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Número de publicaciónUS20130064943 A1
Tipo de publicaciónSolicitud
Número de solicitudUS 13/674,384
Fecha de publicación14 Mar 2013
Fecha de presentación12 Nov 2012
Fecha de prioridad8 May 2006
También publicado comoUS8335587, US20070262081
Número de publicación13674384, 674384, US 2013/0064943 A1, US 2013/064943 A1, US 20130064943 A1, US 20130064943A1, US 2013064943 A1, US 2013064943A1, US-A1-20130064943, US-A1-2013064943, US2013/0064943A1, US2013/064943A1, US20130064943 A1, US20130064943A1, US2013064943 A1, US2013064943A1
InventoresAnthony V. Feola
Cesionario originalAnthony V. Feola
Exportar citaBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
Enlaces externos: USPTO, Cesión de USPTO, Espacenet
Frozen confection machine
US 20130064943 A1
Resumen
An operator interface including an indicator of at least one edible item for selection is included, the operator interface is in communication with the programmable controller. A dispensing system in communication the operator interface is included, the dispensing system includes at least one nozzle operable to dispense at least one flowable edible product, the at least one nozzle being operable to penetrate the least one edible item. The programmable controller is operable to associate the at least one edible item with the least one flowable edible product. The dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the selected edible item from the at least one nozzle when the at least one edible item is selected.
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Reclamaciones(20)
1. A flowable edible product dispensing apparatus, comprising:
a programmable controller;
an operator interface including an indicator of at least one edible item for selection, the operator interface in communication with the programmable controller;
a dispensing system in communication the operator interface, the dispensing system including at least one nozzle operable to dispense at least one flowable edible product, the at least one nozzle being operable to penetrate the least one edible item;
the programmable controller being operable to associate the at least one edible item with the least one flowable edible product; and
the dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the selected edible item from the at least one nozzle when the at least one edible item is selected.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, further including a refrigeration unit disposed within the housing and in communication with the programmable controller, the refrigeration unit storing the at least one flowable edible product.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, further including a mixing system in communication the programmable controller.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising an electronic sensor proximate the at least one nozzle, and wherein when the electric sensor is activated, the at least one flowable edible product associated with the selected edible item is dispensed.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the indicator includes an image of the at least one edible items.
6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the operator interface includes a wireless transmitter for communicating with the dispensing apparatus.
7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the nozzle includes a plunger, and wherein when the at least one edible item is selected from the operator interface and wherein flowable edible product is dispensed from the plunger.
8. The apparatus of claim 1, further including an operating condition during which the at least one flowable edible product is dispensable and a standby condition in which the at least one flowable edible product is not dispensable.
9. The apparatus of claim 8, further including a mixing system in communication the programmable controller, and wherein when the dispensing system is in the standby condition, the mixing system is in an off state.
10. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein during the operating condition the dispensing system includes a first preset temperature at which the at least one flowable edible product is dispensed and wherein during the standby condition the dispensing system includes a second preset temperature higher than the first preset temperature.
11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein when the at least one edible item is selected, the dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the selected edible item out from the at least one nozzle into a portion of the at least one edible item.
12. A method of preparing a flowable edible product, comprising:
presenting a visual indicator on a display;
associating the visual indicator with at least one of an edible item and an inedible item and with a flowable edible product;
selecting the visual indicator presented on the display; and
penetrating at least a portion of at least one of the edible item and the inedible item;
dispensing the flowable edible product associated with the selected visual indicator into a portion of at least one of the edible item and the inedible item.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein dispensing the flowable edible product associated with the selected visual indicator into a portion of at least one of the edible item and the inedible includes dispensing a predetermined amount of flowable edible product in response to the selecting of at least one of the plurality of visual indicators presented on the visual display.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein the predetermined amount of flowable edible product is associated with each of at least one of the edible item and the inedible item.
15. The method of claim 12, further including actuating an operator interface on the display to dispense the flowable edible product.
16. The method of claim 12, further including actuating an operator interface remote from the display to dispense the flowable edible product.
17. The method of claim 12, wherein the operator interface is in communication with an electric sensor.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein activation of the electric sensor causes the dispensing of the edible product.
19. The method of claim 12, wherein selecting at least one of the plurality of visual indicators presented on the display includes actuating a touch screen control on the display.
