US 3880668 A
An apparatus for the continuous, large scale production of a dried molasses food product. Liquid molasses is continuously deposited in a thin film on a stationary heated surface. The material is then agitated while being subjected to controlled elevated temperatures so as to drive off a portion of the water contained therein. The concentrated molasses thus formed is then continuously metered into a vacuum column wherein it undergoes rapid dehydration. Finally, the material is removed from the vacuum column, deposited in a thin stream or ribbon on a cooling surface and, upon reaching a stable solid state, is crushed and packaged.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Miller 1 Apr. 29, 1975 APPARATUS FOR PRODUCING MOLASSES 1983.434 12/1934 Black 159/4 FOOD PRODUCT 2,089.062 8/1937 Hougland. 127/16 2,439,384 4/1948 Fetzcr 127/58 Inventor: Roger Miller. Lakewoodw Cahf. 3.033.684 5/1962 Winn 426/212 3.300.868 l/l967 Andcrwert.... 159/6 W  Assignee. lvmvestern Conuinfers Industries, Inc., 1678983 7/1972 widmcrw 159/13 A ardmolmb 3.698.911 10/1972 Pellegrini 127 29  Filed: Mar. 13, 1974 [211 App]' NOJ 450,901 Primary ExaminerMorris O. Wolk Assistant Examiner-S1dney Marantz Related pp Data Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Whann & McManigal  Division of Ser. No. 241,296, April 5, 1972 abandoned.
 ABSTRACT  Fore'gn Application Priomy Data An apparatus for the continuous, large scale produc- Jan. 9 South Afnca tion of a dried molasses food product molasses 91 1973 Clmlfda v l 160845 is continuously deposited in a thin film on a stationary Jan. 26 1973 Mcxlco 141188 h d surface. Th i l i h i d hil being subjected to controlled elevated temperatures so U65. Cl. as to drive ff a portion of the water contained 127/58; 159/33 159/4 VMS? 159/6 w; therein. The concentrated molasses thus formed is 159/13; 259/8; 99/483; 426/213; 426/ then continuously metered into a vacuum column  Int. Cl. B0ld l/22; C131" l/OO wherein it undergoes rapid dehydration. Finally [he Fleld of Search 31, 16, 58, t ial i r moved f m the acuum olumn depos. 159/3 4 6 w ited in a thin stream or ribbon on a cooling surface and, upon reaching a stable solid state, is crushed and  References Cited package UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,897.729 2/1933 Mac Lachlan 426/374 10 Clams 7 Dmwmg F'gures APPARATUS FOR PRODUCING MOLASSES FOOD PRODUCT This is a Division of application Ser. No. 241.296 filed Apr. 5, 1972; now abandoned.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention This invention relates generally to an apparatus for continuously devolatilizing and concentrating a viscous liquid and more particularly relates to an apparatus for dehydrating and concentrating a liquid molasses to produce a dried. solid state molasses food product.
2. Discussion of the Prior Art It is well known that molasses. which is a byproduct of the manufacture of sugar. has significant nutritional value as a food and that it is particularly useful as a feed for livestock. In its natural state. however. molasses is a highly viscous and sticky liquid that is hard to handle and difficult to mix with other feed products and additives.
As a minor ingredient in dry feeds. it makes these feeds very difficult to handle at levels of 871 molasses or higher. Also at the higher levels the added moisture in the molasses often results in undesired fermentation or spoilage ofthe feed. The high energy value of molasses provides a strong economic incentive to use percentages of 20% or more in livestock fattening rations.
Because of the high energy value. molasses is desirable as a supplemental feed on the open range. As a liquid it is both difficult and expensive to handle for this purpose since special mixing equipment dispensers. tank trucks and the like are required to properly trans port. prepare and distribute the material.
Numerous difficulties are encountered when molasses in liquid form is attempted to be mixed with other solid and liquid feeds or feed additives such as dry foods. limestone. urea. sulfates. drugs and the like to form liquid feeds. Because of the high viscosity of the liquid molasses. particularly at lower temperatures, uniform mixing of additives within the molasses is very difficult and to be done properly requires expensive and sometimes elaborate mixing equipment. If the mixing is improperly done. the additives will not be uniformly distributed throughout the feed and the livestock will consume the additives in an improper ratio with the molasses. Further. because certain additives tend to settle out in the liquid molasses. the livestock will first receive too little of the additives and later. too much. With certain types of additives. the cattle may even be exposed to a toxic mixture due to the additives having settled out in the liquid feed.
