Patent application title: SYSTEM FOR DEPOSITING DOCUMENTS INTO BOXES
Florent Gal (Labergement Les Seurre, FR)
Pascal Catric (Villars, FR)
IPC8 Class: AB65H2916FI
Class name: Sheet feeding or delivering delivering multiple discharge
Publication date: 2011-09-15
Patent application number: 20110221127
The invention relates to a system adapted for printing and for
consecutively placing in boxes moving on a conveyor, documents of the
slip type (11) in correspondence with the boxes and with the products to
be received therein. The system (6) comprises, at the outlet (12) of a
printer (5) supplying documents (11) in the form of one or more printed
sheets for each box, advance and storage means (13, 14) with a succession
of locations (19,20,21,22) for receiving the sheets, between which the
documents (11) advance step by step. Means (27, 28) for transferring the
documents (11) to the boxes are provided at the last location (22). The
advance and storage means (13, 14) define a flat U-shaped path. The
system is intended for order preparation lines.
1. A system for depositing documents in boxes, the system being intended
for an order preparation line with a conveyor along which the boxes, each
intended to be filled with products corresponding to an order, advance,
this system being designed to print, and feed in succession into the
boxes, shipping-type documents corresponding to these boxes and to the
products which are intended to be placed in these boxes, the system
comprising a storage zone for the printed documents, prior to their being
fed into the boxes, wherein it comprises, at the output of a printer
delivering the documents in a form of one or more printed sheets for each
box, advancing and storage means in the form of a series of
sheet-receiving locations, between which the documents advance step by
step, from a starting location where the sheets are received at the
output of the printer, to a final or waiting-for-deposition location, via
one or more intermediate locations, means for transferring the documents
to the boxes being linked to the final location, the advancing and
storage means defining a sideways U path for the documents that are to be
deposited, with an upper run on which the starting location is located,
and a lower run on which the waiting-for-deposition location is located.
2. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 1, wherein it is designed to store the documents of a minimum of four boxes, the number of receiving locations being preferably equal to four.
3. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 1, wherein the advancing and storage means comprise endless parallel belts, each provided with at least one jogger and capable of advancing the sheets from one receiving location to the next, and barriers operated by actuators at the various receiving locations for retaining or releasing the sheets.
4. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 1, wherein a penultimate receiving location comprises a location preceding the waiting-for-deposition location and further comprises a barrier operated by an actuator and thus made movable in a reciprocating manner at high speed, this barrier being in particular moved in an opposite direction to a sheet-advancing direction in order to put the stacks of sheets back into a squared-up condition.
5. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 4, wherein stapling means are provided at a final or waiting-for-deposition location, to unite sheets required to form one document, immediately prior to their transfer to the boxes.
6. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 1, wherein stapling means are provided at the starting location, to unite sheets required to form one document immediately upon exit from the printer.
7. The system for depositing documents as claimed in claim 1, wherein, at the final receiving location, the means for transferring the documents into the boxes take the form of a pusher actuator that moves each document flat and in a guided manner, until it arrives on top of the corresponding box.
 The present invention relates to a system for depositing documents in boxes. More specifically, in the context of an order preparation line, with a conveyor along which boxes made of cardboard advance, each needing to be filled with products corresponding to an order, the invention is concerned with a system designed for outputting, and feeding in succession into the boxes, "order preparation" type documents or "shipping documents" corresponding to these boxes and to the products which are intended to be placed in them.
 In this kind of application, the priority is therefore to coordinate the printing and delivery of the documents with the forward movement of the boxes along the conveyor, and to guide these documents into the boxes.
 One known arrangement is to deposit the documents directly into the boxes, these documents being output one by one as the boxes reach a station equipped with a deposition system provided with a printer or photocopier. In particular, if each document is a bundle comprising a large number of sheets, the deposition rate depends in this instance on the speed with which the printer or photocopier can print and output the sheets. The maximum speed of such a system is six boxes per minute. To achieve a higher speed, two systems have to be placed side by side above the conveyor.
