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United States Patent Application 20070090006
Kind Code A1
Kelsch; Jeffery April 26, 2007

Spindle sleeve

Abstract

A spindle sleeve configured to be placed over a spindle for holding a plurality of manufactured articles is provided. The spindle sleeve includes a hollow cylindrical body having a top end and an open bottom end and configured to slip over the spindle. An inner diameter of the cylindrical body is greater than an outer diameter of the spindle. The spindle sleeve may be used for stacking and transporting a plurality of optical discs. In such an instance, an outer diameter of the cylindrical body is smaller than a diameter of a center hole of the optical disc.


Inventors: Kelsch; Jeffery; (Waymart, PA)
Correspondence Address:
    COOPER & DUNHAM, LLP
    1185 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS
    NEW YORK
    NY
    10036
    US
Serial No.: 259487
Series Code: 11
Filed: October 26, 2005

Current U.S. Class: 206/310; G9B/23; G9B/33.011
Class at Publication: 206/310
International Class: B65D 85/30 20060101 B65D085/30


Claims



1. A spindle sleeve configured to be placed over a spindle for holding a plurality of manufactured articles, said spindle sleeve comprising: a hollow cylindrical body having a top end and an open bottom end and configured to slip over the spindle, wherein an inner diameter of said cylindrical body is greater than an outer diameter of the spindle.

2. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, further comprising a tip assembly removably attached to a top end of said cylindrical body.

3. The spindle sleeve of claim 2, wherein said tip assembly is self-centering relative to the spindle.

4. The spindle sleeve of claim 2, wherein said tip assembly includes a threaded stud which screws into a tapped hole of complementary thread in the spindle.

5. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein said spindle sleeve is configured for stacking optical discs, and said outer diameter of said cylindrical body is smaller than a diameter of a center hole of the optical disc.

6. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein a bottom end of said cylindrical body has a notch-like configuration, and said notch-like configuration serves as a detent for a riser plate which slides down said cylindrical body.

7. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein said spindle sleeve body is made of plastic.

8. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein said spindle sleeve body comprises a polymer material.

9. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein said spindle sleeve is configured for stacking and transporting at least 25 optical discs.

10. The spindle sleeve of claim 1, wherein said spindle sleeve is configured to hold at least 125 optical discs, and said spindle sleeve weighs substantially less than said 125 optical discs.

11. A sleeve-like device configured to slip over a spindle for stacking optical discs, wherein said device comprises an annular body having an outer diameter smaller than a diameter of a center hole of an optical disc, and a bottom end of said annular body has a notch-like configuration serving as a base over which the optical discs stack.

12. The device of claim 11, wherein optical discs are stacked on said device in a replication area of an optical disc manufacturing line.

13. The device of claim 12, wherein the device with the optical discs stacked on the device is manually transported from the replication area to a printing area.

14. The device of claim 11, wherein optical discs are stacked on said device in a printing area of an optical disc manufacturing line.

15. The device of claim 14, wherein the device with the optical discs stacked on the device is manually transported from the printing area to a packaging area.

16. The device of claim 11, wherein optical discs are stacked on said device in a packaging area of an optical disc manufacturing line.
Description



TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] This patent disclosure relates to an apparatus for transporting articles which are normally stacked on a spindle in a manufacturing process. In particular, the disclosure relates to a sleeve-like device placed over the spindle onto which the articles are stacked.

[0002] Such an apparatus or device may be used in the manufacturing of, for example, optical discs in which discs are typically accumulated on spindles at various stages of the manufacturing line.

DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART

[0003] Use of optical discs, such as CDs (compact discs) and DVDs (digital versatile discs or digital video discs), as storage media for storing and transporting content (such as audio, video, graphics, computer software, etc.) in an optically readable manner has been popular for a number of years. Several formats of optical discs are currently available, including (A) read-only formats such as CD-DA (digital audio compact disc), CD-ROM (CD-read-only memory), DVD-ROM, and other formats wherein content is pre-recorded on the disc (such as by using an injection molding process), and (B) recordable formats in the form of (i) write-once read-many times formats such as CD-R (CD-recordable), and DVD.+-.R (DVD-recordable), etc., or (ii) rewritable formats such as CD-RW (CD-rewriteable), DVD-RAM (DVD-Random Access Media), DVD-RW or DVD+RW (DVD-rewriteable), PD (Phase change Dual disk) and other phase change optical discs. Optical disc players for these optical discs use a red laser. Optical discs using a blue laser have also been introduced, such as HD-DVD and BD (each of which includes read-only, recordable and rewritable formats).

