Patent application title: APPARATUS AND METHOD TO FULLY AUTOMATICALLY OPEN CRATES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
Luca Benedetti (Savarna, IT)
IPC8 Class: AB65B4326FI
Class name: Methods forming or partial forming a receptacle and subsequent filling opening or setting up collapsed, preformed receptacle
Publication date: 2013-12-26
Patent application number: 20130340393
Method and apparatus for opening pairs of opposed reclined walls of a
plurality of crates, comprises carrying a first stack to a first working
station, raising opposed walls of the upper crate by rotation with
respect to the bottom plane, raising the other two front walls by
rotation, blocking at least one of the side walls to an adjacent side
wall, horizontally transferring the open crate into a position where it
is lowered onto an adjacent second stack opened crates.
1. Method to fully automatically open the side and reclined walls of a
plurality of crates preferably for agricultural products, provided with a
bottom plane and with two pairs of opposed walls, each of them hinged on
said bottom plane, which are arranged in the same and ordered way, and
vertically laid one on the other so as to form a respective first stack,
wherein it comprises the following operations: a) carrying said first
stack into an loading station b) vertically raising two opposed walls of
the upper crate by respective rotation with respect to said bottom plane,
c) vertically rising of the other two opposed walls of the upper crate by
respective rotation with respect to said bottom plane, d) blocking of at
least one of said side walls to an adjacent side wall, e) horizontally
transferring said open crate into a position outside the vertical
projection of said first stack.
2. Method according to claim 1, wherein, after said operation in a), and before said operation in b), said first stack is lifted to a level such as the crate in the upper position and with the reclined side walls, reaches a pre-determined level into a first working station.
3. Method according to claim 2, wherein, after said lifting to said level, said upper crate is blocked with respect to said first working station by means acting laterally onto said bottom plane of said upper crate.
4. Method according to claim 1, wherein, after said operation in e), the upper open crate is lowered until a support level of the respective bottom plane on a second stack of opened crates.
5. Method according to claim 1, wherein said operation in b) is carried out by using devices which: do push against the side edges of said walls, and then do drag into rotation said walls according to rotation axes basically coincident with the rotation axes of said walls.
6. Method according to claim 1, wherein said operation in c) is implemented by using devices able of engaging, as an hook, on the outer rims of said other two walls, and that successively drag into rotation said respective walls on rotation axes parallel and preferably coincident to the respective rotation axes of the hinges of said other two walls.
7. Method according to claim 1, wherein said blocking operation in d) and said operation in e) are carried out by using means able of: being initially lowered until it is introduced into an opened crate, being acted so as to increase one horizontal size and to contact the side edges of two opposed walls, and to engage by pushing said two edges to corresponding edges of the other two walls, to keep on engaged by pushing said crate and to be horizontally transferred, possibly after a lifting motion, so as to automatically transfer said crate.
8. Apparatus for the opening of two pairs of opposed walls of a crate placed on a first stack of closed crates, wherein it comprises: lifting means of said first stack to an opening station, first opening means of a first pair of opposed walls, second opening means of a second pair of opposed walls, third reciprocal blocking means between at least two adjacent walls
9. Apparatus according to claim 8, wherein said first opening means do comprise: actuators and respective extractable means able of pushing against the side edges of the first pair of opposed walls, rotation means of each of said walls, comprising a first type lever, and able of rotating said extractable means around respective axes substantially aligned to the hinge axes of respective said opposed walls.
10. Apparatus according to claim 8, wherein said second opening means do comprise: hooking means able of being inserted below respective rims of said second pair of opposed walls, rotating actuators able of turning said hooking means around respective axes which are basically aligned to the hinge axes of the respective said walls.
11. Apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said third blocking means do comprise a centre operation body bearing, on two opposite sides, two respective horizontal arms which support respective operating boxes. each of which is provided with respective extractable means which is able of selectively move outwards and inwards of the respective operating box, each extractable means being able of moving on mainly parallel but opposed directions, when referred to the two opposed operating boxes.
12. Apparatus according to claim 11, wherein said third means are able: to engage to the inner sides of the walls of an opened crate, and then to push them outwards, and successively to horizontally move said crate, and then to disengage from it.
13. Apparatus according to claim 12, wherein a lowering frame is arranged, which is able to engage to said crate after the relevant dis-engagement from said third means, and to lower it to a predetermined level, alternately: on a previously opened crate placed on a stack of opened crates, or on sliding means apt of moving away the stacks of successive opened crates.
