(19)
(11)EP 2 134 160 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
19.12.2018 Bulletin 2018/51

(21)Application number: 08724230.1

(22)Date of filing:  13.03.2008
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A01J 5/017  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/SE2008/050283
(87)International publication number:
WO 2008/118069 (02.10.2008 Gazette  2008/40)

(54)

A TEAT CUP HANDLING DEVICE AND A STORING DEVICE FOR TEAT CUPS

MELKBECHERHANDHABUNGSVORRICHTUNG UND LAGERUNGSVORRICHTUNG FÜR MELKBECHER

DISPOSITIF DE MANIPULATION DE GOBELET TRAYEUR, ET DISPOSITIF DE STOCKAGE DE GOBELETS TRAYEURS


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK TR

(30)Priority: 23.03.2007 SE 0700730

(43)Date of publication of application:
23.12.2009 Bulletin 2009/52

(73)Proprietor: DeLaval Holding AB
147 21 Tumba (SE)

(72)Inventors:
  • DANNEKER, Gert
    147 92 Grödinge (SE)
  • AXELSSON, Thomas
    123 52 Farsta (SE)

(74)Representative: Lilliehorn, Tobias et al
DeLaval International AB Intellectual Property Support Legal Affairs P.O.Box 39
147 21 Tumba
147 21 Tumba (SE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 0 900 522
WO-A1-00/04766
WO-A1-02/15676
WO-A1-99/66786
WO-A1-2005/122753
AU-B2- 560 697
US-A- 3 040 755
EP-A1- 0 900 522
WO-A1-00/04766
WO-A1-02/15676
WO-A1-99/66786
WO-A1-2005/122753
AU-B2- 560 697
US-A1- 2005 274 327
  
      
    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

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND PRIOR ART



    [0001] The present invention relates to a teat cup handling device for a robot arm adapted to attach teat cups to a milking animal, wherein each teat cup has a centrally located longitudinal axis extending through a first end surface of the teat cups provided with a recess for receiving a teat of a milking animal and a oppositely located second end surface of the teat cups, and wherein the teat cup handling device comprises at least two holding parts arranged to releasably hold the teat cups. The present invention also relates to a storing device for teat cups to be used together with the teat cup handling device.

    [0002] One way to fetch and attach teat cups to a milking animal is to use a milking robot comprising a robot arm provided with a gripping device for gripping one teat cup at a time parked in a teat cup storing device. The gripping device fetches and attaches the teat cups in proper order to the teats of the animal. Such an attachment procedure of the teat cups is relatively time-consuming. The attachment procedure of the teat cups constitutes a relative large part of the total time for milking an animal.

    [0003] WO 00/04766 shows an apparatus for automatic milking of animals. In one embodiment of this invention, the robot arm comprises an end portion for relasably storing and attaching four teat cups. The end portion holds the teat cups in parallel in relation to each other and at different height levels. When a milking process has to be performed, the robot arm moves the end portion from a storing position to an attaching position and attaches the respective teat cups to the teats of the animal. When the milking process has been finished, the teat cups are individually detached from the respective teats of the animal and moved back to the end portion by means of e.g. a cord.

    [0004] WO 2005/122753 shows a gripper device mountable on a robot arm. The gripper device comprises an electromagnet for gripping teat cups to be attached to the teats of a milking animal. In one embodiment of this invention, the gripper device is provided with several electromagnets. This gripper device is able to fetch multiple teat cups arranged in parallel from a rack and move them towards the teats of a cow to be milked.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0005] The object of the present invention is to provide a teat cup handling device and a storing device for teat cups, which provide a quick and reliable attachment of the teat cups to the teats of an animal such that the total time for the milking process of an animal can be reduced.

