(19)
(11)EP 2 059 470 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 06793137.8

(22)Date of filing:  01.09.2006
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B67B 7/00  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2006/065907
(87)International publication number:
WO 2008/025376 (06.03.2008 Gazette  2008/10)

(54)

APPARATUS AND PROCESS FOR REMOVING FLEXIBLE FILM SEALS FROM TUBULAR SPECIMEN CONTAINERS.

VORRICHTUNG UND VERFAHREN ZUM ENTFERNEN VON FLEXIBLEN FOLIENVERSCHLÜSSEN VON ROHRFÖRMIGEN PROBENBEHÄLTERN

APPAREIL ET PROCÉDÉ PERMETTANT DE SUPPRIMER LES SCEAUX DE FILM SOUPLE DE CONTENEURS DE SPÉCIMEN TUBULAIRES


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC NL PL PT RO SE SI SK TR

(43)Date of publication of application:
20.05.2009 Bulletin 2009/21

(73)Proprietor: Inpeco Holding Ltd
Qormi QRM 3000 (MT)

(72)Inventor:
  • PEDRAZZINI, Gianandrea
    20090 Segrate (IT)

(74)Representative: Notaro, Giancarlo et al
Buzzi, Notaro & Antonielli d'Oulx S.p.A. Corso Vittorio Emanuele ll, 6
10123 Torino
10123 Torino (IT)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A- 4 338 767
US-B1- 6 564 846
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] The present invention concerns an apparatus for removing a flexible film seal from a tubular specimen container according to the preamble of claim 1 and to a process for removing flexible film seals from tubular specimen containers by such an apparatus, according to claim 7.

    [0002] As used herein, the term "container" means an article that contains a solid or liquid and has a tubular opening for access of the contents, e.g., a test tube or vial.

    [0003] Flexible film seals means "foil or film closure" that is any thin membranous material that covers, seals, and overhangs the annular opening at the top of a container so defined and is bonded to it in such a way that it can be torn free from the opening with a mechanical pulling force applied to the overhanging portion. The word "seal" is used to refer synonymously to a particular foil or film closure of interest.

    [0004] In modern medical analysis systems, after having removed the cap from the specimen containers for a medical analysis, the openings of said containers are closed by flexible film seals.

    [0005] If, for any reason, a new test needs to be performed an operator must manually remove the seal, and return the container to the analyser.

    [0006] This means waste of time and exposure of the operator to biological hazard.

    [0007] US-6564846 discloses an apparatus suitable for removing a flexible film seal according to the preamble of claim 1.

    [0008] Object of the present invention is to provide an automatic apparatus and a process for removing flexible film seals from tubular containers.

    [0009] According to the invention said object is achieved by an apparatus as disclosed in claim 1.

    [0010] According to the invention said object is further achieved by a process as disclosed in claim 7.

    [0011] The characteristics and advantages of the present invention will appear evident from the following detailed description of an embodiment thereof illustrated as non-limiting example in the enclosed drawings, in which:

    Figure 1 is a perspective view of the apparatus according to the present invention with an enlarged part;

    Figure 2 is a top view of the apparatus of figure 1;

    Figure 3 is a lateral sectional view according to line III-III of figure 2;

    Figure 4 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 3 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 5 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 4 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 6 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 5, with an enlarged part, in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 7 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 6 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 8 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 7, with an enlarged part, in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 9 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 6 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 10 is a top view with the head assembly rotated of substantially 90°;

    Figure 11 is a lateral sectional view according to line XI-XI of figure 10;

    Figure 12 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 11 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 13 is the same lateral sectional view of figure 12 in a subsequent working position;

    Figure 14 is a sectional view according to line XIV-XIV of figure 3.



    [0012] Referring now to FIGURES 1 through 14, an apparatus for removing a flexible film seal 12 from a tubular specimen container 3, is mounted to a frame 1 of a conveyor system or parent system, in which the apparatus is incorporated, that processes the specimen container 3. Each specimen container 3 is presented by the parent (conveyor) system to a specific point in space in the system at which point the apparatus will remove the flexible film seal 12.

    [0013] The apparatus is mounted next to a track (not shown) of the parent system on a platform 2 or similar support.

