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Publication numberUS3900919 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateAug 26, 1975
Filing dateSep 6, 1973
Priority dateSep 6, 1973
Publication numberUS 3900919 A, US 3900919A, US-A-3900919, US3900919 A, US3900919A
InventorsHenry N Lekan, Louis R Richards
Original AssigneeFormax Inc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Cuber-perforator for food patties
US 3900919 A
Abstract
A cuber-perforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and other similar food products, in which the patties are passed between two matched aligned arrays of multi-tooth rotary knives that penetrate the patties from opposite sides to form multiple perforations extending completely through the patties or to any other desired depth in the patties; stripper belts are interleaved with the knives and matched in speed to the peripheral speed of the knives to strip the patties from the knives without undue deformation and to convey the patties away from the knives.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

[451 Aug. 26, 1975 Primary Examiner-Richard C. Pinkham Assistant Etaminer-Wi1liam R. Browne Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Kinzer. Plyer, Dorn & McEachran [57] ABSTRACT A cuberperforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and other similar food products, in which the patties are passed between two matched aligned arrays of multi-tooth rotary knives that penetrate the patties from opposite sides to form multiple perforations extending completely through the patties or to any other desired depth in the patties; stripper belts are interleaved with the knives and matched in speed to the peripheral speed of the knives to strip the patties from CUBER-PERFORATOR FOR FOOD PATTIES Inventors: Henry N. Lekan, Chicago; Louis R.

Richards, Mokena, both of 111.

Assignee: Formax, lnc., Mokena Ill Filed: Sept. 6, 1973 Appl. No.: 394,791

Int. A22c 9/00 Field of Search.............. 17/26, 25, 32; 74/230 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS United States Patent Lekan et a1.

17/26 17/26 X the knives without undue deformation and to convey 17/25 the patties away from the knives. 17/25 17/12 11 Claims, 12 Drawing Figures Spang Spang Spang Spang Brownscyum.

PATENTEB AUBZ 6 I975 SiiLU 1 BF 5 PATENTED AUBZ 61975 SHEET l 0F C UBER-PERFORATOR FOR FOOD PATTIES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Increased volume requirements for standardized food products. particularly hamburger patties and other molded food products, has led to increased centralization of the manufacturing operations for these products. Furthermore, high volume manufacture of hamburgers and other molded food patties often includes cryogenic freezing of the products to provide for effective storage and transportation to distant locations of use without substantial loss of flavor or other desirable characteristics in the food products. Frozen hamburgers and similar molded food products, however, present some substantial problems at the point of use. Thus, the frozen products may require substantially longer cooking periods than conventionally refrigerated products. producing intolerable delays at high volume outlets during peak demand periods. Furthermore, the frozen food patties may tend to warp or to puff up when cooked, usually as the result of generation of steam pressure within the patties in the course of a rapid cooking operation.

The concentration of production of hamburger patties, molded steaks, and similar products in highvolume facilities also creates some difficult problems for the manufacturer. For example. some of the customers of a given food processing plant may require freezing of the food product that they purchase, whereas other customers may demand that an essentially similar food product be delivered under normal refrigeration. Some customers may demand that the food products be cubed or scored, in varying patterns, whereas other may insist upon no cubing or scoring. The molded food products to be cubed or scored for some customers may be quite thick, and those for other customers may be very thin. Some of the molded food products may be formed of ground meat, others may be molded from flaked or chopped meat, fowl, or fish; other variations may occur, such as the addition of vegetable proteins and seasonings to be competitive and add variety in the marketplace.

Molded meat products with added soy protein are often given a shallow scoring to add texture to an otherwise slick appearing surface. On the other hand, products molded from coarse flaked or chopped materials are less inclined to break apart when the particles are knitted together by deep-penetration cubing. Rotary scoring and cubing knives can also be used as rollers to adhere condiments (e.g., mushrooms or peppers) to molded food products and to flatten and bind folded or stacked patties used to form sandwiches with cheese,

dressing, or the like in their centers. For an economical and effective operation, however, the food processor may find it necessary to process products exhibiting all of the foregoing variations on a single product line.

