Kentucky Patent of the Month – February 2024

B & B Metals, Inc. is spearheading innovation in the railroad maintenance industry with its revolutionary tie plate dispenser. This invention addresses the challenges faced during railroad maintenance, particularly in dispensing tie plates and ensuring their correct orientation.

The tie plate dispenser boasts a conveyor system designed to move a multitude of tie plates efficiently. What sets it apart is the incorporation of a magnetic mechanism that selectively retains each tie plate and releases them individually. Positioned strategically above the conveyor, the magnet plays a crucial role in the orientation process.

The conveyor, equipped with a frame extending beyond its conveying surface, creates an opening where the tie plates are selectively released. An actuable arm, featuring pivotal or linear movement, is strategically placed along the falling path of the tie plates. This arm is a game-changer, engaging each tie plate and causing it to change orientation upon release. The dispenser effectively flips the tie plates into the desired position, whether it be right side up or upside down.

One notable feature of the tie plate dispenser is its adaptability. The conveying surface can be configured as a roller conveyor, belt conveyor, gravity feed conveyor, chute, vibratory conveyor, or any combination of these, offering versatility in different operational settings.

The magnet in the dispenser can be either a permanent magnet or an electromagnet, allowing for flexibility in the mechanism. If a permanent magnet is utilized, the dispenser includes a second actuator to disengage the tie plates from the magnet selectively.

A sensor is incorporated into the system to detect a feature of the tie plate and determine its orientation. This sensor-driven approach enhances the precision of the dispenser, ensuring that the actuator is only extended when needed.

While the company started out with just a torch, tractor, and a single employee, B & B Metals has grown into a pioneer in the tie plate distribution market. They currently own the largest fleet of tie plate distribution equipment in the United States.

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