of the present invention are depicted clearly and comprehensively with reference to the figures according to the examples of the present invention. Obviously, the examples depicted here are merely some examples, but not all examples of the present invention. In general, the components in the examples of the present invention depicted and shown in the figures herein can be arranged and designed according to different configurations. Thus, detailed description of the examples of the present invention provided in the figures below are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention as claimed, but merely represent selected examples of the present invention. On the basis of the examples of the present invention, all of other examples that could be obtained by a person skilled in the art without using inventive efforts will fall within the scope of protection of the present invention.

[00043] Embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter disclosed herein can advantageously provide for minimal to no damage occurring to fragile articles during the packaging, labeling, and sorting steps of fulfilling a customer order under various exemplary situations Embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can further advantageously provide effective labeling and sortation of the packaged articles to provide an optimal process suited for the needs of all types of fragile articles being sorted to one or more destinations.

[00044] As a first example, the embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can advantageously provide for automated packing of an article such that damage during subsequent handling of the article is minimized or prevented. As a second example, embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can provide for a packaging that can be lightweight thereby requiring fewer resources to label, sort and transport the packaged article to its destination. As a third example, embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can advantageously provide for automated packing, labeling and sorting of an article that is particularly fragile to an end destination. As a fourth example, embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can advantageously provide for automated packing, labeling and sorting of an article that is of an awkward shape. As a fifth example, embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can advantageously package an item such that during the sortation process, it is not damaged even if it tumbles, rolls, or falls from a considerable height.

[00045] Embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter accordingly can provide for the packing, labeling, and sorting of various articles, particularly fragile articles. Embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can allow for modification and customization, as needed, to accomplish of such objectives. The invention will now we described with reference to the Figures.

[00046] As illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 8, according to one or more embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter, a system and method of packing, labeling and sorting an article to a destination is provided. The method includes placing an article 12 to be sorted within a cavity 16 of a double-walled container 100. Cavity 16 formed by an inner wall 18 of double-walled container 100. Cavity 16 represents a space for holding an article to be packaged, labeled and sorted. Cavity 16 includes an opening for inserting or placing the article therein. After placement of an article within the cavity, a mouth or opening of cavity 16 can be sealed shut in an airtight manner using any technics known in the art, such as, for example, a heating element. An air-storage chamber 20 is defined between the inner wall 18 and an outer wall 22 of double- walled container 100. Air-storage chamber 20 can be inflated with air or some other fluid. After inflation of the air-storage chamber 20, the chamber can be sealed shut in an airtight manner using any technic known in the art to create a protective “bubble” like packaging arrangement that surrounds article 12.

[00047] According to at least one embodiment, after the article is placed in cavity 16 (as shown in FIG. 1), double-walled container 100 is moved or brought proximal to a vacuum sealing device 200 as illustrated, for example, in FIG. 2. Then, as shown in FIG. 3, a vacuuming needle 24 is inserted into cavity 16 to remove the air within cavity 16. In some embodiments, the wide opening of cavity 16 is sealed, before a small orifice is created within the sealed cavity 16 by the vacuuming needle 24 entering the sealed cavity 16. The method accordingly comprises removing air from the cavity 16 as shown in FIG. 4 and sealing of the cavity shut such that air flow into the cavity as well air out of the is prevented. In various embodiments, vacuum sealing device 200 that includes vacuuming needle 24 operates to remove the air from within cavity 16 and to seal cavity 16. In some embodiments, cavity 16 includes embossed or ribbed inner layers defining air channels extending to the mouth of the cavity 16. These channels may provide passages for air to exit the bag when placed under vacuum by vacuum sealing device 200. The method also includes introducing air into air-storage chamber 20, as shown in FIG. 5, to inflate the air- storage chamber 20 followed by sealing of air- storage chamber 20. [00048] In various embodiments, any known heat-sealing technics and appliances can be used to seal the cavity after removing the air as well as to seal the air-storage chamber 20 after inflating the air-storage chamber 20. The apparatus and method used for sealing can include one or more wires. In some embodiments, an adapter may be provided in conjunction with vacuuming needle 24 for extracting air from the cavity 16 whereby, in effect, the cavity is connected to vacuum sealing device 200 via vacuuming needle 24 and the pressure reduced in cavity 16. In one embodiment, after completion of vacuuming, heat is applied to inner wall 18 that may be in the form of a deformable sheet to cause a portion of opposing surfaces of inner wall 18 to become sealed together.

