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United States Patent Application 20170233120
Kind Code A1
Spatafora; Mario ;   et al. August 17, 2017

Apparatus for producing packages of infusion products

Abstract

An apparatus for producing packages of infusion products, such as a bag filled with a dosed quantity of a product, a tag and a length of thread attached at opposite ends to the bag and to the tag respectively, includes a forming group of the filled bag, a feeding group of the formed bag and of the tag, a cutting and feeding group of the length of thread, and a sewing head of the length of thread to the bag and to the tag.


Inventors: Spatafora; Mario; (Granarolo Dell'Emilia - Bologna, IT) ; Coi; Daniele; (Bologna, IT) ; Noferini; Giacomo; (Castenaso - Bologna, IT) ; Nanni; Stefano; (Treviolo - Bergamo, IT)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

AZIONARIA COSTRUZIONI MACCHINE AUTOMATICHE A.C.M.A . S.P.A.

Bologna

IT
Assignee: AZIONARIA COSTRUZIONI MECCAINCHE AUTOMATICHE A.C.M.A S.P.A.

Family ID: 1000002639773
Appl. No.: 15/506710
Filed: July 28, 2015
PCT Filed: July 28, 2015
PCT NO: PCT/EP2015/001546
371 Date: February 24, 2017


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B65B 29/04 20130101; B65D 85/808 20130101; B65B 61/06 20130101
International Class: B65B 29/04 20060101 B65B029/04; B65D 85/808 20060101 B65D085/808; B65B 61/06 20060101 B65B061/06

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
Aug 28, 2014ITBO2014A000468

Claims



1. An apparatus for producing packages of infusion products, said packages comprising a bag (3) filled with a dosed quantity of a product, a tag (4), and a length of thread (2) attached at opposite ends to said bag (3) and said tag (4) respectively, said apparatus comprising: a forming group (30) of said filled bag (3), said forming group (30) defining a forming carousel and carrying a plurality of forming units (31), wherein said forming carousel (30) carries at least part of a cutting device (35) and rotates in a continuous motion around a rotation axis (36); an auxiliary cutting group (80) movable with an oscillating motion and cooperating with said cutting device (35) carried by said forming carousel (30) in said continuous rotation motion; and a folding group (50) rotating around an axis parallel to said forming carousel (30) and cooperating with said forming units (31), said auxiliary cutting group (80) and said folding group (50) being arranged around said forming carousel (30), respectively in correspondence with a cutting station (110) and a folding station (100) of said bag (3), wherein each of said forming units (31) comprises a body (32) rotating with respect to an axis parallel to the rotation axis (36) of said forming carousel (30), carrying, a movable receiving system (33) of a single length (6b) of tube (6a) forming a single bag (3), and a folding system (34) folding a base (3a) of said bag (3), said folding group (50) comprising a counter-folding element (54) cooperating with said folding system (34) for forming said base (3a) of said bag (3).

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said receiving system (33) defines a pair of pallets (37) alternatingly movable between a receiving configuration (37a), in correspondence with which the length (6b) of tube (6a), containing a pair of doses (5), is received and supported, extending on an operative surface of each pair of pallets (37), and a forming configuration (37b), in correspondence with which said pallets (37) of said pair are brought reciprocally close to each other to feed a corresponding portion of said length (6b) of tube to a folding and cupping of said base (3a) of said bag (3) and a forming of said bag (3).

3. The apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said folding system (34) and said counter-folding element (54) are arranged at opposite parts of said operative surface to support said pallets (37), in an intermediate position between said pallets (37) of said pair.

4. The apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said folding system (34) is activated by a pushing element (42), alternating between a withdrawn rest configuration (34a), and an extracted folding configuration (34b), so as to intercept a central portion of said length (6b), progressively folding said length (6b) by cooperation with said counter-folding element (54) carried by said forming carousel (50) in correspondence with said folding station (100).

5. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said forming carousel (50) rotates in a continuous motion.

6. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said forming carousel (50) comprises a plurality of folding units (51), each folding unit (51) comprising a platform (52) rotating according to an axis parallel to the rotation axis of said folding carousel (50), and a gripping system (53) of said bag (3), arranged on said platform (52), to effect, in correspondence with said folding station (100), a tracking motion between said forming unit (31) and said folding unit (51), cooperating with each other.

7. The apparatus according to claim 6, wherein said gripping system (53) comprises a pair of clamps, between which said counter-folding element (54) is positioned, said clamps (53) being movable between an open configuration (53a), in correspondence with which said clamps (53) are open at an inlet of said folding station (100) and said counter-folding element (54) is arranged for encountering said folding system (34) carried by said cooperating forming unit (31), causing the folding of the base (3a) of the bag (3), and a closed configuration (53b), in correspondence with which said clamps (53) receive, and withhold therebetween, said bag (3) from said cooperating forming unit (31).