Problems of the type enumerated make highly desirable the use of dried molasses in a solid state such as is produced by the method and apparatus of my inven tion. By properly dehydrating and concentrating liquid molasses in the manner to be discussed in detail hereinafter. it is possible to produce a solid state molasses product which can be ground into small pieces and mixed as a solid with feeds and other additives. Such mixing can be accomplished accurately. uniformly and expeditiously without the need for special equipment. For open range feeding of livestock. the stable solid molasses product with or without additives can be formed into blocks in cardboard or paper containers and suitably packaged for distribution by ranch personnel without the use of special equipment.
Various approaches have been followed in the past to develop a suitable dried molasses product. Difficulties encountered have included degradation of the molasses due to exposure of the material to excessive temperatures. the inability to product a material having suitable solid state characteristics such as particle hardness and stability and the inability to produce the material economically on a large scale commercial basis.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION It is an object of the present invention to provide a novel method and apparatus for the large scale continuous processing of molasses or similar liquids to produce a stable solid state product that is easy to handle. that can be conveniently mixed with nutrients or other additives. and that can be expeditiously packaged and distributed.
It is another object of the invention to provide a novel method and apparatus for continuously dehydrating and concentrating molasses or similar liquids in which the liquid is partially dehydrated by controllably subjecting it to agitation at elevated temperatures and then is rapidly dehydrated under vacuum conditions so that when the material is cooled to ambient temperatures it assumes a stable solid state configuration.
It is still another object of the invention to provide a unique method and apparatus for producing a dried molasses on a large scale continuous basis. in which a novel apparatus is provided for continuously depositing the liquid molasses uniformly on a stationary heated surface. controllably agitating the molasses while heating it to elevated temperatures. and then metering the concentrated product thus formed at a controlled rate continuously into a vacuum column maintained at a partial vacuum so as to substantially complete the dehydration ofthe molasses in a rapid and highly efficient manner.
It is another object of the invention to provide an apparatus of the character described in the previous paragraph in which the dehydrated molasses is cooled and solidified in a highly novel and effective manner by withdrawing it from the vacuum column at a controlled rate and depositing it in continuous thin streams such as beads or ribbon onto a surface where it can be rapidly and easily cooled.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a novel method and apparatus for producing a very low moisture content solid state molasses feed product that can be ground into small particles for automatic packaging into sacks, boxes or the like for direct distribution in the field.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide a method for producing a fat fortified molasses product in which the absorption of moisture due to the basic hygroscopic nature of the molasses is inhibited by the addition of various types of fats. In this way. when the product is exposed to air. the tendency of the particles to soften and run together due to absorption of water will be inhibited.
It is still another object of the invention to provide a method for producing a molasses product in which both liquids and solids can be added to and uniformly dispersed throughout the product and in which the liquid components do not have a tendency to settle out.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a novel method and apparatus for producing a molasses feed product continuously on a large scale and in a highly economic manner.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a generally diagrammatic view of the apparatus of the invention used to produce the dried molasses food product.
FIG. 2 is an enlarged vertical cross-sectional view of the mixing container of the invention wherein the liquid molasses is mixed with various additives and is partially dehydrated.
FIG. 3 is a view taken along lines 33 of FIG. 2 illustrating the construction of one form of the deposition means of the invention which is used for continuously depositing a film of molasses on the side walls of the mixing container.
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 44 of FIG. 3 illustrating the construction of the mechanism for controlling the flow of the molasses onto the distribution means of the invention.
FIG. 5 is a view taken along lines 55 of FIG. 2 illustrating one form of the additive deposition means of the invention.
FIG. 6 is a view taken along lines 66 of FIG. 2 showing the construction of the lower portion of one form of the agitator means of the invention.
FIG. 7 is a plan view taken along lines 77 of FIG. 1 showing the construction of one form of the cooling means of the invention for cooling the dehydrated molasses prior to its being crushed and packaged.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring to FIG. 1 of the drawings, the apparatus for carrying out the method of the invention is shown in a generally diagrammatic manner. Although apparatus of the general character illustrated can be used for the continuous processing of numerous types of viscous, volatilizable liquid raw materials, the apparatus of the specific embodiment shown is designed for the continuous processing of viscous liquid molasses to produce a highly useful solid state molasses livestock food product. For 'purposes of clarity of description, portions of the apparatus for carrying out the various steps of the process are identified in FIG. 1 and 2 by capital letters A through I.