[00049] An inflating and sealing device 500 including an inflating needle 54 operates to inflate the air-storage chamber 20 and seal the air-storage chamber 20 in one embodiment. Suitable inflating needle 54 may be in fluid communication with air-storage chamber 20 for inflating the chamber. Inflating needle 54 can be controlled by valves (not shown) that form part of inflating and sealing device 500, with the valves being provided for facilitating inflating (and deflating, when needed) of air-storage chamber 20 of double-walled container 100.

[00050] Inflating and sealing device 500 can further include a sealing unit for sealing the air-storage chamber 20 after the inflating step is completed. In one embodiment, inflating needle 54 can protrude from the sidewall of the frame of sealing device 500 for inflating the air-storage chamber 20 after which the opening of air-storage chamber 20 is sealed. Inflating and sealing device 500 can thus be configured for sealing the opening in air- storage chamber 20 with the injected air entrapped within the interior space therein. The sealing means can include at least one heating element to form a seal line joining the two opposing sheets of outer wall 22 together. In one embodiment, inflating needle 54 includes a nozzle, with the nozzle including a tubular member with an aperture defined therein. In various embodiments, inflating and sealing device 500 can allow for continuous filling and sealing of several air-storage chambers 20 as a plurality of double-walled containers 100 move through conveyor 62. [00051] In some embodiments, any known heat sealing technics and appliances can be used to seal the opening in the outer wall used to inflate the air-storage chamber 20; in some alternate embodiments, the opening in air-storage chamber 20 may be self-sealing and not need a separate sealing mechanism. In some embodiments, double-walled container 100 can be provided with a special flap that can be used to quickly deflate the air-storage chamber 20. In some embodiments, the gas used for inflating air-storage chamber 20 is the same gas that is vacuumed out of cavity 16 of double-walled container 100. In some embodiments, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or general ambient air may be used to fill the air- storage chamber.

[00052] In various embodiments, an opening in outer wall 22 is provided for introducing gaseous fluid into air-storage chamber 20 for inflating the same. In some embodiments, the gas is configured to provide controlled conditions of temperature and gas composition within the container. In some embodiments, inflation of air-storage chamber 20 is accomplished by gas supplied from compressed gas cylinder(s).

[00053] In one embodiment, vacuum sealing device 200 is also able to perform the subsequent inflation and sealing functions; in other words, vacuum sealing device 200 and inflating and sealing device 500 can be integrated into a single vacuuming-inflating and sealing device in one embodiment; similarly, vacuuming needle 24 and inflating needle 54 can be integrated into a single vacuuming-inflating needle in one embodiment.

[00054] It should be noted that the removal of air from cavity 16 (prior to the sealing of cavity 16) can be skipped in some embodiments; accordingly, in some embodiments, after article 12 is placed within cavity 16, cavity 16 can be sealed before proceeding to the next step of introducing air into the air-storage chamber 20 to inflate the air-storage chamber. Furthermore, in some embodiments, after article 12 is placed within cavity 16, cavity 16 is not sealed airtight before proceeding to the next step of introducing air into the air- storage chamber 20 to inflated the air-storage chamber; in other words, in some embodiments, cavity 16 is partially sealed such that some amount air can enter and leave the cavity 16 after the air-storage chamber 20 is inflated and sealed. [00055] The system and method as disclosed herein further includes conveyor 62 configured to move the article 12 from one location to the next, as the article is subjected to the packing, labeling and sorting steps. Conveyor 62 may represent a conveyor belt in one embodiment.

[00056] Subsequent to the inflating and sealing of the air-storage chamber 20, labeling station 600 operates labeling device 61 to add identifier 63 on an outer surface of double- walled container 100 containing the article 12. After the air-storage chamber 20 is inflated as shown in FIG. 5 and sealed, the double-walled container 100 is moved or brought proximal to a labeling station 600, as shown in FIG. 6. At the labeling step, labeling device 61 applies identifier 63 onto a surface of double-walled container 100, as shown in FIG. 6. Accordingly, the system and method as disclosed herein also comprises adding identifier 63 to an outer surface of the double-walled container 100. In one embodiment, identifier 63 can be in the form of a barcode. In one embodiment, identifier 63 can be in the form of a QR code. In one embodiment, identifier 63 can be in the form of alphanumeric characters. In one embodiment, identifier 63 can be in some form of any machine-readable code. In various embodiments, identifier 63 can be a SKU (stock keeping unit) number, a UPC (Universal Product Code) or other product code associated with the article. In one embodiment, the identifier is associated with a final destination where the article is to be ultimately delivered to. In some embodiments, identifier 63 may include information such as a destination for the container and / or the article, weight of the article, unit price of the article, total price of the article, etc.