[0004] Some exemplary optical disc manufacturing techniques (including methods, systems and apparatuses) are discussed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,181,081, 5,315,107, 5,766,495, 5,792,538, 5,900,098, 5,932,042, 5,932,051, 5,932,058, 5,935,673, 5,949,752, 5,958,651, 5,995,481, 5,997,976, 6,117,284, 6,124,011, 6,160,787, 6,309,496, 6,309,727, 6,361,845, 6,440,248, 6,527,538, 6,726,973 and 6,896,829, which are incorporated by reference herein in their entireties in order to more fully describe the state of the art as of the date of the subject matter described and claimed herein. Additional exemplary techniques are discussed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,995,799, 5,766,359, 5,800,687, 5,863,328, 5,863,399, 5,913,653, 6,261,403, 6,368,435 and 6,814,825, which are also incorporated by reference herein in their entireties.

[0005] For each of the above-mentioned optical disc formats, optical disc manufacturing typically includes a number of stages, including glass mastering, replication, printing, quality assurance and packaging. A glass mastering process is performed to create stampers that are used to injection mold the individual discs. A stamper can typically be used to form hundreds of thousands of discs. During replication, substrates for individual discs are injection molded using stampers, followed by formation of additional layers (for example, reflective layer, protective layer, etc.) on each substrate, and in addition a chuck or clamping area is formed in a central portion of the disc, with a center hole at the center of the clamping area, allowing the disc to be placed on a spindle. Discs are replicated typically at a rate of a few seconds per disc. As a disc comes off of the replication line, it is typically deposited (such as by a robotic mechanism) onto a spindle through the center hole of the disc. Discs are stacked one on top of another and accumulate on the spindle which typically can accommodate a hundred or more discs.

[0006] The discs on the spindle are typically transported to a printing area where disc labels are applied to each disc. As a disc comes off of the printing line, it is deposited onto another spindle. The discs on the second spindle may optionally be transported to a testing area where each disc is tested and/or otherwise inspected via an automated process, in order to meet quality assurance requirements. As a disc comes off of the testing line, it is deposited onto a third spindle. The discs on the third spindle are then transported to a packaging area where they are packaged, either into suitable cases for individual discs or into bulk packaging for multiple discs. Thus, several spindles are used in an optical disc manufacturing line.

[0007] The term "manufacturing line" as used herein is used in its broadest sense, including an automated manufacturing line wherein articles move from one stage of the line to another stage with manual transport of the article by an operator, as well as including a manufacturing line wherein an article is manually transported from one stage of the line to another stage.

[0008] When an optical disc manufacturing line is automated to transport spindles bearing discs from one area of the line to another area of the line, a large number of spindles must be maintained in each such automated line. Such spindles are typically made of a metal or alloy, and therefore the spindles can be relatively heavy and costly. Further, mechanized movement of the spindles from one stage to another stage of an automated manufacturing line causes the spindle assembly to wear down rather quickly. Therefore, substantial replacement costs are associated with use of spindles in an automated line.

[0009] Alternatively, the discs on the spindles are manually transferred from one area to another area of the line. In such circumstances, the spindle are typically disengaged manually from the spindle retention mechanism, and then manually transported. A spindle bearing discs is of course even heavier than the spindle without discs. Accordingly, spindle disengagement and transport requires operator attention and consumes operator time and energy. In addition, operator disengagement and transport of the spindle also can cause wear to the spindle assembly. Further, a large number of spindles must be maintained in order to allow the line to continue to operate even when a spindle is being transported from one stage to another stage of the manufacturing line.

[0010] There is a need for improved techniques for transporting articles which are normally stacked on a spindle.

SUMMARY

[0011] This application provides a spindle sleeve configured to be placed over a spindle for holding a plurality of manufactured articles. In one embodiment, the spindle sleeve includes a hollow cylindrical body having a top end and an open bottom end and configured to slip over the spindle. An inner diameter of the cylindrical body is greater than an outer diameter of the spindle.