In practicing the method of the invention with the apparatus of this embodiment of the invention, the raw material molasses feed and, in certain instances, feed additives are introduced at A into a generally vertically disposed evaporator unit or container 12. At B and C respectively, the raw material feed and feed additives are uniformly deposited by a novel deposition means onto the inner walls of the container 12 and are permitted to flow downwardly in a controlled manner into the heating and agitation zone D. After partial dehydration in the evaporator unit, the concentrated material is removed at a controlled rate from the unit at E and transferred by suitable viscous liquid pumps to the vacuum dehydration step at F. After further dehydration in the vacuum zone, the material is withdrawn at G, transferred to the cooling stage H and finally transported to the crushing or particularizing equipment at I.
The liquid raw material molasses feed is stored in a separate storage tank (not shown) and is pumped by suitable variable rate. viscous liquid pumps into container 12 through feed line 14. Although various grades LII of molasses may be used in the practice of the method of the invention, it is desirable to start with a good grade of cane molasses containing approximately 30% water and a sugar content of approximately 50-60% by weight of molasses.
As best seen in FIG. 2, the liquid molasses is fed into a deposition means for continuously and uniformly depositing a thin film of molasses on the inner walls 16 of container 12. In this embodiment the deposition means is shown as comprising an adjustable dispensing unit 18 and a cooperating rotatable distribution member 20, both of which are disposed within container 12.
As illustrated in the drawings, the container or evaporator unit 12 is steam jacketed. Referring particularly to FIG. 1, it can be seen that steam is introduced into the container jacket through steam line 22, is circulated through the jacket, and is withdrawn through steam line 24. The circulating steam, of course, serves to maintain the stationary inner walls of the container at the desired elevated temperature. The steam generator, ancillary piping and cooperating controls have not been shown in the drawings; and their construction and operation being well known in the art will not be described in detail herein.
Turning to FIGS. 2 and 3, the dispensing unit 18 can be seen to comprise an annular member 26 having an eccentrically shaped internal molasses receiving chamber 28 which is connected to line 14 at a point near the widest position of the chamber. Carried within the opening in annular member 26 and rotatable with respect thereto is a distribution control ring 30. As best seen in FIG. 3, ring 30 is disposed generally concentrically with respect to the longitudinal axis of the container 12 and is provided with a plurality of apertures 32 which may be moved into full or partial register with cooperating outlet ports 34 formed in the inner walls of chamber 28. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, it can be seen that ring 30 also has a handlelike portion 36 which is provided with a curved slot 38 adapted to accommodate a threaded bolt 40. Bolt 40 is threadably connected to member 26 and, in cooperation with a coil spring 42, serves to frictionally hold ring 30 in a fixed position within the opening in member 26. By loosening bolt 40, ring 30 can be rotated with respect to member 26 within the limits of slot 38 so as to move apertures 32 and outlet ports 34 into and out of register. In this way, the flow of molasses out of the dispensing unit onto the rotating distribution member 20 can be adjusted to accommodate various rates of flow of molasses into the system and thereby insure that the molasses will be uniformly dispensed onto member 20 and subsequently onto the inner walls of container 12.
Member 20 is attached to and rotatably driven by a shaft 44 which is mounted for rotation about the longitudinal axis of container 12. To receive the molasses from the dispensing unit 18, member 20 is provided with an upwardly presented, generally planar surface 46 disposed in a plane generally normal to the longitudinal, vertically inclined axis of the container. As previously described, the molasses material flows downwardly through the open or partially open outlet ports 34 of the dispensing unit 18, is received in a uniform pattern on planar surface 46, and as member 20 is rotated by shaft 44 is thrown outwardly so as to form a thin film of molasses on the stationary, heated inner walls of container 12.
Referring particularly to FIGS. 2 and 5. there is illustrated a liquid feed additive deposition means comprising, in this form of the invention. a second rotatable member 50 which is disposed within container 12 and is spaced apart from member 20. Member 50 is also adapted to rotate with shaft 44 and has an upwardly presented, generally planar surface 52 disposed in a plane generally normal to the longitudinal axis of container 12. The function of the feed additive deposition means is to receive the liquid feed additives from the apertured forked ends 53 of the additive supply line 54 shown in FIG. 5 and. through centrifugal force as member 50 is rotated. to deposit the additives uniformly onto the film of molasses moving along the inner walls of container 12.
