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United States Patent 3,823,844
Linkemer ,   et al. July 16, 1974

SMALL ARTICLE DISPENSER AND COUNTER

Abstract

A device for dispensing a predetermined number of small articles from a storage container, in which the small articles move in response to a vibrator through an adaptor unit in communication with the storage container; and, as the small articles leave the outlet of the adaptor unit, they are detected by a counting mechanism which stops the vibrator after the predetermined number of small articles has been counted.


Inventors: Linkemer; Bernard (Chicago, IL), Michelson; Larry (Chicago, IL), Beall; Glenn L. (Gurnee, IL)
Appl. No.: 05/234,863
Filed: March 15, 1972


Current U.S. Class: 221/13 ; 198/771; 221/200; 221/7; 250/223R
Current International Class: A61J 7/00 (20060101); A61J 7/02 (20060101); G07f 011/00 ()
Field of Search: 221/2,7,4,9,13,200,204 198/22DC,DIG.11 250/22BA,223R 133/1,8 53/78 193/2 235/98,132 222/196

References Cited

U.S. Patent Documents
2710712 June 1955 Friedman
3038589 June 1962 Allen et al.
3204832 September 1965 Barber
3207909 September 1965 Lakso et al.
Foreign Patent Documents
851,391 Oct., 1960 GB
Primary Examiner: Reeves; Robert B.
Assistant Examiner: Skaggs, Jr.; H. Grant
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Alter, Weiss, Whitesel & Laff

Parent Case Text



This application is a continuation-in-part of copending application Ser. No. 8,938, filed by Bernard Linkemer, Larry Michelson and Glenn L. Beall, on Feb. 5, 1970, now abandoned.
Claims



What is claimed is:

1. Apparatus for dispensing a predetermined number of articles from a storage container into a separate receptacle comprising:

means for temporarily positioning said storage container on said apparatus so that the articles may be dispensed therefrom;

counting means;

a vibrator adapted to be activated by said counting means and de-activated thereby when a predetermined number of articles have been dispensed;

means for maintaining said receptacle in a receiving position;

means for transporting said articles from said storage container to said receptacle including:

a chute member, means for receiving vibratory motion from said vibrator, and flexible means disposed between said container and said chute portion;

means for temporarily attaching said transporting means to said storage container;

means for transmitting the vibratory motion from said vibrator to said transporting means whereby said predetermined number of articles are caused to move through said transporting means into said receptacle;

wherein said chute member has a triangularly shaped outlet and is adapted to be rotated so that the apex of each angle of the triangle may be moved to the lowermost position and act as the outlet angle.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the angles forming said triangularly shaped chute portion each differ from each other so as to accommodate different sized and shaped articles.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the means for receiving vibratory motion from said vibrator is a cam adjacent said chute member and the flexible means disposed between said chute member and the storage container is a flexible elbow.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein said counting means includes a photoelectric cell which intercepts a beam of light in the path of the articles as they emerge from the outlet of the chute member and into the receptacle, whereby each of said articles interrupts said beam of light, and means interconnected between said cell and said vibrator to de-activate said vibrator after a predetermined number of articles have interrupted said beam of light.

5. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said angles of said chute member are about 30.degree., 60.degree. and 90.degree..

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the chute includes an insert in the form of a ribbon having its ends secured flat against the two sides of said chute which define said angle of 90.degree..

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said flexible elbow has baffling means therein for restricting the flow of articles into the chute.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein said means for maintaining said receptacle in a receiving position comprise two arms having overlapping jaws for holding said receptacle, said arms being adjustable with respect to each other so as to accommodate varying sized receptacles.

9. Apparatus for dispensing a predetermined number of articles from a storage container into a separate receptacle comprising:

means for temporarily positioning said storage container on said apparatus so that the articles may be dispensed therefrom;

counting means;

a vibrator adapted to be activated by said counting means and de-activated thereby when a predetermined number of articles have been dispensed;

means for maintaining said receptacle in a receiving position;

means for transporting said articles from said storage container to said receptacle;

means for temporarily attaching said transporting means to said storage container;

means for transmitting the vibratory motion from said vibrator to said transporting means whereby said predetermined number of articles are caused to move through said transporting means into said receptacle;

said transporting means including a dispensing chute and a hollow flexible member for connecting said container with said chute, and a baffle located within said flexible member and secured to the end of said flexible member adjacent said chute, said baffle being formed of relatively rigid material, and a resilient rod secured to said baffle and extending upwardly therefrom into said container for transmitting vibrations from said baffle to articles within the bottom portion of said container, said rod being formed of the same material as said baffle and having a relatively small diameter.

