|Title of Invention||
APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING A PLURALITY OF MATERIALS AND METHOD OF COMPOUNDING SUBSTANCES
|Abstract||Abstract An apparatus for dispensing a plurality of powders, such as colorants for paint, caulking or grout or components of cosmetics, comprising a plurality of containers (5) for holding the powders, a plurality of metering powder pumps (4), connected to a container or having a connector for releasably connecting a container to the respective powder pump, wherein the capacity of the metering powder pump is selectable.|
APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING A PLURALITY OP MATERIALS AND METHOD OF COMPOUNDING SUBSTANCES
An apparatus for dispensing a plurality of flowable materials, such as colorants for paint, dye, caulking or grout or components of cosmetics, and to a method of compounding flowable substances are disclosed.
Background of the Related Art
A prior art apparatus of this type is disclosed in US patent application 2003/0230355, This document pertains to an interactive cosmetic body powder selection system having a point of sale dispenser. The system includes a cosmetic powder dispenser that contains a plurality of different shades, tints or hues of colors or pigments, which can be dispensed in pre-selected proportions to create a custom color selection. A user-interactive system is provided at a point-of-sale for allowing a user to choose or dispense a color, effect, or both. Information about the selection is employed for dispensing the appropriate proportions of ingredients. Preferably the ingredients are dispensed manually into a powder canister having an integrated brush in fluid communication with the canister. In another embodiment, the system is automated.
US 4,959,947 relates to an apparatus for the production and packaging of a compound mixture, in which extremely accurate and rapid weighing-out, proportioning and packaging of individual components are achieved, is provided. For this, filling stations (4 to 6) are equipped with combined discharge, weighing and transfer devices (22), which allow single-component treatment. In
column 4, lines 25 to 32 it is stated that MT]he first type of filling station 4 (individual vessels 1 to 4) illustrated in FIG. 1 has a discharge device 23 which is composed of two electronically controlled worm conveyors 24 arranged above one another and of an electronically controlled shut off valve 25. The double worm conveyor serves for matching the proportioning capacity to the material to be conveyed or to the amount to be weighed out from the feed vessel 7.”
German Utility Model 299 24 013 relates to a metering device for a powder, such as aluminum powder for making cellular concrete, which comprises a relatively large screw for generating a relatively large mass flow and a relatively small screw, which receives material from the relatively large screw.
An apparatus for and method of relatively accurately and relatively quickly dispensing different amounts of flowable materials such as powders, slurries and liquids are disclosed.
In an embodiment, the said amounts vary over a wide range.
The disclosed apparatus is of a relatively robust construction.
SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
An apparatus for dispensing a plurality of powders and other flowable materials, such as colorants for paint, caulking or grout or components of cosmetics, comprising a plurality of containers for holding the powders, a plurality of metering pumps, connected to a container or having a connector for releasably connecting a container to the respective pump, wherein the capacity of the metering pump, i.e. the amount dispensed at each revolution (in case of screw pumps) or nominal stroke (in case of a piston pumps), is selectable.
By employing metering pumps of which the capacity is selectable, the time needed for dispensing a
particular amount of flowable material can be reduced and/or the accuracy with which this amount is dispensed can be increased. In other words, it becomes possible to optimize for speed on the one hand and accuracy on the other.
A selectable capacity can be achieved in various ways. E.g. by providing a screw pump, which can be tilted so as to lower the outlet opening and thus stimulate the flow of the material, or by providing a screw pump, wherein the screw comprises a helical wire or spring wound about a rod and wherein the effective pitch of the screw and thus the capacity can be increased respectively decreased by elongating respectively shortening the helical wire or spring. It is also possible to employ a conical screw housed in a (horizontal) conical chamber, with the outlet opening at the apex of the conical chamber. By moving the screw, in axial direction, away from or towards the outlet opening, the capacity of the pump can be respectively increased or decreased.
However, it is preferred that the metering pumps may comprise two, preferably separated pump mechanisms, one mechanism having a relatively large dispensing capacity and another mechanism having a relatively small dispensing capacity. With such pumps, the amounts to be dispensed may vary over a wide range.