A wide variety of liquid feed additives may be used in practicing the method of the invention. For example. various kinds of feed grade fats may be introduced into container 12 and. when mixed with the molasses feed. not only enrich the food product itself, but also inhibit the pickup of moisture by the normally hygroscopic dried molasses product. Because of the difficulty encountered in mixing fats with the molasses feed. the novel additive deposition means of this invention has proven particularly useful for introducing fats into the product. In addition to fats. however. various vitamins, minerals. drugs and other liquid additives may also be introduced into the apparatus through line 54 and deposited onto the molasses film by the additive deposition means. These additives are typically stored in storage tanks (not shown) and are pumped from the tanks at controlled rates by suitable pumps. When additives which are easily mixed with molasses are used. it may be desirable for certain applications to mix them with the molasses in a separate mixing unit (not shown) located upstream of the container and then introduce them with the molasses through line 14.
Referring now to FIG. 2 of the drawings. an agitator means. shown here in the form of an elongated multibladed cagelike structure 57, is provided for agitating the film of molasses and for controlling the downward flow of the molasses through the heating and agitation zone D. Cage structure 57 is mounted on shaft 44 for rotational movement within container 12 and includes blade means configured and arranged so as to urge relative movement between the molasses and the side walls of the container. and in this way regulate the flow of the molasses downwardly through the container or evaporator unit. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 6, the blade means in this embodiment of the invention comprises a plurality of elongated, generally straight bladelike elements 60 interconnected at their extremities by end plates 62 and 64. Blades 60 lie in planes disposed at an angle relative to the inner walls of container 12 and have their leading edges 66 spaced apart from the container walls by a distance approximately equal to the thickness of the molasses film which is deposited on the walls of the container by the deposition means.
As will be discussed in greater detail hereinafter. the concentrated. partially dehydrated molasses is allowed to accumulate into a liquid mass at the bottom of container 12 prior to being pumped into the vacuum zone. To maintain proper agitation of this liquid mass and to expedite its withdrawal from the evaporator unit. end plate 64 is provided with a plurality of downwardly depending curved blade members 68. These curved blade members are shaped so that their lower extremities travel in a constant spaced relationship with the bottom of the container and function to prevent undesired ma terial build-up on the container bottom. To further assist in the proper agitation of the liquid mass, a plurality of downwardly depending blades 70 is provided on end plate 64 near the axis of rotation of the agitation means. These blades tend to keep the liquid mass in the area of the container outlet in motion, thereby facilitating withdrawal from the unit of the highly viscous molasses mixture. Located in the bottom of the evaporator unit near blades 70 is a temperature sensing element 72 which. along with its associated instrumentation as diagrammatically shown at 73 in FIG. 1, provides means for constant temperature monitoring of the molasses material.
It is to be appreciated that in certain instances where prolonged exposure of additives to elevated temperature is undesirable, liquid or solid additives may be introduced into the mixture after the dehydration step D. Although such a construction is not shown in the drawings of this embodiment, where additives are to be introduced to the concentrated mixture, the evaporator unit may be provided with suitable inlet ports at or near the bottom of the container to accommodate introduction of the additives.
Cage structure 57 can be connected to shaft 44 by any suitable means such as. for example. by collars and cooperating set screws. In the form of the invention shown in the drawings, collars 74 are affixed to end plates 62 and 64, and carry set screws adapted to frictionally engage the shaft so as to hold the cage structure in the correct position on the shaft. To drive shaft 44 at a controllable rate of speed, there is provided a suitable drive means such as that shown in FIG. I. In this form of the invention. the drive means comprises an electric motor 76 which drives a suitable gear reduction mechanism 78 which. in turn, drives shaft 44 at the desired speed.
As will be discussed in greater detail in the section entitled Operation, it is important in the practice of the method of the invention to be able to simultaneously control the temperature of the inner walls of the evaporator unit, the thickness of the film of molasses which is deposited on the walls, and the time the molasses is in contact with the walls of the container. By controlling these parameters, as the molasses mixture flows through the evaporator it can be gradually heated in a precisely controlled manner to a temperature sufficient to partially dehydrate the mixture without carmelizing or otherwise degrading it.