In a hamburger patty molding operation or similar processing line, product distortion and product disorientation can also be introduced by cubing or scoring equipment itself. Thus. the knives or like elements used for cubing. and the stripping devices used for separating the molded food patties from the knives, may tend to wrinkle the surface of the patties or cause random hesitation in the transfer of the patties through the cubing knives. Distortion and uneven transfer can be caused by fat, gristle, sinew, or food particles building up on the strippers or between the knives. It is important that the perforating or cubing operation not wrinkle or disturb the flatness of the molded food patty be cause the misshapen patty may be frozen, resulting in poor stacking during packaging, and also in insufficient grill contact during plate grilling, which causes stewing or whitening of the raised under surface. Also, disorientation of the patties on a transfer belt from the cuber eliminates the possible use of simple stacking equipment during packaging.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION It is a principal object of the invention, therefore, to provide a new and improved cubing machine for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products that is capable of high speed operation without introducing undue distortion into the food products being processed.

A further object of the invention is to provide a new and improved high speed cuber-perforator for use on hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products that can be readily adjusted to afford cubing indentations or scoring indentations of virtually any desired depth, including perforations that extend completely through the food products.

Another object of the invention is to provide a new and improved high speed cuber-perforator for food products such as hamburger patties and pressed steaks that is inherently self-cleaning in its operation.

A further object of the invention is to provide a new and improved cuber-perforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and other like food products that can be readily adjusted to accommodate wide variations in product dimensions, product composition, and similar factors.

A specific object of the invention is to provide a new and improved high speed cubing and perforating machine for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products that is simple and rugged in construction, economical in operation, and capable of sustained periods of substantially trouble free operation.

Accordingly, the invention relates to a cuberperforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products, comprising input conveyor means for conveying food patties along a given path projecting into a cubing station, a first knife assembly, positioned adjacent one side of the path at the cubing station, and including a plurality of multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending across the path, and a second knife assembly, positioned adjacent the opposite side of the path at the cubing station, and including a corresponding plurality of matching multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending across the path and aligned knife-forknife and tooth-for-tooth with the knives of the first assembly. At least one of the knife assemblies further comprises a plurality of stripper belts interleaved with the rotary knives of that assembly and extending along the path outwardly of the cubing station to afford a means for stripping patties and food particles from the knives and further to afford an intermediate conveyor means for the food patties. Drive means are provided. connected to both knife assemblies and to the stripper belts, for rotating the knives of both assemblies at a given peripheral speed to cut multiple perforations in each patty passing through the cubing station, and for driving the stripper belts at a speed approximately equal to the peripheral knife speed to strip the patties from the knives and to preclude stretching or wrinkling of the patties.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a high speed cuber perforator constructed in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. with the cubing station of the machine open for inspection or cleaning;

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view, drawn to an enlarged scale. of the machine of FIG. 1 with the cubing station closed and ready for operation;

FIG. 3 is a detail sectional view of major components of the upper knife assembly for the cubing station of the machine, taken approximately along line 33 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a detail sectional view of the lower knife assembly, taken approximately along line 4--4 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a detail sectional view of an elevating mechanism for the upper knife assembly, taken approximately along line 55 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a sectional side elevation view, of a schematic nature, of the cubing station of the machine of FIGS. 1-5;

FIG. 7 is a detail plan view of the upper knife assembly taken approximately along line 77 in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a detail sectional elevation view of the stripper belt drive shaft for the lower knife assembly of the machine, taken approximately as indicated by line 88 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 9 is a detail sectional elevation view, drawn to an enlarged scale, of the lowe knife assembly;

FIG. 10 is a detail sectional view taken approximately as indicated by line 10-10 in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a plan view ofa hamburger patty processed by the cuber-perforator of the invention; and

FIG. 12 is a sectional view of the hamburger patty of FIG. 11, taken approximately along line 1212 therein.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT FIG. 1 illustrates. in a perspective view, a cuberperforator for processing hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products, constructed in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The cuber-perforator 20 comprises input conveyor means 21 for conveying food products along a given path, as indicated by arrow A, into a cubing station 22. In cubing station 22, a multiplicity of perforations are formed in the individual food patties or the like, the perforations preferably extending completely through each food patty as described more fully hereinafter. From cubing station 22, the process food products are discharged to an output conveyor means 23, in the direction indicated by arrow A, for transport to a packing station. The input conveyor 21, for operating components of cubing station 22, and the output conveyor 23 are all powered from a single electric motor 24.

