The present invention relates to a sheet feeding apparatus and an
electrographic printing machine.
A sheet feeding apparatus which can be used with a printing machine
is described in US-A-3,716,226. The sheet feeder includes a separating assembly
having a suction cup for lifting an upper sheet of a stack which is arranged near
the trailing edge of the sheet, and a suction wheel for feeding sheets inseriatum
from the top of the stack which is arranged above the leading edge of the sheet
in the stack. The sheet feeding apparatus includes a plurality of sensors for detecting
the height of the stack and for controlling drive means for moving the stack into
a correct position with respect to the suction wheel. The sensors include contact
arms which are stationary with respect to the suction wheel, and which are adapted
to identify only one stack height zone to be the correct one.
DE-C-34 47 262 describes a sheet feeding apparatus including a sheet
support and a shuttle feed head having suction means for feeding sheets inseriatum
from the top of the stack. A stack height sensor is provided above the trailing
edge of the sheets distant to the feed head. The stack height sensor includes a
stack contacting arm and a control arm which is adapted to activate one of two
switches, respectively. One of the switches indicates when actuated that the stack
is too low, and activates means for moving the sheet stack support a predetermined
level. If the correct stack height is achieved, the second switch is actuated and
switches off the movement of the sheet stack support. Only one stack height zone
JP-05 319 586 representing the closest prior art, describes a paper
feeder comprising a sheet stack support ; a vacuum feed head having an acquisition
surface constituted by a belt adjacent said stack support for feeding sheets inseriatim
from the top of the stack; a stack height sensor, wherein said stack height sensor
detects a plurality of stack height zones and generates signals indicative there
of and means for moving the sheet stack support to position the stack in a preselected
one of said plurality of said stack height zones with respect to said acquisition
surface. The paper sheet height detection sensors are arranged on the casing receiving
the paper stack and are distant from the conveyor belt.
JP-7 206 216 describes a paper sheet feeder comprising vacuum conveyor
belts for feeding sheets inseriatum from the top of a stack. A sheet face detection
means composed of a photosensor and a sheet face following member is provided adjacent
the rear end of an adjustable side wall of the casing for receiving the stack.
The sheet face following member is in contact with the upper most paper sheet on
The invention relates generally to a high capacity, wide latitude
of sheet characteristics feeder for an electrophotographic printing machine and,
more particularly, concerns a multiple zone stack height sensor for the feeder.
In a typical electrophotographic printing process, a photoconductive
member is charged to a substantially uniform potential so as to sensitize the
surface thereof. The charged portion of the photoconductive member is exposed to
a light image of an original document being reproduced. Exposure of the charged
photoconductive member selectively dissipates the charges thereon in the irradiated
areas. This records an electrostatic latent image on the photoconductive member
corresponding to the informational areas contained within the original document.
After the electrostatic latent image is recorded on the photoconductive member,
the latent image is developed by bringing a developer material into contact therewith.
Generally, the developer material comprises toner particles adhering triboelectrically
to carrier granules. The toner particles are attracted from the carrier granules
to the latent image forming a toner powder image on the photoconductive member.
The toner powder image is then transferred from the photoconductive member to a
copy sheet. The toner particles are heated to permanently affix the powder image
to the copy sheet.
The foregoing generally describes a typical black and white electrophotographic
printing machine. With the advent of multicolor electrophotography, it is desirable
to use an architecture which comprises a plurality of image forming stations. One
example of the plural image forming station architecture utilizes an image-on-image
(IOI) system in which the photoreceptive member is recharged, reimaged and developed
for each color separation. This charging, imaging, developing and recharging, reimaging
and developing, all followed by transfer to paper, is done in a single revolution
of the photoreceptor in so-called single pass machines, while multipass architectures
form each color separation with a single charge, image and develop, with separate
transfer operations for each color.
In single pass color machines and other high speed printersit is
desirable to feed a wide variety of media for printing thereon. A large latitude
of sheet sizes and sheet weights, in addition to various coated stock and other
specialty papers must be fed at high speed to the printer.
In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, there is provided
a sheet feeding apparatus according to claim 1.
In accordance with yet another aspect of the invention there is provided
an electrophotographic printing machine according to claim 5.