[0012] The application also provides a sleeve-like device configured to slip over a spindle for stacking optical discs. The sleeve-like device comprises an annular body having an outer diameter smaller than a diameter of a center hole of an optical disc. A bottom end of the annular body has a notch-like configuration serving as a base over which the optical discs stack.

[0013] The spindle sleeve or sleeve-like device is preferably made of plastic, or another polymer material which can be molded, and is light-weight and durable. Thus, the spindle sleeve or sleeve-like device is configured (in place of a spindle) for transporting a plurality of manufactured articles.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] The features of the present application can be more readily understood from the following detailed description with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein:

[0015] FIG. 1 shows a front view of a sleeve-like device configured to be placed over a spindle for stacking manufactured articles, according to an example;

[0016] FIGS. 2a and 2b show front views of a body and a tip, respectively, of a spindle sleeve, in accordance with another example;

[0017] FIG. 3a shows a front view of a spindle sleeve, according to another example;

[0018] FIGS. 3b and 3c show a front view and a top view, respectively, of a body of the spindle sleeve of FIG. 3a; and

[0019] FIG. 3d through 3f show a front view, a side view and a top view, respectively, of a removable tip of the spindle sleeve of FIG. 3a.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0020] This disclosure provides tools such as a spindle sleeve or sleeve-like device configured to slip over a spindle for stacking a plurality of manufactured articles (for example, flat discs or cards, such as optical discs), in order to facilitate transport of the plurality of discs.

[0021] For example, in the manufacturing of optical discs, as discussed infra, discs are stacked on spindles at various stages of a manufacturing line. Conventional manufacturing systems use metal spindles which can manually be removed from the line. However, the metal spindles are rather costly, and therefore it is desirable to maintain a minimum number of spindles for use in the manufacturing system. For similar reasons, it is desirable to avoid using the spindles as transport devices.

[0022] Use of spindle sleeves or sleeve-like devices which slide over the spindles, as provided by this disclosure, allows the spindles to remain in place in the manufacturing system while allowing the spindle sleeve or sleeve-like device bearing the stacked discs to be transported. That is, a spindle stays within a stage of the manufacturing line, although the spindle may move from one location, at which discs are actively being deposited thereon, to another location, at which discs on the spindle await pickup by an operator, within the same stage of the manufacturing line. For example, a replication stage of a manufacturing line typically includes a plurality of spindles configured on a carousel-like or rotating platform. Replicated discs are stacked on a spindle until the spindle approaches full capacity, and then the spindle is rotated via the platform to another location and another spindle is rotated into place at the same time to receive replicated discs. An operator in a conventional system periodically bearing discs to a cart for transport of the spindles to another stage moves the spindles of the manufacturing line, and empty spindles are placed on the platform to replace the removed spindles. Therefore, a large number of extra spindles, beyond the number of spindles which are stationed on the platform, in order to transport discs on a single manufacturing line. For example, in a line with a platform holding four spindles, a dozen or more additional spindles are typically maintained for transporting discs in a conventional system.

[0023] Use of spindle sleeves can replace transport of the spindles and maintenance of the additional spindles. Therefore, in the example of a platform of four spindles, only the four spindles are required, and a few spindles, only the four spindles are required, and a few spindles can be maintained as spares to be shared by a plurality of liens, for the purpose of replacing damaged or worn spindles.

[0024] The spindle sleeve or sleeve-like devices are preferably plastic or made of a polymer material which can be molded and renders the device easy to manufacture and light-weight, while being durable and relatively inexpensive at the same time. Since the devices are inexpensive, a large stock can be maintained and a minimum of spare spindles are maintained in stock.

[0025] Further, although metal spindles are used at times in a conventional manufacturing system to transport discs stacked thereon from one stage to another stage of the manufacturing line, they are rarely used to ship stacked discs from one location to another location, since the metal spindles are relatively expensive. When there is a need to ship bulk volumes of stacked discs (that is, which are not individually packaged), the stacked discs in a conventional system are transferred onto a disc holding device (such as a plastic shipping spindle). Such a transfer requires great care and attention to avoid damage to the discs, and often includes flipping the spindle bearing the discs upside-down to allow the force of gravity to aid the transfer process.

[0026] Use of the spindle sleeve or sleeve-like devices of this disclosure avoids the need for such transfers of discs, because the spindle sleeves bearing the discs can be removed from the spindles, moved to a packaging area, and packaged for bulk shipment without removing the discs from the spindle sleeves, since the devices are rather inexpensive.

