US 20060162347 A1
Apparatus for dispensing a product includes a surface with a rotary axis and a periphery for supporting a layer of material, a motor for rotating the surface, a vertical forming cylinder positioned adjacent to the periphery, the cylinder having a side window opposite the periphery and a bottom opening below the surface, and a first scraper positioned above the surface and extending cross-wise to the direction of rotation of the surface. The first scraper engages the rotary surface while the surface is rotating to scrape the material into a row of scrapings on the surface. A second scraper is positioned above the surface adjacent to the first scraper and extends perpendicular to the first scraper, the second scraper engaging the surface and being movable parallel to the first scraper. An actuator moves the second scraper between a first position adjacent to the axis and a second position adjacent to the periphery so that the second scraper pushes the row of scrapings from the surface into the forming cylinder through the window thereby collecting the scrapings within the cylinder. An ejector movable within said forming cylinder pushes the collected scrapings as a shaped product out of the cylinder through the bottom opening thereof. A dispensing method is also disclosed.
1. Dispensing apparatus comprising
a surface for supporting a layer of material, said surface having a rotary axis and a periphery;
a motor for rotating said surface about said axis;
a first scraper positioned opposite the surface and extending cross-wise to the direction of movement of said surface, said first scraper having an inner end adjacent to said axis and an outer end adjacent to said periphery, said first scraper engaging said surface while said surface is rotating to scrape said material from said surface into a row of scrapings in front of the first scraper;
a second scraper positioned opposite the surface in front of the first scraper and extending generally perpendicular to the first scraper, said second scraper engaging said surface and being movable parallel to the first scraper between an inner position adjacent to the inner end of the first scraper and an outer position adjacent to the outer end of the first scraper, and
an actuator for moving the second scraper between said inner and outer positions so that the second scraper pushes said row of scrapings from said surface to said periphery.
2. The apparatus defined in
3. The apparatus defined in
the first scraper comprises a channel supported above said surface, said channel having opposite walls defining between them an alley that extends along said surface and contains the second scraper, one of said walls located behind the second scraper supporting a scraping edge that contacts said surface, and
said second scraper is movable along said alley between said inner and outer positions.
4. The apparatus defined in
5. The apparatus defined in
6. The apparatus defined in
a rack extending along said channel, and
a motorized pinion in mesh with said rack.
7. The apparatus defined in
8. The apparatus defined in
9. Dispensing apparatus comprising
a generally horizontal surface having a rotary axis and a periphery and for supporting a layer of material;
a motor for rotating said surface about said axis;
a vertical forming cylinder positioned adjacent to said periphery, said cylinder having a side window opposite said periphery and a bottom opening spaced below said surface;
a first scraper positioned above the surface and extending cross-wise to the direction of movement of said surface, said first scraper engaging said surface while said surface is rotating to scrape said material from said surface into a row of scrapings in front of the first scraper;
a second scraper positioned above said surface in front of the first scraper and extending generally perpendicular to the first scraper, said second scraper engaging said surface and being movable parallel to the first scraper;
motive means for moving the second scraper between a first position on said surface spaced from said cylinder and a second position on said surface at or adjacent to said cylinder so that the second scraper pushes said row of scrapings from said surface into the forming cylinder through said window thereby collecting the scrapings within the cylinder, and
an ejector slidable within said forming cylinder to push the collected scrapings as a shaped product out of the cylinder through said bottom opening thereof.
10. The apparatus defined in
a shaft having an end facing the bottom opening and being moveable within the forming cylinder;
an ejector member positioned at said shaft end, and
an actuator for moving the shaft between a first position wherein the ejector member is above said window and a second position wherein the ejector member is adjacent to said bottom opening.
11. The apparatus defined in
a concave wall facing said bottom opening, and
an elastomeric cover covering said concave wall.
12. The apparatus defined in
13. The apparatus defined in
14. The apparatus defined in
a closure member for selectively opening and closing said bottom opening, and
means for controlling the closure member so that the bottom opening is closed when said scrapings are being collected within the cylinder and open when the collected scrapings are being pushed from the cylinder through the bottom opening thereof.
15. The apparatus defined in
the first scraper comprises a channel supported above the rotary surface, said channel having opposite walls defining between them an alley that extends over said surface and contains the second scraper, one of said walls located behind the second scraper supporting an edge that contacts said surface, and
said second scraper is moveable along said alley between said first and second positions.
16. The apparatus defined in
17. Apparatus for dispensing a product comprising
a substantially flat surface having an edge;
a scraping device including a channel supported above said surface, said channel having opposite walls defining between them an alley that extends over said surface and one of the walls supporting a scraping edge that contacts said surface;
motive means for moving said scraping device and said surface relatively so that the scraping edge scrapes a product deposited on said surface from said surface into said alley as a ridge row of product scrapings, and
a pusher for pushing said ridge row of scrapings along said alley to the edge of said surface.
18. The apparatus defined in
a movable scraper slidable along said alley, and
an actuating device for moving the scraper along said alley between a retracted position spaced away from the edge of said surface and in an extended position close to the edge of said surface.