Other features of the present invention will become apparent as the
following description proceeds and upon reference to the drawings, in which:
- Figure 1 is a schematic elevational view of a full color image-on-image single-pass
electrophotographic printing machine utilizing the device described herein;
- Figure 2 is a side view illustrating the feeder apparatus including the invention
- Figure 3 is a detailed side view of the elevator drives for the feeder;
- Figure 4 is a detailed side view of the sheet stack illustrating the fluffer
and feedhead positions;
- Figure 5 is a is a detailed side view of the sheet stack illustrating a downcurled
- Figure 6 is a is a detailed side view of the sheet stack illustrating an upcurled
sheet stack situation;
- Figure 7 is a flow diagram of the sheet stack adjusting sequence;
- Figure 8 is a perspective view of the shuttle feedhead and dual flag stack
- Figure 9 is a detailed perspective of the actuator for the dual flag stack
- Figure 10 is a side view illustrating the ranges of the dual flag stack height
- Figure 11 is a perspective detail of the dual flag stack height sensor arm
and sensing members..
Turning now to Figure 1, the printing machine of the present invention
uses a charge retentive surface in the form of an Active Matrix (AMAT) photoreceptor
belt 10 supported for movement in the direction indicated by arrow 12, for advancing
sequentially through the various xerographic process stations. The belt is entrained
about a drive roller 14, tension rollers 16 and fixed roller 18 and the roller
14 is operatively connected to a drive motor 20 for effecting movement of the belt
through the xerographic stations.
With continued reference to Figure 1, a portion of belt 10 passes
through charging station A where a corona generating device, indicated generally
by the reference numeral 22, charges the photoconductive surface of belt 10 to
a relatively high, substantially uniform, preferably negative potential.
Next, the charged portion of photoconductive surface is advanced
through an imaging/exposure station B. At imaging/exposure station B, a controller,
indicated generally by reference numeral 90, receives the image signals from controller
100 representing the desired output image and processes these signals to convert
them to the various color separations of the image which is transmitted to a laser
based output scanning device 24 which causes the charge retentive surface to be
discharged in accordance with the output from the scanning device. Preferably the
scanning device is a laser Raster Output Scanner (ROS). Alternatively, the ROS
could be replaced by other xerographic exposure devices such as LED arrays.
The photoreceptor, which is initially charged to a voltage V0,
undergoes dark decay to a level Vddp equal to about -500 volts. When
exposed at the exposure station B it is discharged to Vexpose equal
to about - 50 volts. Thus after exposure, the photoreceptor contains a monopolar
voltage profile of high and low voltages, the former corresponding to charged areas
and the latter corresponding to discharged or background areas.
At a first development station C, developer structure, indicated
generally by the reference numeral 32 utilizing a hybrid jumping development (HJD)
system, the development roll, better known as the donor roll, is powered by two
development fields (potentials across an air gap). The first field is the ac jumping
field which is used for toner cloud generation. The second field is the dc development
field which is used to control the amount of developed toner mass on the photoreceptor.
The toner cloud causes charged toner particles 26 to be attracted to the electrostatic
latent image. Appropriate developer biasing is accomplished via a power supply.
This type of system is a noncontact type in which only toner particles (black,
for example) are attracted to the latent image and there is no mechanical contact
between the photoreceptor and a toner delivery device to disturb a previously developed,
but unfixed, image.
The developed but unfixed image is then transported past a second
charging device 36 where the photoreceptor and previously developed toner image
areas are recharged to a predetermined level.
A second exposure/imaging is performed by device 24 which comprises
a laser based output structure is utilized for selectively discharging the photoreceptor
on toned areas and/or bare areas, pursuant to the image to be developed with the
second color toner. At this point, the photoreceptor contains toned and untoned
areas at relatively high voltage levels and toned and untoned areas at relatively
low voltage levels. These low voltage areas represent image areas which are developed
using discharged area development (DAD). To this end, a negatively charged, developer
material 40 comprising color toner is employed. The toner, which by way of example
may be yellow, is contained in a developer housing structure 42 disposed at a second
developer station D and is presented to the latent images on the photoreceptor
by way of a second HSD developer system. A power supply (not shown) serves to
electrically bias the developer structure to a level effective to develop the discharged
image areas with negatively charged yellow toner particles 40.
The above procedure is repeated for a third image for a third suitable
color toner such as magenta and for a fourth image and suitable color toner such
as cyan. The exposure control scheme described below may be utilized for these
subsequent imaging steps. In this manner a full color composite toner image is
developed on the photoreceptor belt.
To the extent to which some toner charge is totally neutralized, or
the polarity reversed, thereby causing the composite image developed on the photoreceptor
to consist of both positive and negative toner, a negative pre-transfer dicorotron
member 50 is provided to condition the toner for effective transfer to a substrate
using positive corona discharge.
