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1. WO2010078967 - AN INDUSTRIAL PLANT FOR SHEARING METAL SHEETS, PARTICULARLY COPPER OR NICKEL SHEETS

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AN INDUSTRIAL PLANT FOR SHEARING METAL SHEETS, PARTICULARLY

COPPER OR NICKEL SHEETS

DESCRIPTION The present invention relates to an industrial plant for shearing sheets of metals, such as copper or nickel.

In the field of metallurgy, it is widely known that blister copper or nickel is refined through electrolysis processes.

The almost pure material so obtained is made available in the form of sheets or plates, which are commonly defined as "cathodes" (or "anodes").

Typically, these metal sheets are relatively bulky (around 1 m2), thick (up to 30 mm) and heavy (up to 200 Kg). For these reasons, they are not suitable for possible subsequent metallurgic processes, such as melting, and are often thus commonly subjected to shearing in order to obtain smaller pieces having a maximum predefined size. To this aim, industrial plants comprising proper shearing apparatuses have been arranged to cut the metal sheets in blanks and collect the blanks in proper boxes to be sent to the foundry.

In traditional shearing plants, handling of the metal sheets and of the cut pieces is generally performed manually.

This fact leads to relevant drawbacks, such as a long time for completing a shearing cycle, a relevant probability of accidents on work and relatively high industrial costs.

The overall aim of the present invention is to provide an industrial plant for shearing metals sheets, in particular sheets of copper and nickel obtained by means of electrolysis processes, which allows the overcoming of the drawbacks above.

Within this aim, it is a particular object of the present invention to provide an industrial plant, in which the need of human intervention is remarkably reduced.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide an industrial plant that allows to completing a shearing cycle with relevant savings in terms of time and labor.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide an industrial plant that has relatively low installation and operation costs. The present invention thus provides an industrial plant, according to the following claim 1.

The industrial plant, according to the invention, comprises at least a couple of shearing stations, the operation of which are coordinated with a high level of automation, so as to reduce the overall time required to complete the shearing cycle of the metal sheets, with remarkable savings in terms of labor.

A first shearing station and a second shearing station comprise respectively a first shearing apparatus and a second shearing apparatus. The first shearing apparatus receives the metal sheets from a first feeding section and cuts said metal sheets into metal straps having a predefined maximum size.

According to the invention, conveying means are provided for conveying the metal straps so obtained from the output of the first shearing apparatus to a second feeding section at the input of the second shearing apparatus. The second shearing apparatus can thus receive the metal straps in an automated manner and cut them into metal blanks having a predefined maximum size.

The industrial plant, according to the invention, allows a simplification of the handling operations of the metal straps with remarkable savings in terms of handling time.

In addition, the industrial plant, according to the invention, is arranged according to a very simple structure, which allows to reducing the installation and operation costs.

Other features and advantages of the industrial plant, according to the invention, will become apparent from the following description of preferred embodiments, taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a schematic diagram showing an embodiment of the industrial plant, according to the invention; and

Fig. 2 is a schematic view of a portion the industrial plant of figure 1; and

Fig. 3-5 are schematic views of some portions of the industrial plant of figure 1; and

Fig. 6 is a schematic diagram showing another embodiment of the industrial plant, according to the invention; and Fig. 7 is a schematic diagram showing a further embodiment of the industrial plant, according to the invention; and

Fig. 8-12 are schematic views of some portions of the industrial plant of figure 7.

Referring to the cited figures, the industrial plant 1, according to the invention, comprises a first shearing station 10, which comprises a first shearing apparatus 101 and a first feeding section 102, which is aimed at supporting the metal sheets 50 when they are fed into the shearing apparatus 101.

Preferably, the first feeding section comprises a first feeding chute 102, which extends along a first feeding plane 103 that is inclined of an angle αl (e.g. 30°) with respect to a horizontal reference plane 100, which may be any. In this manner, the first feeding chute 102 remarkably facilitates the continuous feeding of the metal sheets 50 into the first shearing apparatus 101, which may be easily carried out using loading means of the known type. Basically, the first shearing apparatus 101 may be of the traditional type, even if it has to be properly arranged to have the first feeding chute 102 assembled thereon.