19. The apparatus defined in
20. The apparatus defined in
21. The apparatus defined in
This application is a divisional of prior application U.S. Ser. No. 10/881,684, filed on Jun. 30, 2004, which is a divisional of U.S. Ser. No. 10/726,815, filed on Dec. 3, 2003 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,952,928), which is a divisional of U.S. Ser. No. 10/160,674, filed on Jul. 31, 2002 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,698,228), which claims the benefit of Provisional application Ser. No. 60/336,252, filed on Nov. 2, 2001. The contents of each of these applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
Aerated frozen food products generally require the mixing of selected liquid ingredients with a prescribed volume of air and freezing of the resultant mixture and dispensing of the finished product. The desirability of the finished product is often related directly to the manner and to the degree in which the air is metered and blended with the liquid ingredients of the mixture, referred to as overrun, and the manner in which the blended mix is frozen and then dispensed. The prior art is replete with examples of apparatus for dispensing ice cream and other semi-frozen dairy products such as soft ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Conventionally, such machines are usually dedicated to dispensing one or two flavors of product and, in some cases, a combination of the two. For example, in an ice cream shop, there may be one machine with two separate freezing chambers for making and dispensing chocolate and vanilla ice cream, a second two-chamber machine for making and dispensing strawberry and banana ice cream, a third machine dedicated to making and dispensing coffee and frozen pudding flavors, and so on. The reason for this is that each chamber typically contains a volume of ice cream greater than is required for a single serving. In order to dispense a different flavor ice cream, that chamber must be emptied and cleaned before the new flavor can be made in that chamber and appear at the outlet of the dispenser. Additionally, the vat of preflavored mix from which the frozen product is made must also be very clean. While high volume ice cream shops and confectionery stores may have sales to justify the presence of several dispensing machines dispensing many different products and flavors, smaller sales outlets can usually only afford one or two such machines and are thus restricted in the number of flavors that they can offer to customers.
Further, because the product is typically formed in a quantity that is greater than that to be dispensed at any one serving, the excess product remains in the chamber after formation and until additional servings draw it down. The excess is thus subjected to further freezing, which promotes crystallization. Because of the relatively large quantity of the premixed flavors, and the continuous freezing of several quarts of the product, the freshness and palatability of the product may be adversely affected in outlets with relatively slow sales of the product.
Another disadvantage of the prior dispensers is that they have many interior surfaces and moving parts that are difficult and time consuming to clean and maintain at the end of each day or at intervals prescribed by local Health Department regulations. Each dispenser must be purged of any remaining product, and it's chamber walls, pumps and other internal parts cleaned thoroughly to prevent growth of bacteria that could contaminate the product being delivered by the dispenser. Not only is the cleaning operation expensive in terms of down time, it is also costly in terms of product waste and is an unpleasant and difficult job to get employees to do properly.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,433,967 discloses a method and apparatus for producing and dispensing an aerated product, wherein the apparatus includes a mixing chamber having a first inlet for receiving a liquid, a second inlet for receiving a gas, and an outlet leading to a continuous tube that has a relatively small cross section. The tube has one end positioned to receive the fluid effluent from the mixing chamber outlet and its other end is spaced from that outlet so that the effluent is subjected to confined turbulent mixing in the tube until the fluid product is discharged from the other end of the tube. If that product is to be cooled, the tube leads to a cooling zone or surface that cools and at least partially freezes the liquid product issuing from that tube. The apparatus disclosed there is especially suitable for making and dispensing frozen yogurt and ice cream and allows for the service of individualized fresh product portions in a variety of flavors.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,727,713 discloses a dispenser product supply unit that includes a pressurizable container for containing a product liquid or base and having an opening leading into one end of a conduit. Formed integrally in the conduit is a mixing chamber at which a gas may be added to the liquid, followed by an elongated tube for causing turbulent flow of the mixed fluids. Side branches from the conduit may also be present for introducing one or more flavors into the fluid flowing through the conduit. The opposite or outlet end of the conduit may be coupled to a distribution manifold that can distribute the aerated liquid issuing from the turbulence tube onto a freezing surface as a relatively thin layer. The container, conduit and side branches constitute a one-piece disposable structure that is especially suitable for producing and dispensing flavored dairy products from an associated dispensing apparatus in an efficient and sanitary manner.
While the apparatus described in the above patents, the contents of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference, have existed separately in the prior art, until now no way has been found to combine them into a single machine capable of efficiently and economically making and dispensing different frozen food confections in a wide variety of flavors and in different formats (e.g., as a cup or cone).
This invention relates to a method and apparatus for producing and dispensing aerated and/or blended food products. While the invention may be used to produce a variety of products, it has particular application to the production and dispensing of frozen confections such as ice cream and frozen yogurt. Consequently, we will describe the invention in that context. It should be understood, however, that various aspects of the invention to be described also have application to the making and dispensing of various other food products.