8. The apparatus according to claim 7, further comprising an auxiliary gripping system (57) associated with said gripping system (53), said auxiliary gripping system (57) being alternatingly movable in a coordinated way with respect to said gripping system (53) between a distanced configuration (57a), in correspondence with which said auxiliary gripping system (57) is further away and idle at sides of said counter-folding element (54) and said gripping system (53) is in said open configuration (53a), and an approach abutment configuration (57b), in correspondence with which said auxiliary gripping system (57) abuts said base (3a) on opposite sides, folded on said folding system (34), and said counter-folding element (54) and said gripping system (53) are activated towards said closed configuration (53a) to block and receive said bag (3) being formed.

9. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said auxiliary cutting group (80) comprises a contrast element (82) and an activating system (83), acting in correspondence with said cutting station (110), said contrast element (82) being activated by said activation system (83) in a cooperation movement with cutting system (81) carried by said cutting device (35) integral with said forming carousel (30).

10. The apparatus according to claim 9, wherein said activating system (83) comprises a lever system (84) and a pushing system (85) effecting, in suitable synchronism, a combined oscillation motion, in an opposite direction, in an operative run, with respect to the rotation of said forming group (30), and an alternating radial motion, with respect to the rotation axis (36) of the same forming group (30).

11. The apparatus according to claim 9, wherein said cutting system comprises a blade, and wherein said contrast element (82) comprises a head (86) sliding inside a hollow body (87) defining a top (92) having a transversal opening (93), configured to encounter said blade (81) of said cutting device (35), or effecting a cutting of said tube (6a) of a belt (6) in said length (6b).
Description



TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to an apparatus for producing packages of infusion products, in particular tea and similar products.

KNOWN ART

[0002] Apparatuses for packaging infusion products, such as chamomile, tea and similar herbs, are known. These products are usually contained in dosed amounts inside specific bags of material permeable to liquids, usually called "filters". In addition to filters, the packaging of these products usually comprises the application of a specific tag, normally made of paper, attached to the filter by means of a suitable length of thread, to allow the handling of the product. Finally, the packaging of infusion products envisages a protective envelope wrapped around the single filter-bag and a packet, for example made of cardboard, in which a plurality of protective envelopes containing the single filter-bags is inserted.

[0003] Automatic packaging lines are known for packaging these products, in which a plurality of operative groups is suitable for effecting the various packaging operations in a coordinated manner: feeding a dosed quantity of product on a strip made of permeable material, unwound from a respective reel, forming the single filter-bag containing the dosed amount of product, closing the filter-bag, feeding a strip of material for tags, unwound from a further respective reel, separation of the single tags from the above strip, feeding and cutting the joining thread to size, joining each tag and each bag to the respective ends of a cut length of thread, forming single protection envelopes around the bags joined to the tag, packaging in cardboard boxes.

[0004] Patent EP 1384665, for example, describes an apparatus for producing filter-bags containing an infusion product, comprising a group for preparing and feeding the materials used for producing filter-bags, among which a strip of filter-paper, a dosing group, suitable for positioning doses of infusion product on the strip of filter-paper, a formation group, a dividing group and a cutting group. In the formation group, the strip of filter-paper is folded over itself so as to form a tube in which doses of infusion product are placed, the tube then being progressively closed by gluing the longitudinal edges. The dividing group subsequently divides the tube by means of transversal seams upstream and downstream of respective doses of infusion product, and the cutting group then separates the filter-bags thus formed.

[0005] The forming of the filter-bags represents a crucial phase in the packaging of infusion products. Effecting a correct forming of each filter-bag containing a dosed quantity of product, in fact, requires complex forming groups, whose functioning can negatively influence the overall production rate, due to the complexity of the phases to be effected. The groups suitable for effecting the forming of filter-bags, moreover can consequently be extremely complex.

[0006] In particular, at the high velocities required by this specific production field, the components of the various operating groups involved in the formation phase of the bag, in particular the cutting blades for the separation of the material into single filter-bags, are subject to considerable wear and therefore require frequent substitution, thus increasing the production costs.

[0007] The construction complexity of the formation group in known packaging machines, moreover, is proportionate to the risk that the same phase entails. In particular, the risk of undesired dispersions of product must be limited, which not only represents a waste of raw material, but can also foul the apparatus, jeopardizing its efficient functioning.

[0008] Further documents of the known art have been taken into consideration.

[0009] GB 1 381 799 A, for example, discloses an apparatus for the production of containers similar to bags with two compartments containing infusion material, such as tea, in which the bag filled with doses also comprises a tag and a length of thread attached at its ends, on the one hand, to the tag, and on the other, to the bag. The apparatus also comprises a rotating shaping turret and formation equipment.

[0010] WO 00/17055 A2 relates to a machine for attaching a tag to a bag using an intermediate thread. Said machine comprises a series of formation elements positioned on a turret.

[0011] U.S. Pat. No. 4,977,728 A illustrates a machine for producing double-chamber bags containing infusion material in which a transporting wheel carries a series of arms which effect various formation phases of the bags.

[0012] DE 195 32 816 A1 also discloses a machine for producing double-chamber bags equipped with a transporting wheel carrying arms which effect various formation phases of the bags, collaborating with a specifically designed stationary cover.

[0013] The known methods and equipment, however, do not satisfy the production requirements either in terms of velocity or quality of the results obtained.

