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Publication numberUS20040144799 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/351,006
Publication dateJul 29, 2004
Filing dateJan 24, 2003
Priority dateJan 24, 2003
Also published asWO2004067439A2, WO2004067439A3
Publication number10351006, 351006, US 2004/0144799 A1, US 2004/144799 A1, US 20040144799 A1, US 20040144799A1, US 2004144799 A1, US 2004144799A1, US-A1-20040144799, US-A1-2004144799, US2004/0144799A1, US2004/144799A1, US20040144799 A1, US20040144799A1, US2004144799 A1, US2004144799A1
InventorsHal Danby, Julian Swan, Richard Hayes-Pankhurst, Mir Zahedi, Timothy Hone
Original AssigneeBaxter International Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Liquid dispenser and flexible bag therefor
US 20040144799 A1
Abstract
A liquid dispenser uses a flexible bag having expansible and collapsible cells. A rigid manifold is provided in the bag to keep passages open in use and to isolate one of the cells from the remaining cells. In one application, a concentrated drink mix may be held in a reservoir and diluted within other cells in the bag for dispensing to a cup or the like. A valve system allows for the particulates in the liquid without compromising the function of the valve.
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Claims(38)
What is claimed is:
1. A flexible container for delivery of metered quantities of fluent material therefrom, the container comprising:
a first flexible sheet;
a second flexible sheet at least partially in opposed relationship with the first sheet such that the first and second sheets define a volume capable of holding the fluent material;
a manifold located between the first and second sheets, the manifold including passage elements comprising spaced apart, opposing walls extending between sides of the manifold, at least portions of the manifold at the sides between the opposing walls being open, the walls including at least one region in which the walls diverge and converge with respect to each other to define a valve window in the passage element;
the first and second flexible sheets being sealingly attached to the manifold over opposite ones of said open sides of the manifold thereby to define with the walls a passage for the fluent material within the manifold, at least one of the first and second flexible sheets being elastically deformable at the valve window to a position between the walls for occluding the passage at the valve window.
2. A flexible container as set forth in claim 1 wherein the manifold is formed with a valve seat generally at the valve window, the valve seat extending between and closing the side of the manifold within the valve window, the valve seat being adapted for sealing contact with the first flexible sheet upon deformation of the first flexible sheet into the valve window to occlude the passage.
3. A flexible container as set forth in claim 2 wherein the valve seat has an arcuate recess adapted to sealingly engage the first flexible sheet upon deformation of the first flexible sheet into the window.
4. A flexible container as set forth in claim 3 wherein the opposing manifold walls in the valve window extend along arcs.
5. A flexible container as set forth in claim 3 wherein the valve seat is formed with ramps on opposite sides of the arcuate recess, the ramps extending from the arcuate recess to a location adjacent the second flexible sheet.
6. A flexible container as set forth in claim 2 where there are plural valve windows and valve seats in the manifold.
7. A flexible container as set forth in claim 6 wherein the passage includes at least two branches.
8. A flexible container as set forth in claim 7 wherein the manifold has multiple ports for passage of fluent material into and out of the manifold.
9. A flexible container as set forth in claim 8 wherein the first and second sheets are sealing attached to each other to define multiple distinct cells within the container capable of containing the fluent material, each of said cells being in fluid communication with one of the ports.
10. A flexible container as set forth in claim 9 wherein the manifold further comprises rigid tubes extending outwardly from the remainder of the manifold and into the cells, the rigid tubes defining at least some of the ports.
11. A flexible container as set forth in claim 10 wherein the tubes each have radially elongate, tapering wings.
12. A flexible container as set forth in claim 10 wherein the manifold further comprises an internal channel in fluid communication with one of the tubes, the fluid channel crossing one of the passage branches and being sealed from fluid communication with the crossed passage branch, the fluid channel opening into another of said passage branches.
13. A flexible container as set forth in claim 1 in combination with the fluent material.
14. A flexible container as set forth in claim 13 wherein the first and second sheets are sealing attached to each other to define multiple distinct cells within the container capable of containing the fluent material, the fluent material being contained in a first of said cells.
15. A flexible container as set forth in claim 13 wherein the fluent material is a concentrated beverage liquid.
16. A flexible container as set forth in claim 14 wherein a second of said cells is sized for receiving a preselected volume corresponding to an amount of fluent material in a single dispensed unit.
17. A flexible container as set forth in claim 16 wherein a third of said cells is sized for receiving a preselected volume of a fluent additive corresponding to an amount of fluent additive added to the fluent material in the single dispensed unit.
18. A flexible container as set forth in claim 16 where a third cell and a fourth cell are each sized for receiving a volume of fluent material and fluent additive equal to the total volume of the fluent material and fluent additive in the single dispensed unit.
19. A flexible container as set forth in claim 18 wherein the passage is configured for directing fluent material and fluent additive from the first and second cells alternately to the third cell and to the fourth cell.
20. A flow control apparatus for controlling the flow of a fluent material from a flexible container by acting on the container, the flow control apparatus comprising:
a shell sized and shaped for receiving at least a portion of the flexible container therein;
a valve including a valve head disposed for movement relative to the shell between an open position in which fluent material may flow within the flexible container past the location of the valve head and a closed position in which fluent material is blocked from flowing within the flexible container past the location of the valve head, the valve head including a compliant tip adapted to resiliently deform for at least partially enveloping and sealing around particulate matter in the fluent material to inhibit leaking of fluent material past the valve head, the compliant tip of the valve head engaging the container in the closed position to stop the flow of fluent material.
21. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 20 wherein the valve tip is made of an elastomeric material.
22. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 21 wherein the elastomeric material of the valve tip has a hardness of about 25 to 30 Shor A.
23. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 22 wherein the elastomeric material is silicone rubber.
24. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 20 wherein the valve head includes a rigid member mounting the valve tip thereon.
25. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 24 wherein the valve further comprises a driver for selectively driving movement of the valve head between the open and closed positions.
26. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 20 wherein the flow control apparatus is adapted to apply positive and negative fluid pressures to the flexible container for moving the fluent material therein.
27. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 20 wherein the valve tip has an arcuate surface arranged for engaging the flexible container in the closed position of the valve.
28. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 27 further comprising a valve seat having an arcuate recess of a shape complementary to the arcuate surface of the valve tip.
29. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 28 in combination with the flexible container, wherein the valve seat constitutes a portion of the flexible container.
30. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 29 wherein the flexible container comprises:
a first flexible sheet;
a second flexible sheet at least partially in opposed relationship with the first sheet such that the first and second sheets define a volume capable of holding the fluent material;
a manifold located between the first and second sheets, the manifold including passage elements comprising spaced apart, opposing walls extending between sides of the manifold, at least portions of the manifold at the sides between the opposing walls being open, the manifold defining the valve seat;
the first and second flexible sheets being sealingly attached to the manifold over opposite ones of said open sides of the manifold thereby to define with the walls a passage for the fluent material within the manifold, the first flexible sheet being elastically deformable by the valve tip into engagement with the valve seat for occluding the passage.
31. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 30 wherein the valve seat is formed with ramps on opposite sides of the arcuate recess, the ramps extending from the arcuate recess to a location adjacent the second flexible sheet.
32. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 31 where there are plural valve seats in the manifold.
33. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 30 in combination with the fluent material.
34. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 33 wherein the first and second sheets are sealing attached to each other to define multiple distinct cells within the flexible container capable of containing the fluent material, the fluent material being contained in a first of said cells.
35. Flow control apparatus as set forth in claim 34 wherein the fluent material is a concentrated beverage liquid.
36. A drink dispenser comprising:
a flexible bag comprising a first sheet and a second sheet and a manifold received between the first and second sheet, the first and second sheets being joined together to define plural cells capable of containing liquid, the plural cells including a reservoir cell containing a concentrated drink liquid, a first dosing cell for receiving a volume of concentrated drink liquid to be diluted, a second dosing cell for receiving a volume of a diluent for diluting the concentrated drink liquid for consumption, and first and second mixing cells for receiving the volumes of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to mix the concentrated drink liquid and the diluent, the flexible bag further comprising a manifold defining a passage connecting in fluid communication the reservoir cell and the first dosing cell, the manifold defining a passage for delivering concentrated drink liquid from the reservoir cell to the first dosing cell, the passage including two branches for selectively delivering concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the first mixing cell and to the second mixing cell;
a flow control apparatus at least partially receiving the flexible bag, the flow control apparatus including valves arranged for engaging the flexible bag for deforming at least one of the first and second sheets to selectively occlude portions of the passage, and a controller for operating the valves to alternately block the passage branch to the second mixing cell while leaving the branch to the first mixing cell open for delivery of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the first mixing cell, and block the passage branch to the first mixing cell while leaving the branch to the second mixing cell open for delivery of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the second mixing cell.
37. A drink dispenser as set forth in claim 36 wherein the flow control apparatus comprises a fluid pressure device controlled by the controller for acting upon the flexible bag to selectively compress or expand the cells to drive flow of fluid within the flexible bag.
38. A drink dispenser as set forth in claim 37 wherein the flexible bag has an outlet port and the passage branches extent toward and are adapted for fluid communication with the outlet port, the controller being operable to open the passage branch from the first mixing cell to the outlet port and block the passage branch from the second mixing cell toward the outlet port at the same time fluid communication of the first and second dosing cells with the first mixing cell through the passage branch is blocked and fluid communication of the first and second dosing cells to the second mixing cell is open, and to open the passage branch from the first mixing cell to the outlet port and block the passage branch from the second mixing cell toward the outlet port at the same time fluid communication of the first and second dosing cells with the first mixing cell through the passage branch is blocked and fluid communication of the first and second dosing cells to the second mixing cell is open.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates generally to pumps which act on flexible bags to dispense fluent material, and more particularly to a liquid dispenser employing a flexible bag suitable for higher flow rate operation.