Disclosed herein is an improved apparatus for making, mixing and/or dispensing various food products on demand. The apparatus can produce and dispense various food products and does not require the maintenance of a large supply of pre-flavored mixes and/or a large supply of finished product within the apparatus. The apparatus can also facilitate changing substantially immediately from one product type to another to satisfy the demands of individual customers.
Further, embodiments of the apparatus can produce and dispense individualized portions of freshly aerated flavored frozen products on demand and in different formats (e.g., as a cup or cone). Embodiments of the apparatus for producing and dispensing aerated frozen products are also designed to be easy to clean and to maintain in a sanitary condition. Additionally, the apparatus can selectively mix or blend many different flavors while aerating a base product such as a neutral ice cream, fat-free ice cream, soy, sorbet or yogurt base. When embodied as a frozen product-dispensing machine, the apparatus can have minimal product carryover from one serving to the next, which prevents, e.g., a serving of vanilla ice cream from being contaminated by residue from a prior serving of chocolate ice cream.
Further still, apparatus for this general type can occupy a relatively small amount of floor space, while being able to dispense food products having a wide variety of bases, flavors and mix-ins. An apparatus of this type can also maintain the product supply under sanitary conditions until it is dispensed. The apparatus can also effectively and efficiently carry out the dispensing methods disclosed in the above patents.
One embodiment of the apparatus is a self-contained unit housed in a cabinet having a door containing a product selection control panel and a portal providing access to a product dispensing station including a vertically moveable tray that can support a product container such as a cup or cone placed on the tray. The apparatus includes a rotary horizontal freezing surface and motive means for rotating that surface about an axis. The freezing surface constitutes the evaporator component of a closed-loop refrigeration system situated in the cabinet. When the refrigeration system is in operation, it maintains the surface of the freezing surface at a selected temperature that is low enough to freeze or partially freeze a liquid product mix such as sorbet, yogurt or ice cream mix deposited on that surface.
Spaced above the freezing surface is a turret section including a turret having a plurality of pumpable containers filled with different liquid flavors and supported on a rotary manifold. The manifold defines a plurality of mixing chambers, one for each container, and a separate turbulence tube leading from each mixing chamber to a separate outlet port in a depositing head over the freezing surface. Each container is connected to one of the mixing chambers of the manifold and motive means are provided for rotating the turret independently of the freezing surface, about an axis located above the freezing surface.
Disposed adjacent to the turret are product base delivery means including one or more vertically moveable nozzles or fittings, each of which receives compressed air and a different one of a plurality of liquid product bases pumped thereto from bulk supplies stored in the cabinet. Each of the aforesaid nozzles, when operative, may deliver to the turret a liquid product base along with air (or not). By rotating the turret to position a selected mixing chamber of the manifold opposite a selected one of the delivery means nozzles, and lowering the nozzles to establish connections to that chamber while activating appropriate pumps, the selected product base with or without air delivered by a nozzle is brought together with the selected flavor pumped from a flavor container. The two fluids are then intimately mixed together in the manifold and conducted to the manifold's depositing head so that a fixed volume or portion of the selected flavored and aerated (or not) product mix is deposited on the freezing surface.
The apparatus also comprises a stationary product delivery section disposed between the turret section and the freezing surface. The delivery section has product mix leveling means in the form of a radially oriented self-cleaning roller having a conical surface spaced above the freezing surface. When the freezing surface is rotated, the liquid product mix deposited thereon by the turret section is spread out and leveled to the height of the gap between the roller and the freezing surface. Resultantly, the surface freezes or partially freezes the leveled product mix to form a thin, flat layer of frozen, flavored, aerated (or not) product. The delivery section also includes a radial scraper angularly spaced behind the roller, which scrapes the layer of frozen product from the rotating freezing surface and gathers it into a radially extending ridge row of frozen scrapings that is aligned with a vertically oriented forming cylinder located at the periphery of the delivery section just beyond the edge of the freezing surface.
The delivery section also has a radially moveable scraping blade that operates in conjunction with the radial scraper to push the ridge row of frozen product through a side window of the forming cylinder to gather and compress the frozen product within that cylinder. As will be seen, when the scraping blade is fully extended, it actually closes the window in the cylinder allowing a piston moveable along the cylinder to further compact the product into a scoop shape and push the scoop of frozen product out the bottom of the cylinder into a container (e.g., a cup or cone) that has been placed on the tray at the product dispensing station and raised to position the container at a selected elevation under the forming cylinder. After the container is filled, the tray is lowered so that the container may be removed from the tray through the portal in the cabinet door.
As will be described in more detail later, provision is made for cleaning the freezing surface, leveling roller, forming cylinder and piston between servings to minimize product carryover from one serving to the next. Also as will become apparent, the apparatus is designed so that all critical components of the apparatus are readily accessible for cleaning and routine maintenance. Thus, the present apparatus is able to efficiently and effectively dispense, on demand, a variety of food products for a prolonged period of time and requires only a minimum amount of maintenance.
It should also be understood that various aspects of the invention may be used to mix, blend and dispense various other hot or cold food products such as hot chocolate, instant soups, juices and even candy, cookies, omelets, crepes and the like.