PRESENTATION OF THE INVENTION

[0014] The objective of the present invention is to solve the problems indicated above, by conceiving an apparatus that allows the packaging of infusion products to be optimally effected.

[0015] Within this objective, a further objective of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for the packaging of infusion products operating under safe and high-speed conditions.

[0016] The above objectives are achieved, according to the present invention, by an apparatus for the packaging of infusion products according to the enclosed claims.

[0017] In short, the apparatus according to the invention, suitable for obtaining infusion products of the type comprising a bag filled with a dosed quantity of product, a tag and a length of thread attached at opposite ends to the bag and tag, comprises at least a forming group of a filled bag, defining a rotating carousel in a continuous motion around a rotation axis and associated with an auxiliary cutting group and a folding group. The auxiliary cutting groups and folding group are positioned around the forming carousel, in correspondence with a cutting station and a folding station, respectively.

[0018] The forming carousel comprises a plurality of forming units rotating with respect to axes parallel to said rotation axis of the carousel.

[0019] According to the invention, the above forming group also comprises a cutting device carrying a plurality of blades, each blade being interposed between two adjacent forming units.

[0020] It should be pointed out that the above auxiliary cutting groups cooperating with the above forming carousel, is activated by activation means according to a combined oscillation and insertion movement into the interposed space, from one side to the opposite side of a forming unit, so as to interact with the above blades for the cutting of single lengths of tubular packaging material, in particular already prepared with doses of the desired product.

[0021] According to a prerogative of the invention, the auxiliary cutting group comprises an abutment element with respect to the above blades, forming a head containing an opening on the top. The abutment element is therefore suitable for being inserted in the space interposed between a pair of adjacent forming units, intercepting a length of packaging material, preferably wound as a tube, and effecting its cutting due to the insertion of the above blade in the opening of the head of the abutment element.

[0022] The cutting of the packaging material into single lengths to be folded, is effected so as to maintain the integrity of the blade, as it avoids any harmful impact. More specifically, the cutting is effected by interposing the material on the abutment element and inserting the blade into the opening, consequently with the sole abutment of the flexible material to be cut.

[0023] The apparatus therefore allows the packaging material to be cut with a continuous movement of the forming carousel, without stoppages, allowing high production yields to be obtained, without jeopardizing the integrity of the cutting elements.

[0024] It should also be noted that a further extremely advantageous aspect of the invention lies in the fact that the folding of the bag is effected safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of leakage of the product from the packaging tube, to the minimum.

[0025] This is due in particular to the fact that each forming unit comprises withholding means cooperating with receiving means of the tubular lengths, containing dosed quantities of product. Said withholding means can define gripping elements suitable for withholding the end edges of the single lengths.

[0026] Furthermore, leakage of the product is also avoided thanks to the provision, in the folding units carried by the folding group, of clamping elements, suitable for blocking respective portions of a length of material, abutting corresponding areas of the above receiving means, on which the length is arranged in the folding phase. Said blocking action also allows the folding phase to be effected, by juxtaposing the receiving means, so as to fold the length of material, thus closing the bag formed inside the above clamps carried by the folding group in a closed configuration.

[0027] The forming units are suitable for being rotatingly activated on the forming carousel, according to an axis parallel to the rotation axis of the folding carousel, so as to allow a tracking and cooperation motion of the respective units, for the forming and folding of the bag.

[0028] Said tracking motion, thanks to the above withholding means and above-mentioned blockage grippers, allows the product to be safely withheld inside the packaging material, so as to avoid any waste of product, which could be dispersed inside the apparatus, jeopardizing its functioning.

[0029] According to a prerogative of the invention, the folding group or carousel, preferably in a continuous rotation movement, carries a plurality of clamp gripping means, suitable for safely withholding the bags being formed against the respective receiving means of the forming units moved by the above-mentioned forming carousel, during the folding phase.

[0030] The above-mentioned clamp gripping means cooperate with respective auxiliary gripping means, preferably in the form of pincers, to firmly block the bag being formed, specifically during the folding phase. The auxiliary gripping means can form respective auxiliary pincers, whose activation is coordinated with that of the clamps cited above. Said auxiliary pincers are preferably articulated to the clamps, in each folding unit.

[0031] Furthermore, the above auxiliary gripping means are suitable for intercepting and blocking, in an appropriate phase relation, the base of the bag being formed, in abutment with respective folding and counterfolding means for the base itself, carried by the forming carousel and folding carousel respectively.

[0032] The above auxiliary gripping means therefore contribute to firmly blocking the bag being formed, while it is being handled by the various units mentioned above.

[0033] Furthermore, the above auxiliary gripping means withhold the base of the bag, preventing the entry of traces of product in the fold being formed at the base of the bag. Thanks to the presence of the above gripping means and auxiliary gripping means, the bag being formed is safely manipulated at each moment of the folding phase, or more specifically, refolding of the two lobes.