20. A flowable edible product dispensing apparatus, comprising:
a programmable controller;
an operator interface including a visual indicator of at least one inedible item for selection, the operator interface in communication with the programmable controller;
a dispensing system in communication the operator interface, the dispensing system including at least one nozzle operable to dispense at least one flowable edible product, the at least one nozzle being operable to penetrate the at least one inedible item;
the programmable controller being operable to associate the at least one inedible item with the least one flowable edible product; and
the dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the at least one inedible item from the at least one nozzle when the at least one inedible item is selected.
Descripción
    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • [0001]
    This application is a Continuation-in-Part of patent application Ser. No. 11/800,959, filed May 8, 2007, entitled FROZEN CONFECTION MACHINE, and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/798,638, filed May 8, 2006, entitled FROZEN CONFECTION MACHINE the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
  • [0002]
    n/a
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    The present invention relates to food processing machines and methods, and more particularly to a machine for preparing and dispensing edible frozen product and a method for making food products using the machine.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    Machines are known for processing and dispensing frozen dessert product such as soft-serve ice-cream and yogurt. Machines commonly used at retail establishments include a refrigerated chamber into which dessert mix is fed or pumped from a bucket or hopper. Blades or beaters churn the dessert mix to a desired consistency and the dessert mix is dispensed from a gravity-fed, manually-operated tap and allowed to flow into an open top cup or cone.
  • [0005]
    A different type of machine is disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,957,040, 5,400,614; 5,957,040; 6,325,250; 6,485,768; and 6,723,361, all incorporated by reference, wherein an injection system is provided for extruding a selectable, predetermined volume of dessert mix. Further, the disclosed machine includes an injection nozzle that permits the dessert mix to be deposited within or injected into other than open containers or cones, such as into baked goods or other edible items.
  • [0006]
    Although the above referenced machines represent a significant departure from the known soft-serve ice-cream machines, they, like their predecessors, can be tedious and potentially unsanitary to operate and to clean. More specifically, known ice-cream machines must be very carefully cleaned as they process easily spoiled dairy products. Because known machines cannot retain usable dessert mix for an extended inactive period, not only does this waste dessert mix, but the known manual cleaning techniques are often incompletely or improperly performed by workers at the end of their shift. Further, refilling and restarting the machine can be tedious; and often the first batches of product produced are inconsistent and substandard in quality.
  • [0007]
    In view of these and other deficiencies of known machines, it would be desirable to reduce the frequency of filling, emptying and cleaning the machines; and when these procedure are accomplished, it would be preferable from a safety and quality standpoint to automate these procedures to the greatest extent possible. Further, it would be desirable to preserve dessert mix during extended inactive periods of operation.
  • [0008]
    Yet another shortcoming of existing machines is the inability to accurately dispense no more or less than a predetermined confection amount for a wide range of products. Further, existing machines do not provide usage and production detail that would be helpful in inventory controls, determination of shrinkage, and cost or royalty accounting.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0009]
    The present invention provides for a flowable edible product dispensing apparatus. The apparatus includes a programmable controller. An operator interface including an indicator of at least one edible item for selection is included, the operator interface is in communication with the programmable controller. A dispensing system in communication the operator interface is included, the dispensing system includes at least one nozzle operable to dispense at least one flowable edible product, the at least one nozzle being operable to penetrate the least one edible item. The programmable controller is operable to associate the at least one edible item with the least one flowable edible product. The dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the selected edible item from the at least one nozzle when the at least one edible item is selected.
  • [0010]
    In another embodiment, a method of dispensing flowable edible product includes presenting a visual indicator on a display and associating the visual indicator with at least one of an edible item and an inedible item and with a flowable edible product. The visual indicator is selected. At least a portion of at least one of the edible item and the inedible item is penetrated. The flowable edible product associated with the selected visual indicator is dispensed into a portion of at least one of the edible item and the inedible item.