[0002] Pumps are often used in applications where the surfaces contacting a fluent material being pumped should be kept clean. Such fluent materials include food, beverages, and medicinal products in the form of liquids, powders, slurries, dispersions, particulate solids or other pressure transportable fluidizable material. For instance, where the fluent material is a food additive for a food product, it is imperative that surfaces contacting the material be maintained in an aseptic condition. Accordingly, the parts of the pump which contact the food are made of materials (e.g., stainless steel) which are highly resistant to corrosion and can be cleaned. However, it is also known to isolate the material by having the pump act on a flexible bag containing the fluent material, rather than on the fluent material itself. There are many examples in the context of delivery of medicines. Co-pending and co-assigned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/909,422, filed Jul. 17, 2001, Ser. No. 09/978,649, filed Oct. 16, 2001 and Ser. No. 10/156,732, filed May 28, 2002 disclose pumps of this type and illustrate applications in the handling of food and products other than medicine. The disclosure of these applications is incorporated herein by reference.

[0003] The application of pumps of the aforementioned type outside the field of medicine often requires higher flow rates. The flow rates may produce fluid flow effects which act on the flexible bag in ways which are detrimental to its operation. For instance, the bag material may tend to collapse under pressure drops caused by rapid fluid flow rates. It is desirable to be able to perform several manipulations of the fluent material in the flexible bag, such as mixing of two component materials. Handling of the fluent material in this manner requires valving which operates without direct contact with the fluent material. If the fluent material is liquid containing particulate matter, the particulate matter can block a valve from reaching a fulling closed position, allowing for leakage past the valve. One such example of fluent material containing particulate matter is orange juice which contains pulp. Still further, pumps of this general type use vacuum and pressure pumps for applying a vacuum and a positive pressure to the flexible bag to induce flow of fluent material. In many contexts, it is less desirable to employ vacuum pumps and pressure pumps because they require space and can generate undesirable noise.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] In one aspect of the present invention, a flexible container for delivery of metered quantities of fluent material therefrom generally comprises a first flexible sheet and a second flexible sheet at least partially in opposed relationship with the first sheet such that the first and second sheets define a volume capable of holding the fluent material. A manifold located between the first and second sheets includes passage elements comprising spaced apart, opposing walls extending between sides of the manifold. At least portions of the manifold at the sides between the opposing walls are open, and the walls include at least one region in which the walls diverge and converge with respect to each other to define a valve window in the passage element. The first and second flexible sheets are sealingly attached to the manifold over opposite ones of said open sides of the manifold thereby to define with the walls a passage for the fluent material within the manifold. At least one of the first and second flexible sheets are elastically deformable at the valve window to a position between the walls for occluding the passage at the valve window.

[0005] In another aspect of the present invention, a flow control apparatus for controlling the flow of a fluent material from a flexible container by acting on the container generally comprises a shell sized and shaped for receiving at least a portion of the flexible container therein. A valve includes a valve head disposed for movement relative to the shell between an open position in which fluent material may flow within the flexible container past the location of the valve head and a closed position in which fluent material is blocked from flowing within the flexible container past the location of the valve head. The valve head includes a compliant tip adapted to resiliently deform for at least partially enveloping and sealing around particulate matter in the fluent material to inhibit leaking of fluent material past the valve head. The compliant tip of the valve head engages the container in the closed position to stop the flow of fluent material,

[0006] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a drink dispenser comprises a flexible bag comprising a first sheet and a second sheet and a manifold received between the first and second sheet. The first and second sheets are joined together to define plural cells capable of containing liquid. The plural cells include a reservoir cell containing a concentrated drink liquid, a first dosing cell for receiving a volume of concentrated drink liquid to be diluted, a second dosing cell for receiving a volume of a diluent for diluting the concentrated drink liquid for consumption, and first and second mixing cells for receiving the volumes of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to mix the concentrated drink liquid and the diluent. The flexible bag further comprises a manifold defining a passage connecting in fluid communication the reservoir cell and the first dosing cell. The manifold defines a passage for delivering concentrated drink liquid from the reservoir cell to the first dosing cell. The passage includes two branches for selectively delivering concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the first mixing cell and to the second mixing cell. A flow control apparatus at least partially receiving the flexible bag includes valves arranged for engaging the flexible bag for deforming at least one of the first and second sheets to selectively occlude portions of the passage. A controller is capable of operating the valves to alternately block the passage branch to the second mixing cell while leaving the branch to the first mixing cell open for delivery of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the first mixing cell, and block the passage branch to the first mixing cell while leaving the branch to the second mixing cell open for delivery of concentrated drink liquid and diluent from the first and second dosing cells to the second mixing cell.

[0007] Other objects and features of the present invention will be in part apparent and in part pointed out hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008]FIG. 1 is a perspective of a juice dispenser constructed according to the principles of the present invention;

[0009]FIG. 2 is the perspective of FIG. 1, but with a front door of the dispenser housing removed to show internal flow control apparatus of the dispenser;

[0010]FIG. 3 is the perspective of FIG. 2, but with the flow control apparatus moved out from the dispenser housing;

[0011]FIG. 4 is a perspective similar to FIG. 3, but showing the dispenser from a right hand side vantage;

[0012]FIG. 5 is an elevation of a disposable flexible bag as seen from the left side as the bag is oriented in FIG. 3;

[0013]FIG. 6 is an exploded perspective of the flexible bag;

[0014]FIG. 7 is a front elevation of a manifold of the flexible bag;

[0015]FIG. 8 is a rear elevation of the manifold;

[0016]FIG. 9 is a perspective of the manifold;

[0017]FIG. 10 is a section taken in the plane including line 10-10 of FIG. 9 and showing a valve seat of the manifold;

[0018]FIG. 11 is a schematic section similar to FIG. 10 illustrating a valve in an open position;