    [0006] This object is obtained according to the invention by the feature that each holding part comprises holding means adapted to hold the teat cups in positions such that the longitudinal axes of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other. By such a positioning of the teat cups, it is possible to find at least one attaching position of the teat cup handling device in which one of the teat cups is located at a higher level than the other teat cups. Thereby, it is possible to attach this teat cup to a first teat of the animal without that the remaining teat cups come in contact with the other teats or the udder of the animal. When the first teat cup has been attached to the first teat of the milking animal, the robot arm moves the teat cup handling device to a new attaching position such that a second teat cup obtains a position at a higher level than the remaining teat cups and be attached to a second teat of the animal. In such a manner, it is possible to attach all gripped teat cups in proper order to the teats of an animal. Said holding means may be adapted to hold the teat cups in positions such that an extension of the longitudinal axes of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other such that an extension of the respective longitudinal axes of the teat cups cross each other in a common point.

    [0007] According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, said holding means is adapted to hold the teat cups in positions such that the first end surfaces of the respective teat cups are located at a larger distance from each other than the second end surfaces of the teat cups. The arrangement of the first end surfaces of the respective teat cups at a relatively long distance from each other makes it easier to prevent that the first end surfaces of adjacent teat cups come in contact with the teats or the udder of an animal during an attaching process of a teat cup. Furthermore, the risk that the first end surfaces of the adjacent teat cups will be contaminated, during the attaching process, is reduced. The arrangement of the second end surfaces of the respective teat cups at a shorter distance from each other makes it possible to give the teat cup handling device a relatively compact construction.

    [0008] According to a further embodiment of the invention, the teat cup handling device comprises at least three holding parts arranged at different positions along a curved path. The teat cups may here be moved in proper order along the path to a teat cup attaching position. The necessary motion of the respective holding parts to the attaching position along such a path can be performed in a relatively quick and simple manner.

    [0009] Preferably, corresponding portions of the respective holding parts are located at substantially the same distance from an axis extending through a center of curvature of the path. Thereby, the path may be at least a part of a circular path such that the respective holding parts can be moved to the attaching position by means of a rotary motion of the teat cup handling device. Such a rotary motion of the teat cup handling device may be performed around a suitable rotation axis of the robot arm. Alternatively, the holding parts may by included in a unit of the teat cup handling device which is rotatably arranged around such an axis. In this case, the teat cup handling device comprises the rotation axis around, which the holding parts with the teat cups will be rotated when the respective teat cups are moved to an attaching position. Said teat cup handling device is adapted to be positioned in a teat cup attaching position with its axis is inclined in relation to a vertical axis. Thereby, the holding parts will be arranged in different positions along an inclined circular path when the teat cup handling device is in a teat cup attaching position. The holding parts and the teat cups not in the attaching position will here be arranged at lower levels along the inclined path.
    According to a further embodiment of the invention, the fastening means of the holding parts are adapted to grip the teat cups in the storing device i.e. substantially simultaneously. Thereby, the gripping time for the teat cups may be reduced in an optimal manner. The teat cup handling device may be adapted to fetch the teat cups from different storing positions in a storing device.

    [0010] The above mentioned object is also obtained by a storing device for teat cups to be used together with the teat cup handling device wherein storing device comprises positioning means adapted to hold the parked teat cups in storing positions such that the longitudinal axes of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other. By giving the teat cups an inclination related to the inclination of the respective holding parts, it is possible to grip all teat cups at the same time by means of the holding parts. Thereby, the time for gripping the teat cups in the storing device will be reduced in an optimal manner. The positioning means may be adapted to hold the parked teat cups in storing positions such that the longitudinal axes of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other such that an extension of the respective longitudinal axes of the teat cups cross each other in a common point. According to a further embodiment of the invention, said positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups in storing positions such that the first end surfaces of the teat cups are located at a larger distance from each other than the second end surfaces of the teat cups. Thereby, it is possible to move the teat cup handling device through the relatively large space between the first end surfaces of the teat cups on its way to a position for gripping the teat cups.
    Advantageously, said positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups in storing positions such the first end surfaces of the teat cups is located at a lower level than the second end surfaces of the teat cups. In these storing positions, the openings of the recesses of the respective teat cups are directed downwardly. As a consequence, possible remaining cleaning liquid or milk in the recesses of the teat cups will flow out through the downwardly directed openings.