It is further preferred that the disclosed apparatus comprises at least one weighing device for weighing at least one, preferably all of the dispensed amounts.
A disclosed method of compounding substances, such as paints, dyes, caulking or grout or cosmetics, comprises
providing apparatus comprising a plurality of containers holding powders, a plurality of pumps,
dispensing an amount of powder into a receptacle by means of at least one of the metering pumps and
selecting the capacity of this metering powder pump prior to or during the dispensing of that amount.
It is preferred that at least some, preferably-all of the metering pumps comprise at least two pump mechanisms and that the method further comprises
dispensing a relatively large part of the said amount by means of one mechanism and
dispensing a relatively small part of the said amount by means of another mechanism.
Optimization of speed and/or accuracy is further facilitated if the said large part is at least ten times larger than the said small part.
The disclosed method is especially suitable for compounding substances at a point-of-sale or, in case of paint, at a paint shop.
Within the framework of the invention, the term “powder” is defined as particles having a size in a range from 0 to 150 0 μm, preferably in a range from 10 to 1000 μm, more preferably in a range from 10 to 500 μm, and at least includes granulates, microgranulates, crystals, frit, grounds, microspheres and the like.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Figure 1 is a perspective view of a disclosed apparatus for dispensing powders and other flowable materials;
Figure 2 is a perspective top view of a metering pump used in the apparatus of Figure 1;
Figure 3 is a further top view of the said metering pump;
Figures 4 and 5 are cross-sectional side views of a container and metering pump used in the apparatus of Figure 1;
Figures 6 and 7 are perspective views of a second apparatus for dispensing powders comprising several additional features;
Figures 8A to 8C are perspective views of a refill container and a valve for use in the same.
Figures 9A and 9B show perspective views of a presently preferred coupling system.
Figures 10A to 10D show two perspective views and two side views of a stirring system.
It is noted that the drawings are not necessarily to scale and that details, which are not necessary for understanding the present invention, may have been omitted. The terms “upper”, “lower”, “horizontal”, ^vertical”, “front”, “rear”, and the like relate to the embodiments as oriented in the figures. Further, elements that are at least substantially identical or that perform an at least substantially identical function are denoted by the same numeral.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Figures 1 and 2 illustrate an example of an apparatus 1 for dispensing a plurality of powders or other flowable materials, such as pigments for compounding paints, dyes, caulking or grout or components of cosmetics, e.g. foundations. It can be used for numerous paint or cosmetic recipes and can be located e.g. at a retailer, a spa or at a body repair shop for cars.
This particular dispensing apparatus 1 is an automated version and includes a horizontal turntable 2, mounted on a support 3 and carrying, along its circumference, a plurality of metering pumps 4 and twenty-four containers 5 for the powders or flexible materials. The turntable 2 can be rotated about a vertical, central axis by means of a motor inside the support 3 and between discrete positions, in this case forty-eight positions (two for each container as will become apparent below) including a front or dispensing position provided with a stepper motor 6 for driving one of the pumps 4.
The apparatus 1 further comprises a control device 7 comprising a small keyboard 8 for entering information, such as client data and paint recipes, and a display 9. The control device 7 also comprises a computer 10 for storing the said information and for driving the turntable 2 and the stepper motor 6.
A weighing device 11, comprising an upper plate (shown in figure 1) on which a cup or other receptacle can be placed and a load-cell (hidden from view and known in itself) , is located beneath the pump 4 and the container 5 that are in the dispensing position. Optionally, a dispenser (not shown) for cups or other receptacles can be provided, especially when the apparatus 1 is being employed for dispensing components of cosmetics.
As can be seen in Figures 2 and 3, each of the metering pumps 4 comprises a housing 12 having a inlet chamber 13, with an inlet opening facing upwards and positioned beneath a container 5, and a polycylindrical bore (shown in cross-section in figures 4 and 5) leading to an outlet chamber 14 facing downwards and, during dispensing, positioned over a receptacle 15. A lid 16 is pivotably mounted on the housing 12 for closing the outlet chamber 14.