[00057] In various embodiments, the vacuuming operation and the inflating operation can be fully automated with sortation device 700 of control system 740 being configured to control automated packing, labeling and sorting of an assortment of articles. Accordingly, in various embodiments, the packing, labelling and sorting operation is controlled by a control system such as control system 740.

[00058] The inner wall 18 and outer wall 22 of double- walled container 100 can be made of sheets of gas-impermeable plastic which are assembled to form a self-supporting structure strong enough to withstand the necessary internal gas pressure, which may be from a few PSI up to 20 PSI, or higher, depending upon requirements of the system.

Typical wall materials include reinforced polyethylene and vinyl-coated or neoprene-coated nylon fabrics. The resulting double wall can exhibit structural properties after it is inflated to a sufficient internal pressure. While it is not designed to be load-carrying (i.e., to carry any significant load other than that of itself), it can be capable of attaining a desired geometrical shape to form double- walled container 100. The gas for inflating the double wall can also supply insulation between the outside ambience and the article 12 within cavity 16 of double- walled container 100.

[00059] Control system 740 can include a controller and a sorting management server configured for communicating with one or more components of control system 740.

Control system 740 may communicate with various components including sortation device 700 over a network. The network may take on any appropriate form, including a wireless, WLAN, cellular, hard wire, etc., and combinations thereof. Sorting management server may communicate over the network with a cloud infrastructure. Each of the components of sortation device 700 and of control system 740 may be in communication with one or more other components through the network. For example, the controller may further communicate with an article sorting engine, an article routing engine, one or more computer-controlled transport vehicles 72, and with an information acquisition device. In one embodiment, the information acquisition device is in communication with a labeling device to add an image or other identifier to an outer surface of the container carrying the article, wherein the image or other identifier may include information such as a destination for the container and / or the article, weight of the article, unit price of the article, total price of the article, etc. Control system 740, in conjunction with the other components mentioned herein, may direct performance of various steps described herein to deposit the container carrying the article into an appropriate bin, chute or destination receptacle marked for a specific route in or outside of a local market. In one embodiment, the sorting management server includes memory, a processor, and / or one or more communication interfaces. [00060] In one embodiment, control system 740 is supplied with a relational database listing various sets of features to be considered by the control system in sorting article 12. The relational database may include, among others, information such as delivery address, delivery stop, delivery route, and delivery preferences, associated with each article 12.

[00061] The vacuuming step, the sealing step for the cavity, the inflation step, the sealing step for the inflated air-storage chamber, and the sorting step can all be operated by an automated control means that is directed by or controlled by control system 740. In an alternate embodiment, one or more of the packing, labeling and sorting steps may be performed manually. In one embodiment, the control system 740 can be integrated into, and can form part of, sortation device 700.

[00062] After the identifier has been added to the double-walled container 100 by labeling device 61, as illustrated in FIG. 7, sortation device 700 operates to sort article 12 to the appropriate destination receptacle 78 based on identifier 63 present on double-walled container 100. Identifier 63 does not necessarily have to be physically added to an outer surface of double- walled container 100; it is adequate that the identifier is somehow machine readable by the sorting device. In one embodiment, identifier 63 may be imprinted directly onto the outer surface of double-walled container 100.

[00063] The method further comprises determining one destination receptacle 78 among a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit the packaged article within double-walled container 100 based on the information available from identifier 63 of article 12. Sortation device 700, by itself or in cooperation with control system 740, operates to determine a specific destination receptacle 78 among a plurality of destination receptacles that the packaged article within double-walled container 100 needs to be deposited into or diverted to. Sortation device 700 can operate as part of a control system 740 in one embodiment. Control system 740 can operate to control the operations of sortation device 700 from the cloud in one embodiment. In one embodiment, sortation device 700, by itself or in cooperation with control system 740 can identify a specific order (e.g., a first order) associated with the identifier 63 from an orders database available in digital form. The sortation device 700 can then direct the transport vehicle to deposit article 12 at a specific destination receptacle associated with the specific order (e.g., the first order). The method further includes directing a computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to transport the packaged article in double- walled container 100 proximal the specific destination receptacle 78 and deposit the packaged article in double-walled container 100 at the specific destination receptacle 78 as determined by sortation device 700 or control system 740.