14. Apparatus for the opening of two pairs of opposed walls of a crate placed on a first stack of closed crates, wherein it comprises: lifting means of said first stack to an opening station, first opening means of a first pair of opposed walls, second opening means of a second pair of opposed walls, third reciprocal blocking means between at least two adjacent walls provided with a control and command means able of storing and of sending in an ordered sequence the instructions/signals able of carrying out the methods according to claim 1.
15. Apparatus according to claim 9, wherein said second opening means do comprise: hooking means able of being inserted below respective rims of said second pair of opposed walls, rotating actuators able of turning said hooking means around respective axes which are basically aligned to the hinge axes of the respective said walls.
 The present invention relates to a perfected apparatus and method
to open the crates normally used to contain agricultural products; in
fact, it should be reminded that after being used and emptied, said
crates are closed again reclining inwards the relative vertical walls.
 The object of this operation is that of considerably reducing the overall bulk of said crates, as after being used they have to be rearranged as to be sent anew to the harvesting and filling centres.
 In fact, if the crates are sent to said centres in their usual configuration, i.e. opened, the cost of said operation would be excessive and unacceptable, since virtually "empty" spaces would be sent, just like the crates actually are after their emptying.
 It is then essential, before their delivery in suitable piles or stacks, to close said crates anew in order to reduce their bulk; and therefore it is of course necessary to open said crates after their arrival.
 To open said crates, apparatuses and methods are advantageously used which perform opening operations automatically, and which are known per se.
 Anyway such apparatuses show some operating difficulties and some drawbacks which limit a simple and advantageous use easily integrable with the other operations needed to fill said crates.
 According to patent (dom.) BZ 94 A 000 064, each still closed crate is separately carried to the opening station and then raised and opened.
 After being opened, the crate is laterally moved and then lowered to be placed, still separately, on a sliding means, which carries the crate onto a successive suitable stacking station of the open crates.
 Problem: 1; too much handling, too many transfers for only one crate, that is only one crate at a time is handled; long transferring time.
 Then: 2; the crates are to arrive one by one at the opening station, and therefore this prevents them from being already stacked.
 On the contrary, in the current practice the crates are normally ready to be opened already in stacks of reclined wall crates, i.e. closed, and therefore it is convenient to open them without having to separate the crate from the relative stack.
 Then, after opening them, the crates are individually arranged onto suitable guides so as to be stacked again, and this too, is a further operation, which again requires time, and a specific operation.
 Differently from that, it is highly preferable, that after being opened the crate are again ready as relative stacks of opened crates, immediately and orderly ready to be used.
 It then would be preferable and it is the main object of the present invention to provide a method and an apparatus able to fully automatically open and block a plurality of closed crates, especially those used for agricultural products, supplied in succession and put together as single relative stacks, and after being opened, to supply said opened crates again stacked as relative stacks.
 Such an object is obtained by means of a method and of an apparatus carried out according to the appended claims.
 Characteristics and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following description, for illustration only but not limited to, with reference to the appended figures wherein:
 FIGS. 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d show respectively a plan top view from of one of such crates completely closed, a perspective view of the same crate with only two opened walls, and finally the same crate fully opened which is inserted and "worked", i.e. opened, in an apparatus according to the invention,
 FIGS. 2a, and 2b show two perspective views of an apparatus according to the invention, seen from two different observation points,
 FIGS. 2c and 2d show two perspective views similar to FIGS. 2a and 2b, wherein the apparatus contain both stacks or piles of already opened crates and of those to be opened,
 FIG. 2e shows an outer side view of the apparatus in the previous figures,
 FIG. 2f shows a perspective symbolic view of a single stack of crates 1a, 1b, 1c . . . arranged on a sliding means and ready to be carried to a station where the walls are opened,
 FIG. 2g shows a plan and side symbolic view of a plurality of stacks 11, 12, 13 arranged on a sliding and ready to be carried to a station where the walls are opened,
 FIG. 2h shows a perspective symbolic view of the stack in FIG. 2g,
 FIG. 2i shows a symbolic plan and side view of a preliminary and lifting phase of the opening operation of the crates,
 FIG. 2l shows a symbolic view and a perspective one of the stack in FIG. 2i,