[0034] It should also be noted that the presence of the auxiliary gripping means, suitable for firmly withholding the base of the bag, advantageously guarantees the formation of a "neat" fold at the base of the bag, free of product. This circumstance therefore ensures the forming of an orderly bag, filled with infusion product in a concentrated and compact way, inside the respective lobes.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0035] The characteristics of the invention will appear more evident from the detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the apparatus for packaging infusion products according to the invention, indicatively illustrated in the enclosed drawings, in which:

[0036] FIG. 1 shows schematic front view of the apparatus according to the invention;

[0037] FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a portion of the forming group, suitable for being used in the same apparatus;

[0038] FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of a further portion associated with the above-mentioned forming group;

[0039] FIG. 4 shows a front view of a further portion of the same forming group in an operative phase;

[0040] FIGS. 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D, 5E, 5F, 5G, 5H and 5I show a detail of the above-mentioned forming group, in consecutive operating forming phases of a filter-bag.

EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0041] With particular reference to the above figures, the apparatus for producing packages of infusion products, such as, for example, tea, chamomile, herbal teas or other infusions, is indicated as a whole with 1.

[0042] In particular, the apparatus 1 operates on a length of thread 2, a bag 3 and a tag 4, for sewing the same length of thread 2, at opposite ends, preferably onto both the bag 3 and tag 4 (see in particular FIGS. 1, 3 and 5A). The bag 3 is also suitable for being appropriately filled, before the above sewing operation, with a dosed quantity or dose of product 5.

[0043] More specifically, the bag 3 can have, for example, as in the case illustrated, a so-called "two-lobed" conformation. In practice, each bag 3 is formed by the folding of a pair of respective containment portions, in each of which a single dose 5 of product is inserted. The bag 3, usually made of filter paper, permeable to water or other infusion liquid, can have, for example, a bellows-like fold 3a at the base, whereas at the opposite closing end 3b, it can have one or more folded flaps to ensure the sealing of the product contained therein (see FIG. 3, in addition to FIGS. 5C to 5I).

[0044] The tag 4 is preferably made of paper or similar material, suitable for containing printed identifying information of the product. The length of thread 2, connecting the bag 3 and the tag 4, serves for allowing the product to be handled in the infusion phase, to avoid direct contact with the infusion liquid, which generally has a high temperature.

[0045] The apparatus 1 therefore comprises a dosing group of the infusion product, suitable for dosing single quantities or doses 5 of product, positioning them on a strip 6 of suitable material, preferably filter paper, unwound from a respective reel 7 schematized, for the sake of simplicity, in FIG. 1. In practice, the single doses 5 are neatly arranged in succession on the strip 6, preferably fed on a substantially horizontal run.

[0046] Downstream of the dosing group 10, the apparatus 1 comprises a longitudinal sealing group 20, suitable for folding the doses 5 and reciprocally closing the longitudinal edges of the strip 6 being unwound, so as to form a tube 6a containing in its interior, the doses 5 prepared by the dosing group 10 (see, in particular, FIG. 1).

[0047] Downstream of the sealing group 20, the apparatus 1 comprises a forming group 30 of the single bags 3 starting from the tube 6a previously sealed longitudinally by the sealing group 20. More specifically, if the package to be produced envisages the formation of a two-lobed bag, as previously indicated, the forming group 30 separates the tube 6a into single lengths 6b, each containing a pair of doses 5, and bellow-folds the above lengths 6b separated in correspondence with a portion of base 3a interposed between the doses 5, so as to form the desired bag 3.

[0048] The apparatus 1 also comprises a closing station 40 of the closing end 3b of the bag 3, opposite the base 3a, in correspondence with which the folding is effected, for example, of a pair of side flaps and a third flap, for refolding the two previous flaps, so as to seal the respective portions of tube 6a or lobes, each containing a dose 5. Different conformations of the closing end 3b of the bag 3 can obviously be envisaged, in any case suitable for adequately sealing the bag 3, to avoid the undesired leakage of the product.

[0049] The closing station 40 is preferably positioned in correspondence with a folding carousel 50 of the bags 3, which also effects the folding of the same formed bags and tags 4 at the subsequent stations.

[0050] The apparatus 1 also comprises a cutting and feeding group 60 of the lengths of thread 2 and a sewing head 70 suitable for sewing respective ends of the lengths of thread 2 in correspondence with the bags 3 and tags 4. In particular, the sewing head 70 is preferably interposed between the folding carousel 50 and the cutting and feeding group 60 of the lengths of thread 2.

[0051] The folding carousel 50, as also the sewing head 70, is preferably activated in a continuous rotating movement, according to respective parallel axes, for example, horizontal. The cutting and feeding group 60 can also comprise a rotating carousel, preferably stepped and positioned, for example, according to an axis 61 perpendicular to the rotation axis of the sewing head 70.

[0052] Finally, the apparatus 1 can also comprise one or more further groups, suitable for positioning the thread around the bag 3, packaging each bag 3 in an outer protective envelope, and boxing a certain number of bags 3 in specific box-shaped packages.

[0053] More specifically, the forming group 30 of the bags 3 defines a rotating carousel, preferably in a continuous movement, peripherally carrying a plurality of forming units 31. In the case illustrated in FIG. 2, for example, the forming carousel 30 carries four forming units 31. A different number and arrangement of forming units 31 can obviously be envisaged.