The first shearing apparatus 101 receives at least a metal sheet 50, which slides along the first feeding chute 102, according to the feeding direction 510A, and is programmed to cut said metal sheet into metal straps 500 having a predefined maximum size, preferably a predefined maximum width (e.g. up to 500 mm with a 20% tolerance). It should be noticed that tolerances are not an important factor in these shearing operations, since the metal straps 500 are to be cut again into metal blanks that are to be conveyed to foundry for melting. Thus, it is only needed that the metal blanks have a proper maximum size, so as to be easily stored into properly arranged boxes or drums. The shearing apparatus 101 does not necessarily have to cut one metal sheet 50 at a time. Depending on the cutting capabilities and the power of the first shearing apparatus 101, two or more overlapped sheets 50 can slide together along the feeding chute 102 and be cut simultaneously.

The industrial plant 1 comprises also a second shearing station 20 that comprises a second shearing apparatus 201, 20 IA and a second feeding section for feeding of the metal straps 500 into the second shearing apparatus 201, 20 IA.

Also in this case, depending on their cutting capabilities and power, the second shearing apparatus 201, 20 IA can be fed with two or more overlapped straps 500. The second shearing apparatus 201, 20 IA receives the metal straps 500 and cut them into metal blanks having a predefined maximum size (e.g. up to a size of 50x50 or 100x100 mm2 with a 20% tolerance). Shearing tolerances can be relatively wide also in this case.

According to some embodiments of the present invention (figure 2 and 6) the second feeding section comprises a second feeding chute 202 that is arranged similarly to the first feeding chute 101 and extends along a second feeding plane 203 that is inclined of an angle cc2 (e.g. 30°) with respect to a ground reference plane 100, which may be the horizontal base plane of the shearing apparatus 201.

Basically, the second feeding chute 202 does not need to have the same inclination of the first feeding chute 102 and thus the angles CC 1 and cc2 may differ.

Preferably, partition means (not shown) are associated to the second feeding chute to a plurality of parallel sectors, in which the straps 500 can slide towards the shearing apparatus 201, according to the feeding direction 510B.

Alternatively (figure 8), the second feeding section comprises a feeding support (reference 605) that extends along a third feeding plane 206, which is substantially parallel to a horizontal reference plane (100).

According to the invention, the industrial plant 1 comprises also conveying means 30 that automatically convey the metal straps 500 from the output of the first shearing apparatus 101 to the second feeding chute 202 at the input of the second shearing apparatus 201. The conveying means 30 may be arranged, so as to convey the metal straps 500 along a first conveying direction 51, substantially parallel to the feeding direction 510A of the first shearing apparatus 101, and along a second different conveying direction 52, substantially parallel to the feeding direction 510B of the second shearing apparatus 101, said conveying directions 51 and 52 being substantially perpendicular. According to an embodiment of the present invention (figures 1-5), the conveying means 30 comprise a collector station 301, which is positioned to receive the metal straps 500 that are shorn by the first shearing apparatus 101.

Advantageously, the collector station 301 comprises a chain conveyor, which transports the metal straps 500 along a collecting plane 3010 that is substantially parallel to the horizontal reference plane 100.

Rows of teeth 3011 project from the collecting plane 3010 to define a plurality of parallel sectors 301 IA, in which the metal straps 500 can accommodate for being moved away. Synchronization means (not shown) preferably regulate the speed of the chain conveyor 301 as a function of the falling pace of the metal straps 500 from the shearing apparatus 101. In this way, it is ensured that the metal straps 500 properly accommodate within the parallel sectors moving along the collecting plane 3010.