In the accompanying drawings, described below, like reference characters refer to the same or similar parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating particular principles of the methods and apparatus characterized in the Detailed Description.
As shown in
Referring now to
Preferably, freezing surface 26 is a direct expansion freezing surface; i.e., it functions as the evaporator component in the closed refrigerant loop of the refrigeration system 44, and the refrigeration control circuit in controller 38 has two modes of operation, to wit: STANDBY and DUMP. The STANDBY mode is operative during inactive periods of the apparatus to maintain the upper surface 26 a of freezing surface 26 at a specified temperature, T1 (e.g., 0° F.). The DUMP mode is operative during periods of active product production. Since product production is intermittent, the refrigerator control circuit can switch frequently between the two modes.
The STANDBY mode uses a standard expansion valve 40 in the refrigeration loop of system 44 whose valve orifice is sized to control the temperature of freezing surface 26 to maintain the upper surface 26 a at the temperature T1. Due to the limits of the expansion valve, this control mode cannot provide the heat removal required to freeze the product mix on surface 26 a. Therefore, the DUMP mode is utilized to provide a high rate of heat removal from the upper surface 26 a. The DUMP mode of operation utilizes a second, or so-called dump valve 41, that is connected in parallel with the standard expansion valve in the loop of refrigerator system 44. This mode provides a high heat removal rate from upper surface 26 a by flooding the refrigerant conduit 42 in surface 26 with liquid refrigerant. As the refrigerant changes state to a gas in surface 26 (i.e., the evaporator component of the refrigeration loop), it cools the portion of the surface 26 adjacent conduit 42 to a temperature T2, that is appreciably lower than T1. This creates a large temperature differential with the upper surface 26 a causing the temperature of that surface to drop rapidly.
In order to prevent the surface 26 a from dropping below temperature T1, the depositing of product mix on surface 26 a by turret section 52 is initiated and the refrigerant modes are switched simultaneously, or within a short period of time. This sets up a large temperature differential between the lower portion of surface 26 and the product mix being applied to the upper surface 26 a thereof creating a high heat transfer rate. When the turret section stops applying product to surface 26 and the proper product temperature has been achieved, the refrigeration control system 44 changes the operating mode from DUMP back to STANDBY until the dispensing process is ready to be initiated again.
For this application, the orifice of the dump valve is sized intentionally to prevent the liquid refrigerant from changing state to refrigerant gas. The intended effect of this is to allow liquid refrigerant to flow into the evaporator (i.e., surface 26). Heat added to the evaporator (i.e., surface 26) by the depositing of the relatively warm product mix on that surface will cause the liquid refrigerant in surface 26 to change state to a gas.
The dump valve can be any type of metering or throttling device. In some applications, it may be desirable to use a manually set bypass valve, such as a needle valve or a capillary tube, that is operative in the DUMP mode to cause the aforesaid refrigerant gasification in surface 26.
Referring to FIGS. 3 to 5, preferably an electric blower 45 is mounted inside cabinet 10 in the corner between the cabinet walls 10 a and 10 c. In the illustrated apparatus, the blower sucks in relatively warm air at the top of the cabinet and delivers it via a duct 46 to a secondary cooling unit or system 47 at the bottom of cabinet 10. Unit 47, under the control of controller 38, expels cold air, which cools the cabinet 10 interior and especially the space under shelf 22 containing the supplies of the product base to be described later. If a more uniform temperature within the cabinet is desired for a particular application, the air flow path through duct 46 may be reversed so that cold air is discharged at the top of the cabinet. Thus, the apparatus contains two distinct and separately controlled cooling systems 44 and 47, the former of which cools freezing surface 26 and the latter of which cools the interior cabinet 10.
As best seen in
It is apparent that the rotation of freezing surface 26 with respect to the fixed delivery section 56 provide the necessary relative motion to facilitate the distribution and collection of the food product on that surface. Obviously the same effort could be accomplished with a stationary freezing surface 26 and a rotary delivery section 56. In each case, the speed of rotation affects the dwell time of the products on the surface 26. That, in turn, affects the speed and degree of freezing and therefore the texture and mouth feel of the resulting product.
The Turret Section 52
Suspended from gate 58 is a turret (shown generally at 67) comprising a shaft 68 that has an upper end rotatably supported within gate 58 and extending down to a lower end 68 a, which, when the turret section 52 is in its closed position, is situated in a clearance notch 69 (
Removably mounted to the lower end of shaft 68 under plate 75 is a circular manifold 72 having a relatively thick side wall that extends up around that plate. A pin (not shown) projecting up from the upper surface of the manifold engages in a hole on plate 75 to rotatably fix the manifold to the plate and thus to shaft 68. The manifold is held in place against the plate by a nut 77 threaded onto the lower end of the shaft.