[0054] Each forming unit 31 comprises a body 32 carrying movable receiving means 33 of the single length 6b of tube 6a, destined for forming a single bag 3, and folding means 34, for folding the base 3a of the bag 3. The forming carousel 30 also comprises at least part of a cutting device 35 of the tube 6a into single lengths 6b, destined for being folded for the formation of each bag 3.

[0055] The bodies 32 or bases on which the receiving means are positioned, are also arranged peripherally with respect to the forming carousel 30, rotating and movable with respect to this, so as to allow the same forming units 31 to acquire a tracking motion with respect to further cooperating devices, for the forming of single bags 3, as described hereunder.

[0056] More specifically, the receiving means 33 of the forming carousel 30 define a pair of tile-shaped arms or pallets, suitable for being activated in synchronism and in a suitable phase relation, for receiving a length 6b of tube 6a coming from the sealing group 20, cut according to what is described hereunder by the cutting device 35, withholding it and folding it for the forming of the bag 3.

[0057] Each receiving means 33 therefore forms a pallet 37 which extends substantially orthogonally from a stem 38 pivoted to the body 32. The pallet 37 has a flattened curved shape, with a convexity facing the outside of the forming carousel 30. Furthermore, the pallet 37 of each tile-shaped element 33 can define a notch 39, appropriately formed on the free edge, suitable, if necessary, for avoiding interference with activation components of the folding means 34, as described in more detail hereunder.

[0058] It should be pointed out that the pallets 37 of each tile-shaped element 33 are alternatingly rotated around the respective fulcrum axis, between a receiving configuration 37a of a length of tube 6a, in correspondence with which a length 6b of tube 6a, containing a pair of doses 5, is received and supported, extending on each pair of pallets 37, and a forming configuration 37b, in correspondence with which the pallets 37 are rotated so as to converge in mutual approach, for feeding a corresponding portion of tube length 6b to the folding or "cupping" phase of the base 3a of the bag 3 and forming phase of the bag 3. In particular, it should be noted that in the above receiving configuration 37a, the pallets 37 externally define an ideal continuous curved operating surface, so as to be able to receive and support a length 6b of tube 6a in a substantially extended arrangement. Vice versa, in the above forming and convergence configuration 37b of the pallets 37, the continuity of the curvature of the above receiving surface is interrupted, for folding the bag 3 in the formation phase (see FIG. 5A, in which both configurations, acquired by different forming units 31, are illustrated).

[0059] The tile-shaped elements 33 also comprise withholding means 41 suitable for adequately and securely withholding the ends of a respective length 6b of tube 6a, containing a pair of doses 5, to avoid undesired movements and leakage of product, during the forming phases of the bag 3. The withholding means 41 are preferably produced by means of a gripper element, for example in the form of a plate, arranged in correspondence with each stem 38 of the tile-shaped elements 33. Each plate 41 is preferably withheld by return means of the elastic type and alternatingly activated between a withholding position 41a, in response to the stem 38 for firmly holding an end edge of the length 6b of tube 6a, and a release position 41b, rotated and diverging from the stem 38 itself.

[0060] It should be pointed out that the folding means 34 for folding the base 3a of the bag also operate between the pallets 37 of each forming unit 31. More specifically, the folding means 34 are preferably suitable for separating the two lobes of the bag 3 being formed by folding the base 3a with a "W"-shaped fold. The result is the formation of the above-mentioned "cupping" of the base 3a of the bag.

[0061] The folding means 34 comprise a folding element positioned in the centre of each forming unit 31, suitable for cooperating with a counter-folding element 54, carried, on the contrary, by the folding carousel 50, as described in more detail hereunder, for effecting the forming of the base 3a.

[0062] More specifically, in order to form the above W, the folding element 34 and counter-folding element 54 are arranged on opposite sides with respect to the operating surface of the pallets 37, in an intermediate position between the two pallets 37 of each tile-shaped element 33. The folding element 34, in particular, is activated by an specific pusher element 42, to be movable with respect to the body 32, alternating between a withdrawn, rest configuration 34a (see FIG. 5C) and an extracted, folding configuration 34b (see FIG. 5F). In practice, the folding element 34 is situated inside the operating surface defined by the pallets 37 in the rest configuration, whereas it emerges from the above surface in the folding configuration 34b, to intercept the centre portion of the length 6b, progressively causing its folding. More specifically, the folding organ 34 forms a U-shaped profile, defined by a pair of folding walls 55, substantially parallel, emerging at the sides of an intermediate cavity 56. The walls 55 extend transversally substantially corresponding to the transversal extension of the pallets 37, so as to integrally interact with the length 6b of tube 6a.

[0063] The counter-folding element 54, which, on the other hand, is carried by the folding carousel 50, defines a folding knife, having a thickness which is such as to interact with the above-mentioned cavity 56. In short, the knife 54 is inserted inside the cavity 56, during the folding operations of the base 3a of the bag, to create the so-called cupping. The cusps of said "W"-shaped cupping are therefore produced by contrast, exerted by the tops of the above-mentioned walls 55, in the folding phase of the two lobes of the tube length 6b, as described hereunder.