    [0011] According to a further embodiment of the invention, said positioning means comprises a flexible element adapted to hold the teat cups in the storing positions by means of a resilient force. By the use of such a flexible element, it is possible for the holding parts to provide a small displacement of the teat cups in a direction against the resilient action of the elastic element. Thereby, the teat cups are pressed with force against the holding parts, which facilitates the gripping of the teats cups. The flexible element may comprise an annular element adapted to be arranged around the teat cups when they are parked in the storing positions. Thereby, it is possible to insert the holding parts between the inclined teat cups and provide a small displacement of the teat cups in an outwardly direction against the resilient action of the annular element.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0012] In the following, preferred embodiments of the invention are described by examples and with references to the attached drawings, in which
    Figs 1-3
    show a first embodiment of a grip device arranged in different position during a gripping process of four teat cups parked in a storing device,
    Fig 4
    shows a view from the above of the grip device in Fig 1 and
    Figs 5-8
    show a second embodiment of a grip device during the attaching processes of teat cups to the teats of an animal.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION



    [0013] The Fig 1 shows a teat cup handling device in the form of a gripping device 1 adapted to be connected to a robot arm of a milking robot which is adapted to automatically attach teat cups 2 to the teats of a milking animal. The milking animal may be a milking cow. The teat cups 2 have an elongated substantially cylindrical shape with a first end surface 2a provided with a recess for receiving a teat of a milking animal and an oppositely located second end surface 2b. Each teat cups 2 has a centrally located axis 2c extending centrally through the teat cup 2 and its end surfaces 2a, b. The gripping device 1 comprises connection means 3 for enabling a releasable connection between the gripping device 1 and a portion of the robot arm. The gripping device 1 comprises four substantially identically designed holding parts 4 arranged at different positions along a path extending around a first axis 5. The holding parts 4 are included in a unit 6 rotatably arranged around the first axis 5. The holding parts 4 are arranged at substantially the same distance from the first axis 5.Consequently, the holding parts are arranged along a part of a circular path around the first axis 5.

    [0014] Each holding part 4 comprises an electromagnet 8 arranged between two side walls 9. A part of an outer surface of the teat cups 2 is made of a magnetic material. Thereby, it is possible to releasably grip a teat cup 2 in the respective holding parts 4 by means of the electromagnet 8. The side walls 9 are provided with front surfaces 9a adapted to come in contact with a surface of a teat cup 2 when it has been griped by the electromagnet 8. The front surfaces 9a of the respective grip portions 4 have a shape such that they hold a gripped teat cup 2 in a predetermined position. The contact surfaces 9a of the different holding parts 4 are inclined in relation to each other. Thereby, it is possible to hold the teat cups 2 such that the longitudinal axes 2c of all teat cups 2 are inclined in relation to each other. In this case, the teat cups 2 are adapted to be held in positions such that the longitudinal axes 2c of the teat cups 2 are inclined in relation to each other such that the an extension of the respective longitudinal axis 2c of the teat cups 2 cross each other in a common point 5' on the first axis 5. Furthermore, the gripping device 1 comprises a camera 10 adapted to detect the position of a teat of a milking animal and a teat cup during an attaching process of the teat cup 2 to the teat.

    [0015] Fig 1 shows the teat cups 2 when they are parked in storing positions in a storing device 11. The storing device 11 comprises a box like structure. A plate member 12 is arranged at a bottom part of the box like structure. The plate member 12 can be elastically suspended in the box like structure. Alternatively, the plate member 12 can be made of an elastic material. The plate member 12 is provided with four parking surface 12a having a specific inclination. Each of the parking surface 12a is adapted to receive a second end surface 2b of a teat cup 2. The parking surfaces are directed downwards such that, the first end surfaces 2a of the teat cups is located at a lower level than the second end surfaces 2b of the teat cups in the storing positions.

    [0016] A milk conduit 13 and a not disclosed pulsation conduit are connected to the second end surface 2b of the respective teat cups 2. Each parking surface 12a is provided with a through hole for the milk conduit 13 and the pulsation conduit. The four parking surfaces 12a are arranged in different positions along a curved path around a second axis 7 having a vertical extension through a centre portion of the plate member 12. The parking surfaces 12a are located at substantially the same distance from the second axis 7, which extends through a center of curvature of the path. Consequently, the parking surfaces 12a are arranged along a part of a circular path around the vertical axis 7. The parked teat cups 2 is here held in storing positions such that the longitudinal axes 2c of the teat cups 2 are inclined in relation to each other such that the an extension of the respective longitudinal axis 2c of the teat cups 2 cross each other in a common point 7' on the vertical axis 7.