[0019]FIG. 12 is a schematic section like FIG. 11, but showing the valve in a closed position;

[0020]FIG. 13 is an enlarged perspective of the valve including its solenoid driver;

[0021]FIG. 14 is an enlarged perspective of a head of the valve with a valve tip exploded therefrom;

[0022]FIG. 15 is a front elevation of a fixed shell of the flow control apparatus;

[0023]FIG. 16 is a rear elevation thereof;

[0024]FIG. 17 is a front elevation of a pivoting shell of the flow control apparatus;

[0025]FIG. 18 is a rear elevation thereof;

[0026]FIG. 19 is a vertical section of the flow control apparatus including the flexible bag;

[0027]FIG. 19A is a schematic section taken generally along line 19A-19A of FIG. 19;

[0028]FIG. 20 is a simplified electrical schematic of the flow control apparatus;

[0029]FIG. 21 is a simplified pneumatic circuit of the flow control apparatus;

[0030]FIG. 22 is a chart illustrating operation of the flow control apparatus in a fixed volume dispensing mode;

[0031]FIG. 23 is a chart illustrating operation of the flow control apparatus in a continuous flow dispensing mode;

[0032]FIG. 24 is a schematic illustration of a pneumatic circuit of a flow apparatus of a second embodiment including double acting cylinders;

[0033]FIG. 25 is a chart illustrating operation of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment;

[0034]FIG. 26 is another version of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment;

[0035]FIG. 27 is still another version of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment; and

[0036]FIG. 28 is a further version of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment.

[0037] Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0038] Referring now to the drawings and in particular FIGS. 1-4, a drink dispenser 1 is shown to comprise a rectangular housing or cabinet 3 defining a compartment 5 containing flow control apparatus 7 constructed according to the principles of the present invention for dispensing a drink from a flexible bag 9 acted upon by the flow control apparatus. The foregoing reference numerals designate their subject generally. A stand 11 (which may be formed integrally with the cabinet 3) supports the cabinet in an elevated position above the stand providing a space for placing a cup C or other suitable container below an output nozzle 13 to receive the beverage dispensed (e.g., orange juice). Although the illustrated embodiments show the invention in the context of a consumable liquid dispenser, the invention may be used to dispense other, non-consumable liquids as well as matter which is fluent, but not liquid. The cabinet 3 includes a front door 15 which is hinged to the remainder of the cabinet. The front door may be swung open to access the flow control apparatus 7 on the interior of the cabinet 3. For simplicity and clarity of illustration, the front door 15 has been completely removed in FIGS. 2-4. A button 17 on the front door 15 is connected to a controller (described hereinafter) for controlling the dispenser 1 to dispense the beverage into the cup C when the button is pressed. The drink dispenser 1 may operate to deliver a fixed volume of the beverage each time the button 17 is pressed, or to deliver beverage in a continuous flow so long as the button is held down. Of course, levers or other types of devices (not shown) for activating the dispenser may be employed.

[0039] The flow control apparatus 7 is mounted on an upper slide and a lower slide (indicated generally at 19 and 21, respectively), both of which are fixed to the cabinet 3 within the compartment 5. Each slide 19, 21 includes telescoping sections (19A, 19B and 21A, 21B) which allow the flow control apparatus 7 to be moved out of the compartment 5 for servicing, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. A rectangular frame, generally indicated at 23, is connected as by bolts to the outer slide sections 19B, 21B of both the upper and lower slides 19, 21 and forms the basis for connection of the other components of the flow control apparatus 7. A fixed shell member 25 is attached to the lower end of the frame 23 and a pivoting shell member 27 is attached by hinges (generally indicated at 29, see FIG. 19) to the fixed shell member for pivoting between a closed operating position (FIG. 3) and an open position (FIG. 4). A pair of V-blocks 31 mounted on an upper end of the fixed shell member 25 extend outwardly from the fixed shell member in the direction of the pivoting shell member 27. The V-blocks 31 locate the flexible bag 9 and mount respective latch bolt receptacles 33 for receiving latch bolts 35 of latching mechanisms, generally indicated at 37, attached to the pivoting shell member 27. The latching mechanisms 37 each include a base 39, a lever 41 pivotally mounted on the base and connected to the latch bolt 35 for extending and retracting the latch bolt to lock the pivoting shell member 27 in the closed position (FIG. 3), and unlock the pivoting shell member for swinging down to the open position (FIG. 4). The fixed shell member 25 also mounts eight solenoid valves (designated generally by references V1-V8) which operate to control flow of fluent material within the flexible bag 9 in operation of the drink dispenser 1, and fluid pressure control valves (designated generally by references PV1-PV4) used in the application of vacuum and positive pressures to the flexible bag. The operation of the solenoid valves V1-V8 and control valves PV1-PV4 will be explained more fully hereinafter. The solenoid valves V1-V8 and control valves PV1-PV4 are enclosed by a cover 47 releasably attached to the frame 23. The cover is shown broken away in FIG. 3 so that the internal arrangement of the solenoid valves V1-V8 and control valves PV1-PV4 may be seen. The compartment 5 is refrigerated, and the cover 47 shields the solenoid valves V1-V8 and control valves PV1-PV4 from condensing moisture within the cold compartment.

[0040] The upper corners of the frame 23 mount pins 49 which are received through openings 51 (see FIG. 5) in corresponding corners of the flexible bag 9 for hanging the bag on the frame. The pins 47 each have annular grooves 53 near their distal ends (see FIG. 19) which receive and locate the bag 9 axially of the pins. The flexible bag extends down from the pins 47 between the V-blocks 31 and into the space between the fixed shell member 25 and the pivoting shell member 27 when they are in the closed position. Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, the flexible bag 9 is shown to comprise a first sheet 55 and a second sheet 57. The flexible bag 9 is seen in FIG. 5 from the side facing the fixed shell member 25. The first and second sheets 55, 57 have the same generally rectangular size and shape, and are superposed with each other. The first and second sheets 55, 57 are liquid impervious, limp sheet material, and are sealingly secured together in a peripheral seam 59 along their peripheral edge margins to form an envelope. The first and second sheets 55, 57 may each be single-ply, but is more preferably a composition of multiple plies of sheet material. In addition, the first and second sheets 55, 57 are also joined together internally of the peripheral seam 59 to form several distinct cells, each capable of containing its own volume of liquid. The distinct cells include a large reservoir cell 61 at the top of the flexible bag 9 which contains in the illustrated embodiment orange juice concentrate liquid. The reservoir cell 61 is defined in part by the peripheral seam 59, but also by a transverse seam 63. There is also a concentrate dosing cell 65 defined by seam 67, a water dosing cell 69 defined by seam 71, a first mixing cell 73 defined by seam 75 and a second mixing cell 77 defined by seam 79. It may be seen that the seams 67, 71 of the concentrate dosing cell 65 and the water dosing cell 69 converge at one location, but still separate the cells.

[0041] The flexible bag 9 further includes a pair of openings 83 extending through the entire bag which allow locators on the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27 to engage each other when the shell members are closed. An oval passage 87 also extends through the bag 9 and allows for communication of vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27 from the fixed shell member 25. The flexible bag 9 is formed with a pair of notches 89 aligned on laterally opposite sides. These notches 89 are located to mate with the “V” of the V-block 31. A second pair of notches 91 is located on the lower edge of the bag provide clearance for hinges 29 which connect the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27 together.

[0042] The first and second sheets 55, 57 sandwich a rigid plastic manifold (generally indicated at 95) between them which defines, along with the first and second sheets, flow paths for liquid within the flexible bag 9. The manifold 95 may be a molded piece, but other materials and methods of construction may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention. The rigidity of the manifold 95 is sufficient to keep the paths open under the pressure differentials experienced during relatively high speed flow of liquid through the paths. Moreover, the rigid manifold 95 isolates the reservoir cell 61 from the dosing cells 65, 69 and mixing cells 73, 77 so that it is not influenced by the forces producing repeated expansion and contraction of these cells in operation. Referring to FIGS. 7-9, it may be seen that the manifold 95 is a skeletal frame, essentially defining side walls of flow paths, but not the tops and bottoms which are defined by the first and second sheets 55, 57. More particularly, the manifold 95 includes a rectangular exterior frame element 97 supporting the remaining elements of the manifold.

