METHOD FOR PACKAGING PRODUCTS IN WALLET PACKAGES

A system for packing products in wallet packages incorporates a main feeding line for transporting the wallet packages as cut lengths of packaging or as strip material. It also includes a feeding mechanism for feeding the products in this main feeding line, and a placing mechanism for placing the products down on the cut lengths of packaging or on the strip material. The feeding mechanism is capable of pivoting in an approximately horizontal direction, in order to release the products into the main feeding line. This allows synchronization of several products supplied via different feeders, without the main feeding speed having to be dramatically reduced. In addition, periodically fed products can also be released in this way into the continuously running main process.

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Description

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a method and an apparatus for packaging products in wallet packages, as generically defined by the preambles to claims 1, 14 and 15.

PRIOR ART

Wallets are combination packages whose absence in the pharmaceutical industry would by now be unthinkable. In the wallet, tablet blister strips and package inserts are secured in a folding box and cannot be removed from it without being destroyed. Hence the package insert cannot be lost. Moreover, regular consumption of the tablets is assured, since the patient can readily see which tablets he has already taken.

Typically in putting the various products into a package, in particular the package inserts and the blister strips with the tablets, cardboard blanks for the folding boxes are delivered to a primary conveyor line. The delivery is done in cadence. The tablet blister strips and package inserts, also delivered in cadence, are laid on the cardboard blanks and typically glued to them. Next, the cardboard blanks are folded and put in the desired wallet form. This method has proved itself in practice. However, it is relatively slow. Typically, from 200 to 300 wallet packages per minute are manufactured.

A method and an apparatus for packaging products in wallets is also known from International Patent Disclosure WO 2006/000172. In it, cardboard blanks are not delivered; instead, the folding boxes are manufactured and folded during the filling process. For that purpose, a strip material, especially cardboard, is advanced from a roll continuously along a primary conveyor line. The strip material is cut to size along this primary conveyor line and folded into the desired wallet form, once the individual blanks have been filled or in other words provided with the necessary products. This apparatus already makes greater throughputs possible. However, as before, it is limited by the speed at which the individual products can be transferred. The disclosure content of this publication is hereby expressly incorporated by reference in its entirety into the present description.

European Patent Disclosure 1 598 828 and German Patent Disclosure DE 10 2004 043 332 disclose apparatuses for transferring blister strips. These apparatuses have means for pivoting the blister strips, and the pivoting motion is effected in the vertical direction.

From European Patent Disclosure EP 1 216 939, an apparatus for buffer storage of products is also known, which includes a carousel device. In this carousel, grippers revolve, in a regular first distribution, over a closed and virtually horizontal circulation path. The grippers can be switched individually between a first state, in which they grasp the products and carry them with them, to a second state, in which they release the products from the grippers. At a transfer point, the grippers pass through, above the input conveyor. At the transfer point, they are switched to the first state, in which they each grasp one product and carry it along with them. A reservoir, in a regular second distribution, has drivers that revolve in a closed, virtually horizontal second circulation path. The second circulation path extends by way of a buffer region parallel to the first circulation path. Inside the buffer region, the grippers can be switched to their second state. The speed of revolution of the grippers is greater than the speed of revolution of the drivers. The control device controls the switching of the grippers to the second state, in such a way that each storage compartment between adjacent drivers downstream of the buffer region receives one product. The disclosure content of this publication is hereby expressly incorporated by reference in its entirety in the present specification.

In German Patent Disclosure DE 10 2005 054 005.8, filed Nov. 10, 2005 and not yet published, a carousel device or turret with pivotable arms is also known. These movable arms allow a tracking and pivoting motion of an arm sleeve for receiving, rotating, and positioned deposition of products. As a result, fluctuations in speed between delivery conveyors and downstream removal conveyors can be compensated for without problems. The disclosure content of this still unpublished German patent application is likewise an integral component of the present specification.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the invention to create a method and an apparatus for packaging products in wallet packages which increase the throughput.

This object is attained by a method and an apparatus having the characteristics of claims 1, 14, and 15, respectively.

In the method of the invention for packing products in wallet packages, the wallet packages are transported as package blanks or as strip material along a primary conveyor line, and the products are placed on the package blanks or the strip material in this primary conveyor line. At least some of the products are delivered to the region of the primary conveyor line in an arbitrary direction and order, and they are transferred to the primary conveyor line synchronously with its conveyor speed, and the primary conveyor line preferably moves continuously. Preferably, at least some of the products are delivered in cadence.

