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Article Storage Method and Sytem

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000023799D
Publication Date: 2004-Mar-31
Document File: 6 page(s) / 50K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

The present invention is directed to a storage unit and method for storing workpieces that overcomes deficiencies in the art. In general, the storage unit is positioned between upstream and downstream process areas to provide a supply of buffered workpieces to ensure uninterrupted supply of workpieces to downstream processes for a predetermined period. The storage unit includes supply and discharge lifts positioned at upstream and downstream ends of a plurality of vertically stacked storage floors. The supply and discharge lifts receive and provide workpieces to supply and discharge conveyors, respectively. The plurality of vertically stacked storage floors, the supply and discharge lifts, and the supply and discharge conveyors are each configured to receive trolleys from a power and free conveyor system. The trolleys support the workpieces for movement to and through the storage unit in the manner described below.

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ARTICLE STORAGE METHOD AND SYSTEM
[0001] The present invention is generally directed to a storage unit and method for storing workpieces. The invention is particularly suited for providing a buffer between assembly or other process operations to ensure an adequate supply of workpieces to downstream process areas.
[0002] It is common in the material handling industry to incorporate buffers or storage units in assembly processes. Buffers are strategically located throughout the system so that, if a process upstream of the buffer is interrupted, the buffer has a sufficient number of accumulated workpieces to ensure that downstream processes continue without interruption for a predetermined period of time. The capacity of the buffer is dependent upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, process through-put, space constraints, cost, and overall process design.
[0003] Buffer or storage unit designs commonly used in the material handling industry include automatic storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and other techniq ues. However, many of these commonly available systems have through-put and cost constraints, particularly for systems conveying large objects such as vehicle bodies, that are not suitable for higher capacity applications, particularly in the automobile assembly industry.
[0004] The present invention is directed to a storage unit and method for storing workpieces that overcomes these and other deficiencies in the art. In general, the storage unit is positioned between upstream and downstream process areas to provide a supply of buffered workpieces to ensure uninterrupted supply of workpieces to downstream processes for a predetermined period. The storage unit includes supply and discharge lifts positioned at upstream and downstream ends of a plurality of vertically stacked storage floors. The supply and discharge lifts receive and

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provide workpieces to supply and discharge conveyors, respectively. The plurality of vertically stacked storage floors, the supply and discharge lifts, and the supply and discharge conveyors are each configured to receive trolleys from a power and free conveyor system. The trolleys support the workpieces for movement to and through the storage unit in the manner described below.
[0005] Further scope of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, claims, and drawings. However, it should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention, are given by way of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art.
[0006] The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description given here below, the appended claims, and the accompanying drawings in which:
[0007] Fig. 1 is an elevational view of the storage unit, the suppl...