  • [0011]
    In yet another embodiment, the flowable edible product dispensing apparatus includes a programmable controller. An operator interface including a visual indicator of at least one inedible item for selection is included, the operator interface is in communication with the programmable controller. A dispensing system in communication the operator interface is included, the dispensing system includes at least one nozzle operable to dispense at least one flowable edible product, the at least one nozzle being operable to penetrate the at least one inedible item. The programmable controller is operable to associate the at least one inedible item with the least one flowable edible product. The dispensing system dispenses an amount of the at least one flowable edible product associated with the at least one inedible item from the at least one nozzle when the at least one inedible item is selected.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0012]
    A more complete understanding of the present invention, and the attendant advantages and features thereof, will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:
  • [0013]
    A more complete understanding of the present invention, and the attendant advantages and features thereof, will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:
  • [0014]
    FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0015]
    FIG. 2 depicts the interaction between the components of an embodiment of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0016]
    FIG. 3 is an additional diagram showing the interaction between the components of an embodiment of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0017]
    FIG. 4 illustrates an embodiment of an electrical system of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of a dispensing system of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 6 depicts another embodiment of a dispensing system of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 8 shows a simulated display of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 9 depicts another simulated display of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 10 illustrates an additional simulated display of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 11 shows still another simulated display of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention; and
  • [0025]
    FIG. 12 depicts another simulated display of an operator interface of a dispensing apparatus of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0026]
    The present invention provides a dispensing apparatus 10 for dispensing or injecting a flowable edible product into an item having a void or voids therein, or an item having low density suitable for receiving a flowable edible product. Such items may include pastries, baked goods, fruit, chocolate shells, as well as containers or beverage bottles. As used herein, the term “frozen edible product” is intended to encompass a cold, edible, and flowable substance such as ice cream, ice milk, yogurt, pudding, artificial edible product which generally has the consistency of “soft serve” ice cream.
  • [0027]
    Now referring to FIG. 1, an embodiment of a frozen edible product dispensing machine providing controllable extrusion of a frozen edible product is shown. The machine includes a housing having front, top, and side portions. An outlet port or dispensing system 12 is located at the front of the machine for extruding a frozen edible product. The dispensing apparatus 10 may include one or more substantially identical yet independently operated dispensing outputs. The machine of the present invention generally includes an electrical system 14, an operator interface 16, a refrigeration system, a product preparation system, and the dispensing system 12. The electrical system of the apparatus 10 has a control circuit that is programmable via the operator interface disposed on the machine operator interface allows an operator to control extrusion of the frozen edible product.
  • [0028]
    Now referring to FIGS. 2-3, an exemplary block diagram of the electrical system providing control over various machine components is depicted. The electrical system may generally include a series of electrical components in communication with each other to power and/or control one or more of the various other components of the dispensing apparatus 10. For example, now referring to FIG. 4, the electrical system may include a power circuit breaker that protects the electrical components of the apparatus 10 in general. A control circuit breaker may be provided to protect the power supplies and transformers of the apparatus 10. The electrical system may also include a control power circuit breaker for protecting one or more compressors of the apparatus 10, as well as a current transformer for collecting the amperage or load of the beater motor (discussed below). The current transformer output may be connected to an analog input module of a programmable logic control (PLC) within the apparatus 10, where the PLC may include a power supply such as a battery, as well as electronic storage medium. The electrical system of the present invention may further include a DC power supply for powering the components and systems of the apparatus 10. One or more input and/or output cards may be provided for relaying and/or providing signals to the PLC, such as the output from current transformers and the like. The electrical system may include one or more transformers coupled to a hot gas valve controller, as well as a contactor for a compressor motor and a starter for a beater motor for controlling the power thereto.
  • [0029]
    In addition, the electrical system may include a communication card or device that allows the apparatus 10 to both send and receive electrical signals across a network either through a fixed medium or wirelessly, as well as a data storage device including electrical, magnetic, and/or optical storage devices and medium. For example, the apparatus 10 may include an ethernet card and/or wireless transceiver coupled to the PLC for communication therewith. The electrical system may be coupled to an optical sensor or other proximity activation element for initiating an extrusion cycle, as described below. Alternatively, a foot pedal or other suitable actuating mechanism may be integrated to initiate dispensing or injection of the edible product.
