|Publication number||US20050211109 A1|
|Application number||US 11/045,508|
|Publication date||Sep 29, 2005|
|Filing date||Jan 28, 2005|
|Priority date||Jan 23, 2004|
|Also published as||DE602005019977D1, EP1711090A2, EP1711090B1, US7220946, US20050173397, WO2005073094A2, WO2005073094A3|
|Publication number||045508, 11045508, US 2005/0211109 A1, US 2005/211109 A1, US 20050211109 A1, US 20050211109A1, US 2005211109 A1, US 2005211109A1, US-A1-20050211109, US-A1-2005211109, US2005/0211109A1, US2005/211109A1, US20050211109 A1, US20050211109A1, US2005211109 A1, US2005211109A1|
|Inventors||Michael Majchrzak, Allan Witt, David Rolston|
|Original Assignee||Hatco Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (50), Referenced by (9), Classifications (12), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This patent application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/763,726, filed on Jan. 23, 2004, entitled “Food Container,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The subject matter described herein relates generally to the field of containers. In particular, the subject matter described herein relates to food containers. The food containers may be used for storing food, holding food at temperature, cooling food, humidifying food, rethermalizing food, warming food, and/or cooking food.
A wide variety and configuration of food containers are used to house and display food in places such as convenience stores, restaurants, etc. Depending on the type of food, these containers may be heated, cooled, and/or humidified to prevent the food from becoming cold and/or hard, thus making the food more appealing to consumers. For example, the containers may be used to house and display donuts, pastries, hot dogs, etc. In other applications, the containers may be used to refrigerate and/or freeze food to prevent it from melting, spoiling, etc. In still other applications, the containers may be used to hold food at elevated temperature or to cook food.
Typically, a solid barrier such as a door is used to isolate the interior of the container from the exterior environment. The door prevents the transfer of heat and/or humidity between the interior of the container and the exterior environment. The door is usually hinged on one side so that it can be opened and closed to provide access to the interior of the container. Unfortunately continually opening and closing the door may result in a loss of productivity and efficiency on the part of the persons using the containers. Users often desire to quickly remove items from the containers. For example, in a fast food setting, a food preparer may want to be able to quickly access food components (e.g., hot dog buns, hot dogs) to prepare the finished food product (e.g., a hot dog in the bun with desired toppings). In other situations, the container may be provided with an opening that does not include a barrier between the exterior environment and the interior of the container. This arrangement results in a loss of efficiency due to excess heating, cooling, and/or humidifying. Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide an improved food container for housing items such as food.
It should be understood that the claims define the scope of the subject matter for which protection is sought, regardless of whether any of the aforementioned disadvantages are overcome by the subject matter covered by the claims. Also, the terms recited in the claims should be given their ordinary and customary meaning as would be recognized by those of skill in the art, except, to the extent a term is used herein in a manner more expansive than its ordinary and customary meaning, the term should be given its ordinary and customary meaning plus the additional expansive meaning, or except if a term has been explicitly defined to have a different meaning by reciting the term followed by the phase “as used herein shall mean” or similar language. Accordingly, the claims are not tied to any particular embodiment, feature, or combination of features other than those explicitly recited in the claims.
In one embodiment, container 50 comprises a control system, which is used to maintain the physical characteristics (e.g., temperature, humidity, etc.) of the air in chamber 52 substantially constant. The control system is typically configured to control both temperature and humidity of the air in chamber 52. However, in other embodiments, the control system may be configured to control only one of the temperature and humidity of the air in chamber 52 or may be configured to control additional properties of the air in chamber 52 such as the air's speed. In general, the control system includes any of the components, structure, and matter that is used to control the temperature and humidity of the air in container 50. In one embodiment, the control system comprises at least a thermometer and/or a hygrometer. In another embodiment, the control system comprises a thermostat and/or a humidistat which are used to control the temperature and/or humidity, respectively, of the air in chamber 52. In still another embodiment, the control system may use feedback control to control the temperature and/or humidity of the air in chamber 52.