 FIG. 2m synthetically shows the initial condition and the final condition of a stack of crates according to the method of the invention,
 FIG. 2n shows a symbolic perspective view of the stack in FIG. 2m,
 FIG. 3 shows a sub-assembly of the apparatus in the previous figures, designed and meant to sequentially open the walls of the crates housed wherein,
 FIG. 4 shows a plan top view of the sub-assembly in FIG. 3 wherein a still closed crate is symbolically placed,
 FIG. 5 shows a view of the assembly in FIG. 4 together with the same crate,
 FIG. 6 shows a view similar to that in FIG. 5, but with the two front walls already raised,
 FIG. 7 shows a perspective view of the sub-assembly in FIG. 6 in a subsequent operating arrangement apt to raise the other two walls of the same crate,
 FIG. 8 shows a perspective view of the sub-assembly in FIG. 7, in yet another operating arrangement,
 FIG. 9 shows a perspective view of the sub-assembly in FIGS. 7 and 8, in a final operating arrangement, with all walls already raised,
 figures from 10a to 10d show respective subsequent working phases, shown in a simplified and symbolic way, of the sub-assembly in FIGS. 8 and 9,
 FIGS. 10c-1 and 10d-1 show respective top views of the sub-assembly in FIGS. 10c and 10d,
 figures from 11a to 11g show respective subsequent working phases, shown in a simplified and symbolic way of the sub-assembly in FIGS. 8 and 9,
 FIGS. 12a and 12b show a perspective top view of two subsequent working phases of a further sub-assembly of the apparatus of the invention shown in a simplified and symbolic way,
 FIGS. 12c, 12d and 12e show a partially transparent and symbolic plan and vertical views of the sub-assembly in the previous figures, wherein FIG. 12a shows the same phase as in FIG. 12c, and FIG. 12b shows the same phase as in FIG. 12e;
 FIG. 12d shows an intermediate phase between them,
 FIG. 13 shows a schematic perspective view of a stack of opened crates during the accumulation and stacking phase of said crates after being opened according to the invention.
 Even though the present invention specifically refers to a method and to an apparatus which theoretically can have different arrangements and orientations, anyway it will be apparent that it will be the best and the most typical form of embodiment by means of an apparatus placed on a horizontal ground and with the crates stacked vertically, both when closed and when opened; hence the description is to be read with particular reference to the figures, and therefore the terms used such as "on", "under", "higher", "lower", etc. of course relate to this one and typical arrangement of the apparatus.
 With reference to FIGS. 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d, crates 1 here with taken into consideration each one is provided with a bottom plane 2, with a first pair of sides or opposed walls 3, 3A and with a second pair of opposed walls 4, 4a.
 As shown in these figures, said walls can be hinged with a suitable hinge 2A applied between a lower side of the same wall and the bottom plane 2 so that, after being opened, the crate is as shown, in a simplified way, in FIGS. 1b, 1c, and 1d.
 It is here immediately pointed out that, for reasons which will become clearer later, the two opposed walls 3, 3A are provided, on the respective vertical rims (obviously with the crate completely opened), with two edges 3C, 3C-A which extend parallel to the adjacent walls 4, 4A; this is true for both said opposed walls 3, 3A, even though in said FIGS. 1b, 1c and 1d only the sides facing the observation point of the figure are identified.
 The presence of said edges 3C, 3C-A etc. is of primary importance for the invention; in fact it has to be born in mind that when the crate is filled with products, the walls undergo a stress which tends to open them outwardly, and in order to prevent such undesirable phenomenon, edges 3C and 3C-A and other similar edges, not seen, but belonging to walls 3, 3A, and adjacent to walls 4, 4A of figure ld, are provided with engaging means, such as a release or similar, so as to be able to engage with corresponding cooperating elements, not shown, provided inside the vertical and side rim adjacent to the remaining edgeless walls 4 and 4A.
 According to the prior art technique said operation is carried out manually and one of the objects of this invention is to replace this manual operation.
 With reference to figures from 2a to 2l, the simplest embodiment of the invention consists in that,
 in order to fully automatically open the reclined side walls of a plurality of closed crates 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. (see FIGS. 2f, . . . 2i) preferably for agricultural products, and provided with a bottom plane and with two pairs of opposed walls and of the just described kind, each of them hinged on said bottom plane, and arranged in the same and ordered way:
 it is necessary for them to be initially stacked vertically so as to form a first stack 11, of course there can be the condition that wherein crates are not stacked as described, but this situation enables, as it will be seen, a particularly advantageous solution.
 Moreover said first stack 11 is together with a plurality of other stacks basically alike 12, 13 . . . All of them are arranged side by side and adjacent, in a series and homogenously oriented, meaning that any stack, according to the invention, is perfectly interchangeable with any other stack of the same plurality.