  • [0030]
    The refrigeration system may generally include a pressure switch, cooling coils, a compressor, a hot gas mixing valve and a water pressure regulator. In the event a portion of the refrigeration system exceeds a predetermined or desired temperature, gas pressure may increase and thereby damage components of the apparatus 10. To prevent such an event, the pressure switch may convey an indication of the temperature and/or pressure to the PLC, which may subsequently initiate a shut-down of one or more processes of the apparatus 10, which may further include a visual indicator on the operator interface. The cooling coils may be integrated to cool hot gas created by the compressor, where the compressor may be operated to cool one or more chambers storing or containing the frozen edible product. The hot gas mixing valve may control or otherwise monitor the flow of gas through the apparatus 10, while the water pressure regulator may provide water flow through a portion of the system in proportion to the temperature and/or current operating parameters of the apparatus 10. In particular, the hot gas valve may be controlled by an electronic circuit board in communication with the PLC and/or an analog input/output card. The beater motor amperage may be monitored as the input parameter for regulating the hot gas valve position. As hot gas is required to warm the product chamber, the PLC may signal the circuit board to open or close the hot gas valve to maintain a predetermined or preset amperage of the beater motor. By regulating the temperature of the chamber based on the amperage or operating condition of the beater motor, the frozen product is more likely to have a consistent texture and temperature, thereby ensuring repeatable quality of the product. Typical machines of the prior art often rely on a chiller or compressor to turn on and off at a particular time, where such timed operation decays as the system ages and result in inconsistent product conditions.
  • [0031]
    In addition, the refrigeration system may further include a mix chamber for mixing and/or otherwise processing a frozen edible product mixture into the desired state, where the mix chamber may be coupled to a thermostat, a mix chamber compressor, a mix chamber condenser, as well as a standby thermostat. The mix chamber thermostat may monitor and/or maintain the mix chamber temperature at or below a predetermined threshold at which the frozen edible product may be dispensed, while the mix chamber compressor provides the cold air that chills or otherwise provides for a desired temperature of the mix chamber. In addition, the mix chamber condenser allows heated gasses created by the compressor to cool and run back into the compressor for subsequent cooling of the mix chamber. The standby thermostat may activate a chilling cycle when the apparatus 10 is placed in a standby mode. For example, once the mix chamber reaches a predetermined threshold, the thermostat may signal the PLC to activate the compressor until a particular temperature is reached, upon which the operation of the compressor will cease until needed again.
  • [0032]
    The product preparation system of the apparatus 10 of the present invention may generally include a mixing pump, a mixing pressure switch, a beater motor, a mixing pump motor, one or more pulleys and belts, and one or more level probes. The apparatus 10 is capable of dispensing soft-serve ice cream into open containers or can inject a frozen edible product, such as hard ice cream, into an edible item. The mix pump may generally pump a liquid product used in preparation of the frozen edible product into a refrigeration chamber or mix chamber. When the mix pump has filled the chamber receiving the liquid product, the flow of the liquid product may activate a switch in the holding or mixing chamber, where the switch is activated at a predetermined pressure level to send a signal to the PLC, which subsequently discontinues pumping once the chamber has been filled to a particular level. The beater motor may be mechanically connected to a gearbox by the one or more pulleys or other similar mechanical coupling, where the gearbox is further coupled to a beater bar unit inside the product chamber. The motor causes the stiffing of the bar while the liquid product is being chilled. To obtain a particular temperature and/or consistency of the frozen edible product being prepared in the mix chamber, the output or speed at which the beater motor is operating may be used as in indication or measure of the consistency and/or readiness of the product to be dispensed. Upon appropriate freezing of the product and/or once the product reaches a desirable temperature for dispensing, it may be moved towards a portion of the chamber predisposed for dispensing. The level probes of the product preparation system may indicate when the mixing container has reached a low level, which may also be used to initiate a filling sequence by which additional liquid product is moved to the mixing container.