[0064] The folding carousel 50, which is suitable for being rotatingly activated in an appropriate rotation phase relation of the forming carousel 30, peripherally carries a plurality of movable folding units 51 with respect to the carousel 50 itself. Each folding unit 51 is carried by a platform 52 rotating around an axis parallel to the rotation axis of the folding carousel 50, and also to the rotation axis 36 of the forming carousel 30, to allow the "tracking" of each forming unit 31 on the part of a respective folding unit 51.

[0065] The forming units 31 and folding units 51 therefore cooperate in correspondence with a rotation section in which they are substantially facing each other, and also in reciprocal tracking motion, in correspondence with which a folding station 100 (see FIG. 5A) of the bag 3 (see FIG. 3) is defined. More specifically, "tracking" motion refers to a motion whereby the cooperating operating units are at a relative zero velocity.

[0066] Each folding unit 51 therefore comprises gripping means 53 of the bag 3, associated with the above counter-folding means or knife 54, arranged on the platform 52. More specifically, the gripping means 53 form a pair of clamps, between which the counter-folding knife 54 is positioned. The clamps 53 can be moved between an open configuration 53a, in correspondence with which the clamps 53 are open and the folding unit 51 is at the entrance of the above-mentioned folding station 100 (see FIG. 5A), and a closed configuration 53b, in correspondence with which the clamps 53 receive and withhold the bag 3 from the respective forming unit 31 (see FIG. 5C). More specifically, when the clamps 53 are in the open configuration 53a, the knife 54 is interposed between the clamps 53, arranged for encountering the cavity 56 of the folding means 34, and creating the cupping of the base 3a of the bag 3.

[0067] The clamp gripping means 53 are associated with auxiliary gripping means 57 actuated in a coordinated way with the same gripping means 53, for an effective blockage and consequently an effective forming, in particular of the base 3a of the bag 3. The auxiliary gripping means 57 preferably define auxiliary pincers having a pair of branches articulated, at one end, to the respective branches of the clamps 53. In this way, the motion of the auxiliary gripping means 57 is coordinated with that of the clamps 53.

[0068] The auxiliary pincers 57 can in fact be moved from an inactive distanced configuration 57a, coordinated with the above open configuration 53a of the clamps 53, in which the end portions of the branches of the auxiliary pincers 57 are arranged at the sides of the counter-folding element 54, and an approach abutment configuration 53b, that operates when the clamps 53 are activated towards the above closed configuration 53b; in correspondence with the approach configuration 53b, the end portions of the auxiliary pincers 57 are reciprocally juxtaposed, so as to abut the side flaps of the bellow-fold being formed against the side walls 55, at the base 3a of the bag 3 (see FIGS. 5A to 5I).

[0069] In short, whereas on the one hand, the gripping ends of the clamps 53 are suitable for interacting with respective terminal portions of the length 6b of tube 6a, suitable for defining the closing end 3b of the formed bag 3, the end portions of the auxiliary pincers 57 are suitable for interacting, at the sides of the folding element 34 and counter-folding element 54, for blocking the portion of bag 3 suitable for forming the base 3a.

[0070] In practice, the branches of the auxiliary pincers 57, when approaching each other in the approach configuration 57b, press corresponding portions of tube length 6b against the side walls 55 of the folding element 34 in an active extracted configuration, therefore blocking the base 3a of the bag 3 being formed.

[0071] It should also be pointed out that said blocking, combined with the blocking of the opposite ends of each lobe of the bag 3 against the receiving means 33, on the part of the clamps 53, guarantees, at each moment, a secure and total control in the handling of the bag 3 and its contents, in the forming phase.

[0072] It should be noted, moreover, that the auxiliary pincers 57 ensure the formation of a "neat" fold at the base 3a of the bag 3. The base 3a is in fact progressively "stretched" or adhered, starting from the cusps towards the sides of the bellow-fold, to the side walls 55 of the folding element 34, thus preventing the infusion product from leaking inside the fold, preferably bellow-shaped, being formed. The latter is therefore completely free of traces of product. This circumstance allows an orderly and compact final conformation of the packaged product to be obtained.

[0073] Finally, the forming carousel 30, in particular by means of a cutting device 35 carried by it, cooperates with an auxiliary cutting group 80, for dividing the tube 6a into single lengths 6b to be sent to the receiving means 33. More specifically, a cutting station 110 (see FIG. 5A) is defined upstream of the folding station 100, according to the rotation direction of the forming carousel 30, in correspondence with which the cutting device 35 interacts with the above-mentioned auxiliary group 80.

[0074] The cutting device 35 preferably defines a plurality of cutting blades 81 arranged radially with respect to the axis 36 of the forming carousel 30 and rotatingly carried by the same carousel. More specifically, each cutting blade 81 is interposed between each forming unit 31 and the adjacent unit. The cutting blades 81 therefore extend radially, with the cutting end arranged peripherally. The cutting end of each blade 81 preferably intercepts the circular profile which ideally encloses, at least in correspondence with the cutting station 110, the operating surfaces of the receiving means 33.