 It is to be noted that figures from 2a to 2l show only the typical method of the invention, and hence they show a series of operations and subsequent movement conditions of the stack and of its upper crate, completely regardless of the apparatuses and/or means apt to carry out said operations; anyway such apparatuses will be better described later. The method of the invention comprises the following operations, which are to be carried out one after the other even though, as it will be seen later, further additional operations can be added between an operation and the following one:
 a) carrying said stacks 11, 12, 13 . . . to a first working station 15,
 b) vertically raising two front opposed walls 3, 3A of the upper crate by respective rotation with respect to said bottom plane 2,
 c) vertically raising the other two opposed walls 4, 4A of the same upper crate by respective rotation with respect to said bottom plane 2 so as to obtain the full opening of the two walls,
 d) blocking of at least one of said side walls to an adjacent side wall,
 e) horizontally transferring said open crate 1 into a position outside the vertical projection of said first stack and vertically of a second stack 16 comprising only already opened crates, so as to lay the just opened crate onto the upper crate of said stack 16.
 In short, the foregoing method consists in that, with reference to FIGS. 2m and 2n, after being opened, said open crate is separated from the relative underneath stack of still closed crates, and it is laterally moved and lowered until the relative bottom plane 2 is laid onto said second stack 16 of already previously opened crates.
 In this way a second stack of opened crates is formed; also in this case, when the number or the height of said opened crates reaches a predetermined level, then said stack is laterally moved to give room for a following stack of opened crates, which is loaded with other crates according to the same method.
 In the present case it will be even easier to form stacks of opened crates, of a predetermined height, in this second succession of stacks of opened crates, or of a predetermined number of crates for each stack; in fact it will be sufficient to count the same operations of fully opening the crates in the opening station and so, having set that number, it will be sufficient to load each of such stacks until that number is reached and then laterally move said stack to give room to a new stack of opened crates.
 It is already apparent from the foregoing description a first advantage of the invention: in fact it is possible to act on each one of the crates used in the method when the crates themselves are still stacked in a closed state, that is as they are normally supplied; and besides, also the already opened crates are supplied in respective single stacks, that is in the most efficient and therefore most desired configuration.
 Anyway, this simple and first form of embodiment of the method is usually not sufficient to solve a problem which occurs in the operating practice; in fact, and with reference to FIGS. 2g and 2h, it can happen that the various stacks 11, 12, 13 do not usually have the same height as they can have a different number of crates 1a, 1b, 1c . . . (for simplicity this same numbering is used for different stacks but surely it will not cause any misunderstanding).
 Since in order to open each crate it is used a single common opening station which is in a fixed position of the apparatus structure, said crates have necessarily to be carried to a said common station; but as the relative stacks are normally of different heights, it is necessary to level the support plane of each stack until the upper crate is on the same predetermined operating level "L", wherefrom said crate can be "worked" and so opened in said station, regardless of the relative stack height and consequently of the number of crates forming it.
 Therefore, to solve such situation and with reference to FIGS. 2i and 2l, a first improvement of the invention consists in that, after said operation a), and before operation b), the stack, which each time has the upper crate still closed and which has to be opened, is lifted to a level so that the crate which is in the upper position and having reclined walls reaches said predetermined level "L".
 Of course there are a lot of means and methods, known in themselves, and which in the just described figures are represented by columns 47 which can be vertically operated and lifted in order to carry out said vertical lifting; it is only to be noted that the problem of determining when the upper crate 1 reaches such level "L", and hence to stop the lifting operation of the support plane of the relative stack, it is easily solved through means known in themselves, and not shown here for simplicity, e.g. preferably by means of photoelectric cells oriented on a horizontal plane at the precise height of said level "L" and which therefore provide a suitable signal if and only when the upper crate reaches said level. Of course such signal is used to actuate the operation/stop of the lifting means of that crate, so as to immediately achieve the described operation.
 A second improvement, again of the method, consists in that, after having been lifted to said operating level "L", the upper crates is singularly blocked with respect to said first working station through suitable means 14 and 14a acting laterally on the relative bottom plane 2.
 Moreover in order to improve, in an advantageous way, their constructive and functional simplicity, said means 14 are formed, as shown in FIG. 2i, by a pressing movable element 14, and by a fixed catch element 14a, arranged on the opposite side of said movable element 14a.
 Said means 14 are shown only symbolically in FIG. 2i, as they are easily imaginable and practicable by those skilled in the art; it obvious that after the crate has been opened, said means 14 are automatically disengaged from said bottom plane 2.
 In this way there will be the very advantageous result that, according to the method, a sequence of stacks of still closed crates is introduced and arranged in order to be opened and finally the method provides a similar plurality of stacks of already opened crates, in the form of a sequence of such stacks.