  • [0033]
    Now referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, the dispensing system of the apparatus 10 may generally include a chamber manifold, a chamber purge valve, a chamber air cylinder, a nozzle air cylinder, a nozzle solenoid valve, and a chamber solenoid valve. The chamber manifold may generally define a block or housing containing one or more dispensing control components and/or cavities therein. Within at least a portion of the manifold, a passage may be provided to allow any air built up during the dispensing process to be evacuated. The purge valve may allow the operator to remove the air by actuating the plunger to allow the air to exit the bottom of the manifold. Timely evacuation of excess air build-up may provide an increased consistency with which product is dispensed. The purge valve may be automatically controlled by the control circuit such that air is released routinely according to a preset timing schedule, which may further ensure the consistency and desired state of the frozen edible product. The chamber air cylinder opens and closes the plunger of the manifold to allow frozen edible product to proceed to the nozzle plunger. The nozzle solenoid valve may include an electro-pneumatic valve controlled by the PLC. For example, the valve may be actuated such that air is switched into the nozzle air cylinder to open or close the nozzle plunger. The chamber solenoid valve may also include an electro-pneumatic valve controllable in part by the PLC. When this valve is actuated, air may be switched in the chamber air cylinder to open or close the chamber plunger. The plungers may include o-rings or the like to adequately seal the movement of the plunger in its respective passage. When dispensing is desired, the nozzle plunger retracts then extends, thereby injecting or dispensing the frozen product.
  • [0034]
    Now referring to FIG. 7, the operator interface is coupled to the electrical system to provide a means for an operator to input parameters for controlling operation of the machine. The operator interface of the dispensing apparatus 10 may generally include a visual display, such as a touch screen LCD or the like, and may generally include controls to start, stop and/or pause the machine or any individual component thereof. The visual display may be coupled to or otherwise include a memory component for storing programmed images, menus, and/or other operating functions. The operator interface may further include an optical or proximity sensor for initiating the dispensing or injecting process of the apparatus 10, as described above. The operator interface can provide additional information such as temperature of the frozen edible product via a digital readout. The operator interface unit can be located on or in the machine or at a remote location. The operator interface can be directly connected to the electrical system or can transmit signals to be received by the electrical system, i.e. “wireless”. In one embodiment, the operator interface unit is located on a top portion of the machine and the electrical system is contained within the housing of the apparatus 10. The electrical system is coupled to the operator interface to receive and store the various control parameters input by an operator. The electrical system can implement the desired control using discrete components, timer integrated circuits, processors and/or programmable devices, as described above. The operator interface and/or electrical system may include one or more security measures to restrict tampering of preset parameters to authorized individuals only.
  • [0035]
    The operator interface 16 may include programmed procedures, protocols and/or other operating parameters to ease use of the apparatus 10, as well as to remove the likelihood for operator error or inconsistencies which could lead to substandard product preparation. For example, the operator interface may include automatic, preset procedures for initial apparatus 10 startup, product dispensing, apparatus 10 cleaning cycles, and/or hibernation or “overnight” modes by which the apparatus 10 may operate, as illustrated in the simulated visual displays of FIGS. 8-12. Typical dispensing machines of the prior art included various steps that were manually required for the proper preparation, dispensing, and even cleaning of a particular machine. For example, to prepare the mix into a desired frozen state, perhaps a particular temperature had to be reached, while airflow and hot gas were manually controlled at particular instances by an operator, i.e., “bleed excess air,” “then turn on compressor,” “wait approximately two minutes, then turn on pump,” etc. The outcome of such procedures could widely vary depending on how accurate the operator is in following them, and the likelihood for errors and/or inconsistencies is very high. With the apparatus 10 of the present invention, the various events and components needed to be activated, and any timing schedule for doing so, may be predetermined and programmed into the electrical system. For example, once the optimal parameters for a particular operation are determined, i.e., initial product preparation, the memory of the PLC may be programmed with the desired routine to provide the optimal result, in this case being the preparation of a product having consistent, repeatable qualities and characteristics. As such, the chance that operator error or inaccuracies will affect the product output is virtually eliminated. The apparatus 10 of the present invention may include a display on the operator interface that allows for a one-touch or single action initiation of the product preparation procedure, and may further include a visible indication of when the product has been prepared and is thus ready for dispensing. Moreover, the apparatus 10 may have plurality of production protocols or profiles for variations in mix types. For example, particular flavors or types of mixes may have different optimal preparation parameters as far as temperature, beater speed, duration, etc. The apparatus 10 may include these varying profiles such that an operator need only identify the particular mix being used before initiating a production sequence.