    [0017] A schematically disclosed retraction device in the form several retraction cylinders 14 are arranged inside the box like structure of the storing device 11. One retraction cylinder 14 for each teat cup 2 may be used. However, only one retracting cylinder 14 is shown in Fig. 1. The retraction cylinders 14 are adapted to provide a pulling force in the milk conduits 13, when a milking process has been finished, such the teat cups 2 are removed from the teats of a milking animal and retracted to the storing device 11. Another object of the retraction devices 14 are to supply a pulling force on the milk conduits 13, when the teat cups 2 are in the storing position in the storing device 11. Thereby, the second end surfaces 2b of the teat cups 2 are pressed against the respective parking surfaces 12a with a suitable force ensuring that the teat cups 2 obtains a desired inclination in the storing positions. The parking surfaces 12a are inclined in relation to each other such that the longitudinal axes 2c of the teat cups 2 diverge in relation to each other in a direction from the second end surfaces 2b to the first end surfaces 2a of the teat cups. Thereby, a relatively large empty space is arisen between the lower first end surfaces 2a of the teat cups than between the upper second end 2b of the teat cups. An annular elastic element 15 is arranged around the teat cups 2 when they are in the storing positions. A lower end portion of two suspension members 16 is adapted to hold the annular elastic element 15 in a predetermined position around the teat cups 2. An upper end portion of the respective suspension members 16 is fixedly attached to the box like structure of the storing device 11.

    [0018] When a milking process has to be performed, the milking robot moves the gripping device 1 to a position below the teat cups 2 which are arranged in storing positions in the storing device 11. The milking robot turns the gripping device 1 such that the holding parts 4 will be located at an upper position of the gripping device 1. Furthermore, the milking robot turns the gripping device 1 around the first axis 5 to a position in which the holding parts 4 are located substantially vertically below a respective teat cup 2 in the storing device 11. Fig. 1 shows the gripping device 1 in this position. The holding parts 4 are arranged at smaller distances from each other than the teat cups 2 in the storing device 11. Thereby, it is possible for the robot arm to lift the gripping device 1 substantially vertically upwards and into the space between the stored teat cups 2. The front surfaces 9a of the holding parts 4 have a somewhat larger inclination in relation to a horizontal plane than the inclination of the outer surfaces of the parked teat cups 2. Consequently, when the holding parts 4 come in contact with the respective teat cup 2, the front surfaces 9a of the holding parts 4 displaces the respective teat cups 2 somewhat outwardly against the resilient action of the elastic element 15 until the contact surfaces of the teat cups 2 exactly has the same inclination as the front surfaces 9a of the holding parts 4. In this state, the elastic element 15 presses the teat cups 2 against the electromagnets 8 of the holding parts 4 with a resilient force. The electromagnets 8 are activated and the respective holding parts 4, which are shown in Fig. 2, grip the teat cups 2 simultaneously. The robot arm moves the gripping device 1 vertically downwardly with the gripped teat cups 2 to a position shown in Fig. 3. During this motion, the milk conduits 13 and pulsation conduits are pulled out from the box like structure of the storing device 11.