 With this known solution, the documents can be guided into the boxes by a chute, the sheets being drawn downward by gravity alone, or the documents are guided and moved forward between endless grab belts driven at the same speed, one on either side of the sheets to be deposited.
 Document NL 1028696 C2 gives an example of such a device, in which the sheets descend vertically directly into the boxes.
 Another arrangement, allowing higher deposition rates, is to print the documents before the boxes arrive, and have a means of intermediate storage of the printed documents in a "buffer" zone, before depositing them at the appropriate moment in each box as the box arrives at a precise point.
 In one particular type of device of this kind, the sheets are stored vertically, which means that the buffer zone occupies a large volume. In addition, the sheets are not guided all the way into each box: they are ejected from their storage zone and then descend by gravity into the box. Ducting is required to channel the sheets properly, but the ducting is not adaptable to the height of each box. Consequently the accuracy with which the documents are deposited is still random, and serious problems of document reception occur when documents are fed into boxes that are already full of products.
 In another known category of device, a bundle of sheets making up the document is deposited on an endless belt, or other device for the flat transport of sheets, sheet storage being horizontal. At the end of each printout of a bundle of sheets, the belt advances one step, the length of which is equivalent to the width of one printed sheet plus a few centimeters. Since the sheets in this case are stored horizontally, the buffer zone is long; to shorten this buffer zone would not be appropriate because it would then approach the first arrangement, that is to say direct deposition of the documents. All in all, the speed of these horizontal-storage systems can be high, for example around 1800 to 2000 boxes per hour, but their great length is still a drawback.
 The disclosure intends to solve all of the drawbacks described above, and it therefore aims to provide a system for depositing documents in boxes that is particularly suitable for order-preparation lines, which allows the rate of deposition of the documents to be increased, yet occupies minimal space, and that deposits the documents reliably and accurately in the boxes, even if the boxes are full, and adapts if necessary to the height of these boxes.
 For this purpose, the subject of the invention is a system for depositing documents in boxes, more particularly a system which is intended for an order preparation line with a conveyor along which the boxes, made for example of cardboard, and each intended to be filled with products corresponding to an order, advance, and is designed to print, and feed in succession into the boxes, shipping-type documents corresponding to these boxes and to the products which are intended to be placed in these boxes, the system being of the type comprising a storage zone for the printed documents, prior to their being fed into the boxes, this system for depositing documents being essentially characterized in that it comprises, at the output of a printer delivering the documents in the form of one or more printed sheets for each box, advancing and storage means in the form of a series of sheet-receiving locations, between which the documents advance step by step, from a starting location where the sheets are received at the output of the printer, to a final or waiting-for-deposition location, via one or more intermediate locations, means for transferring the documents to the boxes being linked to the final location, the advancing and storage means defining a sideways U path for the documents that are to be deposited, with an upper run where the starting location is located, and a lower run where the waiting-for-deposition location is located.
 This deposition system, which is of an especially compact configuration, is thus capable of collecting the sheets from the printer output, collating all of the printed sheets intended for a given box, and depositing the sheets in the box when the box arrives, the sheets being deposited flat. The system is prefer-ably designed to store the documents of a minimum of four boxes, and the time required to resume printing can run at the same time as four groups of sheets are being deposited, so that the pauses in the printing process do not affect the overall speed of the system.
 A number of receiving locations strictly equal to four is in this case a preferred solution, to keep the system compact.
 The advancing and storage means comprise, in one embodiment of the invention, endless parallel belts, each provided with at least one jogger and capable of advancing the sheets from one receiving location to the next, and barriers operated by actuators at the various receiving locations for retaining or releasing the sheets. The documents, consisting of one sheet or two or more collated sheets, can thus advance in a controlled manner from their starting location, at the printer output, to a final location where they wait to be deposited, the movement of the documents from one location to the next being dependent on the fact that the next location is empty or has been cleared of the sheets which were present there previously. The actuator-operated barriers provided at each inter-mediate location prevent the sheets making up consecutive documents from becoming mixed up, by preventing sheets in one location from sliding by gravity to the next location.
