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United States Patent Application 20160311565
Kind Code A1
Scheffler; Jan Fabian ;   et al. October 27, 2016

CAPSULE FILLING MACHINE

Abstract

A capsule filling machine for filling capsules includes a machine housing, a machine table, and a conveyor wheel whose perimeter includes capsule holders, each of which has capsule receivers for capsules. A conveyor wheel drive is configured to be rotated incrementally so that the capsule holders move incrementally along a conveyor track. A plurality of process stations are arranged along the conveyor track at or on the machine table and include at least one feeding station, at least one opening station, at least one filling station, at least one closing station, and at least one ejection station. The process stations have process drives for their operation, which are controllable independently of the conveyor wheel drive. A cabinet includes a computer machine for operating the capsule filling machine and controlling the conveyor wheel drive as well as the process drives is connected to the conveyor drive and the process drives.


Inventors: Scheffler; Jan Fabian; (Hamburg, DE) ; Malick; Daniel; (Ahrensburg, DE) ; Kruse; Jan Eric; (Seevetal, DE)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Fette Engineering GmbH

Schwarzenbek

DE
Family ID: 1000001881301
Appl. No.: 15/136037
Filed: April 22, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B65B 43/52 20130101; B65B 65/02 20130101; B65B 43/40 20130101; B65B 7/28 20130101
International Class: B65B 43/52 20060101 B65B043/52; B65B 43/40 20060101 B65B043/40; B65B 65/02 20060101 B65B065/02; B65B 7/28 20060101 B65B007/28

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
Apr 24, 2015DE10 2015 106 369.7

Claims



1. A capsule filling machine for filling capsules made up of a capsule top part and a capsule bottom part, the capsule filling machine comprising a machine housing; a machine table arranged in the machine housing; a conveyor wheel arranged in the machine housing, wherein a perimeter of the conveyor wheel comprises a plurality of capsule holders, each of which has a plurality of capsule receivers for one capsule; a conveyor wheel drive arranged in the machine housing, wherein the conveyor wheel is configured to be rotated incrementally so that the capsule holders move incrementally along a conveyor track; and a plurality of process stations arranged along the conveyor track at or on the machine table and also arranged in the machine housing, wherein the process stations comprise at least one feeding station for feeding capsules to be filled into the capsule receivers, at least one opening station for opening the capsules to be filled by separating the capsule top parts from the capsule bottom parts, at least one filling station for filling the capsule bottom parts with material to be filled, at least one closing station for closing the filled capsules by connecting the capsule top parts with the capsule bottom parts, and at least one ejection station for ejecting the filled capsules; and wherein the process stations have process drives for their operation, which are controllable independently of the conveyor wheel drive; and a cabinet arranged in the machine housing, the cabinet comprising a computer machine for operating the capsule filling machine and controlling the conveyor wheel drive as well as the process drives and connected at least with the conveyor drive and the process drives via lines arranged within the machine housing.

2. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, wherein the conveyor wheel drive is a servo drive, comprising a servo motor driving the conveyor wheel in a rotary manner via a gearbox.

3. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, wherein the conveyor wheel drive is a direct drive.

4. The capsule filling machine according to claim 3, wherein the direct drive is a torque drive.

5. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, wherein the process drives are drives selected from the group consisting of servo drives, direct drives, torque drives, and linear drives.

6. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, wherein the cabinet is arranged in a free space below the machine table on a floor plate of the machine housing.

7. The capsule filling machine according to claim 6, wherein the machine table is arranged on a carrier plate below which the free space accommodating the cabinet is located.

8. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, further comprising a removal device with which the cabinet can be removed from the machine housing.

9. The capsule filling machine according to claim 8, wherein the removal device comprises rails arranged on the floor plate of the machine housing, on which the cabinet is arranged.

10. The capsule filling machine according to claim 9, wherein the rails are telescopic rails, so that the cabinet can be moved out of the machine housing by extending the telescopic rails.

11. The capsule filling machine according to claim 1, wherein a control unit for controlling the computer machine by an operator is provided outside the machine housing.

12. The capsule filling machine according to claim 11, wherein the control unit is arranged next to the machine housing and separately from it and communicates with the computer machine wirelessly or via a wired connection.

