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Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PREPARING FOOD MIXTURES USING ULTRASOUNDS BEFORE 3D PRINTING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/186815
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing mixtures of food ingredient includes at least one power ultrasound system with at least one ultrasound source able to produce cavitation in an ingredient mixture contained in a food container, and controlled by a computer and a computer program. A method carried out by the apparatus provides mechanical agitation of fat-based mixtures so they can achieve a homogeneous heat transfer, and homogenizes and/or stabilizes ingredients using other liquid phase including but not limited to water-based mixtures, so as to be flowable (that is, having the correct consistency) and sufficiently stable (that is, remaining in a uniform mixture.

Inventors:
HURTADO, Sonia (C/ Duran i Bas 1, 1-2, Barcelona, Barcelona, ES)
DELGADO, Victor (C/ Duran i Bas 1, 1-2, Barcelona, Barcelona, ES)
SEPULVEDA, Emilio (C/ Duran i Bas 1, 1-2, Barcelona, Barcelona, ES)
Application Number:
US2016/030374
Publication Date:
November 24, 2016
Filing Date:
May 02, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NATURAL MACHINES, INC. (160 Greentree Drive, Suite 101Dover, Delaware, 19904, US)
International Classes:
B01F11/02; A23G7/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2014056022A12014-04-17
WO2014190168A12014-11-27
Foreign References:
US5053141A1991-10-01
US20090052272A12009-02-26
CN203725093U2014-07-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SHAPIRO, Linda et al. (Westerman, Hattori Daniels & Adrian, LLP,1250 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 70, Washington District of Columbia, 20036, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
We claim:

1. Homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing a mixture of ingredients contained in a container, comprising:

at least one power ultrasound system including at least one ultrasound source and having a plurality of homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters controllable in response to control signals from a controller receiving instructions from a processor to produce cavitation in an ingredient mixture contained in a container, wherein the instructions are specific to the operation of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus and use as input information concerning the composition of the container and the mixture of ingredients therein, and

wherein:

the at least one ultrasound source produces a frequency or range of frequencies, the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters include the power used by the at least one ultrasound source and the frequency or range of frequencies of the ultrasounds produced by the at least one ultrasound source.

2. The homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters further include temperature inside the container and length of time a mixture is exposed to ultrasounds.

3. The homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 2, wherein the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters further include rate at which the ingredient or mixture of ingredients is fed out from the container in which the ingredient or mixture of ingredients is contained.

4. The homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 1, further comprising:

a controller for providing control signals to the homogenization and stabilizing apparatus for control of the at least one power ultrasound system.

5. Food preparation apparatus for preparing a food product, comprising: at least one food container; and

the homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 1, wherein one power ultrasound system is associated with each food container.

6. The food preparation apparatus of claim 5, wherein the container is cylindrical.

7. A method of homogenizing and stabilizing a mixture of ingredients contained in a container using the homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 5, wherein each container has a heating system associated therewith, comprising the steps of:

retrieving from a computer-readable memory information regarding a result to be achieved by the method, wherein the result is selected from one of mixing, warming, and tempering of the ingredients contained in the containers,

retrieving from the computer-readable memory information related to the food mixture, including temperature information needed to achieve the result,

using a processor to determine the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters for the ingredients in the containers;

using the controller to control each of the heating systems and each of the ultrasound systems according to the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters to achieve the result for the ingredients contained in the containers.

8. Food preparation apparatus for preparing a food product, comprising: a cooking chamber;

an additive layer manufacturing printer for printing a food product inside the cooking chamber using a plurality of food ingredients in a process defined by a set of directions, the printer including a plurality of holders each configured to have a container inserted therein for containing a single food ingredient or a mixture of food ingredients, wherein each single food ingredient or mixture of food ingredients has a plurality of ingredient parameters and properties associated therewith, the ingredient parameters including viscosity curve, density, freezing temperature, and melting temperature;

the homogenizing and stabilizing apparatus of claim 1, wherein one power ultrasound system is associated with each holder; and

programmable data processing apparatus for controlling the power ultrasound systems. 9. The food preparation apparatus of claim 8, further comprising:

a heating system associated with each container for adjusting the temperature of the ingredient or ingredient mixture contained in the container inserted in each holder, based on the ingredient parameters and properties associated respectively with the ingredient or ingredient mixture, and the directions..

10. A method of preparing at least one mixture of food ingredients in a container for use in the food preparation apparatus of claim 9, comprising the steps of:

retrieving from a computer-readable memory information regarding a result to be achieved by the method, wherein the result is selected from one of mixing, warming, and tempering of the ingredients contained in the containers,

retrieving from the computer-readable memory information related to the food mixture, including temperature information needed to achieve the result,

using a processor to determine the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters for the ingredients in the containers;

using the controller to control each of the heating systems and each of the ultrasound systems according to the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters to achieve the result for the ingredients contained in the containers.