[0075] The auxiliary cutting group 80 substantially comprises a contrast element 82 and activation means 83. The contrast element 82 is, in fact, suitable for being activated by the above activation means 83 in a cooperation motion with the blades 81 for cutting the tubular strip 6a into single lengths 6b. The activation means 83 comprise for example a leverage 84 and pushing means 85, suitable for effecting, in appropriate synchronism, a combined oscillation movement, in the opposite direction, in the operating run, with respect to the rotation of the forming group 30, and an alternating radial movement, with respect to the rotation axis 36 of the same forming group 30 (see FIG. 4).

[0076] In short, the cutting station 110 covers a certain portion of the angular path completed, due to the continuous rotation, by the forming units 31 of the forming carousel 30. Said interaction span between a respective forming unit 31 and the contrast element 82 substantially corresponds to the angular distance that affects the single forming unit 31. In practice, in fact, the contrast element 82 can be moved in oscillation, alternatingly to interact with each side of a single length 6b of tubular strip 6a.

[0077] More specifically, the leverage 84, comprising for example a plurality of articulation components, activates, in oscillation, the contrast element 82 from a first side of the forming unit 31 to the opposite side, specifically in an inverse direction with respect to the rotation of the carousel 30 itself. An alternating movement in a radial direction, with respect to the rotation axis 36, is combined, in a suitable phase relation, with this angular motion, with the help of the above-mentioned pushing means 85.

[0078] The contrast element 82 comprises a head 86 sliding inside a hollow body 87 defining at least a pair of fork-shaped side walls 88. The above side walls 88 of the hollow body 87 are distanced so as to occupy the space interposed 89 between two adjacent forming units 31, and intercept the edge of each of these. More specifically, each side wall 88 is suitable for encountering the above edge of a tile-shaped element 33 with a respective end, in an area adjacent to the stem 38.

[0079] The head 86, sliding inside the hollow body 87, on the other hand, has a conformation which is such as to suitably block the interposed space 89, inserting itself in its interior. Consequently, with the help of the above-mentioned pushing means 85, the head 86 can be alternatingly activated between a withdrawn configuration 86a, inside the hollow body 87, diverted from the above interposed space 89, and an extracted configuration 86b, in correspondence with which the head 86 occupies the above interposed space 89, closing it. In the above extracted configuration 86b, the head 86 of the contrast element 82 therefore protrudes from the side walls 88 of the hollow body 87.

[0080] It should be pointed out that the head 86 externally comprises a first lateral side 90 and a second lateral side 91, preferably flat, suitable for sliding on the side surfaces of the corresponding stems 38 of the two forming units 31 affected by interaction with the abutment element 82, so as to intercept the free space 89 and deliver an edge of the length 6b of the tubular strip 6a in the separation phase, to the withholding means 41. The abutment element 82 also comprises a top 92 on which there is an opening 93, which passes through the head 86 and which is suitable for receiving, for an adequate length, a respective longitudinal end of the blade 81.

[0081] In short, the head 86 is suitable for being alternatingly activated according to a combined movement which comprises, in addition to the above-mentioned oscillation, a radial component, suitable for allowing the insertion of the blade 81 into the transversal opening 93. During the cutting run, the top 92 progresses radially towards the blade 81, effecting, first of all, the abutment of a tube length 6a resting on the operating surfaces of two adjacent forming units 31, and then, the cutting, when the head 86 advances radially stretching the tube 6a against the blade 81 and inserting the latter inside the opening 93 (see in particular FIG. 4).

[0082] The functioning of the apparatus for the packaging of infusion products can be clearly understood from the above description.

[0083] The strip 6 is continuously unwound from the bobbin 7, passing through the dosing group 10, suitable for arranging the doses 5 of product, in succession, and also the sealing group 20, suitable for folding the strip 6 on the same doses 5, so as to obtain a tube 6a.

[0084] The tube 6a then reaches the inlet of the forming station positioned downstream of the sealing group 20, where it is taken over by a respective forming group 31 of the forming carousel 30 activated in continuous rotation.

[0085] More specifically, a length of tube 6a, containing a pair of doses 5 adequately spaced, is wound, resting on the operating surfaces of the tile-shaped elements 33 of the forming unit 31 which is situated at the inlet of the cutting station 100 (see FIG. 5A). In this circumstance, the tube 6a has a first cut end, withheld by the withholding means 41, in correspondence with a first side of the forming unit 31.

[0086] In the subsequent phase, the abutment element 82 is activated in the operative cutting run, for engagement of the space interposed 89 between two adjacent units 31, opposed with respect to the above first side of the forming unit 31, to effect the separation of a length 6b of strip 6 from the remaining tube 6b being unwound. The blade 81 of the cutting device 35, brought into rotation by the same forming carousel 30, is positioned in correspondence with this interposed space 89.