 It is now to take into consideration the various technical characteristics of the apparatus according to the invention; with reference to figures from 2a to 2e it is basically formed by:
 a fixed box-shaped structure provided with a plurality of horizontal cross members 30, 31, 33, . . . arranged at different heights and supported by a plurality of vertical rods 35, 36, 37, . . .
 first laying and transferring means of the stacks of closed crates which are typically formed by one or more parallel sliding means 40, 41 horizontally arranged and whereon the stacks of closed crates 11, 12, 13 . . . are loaded,
 an arrival and loading station 45 (see FIGS. 2a, 2e and symbolically 2i) whereto said sliding means 40, 41 lead, arranged inside said box-shaped structure and apt to receive sequentially and one at a time the various stacks transferred by said first laying means,
 lifting means 47 arranged in correspondence with said first arrival station 45 and able to lift each single stack arrived and waiting at the same arrival station 45 according to a suitable prearranged sequence and transferred by suitable command and control means, not shown and known in themselves,
 a working/opening station generally identified as 15 and arranged higher and vertically with respect to said arrival station 45, at a level at least the same as the upper highest level reachable by the upper crate 1 of stack 11, arrived at said arrival station 45; said opening station 15 being in a fixed position with respect to said fixed structure and it is schematically shown in FIGS. 2b, 2e, 3 and 4.
 Besides said opening station 15 is provided with operating means and operating method which will be later described and explained in a more detailed way; they are intervention means on the crate apt to:
 blocking in a reciprocal way the lifted walls of the just opened crate,
 transferring the just opened and with blocked walls crate which is in said opening station 15, to a position external to its vertical projection, and precisely first with a vertical lifting motion (which in certain conditions could be avoided), then with a parallel translation motion in a horizontal direction, and finally with a vertical lowering motion, so as to engage the opened crate on a support.
 Such last lowering movement can be advantageously carried out disengaging the opened crate by means of said "spider" and then immediately engaging it vertically to movable support in a controllable way.
 Such support (see FIG. 2A) is generally formed by a suitable lowering frame 141 vertically movable, basically similar, both in the construction and in the functioning, to said previously described means 14; therefore a detailed description is not necessary as they are constructively and functionally known in themselves and easy to make by the expert in the art without any further explanation.
 Only it is to note that, while means 14 are devoted to lifting a single closed crate to a predetermined (level "L"), the present lowering frame 141 is made and commanded to lower the single already opened crate to a lower predetermined level "L2" and each time carried and disengaged by said "spider".
 Therefore said lowering frame 141 can be commanded to carry in succession the single opened crates, lowering the single crate to a predetermined level and disengaging it when said level is reached, so as to orderly place it:
 either on second support and transferring means of the stacks of opened crates, means which are typically formed by a sliding means 60, (FIGS. 2a, 2b, 2d) horizontally arranged and apt of moving the successive stacks of opened crates away from the apparatus;
 or on a previously opened crate placed on a stack 15 (FIGS. 2c, 2d) previously formed stacking the successive opened crates on said sliding means 60.
 At this stage it is clear that the operation of moving the crates and of their opening generally follows the previously described sequence.
 Practically, and according to the preferred embodiment, the described sequence before transferring the upper crates 1 of successive said stacks 11, 12, 13 . . . in a first working station 15, is carried out (see FIGS. 2a, 2e, 2g, 2h):
 carrying by means of said sliding means 40, 41, the successive stacks inside the arrival and loading station 45,
 lifting said stack through the lifting means 47 until the upper crate reaches the predetermined level "L" inside the opening station 15 (see FIG. 2i),
 blocking the bottom plane of upper crate 1 with suitable means, not shown, (see FIG. 2i),
 fully opening said upper crate vertically raising the two pairs of opposing walls 3, 3A and 4, 4A.
 In short, FIGS. 2m and 2n show the initial and final situation of the method wherein the upper crate of stack 11 is first lifted up to level "L" (position A), then opened in position B, hence horizontally transferred to position "C" and finally lowered and placed in position D onto a stack 16 of already opened crates.
 With reference to the procedure and means of opening of said walls, there can be two different types of solution,
 a first solution aimed at opening walls 3, 3A, provided with said edges 3C, 3C-A; such walls, with the crate still closed, are necessarily overlaid onto walls 4, 4A, as it can be seen in FIGS. 1b, 1c, and 1d; therefore walls 3, 3A are to be opened first,
 and a second solution aimed at successively opening the remaining walls 4 and 4A. With reference to the opening of walls 3, 3A, it is to be referred to FIGS. 3, 4, 5, 6 and from FIG. 10a to FIG. 10d.