Inserts 17 are mounted, e.g. by means of an external screw thread, in the said channel. These inserts 17 are provided with axially extending pump chambers, which accommodate two concave profile screws 18 of different size and which can be readily replaced, e.g. when a different type or size of screw is to be fitted. In this example, the screws 18 extend radially with respect to the turntable 2. The relatively large screw 18A has a diameter of 22 mm and a double pitch of 12 mm, yielding a dispensed volume for each revolution of 735 mm3, whereas the relatively small screw 18B has a diameter of 8.5 mm and a double pitch of 7 mm, yielding a dispensed volume for each revolution of 35 mm3. First ends of the screws 18, extending away from the central
vertical axis of the turntable 2, are each provided with an adaptor 19 which is to be engaged by the stepper motor 6, as will be explained in more detail below. Further, each of the screws 18 is made of polypropylene (PP) or Teflon™ (PTFE) reinforced with a cylindrical metal rod 20.
In order to further improve the dispensing accuracy of the screws 18, the effective outer diameter of the screws 18 is in excess of the effective inner diameter the respective chamber. The rim of the screw is at least partially bent in the displacement direction of the pump. Such bending can be achieved, by simply inserting the oversized screws in the channels from the outlet side towards in the inlet side.
In an alternative embodiment, which is especially suitable for fragile powders, the effective outer diameter of the screw is smaller than the effective inner diameter of the respective chamber, resulting in clearance between the screw and the chamber, and wherein the screw is provided with bristles that bridge this clearance. This type of screw was found to be effective in reducing the forces exerted on the powder.
As illustrated in figures 4 and 5, during the dispensing of a particular recipe, e.g. consisting just of powders or other flowable materials to be dispensed and mixed, in a cup or consisting of a base material into which one or more powders or materials should be dispensed, the turntable 2 is rotated about its vertical axis until the container 5 with the required powder is in the dispensing position. Subsequently, the lid 16 is opened and, depending on the amount to be dispensed, the large screw 18A, which a particular powder having a density of, say, 0.57 g/cm3 dispenses 0.42 g for each revolution, or the small screw 18B, which dispenses 20 mg for each revolution, is selected. E.g. if 84.36 g is to be dispensed, the large screw 18A is positioned in front of the stepper motor 6, engaged by the same, and driven to completed 200 turns. Subsequently, the small screw 18B
is positioned in front of the stepper motor 6, engaged by the same, and driven to complete 18 turns, yielding the required amount -
In another example, employing the weighing device 11, if the screws have an accuracy of 2%, 96% of the required amount is dispensed by the large screw 18A and the dispensed amount is checked by the weighing device 11. If it is established that e.g. 97% of the required amount has been dispensed, the large screw 18A is driven to dispense a total of 99% and the remaining part is dispensed by means of the small screw 18B. The accuracy of the screws can be further enhanced by calibrating, relative to a reference or zero position of the screw, the dispensed amounted in several positions within one revolution, e.g. for each step of 3 0 degrees yielding a total of 12 steps in one revolution. By calibrating for several positions, any non-linear effects can be take into account. These effects dependent inter alia, on the dimensions and- material of the screw and on the powder that is being dispensed. In some cases, the screw will dispense relatively small amounts or not dispense at all during e.g. two or three steps and then dispense a relatively large amount in the fourth step, which phenomenon could be referred to as “pulsing” . Many of these effects were found to be sufficiently regular to allow compensation by calibration.
In addition to use during dispensing, the above-described weighing device 11 can also be used to calibrate one or more of the pumps.
Once dispensing of a particular material has been completed, the lid 16 is closed and the turntable 2 is rotated until the next required container 5 is in the dispensing position. Closing the lid 16 prevents material from falling out during rotation. In an alternative embodiment, the screws that have just been used are revolved in reverse direction prior to rotation of the turntable thus drawing the material back into the metering pump.