[0043] Triangular elements 99 having sloping sides project outwardly from the rectangular frame element 97 near its edges. These triangular elements 99 facilitate attachment of the first and second sheets 55, 57 to the manifold 95, avoiding a sharp edge where the first and second sheets encounter the manifold along their vertical side edges. Tubes formed as part of the manifold 95 provide fluid communication of the manifold with the cells 65, 69, 73, 77 formed in the flexible bag 9. The tubes include a water dosing cell tube 101, a concentrate dosing cell tube 103, a first mixing cell tube 105, a second mixing cell tube 107 and an outlet tube 109. These tubes are formed from the material of the manifold 95 and defining flow paths independently of the first and second sheets 55, 57. The outer ends of the tubes 101, 103, 105, 107, 109 open into their respective cells 69, 65, 73 and 77, and the tubes extend through the rectangular frame element 97 into the interior of the manifold 95. The reservoir cell 61 is serviced by an inlet channel 111 projecting outwardly from the rectangular frame element 97 and opening into the reservoir cell. Unlike the tubes 101, etc., the inlet channel 111 is open to one side of the manifold 95 and uses the first sheet 55 to enclose a flow path for liquid from the reservoir cell 61 for reasons which will be explained hereinafter. All of the tubes except the outlet tube 109, and the inlet channel 111 have wings 101A, 103A, 105A, 107A, 111A, which taper in a radial direction outward from the tube. These wings provide larger and smoother surfaces for joining the first and second sheets 55, 57 to the tubes 101, 103, 105, 107 and inlet channel 111 to facilitate a sealing connection which will not be broken under forces ordinarily experienced by the flexible bag 9.

[0044] The rigid manifold 95 provides many advantages. However, it is also possible to form the flow paths in other ways. For instance, flow paths may be formed entirely by making seals (not shown) within the flexible bag 9 to define passages. Moreover, instead of a single rigid manifold, individual rigid tubes or other support pieces (not shown, but similar to tubes 101, 103, 105 and 107) could be used independently of other rigid structure at critical locations (e.g., at the openings into the cells 65, 69, 73, 77) in otherwise flexible passages to keep the passage open. As one further alternative, the passages could be formed by individual tubes (not shown) sealed between sheets 55, 57 of the flexible bag 9. Valve windows could be formed between adjacent tubes by forming small pockets in the bag 9 by sealing the sheets 55, 57 of the bag together. Two (or more) aligned tubes would open into the valve window. Valve heads could then act to collapse (by pressing on) and release the windows to prevent or allow passage of liquid.

[0045] Water inlet openings are defined by two generally circular frame elements 115 on the left hand side of the manifold 95 (as oriented in FIGS. 8 and 9). The circular frame elements 115 converge in part with the rectangular frame element 97. Each circular frame element 115 is capable of receiving a water inlet line (not shown) for delivery of water, such as from a public drinking water line, into the manifold 95. Two circular frame elements 115 are provided so that the water line can be attached on either side of the flexible bag 9. Thus, the bag does not require a particular orientation to function. A passage (generally indicated at 117) of the manifold 95 is defined largely by first and second internal wall frame elements (designated 119 and 121, respectively) extending lengthwise of the manifold within the rectangular frame element 97. The internal wall frame elements 119, 121 are opposed to each other and define sides of the passage 117. The passage is enclosed by the securement of the first and second sheets 55, 57 to the tops of the first and second internal wall frame elements 119, 121. At certain locations, the manifold 95 is formed with valve seats (generally indicated at 123) which are open on the side closed by the first sheet 55, but closed on the side adjacent the second sheet 57. The first wall frame element 119 has a break aligned with the reservoir inlet channel 111 for passage of liquid concentrate (i.e., orange juice concentrate) into the manifold 95. The second internal wall frame element 121 includes four breaks where the second internal wall frame element extends to an intersection with the rectangular wall frame element 97. These breaks are aligned with the locations where the tubes 101, 103, 107 and 109 pass through the rectangular frame element for passage of liquid into and/or out of the manifold 95.

[0046] The passage 117 has two branches 117A, 117B providing for separate flow to the first and second mixing cells 73, 77 from the dosing cells 65, 69, and from the mixing cells to the outlet tube 109. The branches extend from a break in the first internal wall frame element to the right end of the manifold 95 (as oriented in FIGS. 8 and 9). One branch (117B) is defined by a continuation of the first and second internal wall frame elements 119, 121 down the center of the manifold 95. The other branch 117A is defined by the first wall frame element 119 and the interior of the rectangular frame element 97 such that the branch extends along the top of the manifold 95, parallel to branch 117B. The branch 117A opens to the first mixing cell 73, but not the second mixing cell 77. Similarly, branch 117B opens to the second mixing cell 77, but not the first mixing cell 73. The branch 117B communicates with the second mixing cell 77 by one of the breaks in the second internal wall frame element 121. The branch 117A communicates with the first mixing cell 73 by way of a channel element (generally indicated at 125). The channel element 125 extends from the opening in the rectangular frame element 97 associated with the first mixing cell tube 105, through branch 117B and to a break in the first internal wall frame element 119 where it opens into the branch 117A. The channel 125 is closed from branch 117B by the presence of a bottom wall 127 and two lateral walls 129 of the channel. The channel 125 is split in two by an internal divider 131. The divider 131 supports the sheet 55 against collapsing into the channel 125. The channel is not as deep as the thickness of the manifold 95 or the height of the opposing walls 119, 121. Therefore, liquid in branch 117B is able to continue past the channel 125 by passing behind it (as the manifold 95 is viewed in FIGS. 8 and 9). The two branches 117A, 117B join together again into a single passage 117 adjacent to the outlet tube 109 so that both the first and second mixing cells 73, 77 deliver the mixed liquid to the same location.

[0047] The valve seats 123 are used in the control of the direction of liquid flow inside the manifold 95. The overall operation of the flow control apparatus 7, including the routing of liquid within the manifold 95, will be described more completely below. The valve seats 123 are defined in part by opposed arcuate sections 135 which may be formed by the rectangular frame element 97 and first internal wall frame element 119, the first and second internal wall frame elements 119, 121, or by opposed sections of the reservoir cell inlet channel 111. Each pair of opposed arcuate sections defines a valve window. All of the valve seats 123 have substantially the same construction, and a representative one of the valve seats is shown in cross section in FIG. 10. The valve seat 123 joins together the internal wall frame element 119 and the rectangular frame 97 defining the passage branch 117A on one side adjacent to the second sheet 57. The valve seat 123 includes a sealing surface 137 in the shape of a segment of a sphere. Ramps 139 extend from the side of the manifold 95 adjacent to the second sheet 57 to the sealing surface 137, facilitating flow of liquid to and from the region of the sealing surface. It will be appreciated that the sealing surface 137 of the valve seat 123 provides a hard, rigid surface against which to form a seal to close the passage 117A at the location of the valve seat.