 In one advantageous feature of the system of the invention, the penultimate receiving location, i.e. that preceding the waiting-for-deposition location, comprises a barrier operated by an actuator and thus made movable in a reciprocating manner at high speed, this barrier being in particular moved in the opposite direction to the sheet-advancing direction in order to put the stacks of sheets back into a squared-up condition.
 Stapling means may be provided at the final or waiting-for-deposition location, to unite the sheets required to form one document, immediately prior to their transfer to the boxes.
 In a variant of the system of the invention, stapling means are provided at the first receiving location, to unite sheets intended to form one document immediately on their exit from the printer.
 At the final receiving location, the means for transferring the documents into the boxes are advantageously a pusher actuator capable of moving each document flat and in a guided manner until it arrives on top of the corresponding box. The documents are thus guided all the way to the boxes and there is no need to cover the boxes with ducting. As it lands in the box, the document's printed face is uppermost, and therefore easily readable without having to handle the document inside the box.
 In a variant, the final function of transferring the documents into the boxes may optionally be done by blowing.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 A clearer understanding of the invention will be gained from examining the following description, with reference to the attached schematic drawing showing, by way of example, one embodiment of this document deposition system.
 FIG. 1 is a general top plan view of an order-preparation line equipped with a document deposition system in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is a side view of the document deposition system on its own;
 FIG. 3 is a top view of this document deposition system.
 FIG. 1 shows, in a highly schematic top plan view, an order preparation line in which cardboard boxes 2 rest on a conveyor 3 and advance in the direction of arrow F, forming a continuous stream of boxes. At the start of the line is a barcode reader 4 for identifying each box 2, which at this point is still empty. The barcode reader 4 enables the correct computer file corresponding to this box 2 to be sent, for the purpose of printing a document known as an "order preparation" document, which must be placed in the corresponding box as explained later. Downstream of the barcode reader 4, to one side of the conveyor 3, is a printer 5 linked to the document deposition system itself, which latter has the general reference 6 and is shown more particularly in FIGS. 2 and 3.
 After the printer 5 and the document deposition system 6 there is also a series 7 of two barcode readers whose provided purpose it is to check for consistency between each box 2 and the deposited document which in theory is supposed to correspond to this box 2.
 The installation shown schematically in FIG. 1 also includes an entrance barrier 8 that can be raised above the plane of the conveyor 3 in front of the barcode reader 4, another barrier 9 that can be raised above the plane of the conveyor 3 in front of the deposition system 6, and optionally an exit barrier 10 situated downstream of the series 7 of barcode readers to check consistency. These barriers 8, 9 and 10 can each be housed between two of the drive rollers of the conveyor 3: they are raised above the plane of this conveyor 3 to stop a box 2, and dropped below this plane to allow the boxes to pass freely. The barrier 9 in particular allows a definite and repeatable stopping of each box 2 underneath the deposition system 6 to allow the corresponding document or list to be correctly deposited in it (as detailed later). The optional exit barrier 10 allows optional changing of direction of the boxes 2, as for example to allow a box to move from one conveyor to another (in a configuration comprising two or more conveyors).
 In a manner not illustrated, the deposition system 6 is also linked to an electrical control box containing an automatic controller, a control panel, and a computer that can be of the PC type, with control software.
 Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the deposition system 6 itself, which receives documents 11 at the output 12 of the printer 5 and feeds each document 11 into the corresponding box 2 (not shown here) will now be described. Each document 11, represented schematically as a single sheet, is in reality a document including one or more printed and collated sheets.
 The deposition system 6 comprises, for the advancing and intermediate storage of the documents 11, a set of endless parallel belts 13, e.g. three belts 13, each having a jogger 14. The belts 13 pass around a driving drum 15 and a deflector drum 16 mounted on horizontal axes 17 and 18, respectively.