  • [0036]
    In addition to inconsistencies in product preparation, previous dispensing machines would also vary widely in the actual amount of product dispensed, as the dispensing was typically controlled manually by an operator, i.e., by pulling a lever or the like. As a result, the actual amount or volume of dispensed product could be directly affected by the operator. The apparatus 10 of the present invention may include nozzles and/or plungers as described above that are either electrically or pneumatically controlled to travel a preset distance, thereby dispensing a uniform and accurate volume or amount of product. Moreover, the operator interface may include a menu of items, where each of the items available for use with the dispensing apparatus 10 have a predetermined, preset amount or volume of dispensed product associated with them. For example, the operator interface may include a display for an LCD or touch screen having a plurality of available edible products illustrated, where each of the available product has a predetermined volume or amount of frozen product associated with it. The preset, predetermined frozen edible product amounts correlating to a particular edible product for use with the apparatus 10 may be stored in the memory of the PLC. Moreover, the preset volume or amount of frozen edible product may further include parameters for operating the nozzles and/or plungers of the apparatus 10 to actually dispense the predetermined amount. For example, upon selecting a desired product from the menu, the PLC may then convey a signal to the nozzles and/or plungers to move a preset distance and/or to dispense for a preset amount of time, thereby providing a consistent, desired volume time and time again for a given product.
  • [0037]
    For cleaning of a particular dispensing machine, a protocol or procedure having various manual steps may typically be required. For example, instructions for cleaning may include such steps of “turn off refrigeration,” “replace mix container with water or cleaning solution,” “cycle nozzles/plungers until water exits nozzles,” etc. Similar to the product preparation stage, the efficacy and/or thoroughness of a particular cleaning cycle may vary widely depending on the accuracy of an operator to follow the instructions and complete each step as described. With respect to the present apparatus 10, the particular parameters and/or settings with which the components of the apparatus 10 should operate to properly and thoroughly clean the apparatus 10 may be preprogrammed and/or saved in the memory of the PLC. As such, an operator need only actuate a cleaning cycle via the operator interface, which may simply include a single button on the touch screen. Once actuated, the preset program may run, i.e., refrigeration may be deactivated, the nozzles and/or plungers may be cycled to dispense unused frozen product for a predetermined period of time, the beater motor may be deactivated, etc. As a result, an optimal, predictable and repeatable cleaning procedure may be easily performed, regardless of operator efficiency or skill.
  • [0038]
    The dispensing apparatus 10 may further include a standby mode in which it is not necessary for the machine to have frozen product ready for dispensing for a prolonged period of time (i.e., overnight, days when store is closed, etc.). In this standby or hibernation mode, the beater motor may be deactivated so that any mix in the mixing container is not being agitated. Moreover, the refrigeration system may be set to a temperature higher than that of normal operating conditions when frozen edible product is being made, but remaining low enough that the ingredients in the apparatus 10 do not risk being spoiled or contaminated due to warmth. As such, the apparatus 10 may remain in this standby mode for a prolonged duration without the need to clean the machine and without spoiling or contamination. In addition, by modifying the temperature requirements and ceasing operation of the beater motor, the apparatus 10 will thereby consume less energy and/or water compared to when the apparatus 10 is in normal operation. Once normal operation of the apparatus 10 is again desired, the apparatus 10 may simply purge the cooled ingredients and draw fresh mix into the mixing container for preparation of a fresh batch of frozen edible product. Subsequently, the refrigeration system may once again lower the temperature to an appropriate production level, and the beating motor will be activated as well. The standby mode allows the apparatus 10 to reach production quicker than would otherwise be possible if the apparatus 10 was simply shut down completely, which would also necessitate cleaning and therefore involve a longer downtime.
  • [0039]
    The operator interface may further include visible indicators of the status and/or condition of the various operating parameters of the apparatus 10, including data regarding time of use, product temperature, mix levels, and/or diagnostic information regarding particular components of the apparatus 10. For example, the operator interface may include a beater status display listing the rpm or amperage of the beater motor, as well as the setpoints or targets at which the beater and/or motor should operate. In addition, should a particular component of the apparatus 10 being operating outside of a predetermined parameter or range, or cease to operate at all, the operator interface may provide a visual signal or indication of a system malfunction or error.