As seen from
As shown in
Pumping section 78 also includes an antechamber 96 in fluid communication with the interior of the housing 92 at the closed end 92 a thereof. Antechamber 96 opens into the interior of the corresponding bottle 74 and is fitted with a check valve 98 so that when piston 82 is moved to its extended or outer position shown in
In order to maintain optimum product quality, each bottle 74 is preferably used only once; i.e., it is a disposable item. It may be filled initially through an opening 105 (
As best seen in
For reasons that will become apparent, each mixing chamber 108 has two additional inlet branches extending to top openings 116 a and 116 b in manifold wall 72 a on opposite sides of the corresponding opening 86 therein. In other words, in the illustrated apparatus with twelve flavor bottles 74, manifold 72 defines twelve mixing chambers 108 connected to twelve long, sinuous turbulence tubes 110 leading to twelve outlet ports 112 in head 114. Typically, the tubes or passages 110 are in the order of 2 to 4 feet long, a preferred length being about 3 feet. Preferably, the manifold is molded (using the lost wax process) or otherwise formed as a generally cylindrical block containing the aforesaid mixing chambers 108 and conduits 110.
Manifold 72 is preferably removable from shaft 68 as noted above in order to facilitate its cleaning. For this, a special cup-like attachment connected to a supply of water and detergent at a sink may be engaged to the depositing head 114 in order to backflush all of the manifold passages 110.
The Product Base Delivery Means 54
Referring now to
Delivery means 54 also includes a relatively large bracket or shuttle 138 having a horizontal arm 138 a and a vertical arm 138 b. Arm 138 a is provided with a large opening 142 for receiving disk 136 with some clearance but whose edge underlies disk flange 136 a. The bracket arm 138 a is fastened to an overlying plate 146. Plate 146 and bracket arm 138 a form a pocket 147 for disk 136 that, for reasons that will become apparent, permits some movement of plate 146 relative to disk 136 but only in a horizontal plane. In other words, there is a small gap between the edge disk flange 136 a and the side wall of pocket 147. To center the plate 146 relative to disk 136, a set of eight springs 154 is provided, the springs being stretched between four posts 156 extending down from bracket arm 138 a at locations that define the four corners of a square and four outboard posts located midway along each side of that square. As shown in
The vertical bracket arm 138 b has two tabs 138 c that are bent toward turret section 52 such that the tabs overlie the side wall 72 a of manifold 72. The tabs 138 c support a pair of mirror-image nozzle assemblies each shown generally at 164. Each nozzle assembly includes an upper section 164 a mounted to a tab 138 c and a lower section 164 b that is releasably secured to the upper section by clips 166. As we shall see, section 164 b is part of a disposable product base supply unit.
The upper nozzle section 164 a includes a fitting 168 that has a neck 168 a extending up through a hole 172 in the associated tab 138 c and is secured to that tab. Each fitting neck 168 a is connected via a hose 169 to a supply of compressed air as will be described presently. Fitting 168 has an internal passage 170 that is upwardly-inwardly tapered. Also the fitting has an external shoulder 171.
The lower nozzle section 164 b includes a fitting 172 having a tapered tubular upper end or nose 174 adapted to plug into passage 170 of fitting 168 to establish a fluid-tight face seal therewith. Of course, other comparable seals are possible including an O-ring, gland seal, etc. Clips 166 extend up from fitting 172 and are arranged to engage the shoulder 171 to releasably couple together the two fittings 168, 172. The lower nozzle section also has a vertical leg 182, and a side branch 184 that opens into leg 182. Side branch 184 is connected to tubing 185 leading to a source of liquid product base that is part of the disposable product base supply unit mentioned above.
As shown in
Each nozzle assembly 164 also receives a liquid product base. More particularly as shown in
When compressed air and the product base are provided simultaneously to each nozzle assembly 164, the two fluids mix within the nozzle assembly and that fluid mixture is discharged through the nozzle discharge end 182 a of that assembly. If the product to be dispensed is not aerated (e.g., a slush), compressed air is not delivered to the operative nozzle assembly during the dispensing cycle. As we shall see presently, the product base is combined in chamber 108 within the manifold 72 with a selected flavor from one of the bottles 74 in the turret 67. Preferably, each nozzle assembly 164 incorporates one or more check valves (not shown) to isolate the lines leading from the base supply and the air supply. Most preferably, a check valve is located in the fitting 172 of each lower nozzle assembly section 164 b.
At this point, the actuator plunger 188 is now positioned directly opposite the piston 82 of that bottle's pumping section 78 as shown in phantom in
All three fluids will come together in the chamber 108 and will be thoroughly mixed and aerated (if selected) in the turbulence tube 110 extending from that chamber to the depositing head 114 so that by the time the fluid mixture reaches the corresponding outlet port 112 in that head 114 and is deposited on the freezing surface 26, the flavor will be distributed uniformly throughout the mix and the mix may have a selected amount of aeration or overrun.
Often only one nozzle assembly 164 is active at any given time, However, in some cases, it may be desirable to also deliver air to the “inactive” assembly, which plugs into the manifold opening 116 a, 116 b adjacent to the one receiving the selected product base so that the base fluid will not cross over in mixing chamber 108 and come out that adjacent opening. Variations on the turret and nozzle assemblies may include various check valve implementations to organize and control flow through the flow paths of both liquids and the air.