The cubing and perforating machine 20 comprises a frame supported upon suitable legs 25. The frame includes a right-hand side plate 26, on the near side of the machine as seen in FIG. 1, and a left-hand side plate 27 (FIGS. 2 and 4) on the opposite side of the machine. The frame legs and the side plates are interconnected by suitable cross braces to afford a rugged and rigid support frame for the cuber-perforator 20.

The input conveyor means 21 for cuberperforator 22 is mounted between a right-hand input conveyor side rail 28 mounted upon the right side plate 26 and a left-hand input conveyor side rail 29 mounted on a secondary side plate 56 supported from the side plate 27, (FIGS. 1 and 2). The input conveyor comprises a wire mesh belt 31 that extends across suitable supports (not shown) interconnecting the conveyor side rails 28 and 29, around a drive shaft 32 and past an idler shaft 33. Suitable hold-down rails 34 and spacers 35 for the wire mesh belt 31 are provided, all mounted upon the conveyor side rails 28 and 29. The input conveyor drive shaft 32 is connected to motor 24 by a suitable drive train to drive belt 31 at a controlled constant speed. The particular drive train employed for the input conveyor belt 31 is not critical to the operation of the cuber-perforator 20, as long as a constant speed, relative to the operation of other components, is maintained; accordingly, the details of the drive from motor 24 to the conveyor drive shaft 32 have not been illustrated in the drawings.

The output conveyor means 23 for cuber-pcrforator 20 is similar in construction to the input conveyor means 21.

It comprises two sides rails 38 and 39 carrying support members for a wire mesh conveyor belt 41; belt 41 extends around a drive shaft 42 and an idler shaft 43. Suitable hold'down rails 44 and spacers 45 are provided.

Cubing station 22 includes lower and upper knife assemblies 51 and 52. The principal structural components of knife assembly 51 are shown in FIGS. 2, 4 and 810; it includes a knife shaft 53 having one end journalled in a bearing 54 mounted in a right-hand side plate insert 55 extending upwardly from side plate 26 (FIGS. 2 and 4). An insert 57 rigidly mounted on side plate 27 carries a bearing 58 for the other end of shaft 53, the shaft projecting through an opening 59 in plate 56. Knife shaft 53 has an extension 53A projecting outwardly beyond the side plate insert 57, upon which a spur gear 61 and a sprocket 62 are mounted. The gear 61 and the sprocket 62 are both affixed to the shaft extension 53A for rotation therewith.

The sprocket 62 is engaged by a roller chain 63 that also extends around a drive pulley 64 and is engaged by an adjustable tensioning sprocket 65. The drive sprocket 64 is affixed to a shaft 66 that constitutes the output shaft for a speed reducer 67 for motor 24 (FIG. 1). Sprockets 61, 64 and 65, gear 62, and belt 63, to-

. gether with other drive components for machine 20,

are all enclosed within a suitable protective housing 67 (FIG. 4).

A multiplicity of multi-tooth rotary disc knives 71 are incorporated in the lower knife assembly 51. The disc knives 71 are mounted upon and keyed to shaft 53, as shown in FIGS. 9 and I0, and are separated from each other by a series of spacers 72 that are not keyed to the shaft. As shown in FIG. 4, the disc knives 71 of the lower knife assembly 51 are maintained in the desired axial positions on shaft 53 by two large retainer nuts 73 threaded onto the opposite ends of the portion of shaft 53 on which the knives are located. Each of the knives 71 has a plurality of cutting teeth 74 (FIG. 9), the size and configuration of the teeth being subject to variation to fit different requirements for cuber-perforator 20.

The lower knife assembly 51 of cubing station 22 further comprises a stripper belt shaft 75, the end of this shaft being visible in FIGS. 1 and 2. As shown in FIG. 8, one end of shaft 75 is journalled in a bearing 76 mounted in the right-hand side plate insert 55. The opposite end of shaft 75 is journalled in a bearing 77 mounted in the drive side plate insert 57. The end of shaft 75 extends through bearing 77 and projects outwardly beyond insert 57, a drive gear 78 being mounted on the outboard end of the shaft.