Description:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PREPARING FOOD MIXTURES USING ULTRASOUNDS BEFORE 3D PRINTING

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This Application is related to International Application PCT/US2014/039170, filed May 22, 2014 (International Publication No. WO2014190168A1, published November 27, 2014), the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference, in its entirety.

COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

[0002] A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of invention [0003] The present invention relates to apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing food mixtures using ultrasounds. The apparatus also permits increasing heat transfer efficiency, improving the texture properties and stability of fats, improving stabilization of food mixtures, and tempering chocolate. A method is also provided which uses ultrasound to homogenize a mixture inside its container before it is printed via an additive manufacturing 3D printing process.

2. Definitions

[0004] The following definitions and terms are used herein:

[0005] Mixture: A composition of two or more substances that are not chemically combined with each other and are capable of being separated. Homogeneous mixtures are those in which the atoms or molecules are interspersed, as in a mixture of gases or in a solution. Heterogeneous mixtures have distinguishable phases, e.g., solid particles (e.g.,. spray-died powder) in suspension on e.g., fat-based and water-based phases.

[0006] Ultrasound: mechanical waves at a frequency above the threshold of human hearing. Can be divided into three frequency ranges; high power ultrasound (16 - 100 kHz), high frequency ultrasound (100 kHz - 1 MHz) and diagnostic ultrasound (1 - 10 MHz). The basic principle of ultrasound is the formation of an acoustic pressure that acts in addition to the hydrostatic pressure in the medium.

[0007] High Power ultrasounds: Low frequency ultrasound (frequency in the range of 16-100 kHz) that generates large cavitation bubbles in a liquid, resulting in higher temperatures and pressures in the cavitation zone.

[0008] Cavitation: the formation of vapor cavities in a liquid - i.e. small liquid- cavitation-free zones ("bubbles" or "voids") - that are the consequence of cavitational forces acting upon the cavitational liquid. It usually occurs when a liquid is subjected to rapid changes of pressure that cause the formation of cavities where the pressure is relatively low.

[0009] In the context of the present invention, cavitation phenomena are the basis for reaching the desired homogenization and stabilization of food mixtures and food.

[00010] Sono-crystallization of fats is the use of ultrasound cavitation with the purpose of creating stable fat polymorphic crystals in any food mixture rich in fats. Tempering chocolate is an example of this process.

[00011] 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing is a process of making a three- dimensional object from a 3D model or other electronic data source primarily through additive processes in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.

3. Related Art

[00012] Using ultrasounds for improving the crystallization of fat mixtures in order to reach the desired texture properties of food products such as creams or butters [Review article: Ultrasound for Improved Crystallisation in Food Processing by N. S. Deora · N. N. Misra · A. Deswal Published online: 4 January 2013 Springer Science+ Business Media New York 2013].

[00013] Ultrasounds as a way to reach the desired crystals in fats for reaching a better and more stable product [Sonocrystallization of fats: Silivana Martini 2013. [00014] Sono-crystallization of fats applied to chocolates, as a successful temperate method [ULTRACHOC: is a project for an Ultrasounds based system for the control and monitoring of chocolate tempering process. http://www. ultrachoc. eu/J.

[00015] Patent n° EP 2745757 Al, 25th June, 2014. Ultrasound assisted mixing.

Lanzarote IA, Uson SC, Bel JM, Soler SM, Pueyo JR, Peman JR. BSH Bosch Und Siemens Hausgerate GmbH. The invention described therein relates to the application of an ultrasound transducer or transducers in a domestic kitchen device to obtain improved efficiency of food processing.

[00016] CA 2427623 C 22 Dec 2009 Crystallisation process using ultrasound,

Renoo Avinash Blindt, Maria Patrick, Berend Jan Arends. Unilever Pic. The invention described therein relates to a process for the crystallization of a solid phase from a liquid, characterized in that the liquid during crystallization is subjected to ultrasound in the absence of transient cavitation.

[00017] Patent No. EP 0765605A1, 2 nd April, 1997: Process for accelerating the polymorphic transformation of edible fats using ultrasonication. Kraft Jacobs Suchard R & D INC Rye Brook, NY 10625 (US).

[00018] Patent No. US 6630185 B2, 7 th Oct, 2003: Crystallization Process using

Ultrasounds: Lipton, division of Conopco, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ (US).