    [0014] An articulated pair of gripping arms 4 is incorporated into the apparatus to engage and hold the specimen container 3 during the seal removal operations to be described in FIGURES 3 through 7.

    [0015] Each one of said gripping arms 4 (FIGURE 14) comprises an external portion 61 and an internal portion 60 connected by a transversal central pin 62 and a couple of fingers 63, whose surface may be covered with rubber, which pin 62 allows a little rotation (few degrees) of the internal portion 60, supporting the specimen container 3, with respect to the external portion 61.

    [0016] The gripping arms 4 are actuated by mechanical means 11 which do not need be part of the specimen removing apparatus.

    [0017] Referring to FIGURE 1, the embodiment of the apparatus is comprised of a vertical mounting shaft 5 upon which is mounted a bracket 6 for holding a seal removing head assembly 9. The shaft 5 is mounted in a bearing and is actuated by mechanical drive means to provide vertical travel to all components attached to it by means of the bracket 6.

    [0018] A pneumatic cylinder motor is used in the current embodiment, but other mechanical drive means, such as a motorized rack and pinion gear may also be embodied.

    [0019] The head assembly 9 is mounted in such a way that it pivots through a small angle in the bracket 6 along a horizontal axis through the head. The degree of rotation about this axis and the orientation of the axis are important relative to the position of the opening in the specimen container 3 during the removal operation and are described later.

    [0020] The pivoting force is provided to the head assembly 9 in this embodiment by a pneumatic cylinder 7 attached to the bracket 6 and connected to a rotating linkage 8 that is, in turn, attached to the head assembly 9. Other means for actuating the pivot, such as an electric motor and gear assembly, may also be embodied.

    [0021] The entire seal removing mechanism, consisting of shaft 5, bracket 6, pneumatic cylinder 7, rotating linkage 8, and head assembly 9, is rotated around the shaft 5 in order to position the head assembly 9 directly above one of two relevant stations for its active use.

    [0022] The first station (FIGS 1-9) is the position at which the head assembly 9 is directly above the specimen container 3 as it is presented by the track or conveyor of the parent system.

    [0023] The second relevant position (FIGS. 10-13) is that of a waste chute 21 into which the waste seal 12 will be ejected after being removed from the specimen container 3. Said waste chute 21 is provided with a passage detecting sensor (not shown) for the removed flexible film seal 12.

    [0024] In the embodiment shown, these two positions are 90° apart around the circular travel of the head assembly 9 as afforded by the rotation of the shaft 5; however, the angular separation of the two is not relevant to the invention and can take on any value that is mechanically feasible. It is further possible to produce other embodiments of motion for the head assembly 9 that do not involve circular motion, e.g. a rectilinear positioning mechanism and suitable drives.

    [0025] Driving force for the rotational positioning embodiment shown is provided by a pneumatic cylinder (not shown) applied to the shaft 5 but there may also be any suitable drive means such as an electric motor and plenary gear system or the like.

    [0026] The head assembly 9 comprises a conical cavity 13, an upper pinch plate 14, a lower pinch plate 15 and a pusher arm 17, driven by a piston of a pneumatic cylinder 16, to force a portion 20 of the seal 12 between said pinch plates 14-15.

    [0027] Said head assembly 9 further comprises a detecting sensor 22 which controls the seal grab by the upper and lower pinch plates 14-15.

    [0028] The start of the seal removing operation by the apparatus of the invention is marked by the conditions illustrated in FIGURE 3. The parent system has previously positioned the specimen container 3 of interest to the designated station for closure removal. The specimen container 3 bears the seal 12 that is to be removed by the apparatus. The specimen container 3 has further been immobilized by the gripping arms 4 closed upon it by a motor and gearing mechanism 11 attached to the mounting platform 2.

    [0029] Initially the shaft 5 and attached elements are extended upwardly by the vertical drive means to a vertical height sufficient to allow mechanical clearance for positioning the specimen container 3 at the designated seal removal station by the parent system. The shaft 5 is further rotated by the rotational drive means to center the head assembly 9 above the designated seal removal station. Centering of the head assembly 9 is defined relative to a cavity 13 in the underside of the assembly that is substantially circular in cross section with substantially conical walls and depth sufficient to surround the top of the specimen container 3 and seal 12 with particular mechanisms contained in the head assembly 9 and discussed below.