Subsequent to image development a sheet of support material 52 is
moved into contact with the toner images at transfer station G. The sheet of support
material is advanced to transfer station G by the sheet feeding apparatus of the
present invention, described in detail below. The sheet of support material is
then brought into contact with photoconductive surface of belt 10 in a timed sequence
so that the toner powder image developed thereon contacts the advancing sheet of
support material at transfer station G.
Transfer station G includes a transfer dicorotron 54 which sprays
positive ions onto the backside of sheet 52. This attracts the negatively charged
toner powder images from the belt 10 to sheet 52. A detack dicorotron 56 is provided
for facilitating stripping of the sheets from the belt 10.
After transfer, the sheet continues to move, in the direction of arrow
58, onto a conveyor (not shown) which advances the sheet to fusing station H.
Fusing station H includes a fuser assembly, indicated generally by the reference
numeral 60, which permanently affixes the transferred powder image to sheet 52.
Preferably, fuser assembly 60 comprises a heated fuser roller 62 and a backup or
pressure roller 64. Sheet 52 passes between fuser roller 62 and backup roller 64
with the toner powder image contacting fuser roller 62. In this manner, the toner
powder images are permanently affixed to sheet 52. After fusing, a chute, not shown,
guides the advancing sheets 52 to a catch tray, stacker, finisher or other output
device (not shown), for subsequent removal from the printing machine by the operator.
After the sheet of support material is separated from photoconductive
surface of belt 10, the residual toner particles carried by the non-image areas
on the photoconductive surface are removed therefrom. These particles are removed
at cleaning station I using a cleaning brush or plural brush structure contained
in a housing 66. The cleaning brush 68 or brushes 68 are engaged after the composite
toner image is transferred to a sheet. Once the photoreceptor is cleaned the brushes
are retracted utilizing a device 70 incorporating a clutch of the type descibed
below for the next imaging and development cycle.
It is believed that the foregoing description is sufficient for the
purposes of the present application to illustrate the general operation of a color
It is desirable in high speed color printers such as those described
above to be able to feed a wide variety of sheet types for various printing jobs.
Customers demand multiple sized stock, a wide range of paper weights, paper appearance
characteristics ranging from rough flat appearing sheets to very high gloss coated
paper stock. Each of these sheet types and size has its own unique characteristics
and in many instances very different problems associated therewith to accomplish
high speed feeding.
There is shown in Fig. 2, a side elevational schematic view of the
high speed, wide range of sheet characteristics feeder, generally indicated by
reference numeral 200, incorporating the present invention. The basic components
of the feeder 200 include a sheet support tray 210 which is tiltable and self adjusting
to accommodate various sheet types and characteristics; multiple tray elevators
220, 230 and elevator drives 222, 232; a vacuum shuttle feedhead 300; a lead edge
multiple range sheet height sensor 340; a multiple position stack height sensor
350; a variable acceleration take away roll (TAR) 400; and sheet fluffers 360,
Turning to Fig. 3, there is illustrated the general configuration
of a multi-position stack height (contact) sensor (can detect 2 or more specific
stack heights) in conjunction with a second sensor 340 near the stack lead edge
which also senses distance to the top sheet (without sheet contact). The two sensors
together enable the paper supply to position the stack 53 with respect to the acquisition
surface 302 both vertically and angularly in the process direction. This height
and attitude control greatly improves the capability of the feeder to cope with
a wide range of paper basis weight, type, and curl.
Proper feeding with a top vacuum corrugation feeder (VCF) requires
correct distance control of the top sheets in the stack 53 from the acquisition
surface and fluffer jets 360. The acquisition surface 302 is the functional surface
on the feed head 300 or vacuum plenum. In current feeders, the distance control
is accomplished using only a stack height sensor. This concept proposes a multi-position
stack height (contact) sensor 350 (can detect 2 or more specific stack heights)
in conjunction with a second sensor 340 near the stack lead edge which also senses
distance to the top sheet (without sheet contact). The two sensors together enable
the paper supply to position the stack with respect to the acquisition surface
both vertically and angularly. This height and attitude control greatly improves
the capability of the feeder to cope with a wide range of paper basis weight, type,
and curl. Both acquisition time and shingle feed prevention are improved.
Further improvement may be gained by the setting of positive and
negative air pressures in the paper feeder based on specific paper/media characteristics.