[0087] More specifically, in this phase, following the above-mentioned oscillation motion, the abutment element is brought in correspondence with the space 89. The side walls 88 are brought close to the two forming units 31 involved in the separation, intercepting the tube 6a. Due to the combined movement of the abutment element 82, the side walls 88 of the hollow body 87 block portions of tube 6a against the respective operative rest surfaces of the tile-shaped elements 33.

[0088] The head 86 of the abutment element 82 is then pushed by the pushing means 85 from the withdrawn configuration 86a to the extracted configuration 86b. During this run, the top 92 intercepts the length of tube 6a interposed between the above-mentioned blocked portions, stretches it, unit it receives the blade 81 in the opening 93, thus effecting the separation cutting of the tube 6a into a single length 6b (see FIGS. 5A and 5B).

[0089] It should be noted that in the insertion phase of the head 86 in the interposed space 89, the edges of the cut length 6b are progressively folded in abutment of adjacent stems 38, under the sliding of the lateral sides 90, 91 of the head 86 on the stems 38 themselves. The edged folded over the stems 38 are finally withheld by the withholding means 41 which, in a suitable phase relation, are activated from the open configuration 41a to the closed withholding configuration 41b (see FIG. 5B).

[0090] The length 6b of strip thus withheld at the ends is then moved forward, stretched on the operating surfaces of the respective pair of tile-shaped elements 33. In this phase, the abutment element 82 continues in its combined movement, following the return run, leaving the interposed space 89 distanced from the operative surfaces of the tile-shaped elements 33. The abutment element 82 then oscillates, moving towards the following space 89, according to the rotation direction of the forming carousel 30 (see FIG. 5C).

[0091] The length 6b of tube 6a, on the other hand, continues its rotation towards the folding station 100, in correspondence with which it is destined to interact with the folding unit 51.

[0092] It should be pointed out that in this phase, at the inlet of the forming station 100, the folding device 34 is arranged in the withdrawn configuration 34a, and is therefore inside the operating surface defined by the pallets 37. Analogously, the folding unit 51 suitable for cooperating with the forming unit 31 at the inlet of the folding station 100, is arranged with the gripping means 53 in the open configuration 53a and with the auxiliary gripping means 57 in the distanced configuration 57a (see FIG. 5C).

[0093] The pallets 37 carrying the length 6b of tube 6a, containing the relative doses 5, subsequently move into the folding station 100, contemporaneously with the clamps 53 in the open configuration 53a, until they are substantially facing each other parallel.

[0094] The folding element 34 is contemporaneously activated by the respective activating means, to progressively intercept the overlying length 6b, as can be seen in FIGS. 5D and 5E. In the same figures, it can also be observed that contemporaneously with the phase described, upstream of the forming unit 31, the abutment element 82 is in the oscillation phase towards the interposed space 89 between a further pair of forming units 31, whereas downstream, an already formed bag 3 is closed between the clamps 53 in a closed configuration 53b.

[0095] In the subsequent phase, the clamps 53 are progressively closed, whereas the pallets 37 are moved towards each other in the forming configuration 37b, so as to accompany the advance movement of the folding element 34 which can therefore entrain a portion of length 6b, lifting it from the operating surface of the same pallets 37, recovering material due to this approach movement. The folding element 34 therefore progressively acquires the extracted configuration 34b (see FIG. 5F).

[0096] In the following phase, the folding element 34 reaches and cooperates with the counter-folding element 54, so as to create the W shape of the base 3a of the bag 3. At the same time, in a suitable phase relation, the auxiliary gripping means 57 are activated, to progressively encounter, on opposite sides, the base 3a being formed, in abutment of the side walls 55 of the folding element 34. The base 3a folded by the folding element 34 and by the counter-folding element 54 is finally blocked by the auxiliary means 57 in an approach configuration 57b (see FIGS. 5F, 5G and 5H).

[0097] The clamps 53 then reach the operating surface of the pallets 37, close to the edges adjacent to the stem 38, so as to block the length 6b against the same surface. The blockage effected by the clamps 53, in the closing phase, avoids the undesired leakage of product from the length 6b. As soon as the ends of the length 6b are blocked by the clamps 53, the withholding means 41 are activated in the opening configuration 41b, to release the terminal edges of the length 6b itself (see FIG. 5H). It should be noted that at this point, the folding element 34 can initiate its return run towards the withdrawn configuration 34a.

[0098] Finally, the clamps 53 continue with sliding the ends on the operating surface of the pallets 37, until the formed bag 3 has been completely closed (see FIG. 5I). The folding unit 51 can then continue its rotation, carrying the formed bag 3 towards the subsequent operating stations of the packaging apparatus, preferably containing further gripping means for receiving and gripping a tag 4 (see FIG. 3).

[0099] The packaging apparatus, as also the forming unit described for illustrative purposes, can undergo numerous modifications and variants according to the various requirements.

[0100] In the practical embodiment of the invention, the materials used, as also the form and dimensions, can vary according to requirements.

[0101] When the technical features in each claim are followed by reference signs, said reference signs have been included for the sole purpose of providing a better understanding of the claims and consequently they have no limiting value with respect to the purpose of each element identified for exemplifying purposes by said reference signs.

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