Control panel 60 may be used to provide input (e.g., set levels for temperature, humidity, water temperature, etc.) to the control system. In one embodiment, as shown in
As mentioned previously, container 50 defines at least one opening 54 through which food may be moved between the interior and the exterior of container 50. Opening 54 may be any suitable size and shape. In the embodiment shown in
In the embodiment shown in
Container 50 uses an air curtain 58 to form a barrier between interior chamber 52 of container 50 and the exterior environment. A user can easily reach through, or otherwise pierce, air curtain 58 to move food between the interior and the exterior of container 50. Thus, air curtain 58 provides an effective barrier between chamber 52 and the exterior environment yet eliminates the need for the user to open a door while moving food into and out of container 50. Air curtain 58 may also provide an effective barrier against insects and other foreign matter that may otherwise enter chamber 52. Also, a portion of the air from air curtain 58 may be used to humidify, cool, and/or heat the interior of container 50.
After passing through baffle 80, air stream 72 passes over water source 84 to humidify air stream 72. Once air stream 72 exits baffle 80 the velocity of air stream 72 decreases substantially. The decrease in velocity of air stream 72 and/or the pressure drop across baffle 80 allows air stream 72 to pick up water from water source 84 better than if baffle 80 was not present. Water source 84 comprises a heating element 85 which can be used to heat the water and provide a controlled amount of water vapor to be picked up by air stream 72. In one embodiment, the temperature of the water in the water source 84 may be controlled by the control system to regulate the humidity in air stream 72 and/or chamber 52. Water source 84 is filled using water input 86. Water placed in water input 86 passes through water tube 88 to water source 84. In another embodiment, water source 84 may be coupled to a continuous water supply that refills water source 84 when it gets low (e.g., a float with a valve that turns on when the water level of water source 84 is low). In other embodiments, container 50 may be configured without a water source 84 or any system for humidifying air stream 72. This may be desirable in connection with foods that do not need to be humidified.
After passing over water source 84, air stream 72 travels through duct 96, which is a part of duct system 76. As air stream 72 enters duct 96, the velocity of air stream 72 increases due to the smaller area through which air stream 72 now passes. Air stream 72 exits duct 96 through nozzles 94, which are positioned adjacent opening 54 in a downward direction. As air stream 72 passes downward over opening 54, air curtain 58 is created. Air from air curtain 58 returns back to fans 74 through a plurality of air returns 98 in duct system 76. At least one of air returns 98 is positioned adjacent to opening 54 opposite nozzles 94. Air returns 98 positioned opposite nozzles 94 receive a portion of air stream 72 that exits nozzles 94. This portion typically includes most of air stream 72. At least one of air returns 98 is positioned on a first side 100 of chamber 52. Generally, first side 100 is positioned opposite opening 54. Food placed in trays 56 is positioned substantially between air returns 98 positioned on first side 100 and opening 54. A portion of air stream 72 passes over and/or around the food before entering air returns 98 positioned on first side 100. Thus, the water content of the food, temperature and/or humidity of the air in chamber 52 may be controlled using air from air stream 72. In one embodiment, the air from air stream 72 is used to maintain the temperature and/or humidity of chamber 52 substantially constant without the use of additional temperature and/or humidity control systems.
As shown in
Air curtains 58, 59 are formed over each of openings 54, 55 using air streams 72, 73, respectively. Air curtains 58, 59 form a barrier between chamber 52 and the exterior of the container 50. Container 50 includes baffle boxes 78, 79, each of which has a fan 74. Each one of baffle boxes 78, 79 also includes baffle 80 which is positioned above water source 84. Baffle boxes 78, 79 also include heating elements 82, 83, respectively. In this embodiment, baffle boxes 78, 79 are separate so that air is unable to travel between baffle boxes 78, 79. However, in another embodiment, baffle boxes 78, 79 may be combined into one baffle box having ducts 96, 97 and nozzles 94 on both ends to form air curtains 58, 59. Also, as shown in
Container 50 also includes duct system 76. Duct system 76 is used to circulate air streams 72, 73 throughout container 50 and to form air curtains 58, 59. Container 50 also includes a first side wall 200 and a second side wall 202, both of which are also part of the duct system 76. Duct system 76 includes ducts 96, 97 and corresponding nozzles 94 which are used to direct air streams 72, 73 across openings 54, 55 to form air curtains 58, 59. Air streams 72, 73 are received by duct openings 206, 208 positioned at the bottom of openings 54, 55, respectively. Air stream 72 travels underneath the bottom of chamber 52, upward through first side wall 200 and back to baffle box 78. Air stream 74 travels underneath the bottom of chamber 52, upward through second side wall 202 to baffle box 79. In one embodiment, the bottom of chamber 52 may include a duct that is split in two diagonally in the same general direction as baffle boxes 78, 79 are split apart so that air received by duct opening 206 is not mixed with air received by duct opening 208. In another embodiment, the duct underneath the bottom of chamber 52 may allow the mixture of air received by duct openings 206, 208.