 It is arranged a four-sided frame 70, and with sides having dimensions apt to internally house the crate which is at said level "L" and basically integral to said fixed structure.
 In order to open walls 3, 3A, on two sides 71, 72 of said frame, not corresponding or parallel to said walls 3, 3A, two actuators 73, 74, preferably pneumatic, are provided having respective inner pistons, not shown, apt to horizontally move towards the inside of said frame in a direction orthogonal to the other two walls 4, 4A.
 Two respective extractable means 75, 76, are constrained on the outer surface of such pistons and each of said pistons is capable to selectively move either towards the inner portion of the frame, and therefore generally towards the walls of said crates, or to go back to the initial position, therefore pushing frontward and selectively retracting said respective extractable means 75,76 (see FIGS. 10a, 10b).
 As clearly shown in the figures, the described elements are reciprocally dimensioned and arranged so that if actuator 73 actuates the relative piston, this pushes the respective extractable means 75 towards the inside of the frame so pushing against the side edge 3C and therefore pressing against it, basically constituting a pressure engagement apt to drag said edge 3C (and the corresponding edge 3C-A, see FIGS. 6, 7).
 It is now to take into consideration only one 73 of said actuators; as the other one of said elements is exactly the same as the first one, but symmetrically arranged, and working exactly in the same way and therefore what described for one is exactly applicable for the other actuator 74, of course with due adjustments immediately understandable by the skilled in the art.
 With reference to FIGS. 10c, 10c-1, 10d, 10d-1, actuator 73 is integral with the first arm 77 of a first type lever hinged on a hinge 78 having axis "S" horizontal and orthogonal to axis "C" of the hinge of the adjacent wall 4, and substantially aligned to the hinge rotation axis relative to wall 3, as shown in FIGS. 7, 8, 10a-10d.
 The second arm 79 of said lever is provided with an end 79A rotatably constrained to the end of a second actuator; in said figures it is shown that this second actuator comprises a second vertical piston 80, with a double effect, selectively slidable inside a vertical cylinder 81. This one is vertically arranged, that is orthogonal to said axis "5", and hence, as shown in the figures, when said second cylinder 81 is actuated, it causes the second piston 80 to exit which, acting by means of its end common to said end 79A of the lever arm, causes the entire lever arm to rotate around its axis "5".
 The first lever arm 77 is then consequently rotated, and at the end of the rotation also said actuator 73 and its relative extractable means 75 will be outwardly rotated of about 90°, as shown in FIG. 10d.
 At this stage the functioning method will already have been understood by the skilled in the art.
 In fact it will be sufficient, starting from a resting state, i.e. with both pistons of said actuators initially retracted and with crate 1 already housed in said frame, to perform the following two operations:
 to operate actuators 73, 74; and hence edge 3C and the similar edges (3C-A) of said two walls 3, 3A of the crate housed in the frame are pressure-held by said two extractable means 75, 76 which act pressure holding said walls 3, 3A of the crate from two opposite sides;
 to operate means 80, 81; this causes the first actuator and the relative extractable means to rotate outwardly.
 Since said actuators 73, 74 and relative extractable means are pressed against said edges, it is an obvious and inevitable consequence that said rotation of actuator 73 around axis "S" also results, because of dragging, in the rotation of edge 3C and therefore of the relative wall 3 in the same direction and so the opening of said wall 3 is carried out (FIG. 6).
 It is apparent that the same operations and results also apply in the same way to the other wall 3A and to the relative actuators and associated opening means 74, 76 considering the different orientation and position of the involved elements.
 After having opened the outer walls, (FIGS. 6-8), that is those provided with the respective edges, the inner walls 4 and 4A are the opened.
 For such an object it is referred to FIGS. 6, 7, 8, 9, and from FIGS. 11 a to 11g.
 In correspondence with opposite rims said frame adjacent to said walls 4 and 4A two respective actuators 90, 91 are arranged, these are provided with means able to lift upward and to lower two respective sliding elements 92, 93, preferably double effect cylinder pistons.
 With reference to FIG. 11 a, to each of said elements is applied a respective "hooking" means 95, 96 generally formed with a plane surface which can be variously folded, generally oriented inwardly and hence oriented one facing the other; their object is that of inserting underneath the outer rims 4-B, 4A-B of a respective wall 4, 4A which at this stage, when said walls are still closed, is nearly adjacent to the bottom plane 2 and inwardly oriented.
 Later it will be referred to only one of said actuators and to the relative operations since what described will apply, in a substiantially similar way, also to the other actuator and to the relative wall.