The stripper belt drive shaft 75 is provided with a multiplicity of equally spaced annular grooves 79, equal in number to the spaces between the disc knives 71 in the lower knife assembly 51. A multiplicity of stripper belts 81 are mounted in the grooves 79. As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, each of the stripper belts 81 extends around the shaft 75, in one of the grooves 79, and around a slip ring 82 mounted upon one of the spacers 72 between two of the rotary knives 71. Each of the slip rings 82 is freely rotatable upon the associated spacer 72 to permit movement of the stripper belt 81 at a speed different from the speed that would be obtained if the stripper belt were engaged directly by one of the spacer rings 72.

The upper knife assembly 52 of cuber-perforator comprises two side plates 92 and 93 that are pivotally mounted upon opposite ends of a shaft 94 that extends across the machine between the drive side plate 56 and the right-hand side plate insert 55 (see FIGS. 2 and 3). In addition to serving as a pivotal support for the upper knife side plates 92 and 93, shaft 94 constitutes a part of the drive chain for the upper knife assembly 52. An input gear 95 is mounted upon the outboard end of shaft 94 that projects beyond plate 56.

At the opposite end of shaft 94, the portion of the shaft that projects beyond the upper knife assembly side plate 92 carries a gear 96 that is in meshing engagement with a gear 97 mounted upon a short shaft 98. Shaft 98 is mounted upon side plate 92. Gear 97, in turn. is in meshing engagement with a driven gear 99 that is mounted upon the outboard end of an upper knife shaft 101. The upper knife shaft 101 isjournalled in a bearing 102 mounted in a side plate insert 119 in turn mounted in a cut-out portion of the upper knife assembly side plate 92; the shaft 101 extends across the upper knife assembly 52. The other end of shaft 101 is journalled in a bearing 103 mounted in an insert 153 in the other upper knife assembly side plate 93.

A multiplicity of multi-tooth rotary disc knives 111 are keyed to shaft 101 for rotation therewith. the knives 111 being separated from each other by individual spacers 112 (FIGS. 3 and 6). As shown in FIG. 3, the assembly of knives I11 and spacers 112 is positioned longitudinally of shaft 101 by a pair of retainer nuts 113 threaded onto the opposite ends of the shaft. Each of the rotary disc knives 111 of the upper knife assembly 52 is accurately aligned with one of the disc knives 71 in the lower knife assembly 51. Furthermore, each of the upper assembly disc knives 111 has the same number of teeth 1 14 as the teeth 74 on the matching lower disc knife 71, and the teeth of the two knives are angularly aligned directly opposite each other as most clearly shown in FIG. 6. This alignment is impor tant in providing for complete penetration ofa hamburger patty. in the preferred mode of operation of cuberperforator 20, as described more fully hereinafter.

As shown in FIG. 6, the spacers 112 separate the knives 111 of the upper knife assembly 52. The upper knife assembly includes a plurality ofstripper belts 116, each of which passes around one of the spacers 112 (FIGS. 6 and 7). Each of the stripper belts 116 also en gages in an annular groove 117 on an upper knife assembly belt drive shaft 118. Shaft 118 extends across the front portion of the upper knife assembly 52, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, between the two upper knife assembly side plate inserts 119 and 153. The shaft 118 is driven by stripper belts 116. A guard 123 is provided for gears 96, 97 and 99 (FIG. 2). An upper cover 124 may be incorporated in the upper knife assembly 52, extending across the two upper knife assembly side plates 119 and 153 (FIG. 2).

The cuber-perforator 20 includes an elevating mechanism for moving the upper knife assembly 52 from the open inspection position of FIG. 1 to the closed operating position of FIG. 2. This elevating mechanism includes a pivot pin 131 that is mounted upon and projects outwardly from the lower end of the upper knife assembly side plate 92, as shown in FIG. 1, 2 and 5. A bracket 132 is pivotally mounted upon pin 13]. The lower end of bracket 132 carries a bearing 133 (FIG. 5) that supports the upper end of a threaded shaft 134. The shaft 134 is threaded into an opening that extends through a retainer member 135; retainer 135 is pivotally mounted in the main frame side plate 26. An operating handle 136 is mounted on the lower end of the shaft 134, below retainer 135.