The Delivery Section 56
Referring to FIGS. 2 to 4, delivery section 56 is also designed as a swing-out unit for easy cleaning and maintenance, although it could just as well be a pull-out drawer. In another device embodiment, the turret section 52 and delivery section 54 may be formed as a single unit that is separable from freezing surface 26. In any event, the illustrated section 56 preferably comprises a pan-like shelf 220 that has a side wall 220 a and is connected by a hinge 222 to the interior surface of the cabinet sidewall 10 c so that the shelf can be swung between a closed, operative position shown in
Suspended from the underside of shelf 220 is a roller assembly shown generally at 227 in
A slotted post 236 extends up from bracket 232 and is slidably received in a vertical promontory 238 formed in a plate 242 that is normally mounted to the underside of shelf 220. Promontory 238 is also slotted to provide clearance for one end of a lever arm 244 so that that end of the lever arm can be pivotally connected to the upper end of post 236. Lever arm 244 is itself pivotally connected at 246 to promontory 238 so that when the opposite end of the lever arm is moved up and down, the bracket 232 and roller 228 are moved up and down relative to plate 242. Note that the engagement of lever arm 244 in the slotted promontory 238 fixes the angular position of post 236 so that roller 228 is orientated radially with respect to the rotary axis of table 26. To produce the rocking motion of the lever arm, an actuator 248 is mounted to plate 242 with the shaft 248 a of the actuator being pivotally connected to the end of lever arm 244 remote from post 236. The pivot 246 for lever arm 244 is created from a combination of parts that allows for vertical adjustment of the pivot point to compensate for parts tolerances and to permit adjustment of the actuator stroke. Alternatively, a fixed throw solenoid could act directly on post 236.
The roller 228 is comprised of a rigid internal core covered by an elastomeric sheath. At each end of the sheath is a circular ridge 250. When plate 242 is mounted to the underside of shelf 220 as shown in
As we shall see also, when the depositing head 114 of turret section 52 deposits liquid product mix on freezing surface 26, preferably at a location at about one-half the radius thereof, as that surface rotates, roller 228 spreads out that deposit on upper surface 26 a to the level determined by the height of ridges 250 (i.e., 0.020 in.). Thereupon, the leveled product mix becomes frozen or partially frozen due to the low temperature of the freezing surface 26.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the depositing head 114 of manifold 72 may be provided with an attachment 252 that may be secured to head 114 by nut 77. The attachment, shown in
In some applications, other means may be employed besides a roller to level and control the thickness of the liquid deposit on surface 26. For example, a radially oriented leveling blade may be used, wherein the blade is normally maintained at a selected elevation (gap) above the surface and may be periodically brought into contact with that surface momentary in order to clean the blade edge.
As best seen in
Snugly received in channel 266 is an inverted U-shaped liner 269 having a front wall or blade 269 a, a rear wall 269 b and a top wall 269 c. The lower edge margin 271 of the rear wall 269 b is crimped around the adjacent edge of channel 266 to secure the liner to the channel. The liner front wall or blade 269 a extends below the rear edge margin 271 and its lower edge is beveled to form a sharp scraping edge 272.
Just above edge 272, the liner front wall is thickened to form a forwardly extending shelf 273. Further as shown in
Shaft 284 is rotated by a reversible motor 292 mounted to the top of plate 262, is the motor shaft being connected via a speed reducer 293 to the upper end of the shaft. Motor 292 is operated under the control of controller 38 (
As best seen in
It will be obvious from the foregoing that after the liquid product mix has been leveled by roller 228 and frozen on the rotating freezing surface 26, the frozen product will encounter the scraping edge 272 lagging 270° behind the roller. The scraping edge will scrape the frozen product from the surface 26 a and gather it into a ridge row of frozen product extending along path 270 in liner 269. If motor 292 is now activated, scraper blade 276 will be moved radially along path 270 to its extended position at the edge of shelf 220 thereby pushing that ridge row to the edge of shelf 220 and into a forming cylinder to be described shortly.
As best seen in
After shelf 220 has been swung to its closed position (shown in
Of course in lieu of the lever-actuated shaft 297, other comparable means (e.g., a pneumatic cylinder or solenoid actuator controlled by controller 38) may be used to lock the shelf in its closed position automatically (
Referring now to
Mounted to the bracket leg 258 b directly above cylinder 302 is a vertical, double-acting pneumatic cylinder 307 containing a piston 308. Mounted to the lower end of the piston rod is a downwardly facing hemispherical ejection cup 309 whose diameter is slightly less than the inside diameter of forming cylinder 304 so that the cup can slide up and down within the cylinder along with the piston 308. As best seen in
In an alternative arrangement, the diaphragm may have a normal shape shown by the dashed lines in
In either event, the diaphragm 310 is preferably provided with a reinforced edge margin 310 a that functions both as a sliding seal and a wiper to clean the interior surface of cylinder 304 as the cup 309 moves up and down within the cylinder.