In one embodiment, duct system 76 may include duct openings or holes 204 in first side wall 200 and corresponding duct openings or holes (not shown) in second side wall 202. Air from air curtains 58, 59 may form a secondary air flow that travels past the food positioned in chamber 52 to the duct openings 204. By controlling the amount of heat and water in air streams 72, 73, the food or other item positioned in container 50 may be maintained at a desired temperature and moisture level. In the embodiment shown in
One embodiment relates to a food container which comprises at least one opening through which food is moved and a humidity source in fluid contact with an air stream providing humidity to the air stream. The air stream is directed across the opening to form a barrier between the interior of the container and the exterior environment.
Another embodiment relates to a food container which defines at least one opening through which food is moved. An air curtain system provides a humidified air curtain over the opening.
Another embodiment relates to a container comprising a heating element disposed in the container, at least one opening through which food is moved between the interior and exterior of the container, and at least one duct configured to direct an air stream across the opening to form a barrier between the interior of the container and the exterior environment. The heating element is used to at least one of cook food, rethermalize food, and maintain food at a temperature.
Another embodiment relates to a container comprising at least one opening through which items are moved between the interior and the exterior of the container, a support surface in the container for supporting the items, and an air curtain system providing an air curtain over the opening. A portion of the air stream flowing over and around the items.
Another embodiment relates to a container comprising at least one opening through which items are moved between the interior and the exterior of the container and a duct system configured to direct an air stream across the opening, the duct system comprising a plurality of air returns. At least one of the air returns is positioned adjacent to the opening and receives at least a portion of air stream. The portion of the air stream forming a barrier between the interior of the container and the exterior environment. The items are configured to be positioned substantially between at least another one of the air returns and the opening. The another one of the air returns being configured to receive another portion of the air stream.
Another embodiment relates to a container comprising at least one opening through which items are moved out of the container, an air curtain provided over the opening to form a barrier between an interior environment of the container and an exterior environment, and a first side positioned substantially opposite the opening. The first side comprising at least one air return which is configured to receive a portion of the air from the air curtain.
Another embodiment relates to a container comprising at least one opening through which items are moved between the interior and exterior of the container and an air curtain provided over the opening to form a barrier between the interior of the container and the exterior environment. The air in the air curtain is used to maintain the temperature and the humidity of the interior of the container at substantially controlled levels.
Another embodiment relates to a container configured to house food comprising at least one fan configured to output an air stream and a baffle configured to receive the air stream from the fan. The air stream from the baffle passes over a water source to humidify the air stream. The humidified air stream is circulated in the container to maintain the water content of the food at or above a set level.
The construction and arrangement of the elements described herein are illustrative only. Although only a few embodiments have been described in detail in this disclosure, those of ordinary skill who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited in the claims. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the methods and systems described herein. The order or sequence of any process or method steps may be varied or re-sequenced according to alternative embodiments. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and omissions may be made in the design, operating conditions and arrangement of the embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the methods and systems described herein.
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|U.S. Classification||99/468, 99/330, 99/331|
|International Classification||A23L1/00, A21B1/00, A47J39/00, B65D, A47F3/00|
|Cooperative Classification||A47J39/003, A47F3/001|
|European Classification||A47F3/00B, A47J39/00A|
|Jun 8, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: HATCO CORPORATION, WISCONSIN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:MAJCHRZAK, MICHAEL;ROLSTON, DAVID;WITT, ALLAN;REEL/FRAME:016107/0114;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050513 TO 20050525