With the above described apparatus and method dispensing it is possible to relatively accurately and quickly dispense amounts ranging from e.g. 10 mg to 500
Figures 6 and 7 show a second embodiment of an apparatus for dispensing powders comprising several additional features. This second embodiment comprises substantially the same components as the embodiment described above, including a horizontal turntable 2 (best shown in figure 10A) , with a plurality, in this example twenty-four, metering pumps 4 (best shown in figures 9A and 9B) and containers 4, mounted along its circumference- The turntable 2 can be rotated between discrete positions, in this example, forty-eight positions including a front or dispensing position (marked in figure 6 by a single exposed container) , about a vertical, central axis by means of a drive (not shown) . The apparatus 1 includes a frame of e.g. aluminium extrusion profiles 21 to which sheets 22 of metal or a polymer (transparent, translucent or opaque) have been attached by means of e.g. screws. A control device 7 comprising a display 9 and a keyboard 8 for entering information, such as customer data and recipes, is mounted on the right hand side of the frame, next to a door 23. This door 23 contains a computer (10) for storing the said information and for driving the turntable 2, actuators, including a stepper motor 6, for operating the pumps 4, etc. A weighing device 11 is positioned below the door 23 in a recess where a cup or the like for receiving powders dispensed by the apparatus 1 can be placed.
A substantially rectangular hatch 24 is pivotally mounted, along one of its rims, in the top sheet 22. Further,, a metal coversheet 25 is present below the hatch 24, which coversheet 25 comprises an opening 26 that corresponds in shape to the shape of the containers and which consequently allows access to only one container 4 at a time.
A ventilation unit is located below the turntable, which comprises a grille 27 and which will remove airborne powder. Further, an ionisation device 28 (e.g. a Static Eliminator AD1683EX ex A&D) is provided near, preferably around the dispensing opening of the pump 3 of the container 4 in the dispensing position. This ionisation device 28 serves to reduce or even neutralise electrostatic charges in the material that is being dispensed, thus preventing this material from e.g. adhering to the pump or other parts of the dispenser and improving the accuracy with which the powder is dispensed.
Figures 8A to 8C show a refill container 3 0 and cap 31 comprising a valve. On one end, the cap 31 comprises an internal thread 32, with which the cap 31 can be screwed on top of the refill container 30. On the other end, the cap 31 is adapted to the shape of the fill opening of the containers 4. A valve member, in this example a disc 33 that can be rotated by means of a lever 34, is mounted inside the cap 31.
During the refilling of one of the containers 4, information identifying a particular refill container 3 0 is inputted into the computer, e.g. by reading a barcode or a radio frequency identification (RF-ID) tag on the refill bottle, and the corresponding container 4 is rotated to the dispensing position and becomes accessible through the opening 26 in de coversheet 25. Subsequently, the container 4 is opened, the refill container 30 is placed on top of the fill opening of the container 4, and the valve 33 is opened by rotating the lever 34. Once the container 4 is filled and/or the refill container 3 0 is emptied, the valve 33 is closed and the refill container 30 is removed.
In this procedure, the risk of filling a container with a wrong powder and the risk of contamination by the powder are reduced significantly. For the sake of completeness, it is noted that the coversheet 25 and the refill container- 30, respectively.
provide the same advantages in dispensers and containers for other media, such as liquids and pastes.
Figures 9A and 9B show perspective views of a presently preferred coupling system comprising a support plate 40, which can be moved back and forth with respect to the door (23) and the container 4 in the dispensing position by means of a spindle 41 driven by a (further) motor 42 and running through an element (not shown) that is fixed to the frame.
To facilitate alignment of the driver 6 and the pump 4 that is located at the dispensing position, the coupling system comprises a pair of pins 43 fixed to the support plate 40 and a pair of resilient bushings 44, one for each adaptor 19 to be engaged by the pins 43. The bushings 44 are preferably made of a thermoplastic polymer or a rubber and comprise an annular recess 45 for guiding the pins 43. Further, to compensate for minor misalignments, the driver 6 engages the adaptor 19 by means of a pin 45 that has been mounted on a resilient connector 46. In this example, the resilience of the connector 46 has been obtained by a series of staggered lateral cuts, which extend to the central axis of the connector.