Each of the two upper knife assembly side plates 92 and 93 carries an adjustable stop member. shown by stop members 138 and 139 in FIG. 1. The stop member 138 is positioned to engage a positioning block 141 that is mounted upon the outer side of side plate 26 (FIGS. 1 and 2). A similar positioning block (not shown) is provided for stop member 139 on the opposite side of the machine. The stop members 138 and 139 can be adjusted to bring the upper and lower disc knives 111 and 71 into accurate vertical alignment, as shown in FIG. 6, when the upper knife assembly 52 is in its normal operating position as illustrated in FIG. 2.

In considering the operation of the cuber-perforator 20, it may be assumed that the machine starts with the upper knife assembly 52 in the open inspection position illustrated in FIG. 1. To prepare the machine 20 for operation, handle 136 is rotated, imparting a similar rotation-to shaft 134 and pulling bracket 132 downwardly. The downward movement of bracket 132 allows the upper knife assembly side plates 92 and 93 to pivot about the shaft 94 (FIGS. 2 and 3). In this manner, the upper knife assembly 52 is pivoted down to the position illustrated in FIG. 2, bringing the knives 111 of the upper assembly into alignment with the knives 71 of the lower knife assembly 51 as shown in FIG. 6. The downward movement of the upper knife assembly 52 is limited by engagement of the stop 138 with the positioning block 141 on the one side of the machine, and by the engagement of the stop 139 with a similar positioning block on the opposite side of the machine (FIGS. 1 and 2).

With the upper knife assembly 52 in its closed operating position, motor 24 is energized, actuating the drives for the input conveyor 21, the output conveyor 23, and the two knife assemblies 51 and 52. The direction of movement for the input conveyor is indicated by the arrows A in the various Figures such as FIGS. 1, 2

and 6. The rotational movement of the lower knife shaft 53 is indicated by the arrow B, the rotational movement of the lower stripper belt shaft 75 is in the direction of arrow C, the upper knife shaft 101 is driven in the direction indicated by the arrow D, and the upper stripper belt shaft 118 is driven in the direction of arrow E (FIG. 6). The cuber-perforator is now ready for operation.

With the cubing and perforating machine 20 functioning as described above, individual hamburger patties, steaks, or similar food products are discharged from an external source (not shown) on to the left hand end of the input conveyor belt 31, as viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2. The food products, as deposited on the input conveyor belt, may be in regular and orderly rows, or they may be deposited in a random manner; the operation of the machine 20 is not dependent upon any particular pattern in the placement of the food products on the input conveyor. The input conveyor means 21 advances the hamburgers or other like food products along the path indicated by the arrow A and discharges the food products into the cubing station 22.

As best shown in FIG. 6, each hamburger patty or like food product 151 enters the cubing station 22 in approximate alignment with the bight between the two sets of rotating disc knives 71 and 111. The continuous rotational movement of the two sets of knives, driven by the shafts 53 and 101, advances the food patty 151 and drives the food patty outwardly of the rotating knives onto the stripper belts 81 of the lower knife assembly 51. Each food patty 151 is engaged by a number of the knife teeth 74 and 114, as it passes between the rotating knives 71 and 111. Thus, as the patty 151 leaves the space between the rotating disc knives, a multiplicity of perforations 152 are formed in the patty. With the preferred adjustment of the cubing and perforating machine 20, as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 6, each of the perforations 152 extends completely through the patty, as most clearly shown in FIGS. 11 and 12.

The stripper belts 81 of the lower knife assembly '51 constitute an intermediate conveyor means for the food patties. Thus, each food patty 151 advances along the upper surface of the stripper belts 81 and is discharged onto the output conveyor belt 41 as indicated by the food patty 151A in FIG. 6. The output conveyor means 23, and particularly the output conveyor belt 41, continues the movement of the patties as indicated by the arrow A, to a point of discharge from the cuberperforator 20.

For effective and efficient operation of the Cuberperforator 20, the speed of the stripper belts 81 must be carefully regulated with respect to the peripheral speed of the teeth 74 of the disc knives 71. If the stripper belts 81 operate at a substantially higher or lower speed than the peripheral speed of the knife teeth 74, substantial tearing or other deterioration of the hamburger patties 151 is likely to occur. Thus, if the stripper belts 81 move at a speed substantially below the peripheral speed of the knife teeth 74, the leading edges of the hamburger patties or similar food products 151 tend to turn under or buckle" on the stripper belts, producing patties that are subsequently frozen in other than the desired flat condition. On the other hand, if the stripper belts 81 operate at a speed substantially in excess of the peripheral speed of the knife teeth 74, the food products may be substantially stretched in the direction of the path of movement through the machine and may even be torn apart in some instances.