    [0019] The milking robot turns the gripping device 1 such that the holding parts 4 obtain a lower position of the gripping device 1 and the camera 10 an upper position of the gripping device 1. Thereafter, the milking robot moves the gripping device 1 to a teat cup attaching position below the teats of a milking animal. Fig. 4 shows the gripping device 1 in this teat cup attaching position from the above. In this position, the camera 10 is able to detect the first teat of the milking animal and a first holding part 41 holds a first teat cup 21 in a position in front of the camera 10. As described above, the holding parts 4 is arranged on a unit 6 which is rotatably arranged around an axis 5 in relation to the remaining part of the gripping device 1. However, the axis 5 has an inclination in relation to a vertical axis, in the teat cup attaching position, such that the first teat cup 21 is located at a higher level than the remaining teat cups 22-4. The remaining teat cups 22-4 are arranged in successively lower positions along a part of a circular path having an extension of substantially 180° around the axis 5. When the first teat cup 21 has been attached to a first teat of the milking animal, the unit 6 is rotated around the axis 5 about 60° such that the second teat cup 22 enters to a teat cup attaching position in front of the camera 10 before the second teat cup is attached to a second teat of the milking animal. In a corresponding manner, the third and fourth teat cups 23-4 are successively rotated to a teat cup attaching position in front of the camera 10 before they are attached to a third and fourth teat of the milking animal.

    [0020] Fig. 5 shows another embodiment of the gripping device 1. In this case, the gripping device 1 comprises an attachment plate 3 for releasably mounting of a robot arm. The gripping device 1 has here been positioned in a teat cup attaching position by the robot arm. A first holding part 41 with a first teat cup 21 is here arranged below a first teat of a milking animal. I this position, the first teat and the first teat cup 21 is in a position in front of the camera 10. Four holding parts 4 are arranged on different positions along a part of a circular path extending around an axis 5. The axis 5 has an inclination in relation to a vertical axis in the teat cup attaching position such that the first teat cup 21 is located at a higher level than the remaining teat cups 22-4. The remaining teat cups 22-4 are arranged in successively lower positions along the path having an extension of substantially 180° around the axis 5. The camera 10 records images of the first teat. The images are sent to a control unit comprising image analysing means. By means of these images, the control unit controls the motion of the robot arm such that the first teat cup 21 is attached to the first teat.

    [0021] When the first teat cup 21 has been attached to the first teat of the milking animal, the robot arm moves and turns the gripping device 1 such that the second holding part 42 with the second teat cup 22 is moved to a teat cup attaching position, which is shown in Fig. 6. In this embodiment of the grip device 1, the camera 10 is rotatably arranged around the inclined axis 5 instead of the holding parts 4. Consequently, the camera 10 has here been turned to a new position for recording images of a second teat. When the second teat cup 22 has been attached to the second teat of the milking animal, the robot arm moves and turns the gripping device 1 such that the third holding part 43 with the third teat cup 23 is moved to a teat cup attaching position, which is shown in Fig. 7. The camera 10 has here been rotated around the axis 5 in order to be in an optimal position for recording images of a third teat. Finally, the fourth teat cup 24 is attached to the fourth teat of the milking animal in a corresponding manner, which is shown in Fig. 8. When the milking process has been finished the teat cups 2 are removed from the teat and pulled by means of the retracting cylinders 14 back to the storing positions in the storing device 11.

    [0022] The invention is not limited to the described embodiments but may be varied and modified freely within the scope of the claims.


    Claims

    1. A teat cup handling device for a robot arm adapted to attach teat cups to a milking animal, wherein each teat cup (2) has a centrally located longitudinal axis (2c) extending through a first end surface (2a) of the teat cups provided with a recess for receiving a teat of a milking animal and a oppositely located second end surface (2b) of the teat cups, and wherein the teat cup handling device (1) comprises at least two holding parts (4) arranged to releasably hold the teat cups (2), characterized in that each holding part (4) comprises holding means (9a) adapted to hold the teat cups (2) in positions such that the longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other.
     
    2. A teat cup handling device according to claim 1, characterized in that said holding means (9a) are adapted to hold the teat cups (2) in positions such that the longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other such that an extension of the respective longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups cross each other in a common point (5').
     
    3. A teat cup handling device according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that said holding means (9a) is adapted to hold the teat cups (2) in positions such that the first end surfaces (2a) of the respective teat cups are located at a larger distance from each other than the second end surfaces (2b) of the teat cups.
     
    4. A teat cup handling device according to any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the teat cup handling device comprises at least three holding parts (4) arranged at different positions along a curved path.
     
    5. A teat cup handling device according to claim 4, characterized in that corresponding portions of the respective holding parts (4) are located at substantially the same distance from an axis (5) extending through a center of curvature of the path.
     