These characteristics could include: sheet basis weight, size, coating configuration
,curl direction and magnitude. Since desired air pressures are a function of these
paper characteristics, this will allow for real time compensation (for the variabilities
expected in these media characteristics) instead of a "one pressure fits all" approach.
By adjusting pressures in response to these paper characteristics, key feeder responses
(sheet acquisition times, misfeed rates and multifeed rates) can be kept closer
to their optimized target values.
The paper feeder design acquires individual sheets of paper (using
positive and negative air pressures) from the top of a stack and transports them
forward to the TAR. Among the independent variables in the paper feeder design
are two sets of air pressures. Fluffer pressures, which supply air for sheet separation
and vacuum pressure which cause sheets to be acquired by the shuttle feed head
assembly. Each set of pressures is supplied from one combination blower. As fluffer
pressure increases the sheets on the top of the stack become more separated with
the top most sheets being lifted closer to the vacuum feed head. As the fluffing
pressure gets higher, the risk of more than one sheet being moved into the take-away
nip, when the feed head moves increases also, (a.k.a. multifeed). As the fluffing
pressure gets lower, the risk of the top sheet not getting close enough to the
feed head (and thus not becoming acquired by the vacuum present on the bottom of
the feed head) increases which can result in no sheet being fed when the feed head
moves forward,(a.k.a. misfeed or late acquisition). The optimum amounts of fluffer
and vacuum feed-head pressures are a function of the size and weight of the sheets
(larger, heavier sheets requiring more fluffing and vacuum and visa-versa for smaller,
lighter sheets). This in combination with the the amount and direction of curl
in the paper which has an effect on the distance between the feed head and the
sheets on the top of the stack as discussed above. As such, optimized stack height
and LE gap settings may vary as a function of this curl. By using information input
by the operator (paper weight and coating configuration) and information from sensors
(indicating curl direction and magnitude), the respective blower speed can be adjusted
to achieve the best possible performance for the given paper conditions.
This concept of varying air pressures in combination with the tray
angling reduces the variability in key feeder performance characteristics such
as "sheet acquisition times" and "sheet separation". As a result of this reduced
variability, the feeder's performance (as measured by misfeeds, late feeds and
multifeeds) is inherently better than designs not incorporating this concept. This
concept also reduces the need for operator interventions (flipping, rotating and/or
replacing paper) for feeder performance problems that are the direct result of
differing paper properties (sizes ,weights & coatings) and normal variations
in sheet curl from ream to ream, or from paper to paper.
Proper stack orientation requires the stack 210 be tilted with the
stack leading edge higher or lower than the stack trailing edge depending on whether
there is down-curl or up-curl. This tilting brings the leading edge 152 of the
top sheets of the stack 53 into proper location relative to the acquisition surface
302 of the feed head 300 and the fluffing jets. In order to institute the corrective
tilting action, the height of the top sheet 52 near the leading edge 152 must be
sensed, relative to the feed head 300, prior to acquisition and with the air system
on and the stack "fluffed".
The process to set up the stack orientation to the feed head is:
- 1. Paper supply starts with the tray lead edge ramped up 1.4 degrees.
- 2. Paper is loaded.
- 3. Required paper properties are inputted or sensed automatically (eg., gsm,
- 4. Elevator raises to lowest possible stack height (To maintain stack control
using tray guides in preparation for air system turning on).
- 5. Initial tray angle is removed based on paper gsm
- 6. Air system activates fluffer and air knife jets, but vacuum isvalved to
- 7. Stack Height arm is raised & Lead edge attitude sensor is interrogated
for top sheet position relative to feed head acquisition surface (sensor may be
position sensitive device type or multiple sensors with different focal lengths,
- 8. Based on positions sensed by stack height and lead edge attitude sensors,
the tray angle and/or stack height is adjusted until the desired sensor states
are achieved. The processes used to achieve these states are summarized in Table
1. In order to reach the desired sensor states, it may be necessary to execute
more than one of the processes listed. Upon completion of adjustments to the tray
angle, stack height is verified.
- 9. Feeding commences and stack height and lead edge attitude positions are
checked each feed with corrections made accordingly. This enables compensation
for stack shape (curl) changes throughout feeding of a typical 2500 sheet stack
at maximum feed rates of up to 280 pages per minute (PPM).
As seen in Figs. 3-6, the lead 152 and trail 153 edges of the tray
210 in the paper supply are independently controlled. By tilting the tray 210 at
an incline/upcline severe upcurl/downcurl, respectively, can be compensated. In
current designs, elevators are driven with one motor and cannot be used to compensate
for curl. Tilting the tray in the manner illustrated significantly reduces the
number of multi-feeds for light weight media, and decreases the acquisition time
for heavy weight papers.