  • [0040]
    During typical use, frozen product may proceed from the mixing chamber to the manifold chambers until dispensing is commenced. An operator may select a desired product from the menu shown on the operator interface. Upon selection of the desired item, the apparatus 10 may correlate the selection to a predetermined volume or amount of frozen edible product to be dispensed, and the PLC may convey appropriate control signals to the components of the apparatus 10 to in preparation of dispensing the predetermined amount. Once dispensing is desired, the operator may actuate the optical or proximity sensor. The PLC and/or electrical system detects activation of the sensor and causes nozzles and/or plungers to be energized for a predetermined amount of time or to travel a preset distance, where the time and/or distance corresponds to a selected volume of frozen edible product to be extruded from the machine. In a single-stroke embodiment, the nozzle plunger retracts than extends, thereby dispensing the predetermined amount of frozen product associated with the selected item out of the nozzle. The nozzle plunger may be actuated pneumatically or electrically, and may include a tapered or bullet-nose shaped tip to ease the piercing of certain edible products. In a two-stroke embodiment of a dispensing apparatus 10, horizontal and vertical plungers may be pneumatically or electrically retracted for a specific, predetermined amount of time, thereby setting a specific amount of frozen product to be dispensed. During and/or after activation of the plungers, the PLC may energize the mix pump to cause mix to flow from the mix receptacle to the mixing chamber to replace the dispensed amount of frozen product.
  • [0041]
    Throughout the use of the apparatus 10, various information regarding the time of use, quantities distributed, particular status of the various components, and the like of the apparatus 10 may be recorded and stored in the memory of the apparatus 10, and may further be transmitted via the communication device to a central clearinghouse and/or corporate entity for review and analysis. In addition, the trends and indicated uses of the apparatus 10 may be used in establishing a supply schedule or the like for optimal incorporation and use of the apparatus 10 for a particular business.
  • [0042]
    In addition to the above embodiments, the dispensing apparatus 10 may further be used to dispense flowable edible products, such as sodas, fresh or frozen yogurts, smoothies, or other foods into, on, or within inedible items such as plastic or paper cups, plastic containers, such as bottles, glass containers, or other items sized to receive a portion of the flowable product. For example, using the methodology and apparatus discussed above, yogurt may be dispensed, deposited or injected into a cup for consumption. The amount of edible product deposited within or on the inedible product may be predetermined as discussed above or may be manually determined by the operator. For example, a lever may be manually operated by the operator to dispense an amount of yogurt into a cup, or alternatively, actuating the operator interface may dispense either a predetermined amount of yogurt or an operator specified amount of yogurt into a cup depending upon the order from the customer. If an edible product such as an ice cream cone is selected, the nozzles of dispensing apparatus may penetrate the air space within the cone to deposit or inject the flowable edible product within the interior of the cone or a cup in an inedible product is selected.
  • [0043]
    The operator interface 16 may further display one or more inedible item images, for example, a container such as a cup or bottle, with one or more volumes of each. For example, 6 oz or 16 oz cup may be displayed and selected by the user for the flowable edible product to be dispensed into. Optionally, the operator interface may include both visual and audio indicators of edible and inedible items to be selected. For example, the operator interface may include a speaker which audibly identifies which products, edible or inedible are available for selection. Additionally, operators may selection items for selection by speaking the particular edible or inedible item for selection. For example, the operator may state “cone” and “strawberry yogurt” for selection whereby the dispensing apparatus may dispense a predetermined or operator selection amount of strawberry yogurt into the cone.
  • [0044]
    Optionally, the operator interface may be in communication with the programmable controller through a wireless remote controller with a wireless transmitter for communication with the programmable controller. For example, the operator interface on the remote control may include indicators such as numbers, images, or other indicators on a display on the remote control, which may include a keypad with push buttons or touch screen activators. The same display may also be included on the display of the dispensing apparatus, which indicates a particular edible and inedible item for selection. When a particular edible or inedible item is selected, the remote controller signals the dispensing apparatus to dispense a predetermined amount flowable product into the selected edible and/or inedible item.
  • [0045]
    It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited to what has been particularly shown and described herein above. In addition, unless mention was made above to the contrary, it should be noted that all of the accompanying drawings are not to scale. A variety of modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, which is limited only by the following claims.
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US20160262422 *13 Mar 201515 Sep 2016Steak 'n Shake Enterprises, Inc.Product-characterization-based food product mixing
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Clasificaciones
Clasificación de EE.UU.426/281, 222/146.6, 222/192
Clasificación internacionalB65B3/26
Clasificación cooperativaA23G9/22, A23G9/50, A23G9/08