Preferably, the conveying means 30 comprises also a first conveyor station 302, which receives the metal straps 500 from the collector station 301 and conveys them along a first conveying plane 3020. The first conveyor station 302 advantageously comprises a movable shuttle, which comprises a chain conveyor belt provided with teeth defining parallel sectors 302 IA for the accommodation of the metal straps 500.

Said movable shuttle is capable of moving horizontally and of vertically shifting the first conveying plane 3020 between different heights.

In particular, the first conveying plane 3020 is reversibly shiftable between a first position

3020A, in which it can receive the metal straps 500 from the collecting plane 3010 of the collector station 301, and second position 3020B, in which it can drop (see arrow 3023) the metal straps 500 towards a further conveyor station 303.

Downstream the first conveyor station 302, in fact, the conveying means 30 preferably comprise a second conveyor station 303 that is provided with a conveying section 3031 and a topple section 3032. The conveying section 3031 preferably comprises a chain conveyor belt that receives the metal straps 500 from the first conveyor station 302 and conveys them along a second conveying plane 3030A parallel to the horizontal reference plane 100.

A topple section 3032, positioned downstream the conveying section 3031, receives the metal straps 500 from the first conveying section 3031 and distribute them on a topple plane 3030B. Advantageously, the topple section 3032 is capable of rotating the topple plane 3030B of an angle cc3 around a topple axis 3033 that is substantially parallel to the conveying direction 51.

Once the topple plane 3030B is rotated, the straps 500 slide off and the topple section 3032 is unloaded (see arrow 3034 of figure 4).

It should be noticed that the rotating movement of the topple plane 3030B allow to change the handling direction of the metal straps 500 from the conveying direction 51 to the perpendicular conveying direction 52.

Downstream the topple section 3032, the conveying means 30 advantageously comprise an elevator station 304 provided with an elevator plane 3040 that is inclined, so as to be substantially parallel to the second feeding plane 203 of the second feeding chute 202. At the lower end of the elevator plane 3040, the elevator station 304 comprises a movable wall 3031 that prevents the straps 500 from sliding off the elevator plane 3040 when they are loaded thereon.

When the elevator plane 304 is in a first position 3040A, it can collect the metal straps 500 sliding from the topple section 3032. In this way, the mere rotation of the topple plane 3030 allows the loading of the metal straps 500 on the elevator plane 3040.

The elevator plane 3040 can be vertically shifted from the first position 3040A to a second position 3040B, in which it is substantially aligned to the second feeding plane 203 of the second feeding chute 202.

Once the wall 3031 is removed, the straps 500 can thus slide downwards from the elevator plane 304, along the second feeding chute 202, according to the feeding direction 510B of the second shearing apparatus 201.

Once the elevator plane 3030 is free of metal straps, it can be shifted from the second position 3040B towards the first position 3040A for being newly loaded with metals straps 500.

Properly arranged control means (not shown) regulate the operation of the second conveyor station 303 and the elevator station 304 to ensure a proper synchronization of these handling stations.

Downstream the second shearing apparatus 201, the industrial plant 1 preferably comprises a further conveyor belt 90, which collects the cut metal blanks and convey them towards storing means (not shown) for the accommodation into proper boxes or drums.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the industrial plant 1 comprises also a further conveyor belt 70 that is positioned downstream the second conveyor station 303, along the first conveying direction 51. The conveyor belt 70 is aimed at collecting the metals straps 500 when they have not to be cut into blanks for any reasons, e.g. when only metal straps 500 are to be provided by the industrial plant 1.

In this case, the topple section 3032 of the second conveyor station 303 will merely convey the metal straps 500 along the conveying direction 51.

The embodiment of the industrial plant, according to the invention, which has been just described, may have a layout that is different from the one described above.

For example, a variant layout may foresee that a single first shearing apparatus 101 operatively feeds two or more second shearing apparatuses 201 with the metal straps 500. In this case, it is sufficient to properly regulate the shearing speed of the installed shearing apparatuses 101 and 201 and properly arrange the conveying means 30.