[0048]FIGS. 11 and 12 schematically illustrate a valve stem 143 and valve head 145 of one of the solenoid valves (V7) which is used to selectively close the passage branch 117A at the valve seats 123 illustrated in FIG. 10. There is one solenoid valve (V1-V8) for each valve seat 123, but other arrangements (not shown) could be used wherein a single solenoid valve services more than one valve seat. The valve head 145 includes a valve tip 147 attached to the valve head. A distal surface 149 of the valve tip 147 is shaped in correspondence with the shape of the sealing surface 137 of the valve seat 123. The valve head 145 is spaced from the valve seat 123 in FIG. 11 so that the passage branch 117A is unobstructed and liquid may flow unimpeded through the passage past the valve seat. To block the flow of liquid through the point of the passage coinciding with the location of the valve seat 123, the valve stem 143 is extended by the solenoid valve V7 so that the valve tip 147 engages the first sheet 55 and deforms it into the valve seat window 135. The first sheet 55 is pressed tightly against the sealing surface 137 of the valve seat 123 and substantially conforms to the sealing surface over the surface area of the distal surface 149 of the valve tip 147 so that so that the passage is occluded by the deformed portion of the first sheet, as shown in FIG. 12. The valve tip 147 is preferably made of an elastomeric material which is capable of resilient deformation. An example of such a material is silicone rubber having a hardness of 25-30 Shor A. Generally speaking, the hardness of the material should not be above 35 Shor A. Other materials could be used, such as a soft polyurethane, natural rubber and a thermoplastic elastomer (e.g., Hytrel® thermoplastic elastomer available from E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co. of Wilmington, Del.).

[0049] It is not uncommon for the liquid flowing within the manifold 95 to contain particulate matter, for example, orange juice may contain pulp. Should a piece of pulp become lodged between the first sheet 55 and the valve seat 123, it could cause separation of the first sheet from the sealing surface 137, resulting in leakage past the valve seat. However, the resiliently deformable valve tip 147 of the present invention is capable of deforming itself and the first sheet 55 about the pulp (or other particulate) in the liquid so that the first sheet is forced down against the sealing surface 137 around the pulp, at least partially enveloping the pulp and sealing around it. In this way, the passage 117A is still blocked notwithstanding the presence of pulp or another particulate at the valve seat 123. When the solenoid valve V7 is opened (i.e., moves the valve head 145 and tip 147 back to the position of FIG. 11), the first sheet 55 resiliently springs back to its original position above the sealing surface 137, reopening the passage past the valve seat 123.

[0050] Referring now to FIGS. 13 and 14, each solenoid valve, including illustrated solenoid valve V7, includes a cylinder 153 having a flange 155 at one end for use in mounting on the frame 23 and fixed shell member 25. The cylinder 153 receives the valve stem 143 which is biased outwardly from the cylinder by a coil spring 157 which engages the cylinder and the valve head 145. Thus, the ordinary or unenergized position of the solenoid valve V7 is to close the passage 117A by force of the spring 157. The cylinder 153 contains a suitable electromagnetic device which is operable upon energization to draw the valve stem 143 into the cylinder and to open the valve seat 123 for transfer of liquid through the passage 117A. The solenoid valve V7 may be configured differently than shown and other types of valves may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 14, the valve tip 147 comprises a roughly half-moon shaped piece 159 of silicone rubber and a pair of attachment rods 161. The attachment rods are received in holes (not shown) in the valve head 145 for securing the valve tip 147 to the head. The valve head 145 includes a transverse groove 163 which receives the inner end margin of the rubber piece 159. Tongues 165 project longitudinally of the solenoid valve V7 from the head 145 on opposite sides of the rubber piece 159 when received in the groove 163. The tongues 165 have roughly arcuate shapes in correspondence to the shape of the distal surface 149 of the valve tip 147 to provide support against lateral movement of the valve tip in directions perpendicular to the major surfaces of the piece 159.

[0051] The solenoid valves V1-V8 are mounted on the frame 23 and fixed shell member 25 by respective pairs of bolts 169 which extend through holes 171 in the flanges 155 of the cylinders 153, through the frame and into the fixed shell member. It is noted with reference to FIG. 16 that one pair of solenoid valves (V3 and V4), because of their orientation and close proximity to each other share a flange 155 which receives three bolts 169 to mount the pair of valves. The valve stem 143 of each valve (V1-V8) extends into the fixed shell member 25 and the valve head 145 is located in a respective one of openings 173 formed on the interior face of the fixed shell member (see FIG. 15). Each solenoid valve (e.g., solenoid valve V7) is operable to move the valve tip 147 through the opening 173 to deform the first sheet 55 into engagement with a sealing surface 137 of the corresponding valve seat 123 of the flexible bag 9 to occlude the passage 117 at the location of that particular valve, and to retract into the opening to open the passage. It will be appreciated that in operation, these openings 173 are aligned with respective valve seats 123 of the manifold 95. An aperture 175 in the inner face of the fixed shell member 25 is provided for passing vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27. The aperture 175 is surrounded by an O-ring 177 for sealing engagement with the pivoting shell member 27 through the oval passage 87 in the flexible bag 9. Two cavities 179 at the bottom of the fixed shell member 25 are provided for the hinge 29 connecting the pivoting shell member 27 to the fixed shell member. Hinge pins 181 used to make the connection may be seen in each cavity 179.

[0052] As shown in FIG. 15, the interior face of the fixed shell member 25 is formed with two roughly oval (or egg-shaped) recesses indicated at 185 and 187, which are sized and shaped to receive the first mixing cell 73 and the second mixing cell 77, respectively, of the flexible bag 9. A third recess 189 is sized to receive the concentrate dosing cell 65, and a fourth recess 191 is sized to receive the water dosing cell 69. Each of the recesses (185, 187, 189, 191) in the fixed shell member 25 has a grouping of four small ports (the grouping indicated generally at 195) in each recess is used for applying vacuum pressure to the recess and the cell (73, 77, 65, 69) contained therein. An opening (not shown) in the fixed shell member 25 in each of the recesses 185, 187, 189, 191 may be provided to sensors (not shown) to ascertain the state of the corresponding cell (65, 69, 73 and 77). The first two recesses 185, 187 are surrounded by channels 197 which hold respective O-rings 198 for sealing with the flexible bag 9 adjacent to the portion of the mixing cells 73, 77 received in the recesses. The third and fourth recesses 189, 191 are both surrounded by a single channel 197 and O-ring 198 therein because the concentrate dosing cell 65 and the water dosing cell 69 are operated conjointly in the illustrated embodiment. Thus, each of the first two recesses 185, 187, and the third and fourth recesses 189, 191 are isolated in their own regions from the other regions and from the ambient so that the fluid pressure applied in each region is entirely independent of that applied in any other region. Only fragments of the O-rings 198 are shown in FIG. 15, but they extend completely around the channels 197.

[0053] The fluid pressure control valves PV1-PV4 (see FIG. 3) are mounted on the outer face of the fixed shell member 25 through an opening 199 (FIG. 16) in the frame 23. The control valves PV1-PV4 are not shown in FIG. 16 for clarity. There is one control valve (PV2-PV4) for each of the aforementioned isolated regions in the fixed shell member inner face, and one control valve PV1 for the application of vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27. The control valves PV1-PV4 are each connected to a high pressure input connector 201, a low pressure input connector 203 and a vacuum pressure input connector 205 extending through the cover 47 on the top side thereof (see FIG. 3). The high pressure input connector 201 may for example deliver air pressurized to about 40 psi for use in driving the operation of the control valves PV1-PV4. The control valves PV1-PV4 are also connected to a source of electrical power (not shown) for use in driving operation of the valves.