 Said "hooking" means 95 is shaped so that its outer rim 98 of one of its portions 97 will be oriented downward when the relative sliding element 92 is oriented upward, has shown in FIG. 11a.
 With reference to FIG. 7 and from 11a to 11g, actuator 90 is also able to rotate, if driven to that by a suitable control and rotating means, around a respective rotation axis which in the figures is placed at the respective rotation axis "C" of the hinge of the respective still lowered wall.
 To carry out the lifting/opening of wall 4, also in this case, it will therefore be necessary to perform a four-phased operation:
 in the initial condition, as in FIG. 5, with said actuator 90 oriented upward and with its sliding element 92 completely extended and so oriented upward too, said outer rim 98 is at the maximum distance, that is height, from the relative wall 4; at this stage the first phase consists in rotating said acutator 90 inwardly and around said axis "T" for about a right angle, as shown in FIGS. 11 a, 11 b and FIG. 7 so as to place the actuator parallel to wall 4; in such a position also said outer rim 98 is rotated until it is in a horizontal position and facing the outer part of the crate, even if its position is inside wall 4 which has to be raised.
 in the second phase the sliding element 92 is retracted inside the respective actuator 90, as in FIG. 11c and FIG. 8; consequently also said outer rim 98 is neared to the respective wall 4, and in such a motion it inserts itself exactly underneath the now horizontal outer rim of the wall;
 in the third phase it is to operate contrary to the first phase that is, said actuator is rotated outward in the initial position, as shown in FIGS. 9, 11d, 11e.
 With such motion the outer rim of wall 4 is hooked by said outer rim 98 and therefore it is rotated too, hence opening the relative wall 4;
 in the fourth phase, shown in FIG. 11f, it is to operate contrary to the second phase, that is the sliding element 92 is lifted anew, so as to free the outer rim of wall 4.
 With reference to FIG. 11e it is to note that in order to make the structure of the involved elements clearer, axis "C" of the hinge of wall 4, is different from the rotation axis "T" of actuator 90.
 This is only an example as in the embodiment of the invention it can happen that it would be preferable that said axes "C" and "T" coincide according to a different form of embodiment not shown; of course in this case anyone skilled in the art will not have any difficulty in making the simple both constructive and functional adjustments needed.
 Moreover, with reference to FIG. 11g, after having completely raised said wall 4 and the opposed wall 4A, it can be advantageous to further rotate actuator 90 outwardly of an angle "g" with respect to the vertical wall 4, clearly in order to perform an easier and safer extraction of the crate from the respective frame 70.
 With the previous operations the opening of all four walls of the box is then completed according to different procedures.
 Before going any further, it has to be ensured that also the two final operations are carried out, and that is:
 blocking the edgeless wall rims against the edges of the other walls so as to strengthen the box,
 carrying in succession opened crates onto a common position so as to stack said crates in succession and hence forming a relative stack of opened crates.
 According to the invention, such final operations are carried out in succession but advantageously the means needed to carry out such operations are the same, which of course facilitates an overall simpler, more functional and more economical production. With reference to figures from 12a to 12e a device will be made, which will be later called "spider" for simplicity as it is evidently similar to an arachnid specimen, and which comprises:
 a vertical arm 201, telescopically retractable and extendable in a controllable way,
 a central body 200 which supports said arm 201; in turn this central body 200 can be vertically lifted and lowered in a controllable way and it can be transferred onto a horizontal plane, preferably in a rectilinear motion, but not limited to this,
 an operation body arranged integral to the lower portion of said telescopic arm 201,
 two horizontal arms 203, 203A which extend on two opposed sides,--and therefore along a same straight line but with opposed directions,--of said operation body 202,
 two operating boxes 204, 204A substantially identical and each one arranged at the respective end of said horizontal arms 203, 203A;
 a double pair of extractable means wherein means 205 of a first pair are associated with a respective first pair of said operating boxes 204, and means 205A of a second pair are associated with a respective second pair of said operating boxes 204A.
 As synthetically but clearly shown in the relative figures, the geometrical configuration of the described elements and their arrangement and relative dimensions are such that means 205 are apt to being extracted and respectively retracted from the respective operation box 204; this in turn is dimensioned so that its horizontal dimension enables the insertion of said box 204 inside the already opened crate 1.
 In FIG. 12a is therefore symbolically shown that extractable means 205 and 205A can have:
 either the extracted or outer position (shown by broken lines),
 or the retracted or inner position, shown as 206 by an unbroken line.