Turning to Figs. 3-6, to compensate for curl in the stack, the elevator
uses two independent motors 222, 232 to control the attitude of the tray 210.
The attitude of the tray 210 is used to maintain a gap between the top of a fluffed
stack 53 of paper and the lead edge of the feed head 300. The gap is maintained
by adjusting the attitude of the tray 210, based on sensor feedback as described
The tray 210 is initially tilted up on the lead edge 152 (LE) side,
approximately 1.4° when paper is loaded. The initial angle is set at the maximum
allowable angle while still maintaining stack capacity. If the paper was loaded
in a flat tray and the tray 210 had to compensate for downcurl, the LE would be
tilted up (Fig. X). By tilting up after the paper is loaded, the LE 152 of the
stack 53 will be pulled away from the LE registration wall 214. Therefore, it is
necessary to have an initial degree of tilt in the tray 210. By using a combination
of sensors in the feedhead to detect proximty of the sheet stack, which can reflect
the curl, the elevator is sent a signal to compensate for curl. Depending on the
state of curl the elevator will tilt up/down for downcurl/upcurl, respectively.
Tilting up to compensate for down curl will be limited to a maximum to prevent
a large gap between the LE 152 of the paper and the LE registration wall 214.
After the paper 53 is loaded, the tray 210 will raise to stack height.
Following this a sequence of events take place to determine the initial amount
of compensation necessary for the stack. This routine is unique from the dynamic
curl compensation that occurs during feeding. The initial determination of the
angle for the tray is shown in Figs. 4-6. During the feeding cycle, the attitude
of the tray 210 will adjust automatically to compensate for curl. This will optimize
feeding continuously, throughout a cycle. This will help to minimize misfeeds and
Paper characteristics such as dimensions (process and cross-process),
and weight (gsm) will be loaded into the print station controller by the operator
or determined automatically by sensors in the machine. The previously mentioned
characteristics are utilized by the feeder module to tailor the module's control
factor settings to the paper being run. To compensate for variation in paper characteristics,
the paper tray 210 in the feeder module uses two independent motors 222, 232 to
position the lead edge 152 of a stack 53 within a prescribed range based on feedback
from stack height 350 and lead edge attitude sensors340. Stack height is defined
as the distance from the top of the stack to the acquisition surface 302. The lead
edge attitude sensor 340 measures the distance from the top of the stack 53, at
the lead edge 152, to the acquisition surface 302 (referred to as range). The range
in which the stack lead edge 152 is positioned is determined by weight, based on
the failure modes typically associated with the paper. For example, heavy weight
papers are typically more difficult to acquire than lightweight papers, therefore,
the range for heavy weight papers is closer to the feedhead 300 than the lightweight
range. Lightweight papers, which typically are more prone to multifeed, are set
up in a range which is further from the feedhead, thus preventing sheets from being
dragged into the take away roll by sheet to sheet friction. This angling tray enables
the feeder module to achieve these desired ranges even when the paper is curled
in the process direction. This invention proposal describes the algorithm used
to control the tray motors in order to provide a quick and reliable setup.
The angle of the paper supply tray is set up using two sensors, the
stack height sensor and the lead edge attitude sensor. Each of these sensors measures
the location of the top of the paper stack. In the preferred embodiment, the stack
height sensor is actually a pair of transmissive sensors and preferably indicate
a 10,12.5,15, >15 mm stack height. The lead edge attitude sensor is an infrared
LED with 4 detectors which is used to determine the location of the stack lead
edge within a range of 0-3, 3-6, 6-9 or >9 mm from the feedhead. In the current
application, the 0-3mm range is used to measure sheet acquisition time. This is
accomplished by measuring the time from vacuum valve "open" signal until the 0-3
range is detected, indicating sheet acquisition. The desired stack height and lead
edge position are determined by user input of the paper weight in gsm. The combinations
of these sensors will indicate when the stack is in any of the following conditions:
The process illustrated in the table above is as follows:
Lead Edge Range:
Control Algorithm Response:
Raise tray maintaining current angle until either desired Stack
Height or desired Lead Edge position are reached
Raise tray only at Trail Edge until Stack Height is reached
Raise tray only at Trail Edge until Stack Height is reached
Pivot tray counter clockwise around Stack Height measurement
location until desired Lead Edge position is reached.