[0054] The low pressure input connector 23 may for example deliver air pressurized to about 10 psi for use in apply pressure tending to collapse the cells 65, 69, 73, 77 of the flexible bag 9. The vacuum pressure connector 205 may for example deliver a vacuum pressure of about −7 psi for expanding the cells 65, 69, 73, 77 and also for holding the second sheet 57 of the flexible bag 9 against the pivoting shell member 27, as will be more fully described. Other pressures may be applied without departing from the scope of the present invention. It is also possible to apply pressure and vacuum to the side of the flexible bag 9 facing the pivoting shell member 27 within the scope of the present invention. The control valves PV1-PV4 operate so that positive or vacuum pressure is applied to the respective cells 65, 69, 73, 77 through the ports 195 in the recesses of the fixed shell member 25 for collapsing or expanding the cells to selectively discharge or draw in liquid. Control valve PV1 is connected to the fixed shell member 25 by a fitting 202, control valve PV2 is connected by fittings 204A, 204B, control valve PV3 is connected by a fitting 206 and control valve PV4 is connected by a fitting 208. The fittings 202, 204A, 204B, 206, 208 are connected by passaging in the fixed shell member 25 and (in the case of fitting 202) in the pivoting shell member 27 to respective ones of the recesses 185, 187, 189, 191, 211, 213, 215, 217 for applying positive and vacuum pressure. A member 212 projecting from the cover 47 is provided for making electrical connection to the valves PV1-PV4 and for venting air to ambient.

[0055] Referring now to FIGS. 17 and 18, the pivoting shell member 27 mounts on its outer face (FIG. 17) the previously described latching mechanisms 37 used to secure the pivoting shell member to the fixed shell member 25 in the closed position. A quick release connector 209 is capable of releasable, sealing attachment of a water line hose (not shown) thereto for supplying water (the diluent) to the flow control apparatus 7. The water passes from the connector 209 through the inner face of the pivoting shell member 27 to a shuttle connector 210. The shuttle connector punctures the second sheet 57 of the flexible bag 9 when the pivoting shell member 27 is closed, and seals with the circular frame element (inlet) 115 in the manifold 95 (e.g., as by engagement of an O-ring in the frame element). However, other structures for making the water connection, including a strictly manual connection, are contemplated. The inner face of the pivoting shell member 27 has recesses (designated 211, 213, respectively) to receive respective halves of the mixing cells 73, 77, a recess 215 to receive half of the concentrate dosing cell 65 and a recess 217 to receive essentially half of the water dosing cell 69.

[0056] The mixing cell recesses 211, 213 are each surrounded by grooves 219 which contain respective O-rings 220 adapted for sealing engagement with the flexible bag 9 to isolate the recess from the other recess and from ambient. A single groove 219 and O-ring 220 surrounds a region including the recess 215 for the concentrate dosing cell 65 and the recess 217 for the water dosing cell 69. The single O-ring 220 isolates these two recesses 215, 217 from the other recesses 211, 213 and from ambient. Only fragmentary portions of the O-rings 220 are shown in FIG. 18, but they extend the full length of the grooves 219. A grouping of four small ports (the grouping indicated generally at 221) in each recess provides fluid communication for vacuum pressure to the half of the cells 73, 77, 65, 69 in the recesses 211, 213, 215, 217. This vacuum pressure is communicated from the fixed shell member 25 through the opening 175 in the inner face of the fixed shell member which is sealingly engaged through the oval passage 87 in the flexible bag 9 with the inner face of the pivoting shell member 27 around an opening. The opening communicates with internal passages generally indicated at 225 in the pivoting shell member 27 (see FIG. 19) to communicate the vacuum pressure to each of the groupings of ports 221.

[0057]FIG. 19A schematically illustrates the advantageous construction of the tube wing 103A of the tube 103 in the isolation of the regions around the recesses 185, 187 and the two recesses 189, 191. The tapered shape of the wing 101A allows the O-rings 198, 220 to gradually transition over the tube 101 so that it maintains continuous contact with the respective one of the first and second sheets 55, 57 of the bag. A sharp transition over a rigid tube (not shown) could produce a gap in contact between the seals 198, 220 and their corresponding sheet 55, 57 resulting in leakage from the isolated region and loss of positive or vacuum pressure in the region. The rigid tubes 101, 103, 105, 107 perform the important function of maintaining communication of the manifold 95 with the cells 65, 69, 73, 77, although the cells expand and collapse repeatedly during the cycle. Otherwise an inlet would have a tendency to collapse before the necessary liquid had passed through.

[0058] Cavities 227 at the lower edge margin of the pivoting shell member 27 receive hinge blocks 229 fixedly attached to the pivoting shell member and projecting outwardly therefrom. The hinge blocks 229 extend into the cavities 179 at the lower edge margin of the fixed shell member 25 where they are pivotally mounted on the fixed shell member by the hinge pins 181. This arrangement is best seen in FIG. 19, which illustrates the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27 in a closed position. Thus, the pivoting shell member 27 is capable of pivoting with respect to the fixed shell member 25 between the open and closed positions. Two circular slots 226A, and an elongate slot 226B (FIG. 18) are adapted to receive conical locator pins 228A and elongate, tapered tab 228B (FIG. 15) to align the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27 when they are closed. The conical and tapered shape of the pins 228A and tab 228B allow mating with the corresponding slots even though the pivoting shell member 27 moves along a circular arc into engagement with the fixed shell member 25.

[0059] Before describing another embodiment, the general operation of the first embodiment will be described. Referring first to FIG. 20, the a controller 233 (e.g., a programmable logic controller) is connected to the solenoid valves V1-V8 (only two of which are illustrated) to activate and deactivate the valves according to a preset program of operation. The controller 233 is also connected to the control valves PV1-PV4 shown in FIG. 21, although the connection is not specifically illustrated. The control valves PV1-PV4 could be controlled by a separate controller (not shown) without departing from the scope of the present invention. The pneumatic system of the flow control apparatus 7 includes a pump 235 for providing suitable fluid pressures above atmospheric. A line 237 from the pump 235 extends through a control valve 239 and past a pressure sensor 241 to a tank 243. Another line 245 extending from the tank 243 breaks into two branches (245A, 245B), each having its own pressure regulator 247. The branches 245A, 245B are then connected to the control valves PV1-PV4 as previously stated. A vacuum pump 249 is also connected to the control valves PV1-PV4 by a line 251. In one example, the pump 235 is operated to maintain the pressure in the tank 243 at about 50 psi. When the pressure sensor 241 detects that the pressure has reached 50 psi or above, it shuts down the pump and/or shuts off the valve 239. The upper pressure regulator 247 in the schematic can be operated to control the pressure in the branch 245A to about 40 psi and the lower pressure regulator can be operated to control the pressure in the branch 245B to about 10 psi. The vacuum supplied to the control valve PV1-PV4 by the vacuum pump 249 may be at about −7 psi, as stated previously. The 40 psi pressure is used to drive the control valves PV1-PV4 to change between the application of positive pressure to the recesses 185, 187, 189, 191 in the fixed shell member 25 and the application of vacuum pressure. In this embodiment, a constant vacuum pressure is applied to the parts of the cells 65, 69, 73, 77 formed by the second sheet 57 of the flexible bag 9. These parts of the cells 65, 69, 73, 77 are received in respective ones of the recesses 215, 217, 211, 213 in the pivoting shell member 27.

[0060] Orange juice concentrate may be packaged in the flexible bag 9 at one location under aseptic conditions (or sterilized after packaging) and shipped with other flexible bags to another location (e.g., a restaurant or cafeteria) where the drink dispenser 1 is located. It will be readily appreciated that one flexible bag 9 may be replaced with another by opening the pivoting shell member 27 (FIG. 4), lifting the one bag off of the pins 49 and hanging a new bag on the pins. The new flexible bag 9 is guided between the V-blocks 31, and the notches 89 in the vertical sides of the bag are placed in registration with the V-blocks. The pivoting shell member 27 is swung up to the closed position and the latch bolts 35 lock in the receptacles 33. The reservoir cell 61 is located above the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27. The concentrate dosing cell 65, the water dosing cell 69 and the mixing cells 73, 77 are received in the recesses 189/215, 191/217, 185/211, 187/213 of the fixed and pivoting shell members 25, 27. A water line is attached to the quick release connector 209 on the outer face of the pivoting shell member 27 and an output line 253 (FIG. 2) is connected to the outlet tube 109 extending down from the manifold 95. The entire flow control apparatus 7 may then be slid back into the cabinet 3 by collapsing the telescoping sections 19A, 19B, 21A, 21B of the slides 19, 21. Any connections which were removed to allow the flow control apparatus 7 to slide out of the cabinet compartment 5 are restored.