Referring again to FIG. 1, at stage E the molasses mixture, after partial dehydration, is withdrawn at a controlled rate from the evaporator unit and transferred to the vacuum zone F by a metering means provided in the form of pump 80. Pump 80 may be any suitable type of well known, commercially available viscous liquid, controlled rate pump. As previously mentioned, the rate ofintroduction and removal of material from the evaporator unit is precisely regulated and carefully balanced to accurately control the retention time of the material in the dehydration stage D so as to effect the desired degree of dehydration of the mixture. while at the same time avoiding undesirable overheating.
During the transfer of the product from the evaporator unit 12 to the vacuum chamber or column 82 through line 84, it was found desirable to maintain the temperature of the material within a range of between approximately 140F. and 180F. This may be done by placing steam coils or other heating means around line 84, or by suitably insulating the line so that the mixture will not cool too rapidly during the transfer step.
As is illustrated in the drawings, vacuum chamber 82 comprises an elongated. generally vertically disposed column having an overall height several times that of its internal diameter. The chamber of column 82 is maintained at a partial vacuum of on the order of 20 to 22 inches of mercury by a vacuum means in the form of a vacuum pump 86 or other device such as a steam eductor of suitable capacity which is connected near the top of the chamber. During operation, the outlet 88 of the vacuum device is connected to a water disposal or sewer system (not shown) so that no vapors or contaminants will escape to atmosphere.
For maximum efficiency of operation, it was found desirable to maintain the temperature of the internal walls of the vacuum chamber at between 140F. and 180F. (about 160F. for an operating vacuum of 20 inches of mercury) so that moisture will be prevented from condensing on the walls. This can be done by steam jacketing the chamber or by any other suitable heating or insulating means.
Chamber 82 has an intake means or inlet port 90 disposed near the top of the column for continuously receiving the concentrated molasses or molasses mixture through line 84 from the metering means. The heated concentrated molasses or molasses mixture is transferred into the vacuum chamber at a controlled rate and, as shown in FIG. I, is permitted to fall freely a substantial distance within the column prior to striking the surface of the material 91 which has been allowed to accumulate within the column. Upon exposure of the heated material to the reduced pressure of zone F, it tends to diffuse or scatter into small droplets or particles. As the hot droplets fall freely through the vacuum zone, the water remaining within them instantaneously boils off, or flash vaporizes, forming a product having a water content ofon the order of 2 /27: to 3 /271 water.
It is important to note that the dehydrated molasses or molasses mixture thus formed is permitted to collect within the vacuum column to a substantial height so that the weight of the column of material may be used to assist the transfer or pumping means at G in removing the product from the vacuum chamber. Because the transfer means for transferring the liquid from the vacuum chamber to the cooling surface. shown here in the form of pump 92, is of necessity working against the negative pressure maintained in the chamber by vacuum pump 86, unless the weight of the column of material within the chamber is effectively used to assist the transfer pump, an inordinately complex pump is required to efficiently transfer the material from the highly novel and unique cooling means for cooling the material was developed. This cooling means, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 7, comprises an upwardly inclined conveyor unit 94 having a movable belt 96, which belt forms the cooling surface upon which the liquid from the vacuum chamber is deposited. As best seen in FIG. 7, the transfer means for transferring the material to the cooling means includes an outlet nozzle 98 adapted to shape the molasses or molasses mixture into a continuous thin spaghettior ribbon-like strand 100. So that belt 96 can be kept as short as possible and maximum use can be made of its cooling surface, the cooling means of the invention also includes a lateral drive means for imparting relative lateral movement between the movable belt 96 and the outlet nozzle 98. In this form of the invention, the end of the conveyor unit proximate nozzle 98 is mounted on rollers 102 and the drive means comprises a motor 104 interconnected by means of a crank arrangement 106 to the lower end of the conveyor unit so that as the motor shaft rotates, a reciprocal movement will be imparted to the conveyor unit as illustrated by the phantom lines in FIG. 7.
As the lower end of the conveyor unit oscillates back and forth, the liquid product will be deposited onto the cooling surface in the zigzag pattern is illustrated. By coordinating the speed of the belt with the rate at which the material is transferred onto the belt from the vacuum chamber by the transfer means, and by uniformly exposing the material to cool dry air, an optimum cooling rate can be achieved and maintained. To enable the diameter of the strand of material which is deposited onto the belt to be varied, and in this way control the rate of cooling of the material, means can be provided whereby the height of nozzle 98 can be adjusted relative to the belt. Because of the viscosity of the product the higher the location of nozzle 98 the thinner will be the strand deposited on the belt and the faster will be the cooling rate.