    6. A teat cup handling device according to claim 5, characterized in that the holding parts (4) are included in a unit (6) which is rotatably arranged around said axis (5).
     
    7. A teat cup handling device according to claims 5 and 6, characterized in that said teat cup handling device is adapted to be positioned in a teat cup attaching position when said axis (5) is inclined in relation to a vertical axis.
     
    8. A teat cup handling device according to any one of the claims 4 to 7, characterized in that the teat cups (2) are adapted to be moved one at a time along the path to a teat cup attaching position.
     
    9. A teat cup handling device according to any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the teat cup handling device is adapted to fetch the teat cups (2) from different storing positions in a storing device (11).
     
    10. A teat cup handling device according to claim 9, characterized in the holding parts (4) comprises fastening means (8) adapted to grip the teat cups (2) in the storing device (11) i.e. substantially simultaneously.
     
    11. A storing device for teat cups to be used together with a teat cup handling device according to any one of the claims 1 to 18, wherein each teat cup (2) has a centrally located longitudinal axis (2c) extending through a first end surface (2a) of the teat cups provided with a recess for receiving a teat of a milking animal and a oppositely located second end surface (2b) of the teat cups, and wherein the storing device comprises positioning means adapted to hold at least two parked teat cups (2) in different storing positions, characterized in that positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups (2) in storing positions such that the longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other.
     
    12. A storing device according to claim 11, characterized in that said positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups (2) in storing positions such that the longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups are inclined in relation to each other such that an extension of the respective longitudinal axes (2c) of the teat cups cross each other in a common point (7').
     
    13. A storing device according to claim 11 or 12, characterized in that said positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups (2) in storing positions such that the first end surfaces (2a) of the teat cups are located at a larger distance from each other than the second end surfaces (2b) of the teat cups.
     
    14. A storing device according to any one of the claims 11 to 13, characterized in that said positioning means is adapted to hold the parked teat cups (2) in storing positions such the first end surfaces (2a) of the teat cups is located at a lower level than the second end surfaces (2b) of the teat cups.
     
    15. A storing device according to any one of the preceding claims 11 to 14, characterized in that said positioning means comprises a flexible element (15) adapted to hold the teat cups in the storing positions by means of a resilient force.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung für einen Roboterarm, der zum Befestigen von Melkbechern an einem Milchtier geeignet ist, wobei jeder Melkbecher (2) eine zentral angeordnete Längsachse (2c) aufweist, die sich durch eine erste Endfläche (2a) der Melkbecher, die mit einer Aussparung zur Aufnahme einer Zitze eines Milchtieres versehen ist und eine gegenüberliegenden zweiten Endfläche (2b) der Melkbecher erstreckt, und wobei die Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung (1) mindestens zwei Halteteile (4) umfasst, die so angeordnet sind, dass sie die Melkbecher (2) lösbar halten, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass jedes Halteteil (4) ein Haltemittel (9a) umfasst, das dazu geeignet ist, die Melkbecher (2) so in Positionen zu halten, dass die Längsachsen (2c) der Melkbecher im Verhältnis zueinander geneigt sind.
     
    2. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Haltemittel (9a) geeignet sind, die Melkbecher (2) so in Positionen zu halten, dass die Längsachsen (2c) der Melkbecher zueinander geneigt sind, sodass sich eine Verlängerung der jeweiligen Längsachsen (2c) der Melkbecher gegenseitig in einem gemeinsamen Punkt (5') kreuzen.
     
    3. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Haltemittel (9a) geeignet ist, die Melkbecher (2) so in Positionen zu halten, dass die ersten Endflächen (2a) der jeweiligen Melkbecher in einem größeren Abstand zueinander angeordnet sind als die zweiten Endflächen (2b) der Melkbecher.
     
    4. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung mindestens drei Halteteile (4) umfasst, die an verschiedenen Positionen entlang einer gekrümmten Bahn angeordnet sind.
     
    5. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass entsprechende Abschnitte der jeweiligen Halteteile (4) im Wesentlichen im gleichen Abstand zu einer Achse (5) angeordnet sind, die sich durch einen Krümmungsmittelpunkt der Bahn erstreckt.
     