Air ports 311 a and 311 b are provided at the respective upper and lower ends of cylinder 307. The ports are connected by valved air hoses 312 a and 312 b, respectively, to the compressed air tank 194 shown in
Still referring to
As best seen in
At the appropriate time in the operating cycle of the apparatus, cleaning cup 336 may be moved into position under forming cylinder 304. The aforesaid pinch valve 350 is opened by controller 38 and mist is ejected from a nozzle 336 a in the cup (
Referring now to
The Product Dispensing Station 17
Referring now to
Cylinder 374 operates under the control of controller 38 to move tray 380 at least between a lower retracted position shown in
Rotary Coupling 24
Referring now to
As shown in
Refrigerant fluid from refrigeration system 44 is introduced into coupling 24 by way of a fitting 424 in the side of housing 402. Fitting 424 communicates with a radial passage 426 in the side of housing 402 that leads through a radial hole 427 in the shaft 28 to an annular passage 428 that surrounds passage 408. A rotary seal 430 is provided between passage 426 and bearing element 404, which, along with the seal 422 a, confines the inflowing refrigerant to those fluid pathways.
The refrigerant flowing into the annular passage 428 leaves that passage via a side hole 432 near the upper end of shaft 28. That hole 432 leads to an elbow fitting 434 that is connected to the other end of the fluid path 42 in the freezing surface 26.
The fluid flow through the coupling 24, shaft 28 and freezing surface 26 is indicated by the arrows in
In this embodiment, the freezing surface 26′ is positioned on top of table 452 so that the underside of the freezing surface rests on the ball bearings 456. A circular recess 458 is provided in the underside of surface 26′, which provides clearance for the upper edge of the rim or lip 452 a that establishes the liquid 454 level, and surface 26′ is formed with a depending flange 26 b′ that encircles table 452. To enable surface 26′ to rotate relative to table 452, a rotary seal 462 is provided between rim 452 a and flange 26 b′. Also, a skirt 464 is secured to the lower edge of flange 26 b′, wherein the skirt has a reduced diameter neck 464 a that surrounds shaft 28′. Preferably a bearing element 466 is provided between skirt 464 a and shaft 28′ to allow the skirt along with freezing surface 26′ to rotate to relative to table 452. The lower end of the skirt neck 464 a is formed as a pulley 467 that may be rotated by a conventional belt drive (not shown).
A pair of longitudinal passages 468 and 472 are provided in shaft 28′ and table 452 for conducting refrigerant through a long spiral or sinuous passage 473 in plate 452. As the refrigerant from refrigeration system 44 is circulated through plate 452, heat is transferred by conduction and convection through the liquid 454 to maintain the freezing surface 26′ at the desired low temperature, while at the same time allowing that surface to be rotated by pulley 467.
Operation of the Apparatus
As mentioned above, all of the various fluid lines are provided with appropriate valves that operate under the control of controller 38 to deliver the various fluids at the correct times and in the correct amounts to achieve accurate product portion control. Likewise, all of the various electrical components of the apparatus are activated by the controller in a selected sequence during each product dispensing cycle to dispense at the dispensing station 17 a controlled portion of the particular flavored product selected by the operator at the apparatus' control panel 18. The apparatus is also provided with conventional position sensors and interlocks for safety reasons and to prevent its various subsystems from operating out of sequence and to signal when a particular function is not performed. For example, the door 16 a to dispensing station 17 is locked when the machine is in a dispensing cycle. Also, the machine will not commence a dispensing cycle unless a container C is on tray 380.
In the case of the motor-activated parts (i.e., scraper 276, door 332 and cleaning cup 336), special provisions are made for detecting when those parts are not performing their intended functions at the correct times in the apparatus operating sequence. More particularly, the drive circuit for each motor 292, 322 and 324, respectively, includes a voltage controller to set the motor speed so that the time it takes for a part such door 332 to move between stops at its open and closed positions is known (e.g., 5 seconds). The current drawn by the associated motor (i.e., motor 322) is monitored by controller 38 to detect when a current spike occurs when the part reaches a stop thereby stopping the motor shaft. If the spike occurs at the known elapsed time (i.e., 5 seconds), then the controller “knows” that the door 332 has fully closed (or opened). On the other hand, if the spike occurs at, say, 3 seconds or 7 seconds, the controller “knows” that the door is only particularly closed (or opened) and thereupon stops the dispensing cycle.
When the apparatus is in its initial state, the refrigeration system 44 is operative so that the upper surface 26 a of freezing surface 26 has the desired low temperature (e.g., 0° F.). Also, surface 26 is usually already rotating although provision may be made for stopping rotation at a selected time after the previous dispensing cycle. Also initially, the tray 380 is in its lower position, the roller 228 is in its raised position, the cylinder door 332 (if present) is closed, cleaning cup 336 is swung to the side and the scraper blade 276 is retracted to its position shown in
A customer or operator makes a product selection by placing the appropriate container C on tray 380 and depressing the required buttons in control panel 18, perhaps after depositing money. More specifically, he/she may select from among the available product bases (e.g., ice cream or yogurt) and among the available flavors (e.g., vanilla, chocolate, etc.). Available also is a selection of mix-ins (e.g., jimmies, crushed nuts, etc.).