13. The capsule filling machine according to claim 11, wherein the control unit is arranged on a holder fastened on the machine housing and communicates with the computer machine wirelessly or via a wired connection fed through or on the holder.
Description



CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application is based upon and claims priority to German Patent Application No. 10 2015 106 369.7, filed Apr. 24, 2015, under relevant sections of 35 USC .sctn.119, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

[0002] The invention relates to a capsule filling machine for filling capsules made up of a capsule top part and a capsule bottom part.

[0003] The electrics and electronics of such capsule filling machines take up more and more space. Since the introduction of capsule filling machines controlled by computer machines, cabinets have been provided, which accommodate the computer machine for controlling the capsule filling machine. In known capsule filling machines, the cabinet is either permanently mounted, for example flange-mounted, laterally on the outside on the machine housing, or set up as an external cabinet separately from the machine housing either in the same room as the capsule filling machine or in a separate engineering room. When using an external cabinet, the required connection lines for controlling the capsule filling machine from the cabinet over the ground, channels or other protected or unprotected line paths to the capsule filling machine are guided and connected with the corresponding components of the capsule filling machine.

[0004] Both previously known arrangements of cabinets have disadvantages. In the case of cabinets fastened on the outside of the machine housing, one side of the capsule filling machine is no longer accessible or only accessible to a limited degree. Cleaning and installation work of this side is thereby made more difficult or impossible. As a result, the time required to perform these activities is increased and the ergonomics of the capsule filling machine is worsened. Further, the floor space of the capsule filling machine is greater than necessary.

[0005] In the case of external cabinets, access to the capsule filling machine can be improved. However, attention must already be paid to the correct cable length of the lines leading from the cabinet to the capsule filling machine during product planning and this must be taken into consideration both in the machine construction of the supplier as well as set up again or readjusted in the event of a potential relocation or storage of the machines to another filling room or another location of the capsule filling machine. Furthermore, in the case of the arrangement of the lines, it should be noted that the cables or cable harnesses are laid such that contamination is avoided or they can also be cleaned of dusty products. Lines guided through the room accommodating the capsule filling machine are bothersome for operating personnel located in the room and make cleaning more difficult and take up too much space. If the external cabinet is arranged in the production room accommodating the capsule filling machine, additional space is needed. In contrast, if the cabinet is arranged in an external engineering room, maintenance is made more difficult. Since a critical length of the lines are guided from the cabinet to the capsule filling machine, transfer problems can occur or expensive signal converters need to be used. Large interfaces or connector fields are required for the connection. The retrofitting of subassemblies is made more difficult.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The object of the invention is to provide a capsule filling machine, in the case of which the cabinet can be arranged while avoiding the disadvantages named above. In particular, lines guided through the production room should be avoided to the greatest extent possible. At the same time, access to the capsule filling machine should not be impaired.

[0007] The invention relates to a capsule filling machine for filling capsules made up of a capsule top part and a capsule bottom part, comprising a machine housing, in which a machine table is arranged, and a conveyor wheel, on the perimeter of which a plurality of capsule holders is provided, each of which has a plurality of capsule receivers for one capsule, further comprising a conveyor wheel drive also arranged in the machine housing, with which the conveyor wheel can be rotated incrementally so that the capsule holders move incrementally along a conveyor track, and comprising a plurality of process stations arranged along the conveyor track at or on the machine table and also arranged in the machine housing, wherein the process stations comprise at least one feeding station for feeding capsules to be filled into the capsule receivers, at least one opening station for opening the capsules to be filled by separating the capsule top parts from the capsule bottom parts, at least one filling station for filling the capsule bottom parts with material to be filled, at least one closing station for closing the filled capsules by connecting the capsule top parts with the capsule bottom parts and at least one ejection station for ejecting the filled capsules.

[0008] For a capsule filling machine, the process stations have process drives for their operation, which are controllable independently of the conveyor wheel drive and a cabinet, which contains among other things a computer machine for operating the capsule filling machine and controlling the conveyor wheel drive as well as the process drives, is also arranged within the machine housing and is connected at least with the conveyor drive and the process drives via lines arranged within the machine housing.