    6. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Halteteile (4) in einer Einheit (6) enthalten sind, die drehbar um die Achse (5) angeordnet ist.
     
    7. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach den Ansprüchen 5 und 6, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung geeignet ist, in einer Melkbecherbefestigungsposition positioniert zu werden, wenn die Achse (5) im Verhältnis zu einer vertikalen Achse geneigt ist.
     
    8. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach einem der Ansprüche 4 bis 7, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Melkbecher (2) geeignet sind, einzeln entlang der Bahn zu einer Melkbecherbefestigungsposition bewegt zu werden.
     
    9. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung geeignet ist, die Melkbecher (2) von verschiedenen Aufbewahrungsplätzen in einer Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung (11) abzurufen.
     
    10. Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 9, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Halteteil (4) ein Befestigungsmittel (8) umfasst, das geeignet ist, die Melkbecher (2) in der Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung (11) zu greifen, d.h. im Wesentlichen gleichzeitig.
     
    11. Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung für Melkbecher, die zusammen mit einer Melkbecher-Handhabungsvorrichtung nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 18 zu verwenden ist, wobei jeder Melkbecher (2) eine zentral angeordnete Längsachse (2c) aufweist, die sich durch eine erste Endfläche (2a) der Melkbecher mit einer Aussparung zur Aufnahme einer Zitze eines Milchtieres und einer gegenüberliegenden zweiten Endfläche (2b) der Melkbecher erstreckt, und wobei die Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung ein Positionierungsmittel umfasst, das geeignet ist, mindestens zwei geparkte Melkbecher (2) in verschiedenen Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Positionierungsmittel geeignet ist, die geparkten Melkbecher (2) so in Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten, dass die Längsachse (2c) der Melkbecher im Verhältnis zueinander geneigt sind.
     
    12. Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 11, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Positionierungsmittel geeignet ist, um die geparkten Melkbecher (2) so in Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten, dass die Längsachsen (2c) der Melkbecher zueinander geneigt sind, sodass sich eine Verlängerung der jeweiligen Längsachsen (2c) der Melkbecher gegenseitig in einem gemeinsamen Punkt (7') kreuzen.
     
    13. Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 11 oder 12, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Positionierungsmittel geeignet ist, die geparkten Melkbecher (2) so in Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten, dass die ersten Endflächen (2a) der Melkbecher in einem größeren Abstand zueinander angeordnet sind als die zweiten Endflächen (2b) der Melkbecher.
     
    14. Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung nach einem der Ansprüche 11 bis 13, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Positionierungsmittel geeignet ist, die geparkten Melkbecher (2) so in Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten, dass die ersten Endflächen (2a) der Melkbecher auf einer niedrigeren Ebene als die zweiten Endflächen (2b) der Melkbecher angeordnet sind.
     
    15. Aufbewahrungsvorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 11 bis 14, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Positionierungsmittel ein flexibles Element (15) umfasst, das geeignet ist, die Melkbecher mit Hilfe einer elastischen Kraft in den Aufbewahrungsplätzen zu halten.
     


    Revendications

    1. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur destiné à un bras robotique conçu pour fixer les gobelets-trayeurs à un animal à traire, dans lequel chaque gobelet-trayeur (2) présente un axe longitudinal situé de manière centrale (2c) s'étendant à travers une première surface d'extrémité (2a) des gobelets-trayeurs pourvus d'un renfoncement destiné à recevoir une tétine d'un animal à traire et une seconde surface d'extrémité située de façon opposée (2b) aux gobelets-trayeurs et dans lequel le dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur (1) comprend au moins deux pièces de maintien (4) agencées pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs de manière détachable (2), caractérisé en ce que chaque pièce de maintien (4) comprend un moyen de maintien (9a) conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs (2) dans des positions telles que les axes longitudinaux (2c) des gobelets-trayeurs sont inclinés l'un par rapport à l'autre.
     