As an example, the topple section 3032 of the second conveyor station 303 may be realized, so as to be able to rotate the topple plane 3030B, according to a plurality of parallel topple axes 3033. In this manner, a plurality of elevator stations 304 can be loaded, each of said elevator stations feeding one of the installed second shearing apparatuses 201.

According to a further alternative, one or more of the described handling stations 301-304 may be substituted by properly arranged robotized stations. This solution allows the achievement of even higher levels of flexibility in the handling of the metal straps 500, even if with possible higher installation costs.

An alternative embodiment of the industrial plant 1 , according to the invention, is shown in figure 6. In this case, the first and second shearing apparatuses 101 and 201 are aligned along a same handling direction 51, which becomes the sole main conveying direction of the metal straps

500.

This allows the obtaining of a remarkable reduction of the space that is taken up by the industrial plant 1. According to this embodiment of the present invention, the first and second shearing stations

10, 20, the collector station 301, the first conveyor station 302 and the elevator station 304 are arranged and basically work as described above, even if they are aligned along the main conveying direction 51.

The second conveyor station 303, instead, advantageously comprises a movable drum 3035 that receives the metal straps 500 from the first conveyor station 302.

The movable drum 3035 is advantageously capable of moving back and forth along the conveying direction 51 and it is capable to rotate around at least a vertical rotation axis 3038, which is preferably perpendicular to the horizontal reference plane 100.

In addition, the movable drum 3035 is capable of toppling around at least a horizontal toppling axis (not shown).

The drum 3035 is mounted on a chain conveyor 3036 and it can move on it back and forth between a first position 3035 A, in which it receives the metal straps 500 from the conveyor station 302, and a second position 3035B, in which it unloads the metal straps 500 on the elevator station 304. The drum 3035 preferably comprises parallel sectors 3037 for accommodating the metal straps 500.

When the drum 3035 is in the first position 3035 A, it is advantageously rotated so as to have the parallel sectors 3037 aligned substantially perpendicular with respect to the main conveying direction 51, thereby making it easier the loading of the metal straps 500 from the conveyor station 302.

When the second position 3035B is reached, the drum 3035 rotates of 90° around the rotation axis 3038, so as to align the metal straps 500 thereon substantially parallel to main conveying direction 51.

The drum 3035 then can topple around a horizontal topple axis that is substantially perpendicular to the main conveying direction 51.

The drum 3035 can thus unload the straps 500 on the elevator station 304, which can feed the second shearing station 20, as described above. According to this embodiment of the invention, one or more further conveyor belts 70 may be positioned aside the chain conveyor 3036, so as to collect the metal straps 500 when they have not to be cut into blanks.

In this case, the drum 3035 does not rotate when it reaches the second position 3035B and it merely topples around a horizontal topple axis that is substantially parallel to the main conveying direction 51, thereby unloading the metal straps 500 at one side along the conveying direction 52.

Also this embodiment of the present invention may be subjected to variants of relatively easy practical implementation.

For example, it may be foreseen that the rotatable drum 3035 feeds one or more additional shearing stations 20, which might be aligned along the second conveying direction 52, each of said additional shearing stations 20 being fed by a corresponding elevator station 304 placed at one side of the chain conveyor 3036.

Also in this case, one or more of the described handling stations 301-304 may be substituted by properly arranged robotized stations. A further alternative embodiment of the industrial plant 1, according to the invention, is shown in figures 7-12.

According to this embodiment, the second shearing station 20 is provided with a shearing apparatus 20 IA, which is fed horizontally along a third feeding plane 206 that is substantially parallel to the horizontal reference plane 100. Further, the conveying means 30 are still arranged, so as to convey the metal straps 500 along conveying directions 51 and 52 that are substantially perpendicular.

The conveying means 30 comprise a first conveying section 600A, which convey the straps

500 away from the first shearing station 10 along the first conveying direction 51, and a second conveying station 600B, which convey the metal straps 500 from the first conveying section 600A towards the second shearing station 20, along the second conveying direction

52.