As the product moves upwardly on the conveyor belt, it is gently cooled in the manner described and upon reaching a temperature below 95F. will solidify. enabling further processing at stage I. Depending upon the use which is to be made of the product after solidification, the material may be cut into short lengths by suitable cutting wheels (not shown) and directly packaged. or it may be ground or crushed into particles of a desired size and then packaged. In the form of the invention illustrated in the drawings, the material is shown being fed into a grinding or crushing means 108, which may be a standard grinding apparatus of a type well known in the art. from which it is discharged at 110. In the event the final product is to be used as an ingredient for milled livestock feed, the apparatus may be installed adjacent the feed mill itself and the final product discharged directly into the milled feed system. Where the final product is to be used in the field, the sized material may be discharged directly into packaging equipment (not shown) and packaged into suitable vapor tight bags or cartons.
As previously mentioned. the ground dried product produced by the method of this invention may be expeditiously mixed with a wide variety of supplemental feeds and feed additives. This mixing may be done in the field or at the point of discharge of the product from the crusher. Additives include, by way of example, fats, limestone, urea, sulfates, drugs and vitamins.
OPERATION In summary, the method of this invention using the apparatus shown inthe drawings is typically carried out in the following manner. With the molasses dispensing unit 18 adjusted to distribute uniformly the flow of molasses to the distribution member 20 and with the evaporator unit closed and sealed. steam is introduced into the steam jacket through line 22. When the inner walls of the unit reach an elevated temperature of approximately 380F.. motor 76 is started. shaft 44 set in rotation. and molasses introduced into the dispensing unit through line 14. When chamber 28 of dispensing unit 18 fills with molasses to the level of apertures 34. the molasses will flow downwardly onto the planar surface of the rotating distribution member 20 and. due to centrifugal force. will be thrown outwardly against walls 16 forming a thin film of molasses thereon. Because of gravity, the viscous molasses will gradually flow downwardly along the walls of the evaporator toward the rotating agitator means. Assuming the dispensing unit 18 has been properly adjusted to produce a film of the correct thickness, the leading edges ofblades 60 of the agitator means will lightly skim the surface of the film of molasses. causing a gentle agitation and mixing of the material. As previously discussed. during normal operations molasses is permitted to collect within the bottom portion of the evaporator unit to a level slightly above the top ofcurved blades 68 so that as the agitator means rotates within the unit. blades 68 in cooperation with blades 60 will gently agitate the molasses and also. due to their unique configuration. will function to maintain the film of molasses on the walls of the unit.
By carefully balancing the introduction and withdrawal of material from the evaporator unit so as to control the period of time the material is subjected to heating. by controlling the thickness of the film of molasses deposited on the walls of the unit, and by carefully regulating the temperature of the internal surfaces of the unit. uniform and efficient dehydration of the molasses to a water content of approximately 5-671 can readily be accomplished. It was found that best results are obtained when, through appropriate adjustments of the apparatus. the temperature of the molasses as it flows through the evaporator unit is permitted to reach at least 260F. but is never allowed to exceed approximately 270F.
In those production runs wherein it is desired to add liquid additives to the product and particularly additives such as fat. they are introduced through line 54. The additives are dispensed from the apertured end portions 53 of line 54 onto the rotating additive deposition member 50. Due to centrifugal force. the material is thrown outwardly toward walls 16 where it is deposited uniformly onto the previously deposited film of molasses. After deposition. the additive material flows downwardly into the agitation zone where it is thoroughly mixed with the molasses by the action of rotating blades 60 and 68. Depending upon the type of additive material used and its viscosity. it may be necessary to adjust the flow rate of molasses to achieve the proper film thickness of the molasses mixture it flows downwardly through zone D. Also to achieve the proper dwell time and temperature of the mixture within the evaporator unit. it may be necessary to adjust the rate of flow of the combined materials into and out of the unit. It is to be understood that the percentage of addi tives which is added to the product will vary widely depending upon the particular additive. Drugs. for example. are usually added in small amounts while fats may be added in substantial quantities for certain types of food products. As in the case where only molasses is being dehydrated. it was found that for best results the temperature of the mixture should be allowed to reach 260F. but should not be permitted to exceed 270F.