    [0030] For the purpose of the following discussions, the "back" or "backward" direction relative to the head assembly 9 is toward the shaft 5. The "front" or "forward" direction is away from the shaft 5.

    [0031] Initially, the pneumatic cylinder 7 is actuated such that the linkage 8 is drawn toward the cylinder 7, causing the head assembly 9 to pivot backward (counterclockwise rotation, FIG.3) with the upper portion of the head assembly 9 closer to the shaft 5 than the lower portion. The latter contains the pivot axis in contact with the bracket 6. Specifically, said pivot axis belongs or is at least parallel to the plane of the upper pinch plate 14. In this position, the major axis of the substantially cylindrical head assembly 9 forms an angle of approximately 5° with the vertical.

    [0032] By displacing the head 9 in the backward tilt position, the cavity 13 for receiving the tubular top portion or head of the specimen container 3, is slightly biased toward the back of the container opening, that is, the side of the opening closest to the shaft 5.

    [0033] In the next operation (FIGURE 4) in the seal removing sequence, head assembly 9 is lowered onto the specimen container 3, and therefore also onto the seal 12 by means of the vertical drive mechanism associated with the shaft 5.

    [0034] By virtue of its conical nature, the cavity 13 in the bottom of the head assembly 9 serves to guide the head onto the tubular top of the specimen container 3.

    [0035] Next the pneumatic cylinder 7 is moved to the outward position (clockwise rotation around the pivot axis) so as to move the linkage 8 forward, tilting the head assembly 9 forward, to the upper position atop the specimen container 3 as illustrated in FIGURE 5. In this position, the major axis of the substantially cylindrical head assembly 9 is aligned with the vertical.

    [0036] The uppermost surface of the cavity 13 in the head assembly 9 is the upper pinch plate 14, which rests upon the seal 12 atop the specimen container 3.

    [0037] Next the pneumatic cylinder 7 is moved again to the outward position (clockwise rotation around the pivot axis, FIG.6), so as to form an angle of approximately 5° with the vertical. This rotation causes the tilting of the specimen container 3 due to the rotation of the internal portion 60 (see enlarged part).

    [0038] In FIGURE 6 is shown a small gap between the upper pinch plate 14 and the lower pinch plate 15, on the order of a few millimeters. Thus, a portion 20 of the overhanging seal 12 is resident between the upper pinch plate 14 and the lower pinch plate 15.

    [0039] A pusher arm 17 is attached to the piston of the pneumatic cylinder 16 such that it can be driven forward and backward within the cavity 13 inside the head assembly 9. The pneumatic cylinder 16 and the pusher arm 17 are mounted to the upper pinch plate 14. Other embodiments of the actuated pusher arm might include an electric solenoid and shaft.

    [0040] In the embodiment shown, the pusher arm 17 has been actuated by the pneumatic cylinder 16 to push it forward inside the cavity 13 until it impinges on the back side of the specimen container 3 and seal 12. This also forces the top of the specimen container 3 (slightly tilting said specimen container 3 allowed by the fingers 63 of the gripping arms 4) and seal 12 forward in the cavity 13.

    [0041] Since there is a gap between the upper pinch plate 14 and the lower pinch plate 15, and the tubular top and seal 12 are flush against the bottom of the upper pinch plate 14, this insures that a portion 20 of the overhanging seal 12 is between the two pinch plates 14, 15 and that the specimen container 3 is applied forcibly to the lower pinch plate at the point tangent to the circle formed by the outside of the tubular top of the specimen container 3.

    [0042] Referring to FIGURE 7, the upper pinch plate 14 within the head assembly 9 is attached to a pinch drive shaft 19, which forms the piston of a pneumatic cylinder motor 18 within the head assembly 9. This is used in the current embodiment to force the upper pinch plate 14 against the head of the container (3) so providing the upward movement of the lower pinch plate 15 with the head assembly 9 (and the shaft 5).

    [0043] Therefore the portion 20 occurs between the pinch plates 14,15.