Figures 10A to 10D show a preferred system for stirring the contents of one or more, preferably all of the containers 4. In this example, the system comprises, for each of the containers 4, a stirrer 50 having a shaft 51 rotatably mounted in the bottom wall of the respective container 4 and through the pump 3 beneath. The section of the shaft 51 that is inside the container 4 comprises stirring elements, such as flexible rods 52A resting on the inner wall of the respective container (Figure IOC) or rigid rods 52B shaped to encompass a substantial part of the volume of the respective container 4 (Figure 10D) . The end of the shaft 51 is provided with a means for engaging a drive mechanism 53 attached to the frame of the apparatus 1 and located beneath the dispensing position.
In this example, the end of the shaft 51 comprises a hook 54, whereas the drive mechanism 53 comprises a plate 55, a motor 56, guides 57 for supporting a rotational motion of the plate 55, and an alignment ramp 58 located next to (and upstream from) the plate 55, The plate 55 is provided with a pair of studs 59 for engaging the hook 54. During operation, the containers 4 will be rotated about the central axis of the apparatus 1 and the hooks 54 of the containers 4 will pass along and, if directed away from the central axis, be aligned. When the required container 4 has reached the dispensing position, the containers 4 are brought to a halt and the plate 5 of the drive mechanism 53 is rotated. During rotation the studs 59 will engage the hook 54, the shaft 51 of the stirrer 50 will be rotated thus stirring the powder inside the container 4.
Stirring improves the accuracy with which the powder can be dispensed. Instead of or in addition to stirring, the powder in the containers can be agitated by other means, such as a vibration device 60 attached to the wall of the containers, as shown in Figures IOC and 10D. Variations in column pressure, which may also be detrimental to accuracy, can be reduced by means of a pressure divider (known in itself) positioned over the inlet of respective pumps.
As a matter of course, this disclosure is not restricted to the above-disclosed embodiments, which may be varied and still fall within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. For example, the disclosed apparatus can be configured as a linear dispensing apparatus i.e. with the containers aligned is a row. Also, as indicated above, the apparatus may also comprise at least one container for a liquid or other flowable materials and a metering liquid pump connected to that container.
What is Claimed is;-
1. An apparatus for dispensing a plurality of flowable materials comprising:
a plurality of containers for holding the materials, a plurality of pumps, each pump connected to a container or having a connector for releasably connecting a container to the respective pump, wherein the capacity of the metering pump is selectable.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least some, preferably all of the pumps comprise at least two pump mechanisms, one mechanism having a relatively large dispensing capacity and another mechanism having a relatively small dispensing capacity.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 or 2, wherein at/ least one of the pumps or pump mechanisms comprises a pump screw accommodated in a pump chamber.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the effective outer diameter of the screw is in excess of the effective inner diameter the respective chamber and wherein the rim of the screw is at least partially bent in the displacement direction of the pump.
5. The apparatus of to claim 3, wherein the effective outer diameter of the screw is smaller than the effective inner diameter of the respective chamber, resulting in clearance between the screw and chamber, and wherein the screw is provided with bristles that bridge this clearance.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 or 2, which comprises a dispensing position common to all metering powder pumps and wherein a driver for engaging the pump that is located at the dispensing position.
7. The apparatus of claim. 6, comprising a coupling mechanism for facilitating alignment of the driver and the pump that is located at the dispensing position.
8. The apparatus according to claim 7, wherein the coupling mechanism comprises a pair of pins
associated with each pump or pump mechanism or, preferably, with the driver, and a protrusion to be engaged by the pins associated with, respectively, the driver or each pump or pump mechanism.
9. The apparatus according to claim 8, wherein the protrusion comprises a resilient bushing, preferably having a recess for guiding the pins.
10. The apparatus according to claim 6, wherein the driver comprises a stepper motor. '
11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein one or more of the containers comprise a stirring mechanism.
12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein at least one of the stirring mechanisms comprises a stirring element mounted rotatably inside a container.
13. The apparatus of claim 12/ which comprises a dispensing position common to all container's and a driver for engaging the stirring mechanism of the container that is located at the dispensing position.
14. The apparatus of claim 1, which is arranged to dispense any amount in a range from 10 mg to 1 g.
15. The apparatus according to claim l, comprising at least one weighing device for* weighing at least one of the dispensed amounts.