In the method, also of the invention, for packaging products in wallet packages, the wallet packages are transported as package blanks or as strip material along a primary conveyor line, and the products are placed on the package blanks or the strip material in this primary conveyor line, and at least some of the products are transferred to the primary conveyor line via a virtually horizontal pivoting motion.

The apparatus for packaging products in wallet packages has a primary conveyor line for transporting the wallet packages as package blanks or strip material. The apparatus moreover has delivery means for delivering the products to this primary conveyor line as well as placing means for depositing the products on the package blanks or on the strip material. At least some of the delivery means are pivotable in a virtually horizontal direction, for transferring the products to the primary conveyor line.

The methods according to the invention and the apparatus according to the invention permit a synchronization of a plurality of products, delivered via different deliverers, without having to reduce the primary conveyor speed markedly. Conveyor speeds and production speeds of up to 600 or more packages per minute are possible. Moreover, in this way, even products delivered in cadence can be transferred to the continuously running main process.

The methods of the invention and the apparatus of the invention have a plurality of further advantages. The apparatus can be designed in compact form and is nevertheless quite flexible in its design. Moreover, the accessibility of the primary conveyor line is improved, since in particular, fewer components, such as delivery chutes, have to be disposed above this line.

The products can be rotated and oriented in a single step and moreover also brought to the necessary conveyor speed, or in other words synchronized. Product reservoirs can be integrated with the apparatus in a simple way. The methods and the apparatus are economical. Moreover, automatic quality control can be integrated with the apparatus relatively simply.

Further advantageous embodiments and variants of the methods are disclosed in the dependent claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The subject of the invention will be described below in terms of preferred exemplary embodiments, which are shown in the accompanying drawings. Identical elements are identified by the same reference numerals. Shown are:

FIG. 1, a schematic view of a packaging apparatus in the prior art;

FIG. 2, a schematic view of a packaging apparatus according to the invention, in a first embodiment;

FIG. 3, a detail of FIG. 2 in a simplified illustration;

FIG. 4, a schematic view of a turret of the apparatus according to the invention shown in FIG. 2; and

FIG. 5, a detail of an apparatus of the invention, in a second embodiment.

WAYS OF EMBODYING THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows an apparatus for packaging products in wallet packages of the kind described in WO 2006/000172. The wallet package forms an initial package, which is then additionally packed into a second package, in particular a bag package.

Along a preferably rectilinear and preferably virtually horizontally extending primary conveyor line 1, striplike cardboard is unwound from a roll. The primary conveyor line 1 can be single-track or multiple-track. The cardboard strip material 2 is imprinted in a printing unit 3, cut into cardboard blanks in a following cutting and scoring unit 4, and then automatically folded into a wallet W. Before, during and after the folding, individual products, as will be explained later, are placed in and onto the wallet W. In FIG. 1, reference numeral 5 identifies a point where a package insert, for instance, can be added. Reference numeral 6 identifies a point where a tablet blister pack, for instance, can be glued into the partially folded wallet W.

Once the wallet W is folded, it is transported to a horizontal bag forming machine 7 of a known kind. In it, a foil strip material 70 is shaped into a packaging bag 71, and the wallets W are conveyed into this bag. A transverse sealing and cutting unit 72 seals transverse seams and cuts the individual bags 73 apart from one another.

This apparatus is preferably operated continuously, and the conveyor speed along the primary conveyor line 1 can be varied during the packaging process by means of a controller.

In FIG. 2, two delivery units are shown, which furnish the products to be packaged into the wallets and which are located in line with one another in the primary conveying direction. The two units can furnish either the same type of products, or each can furnish its own product, different from what the other unit supplies. It is also possible for fewer or more delivery units to be disposed in line with one another in the primary conveying direction. Preferably, each delivery unit includes one carousel 8, 8′. The remaining embodiment of the delivery unit depends on the type of product to be introduced and also on the way in which the product reaches the delivery unit.

In the first delivery unit, in terms of the primary conveying direction, a supply unit 9 supplies first products, such as package inserts, also called patient information sheets, to a first deliverer 90. The supply unit 9 may, as shown here, include slides that are displaceable for instance on a plate. The deliverer 90 is preferably an endlessly revolving conveyor belt or an endlessly revolving chain of drivers, which extends virtually perpendicular to the primary conveyor line 1 and in a horizontal plane.

A first carousel 8 or turret is disposed at the interface of the deliverer 90 and the primary conveyor line 1. The carousel will be described in further detail hereinafter.