    [0044] During the removing motions said pivot axis belongs or is almost parallel to the upper pinch plane 14, and almost tangent to the closest portion of the circunference of the tubular specimen container 3.

    [0045] The rotation of the head assembly 9, during the removing motions, toward the vertical shaft 5, allows the opposite part to move up therefore pulling up the flexible film seal 12. The following raising of the head assembly 9 drags the flexible film seal 12.

    [0046] The motion of the pinch drive shaft 19 might also be achieved with other embodiments such as an electronic solenoid and shaft assembly.

    [0047] Next the pusher arm 17 is retracted by reversing the actuating force on the pneumatic cylinder 16 to move out of the cavity 13, as the pusher arm 17 is no longer needed once there is a grasp on the container by means of the pinched seal 12.

    [0048] An important and distinguishing aspect of the apparatus and method of the invention is the motion that follows. The linkage 8 is drawn bachward by the pneumatic cylinder 7 which drives it, causing the head assembly 9 to rotate backwards (counterclockwise rotation, FIG.8) through an angle of approximately 10° (approximately 5° with the vertical), taking the pinched portion 20 of the seal 12 with it from a pinch point (FIGURE 7). As mentioned earlier, the axis for this rotation of the head assembly 9 is positioned strategically relative to the opening in the specimen container 3. The axis of rotation is in the same plane as the circle prescribed by the opening in the specimen container 3 (so almost belonging or parallel to the plane of the upper pinch plane), and is tangent to it at a point diametrically opposed to the pinch point at the front of the circe. The net effect of this orientation is that the seal 12 is pulled up and back relative to the opening to which it is attached along a circular arc, the radius of which is approximately the width of the opening. The result of this particular lifting geometry is to avoid tensile forces on the seal 12 itself, enabling the entire lifting force on the seal 12 to be applied toward rupturing the bond between the seal 12 and the specimen container 3. This, in turn, leads to a clean parting of the seal from the opening of the container such that the opening is free of detritus from the seal 12 and amenable to reapplication of a subsequent seal.

    [0049] The action performed by the backward rotation (counterclockwise rotation) of the head assembly 9 performs the initial rupture of the bond between seal 12 and specimen container 3 at the pinch point and propagates the rupture through a portion of the circle prescribed by the opening and the bond.

    [0050] The portion varies according to the ductility of the foil or film constituting the seal 12, as a more ductile material will tend to stretch and absorb some of the parting force, thus parting less of the portion of the circular bond. A more refractory material will transmit more of the parting force through the seal, causing a greater portion of the circular bond to be ruptured.

    [0051] The remaining portion of the bond is then ruptured in a second motion by raising the entire head assembly 9 by means of the vertical drive on the shaft 5. As the head assembly 9 rises along with the shaft 5 and bracket 6 to which it is attached, it takes the seal 12 along with it, pulling it from the specimen container 3 and rupturing the remaining bond with the circular opening (FIGURE 9). However, in this case the parting motion does not follow the circular arc prescribed by the diameter of the seal.

    [0052] Instead the seal is pulled in a direction perpendicular to the plane of the circle which prescribes the opening of the specimen container 3, causing the seal to form a plane between the pinch point and the points on the circle at which the bond is not yet ruptured. Since the parting action applied by the initial rotation of the head assembly 9 has already ruptured a portion of the circular bond prior to this motion, the angle at which the straight line formed by the plane of the seal intersects the plane of the opening is steep, causing the majority of the vertical force vector to apply to the remaining bond points.

    [0053] Without the initial rotational parting motion which began the bond rupture, this would not have been the case. That is, if the head assembly 9 has merely been raised vertically subsequent to forming the pinching grasp on the seal 12 at the pinch point, as in FIGURE 5, the angle which the plane of the seal 12 forms with the plane of the opening at that point is zero, meaning that the entire vertical force would be entirely applied to the overhanging seal material itself and not to the bonding plane, resulting in high ductile deformation of the seal material prior to beginning the rupture of the bond. Under such conditons the bond does not part cleanly and the circular opening of the specimen container 3 is not amenable to the reapplication of a subsequent seal due to detritus left by the torn seal 12 and poorly ruptured bond.