No response required
Pivot tray clockwise around Stack Height measurement location
until desired Lead Edge position is reached.
- Loading: When tray empty is reached, the tray lowers and is leveled when it
reaches the lower limit sensors (not shown) for the lead and trail edge of the
tray 210. At this point the lead edge of the tray is raised to approximately 1.4
degrees before the latch is released for paper loading.
- Initial Angle & Lift: Once the operator loads the tray, the tray raises
until the transition which indicates the lowest stack position at the stack height
sensor or the lead edge attitude sensor occurs. At this point, the air system is
turned on so that a measurement of the lead edge position of the fluffed stack
can be taken.
The possible conditions once the air system is turned on & lead
edge measurement is taken are as follows:
- A) Stack Height is Correct - Lead Edge is Correct: In this condition no further
set up of the tray is required. Wait for feed signal.
- B) Stack Height is Correct - Lead Edge is Too Low: Tray will rotate counter
clockwise about stack height measurement point until the lead edge is in the correct
state. This is achieved by driving the stepper motors at lead and trail edge in
opposite directions at a speed ratio defined by the distance of the lift points
from the stack height measurement point. Note this condition could result in misregistration
of stack lead edge (See "loading" under fault prevention section below).
- C) Stack Height is Correct - Lead Edge is Too High: Tray will rotate clockwise
about stack height measurement point until the lead edge is in the correct state.
This is achieved by driving the stepper motors at lead and trail edge in opposite
directions at a speed ratio defined by the distance of the lift points from the
stack height measurement point.
- D) Stack Height is Too Low - Lead Edge is Correct or Too High: Raise trail
edge only until stack height is achieved. Measure location of lead edge and execute
A), B), or C) as required.
- E) Stack Height is Too Low - Lead Edge is Too Low: Raise tray, maintaining
current angle until correct stack height or lead edge state is reached. Measure
location of lead edge and execute A), B), or C) as required. NOTE: Since the tray
is initially raised only until the lowest lead edge state or stack height is reached,
a condition in which the stack height reached is too high should only occur as
a result of a stack height sensor failure or a customer loading the tray above
the maximum fill line.
There are also various Fault Prevention Measures which are incorporated
into the system:
- Loading: The reason for the initial "loading angle" is to minimize conditions
in which the lead edge of the stack would be too low during tray setup. If stack
height has already been achieved, this lead edge low condition results in the tray
being rotated counter clockwise and could result in the top of the stack moving
away from the registration edge at the lead edge of the paper supply. By loading
the tray with the lead edge up the tray will, in most cases, rotate such that the
stack lead edge will be driven into the lead edge registration wall.
- Initial Angle & Lift: Because the stack is fluffed during setup, it is
important to avoid lifting the lead edge of the stack above the top of the lead
edge registration wall. If the sheet floats over the top of the wall it could result
in an incorrect setting of the position of the stack lead edge and skewed sheet
feeding. The lead edge sensor may detect that lead edge is too close to the feedhead
and as a result, drop lead edge. Since the lead edge is resting on the reg. wall,
it will not drop away and the tray will rotate to its limit. In order to prevent
this from occurring, before the air system is turned on, the angle in the tray
is reduced depending on the weight of the paper (high, medium, or low), in the
tray. The degree to which the tray angle is leveled was determined based on the
final angle typically reached after tray set up was completed. For example, because
the lead edge of lightweight paper typically fluffs higher than heavier weights,
and this results in the tray angle being 0 degrees or less (negative angle indicating
lead edge is lower than trail edge) after loading, the tray levels before the air
system turns on and the set up process begins
The set up process incorporates routines to prevent or detect faults
such as excessive angling of the tray, tray over travel or failures to move the
During each feed, when the trail edge 153 of the sheet being fed
passes the stack height arm 352, the arm compresses the stack 53, the stack height
sensors measure the position of the solid stack, and the stack height arm 352 is
raised again. Once the trail edge 153 of the sheet 52 passes the position of the
lead edge attitude sensor 340, the position of the lead edge 152 of the fluffed
stack 53 is measured. The values of these measurements are then compared to the
desired states for the paper being fed and the tray is adjusted accordingly. Regardless
of the state of the stack lead edge, when the stack height sensor indicates the
stack is too low, the tray increments approximately 1mm. The frequency of angular
adjustment based on feedback from the lead edge attitude sensor 340 is based on
the mode of the last few sheets recorded. For example, the lead edge gap measurement
is recorded for 3 feeds, if the mode indicates the stack lead edge was not in the
correct range most frequently, the tray angle is adjusted accordingly. The mode
is used to avoid over compensation for individual sheets within the stack. For
example, if a single sheet was not properly registered and has some edge damage
or curl at the lead edge, we would not want to immediately shift the entire stack.