10. Apparatus for dispensing a predetermined number of articles from a storage container into a separate receptacle comprising:

means for temporarily positioning said storage container on said apparatus so that the articles may be dispensed therefrom;

counting means;

a vibrator adapted to be activated by said counting means and de-activated thereby when a predetermined number of articles have been dispensed;

means for maintaining said receptacle in a receiving position;

means for transporting said articles from said storage container to said receptacle;

means for temporarily attaching said transporting means to said storage container;

means for transmitting the vibratory motion from said vibrator to said transporting means whereby said predetermined number of articles are caused to move through said transporting means into said receptacle;

said transporting means including a dispensing chute and a flexible member for connecting said container with said chute, said flexible member having a hollow chamber therein, and a baffle located within said chamber and secured to the end of said flexible member adjacent said chute, said baffle being formed of self-supporting material and having a plurality of panels secured interiorly thereto to define a passageway leading from said container to said chute which increases in cross section in stepwise fashion from said container to said chute.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein said baffle includes a tubular portion having a circular cylindrical cross section, and an outwardly extending flange secured to the end of said tubular portion, and locking means for securing said flange to said flexible member adjacent said chute.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said flexible member has an outwardly extending flange adjacent the flange of said baffle, said resilient flange having a plurality of protuberances thereon, and the flange of said baffle having a plurality of apertures aligned with said protuberances to secure said baffle member and said resilient member in aligned relation.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein a cam member is included, surrounding a portion of said flexible member and said baffle inwardly of said flanges, said cam member having a tubular portion adapted to extend outwardly beyond the said flanges, and said locking means comprises a ring adjustably threaded onto said cam member whereby rotation of said ring relative to said cam member is effective to adjust the amount of compression between said flanges.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to apparatus for dispensing a measured number of small articles such as medicinal pills, capsules and the like. Heretofore, pills and the like have been generally dispensed manually by pharmacists. Some pill counting mechanisms have been developed, such as the one shown in Roseberg U.S. Pat. No. 3,376,970, but these devices do not completely preclude manual contact with the pills. Also, these devices could not be used to count pills such as penicillin, because of cross contamination.

Apparatus constructed in accordance with the present invention overcomes the disadvantages of the prior devices and practices. It automatically and accurately dispenses a measured amount of medicinal pills and thereby relieves the pharmacist from the time consuming task of manually counting the pills. It permits him to devote his attention to other matters while a predetermined number of pills is being counted, and to fill prescriptions without touching the pills. Another object of the invention is to provide a compact apparatus that can be economically manufactured and is adapted to be used in existing pharamacies with conventional drug containers and prescription vials. Further objects will become manifest from the ensuing description, the drawings and the claims.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The apparatus of this invention includes, generally, a housing, an adaptor unit, and a vibrator mounted in the housing, the vibrator being connected with the adaptor unit and causing the same to vibrate. The adaptor unit is capable of being connected to an ordinary container of pills and, when it is vibrated, the pills move one by one out of the adaptor unit and into a prescription vial. As the pills pass out of the adaptor unit, they are counted by counting means employing a photoelectric cell. The prescription vial is retained in place by gripping means which positions the vial in the proper location for receiving pills from the adaptor unit. The adaptor unit has a rotatable chute of triangular cross section. The angles of the cross section are 30.degree., 60.degree. and 90.degree., each angle providing a differently shaped and sized outlet to accommodate the various sizes and shapes of pills, capsules and the like. The angle which is in the lowermost position acts as the outlet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of dispensing apparatus incorporating one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view, partly in cross section, of a portion of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the vibrator assembly associated with the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating the manner of cooperation between the vibrator assembly and the cam ring;

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of a baffle structure incorporated in the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the apparatus of FIG. 6, taken along the section line 7--7;

FIG. 8 is a side elevation view of a portion of the apparatus illustrated in FIG. 4;

FIG. 9 is an exploded view of the various parts of the apparatus which make up the dispensing adaptor unit incorporated in the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention, partly broken away to disclose an interior portion thereof;

FIG. 11 is a partial plan view of the front of the apparatus illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the apparatus illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11, taken along the section line 12--12 in FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is a side elevation view of the intermediate elbow portion of the dispensing adaptor unit;