 Said vertical arm 201 can therefore be extended downward, going from a level "V1" to a level "V2" so that the operating body 202 is lowered to the point wherein it goes inside the crate, as in FIG. 12d.
 Moreover, when said "spider" is inserted inside an open crate, these two pairs of extractable means 205 and 205A are arranged so the a first pair faces wall 4, and the opposite pair of extractable means faces the opposed wall 4A.
 At this stage the skilled in the art will already have realized the functioning this part of the invention; in fact in order to overcome the problem of blocking each other the four opened walls of each crate, it will be sufficient:
 to introduce from above said "spider" inside a crate after its opening, and when it is still in said station 15, by means of the controlled extension of said vertical arm 201;
 and then to push the respective extractable means outward in the two opposite directions, acting on suitable command and horizontal motion means of said pair of extractable means 205, and 205A (FIG. 12b, 12e).
 Since said extractable means initially, and because of their construction, are arranged exactly facing a respective common and blocking area between an edge 3C of said wall 3 and a respective edge 4S of an adjacent wall 4, and exactly in the same way between an edge 3C-A of the respective wall 3C and a respective edge 4S1 adjacent to an adjacent wall, the pressure exerted by said extractable means causes the contextual slight motion of said edges outwardly, to the point wherein an edge engages by pushing against the corresponding edge 3C; a similar situation occurs for the other rims and respective edges, and of course for the relative extractable means.
 Inevitable consequence of such situation is that the portions or edges of said adjacent walls, provided with corresponding engaging means and subjected to a pressure suitably orthogonal to the plane of the walls themselves, are reciprocally pushed so that said corresponding engaging means are definitely engaged or coupled.
 Therefore the expected result of fixing said walls into position and consequently of stabilizing the crate completing its form will be achieved.
 With respect to the transferring operation of said completed crate onto a different stack of previously opened crates, it is advantageously exploited the fact that said "spider" is engaged, even if only by pressure, with the inner surfaces of the walls of said crate.
 Hence, said fact enables the simple lifting of said just opened crate of the stack of still closed underneath crates.
 Of course, before lifting the crate it will be necessary to unblock said unblocking means 14, but this operation is so obvious in its meaning and so simple to carry out that it will not be insisted on any further.
 The lifting of the opened crate can therefore be achieved through the mere lifting of said operating body 202 which of course drags with itself, and therefore also lifts, the relative engaged crate.
 The method then keeps on through the horizontal motion of said opened crate and engaged through said extractable means; such horizontal motion is carried out through known means and through conventional techniques.
 With reference to FIG. 2n, the movement has to transfer the opened crate from position "B" to the position external to the vertical of stack 11 of the still closed crates and therefore it goes onto a different position "C"; after reaching this position, said extractable means are permanently retracted so as the opened crate, not held any more, is engaged by the support below preferably formed by lowering frame 141, as previously described.
 As previously described said lowering frame 141 lowers the crate until it reaches the predetermined position "C" in order to leave it:
 either directly onto the horizontally arranged sliding mean 60,
 or onto the opened crate immediately underneath, at a predetermined level "L2", and placed on a stack 16 previously formed by stacking the successive opened crates in succession onto said sliding means 60.
 The choice of which condition to carry out depends on various factors, and principally on the choice of either placing the opened crates one at a time on the exit sliding means, or to make a stack 16 of opened crates up to a predetermined number.
 Obviously in the last case, schematically exemplified in FIG. 13, the level or height whereto it is to lower said "spider", and when reached, release the relative crate, will depend on the choice made, and in the case in which a stack 16 of opened crates is being made, the simple counting of the crates already opened and transferred on the same stack will immediately provide the information of the reached height by said second forming stack, and it will therefore supply the information to the apparatus on the precise level, obviously growing, which subsequently has to be reached in order to release each successive opened crate.
 It will now be easily understood that all operating devices, various types of actuators, lifting and rotating means, operating means, etc. are all connected to a command and control unit, not shown, wherein all the instructions/signals have been previously stored in an ordered sequence in order to actuate all said units, devices, means, etc.
 Such ordered sequence has therefore to be planned and carried out by said command and control unit in order to give such means, units, devices, all the needed commands so that the above described methods are carried out in an ordered way according to the described sequences.
 The making of such command and control unit, and the programming of the relative storage and instructions is anyway completely practicable by the skilled in the art, and therefore it will not be explained any further.
Patent applications by Luca Benedetti, Savarna IT
Patent applications by Unitec S.p.A.
Patent applications in class Opening or setting up collapsed, preformed receptacle
Patent applications in all subclasses Opening or setting up collapsed, preformed receptacle