[0009] Such intermittent motion capsule filling machines have a conveyor wheel designed for example as a rotary plate, on the circumference of which a plurality of capsule holders is provided for receiving the capsules to be filled. The conveyor wheel is moved incrementally along a plurality of process stations arranged along the circumference of the conveyor wheel by a conveyor wheel drive, wherein the capsule holders pass incrementally through the process station. Such capsule filling machines form so-called rotary machines. In the case of the incremental conveying of the capsule holders from process station to process station, the conveyor wheel passes through periods of standstill and movement. We distinguish between a switch time and a rest time. The switch time defines the time in which the capsule holders are moved from one process station to the next process station. This is specified by the movement time of the conveyor wheel. The rest time defines the time when the capsule holders pause at the process stations to perform the respective process. This is specified by the standstill time of the conveyor wheel.

[0010] The intermittent motion movement of the capsule holders is generally realized in the prior art through a stepping gear, which is driven by the conveyor wheel drive. The stepping gear converts a constant rotational speed of the conveyor wheel drive into incremental movements and thus into switch and rest times. In the case of conventional capsule filling machines, the required drive of process stations is also realized through the conveyor wheel drive via mechanical cam disks. In the case of the capsule filling machine according to the invention, the process stations in contrast have process drives, which can be controlled separately by the conveyor wheel drive. Thus, no mechanical stepping gears or mechanical cam disks are required. The rest time can thereby be decoupled from the switch time, which has advantages with respect to the flexibility of the process flow.

[0011] A further advantageous effect of the process drives to be controlled separately is that space is created in the machine housing due to the foregoing of the stepping gear or the mechanical cam disks, which enables the arrangement of the cabinet according to the invention in the machine housing. Through the integration of the cabinet according to the invention in the machine housing, bothersome lines in the production room accommodating the capsule filling machine can be foregone on one hand. At the same time, access to the capsule filling machine is not impeded. The cabinet is thereby adapted in a suitable manner to the installation space in the machine housing. In particular, this concerns the suitable selection of the components of the cabinet as well as the spatial arrangement of the same (drives, computers, terminals, etc.).

[0012] As already mentioned, an important advantage of the invention is a machine housing that is easily accessible from all sides and thus the processing room of the capsule filling machine. Cleaning is thereby facilitated, cleaning time is reduced and cleaning quality is improved. This leads to cost savings. Compared to an external cabinet, planning is simplified, onsite installation is faster and safer since no power and/or control lines need to be installed onsite. Furthermore, the capsule filling machine can be set up at a different location faster, more reliably and more cost-effectively. The floor space of the capsule filling machine is reduced compared to both conventional cabinet variants. Complicated plug connections and terminal areas outside the machine housing can be omitted. The signal quality is improved. The installation is simplified by prefabricated cable lengths and is thus more cost-effective since the required cable lengths within the machine housing can be standardized. Overall, the production costs are reduced since external fasteners are omitted and the existing machine housing can also be used for the cabinet. Further advantages result for machine maintenance through improved accessibility compared to the prior art. As mentioned, a plurality of lines no longer needs to be guided through the production room accommodating the capsule filling machine. Rather, a connection for the communication between an external control unit and the cabinet arranged in the machine housing and an electrical power supply suffice.

[0013] According to a preferred design, the conveyor wheel drive can be an electric servo drive, comprising a servo motor driving the conveyor wheel in a rotary manner via a gearbox, or the conveyor wheel drive can be a direct drive, in particular a torque drive. The process drives can be drives from the group of electric servo drives, direct drives, in particular torque drives, and linear drives. The named drives, in particular electric servo drives, are characterized by little required space and thus facilitate the arrangement of the cabinet according to the invention in the machine housing.

[0014] According to a further design, the cabinet can be arranged in a free space below the machine table on a floor plate of the machine housing. This free space is suitable in a special manner for the cabinet, since it is then arranged in the machine housing, but is spatially separated from the processing room accommodating the operating components of the capsule filling machine, in particular the conveyor wheel and the process stations, below the machine table. It is then further possible that the machine table is arranged on a carrier plate, below which the free space accommodating the cabinet is located. On one hand, the carrier plate offers the required stability for receiving the operating components of the capsule filling machine. On the other hand, a separation can be realized by the carrier plate, which safely meets the potentially high purity requirements in the area of the processing room accommodating the operating components of the capsule filling machine, without the free space accommodating the cabinet needing to meet the same purity requirements. The carrier plate thus separates the processing room from the free space accommodating the cabinet. The function of the carrier plate can also be met by the machine table itself. In general, other cabinet placement locations in the machine housing are naturally also possible.