With the deep penetration afforded by the teeth 74 and 114 of the knives 7] and 111, there is substantial tendency for the food patties to hang up on the teeth of either the knives 111 or the knives 71. Consequently, the upper stripper belts 116 are necessary; IL may also be desirable, though not essential, to maintain the speed of the stripper belts 116 approximately equf to the peripheral speed of the knife teeth.

If the food product 151 starts to hang up on the teeth of either the lower knives 71 or the upper knives 111, it is stripped cleanly from the knives by the stripper belts and is impelled onwardly of the cubing station along the belts 81. The operating speed 01 zhe input conveyor belt 131 may also be maintained approximately equal to the peripheral speed of the knife teeth, so that the perforated food products are discharged from the cubing station 22 at approximately the same speed as they enter the cuber-perforator 20. Furthermore, the output conveyor 41 is preferably maintained at an operating speed approximately equal to the peripheral knife speed, so that the flow of food products through the machine 20 is maintained uninterrupted and the possibility of piling up or of damage to the food products is minimized.

As most clearly indicated in FIGS. 7 and 10, the stripper belts of the upper and lower knife assemblies preferably comprise O-rings formed of synthetic elastomer material; each O-ring has a diameter sufficient to engage the surfaces of both of the knives between which the stripper belt is positioned. This construction assures a clean stripping action, effectively avoiding any accumulation of food particles on the knives and assuring the retention of structural integrity with respect to the food products being processed. The slip rings 82 upon which the lower stripper belts are supported as they encircle the lower knife shaft allow for a substantial speed differential in the rotational speed of the slip rings and their shafts, thus permitting effective operation of the stripper belts at speeds matched to the peripheral speed of the knives. A similar construction can be used in the upper knife assembly.

An exact speed match is not essential, although a relatively close correspondence is the speeds of the strip per belts and knife peripheries should be maintained. For example, in one commercial embodiment of the cuber-perforator 20, the peripheral speed for the knives 71 and 111 is 8.64 inches per minute per 1.35 revolutions of the motor output shaft 66 (FIG. 4), and the speed of the stripper belts 81 and 116 is 8.83 inches per minute per 1.35 revolutions of shaft 66. In this same machine, the speed of the input conveyor belt 31 is 8.43 inches per minute per 1.35 revolutions of shaft 66 and the speed of the output conveyor belt 41 is 8.96 inches per minute per 1.35 revolutions of shaft 66. The total overall variation is thus less than 7%; speed variations up to about 10% do not adversely affect the operation of the machine. The speeds are stated in terms of revolutions of shaft 66 because it may be necessary to speed up or slow down the operation of machine 20 to match the requirements of other equipment in a proeess line in which the machine is incorporated; preferably, a stepless control 154 motor is used for motor 24.

For frozen hamburgers and similar food products, the provision of perforations 152 extending entirely through each hamburger 151 (FIG. 11 and 12) is highly desirable. The through perforations 152 allow the circulation of heat directly through the interior of the patty, and afford a marked and important reduction in cooking time, particularly important when the patties are used in high-volume outlets. For example, a reduction of 1.5 minutes from a prior 5.5 minute cooking cycle for patties of V; inch thickness has been achieved, a reduction of over 25% in cooking time. In addition, the formation of perforations 152 extending com pletely through each food patty 151 effectively pre eludes the build-up of substantial steam pressure within the food patty while it is being cooked; the heated juices from the patties pass outwardly through the perforations and over the tops of the patties, reducing overall cooking time. The elimination of steam by the through perforations 152 also tends to preserve the desired texture and other characteristics in the cooked product. Of course, to achieve the complete penetration essential to formation of perforations 152 extending through the food patty 151, it is essential that the teeth 114 of the upper knife assembly 11] come into approximate engagement with each of the corresponding teeth 74 in the lower knife assembly, as illustrated in FIG. 6. Thus, the knives 71 and 111 must be aligned knife-for-knife and tooth-for-tooth with each other. Otherwise, the through perforations 152 will not be properly formed and the maximum benefits will not be realized from the machine 20.