[00064] The control system 740 (or generally “the system”) that may or may not form part of sortation device 700 may include a controller forming part of a control system communicating with one or more computer-controlled transport vehicles 72 and other associated components. In the control system as described herein, a computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 traverses over a surface to a destination such as a receptacle or a chute for depositing article 12 that is being sorted. In at least one embodiment, the control system 740 comprises a memory and a processor. The control system 740 operates to transport the article 12 packed within double-walled container 100 carried by the computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to the destination, wherein a tray, belt, or carrier attached to, and capable of, moving relative to the computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 engages the double-walled container 100. The control system 740 further determines a destination receptacle for the article 12 packed in double-walled container 100. In various embodiments, control system 740 reads or otherwise captures the identifier 63 on double- walled container 100; control system 740 then looks up the captured identifier 63 within a database to identify a specific customer order associated with identifier 63; control system 740 further identifies a destination receptacle 78 associated with the specific customer order, for example, based on the information available within the database. Control system 740 then directs computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to transport article 12 proximal to the destination receptacle 78 associated with the destination assigned for the article 12, and manipulates the tray, belt or carrier from a first position to a second position to deposit the article 12 at the destination receptacle. In one embodiment, the destination associated with the specific customer order may be a chute instead of a destination receptacle. In further embodiments, the destination associated with the specific customer order can be receptacle such as a tote, carton, bag, Gaylord, or any other similar type of receptacle configured for receiving and holding a plurality of articles 12 being accumulated.

[00065] In various embodiments, sortation device 700, in conjunction with control system 740, after reading or otherwise capturing the identifier 63 on double-walled container 100, directs computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to transport article 12 proximal to the receptacle or chute or destination receptacle 78 associated with a final destination assigned for the article 12, causes computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to deposit the article 12 by manipulation of the tray, belt or carrier from a first position where the article 12 is located on the tray, belt or carrier to a second position where the article slides towards and onto the surface of the receptacle or chute and deposit in destination receptacle 78. Destination receptacle 78 can be a tote, carton, bag, or any type of receptacle that collects or accumulates a plurality of items.

[00066] In various embodiments, computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 can represent or may include a sorting robot, a transportation robot, a loading/unloading robot or other types of traveling robots. Computer-controlled transport vehicle 72, in addition to being in wireless connection with a controller forming part of a control system 740 and / or sortation device 700, can also be in wireless connection with a server. Based on instructions / signals received from the controller of control system 740 and / or sortation device 700, computer- controlled transport vehicle 72 is capable of traveling forward or backward as well as turning on a surface to a target area associated with the receptacle or chute to perform tasks such as unloading (or loading) article 12. In one embodiment, the controller forms part of sortation device 700. In another embodiment, the controller, the sortation device 700, and all other controllable components including vacuum sealing device 200, inflating and sealing device 500, labeling station 600, and computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 form part a centralized packing, labeling and sorting system such as control system 740, for example.

[00067] The control system 740 comprising the controller may be embodied as a server with a processor and a memory, where the processor executes many instructions provided herein. The controller may be configured to receive an order for a plurality of disparate articles 12 to fulfill an order associated with a customer. The disparate articles may be a plurality of similar articles having different sizes, colors, and the like, or the disparate articles may be largely unrelated. The controller may be configured to determine one destination receptacle among a plurality of destination receptacles to deposit based on the identifier 63 on article 12 packed within double-walled container 100. The controller can be configured to direct computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to transport the selected article which is stowed about a tray, belt or carrier attached to the computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 to the receptacle or chute and deposit / unload the article 12 by manipulation of tray, belt or carrier for deposit of the selected article in the destination receptacle 78 associated with the order.

[00068] Sorting robots such as computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 may come to a full stop at the destination (e.g., proximal destination receptacle 78) location prior to transferring the transported article to the destination receptacle 78. In one embodiment, the system manipulates the tray, belt or other device from a first position to a second position to deposit the article 12 at the destination.