    [0054] Following removal of the seal 12 from the specimen container 3, the waste seal 12 remains in the grasp of the pinch plates 14, 15 at the pinch point in the head assembly as depicted in FIGURE 9, where the detecting sensor 22 controls the effective presence of said waste seal.

    [0055] In the next step performed by the apparatus, the rotational drive associated with the shaft 5 is engaged to rotate the entire assembly such that the head assembly 9 is positioned directly over the waste chute 21 (FIGS 8-11). The vertical drive associated with the shaft 5 is then engaged to lower the head assembly 9 until its lower surface rests on the upper surface of the waste chute opening, as depicted in FIGURE 10. The opening of the waste chute forms a substantially circular platform onto which the weight of the head assembly 9 rests in the downward position. The pneumatic cylinder 18 is pressurized such that the pinch drive shaft 19 is driven up, thereby raising the upper pinch plate 14 to which it is attached. This reforms the gap between the upper pinch plate 14 and the lower pinch plate 15, allowing the grasp on the waste seal 12 to be released.

    [0056] Since the pinched seal material often adheres to the pinch plates, it is forcibly ejected from the cavity 13 in the head assembly by pressurized air means 23 contained within the head assembly through a hole in the upper pinch plate 14 which is so positioned as to be centered on the approximately circular area occupied by the waste seal 12 once removed.

    [0057] Contemporaneously to the action of the pressurized air, the sensor 22 is monitoring the realease of the seal. Such sensor, in this embodiment, is realized with an optical fiber that conveys the optical signal, by capturing the optical beam reflected by the seal when said seal is present. Other optical devices can be used for such monitoring action.

    [0058] The waste chute 21 is equipped with a detecting passage sensor (90) (Fig.13) that monitors the waste chute and can detect the passage of the waste seal 12 through the chute. In the current embodiment, the sensor is an optical interrupter, but other embodiments capable of detecting the passage of the waste seal 12 are possible. The signal from the sensor is provided to the parent system such that it can determine the success of the seal removal operation performed by the apparatus by assumption derived from the passage of the waste seal 12 through the waste chute.

    [0059] Finally, the head assembly 9 is driven back to the upper position by engaging the vertical drive associated with the shaft 5, and then returned to the starting position over the seal removal station by engaging the rotational drive associated with the shaft 5, thus completing the seal removal operation and making ready for the next cycle of same.

    [0060] It may happen that the head assembly 9 is not successfull to take and remove the seal.

    [0061] In this case the removal operation may be repeated upon rotation of the specimen container 3 with respect to the original position.


    Claims

    1. Apparatus for removing a flexible film seal (12) from a tubular specimen container (3), comprising a seal removing mechanism which includes:

    a head assembly (9) having a cavity (13),

    a bracket (6) for holding said head assembly (9),

    a vertical mounting shaft (5) upon which is mounted said bracket (6), and a vertical drive mechanism associated with said vertical mounting shaft (5) and able to lower said head assembly (9) onto said specimen container (3), such that the seal (12) is received into said cavity (13), characterized by an articulated pair of gripping arms (4) able to engage and hold a specimen container (3) and in that the head assembly (9) is provided with pinch means (14, 15) for pinching a portion (20) of the overhanging flexible film seal (12), and is pivotally mounted to said vertical drive mechanism through a rotating linkage (8) connected to a pneumatic cylinder (7) attached to the bracket (6).


     
    2. Apparatus according to claim 1, characterized in that said cavity (13) is conical.
     
    3. Apparatus according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that the pinch means (14, 15) comprise an upper pinch plate (14) and a lower pinch plate (15), said lower pinch plate (15) being movable by driving means (18, 19) within the head assembly (9) for pinching the portion (20) of the flexible film seal (12).
     
    4. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that each of said articulated gripping arms (4) comprises an external portion (61) connected to an internal portion (60) by a transversal central pin (62) and a couple of fingers (63), said transversal central pin (62) allowing a slight rotation of said internal portion (60), supporting the tubular specimen container (3), with respect to said external portion (61).
     
    5. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that said head assembly (9) comprises a seal detecting sensor (22).
     