[0061] The controller 233 may then automatically operate the cycle so that any air in the mixing cells 73, 77 or dosing cells 65, 69 is eliminated and the flow control apparatus 7 is primed. For example all of the mixing cells 73, 77 and dosing cells 65, 69 may first be collapsed to purge air, which is exhausted through the outlet tube. Both of the dosing cells 65, 69 may be filled with water which is subsequently delivered to the first mixing cell 73. Then the dosing cells 65, 69 refill with water as the water in the mixing cell 73 is discharged through the outlet tube 109. The second mixing cell 77 is filled with water from the dosing cells 65, 69. This time as the second mixing cell 77 is discharging the water through the outlet tube 109, the concentrate dosing cell 65 is filled with orange juice concentrate from the reservoir cell 61, and the water dosing cell 69 is filled with water. The combined volume of the recesses 189 and 215 receiving the dosing cell 65, and the combined volume of the recesses 191 and 217 receiving the water dosing cell 69 in the closed position of the fixed and pivoting shell members is selected so that the appropriate dilution of the orange juice concentrate is achieved. The dosing cells 65, 69 themselves are sized sufficiently large to fill their respective containing volumes. The total combined volume of the recess 189, 215, 191, 217 may be four ounces, and the volume of each pair of recesses 185/211 and 187/213, holding mixing cells 73 and 77, respectively, may be four ounces. To continue with the priming operation, the contents of the dosing cells 65, 69 are pumped to the first mixing cell 73. No agitation of the concentrate and water in the mixing cells 73 or 77 is done. The turbulence of the flow of orange juice concentrate and water when it enters the mixing cells 73, 77 is sufficient for mixture. However, additional agitation could be used, such as by applying positive and vacuum pressure cyclically to the mixing cell 73, 77 while holding the liquids in the mixing cell. The mixing cell 73 discharges the mixture through the outlet tube 109 as the concentrate dosing cell 65 and water dosing cell 69 refill with orange juice and water, respectively. The second mixing cell 77 is then filled with the contents of the dosing cells 65, 69. The dosing cells refill and the flow control apparatus 7 is ready for operation.

[0062] Referring now to FIG. 22, a chart indicating operation of the flow control apparatus 7 to dispense a fixed volume of liquid (e.g., eight ounces of orange juice diluted from concentrate) over a single six second cycle is shown. The exact amount of time is an example and may be other than six seconds. The plot for control valve PV1 represents the pressure which is applied to the sides of the mixing cells 73, 77 and dosing cells 65, 69 which are received in the recesses 211, 213, 215, 217 of the pivoting shell member 27. As stated previously, a constant vacuum pressure is applied throughout the cycle so that these halves of the cells 73, 77, 65, 69 are constantly held against the pivoting shell member 27 in their respective recesses 211, 213, 215, 217. Control valve PV1 operates either to apply vacuum pressure (−7 psi) to the recesses 211, 213, 215, 217 of the pivoting shell member 27 or to vent the recesses to atmosphere. The plot for control valve PV2 illustrates the application of pressure to the recesses 189, 191 of the fixed shell member 25 receiving the concentrate dosing cell 65 and the water dosing cell 69 by operation of the control valve. It will be readily appreciated that these cells 65, 69 are always expanded and collapsed at the same time in operation of the flow control apparatus 7. The plots for control valves PV3 and PV4 represent the expansion and collapse of the mixing cells 73, 77, as controlled by those control valves. A line at “+10 psi” indicates positive pressure is applied (i.e., the cell is collapsed) and a line a “−7 psi” indicates that a vacuum is applied (i.e., the cell is expanded). The exact pressures shown are illustrative and not limiting. For each of the solenoid valves V1-V8, a horizontal line at “1” means that the valve is open, allowing liquid to flow past the valve seat 123, and a line at “0” means the valve is closed, blocking flow of liquid past the valve seat. The condition of the mixing cells 73, 77 and dosing cells 65, 69 and the positions of the solenoid valves V1-V8 at any given instant can be seen by reading down along a vertical line in the chart.

[0063] Operation begins by pressing the button 17 on the exterior of the drink dispenser 1 (FIG. 1) and the controller 233 (FIG. 20) initiates operation of the cycle. Positive pressure is applied through the control valve PV4 and the mixing cell 77 is urged to collapse. Valve V8 is open and valve V7 is closed so that the mixture which was previously delivered to the mixing cell 77 during the purge and prime operation described above, is discharged to the cup C (FIG. 1). At the same time, positive pressure is applied through the control valve PV2 to the dosing cells 65, 69 discharging the contents of both cells (filled in the purge and prime operation) into the manifold passage 117 through their respective tubes 101, 103. Valve V1 is closed so no additional water is added to the manifold 95 and there is no backflow into the water system. Valves V2, V4 and V5 are open, while valves V6 and V7 are closed and the mixing cell 73 is expanded by operation of PV3 so that the contents of the dosing cells 65, 69 are received in the mixing cell. V3 is closed, shutting off the reservoir cell 61 from the manifold 95. This condition is maintained for about 1.5 seconds.

[0064] It is now time for the mixing cell 73 to discharge and the dosing cells 65, 69 to refill with orange juice concentrate from the reservoir cell 61 and water from the water inlet 115, respectively. Thus, positive pressure is applied through control valve PV3 to the mixing cell, valve V6 is opened and valve V5 is closed so that the orange juice mix is discharged through the outlet tube 109. Positive pressure remains on the mixing cell 77 and valve V8 remains open to discharge any remaining liquid from the mixing cell. Vacuum pressure is applied via PV2 to expand the dosing cells 65, 69. Valves V1 to the water line and V3 to the reservoir cell 61 are opened, while valves V4 and V2 are closed so that the concentrate dosing cell 65 is filled with concentrated orange juice from the reservoir cell and the water dosing cell 69 is filled with water.

[0065] In the next 1.5 second period, pressure is again applied through PV2 to the dosing cells 65, 69 and valves V2, V4 and V7 are open, while V5 and V8 are closed so that the water and orange juice concentrate are delivered through the top branch 117A of the passage to mixing cell 77 on which a vacuum pressure is applied by PV4. Positive pressure continues to be applied through PV3 to the mixing cell 73 and valve V6 remains open so that remaining contents of the mixing cell can be discharged. In the last 1.5 second period, the dosing cells 65, 69 are refilled. Vacuum pressure is applied to the dosing cells 65, 69 by PV2 and valves V1 and V3 are opened. The full eight ounces was previously discharged in the last period, so vacuum pressure is maintained on the mixing cell 77 by control valve PV4. The flow control apparatus 7 is then prepared to repeat the cycle the next time this button 17 is pressed.

[0066] Continuous flow operation of the flow control apparatus 7 is illustrated by the chart in FIG. 23, and follows the same initial purge and prime operation described. The operation is illustrated as a four second repeating cycle. The dosing cells 65, 69 empty and fill every two seconds, while the mixing cells 73, 77 fill for two seconds and dispense for two seconds. Reference is made to FIG. 23 for the details as to which solenoid valves V1-V8 are open or closed. The flow control apparatus 7 operates to dispense orange juice continuously so long as the button 17 continues to be depressed.