[00069] At an example order processing facility wherein the packing, labeling and sorting steps are undertaken, depending on a typical profile of orders, a single order processing facility may include multiple receptacles and / or multiple chutes leading to the multiple receptacles such as destination receptacle 78. For example, the system as disclosed herein can operate within the order processing facility is a grocer that may need to fill an order profile that includes several grocery articles. Further, as disclosed herein, the system can comprise an article supply location, the article supply location including a plurality of articles such as groceries. Accordingly, in various embodiments, the system can operate to look up identifier 63 (i.e., the article identifier) in a database and assign it to an order, then direct the transport vehicle to deliver the article to the destination receptacle where the order is assigned. Accordingly, the system can operate to perform order consolidation based on the identifier present on the outer surface of the container. In some embodiments, the system can operate to sort grocery items to a shipping destination such as a zip code or a city. In some embodiments, the system can operate to sort grocery items to a shipping destination such as a customer’s postal address. The system can also operate to pack, label and sort articles that come from a plurality of warehouse locations to different exits through a delivery device, so as to realize unified consolidation at a single exit or destination point of all articles in a single order going to a destination in a single package or parcel. This ability can be especially advantageous in any type of parcel fulfillment center.

[00070] According to one or more embodiments, the system includes an information acquisition device that is configured to interact with the articles. The control system can be further configured to capture the identifier on the container holding the article by the information acquisition device interacting with the container holding the article. The control system can also be configured to determine a characteristic of the article by interacting with the identifier of the article with the information acquisition device, wherein the identifier is a SKU number, UPC or other product code associated with the article. In one embodiment, the characteristic can be a final destination for the article. Accordingly, in order to improve the parcel sorting efficiency, preferably, the system can include an information acquisition device, the information acquisition device being configured to acquire the identifier for each article to be sorted. In one embodiment, the identifier can include destination information for the article to be sorted.

[00071] According to one or more embodiments, the control system configured for use with packing, labeling and sorting of a plurality of articles can accordingly include a memory and a processor. The control system is configured to receive a plurality of orders for a plurality of disparate articles, batch the plurality of orders over a period of time, and interact with an identifier affixed to a packaging container associated with the article in order to determine one destination container of a plurality of destination containers to deposit, with a transport vehicle. The destination container is determined based on at least one order and the identifier captured by the information acquisition device for the selected article, direct a first transport vehicle to transport a selected article to the destination container and deposit the selected article by manipulation of the first transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the selected article in the destination container, wherein the destination container is determined based on at least one order that is associated with the selected article, and determine when the order has been completed.

[00072] According to one or more embodiments, the system further includes an article supply location. The article supply location can include a plurality of articles. The system includes a platform assembly that includes a platform elevated from a proximal surface.

The platform defines an opening and a container that is positioned proximal the opening in the platform. The system includes first and second transport vehicles, each having a first position in which an article is stowed about the transport vehicle and a second position in which the article is deposited into a proximal container. The first transport vehicle traverses the platform and positions proximal the opening to deposit the article in the destination container by manipulation from the first position to the second position. In one embodiment, the destination container is associated with a specific order among a plurality of orders in an order database, each order associated with a customer order for purchase.

[00073] In some embodiments, the control system is configured to receive an order for a plurality of disparate articles, pack and label the articles as described herein, determine one destination container of a plurality of receiving destination containers to direct the first transport vehicle to deposit a selected article that has been packed and labeled, direct the first transport vehicle to transport a selected article to the destination container and deposit the article by manipulation of the first transport vehicle from the first position to the second position for deposit of the selected article in the destination container, direct the second transport vehicle to transport a disparate article to the destination container and deposit the disparate article by manipulation of the second transport vehicle from the first position to the second position for deposit of the disparate article in the destination container, and determine when the order for purchase has been completed.

[00074] The control system may further be configured to use an article master file for managing the packing, labeling, and sorting of a plurality of articles. The article master file may be made available to the system, the article master file being a cross-reference table listing all products / articles that a processing facility handles, along with the identifier and order associated with each of the products / articles. The master file may include fields for article description, order associated with the article, category, weight, dimensions, special handling characteristics, and identifier information, among others. When an article is scanned at an induction location by the sortation device 700 at an order processing facility, identifier 63 of article 12 may be communicated to the control system, which in turn may look up which order the article needs to be sorted to, and the destination receptacle associated with the order and / or the article. The control system may then transmit to the computer-controlled transport vehicle 72 the routing information such that the computer- controlled transport vehicle 72 may transport the associated article to the intended destination receptacle 78 to deposit the article 12.