 The belts 13 thus define, proceeding away from the printer output 12, a path in the shape of a sideways U for the documents 11, with an upper horizontal run, a 180° downward deflection, and a lower horizontal run, this path being in a plane lying transversely relative to the conveyor. Along the sideways U path may be distinguished a series of locations, more particularly (in the example illustrated) four locations, which are respectively:  a starting location 19 situated on the upper horizontal run, at the printer output 12,  a first intermediate location 20 situated on the upper horizontal run;  a second intermediate location 21 situated in the deflection zone and on the lower horizontal run; and  a final reception location termed the waiting-for-deposition location 22 situated on the lower horizontal run.
 At the various locations thus defined are various barriers 23 operated by pneumatic actuators 24 for retaining or releasing the sheets.
 However, between the final two reception locations 21 and 22 is a special barrier 25 operated in the horizontal direction by a pneumatic actuator 26.
 Lastly, at the final reception location 22 there are on the one hand a step in the route of the documents 11 to allow the joggers 14 to pass (continuing their advance with the belts 13), and on the other hand a deposition actuator 27 for operating document ejector pins 28. In operation, the conveyor 3 advances step by step, causing all of the boxes 2 to advance in the same way, and simultaneously the printer 5 prints the corresponding documents 11 and delivers them at its output 12 at the starting location 19 of the document deposition system 6. In this system, the documents 11 also advance step by step from one receiving location to the next, and therefore pass through the two intermediate locations 20 and 21, in order to reach the waiting-for-deposition location 22. The actuator 24--operated barriers 23 control the advance of the documents: before the joggers 14 of the belts 13 push a packet of sheets to the next location, the barrier 23 is retracted from the path of the sheets by the actuator 24 to which it is connected. This barrier 23 is then returned to its active position once the joggers 14 have passed by, so that the sheets of the next packet can be stopped. The last barrier 25, is reciprocated at high speed by its actuator 26 and therefore, by its movement contrary to the direction of advance of the sheets, puts all the sheets of one document 11 back into a squared-up condition. Finally, each document 11 reaches the final location 12 and is transferred flat, by the deposition actuator 27 and its ejector pins 28, to the corresponding box 2.
 To give an example, the speed of operation (expressed as the number of boxes handled per minute) of the document-deposition system described above may be as follows, depending on the number of sheets in one document:  for one sheet: 25 boxes/minute  for 2 sheets: 20 boxes/minute  for 4 sheets: 11 boxes/minute  for 6 sheets: 7 boxes/minute  for 8 sheets: 5 boxes/minute  for 10 sheets: 4 boxes/minute
 Thus, for documents having one sheet each, the hourly rate achieved will be:
 This performance is achieved within a very small volume, owing largely to the fact that the documents are guided along a sideways U path (as illustrated in the drawing).
 In the case of documents having two or more sheets, a stapling module may also be provided to join together the sheets required for one document. As FIG. 1 shows in a highly schematic form, the stapling module 29 may for example be linked to the final receiving location, termed the waiting-for-deposition location 22. In this case, all the sheets of one document are stapled together after being precisely squared up by the barrier 25 operated by the actuator 26, and immediately before their transfer to the boxes 2.
 In a variant that is not shown, the stapling module is linked to the first receiving location 19. The sheets required for a given document are thus united as soon as they come out of printer 5 and travel through all the locations 19 to 22 together.
 The document deposition system to which the invention relates may be installed at the beginning or end of the order preparation line, in a new or pre-existing installation. If the system is located at the start of the order-preparation line, it makes it possible to deposit the order-preparation documents in boxes that are still empty, in other words documents each containing the list of products to be picked and placed in the corresponding boxes all the way along the conveyor as the boxes advance along it. If the system is located at the end of the order preparation line, immediately before the box closing station, the system makes it possible to place delivery documents in boxes filled with previously picked products, for sending off for export for example.
 The following would not represent a departure from the scope of the invention as defined in the accompanying  modification of the details of construction, and use of equivalents of any kind, such as replacement of pneumatic actuators with electric or electro-magnetic (solenoid) actuators;  incorporation of any type of printer into the system;  use of the system for depositing documents of any kind comprising a variable number of sheets, whether or not bound together, the information on these sheets being highly variable to suit the application; and  design of this system for depositing documents in boxes of any format and made of any material.
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