    6. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that it comprises pressurized air means (23) able to forcibly eject the waste seal (12) from the cavity (13).
     
    7. Process for removing a flexible film seal (12) from a tubular specimen container (3) by an apparatus according to claims 1-6, characterized in that it comprises the following steps:

    - immobilizing the tubular specimen container (3) through said articulated pair of gripping arms (4);

    - pivoting said head assembly (9) of the apparatus backwardly with respect to said vertical mounting shaft (5);

    - lowering said head assembly (9) of the apparatus onto said specimen container (3) through said vertical drive mechanism such that the flexible film seal (12) is received into the cavity (13) of the head assembly (9);

    - pivoting said head assembly (9) forwardly with respect to said vertical mounting shaft (5);

    - pinching a portion (20) of the flexible film seal (12) through the pinch means (14, 15).

    - pivoting said head assembly (9) of the apparatus backwardly again with respect to said vertical mounting shaft (5), followed by raising of said head assembly (9) to remove the flexible film seal (12).


     


    Ansprüche

    1. Vorrichtung zum Entfernen eines flexiblen Folienverschlusses (12) von einem rohrförmigen Probenbehälter (3), umfassend:

    ein gelenkiges Paar von Greifarmen (4), die einen Probenbehälter (3) greifen und halten können, und

    einen Verschlussentfernungsmechanismus, der umfasst:

    eine Kopfanordnung (9) mit einem Hohlraum (13),

    eine Klammer (6) zum Halten der Kopfanordnung (9),

    eine vertikale Montagewelle (5), an der die Klammer (6) montiert ist, und

    einen vertikalen Antriebsmechanismus, der mit der vertikalen Montagewelle (5) assoziiert ist und die Kopfanordnung (9) auf den Probenbehälter (3) derart senken kann, dass der Verschluss (12) in dem Hohlraum (13) aufgenommen wird,

    dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Kopfanordnung (9) mit Kneifeinrichtungen (14, 15) zum Kneifen eines Teils (20) des überhängenden flexiblen Folienverschlusses (12) versehen ist und schwenkbar an dem vertikalen Antriebsmechanismus über eine sich drehende Verbindungseinrichtung (8), die mit einem an der Klammer (6) befestigten pneumatischen Zylinder (7) verbunden ist, montiert ist.


     
    2. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Hohlraum (13) konisch ist.
     
    3. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Kneifeinrichtung (14, 15) eine obere Kneifplatte (14) und eine untere Kneifplatte (15) umfasst, wobei die untere Kneifplatte (15) durch die Antriebseinrichtung (18, 19) in der Kopfanordnung (9) bewegt werden kann, um den Teil (20) des flexiblen Folienverschlusses (12) zu kneifen.
     
    4. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass jeder der gelenkigen Greifarme (4) einen äußeren Teil (61), der mit einem inneren Teil (60) über einen mittigen Querstift (62) verbunden ist, und einige Finger (63) umfasst, wobei der mittige Querstift (62) eine geringfügige Drehung des inneren Teils (60), der den rohrförmigen Probenbehälter (3) hält, in Bezug auf den äußeren Teil (61) gestattet.
     
    5. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Kopfanordnung (9) einen Folienerfassungssensor (22) umfasst.
     
    6. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass sie eine Drucklufteinrichtung (23) umfasst, die die als Abfall verbliebene Folie (12) aus dem Hohlraum (13) ausstoßen kann.
     
    7. Verfahren zum Entfernen eines flexiblen Folienverschlusses (12) von einem rohrförmigen Probenbehälter (3) durch eine Vorrichtung gemäß den Ansprüchen 1 bis 6, gekennzeichnet durch die folgenden Schritte:

    - Festhalten des rohrförmigen Probenbehälters (3) mittels des Paars von gelenkigen Greifarmen (4),

    - Schwenken der Kopfanordnung (9) der Vorrichtung nach hinten in Bezug auf die vertikale Montagewelle (5),

    - Senken der Kopfanordnung (9) der Vorrichtung auf den Probenbehälter (3) mittels des vertikalen Antriebsmechanismus derart, dass der flexible Folienverschluss (12) in dem Hohlraum (13) der Kopfanordnung (9) aufgenommen wird,

    - Schwenken der Kopfanordnung (9) nach vorne in Bezug auf die vertikale Montagewelle (5),

    - Kneifen eines Teils (20) der flexiblen Foliendichtung (12) mittels der Kneifeinrichtungen (14,15),

    - Schwenken der Kopfanordnung (9) der Vorrichtung wieder nach hinten in Bezug auf die vertikale Montagewelle (5) und dann Heben der Kopfanordnung (9), um den flexiblen Folienverschluss (12) zu entfernen.