FIG. 14 is a front elevation view of the intermediate elbow portion of the dispensing adaptor unit;

FIG. 15 is a side elevation view of the cap portion of a dispensing adaptor unit adapted for attachment to conventional counters having a supply of small articles;

FIG. 16 is a plan view of the cap portion of the dispensing adaptor unit incorporated in the apparatus of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a side elevation of the chute portion of the dispensing adaptor unit;

FIG. 18 is a front elevation of the triangular chute portion of the dispensing adaptor unit; and

FIG. 19 is a rear elevation view of the triangular chute portion of the dispensing adaptor unit.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the drawings and specifically to FIGS. 1 to 3, the dispensing and counting apparatus 10 of the present invention is provided with a housing 12, with means for supporting a storage container 14 containing a plurality of pills, capsules or the like. The container 14 is connected to a dispensing adaptor unit 16 having a chute 22 from which pills or other articles are dispensed one at a time in single file, to drop from the end 23 of the chute 22 into a container such as a prescription vial 24, or the like. The housing 12 also contains counting apparatus 18 having a manually rotatable knob 19, cooperating with a dial 20. The knob 9 may be rotated to set the counter 18 to a predetermined number, which number is indicated by the dial 20. When the counter 18 has thus been set, the vibrator apparatus (shown in FIG. 5) is energized by means of a push-button switch 21, after which operation of the vibrator causes pills or other articles to be dispensed from the container 14 through the chute 22 into the vial 24.

As the pills drop from the end of the chute 22 into the vial 24 they are counted by means of a photoelectric cell mounted in an arm 26, which arm is supported by the housing 12. Signals developed by the photoelectric cell are communicated to the counter 18, and when the number of signals generated by the photoelectric cell are equal to the number set into the dial 20, operation of the vibrator apparatus is stopped and feeding of the pills or other articles ceases.

The counter 18 may be of any standard type, and is preferably one which operates at line voltage and has a double-pole, double-throw relay to actuate and de-actuate the vibrator. The counter is preferably set by knob 19 to any number from 1 to 999. In place of the knob 19 and dial 20, the counter may optionally be of the type which is set by push buttons and has indicator lamps for indicating the number to which the counter is set.

As used hereinafter, the term "front" denotes that side of the dispensing apparatus 10 which is visible in FIG. 1, which "rear" denotes the opposite side.

The housing 12 is formed with two vertical side walls 29 and 31 between which a number of other walls and panels are secured. A pair of vertical panels 28 and 30 are secured to the side walls 20 and 31 near their rear edges, and the panels 28 and 30 extend toward each other for a short distance. The panel 28 has a vertical slot 32 in the upper portion of its inward edge, and the panel 30 has a corresponding vertical slot 34. The slots 32 and 34 receive ears integrally formed on a cap 36, which cap closes the opening of the container 14. The cooperation of the ears with the slots 32 and 34 maintains the position of the container 14 in relation to he housing 12. The cap 36 forms a part of the dispensing adaptor unit 16, and the bottom portion thereof is connected directly to an intermediate elbow portion 37, which in turn is connected to the chute 22. A cam ring 38 is provided near the junction of the intermediate elbow portion with the chute 22 and the lower portion of its periphery extends a slight distance downwardly through an aperture 42 through a panel 40 secured between the side walls 29 and 31 of the housing 12. The cam ring 38 cooperates with the vibrator apparatus so that it, the chute 22, and the intermediate elbow portion 37 are caused to vibrate and thus to feed the pills through the chute 22.

The arm 26 which houses the photoelectric cell, is fixed to the housing 12 and is provided with an aperture 44 through which light passes to reach the photoelectric cell. The light is produced by a lamp or other illuminating means mounted in an arm 46, secured to the housing 12 and extending in a direction parallel to the arm 26 in such a position that pills passing out from the end of the chute 22 interrupt the light beam.

The vial 24 is positioned beneath the end of the chute 22 by means of a pair of cooperating jaws 48 and 50 respectively supported by a pair of arms 52 and 54, which pass through an aperture 56 in a vertical panel 58 extending between walls 29 and 31 of the housing 12. The arms 52 and 54 have their rear ends supported on a pair of vertical shafts (not shown) interior of the housing 12, which are geared together so that the front ends of the arms move in opposite directions. Thus movement of the end 53 of the arm 48 opens the jaws 48 and 50 together to receive a vial therebetween. The arms 52 and 54 are spring biased toward closed position by means not shown so that the vial is securely positioned beneath the end of the chute 22. A horizontal panel 60 is secured between the walls 29 and 31 of the housing 12 to support the vial 24 as it is held in place by the jaws 48 and 50. Small vials are supported by the jaws 48 and 50 above the panel 60.