Of course depending on the situation, more or less samples can be used to perform
the dynamic adjustment.
Once the setup process is completed, the system then feeds sheets
to the printer and compensates for variations in the stack as described above.
The feedhead 300 is a top vacuum corrugation feeder (TVCF) shuttle which incorporates
an injection molded plenum/feed head 301 with a sheet acquisition and corrugation
surface 302. The feed head 300 is optimally supported at each corner by a ball
bearing or other low friction roller 304. In the preferred embodiment, the feed
head 300 is driven forward 20 mm and returned 20 mm back to home position by a
continuous rotation and direction twin slider-crank drive 346 mounted on a double
shaft stepper motor 310. This includes 5mm overtravel to account for paper loading
tolerance and misregistration. This drive results in a linear sheet speed of only
about 430 mm/s as the sheet is handed off to the take away roll 400 (TAR). The
TAR 400 is also stepper driven and accelerates the sheet up to transport speed.
Since the stepper controls are variable in software, the feeder can feed from any
minimum speed to a demonstrated PPM rate of 280 (for 8.5") for a wide range of
paper type, basis weight, and size with no hardware changes.
The stack height sensor 350 is mounted on the outboard side of the
feed head 300 about 6 inches back from stack lead edge. The purpose of this is
to keep the stack height sensing near the fluffer jets 360 which are also mounted
on the inboard and outboard sides of the stack about 5 inches back from stack lead
edge 152. These measurements, while used in the preferred embodiment are not critical,
except that it is desirable to have the sensor arm and the fluffer jets 360 in
relatively close proximity. This insures that the top of the sheet stack will be
well controlled with respect to the fluffer jets. During the sheet feed out process,
after the feed head 300 hands off the sheet to the TAR 400, the feed head 300 delays
in the forward position to allow the sheet 52v to feed to the point where the trail
edge 153 (TE) just passes the stack height sensing position. When the TE of the
sheet reaches this point, the delay has already ended and the feed head 300 has
returned to a point where a concentric (to feed head drive) cam 348 will drop the
spring loaded stack height sensing arm 352 onto the stack 53. This arm 352 rests
on the stack for about 25 ms and software monitors the stack height zone. Then,
as the feed head drive 346 continues, the cam 348 lifts the arm 352from the stack
53 as the feed head 300 reaches its "home" position. The stack height sensor actually
consists of two low cost transmissive 355, 357 sensors used in parallel with two
flags 354, 356 mounted on the stack height sensing arm 352. This provides four
stack height zones: >15 mm, 15-12.5 mm, 12.5-10, mm and <10 mm as indicated
in Table 2 below and shown in Figs. 10 and 11. Testing has indicated that with
lighter weight papers, a further distance between top of stack and acquisition
surface 302 is desirable to prevent compression of sheets against the feed head
from the side fluffers 360. With intermediate and heavier basis weight papers,
a closer zone (12.5 or 10 mm) is desirable to minimize sheet acquisition times.
Some of the benefits of the illustrated feedhead design are:
Reliable stepper motor driven feed head with twin drive points to
Can customize feed head acceleration profile with delay to enable
stack height measurement as part of motor drive.
No belt coast problems due to inertia resulting in shingle multifeed
risk and need for drag brake.
Consistent acquisition hole pattern position relative to stack LE
to avoid vacuum leakage in front of LE.
Short feed head stroke before sheet is under control of TAR 400 assembly.
Feed head supports sheet fully as it carries it to the TAR 400. Avoids
"pushing on rope" scenario with earlier systems which drive the sheet greater
than 90 mm to the TAR.
As previously mentioned, light and heavy weight media typically have
two different failure modes. Lightweight media is generally easily acquired but
difficult to separate, resulting in a increased tendency to multifeed as compared
to heavyweight media. On the other hand, although heavyweight media is less likely
to multifeed, it can at times be difficult to acquire. Using an analog stack height
sensor, or multiple digital sensors, the stack height of the feeder module can
be adjusted to compensate for the basis weight of the media being fed. This "optimization"
of the stack height to address the media's failure mode results in increased latitude.
Using a stack height assembly consisting of two transmissive sensors
355, 357 and two flags 354, 356 , the stack height of a feeder module can be set
to three different levels depending on the weight of the media. This "optimization"
of the stack height to address the media's failure mode results in increased latitude.