After partial dehydration, the molasses or molasses mixture is transferred by pump to the vacuum column 82 where it is further dehydrated in the manner previously described. In this stage of the process the temperature of the material should be maintained at approximately l40F. to approximately F.. and the vacuum within the column maintained at between 20 and 22 inches of mercury. For optimum results, the rate of withdrawal of the material from the vacuum chamber should be carefully controlled to insure that an adequate head of material is maintained within the column. while at the same time maintaining a substantial distance between the top of the unit and the surface of the material through which the material entering the column may free fall.
As the product is transferred to the cooling stage H. care must be taken to insure that nozzle 98 is positioned at the correct height above the belt and that the speed of movement of the belt is properly regulated so that the material will have an opportunity properly to cool and solidify prior to the grinding or cutting operation. When it appears that the material is not being properly cooled during the cooling cycle. the height of the nozzle. the speed of the conveyor or the temperture of the cooling air can be adjusted.
In performing the crushing operation. it was found that good results are obtained using a saw-toothed type crusher which may be adjusted to produce particles ranging in size from approximately A to A: inch in length. The use of this type of crusher avoids the problem of material smearing which occurs in a conventional hammer mill apparatus.
It is to be appreciated that although there is shown only one evaporator unit feeding the vacuum column. several could be operated in parallel to feed one or more vacuum columns. Similarly. various physical arrangements of the separate components parts of the apparatus could be made. For example. the evaporator unit could be elevated relative to the vacuum column or the units could be operably disposed in different attitudes and positions.
1. An apparatus for dehydrating molasses and like liquids comprising:
a. a container having heated walls:
b. deposition means for continuously depositing a film of molasses or like liquids on the heated walls of said container;
c. agitator means for agitating the film and for urging the molasses or like liquid against the heated walls of said container;
d. a vacuum chamber maintained at a partial vacuum operatively interconnected with said container;
e. metering means for continuously transferring the molasses or like liquid from said container to said vacuum chamber at a controlled rate; and
. cooling means for cooling the molasses or like liquid, including transfer means for transferring the liquid from said vacuum chamber to said cooling means.
2. An apparatus for dehydrating molasses and like liquids as defined in claim 1 in which said agitator means comprises a plurality of blade-like members disposed adjacent the heated walls' of said container and adapted for relative movement therewith in a spaced relationship thereto.
3. An apparatus for dehydrating molasses and like liquids as defined in claim 1 including liquid feed additive deposition means for continuously depositing liquid feed additive onto the film of molasses.
4. An apparatus for dehydrating molasses and like liquids as defined in claim 1 in which said vacuum chamber comprises an elongated generally vertically disposed column having an intake means disposed near the top of the column for continuously receiving molasses from said metering means.
5. An apparatus for dehydrating molasses and like liquids as defined in claim 1 in which said container is substantially cylindrical in shape having generally vertically disposed heated side walls and in which said deposition means comprises a rotatable member disposed within said container and rotatable about the vertical axis of said container. said member having a generally planar surface disposed in a plane generally normal to the vertical axis of said container.
6. An apparatus as defined in claim 1 in which said cooling means includes means'for transferring the liquid from said vacuum chamber and controllably depositing it on a cooling surface.
7. An apparatus as defined in claim 6 in which said cooling means comprises a conveyor unit having a movable belt which belt forms the cooling surface upon which the liquid from said vacuum chamber is deposited.
8. An apparatus as defined in claim 7 in which said transfer means includes an outlet nozzle adapted to shape the molasses or like liquid into a continuous ribbonlike strand.
9. An apparatus as defined in claim 8 including means for imparting relative lateral movement between said movable belt and said outlet nozzle.
10. An apparatus for producing a dried molasses product comprising:
a. a substantially cylindrically-shaped container having generally vertically disposed, heated side walls;
b. deposition means for continuously depositing a thin film of molasses on the upper portions of the heated side walls of said container;
e. agitator means mounted for rotational movement within said container for agitating the molasses therewithin, said agitator means having blade means configured and arranged so as to maintain a film of molasses of uniform thickness on said vertical side walls of said container;
(1. a generally vertically disposed elongated vacuum column operatively interconnected with said container;
e. means for maintaining a partial vacuum within said vacuum column;
f. metering means for transferring the molasses from said container to said vacuum column at a controllable rate;
g. means for removing the molasses from said vacuum column at a controllable rate; and
h. cooling means for cooling the molasses.