[0015] According to a further design, a removal device can also be provided, with which the cabinet can be removed from the machine housing. The removal device can comprise rails arranged on a floor plate of the machine housing, on which the cabinet is arranged. The rails can be telescopic rails, so that the cabinet can be moved out of the machine housing by extending the telescopic rails. The aforementioned designs permit a simple removal of the cabinet for maintenance or repair or the like from the machine housing. The cabinet can sit directly on the rails, for example be arranged on rollers or gliding elements or permanently on the rails. But it can also be arranged indirectly on the rails, for example on a carrier plate or the like arranged on the rails. Through the design as telescopic rails, these and thus the cabinet can be moved out of the machine housing in a particularly simple manner.

[0016] According to a further design, a control unit for controlling the computer machine by an operator can be provided outside the machine housing. The control unit can comprise a control display, for example a touch display or the like.

[0017] The control unit can be arranged next to the machine housing and separately from it and communicate with the computer machine wirelessly or via a wired connection. In the case of this design, the control element as a pure control terminal can be arranged next to the capsule filling machine, for example on a suitable stand or the like.

[0018] Alternatively, the control unit can be arranged on a holder fastened on the machine housing and communicates with the computer machine wirelessly or via a wired connection fed through or on the holder. For example, the control unit can be arranged on a boom fastened on the machine housing or the like.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] An exemplary embodiment of the invention is explained in greater detail below based on figures. They show schematically in:

[0020] FIG. 1 a top view of a capsule filling machine according to the invention,

[0021] FIG. 2 a partially cut side view of the capsule filling machine from FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0022] If not otherwise specified, the same reference numbers indicate the same objects in the figures. The capsule filling machine shown in the figures for filling capsules made up of a capsule top part and a capsule bottom part, for example hard gelatin capsules, comprises a machine housing 10. The machine housing 10 is divided into a top and a bottom part by a carrier plate 12. The operating components of the capsule filling machine, as shown schematically with reference number 14 in FIG. 2, are located in the upper part. These operating components comprise a machine table and a conveyor wheel, on the perimeter of which a plurality of capsule holders is provided, each of which has a plurality of capsule receivers for one capsule Furthermore, these operating components comprise a conveyor wheel drive, with which the conveyor wheel can be rotated incrementally so that the capsule holders move incrementally along a conveyor track. Moreover, the operating components comprise a plurality of process stations arranged along the conveyor track, among other things at least one feeding station for feeding capsules to be filled into the capsule receivers, at least one opening station for opening the capsules to be filled by separating the capsule top parts from the capsule bottom parts, at least one filling station for filling the capsule bottom parts with material to be filled, at least one closing station for closing the filled capsules by connecting the capsule top parts with the capsule bottom parts and at least one ejection station for ejecting the filled capsules. The basic design of a capsule filling machine is generally known. The process stations of the capsule filling machine according to the invention thereby have process drives for their operation, which are controllable here independently of the conveyor wheel drive and are also part of the operating components.

[0023] A cabinet 16, which contains among other things a computer machine for operating the capsule filling machine, in particular the controller of the conveyor wheel drive and the process drives, is located in the bottom part of the machine housing 10 formed below the carrier plate 12. The computer machine of the cabinet 16 is connected with the conveyor wheel drive and the process drives via lines that are not shown in greater detail in the figures. The carrier plate 12 forms a tight separation between the top part of the machine housing 10 forming the processing room of the capsule filling machine and the bottom part of the machine housing 10 forming a free space for the cabinet 16.

[0024] The cabinet 16 is arranged on telescopic rails 18, which are in turn arranged on the floor plate of the machine housing 10. By pulling out the telescopic rails 18, the cabinet 16 can be removed from the machine housing 10 for service or repair.

[0025] A control unit 20 with a control display 22 for controlling the computer machine by an operator is located next to the machine housing 10 and separately from it. The control unit 20 is supported on the floor of the production room via a stand 24 with a foot 26 and communicates in the example shown with the computer machine of the cabinet via a wireless connection 28. Thus, only one line is needed from outside into the machine housing 10 for supplying electricity to the cabinet 16 and to the drives of the capsule filling machine.

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