When feeding lightweight media, the stack height is set larger in order to increase
the gap to the feedhead 300. This allows more room for separation of the media
using fluffer jets 360. This increased gap also reduces the chances that the unacquired
media will be fluffed into contact with the acquisition surface 302 and subsequently
be shingle fed into the take away roll 400 due to the friction between sheets.
When feeding heavyweight media the stack height will be set smaller. This reduces
the gap to the feedhead and reduces the time required to acquire. Figures 10 and
11 depict the three stack height zones and the stack height assembly which will
be used in the feeder module 200. By adjusting the positions of the sensors and/or
the configuration on the flags, the transition points could be adjusted to different
levels. In the illustrated design, the stack height transitions occur at 15, 12.5,
and 10mm. The sensor states that indicate these levels are shown in Table 2.
Some of the benefits of the illustrated stack height sensing design
Moved close to fluffer jets to better control relationship of where
fluffing flow is applied and where the top of the paper stack actually is.
Low cost because no additional components required to apply stack
height arm to stack intermittently (driven from feed head drive motor).
Adds no drag force on paper during drive out to contribute to skew
Three settable stack heights with two sensors provide more appropriate
stack height setting for wide paper specification range.
Enables "service mode" position to avoid damage during paper supply
Another problem faced by previous feeders is that they must be able
to feed a wide variety of paper sizes and basis weights ( i.e. 60-270 gsm, 5.5
x 7" short edge feed(SEF) to 14.33 x 20.5" SEF) which results in a significant
range of sheet mass (1.5-51.2 gm). This sheet mass must be accelerated by a take
away roll (TAR) nip 400 up to the steady state transport speed of the printer,
typically within about 35-40 ms in the case of a high speed printer. This acceleration
can be accomplished using a stepper motor, but a problem encountered with this
type of system is the torque and drive roll friction required to accelerate the
high sheet mass papers to the maximum transport speed.
Sheet mass is partially a function of the paper length in the process
direction. In a printer that has discrete pitch length zones, the pitch rate changes
with the sheet length. For example, a 4 pitch mode may have a pitch time of 1480
ms while a 12 pitch mode will have a pitch time of only 493 ms. These pitch times
may get as short as only 211 ms pitch time for a (240 PPM) 13 pitch mode.
The feed process is made up of basically two components: 1) sheet
acquisition including multiple sheet separation time, and, 2) sheet drive out
time. As the pitch time increases, required acquisition and separation time do
not increase at the same rate. For example, there are differences in the acquisition
times between a 2 gm and 50 gm sheet, which are on the order of 40 ms for the 2
gm sheet and 120 ms for a 50 gm sheet. From the pitch times quoted above, there
could easily be almost 1000 ms more due to longer pitch times compared to an acquisition
separation time increase of only about 80 ms for the same sheet size range.
Since it is known from either customer provided input or automatic
sensing what sheet length and resulting pitch size are feeding from any tray,
the acceleration profile for the TAR can be customized according to how much time
is available to bring the sheet to transport speed in a given pitch zone. For longer
sheet length with higher mass, there is also more acceleration time available and
can reduce the required acceleration to a value that the motor and drive nip friction
can handle thereby keeping motor size down and making more efficient use of the
available torque of the motor with no added cost.
The motor acceleration for the TAR 400 is controlled by an exponential
equation which has an acceleration constant multiplying factor. Optimum accerlation
constants for the extreme cases of pitch size were determined empirically using
the heaviest weight and the shortest and longest pitch lengths. For all pitch lengths
in between the extremes, a linear extrapolatin was used to determine each constant
In recapitulation, there is provided a stack height assembly consisting
of two transmissive sensors and two flags, the stack height of a feeder module
can be set to three different levels depending on the weight of the media. This
"optimization" of the stack height to address the media's failure mode results
in increased latitude. When feeding lightweight media, the stack height is set
larger in order to increase the gap to the feedhead. This allows more room for
separation of the media using fluffer jets. This increased gap also reduces the
chances that the un-acquired media will be fluffed into contact with the acquisition
surface and subsequently be shingle fed into the take away roll due to the friction
between sheets. When feeding heavyweight media the stack height will be set smaller.
This reduces the gap to the feedhead and reduces the time required to acquire.
It is, therefore, apparent that there has been provided in accordance
with the present invention, a sheet feeding apparatus including a multiple zone
stack height sensor that fully satisfies the aims and advantages hereinbefore set