For some customers, it may be necessary to provide shallow indentations instead of the through perforations 152 that are afforded when the machine 20 is operated in the preferred manner. To reduce the depth of the indentations in the food patties, the position of the upper knife assembly 52 can be adjusted, elevating the upper knife assembly slightly so that the teeth of the two sets of rotary knives do not quite come together. This adjustment can be accomplished over a relatively wide range, up to and including positioning of the upper knife assembly 52 at a level at which only light scoring ofthe food product is accomplished. lf continuous lines of scoring are desired, the knives can be replaced by continuous-rim discs to afford the desired effect. Of course, the number of perforations 152 in any patty, using toothed knives as shown, is determined by the number and shape of the knife teeth.

As noted above, a cuberperforator may be incorporated in a processing line employed in the production of a variety of different products. Variation in thickness of the food patties, steaks, or other food produces does not require any change in the set-up or adjustment of machine 20. A cuber-perforator 20 can process food products ranging from a thickness of less than oneeighth inch up to at least three-fourths inch without requiring any adjustment. The lateral dimensions of the food patties (e.g., diameter) do not affect operation of the machine in any way. Distribution of the food patties on the input conveyor is also immaterial with respect to operation of the machine, as previously noted. Indeed, a cuber-perforator 20 can be left in the processing line even for food products on which no cubing, scoring, or perforating operation is to be performed. For such product, the upper knife assembly 52 is simply elevated to the inspection position shown in FIG. 1. For this arrangement, food products ride upwardly over the lower knives 71 and on to the stripper belts 81 and pass through the machine without modification. The large number and close spacing of the knives 71 preclude any substantial cutting or marking of the food products when the upper knife assembly is elevated to a position clear of the food products passing through the cuber station 22.

The cuber-perforator 20 is well suited to the high volume demands of modern production facilities for hamburger patties and other molded food products. Thus, in a given installation, the hamburger patties 151 may pass through the machine 20 in rows of six across the machine, at a rate of as many as ninety to one hundred rows per minute, affording a capacity of 36,000 food patties per hour. Changeover time requirements are minimized, and cleaning is simple and convenient at all time.

We claim:

1. A cuber-perforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks, and similar food products comprising:

input conveyor means for conveying food patties along a given path projecting into a cubing station;

a first knife assembly for perforating patties, said knife assembly being positioned adjacent one side of the path at the cubing station, and including a plurality of multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending in closely spaced array across the path;

a second knife assembly for perforating patties, said second knife assembly being positioned adjacent the opposite side of the path at the cubing station, and. including a corresponding plurality of matching multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending across the path and aligned approximately co-planar knife-for-knife and in registry tooth-for'tooth with the knives of the first assembly, so that the patties passing therethrough will be penetrated by the teeth of each knife assembly;

stripper means for said first knife assembly, comprising a plurality of stripper belts interleaved with the rotary knives of said first assembly and extending along the path outwardly of the cubing station, for stripping patties and food particles from the knives and for conveying the food patties through said first knife assembly;

and drive means, connected to both knife assemblies and to the stripper belts, for rotating the knives of both assemblies at a given peripheral speed to cut multiple perforations in each patty passing through the cubing station, and for driving the stripper belts at a speed approximately equal to the peripheral knife speed to strip the patties from the knives and to preclude tearing of the patties.

2. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1 in which the drive means is also connected to the input conveyor means and drives the input conveyor means at a speed approximately equal to the peripheral knife speed.

3. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1 and further comprising an output conveyor positioned to re eeive patties from the intermediate conveyor, the output conveyor being connected to the drive means and driven at a speed approximately equal to the peripheral knife speed.

4. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1, in which the first knife assembly is positioned below the second knife assembly, and in which at least the first knife assembly includes stripper belts driven at a speed approximately equal to the peripheral speed of the knives.

5. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1, in which the outer ends of the teeth on the rotary knives of the two knife assemblies come into approximate engagement with each other to form perforations extending completely through each patty.

6. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1 in which each stripper belt is an elongated O-ring of generally circular cross-sectional configuration, having a diameter sufficient to engage the surfaces of two adjacent knives in a wiping self-cleaning action.

7. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1 in which said first knife assembly includes a knife shaft to which the knife discs of said first knife assembly are all affixed for rotation therewith, in which said first knife assembly includes a plurality of slip rings journalled on said knife shaft for rotation relative thereto, one slip ring between each adjacent pair of knives. the outer diameter of the slip rings being smaller than the outer diameter of the knives, and further comprising a belt drive shaft parallel to but displaced from the knife shaft, each stripper belt of said first knife assembly passing around one of the slip rings and around the belt drive shaft.

8. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1, and further comprising means for adjusting the positions of the two knife assemblies, relative to each other, from a normal perforation operating position, in which the knife teeth of one knife assembly pass in approximate engagement with the knife teeth of the other knife assembly to form perforations extending completely through each patty, to a series of cubing positions, in which the knife teeth are separated by varying distances to form indentations terminating short of complete perforation through the patties.

9. A cuber-perforator for hamburger patties, pressed steaks. and similar food products comprising:

input conveyor means for conveying food patties along a given path projecting into a cubing station;

a first knife assembly for perforating patties, said first knife assembly being positioned adjacent one side of the path at the cubing station, and including a plurality of multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending in closely-spaced array across the path;

a second knife assembly for perforating patties, said second knife assembly being positioned adjacent the opposite side of the path at the cubing station, and including a corresponding plurality of match ing multi-tooth rotary disc knives extending across the path and aligned approximately co-planar knife-for-knife and in registry tooth-for-tooth with the knives of the first assembly, so that patties passing there-through will be penetrated by the teeth of each knife assembly; stripper means for the first knife assembly, for stripping patties and food particles from the knives and for conveying the food patties through the first knife assembly; drive means, connected to both knife assemblies, for

rotating the knives of both assemblies at equal peripheral speeds to cut multiple aligned and registered indentations in each patty passing through the cubing station; and means for adjusting the first and second knife assemblies, relative to each other, from a normal perforation position in which the knife teeth of the two l5 assemblies pass in approximate engagement to form perforations extending through each patty, to a cubing position in which the knife teeth of the two assemblies are separated by a substantial dis- 0 tance to form shallow indentations in the patties.

10. A cuber-perforator according to claim 9, and further comprising:

stripper means for the second knife assembly, for stripping patties and food particles from the knives of the second knife assembly,

each of said stripper means comprising a plurality of stripper belts interleaved one-for-one with the rotary knives of the knife assembly with which the stripper means is associated and extending along said path outwardly of said cubing station,

each stripper belt being an elongated ()-ring of generally circular cross-sectional configuration, having a diameter sufficient to engage the surfaces of two adjacent knives in a wiping. self-cleaning action.

11. A cuber-perforator according to claim 1, and further comprising:

second stripper means for the second knife assembly, for stripping patties and food particles from the knives of the second knife assembly, said second stripper means comprising a plurality of stripper belts interleaved one-for-one with the rotary knives of said second knife assembly and extending along said path outwardly of said cubing station, said drive means further driving the stripper belts of said second stripper means at a speed approximately equal to said peripheral knife speed.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4525896 *Jul 11, 1983Jul 2, 1985Geo. A. Hormel & CompanyPork shoulder or ham slasher apparatus
US5732616 *Nov 5, 1996Mar 31, 1998Bryan; Dick D.Device for separating moist, fatty ground meat
US5779432 *Jun 18, 1997Jul 14, 1998Sam Hausman Meat Packer, Inc.Compact product stacker
US6052969 *Feb 20, 1998Apr 25, 2000F. R. DrakePatty loader and method
US6190711 *Jul 19, 1999Feb 20, 2001William P. LenzPackaged cooked ground meat products and methods of making the same
Classifications
U.S. Classification452/142
International ClassificationA22C9/00
Cooperative ClassificationA22C7/0076, A22C9/008
European ClassificationA22C9/00F
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Nov 9, 1987AS02Assignment of assignor's interest
Owner name: ALFA-LAVAL AB, TUMBA, SWEDEN, A CORP. OF SWEDEN
Owner name: FORMAX, INC.,
Effective date: 19870721
Nov 9, 1987ASAssignment
Owner name: ALFA-LAVAL AB, TUMBA, SWEDEN, A CORP. OF SWEDEN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST.;ASSIGNOR:FORMAX, INC.,;REEL/FRAME:004811/0594
Effective date: 19870721