The second delivery unit supplies second products, such as first blister strips filled with tablets, directly from a production unit 9′. A second deliverer 90, preferably also a belt conveyor or a chain of drivers, is again virtually perpendicular to the primary conveying direction and extends in a horizontal plane. Once again, on the end of the second deliverer 90′ oriented toward the primary conveyor line 1, there is a second carousel 8′, for introducing the second products into the primary conveyor line 1 and for depositing these products onto or into the wallet W.

Further delivery units can deliver further tablet blister strips, or other products to be placed in the wallets.

In FIGS. 3 and 4, the delivery means or carrousels 8, 8′ can now be better seen. These carrousels are also called feeding wheels. Each carousel 8, 8′ has a virtually horizontally extending turret 82, which is held by a support arm 83. The turret 82 rotates about a central axis, and it is disposed with a first region above the primary conveyor line 1 and with a second region above the associated deliverers 90, 90′. Downward-protruding package blanks or gripper arms 80, distributed uniformly over the periphery of the turret, are secured to the turret 82. The gripper arms 80 may, but need not, be embodied rotatably about their own axis. Suction cups 81 are present on the downward-protruding free ends of the gripper arms 80 and can be triggered via a pneumatic connection 84. By means of these suction cups 81, the individual products can be grasped from the deliverers 90, 90′ and transferred to the primary conveyor line 1 in the desired alignment and position. The products can be rotated and aligned during the repositioning. Moreover, as they are deposited, a pressure can be exerted on the deposited product, so that it is forced into the wallet. This can serve to cause the product to latch into a predetermined recess, or to secure the product in the wallet by means of a spot of glue applied to the wallet and/or the product beforehand.

The carrousels 8, 8′ can all be embodied identically, or they can be embodied differently, depending on the type of product to be repositioned. In particular, the gripper arms 80 and the shape and number of suction cups 81 can be variously designed. Moreover, instead of the suction cups 81, mechanical grippers or other means suitable for repositioning the products can be employed.

For repositioning the products, the carousel 8, 8′ rotates at a speed which is adapted to the primary conveying direction of the primary conveyor line 1, and which at the same time takes the delivery rate of the deliverer 90, 90′ into account. If too few products are supplied, then the primary conveyor line 1 can be operated more slowly by means of a central controller. However, if too many products reach the carousel 8, 8′ when the maximum attainable speed of the primary conveyor line 1 has already been reached, or if other conditions make it impossible for this speed to be increased, then reservoirs are necessary.

In a first embodiment, the carousel 8, 8′ can itself be used as a reservoir, by embodying the gripper arms 80 pivotably, as is proposed in the aforementioned, still unpublished German Application DE 10 2005 054 005.8. This embodiment is especially suitable whenever the process preceding the delivery cannot be synchronized with the primary process in FIG. 1, or in other words the manufacture of the wallets and the packaging of the products in the wallets cannot be synchronized. The movable arms can compensate to a certain extent for fluctuations in the speeds of the two processes.

In addition to or instead of these pivotable gripper arms, a storage path 10 with a closed circulation path can be used, as shown in FIG. 5. The repositioning of the products from this storage path 10 to the primary conveyor line 1 is preferably effected by means of a third carousel 8′″. This third carousel 8′″ is preferably designed identically or similarly to the carrousels 8, 8″ described above. In particular, its gripper arms preferably have suction cups. Moreover, the gripper alms may be embodied either rigidly or pivotably. Such an apparatus is described in detail in the European Patent Disclosure 1 216 939 mentioned at the outset. The use of this kind of closed circulation path has the advantage that even major fluctuations in speed can be compensated for, and that further reservoirs are dispensed with.

In the method of the invention, which can for instance be performed by means of the above-described apparatus, various components or products, such as tablet blister strips and package inserts, are delivered to the wallet in the packaging process. At least some of these components are delivered from different manufacturing, processing and/or supplying processes in different directions and essentially are not synchronized with the primary process of FIG. 1. At least some of the components are typically delivered not continuously but rather in cadence.

The primary process, conversely, is distinguished by a high continuous speed. The individual products must therefore, regardless how they are furnished, be delivered to the primary conveyor line synchronously with that speed.

Thanks to the carrousels described above, the various products can now be delivered from arbitrary directions. This enhances the flexibility of the layout of the entire system. The accessibility can always be selected optimally. Moreover, the throughput can be kept at a high level, since the products can be transferred synchronously with the process speed. The process speed can either be the primary conveying direction, or depending on the type of products delivered, it can be determined by a delivery unit or the associated production unit for an individual product.

The total output of the process is controlled either by the primary process of FIG. 1 or by an upstream process, that is, a process that is associated with a delivery operation. Preferably, the output is controlled such that a buffer or reservoir is kept at a virtually constant degree of filling between the primary process and the output-determining process.