[0027] Some exemplary embodiments of a spindle sleeve or sleeve-like device will now be discussed with reference to the drawings.

[0028] A spindle sleeve 10, in accordance with one example, configured to be placed over a spindle for stacking manufactured articles (such as optical discs) is shown in FIG. 1. The spindle sleeve 10 includes a hollow cylindrical body 11 having a top end 11a and an open bottom end 11b and is configured to slip over a spindle. An inner diameter ID11 of the cylindrical body 11 is greater than an outer diameter of the spindle. It is desirable to allow some space between the spindle and the inner wall of the spindle sleeve body, in order for the spindle sleeve to slip on and off the spindle readily, and also perhaps for other reasons such as expansion of the spindle under some conditions, and stress and strain of the spindle sleeve.

[0029] The spindle sleeve 10 can be configured to stack, for example, optical discs. For example, the bottom end 11b of the annular body can have a notch-like base. Moreover, an outer diameter OD11 is smaller than a diameter of a center hole of an optical disc.

[0030] The spindle sleeve 10 as shown is a single molded piece, but can alternatively be an assembly of pieces.

[0031] In another example, a sleeve-like device 20 comprises an annular body 21 (FIG. 2a) having an outer diameter OD21 smaller than a diameter of a center hole of an optical disc, and an inner diameter ID21 of the cylindrical body 11 greater than an outer diameter of the spindle, such that the device 20 can readily slip over a spindle for stacking optical discs. A bottom end 21b of the annular body has a notch-like configuration 22 serving as a base over which the optical discs stack. A riser plate is also typically inserted prior to any. The notch-like configuration 22 serves as a detent for a riser plate which slides down the cylindrical body 21. A tip 23 (FIG. 2B) can be removably attached to a top end 21a of the cylindrical body 21. A bottom portion 23a of the tip 23 has an outer diameter slightly smaller than the inner diameter ID21 of the hollow body 21.

[0032] A removable tip is preferably used because the placement of articles on, and removal of articles from, the spindle sleeve has a tendency to wear out the tip. As shown in FIG. 2B, the tip assembly 23 includes a coarse threaded stud 23b that screws into a tapped hole of complementary thread and diameter in the metal spindle. The tip assembly can also (or alternatively) include a magnet which adheres to a tip of the spindle, and thus is self-centering relative to the spindle.

[0033] The spindle sleeve as shown in FIGS. 2a and 2b is configured for stacking and transporting 125 to 150 optical discs. However, the spindle sleeve can be configured to hold more or less optical discs, according to the capacity of the spindles for which the spindle sleeve is configured to cover. The spindle sleeve including the annular body and the tip is preferably made of plastic or other light-weight polymer materials which can be molded and are durable. As such, it is preferable that the spindle sleeve weighs substantially less than 125 optical discs.

[0034] FIGS. 3a through 3f collectively show a spindle sleeve 30 which is a variation of the spindle sleeve 20, adapted with a snap feature, including a slot 31c in the body 31 and pivoting tabs 33c in the tip assembly 33, which allows the removable tip 33 to remain securely attached to the spindle sleeve body 31. In addition, the tip assembly has a removed core 33d for material reduction.

[0035] The spindle sleeve and sleeve-like devices can be used in various stages of optical disc manufacturing. For example, discs can be stacked on the device in a replication area of an optical disc manufacturing line. As another example, discs can be stacked on a spindle sleeve device in a printing area of an optical disc manufacturing line. A spindle sleeve with discs stacked thereon can facilitate manual transport of the discs from the replication area to a printing area. Further, when printing on the discs is completed, the device with the discs stacked thereon can be transported from the printing area to a packaging area. The device with the discs bearing printing can be packaged for bulk shipment.

[0036] In describing examples or exemplary embodiments, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity in this disclosure. However, the disclosure of this patent specification is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected and it is to be understood that each specific element includes all technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner.

[0037] In addition, the above specific embodiments are illustrative, and many variations can be introduced on these embodiments without departing from the spirit of the disclosure. For example, elements and/or features of different illustrative and exemplary embodiments herein may be combined with each other and/or substituted for each other within the scope of this disclosure and appended claims.

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