[00075] In some embodiments, the transport of the article for deposit at the intended destination receptacle can be accomplished by means other than by computer-controlled transport vehicle 72. For example, in some embodiments, the transport and deposition of the article can be performed by one or more of: a tilt tray sorter, a cross-belt sorter, a bomb- bay sorter, a pop-up sorter, a pusher sorter, a linear arm sorter, a pocket sorter, a narrow- belt sorter, an activated roller-belt sorter, mail sorter, shoe sorter, Trap arm sorter, STV loop sorter, paddle sorter, pivot wheel sorter. According to one or more embodiments, the transport is performed by track-based sorter. According to one or more embodiments, the transport and deposition is performed by a linear sorter and / or a loop sorter. According to one or more embodiments, at least one of the depositing and the transporting is performed by one or more of a tilt tray sorter, a cross-belt, a bomb-bay sorter, and a shoe sorter. Accordingly, whereas the invention is explained with reference to computer-controlled transport vehicles for the transport and deposition of articles at the destination receptacle, the invention is in no way limited to use with computer- controlled transport vehicles; the invention as described herein can be used in conjunction with all other kinds of sortation devices, techniques and systems. For example, the invention can be used in conjunction with various kinds of sortation equipment, systems and solutions equipment such as cross belt sorters, paddle sorters, pop-up transfer sorters, line shaft pop-up wheel sorters, pop-up steerable roller sorters, pusher or puller sorters, parcel singulators, line sorters, and tilt tray sorters, and diverter sorters, among others.

[00076] Embodiments disclosed herein can thus be advantageously used with any type of sortation system that incorporates a similar process flow where items are sorted initially into groups based on delivery position in the route and then sorted again to get in final delivery route sequence. The types of sortation systems that can utilize the embodiments disclosed herein can include tracked sorters, robotic sorters, loop sorters, linear sorters, over / under sorters, and manual sortation in the manner described. These types of sorters include but are not limited to a tilt tray sorter, a cross-belt sorter, a bomb-bay sorter, a pop up sorter, a pusher sorter, a linear arm sorter, a pocket sorter, a narrow-belt sorter, an activated roller-belt sorter, mail sorter, shoe sorter, trap arm sorter, STV loop sorter, paddle sorter, pivot wheel sorter. In at least one embodiment, the control system is configured to direct transport of the article and depositing of the article at the destination receptacle by a linear sorter or a loop sorter.

[00077] Sortation devices and systems automatically sort products as they move through warehouses and distribution centers. Several of these sortation systems are track-based in that the sortation process includes one or more components that move along fixed tracks. Background information on a few of the equipment, systems and solutions equipment that the invention can be used with is provided below.

[00078] In one embodiment, the system further includes a scale or dimensioning device which interacts with the article to measure one or more physical characteristics of the article, the physical characteristics including items such as weight, mass, volume, height, length, breadth, width, circumference, diameter, density, a parameter related to distribution of mass within the article, and similar other items associated with the article. In this embodiment, the controller may be configured for communicating with the scale or dimensioning device. In some embodiments, the controller may be configured to control the operations of the scale or dimensioning device, and further to receive information corresponding to one or more physical characteristics of the article from the scale or dimensioning device. In some embodiments, the one or more physical characteristics of the article may be in the form of a physical characteristics master file that is made available to the controller. In some embodiments, the deposition of the article by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle can be based on the physical characteristic (or simply the “characteristic”) determined for the article.

[00079] In one embodiment, the controller may be configured for communicating with the scale or dimensioning device. In some embodiments, the controller may be configured to control the operations of the scale or dimensioning device, and further to receive information corresponding to one or more physical characteristics of the article from the scale or dimensioning device. In some embodiments, the one or more physical characteristics of the article may be in the form of a physical characteristics master file that is made available to the controller. In some embodiments, the deposition of the article, for example, by manipulation of the transport vehicle from a first position to a second position for deposit of the article in the destination receptacle can be based on the physical characteristic (or simply the “characteristic”) determined for the article.