Advantageously, the first conveying section 600A comprises a continuous chain conveyor belt 601, which receives the metal straps 500 provided in output by the first shearing apparatus 101 on a discharging plane 6010 that is substantially parallel to the ground reference plane 100.

The chain conveyor belt 601 comprises rows of teeth 6011 that are arranged, so as to define a plurality of parallel sectors 6012, in which the metal straps 500 can accommodate for being moved away.

Synchronization means (not shown) preferably regulate the speed of the chain conveyor belt

601 as a function of the falling pace of the metal straps 500 from the shearing apparatus 101.

In this way, it is ensured that the metal straps 500 properly accommodate within the parallel sectors 6012. The chain conveyor belt 601 transports the metal straps 500 from the discharging plane 6010 to the third feeding plane 206 of the second shearing apparatus 20 IA. Thus, the straps 500 may be moved along different conveying planes, horizontal or inclined, while reaching the height of the third feeding plane 206.

A container 607 may be advantageously positioned at the end of the chain conveyor belt 601 in order to collect the metals straps 500 when they have not to be cut into blanks for any reasons.

The second conveying section 600B is positioned at a certain distance from the first shearing station 10 and it comprises first pushing means 602, which take the metal straps 500 away from the sectors 6012 of the chain conveyor belt 601. The first pushing means 602 comprises a plurality of pushing elements 6020, each of them is

"L"-shaped and comprises a longer vertical leg 6020A and a shorter horizontal leg 6020B.

The vertical leg 6020A is advantageously fixed to actuating means 608, which move the pushing elements 6020 back and forth along the conveying direction 51.

A plate 6020C is preferably fixed at the end of the horizontal leg 6020B and is shaped, so as to be able to slide within a sector 6012 of the chain conveyor belt 601.

When moving towards the second shearing station 20, the pushing elements 6020 take the metal straps 500 away from the sectors 6012 of the chain conveyor belt 601 and convey them along a sliding carrier 605 within parallel sectors 6051.

It should be noticed that the action of the first pushing means 602 allow to changing of the handling direction of the metal straps 500 from the conveying direction 51 to the perpendicular conveying direction 52.

The sliding carrier 605 advantageously extends along the third feeding plane 206 and it is operatively associated to the second shearing apparatus 20 IA.

In the embodiment shown in figures 7-12, the sliding carrier 605 constitutes itself the feeding support forming the feeding section of the second shearing station 20.

As an alternative, said feeding support may be provided apart and aligned with the sliding carrier 605. Synchronization means (not shown) preferably regulate the position of the chain conveyor belt 601 in order to align the sectors 6012 of the chain conveyor belt 601 with corresponding fixed sectors 6051 of the sliding carrier 605, so as to allow the metals straps to freely move towards the second shearing apparatus 20.

Second pushing means 609 are preferably associated to the chain conveyor belt 601 in a location between the first shearing station 10 and the second conveying section 600B, so as to eject the metals straps 500 from the sectors 6012 of the chain conveyor belt 601, if this is needed for any reasons.

This embodiment of the present invention offers the advantage of providing a simple and effective way of conveying the metal straps 500 towards the second shearing apparatus 20 IA, which allows to avoiding the use of multiple conveying stations with relevant savings in terms of installation and operation costs.

Finally, the industrial plant 1 may advantageously comprise properly arranged walls 700 (see figures 1 and 6-7) to mark the different working areas of the plant and provide protection.

The industrial plant 1 , according to the invention, allows the achievement of the intended aim and objects.

The industrial plant 1 has a simple layout that makes easier its installation in an industrial facility. For example, two or more industrial plants, according to an invention, may be easily installed in an industrial facility as different shearing lines.

The industrial plant 1 works in a simple and flexible manner, since the straps 500 are basically handled with simple movements, which feature allows most of the phases of the shearing cycle to be performed in an automatic manner, wherein human interventions come down to supervision and maintenance activities.

This fact allows to remarkably reducing shearing time and labor, with an increase of the plant capacity and reduction of the overall industrial costs.