The cap 36 is formed of rigid plastic or the like and has a set of threads 59 (FIG. 4) which permits it to be screwed onto the container 14.

The intermediate elbow portion 37 of the dispensing adaptor unit 16 is formed of soft rubber or other similar flexible material, and is shown in detail in FIGS. 4, 8 and 9. The upper end thereof slips over a lower spout portion 62 of the cap 36. The other end of the elbow section is provided with an enlarged circular collar 64. The cam ring 38 surrounds the collar 64, and has an inwardly extending flange 66 disposed adjacent the rear face of the enlarged collar 64. the

A baffle member 68 is disposed within the intermediate elbow portion 37, and one end thereof has a circular tubular portion 70 terminating in an outwardly extending flange 72, disposed adjacent the front face of the collar 64. A plurality of projections 74 extend outwardly from the surface of the collar 64 in a direction parallel to the axis of the tubular portion 70, and engage apertures provided in aligned positions in the flange 72 so that the baffle member 68 is securely positioned relative to the intermediate elbow portion 37.

The chute 22 is secured at its rear end to a circular disk 76, the disk having a diameter approximately equal to that of the flange 72. The disk is positioned adjacent the front surface of the flange 72. A locking ring 80, having threads 81 engaged with threads 82 provided on the interior surface of the cam ring 38, is positioned forwardly of the disk 76, and bears against it, whereby the entire assembly of cam ring 38, elbow portion 37, baffle member 68, and disk 76 are secured together. The amount of force effective between the cam ring 38 and the locking ring 80 depends upon the tightness with which the locking ring 80 is screwed onto the cam ring 38. A set of index numbers are printed on the front face of the cam ring 38, and an index mark 85 (FIG. 9) is printed on the locking ring 80, so that any desired force between the locking ring 80 and the cam ring 38 may be selected by rotating the index mark 85 to the proper number of the cam ring 38. The outer extremity of the cam ring 38 is in the form of a circular O-ring (FIG. 4). The lower portion of the ring is received in a circular recess in a saddle member 82 secured to a plate 84 by means of screws 86 (FIG. 5). The plate 84 is resiliently mounted on a base 91 by a resilient member 93. The plate 84 is connected to a vibrator plate 90 by means of rods 88. The action of the vibrator is to vibrate the plate 84 in a direction longitudinal to the direction of the rods 88, and this vibration is transmitted to the cam ring 38 by means of the saddle 82. By this means the cam ring 38 is caused to move in a forward and back direction. As the elbow section 37 is formed of flexible material, the chute 22 and the portion of the elbow section 37 which is connected thereto are caused to vibrate freely while the container 14 is rigidly secured in association with the housing 12.

One type of vibrator which may be used is a 115 volt, 60 cycle electromechanical type having a frequency of 3,600 cycles per minute, a vibration amplitude of 0.25 inch, and a capacity of 10 pounds.

The chute 22 and the disk 76 are formed of a rigid material such as styrene or the like. The triangular cross section of the chute 22 has three angles of 30.degree., 60.degree. and 90.degree.. The disk 76 is rotatable relative to the locking ring 80, to bring any desired angle to the lowermost position to form the dispensing outlet. The three different angles are preferable since they accommodate the greatest number of sizes and shapes of pills, capsules, tablets and the like. A narrow strip of semiflexible material, such as Teflon, is supported at the 90.degree. angle of the chute 22, and the two ends of the strip are secured to the two sidewalls forming the corner, in order to facilitate arranging relatively large pills into single file.

The attitude of the chute 22, as best illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 8, extends at a slight incline rising from the intermediate elbow portion 37 to its free end. The amount of this incline is approximately 4.degree.. It has been found desirable to provide such an incline in order to encourage pills or other articles to travel in single file fashion, and in order to inhibit round pills from rolling out of the chute 22.