The selections are stored in the memory of controller 38, which then carries out the steps required to deliver the selected frozen product to the dispensing station 17 as follows:
If desired, the cleaning cup 336 may be left in the closed position of the dispensing cycle so that at the beginning of the next cycle, the apparatus may execute a pre-cleaning of cylinder 304; after which, the cup 336 may be moved to its open position and be replaced by door 332 (if present).
It is contemplated that an end-of-day cleaning cycle be carried out by substituting for product base bags 206, similar bags containing a cleaning solution and cycling the apparatus to rotate turret 67, using nozzle assemblies 164, and to pump cleaning solution, in turn, to each pair of manifold openings 116 a, 116 b so as to flush out and sanitize all of the flow paths 110 in manifold 72, including extension tubes 254.
The controller 38 controls and manages all of the functions and activities of the apparatus, including the timing thereof, necessary to make, and to maintain strict portion control of, all products being dispensed by the apparatus and to assure prompt and effective delivery of those products, as well as to maintain the machine in a sanitary and properly refrigerated condition. The controller may also be programmed to carry out various housekeeping and inventory control functions. To facilitate this, the flavor bottles 74, bags 206 of product base and mix-in bins 362 may be marked with coded indicia (e.g., bar codes), which identify and pertain specifically to the particular substance in the bottle, bag or bin. One such bar code 392 is illustrated on a bottle 74 in
Thus, the controller may store data reflecting the amount of a selected flavor that should be mixed with a particular product base to obtain an optimum food product. For example, less chocolate flavor may be required to make a serving of chocolate ice cream as compared with chocolate yogurt; less flavor may be needed to make chocolate ice cream as compared with strawberry ice cream, etc. Thus, controller 38 is programmed to mix the proper amount of the ingredients available in the apparatus at a given time as reflected by the container codes 392 written into the memory of controller 38, to cause the apparatus to dispense products with superior qualities. In other words, in a sense, the product ingredients and the processing thereof are optimized to suit the apparatus and its control functions. Resultantly, when a customer selects a particular product at control panel 18 (
Other examples of the type of control exercised by the controller depending upon the ingredients being mixed include optimum residence time on surface 26, optimum surface 26 temperature.
Likewise, the amount of mix-in dispensed for a given serving may vary depending upon the types of mix-ins contained in bins 362. Controller 38 is programmed to control each dispenser motor 366 to dispense the proper amount of the particular mix-in selected by the customer, which may vary depending upon the particular product base selected by the customer.
Preferably also stored in the controller memory is the number of servings that can be delivered from each bottle, bag and bin and the time when that particular container was last replaced. Thus, the controller can keep track of the amount of material remaining in each such container and thus can update product availability information being displayed by display 19 and trigger an alarm or an appropriate display message on the display 19 to signal that it is time to refill or replace empty or near empty containers or containers whose contents may be outdated.
Of course controller 38 can be programmed to cause display 19 to show other information such as “flavor of the month” product discounts, special sales and the like.
s alluded to above, certain sections of the above-described apparatus may have separate utility. For example, the turret section 52 and delivery means 54 may operated to dispense selected beverages (e.g., soft drinks) from head 114 into a container positioned under that head. For this, the tubing 185 leading to each nozzle assembly may be connected to a source of water or carbonated water. Another option is to fill the bottles 74 with various liquid soup, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc., bases, which, when combined with hot water from nozzle assemblies 164, will result in a selected heated product being delivered to a container positioned under head 114. Even a powder (e.g., chocolate, coffee, soup base, etc.) may be delivered along with the air as a slurry via hoses 169 to nozzle assemblies 164 and combined therein with a liquid such as milk, water, etc., from tubing 185 to dispense at head 114 a hot or cold beverage or other liquid food product.
Also, surface 26 may be made hot instead of cold by circulating a hot fluid through passage 42 (
Also, it should be understood that various alternate surface 26 configurations may be more appropriate to make certain products. For example, to cool or partially freeze a beverage or a strip of candy, it may be more efficient to design surface 26 as a vertically oriented rotary chilled funnel with the liquid from head 114 being deposited on the upper end of the interior surface of the funnel and the cold or frozen product being delivered to a container under the funnel.
Still further, the set or solidified product on surface 26—be it ice cream, an omelette, cookie, etc.—may be removed from that surface manually using a spatula or scraper instead of relying on delivery section 56 for that purpose.
Also, the basic concept of controlling various aspects of the making and dispensing of a product from a plurality of ingredients, including mixing ratios, process times, ingredient, replacement times, etc., based on coded information corresponding to the replacement time and type of the ingredients, has other obvious application aside from food dispensing.
It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above among those made apparent from the preceding description are efficiently attained. Also, certain changes may be made in carrying out the above method and in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention. Therefore, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.
It is also to be understood that the following claims are intended to cover all of the generic and specific features of the invention described herein.