[00080] According to at least one embodiment, a scale forming part of the system calculates the mass or weight of the article. In this embodiment, the physical characteristics master file that is made available to the controller can include a database containing the price to be charged per unit mass (e.g., price per lb., price per kilogram, etc.) of the article. For example, in one embodiment wherein the article includes a plurality of bananas, the scale may measure the weight or mass of the bananas to be 3.45 lbs. The controller may then fetch the price per lb. (e.g., unit price value of the article) of banana as $0.89/lb. The controller may then cause the calculation of the total price of the 3.45 lbs. of banana as $3.07. The identifier to be added to the outer surface of the container containing the bananas can include the information such as, “bananas”, “3.45 lbs.”, “$0.89/lb.”, and “total price of $3.07 for 3.45 lbs.”, and similar other information; in some embodiments, this information (i.e., information such as, “bananas”, “3.45 lbs.”, “$0.89/lb.”, and “total price of $3.07 for 3.45 lbs.”) may be included in its own separate label that is added to the outer surface of the container containing the bananas in a manual process or an automated process. The weight information of the article that is measured by the scale can be communicated electronically to the control system that may be in electronic communication with the scale.

[00081] In some embodiments, the weighing of the article by a scale can be performed manually; in other embodiments, the process is automated. Similarly, tasks such as - placing of the article to be sorted within the cavity, introducing air into the air- storage chamber and sealing the air- storage chamber, and adding an identifier to the outer surface of the container - may done manually or may be automated. In some embodiments, these tasks are automated with control system controlling the performance of each of these tasks.

[00082] Accordingly, in various embodiments, the control system is configured to direct measurement of the weight of the article by a scale. In at least one embodiment, the control system is further configured to calculate a price of the article based on the weight of the article and a unit price value for the article. The unit price value for the article can be made available to the control system in the form of an electronic master file. The control system may be further configured to add the price of the article to an outer surface of the container. In one embodiment, the control system is further configured to add the price of the article to the identifier, wherein the identifier may include information such as an end destination where the article is to be delivered, a weight of the article, and a price associated with the article.

[00083] Referring to FIG. 8, flow chart 800 illustrates a method of packing, labeling and sorting an article such as article 12. At Step 101, an article 12 is placed within cavity 16 of double-walled container 100. At Step 102, air is removed from the cavity 16. Step 102 is optional; accordingly, in some embodiments, Step 102 can be skipped whereby Step 103 can immediately follow Step 101. At Step 103, the cavity 16 is sealed. At Step 104, air is introduced into the air-storage chamber 20 of the double-walled container 100 to inflate the air-storage chamber. At Step 105, the inflated air-storage chamber is sealed. At Step 106, identifier 63 is added to an outer surface of the double- walled container 100 containing the article 12. At Step 107, one destination container to deposit the packaged article 12 is determined. At Step 108, a transport vehicle is directed to transport the packaged article 12 within double-walled container 100 and deposit the article 12 at the destination receptacle 78.

[00084] The inflatable aspect of the presently disclosed subject matter can offer cost advantages over conventional materials because of their minimal storage volume and inherent minimal material usage. The inflatable aspect can further advantageously protect the article from damage during transport of the article to its final destination. It can further minimize or eliminate contamination of the article being packed, labelled and sorted. In various embodiments, the double-walled container can advantageously act as a barrier that provides protection against microbes such as fungi, bacteria, vims and other kind of contaminants· The double wall container can accordingly provide a barrier to bacterial, viral, infectious microbes or contaminants· The double wall container can further operate to protect fragile and sensitive items from damage during various steps of the sorting process including, for example, handling, consolidation with other items, packing, transport and delivery.

[00085] In instances where the article to be packaged, labeled and sorted to a destination is a perishable item, embodiments of the presently disclosed subject matter can provide for an air-tight sealed container for the perishable item so as to eliminate air leakage into the air-storage chamber 20 of the double-walled container 100, as well as eliminate air leakage outside of double-walled container 100. Air leakage can amount to about 25% of the heat load to a refrigerating system during the time the delivery truck is in motion to transport the destination receptacle 78 containing refrigerated articles to its ultimate destination. Accordingly, in some embodiments, an insulating gas can be introduced into air-storage chamber 20 of double-walled container 100 such that the inflated double- walled container 100 snuggly fits the inside dimensions of the destination receptacle 78, or the truck, trailer or other transporting vehicle.

[0001] As to the above, they are merely specific embodiments of the present invention; however, the scope of protection of the present invention is not limited thereto, and within the disclosed technical scope of the present invention, any modifications or substitutions that a person skilled in the art could readily conceive of should fall within the scope of protection of the present invention. Thus, the scope of protection of the present invention shall be determined by the scope of protection of the appended claims.