The baffle member 68 is formed of relatively rigid plastic material. The front end of the baffle comprises a tubular portion 70 to which the flange 72 is connected. The lower portion of the rear end of the tubular portion 70 joins with a portion 70a formed as a quarter of a sphere, and generally conforms to the interior surface of the elbow 37. The upper rear edge 70b of the tube 70 is inclined, as shown in FIGS. 7 and 9, along the locus of intersection that the tube 70 would make with a vertical circular cylinder. A pair of curved fillets 75 are secured to opposite ends of the edge 70b and extend downwardly therefrom to the plane of the upper edge of the portion 70a. A vertical panel 77 extends downwardly from the central portion of the edge 70b to the plane of the upper edge of the portion 70a, immediately forward of the fillets 75. The middle of the bottom edge of the panel 77 has a semicircular notch. A horizontal panel 79 is connected to the upper extremity of the portion 74, and forms a baffle across the rear part of the circular passageway leading down from the cap 36. A horizontal panel 87 is secured to the front face of the panel 77, and extends forwardly therefrom to the plane of the flange 72. The panel 87 defines a cavity with the upper portion of the tube 70.

A rod 78 is connected to the panel 79 and extends upwardly for a distance sufficiently to penetrate into the bottom of the container 14 where the pills may be somewhat congested as they prepare to pass through the opening at the bottom of the container 14. The presence of the rod 78, vibrating with the cam ring 38, tends to relieve this congestion and line up the pills for passage downwardly through the semicircular opening defined by the wall 77 and the front edge of the panel 79. In order to move along this path, pills must pass around the front edge of the panel 79, after which they enter the chamber defined by the bottom of the tube 70 and the portion 70a. The pills then pass outwardly through this chamber past the baffle provided by the panel 77 and the fillets 75 into a chamber of larger cross section defined by the wall 87 and the bottom portion of the tube 70. As they enter the triangular chute 22 passing the wall 84 and the disk 76, the pills or other articles are travelling essentially in single file. Thus they pass out the end of the chute 22 one by one.

It has been found that the provision of the rod 78 and the various panels of the baffle member 68 tends materially to increase the speed at which the pills can pass out of the pill container 14 and to the chute 22, and facilitates their being ordered into single-file arrangement.

In operation, the dispensing adaptor unit 16 is attached to a storage container 14 and the unit is positioned for operation by inserting ears 33 and 35 within the slots 32 and 34 of the panels 28 and 30. If several adaptor units 16 are employed, each adaptor unit 16 preferably remains on a storage container even when pills are not being dispensed therefrom, i.e., when the container is on the shelf, and the end 23 of the chute 22 is then closed by a suitable dustproof closure 98 (FIG. 4). This obviates the necessity for attachment of an adaptor unit to a particular storage container each time pills therefrom are to be taken from it; and, further, obviates the need for cleaning the adaptor units each time they are used, since only one type of pill is used with each unit.

The receptacle or vial 24 for the pills or other small articles is positioned below outlet 23 and maintained in a receiving position by the jaws 48 and 50. The counter 18 is then set for dispensing the desired number of articles by appropriate adjustment of the knob 19. Finally, the amount of force on the connection between the intermediate elbow portion 37 and the chute 22 is adjusted by turning the locking ring 80. The more force that is placed on this connection (i.e., the tighter the connection is made), the greater will be the amplitude of vibration imparted to the chute 22. For some pills or other articles the vibration should be greater than for other articles, to facilitate single-file feeding of the pills and guard against breaking or abrading the more delicate ones. At this time, the photoelectric cell within the arm 26 becomes operative and the vibrator is energized. The cam ring 38, positioned in the saddle 82, imparts a vibrating motion to adaptor unit 16 so that the small articles from the container 14 move from the container into the dispensing adaptor unit 16 and emerge one by one from outlet 23. As the small articles emerge from outlet 23, they interrupt the beam of light from the photocell and each interruption is transmitted to the counter 18. When a predetermined number of small articles have been dispensed, the vibrator is de-energized and dispensation of the articles ceases. The small articles remaining within adaptor unit 16 are returned into the storage container 14 when the container and attached adaptor unit are inverted for shelf storage.

When the dispensing and counting apparatus of this invention is used, the articles to be dispensed are not handled. This is particularly advantageous for pharmaceutical use because it is sanitary. Moreover, dispensation and counting of the small articles are accomplished automatically so that human counting errors are eliminated and the efficiency of the pharmacist is increased because he can devote his attention to other matters and never lose time because of the need to recount pills for prescriptions.