16. The apparatus according to claim 1, which further comprises at least one container for a liquid and a metering liquid pump connected to that container.
17. The apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the screw or screws are made of a polyolefin, preferably PP or PTFE.
18. The apparatus of claim 1, comprises a cover that restricts access to the containers to a single container.
19. A method of compounding substances comprising:
providing an apparatus comprising a plurality of containers, each container holding a flowable material, the apparatus also comprising a plurality of pumps, each pump linked to one of the containers,
dispensing an amount of flowable material into a receptacle by means of at least one pumpr and
weighing the amount of flowable material dispensed into the receptacle,
comparing the amount dispensed with a desired amount,
using a difference between the amount dispensed and the desired amount to adjust operation of the pump in future dispenses.
20. The method of claim 18, wherein at least some, preferably all of the metering pumps comprise at least two pump mechanisms and which further comprises:
dispensing a relatively large part of the said amount by means of one mechanism, and
dispensing a relatively small part of the said amount by means of another mechanism.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein the said large part is at least ten times larger than the said small part.
22. The method of claim 19, wherein the weight of each of the flowable materials is measured individually.
23. The method of claim 19, wherein at least one flowable material is dispensed in a base material, such as a base paint.
24. The method of claim 19, wherein the substances are compounded at a point-of-sale.
25. The method of claim 19, further comprising selecting the capacity of this pump prior to or during the dispensing of that amount.
26. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the weighing device and pumps are linked to a controller and wherein each time a particular pump dispenses an amount, the weighing device weights the dispensed amount and the controller compares the dispensed amount with a predetermined actual amount and uses any difference between the dispensed and desired amounts to modify
operation of that particular pump during future dispenses.
27. A method of calibrating the apparatus of claim 3, comprising:
rotating the pump screw through several positions within one revolution of the screw, thus dispensing an amount of the powder for each position
weighing the amount of powder dispensed at each position of the screw, and
providing a memory and storing the measured amounts for each position.
28. A method of dispensing a plurality of flowable ingredients utilizing individually controlled dispense pumps drawing flowable material from separate material containers, the pumps positioned to dispense to a common receptacle with a weighing device associated with the receptacle and a computer controlling operation of the pumps, the method comprising:
operating a selected pump to draw a first, amount of flowable material from said container and dispensing first amount to said receptacle in accordance with a program stored on said computer which relates a parameter of pump operations to a desired dispense amount of flowable material from said container,
weighing an actual amount dispensed to said receptacle,
comparing the actual amount to the first amount,
determining a difference between the actual and first amounts to provide a deviation determination for the pump,
utilizing said deviation determination as a modifier for further dispense from said container to said receptacle through controlled operation of said selected pump.
29. A method of dispensing a plurality of flowable ingredients utilizing individually controlled dispense pumps drawing flowable material from separate containers,, the pumps positioned to dispense to a common
receptacle with a weighing device associated with the receptacle and a computer controlling operation of the pumps, the method comprising:
operating a selected pump in a controlled manner to move a predetermined assumed amount of a chosen flowable material less than a desired complete dispense amount of said material to said receptacle in accordance with a program stored on said computer which relates a parameter of pump operation to the predetermined assumed amount of flowable material,
weighing an amount actually dispensed to said receptacle and determining an actual amount dispensed,
comparing the actual amount dispensed to the • predetermined assumed amount and determining a difference between the actual amount dispensed and the predetermined assumed amount to provide a deviation determination between the predetermined assumed amount and actual dispensed amount for the selected pump,
utilizing said deviation determination as a modifier to the parameter for further dispense through controlled operation of the selected pump.
|Indian Patent Application Number||4499/CHENP/2006|
|PG Journal Number||32/2013|
|Date of Filing||07-Dec-2006|
|Name of Patentee||FLUID MANAGEMENT, INC|
|Applicant Address||1023 WHEELING ROAD, WHEELING, IL 600090-5776, USA|
|PCT International Classification Number||B01F 13/10|
|PCT International Application Number||PCT/EP05/52045|
|PCT International Filing date||2005-05-04|