     


    Revendications

    1. Appareil pour enlever un opercule souple (12) d'un récipient de spécimen tubulaire (3), comprenant un mécanisme d'enlèvement d'opercule qui comporte :

    un ensemble tête (9) ayant une cavité (13),

    un support (6) pour retenir ledit ensemble tête (9),

    un arbre de montage vertical (5) sur lequel est monté ledit support (6), et

    un mécanisme d'entraînement vertical associé audit arbre de montage vertical (5) et capable d'abaisser ledit ensemble tête (9) sur ledit récipient de spécimen (3), de sorte que l'opercule (12) soit reçu dans ladite cavité (13), caractérisé par une paire articulée de bras de préhension (4) capable de s'engager avec et retenir un récipient de spécimen (3), et en ce que

    l'ensemble tête (9) est doté de moyens de pincement (14, 15) pour pincer une partie (20) de l'opercule souple en surplomb (12), et est monté en pivotement sur ledit mécanisme d'entraînement vertical par l'intermédiaire d'une attache rotative (8) reliée à un vérin pneumatique (7) fixé sur le support (6).


     
    2. Appareil selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce que ladite cavité (13) est conique.
     
    3. Appareil selon la revendication 1 ou 2, caractérisé en ce que les moyens de pincement (14, 15) comprennent une plaque de pincement supérieure (14) et une plaque de pincement inférieure (15), ladite plaque de pincement inférieure (15) étant mobile par le biais de moyens d'entraînement (18, 19) à l'intérieur de l'ensemble tête (9) pour pincer la partie (20) de l'opercule souple (12).
     
    4. Appareil selon l'une des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que chacun desdits bras de préhension articulés (4) comprend une partie externe (61) reliée à une partie interne (60) par le biais d'une broche centrale transversale (62) et deux doigts (63), ladite broche centrale transversale (62) permettant une légère rotation de ladite partie interne (60), supportant le récipient de spécimen tubulaire (3), par rapport à ladite partie externe (61).
     
    5. Appareil selon l'une des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que ledit ensemble tête (9) comprend un capteur de détection d'opercule (22).
     
    6. Appareil selon l'une des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce qu'il comprend un moyen d'air sous pression (23) capable d'éjecter de manière forcée l'opercule de déchets (12) depuis la cavité (13).
     
    7. Procédé pour enlever un opercule souple (12) d'un récipient de spécimen tubulaire (3) par un appareil selon les revendications 1 à 6, caractérisé en ce qu'il comprend les étapes suivantes qui consistent :

    - à immobiliser le récipient de spécimen tubulaire (3) à travers ladite paire articulée de bras de préhension (4) ;

    - à faire pivoter ledit ensemble tête (9) de l'appareil vers l'arrière par rapport audit arbre de montage vertical (5) ;

    - à abaisser ledit ensemble tête (9) de l'appareil sur ledit récipient de spécimen (3) à travers ledit mécanisme d'entraînement vertical de sorte que l'opercule souple (12) soit reçu dans la cavité (13) de l'ensemble tête (9) ;

    - à faire pivoter ledit ensemble tête (9) vers l'avant par rapport audit arbre de montage vertical (5) ;

    - à pincer une partie (20) de l'opercule souple (12) par l'intermédiaire des moyens de pincement (14, 15),

    - à faire pivoter à nouveau ledit ensemble tête (9) de l'appareil vers l'arrière par rapport audit arbre de montage vertical (5), ensuite à élever ledit ensemble tête (9) pour enlever l'opercule souple (12).


     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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    Patent documents cited in the description