It is also advantageous if automatic quality control of the delivered products is already done in the delivery, and products that do not meet the desired requirements are rejected before the repositioning to the primary conveyor line 1.

In these exemplary embodiments, a continuously operating packaging means for wallets has been described. The methods of the invention and the apparatus of the invention may also be used, however, with other apparatuses, and in particular cadenced packaging units. However, continuously operating packaging units are preferred.

LIST OF REFERENCE NUMERALS

  • 1 Primary conveyor line
  • 2 Cardboard strip material
  • 3 Printing unit
  • 4 Cutting and scoring unit
  • 5 Package insert
  • 6 Tablet blister strip
  • 7 Horizontal bag forming machine
  • 70 Foil strip material
  • 71 Packaging bag
  • 72 Transverse sealing and cutting unit
  • 73 Bag
  • 8 First carousel
  • 80 Gripper arm
  • 81 Suction cup
  • 82 Turret
  • 83 Support arm
  • 84 Pneumatic connection
  • 8′ Second carousel
  • 8″Third carousel
  • 9 Supply unit
  • 90 First deliverer
  • 9′ Production unit
  • 90 Second deliverer
  • 10 Storage path
  • W Wallet

Claims

1-18. (canceled)

19. A method for packaging products in wallet packages, comprising the steps of:

transporting the wallet packages as package blanks or as strip material along a primary conveyor line;
placing the products on the package blanks or on the strip material in this primary conveyor line;
delivering at least some of the products in an arbitrary direction and order, to a region of the primary conveyor line; and
transferring the at least some of the products to the primary conveyor line synchronously with a conveyor speed of the primary conveyor line, wherein the primary conveyor line moves substantially continuously.

20. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein at least some of the products are delivered to the region of the primary conveyor line in cadence.

21. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the conveyor speed is predetermined by the primary conveyor line.

22. The method as defined by claim 20, wherein the conveyor speed is predetermined by the primary conveyor line.

23. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the conveyor speed is determined by a process which is located upstream of a delivery of at least some of the products.

24. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the conveyor speed is varied.

25. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the step of synchronization of the transfer of the products to the primary conveyor line is effected by means of a virtually horizontal pivoting motion of the products.

26. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the step of synchronization of the transfer of the products to the primary conveyor line is effected by means of at least one virtually horizontally rotating carousel.

27. The method as defined by claim 26, wherein at least two carousels transfer products to the primary conveyor line.

28. The method as defined by claim 27, wherein at least two carousels reposition products from different upstream processes to the primary conveyor line.

29. The method as defined by claim 23, wherein a single upstream process determines the conveyor speed of the primary conveyor line.

30. The method as defined by claim 28, wherein a single upstream process determines the conveyor speed of the primary conveyor line.

31. The method as defined by claim 29, wherein buffer storage means are furnished for products of second and further upstream processes.

32. The method as defined by claim 31, wherein either movable arms of a carousel, or a further self-contained circulation path, is used as the buffer storage means.

33. The method as defined by claim 19, wherein the primary conveyor line extends virtually horizontally.

34. A method for packaging products in wallet packages, comprising the steps of:

transporting the wallet packages as package blanks or as strip material along a primary conveyor line;
placing the products on the package blanks or on the strip material in this primary conveyor line; and
transferring at least some of the products to the primary conveyor path via an at least virtually horizontal pivoting motion.

35. An apparatus for packaging products in wallet packages, in comprising:

a primary conveyor line transporting the wallet packages as package blanks or as strip material;
delivery means for delivering the products to this primary conveyor line; and
placing means for placing the products on the package blanks or on the strip material, wherein at least some of the delivery means are pivotable in a virtually horizontal direction, in order to transfer the products to the primary conveyor line.

36. The apparatus as defined by claim 35, wherein the apparatus has at least one carousel, rotatable about a virtually vertical axis, for pivoting the products.

37. The apparatus as defined by claim 35, wherein at least two carousels are disposed in line with one another along the primary conveyor line.

38. The apparatus as defined by claim 35, wherein the carousels have vacuum suction devices for grasping and setting down the products.

Patent History

Publication number: 20090126322
Type: Application
Filed: Mar 20, 2007
Publication Date: May 21, 2009
Inventors: Cyrille Fuellemann (Schaffhausen), Daniel Schwarz (Unterstammheim)
Application Number: 12/299,834

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: With Successive Like Contents Or Layers Of Like Contents (53/475); Rotary (53/253)
International Classification: B65B 5/02 (20060101); B65B 35/16 (20060101); B65B 35/26 (20060101);