[0067] A portion of a flow control apparatus 7′ of a second embodiment is schematically illustrated in FIG. 24. The construction of the flow control apparatus may be essentially identical to the flow control apparatus 7 of the first embodiment except that the pump 235 and control valves PV1-PV4 of the first embodiment are replaced with three cylinders, designated 257, 259 and 261, respectively. The cylinders 257, 259, 261 have the advantage of being able to fit in a very small volume and to operate silently. Each of the cylinders 257, 259, 261 has a piston head 263 movable lengthwise of the cylinder. Pressure/vacuum lines 265, 267, 269 extend from each cylinder 257, 259, 261 to the fixed shell member 25 and acts on a respective one of the mixing cells 73, 77, or on both of the dosing cells 65, 69. The cylinders 257, 259, 261 are each an essentially closed pneumatic system. Movement of the piston head 263 toward the discharge end of the cylinder 257, 259, 261 applies a pressure to the cell 65, 69, 73, 77 to collapse the cell, and movement of the head toward the opposite end applies a vacuum pressure to expand the cell. Regions within the cylinders where positive, atmospheric and vacuum pressures are applied have been delineated in the drawing. Preferably in when the piston head 263 is in the atmospheric region, there is an automatically opening valve (not shown) which vents the cylinder 257, 259, 261 to atmosphere to keep the position of the head at which a particular pressure is applied from drifting.

[0068] A cycle of operation of the pneumatic part of the operation of the flow control apparatus is illustrated in FIG. 25. The operation is not materially different from the continuous flow operation of the first embodiment. However, because the cylinders 257, 259, 261 are used, the changeover from positive to vacuum pressure (and vice versa) is not substantially instantaneous. Accordingly the pressure changes along a steep, but discernable slope from one pressure to the other and back. Moreover, a constant vacuum pressure is applied to the pivoting shell member 27 (and thence to the recesses 211, 213, 215, 217) through control valve PV1 by a line 264 (see FIG. 24) connecting PV1 to one or more of the cylinders 257, 259, 261 (illustrated as being cylinder 257 in the drawing). The line 264 contains a check valve 266 which allows a vacuum to be drawn in the pivoting shell member 27 when a vacuum is drawn in the corresponding cylinder(s), but does not allow positive air pressure to enter. Ideally, once an initial vacuum is drawn on the pivoting shell member it would hold without further action by the cylinder 257. However, if needed this cylinder 257 can restore a loss of vacuum.

[0069] A second version of the flow control apparatus 7′ of the second embodiment is schematically shown in FIG. 26. The construction is nearly the same as the first version, but the mixing cells 73, 77 are now operated by one double acting cylinder 270. The line and check valve for applying vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27 is not illustrated in FIG. 26. As may be seen, pressure lines, designated 271, 273 extend from both ends of the cylinder 270. The cylinder is again a closed pneumatic system. Thus, as a piston head 272 moves toward one end of the cylinder 270, pressure is applied through one of the lines 271, while vacuum is applied through the other line 273. Because the mixing cells 73, 77 are operated in precisely the opposite manner at all times, such an arrangement is possible and provides even more compactness and efficiency of construction and operation. Another cylinder 275 connected by line 277 operates to expand and compress dosing cells 65, 69.

[0070] A third version of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment 7′ is schematically shown in FIG. 27. In this version, the separate cylinder for the dosing cells 65, 69 is eliminated. However, additional control valves are required which operate in a rather more complicated manner because the dosing cells 65, 69 must cycle (fill/discharge) twice as fast as the mixing cells 73, 77. The drawing shows the third version in an initial part of the cycle where a right hand cylinder 279 is used (by opening the appropriate valves) to apply pressure to the dosing cells 65, 69 and vacuum to the mixing cell 73. The other cylinder 281 applies positive pressure to the mixing cell 77 for dispensing its contents. A line 282 to the dosing cells 65, 69 can remain in communication with the same cylinder 279 as its piston head 283 shifts to place positive pressure on the mixing cell 73 and vacuum pressure on the dosing cells 65, 69 to discharge to the contents of the mixing cell 73 and refill the dosing cells. Piston head 293 moves to apply a vacuum to the mixing cell 77. The dosing cells 65, 69 will discharge again while the mixing cell 73 is still dispensing. In order to discharge liquid from the dosing cells 65, 69, a valve 285 to the cylinder 279 is closed, as is a valve 287 to the mixing cell 73. A valve 289 to the other cylinder 281 is opened, allowing positive pressure to flow to compress the dosing cells 65, 69 and discharge their contents to the mixing cell 77. A valve 291 from the cylinder 281 to the mixing cell 77 is then opened and the piston head 293 is moved to discharge the contents of the mixing cell 77. The cylinder 281 simultaneously applies a vacuum to the dosing cells 65, 69 for refilling. The line and check valve for applying vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27 is not illustrated in FIG. 27.

[0071] A fourth version of the flow control apparatus of the second embodiment 7′ is schematically shown in FIG. 28 to comprise a single cylinder 297 and control valves to operate each mixing cell 73, 77 and the dosing cell 65, 69 combination. Lines are drawn within the cylinder 297 to illustrate the different pressures applied to two fluid lines (designated 299, 301, respectively) extending from opposite ends of the cylinder as a function of the position a piston head 303. The cylinder 297 is not structurally bifurcated into two chambers. In the initial position illustrated in FIG. 28, a valve 305 is open to place the line 301 in communication with the location of the dosing cells 65, 69 to collapse them, while a valve 307 to the other line 299 from the dosing cells is shut. The piston head 303 will then move to the right to apply positive pressure to the mixing cell 73. The valve 307 to the line 299 with the positive pressure will be closed and the valve 305 to the line 301 now experiencing vacuum pressure will be opened to refill the dosing cells 65, 69. Next the dosing cells must be discharged while neither of the mixing cells 73, 77 changes state. Thus, a valve 309 to the mixing cell 73 and the valve 305 to the line from the dosing cells 65, 69 are closed. A valve 311 to the mixing cell 77 is also closed, but the valve 307 from the dosing cells 65, 69 to the line 299 is open, so that positive pressure is delivered to the dosing cells. The piston head 303 will then move back to the left in the cylinder 297. The valves 309, 311 to the mixing cells 73, 77 are opened again as this movement occurs. The cycle of operation is then repeated. The line and check valve for applying vacuum pressure to the pivoting shell member 27 is not illustrated in FIG. 28.

[0072] In view of the above, it will be seen that the several objects of the invention are achieved and other advantageous results attained.

[0073] When introducing elements of the present invention or the preferred embodiment(s) thereof, the articles “a”, “an”, “the” and “said” are intended to mean that there are one or more of the elements. The terms “comprising”, “including” and “having” are intended to be inclusive and mean that there may be additional elements other than the listed elements.

[0074] As various changes could be made in the above without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8146762Mar 8, 2007Apr 3, 2012Nalge Nunc International CorporationFlexible container handling system
US8177123Sep 24, 2008May 15, 2012Sartorius Stedim North America Inc.Systems and methods for freezing, storing and thawing biopharmaceutical materials
US8596496 *Jul 22, 2011Dec 3, 2013Vinocopia, Inc.Wine storage and dispensing apparatus
US8622246Feb 13, 2012Jan 7, 2014Ecolab Usa Inc.Fluid reservoir docking station
US20120018450 *Jul 22, 2011Jan 26, 2012Vinocopia, Inc.Wine storage and dispensing apparatus
US20130043274 *Apr 20, 2011Feb 21, 2013Nestec S.A.Package for storing and dosing a fluid and dispenser for docking the package
Classifications
U.S. Classification222/94, 222/103, 222/95
International ClassificationB67D1/00, B67D1/04, B65D77/30
Cooperative ClassificationB65D77/30, B67D1/0462, B65D2231/004, B67D1/0078, B67D1/0801, B67D2210/0006
European ClassificationB67D1/00H6, B67D1/04E, B65D77/30
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 8, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: BAXTER INTERNATIONAL INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SCHARF, MICHAEL W.;BACEHOWSKI, DAVID V.;REEL/FRAME:014766/0374
Effective date: 20031001
Apr 14, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: BAXTER INTERNATIONAL, INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:DANBY, HAL C.;SWAN, JULIAN FRANCIS RALPH;HAYES-PANKHURST, RICHARD PAUL;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:013952/0372
Effective date: 20030303