    2. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de maintien (9a) est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs (2) dans des positions telles que les axes longitudinaux (2c) des gobelets-trayeurs sont inclinés l'un par rapport à l'autre de sorte qu'une extension des axes longitudinaux respectifs (2c) des gobelets-trayeurs les croise en un point commun (5').
     
    3. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon la revendication 1 ou 2, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de maintien (9a) est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs (2) dans des positions telles que les premières surfaces d'extrémité (2a) des gobelets-trayeurs respectifs sont situées à une distance plus grande l'une de l'autre que les secondes surfaces d'extrémité (2b) des gobelets-trayeurs.
     
    4. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que le dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur comprend au moins trois pièces de maintien (4) agencées à différentes positions le long d'un trajet incurvé.
     
    5. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon la revendication 4, caractérisé en ce que des portions correspondantes des pièces de maintien (4) respectives sont situées à sensiblement la même distance d'un axe (5) s'étendant à travers un centre de courbure du trajet.
     
    6. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon la revendication 5, caractérisé en ce que les pièces de maintien (4) sont comprises dans une unité (6) qui est agencée de manière rotative autour dudit axe (5).
     
    7. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon les revendications 5 et 6, caractérisé en ce que ledit dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur est conçu pour être placé dans une position de fixation du gobelet-trayeur lorsque ledit axe (5) est incliné par rapport à un axe vertical.
     
    8. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon l'une quelconque des revendications 4 à 7, caractérisé en ce que les gobelets-trayeurs (2) sont conçus pour être déplacés un à la fois le long du trajet vers une position de fixation du gobelet-trayeur.
     
    9. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que le dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur est conçu pour récupérer les gobelets-trayeurs (2) depuis différentes positions de stockage dans un dispositif de stockage (11).
     
    10. Dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon la revendication 9, caractérisé en ce que les pièces de maintien (4) comprennent le moyen de fixation (8) conçu pour agripper les gobelets-trayeurs (2) dans le dispositif de stockage (11) c.-à-d. sensiblement simultanément.
     
    11. Dispositif de stockage destiné à des gobelets-trayeurs à utiliser conjointement avec un dispositif de manipulation de gobelet-trayeur selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 18, dans lequel chaque gobelet-trayeur (2) présente un axe longitudinal situé de manière centrale (2c) s'étendant à travers une première surface d'extrémité (2a) des gobelets-trayeurs pourvus d'un renfoncement destiné à recevoir une tétine d'un animal à traire et une seconde surface d'extrémité située de façon opposée (2b) aux gobelets-trayeurs, et dans lequel le dispositif de stockage comprend un moyen de positionnement conçu pour maintenir au moins les deux gobelets-trayeurs parqués (2) dans différentes positions de stockage, caractérisé en ce que chaque moyen de positionnement est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs parqués (2) dans des positions de stockage telles que les axes longitudinaux (2c) des gobelets-trayeurs sont inclinés l'un par rapport à l'autre.
     
    12. Dispositif de stockage selon la revendication 11, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de positionnement est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs parqués (2) dans des positions de stockage telles que les axes longitudinaux (2c) des gobelets-trayeurs sont inclinés l'un par rapport à l'autre de sorte qu'une extension des axes longitudinaux (2c) respectifs des gobelets-trayeurs les croise en un point commun (7').
     
    13. Dispositif de stockage selon la revendication 11 ou 12, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de positionnement est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs parqués (2) dans des positions de stockage de sorte que les premières surfaces d'extrémité (2a) des gobelets-trayeurs sont situées à une distance plus grande l'une de l'autre que les secondes surfaces d'extrémité (2b) des gobelets-trayeurs.
     
    14. Dispositif de stockage selon l'une quelconque des revendications 11 à 13, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de positionnement est conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs parqués (2) dans des positions de stockage de sorte que les premières surfaces d'extrémité (2a) des gobelets-trayeurs sont situées à un niveau inférieur que les secondes surfaces d'extrémité (2b) des gobelets-trayeurs.
     
    15. Dispositif de stockage selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 11 à 14, caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de positionnement comprend un élément souple (15) conçu pour maintenir les gobelets-trayeurs dans les positions de stockage au moyen d'une force élastique.
     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description