Referring now specifically to the alternative embodiment shown in FIGS. 10-19 of the drawings, the dispensing and counting apparatus includes a housing 92 having a vibrator 94 disposed therein, similar to the vibrator which has been described, except that it is arranged to vibrate in an up-and-down direction, instead of back and forth. The vibrator 94 cooperates with an adaptor unit 96 consisting of a cap 36, identical to that described above, an intermediate elbow portion 100 and a triangular-shaped chute 102. The chute 102 has a dispensing outlet 103.

The number of small articles which are dispensed from the outlet 103 are counted by means of a counter 114, identical to that described above. Each time a pill passes the photoelectric cell 116 (which is mounted on an arm 117), and interrupts the light beam, this interruption is electrically transmitted to the counter 114. The counter 114 is electrically connected to the vibrator 94 so that when the desired number of pills have been dispensed (and have thereby passed the photoelectric cell), the electric circuit to the vibrator is de-energized.

Also disposed in the housing 92 are arms 104 and 106, which are biased toward closed or gripping position by spring means (not shown). The terms 104 and 106 are provided with jaws 108 and 110 for clasping a small article receptacle (not shown), such as a medicinal pill vial. The arms 104 and 106 are arranged in overlapping relationship so as to accommodate receptacles or vials of various sizes, including exceptionally small diameter vials. The arms 104 and 106 are movable longitudinally and simultaneously by means of the intermeshing gear-type mating relationship at the inner ends thereof as shown at 112. Accordingly, arms 104 and 106 can be readily positioned so as to maintain the opening of a small article receptacle beneath the dispensing outlet 103 in the adaptor unit 96.

The adaptor unit 96 is shown in detail in FIGS. 11 through 18. The elbow section 100 of the adaptor unit 96 is similar to the elbow section 37, described above, except that it is connected to the chute 102 in a different manner. The forward end of elbow section 110 is provided with an enlarged circular collar 130 with a smaller circular collar 142 positioned inwardly therefrom so as to provide space for securely maintaining a drive cam member 134 therein. The cam member 134 is in the form of a circular O-ring and formed of a rigid material such as, for example, impact styrene and the like. Member 134 rests on the vibrator 94 and thereby transmits vibratory motion to the chute 102. By using the flexible elbow 100 and the rigidly mounted chute 102, the latter are vibrated more vigorously than the container 14. This makes the dispensing unit more adaptable to different sized containers 14 and obviates the need for a vibrator larger than the one used.

The triangular shaped chute member 102 is formed of a rigid material such as styrene and the like, and is identical to the chute 22 except for its manner of connection with the elbow portion 100. The chute has a circular portion 105 at its rear end which is adapted for insertion and frictional engagement within collar 130 of the elbow portion 100. The chute 102 is rotatable with respect to the elbow 100 so that any one of the angular sides of the chute can be positioned in the lowermost position to form the dispensing outlet 103. Means comprising protuberances 137 located on the periphery of the chute 102 and recesses 139 provided in the elbow section 100, shown in FIGS. 17, 18 and 19, are used to control the rotating movement of the chute. The recesses 139 are molded into the elbow section 100, as shown in FIG. 14, and are adapted to receive the protuberances 137, so that the chute can be accurately set in any one of the three dispensing positions.

A baffle member 136 (see FIG. 12) is provided within the elbow 100 to direct the flow of small articles. The baffle member snaps into the elbow 100 and conforms to the inside wall thereof. It is provided with three different sized openings 138 and is attached to and rotates with the chute 102. The openings 138 vary in size, and correspond to the different sized angles of the chute 102. When the narrowest angle of the chute 102 is in use, the smallest hole 138 of the baffle member 136 will be in operative position. When the largest angle of the chute is employed, the largest hole is used.

Pill storage containers are conventional sized bottles and there are only a relatively few different sized caps used on them. Cap 36 is adapted to replace the caps of these conventional containers. Thus, the diameter of cap 36 can be varied so as to replace various sized caps and to accommodate various sized storage containers. The operation of the unit shown in FIG. 10 is the same as has been described above for the embodiment of FIG. 1.

While specific embodiments of this invention have been described, modifications of this embodiment may be made. For example, various types of vibrators and counting mechanisms may be employed and other suitable means for holding the receiving vial can be used. These modifications and others are within the spirit and scope of this invention and are intended to be covered by the appended claims.

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