[00019] In fat-based mixtures (e.g., chocolate) as opposed to water-based mixtures, it is not possible to achieve a homogeneous heat transfer without mechanical agitation. Thus, a 3D printer cannot print chocolate unless the chocolate has first been subjected to mechanical agitation. [00020] Also, most ingredients used in a 3D food printing process are not used by themselves, but have to be combined with other ingredients in a mixture and then homogenized and/or stabilized so as to be flowable (that is, having the correct consistency) and sufficiently stable (that is, remaining in a uniform mixture). [00021] It is to the solution of these and other problems that the present invention is directed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[00022] It is accordingly an object of the invention to provide a method and apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing mixtures of ingredients prior to their use in a 3D food printing process.

[00023] It is another object of the invention to provide a method and apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing mixture of food ingredients that helps to increase heat transfer efficiency throughout mixtures of ingredients used in the 3D food printing process, and improve their texture properties.

[00024] These and other objects according to the invention are achieved by providing apparatus for homogenizing and stabilizing mixtures of food ingredient (hereafter, "homogenization and stabilization method and apparatus") that includes at least one power ultrasound system able to produce cavitation in an ingredient mixture contained in a food container. In one aspect of the invention, the at least one power ultrasound system comprises at least one ultrasound source, and is controlled by a computer and a computer program. The homogenization and stabilization method and apparatus provide mechanical agitation of fat- based mixtures (e.g., chocolate) so they can achieve a homogeneous heat transfer, and homogenize and/or stabilize ingredients using other liquid phase including but not limited to water-based mixtures, so that the fat-based mixtures are flowable (that is, having the correct consistency) and sufficiently stable (that is, remaining in a uniform mixture) for extrusion using a 3D printer device. [00025] In another aspect of the invention, the homogenization and stabilization apparatus is included in a 3D printer device. The homogenization and stabilization method and apparatus combines the ingredients in a mixture and then homogenizes and/or stabilizes the mixture so as to be flowable (that is, having the correct consistency) and sufficiently stable (that is, remaining in a uniform mixture). Alternatively, the homogenization and stabilization apparatus can be used to homogenize and stabilize food mixtures in standalone food containers.

[00026] In still another aspect of the invention, the ingredient mixtures are contained in containers, for example capsules having a cylindrical shape. A cylindrical shape maximizes the effect of the ultrasounds throughout the mixture of food ingredients in the capsule because the ultrasounds arrive substantially simultaneously at the central axis of the container, facilitating homogenization and stabilization of the mixture.

[00027] Types of ultrasound sources that can be used include, but are not limited to, ultrasound generators, ultrasound transducers, ultrasound motors, and laser ultrasonic systems able to apply ultrasounds to a food container.

[00028] When used in combination with a 3D food printer, the at least one power ultrasound system can be used in combination with any food heating elements present in the 3D printer in order to achieve higher performance in the homogenization and stabilization process. [00029] The homogenization and stabilization apparatus is controlled by a processor implementing particular computer program instructions specific to the operation of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus. The homogenization and stabilization apparatus has different parameters (hereinafter, "homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters") such as the frequency or range of frequencies of the ultrasounds, the power being used, etc., which can be controlled by the computer program. The computer program uses information concerning the composition of the container and the container content (food mixture). These adjustments allow a proper homogenization and stabilization process of the food mixture. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[00030] Figure 1 is a schematic view of the ultrasound systems of a homogenization and stabilization apparatus in accordance with the present invention, inside a 3D food printer.

[00031] Figures 2A - 2C are block diagrams showing operative elements of the ultrasound systems and 3D printer of Figure 1.

[00032] Figure 3 is a logic flow diagram of a routine stored in the 3D printer system of Figure 2 and applied to the homogenization and stabilization apparatus for carrying out a homogenization and stabilization process in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION [00033] In describing preferred embodiments of the present invention illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific element includes all technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose. [00034] The present invention is described below in part with reference to flowchart illustrations of methods, apparatus (systems), and computer program products according to an embodiment of the invention. It will be understood that each block of the flowchart illustrations, and combinations of blocks in the flowchart illustrations, can be implemented by computer program instructions. These computer program instructions may be provided to a processor of a general purpose computer, special purpose computer, or other programmable data processing apparatus to produce a machine, such that the instructions, which execute via the processor of the computer or other programmable data processing apparatus, create means for implementing the functions specified in the flowchart block or blocks.

[00035] These computer program instructions may also be stored in a computer- readable memory that can direct a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to function in a particular manner, such that the instructions stored in the computer-readable memory produce an article of manufacture including instruction means which implement the function specified in the flowchart block or blocks. [00036] The computer program instructions may also be loaded onto a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to cause a series of operational steps to be performed on the computer or other programmable apparatus to produce a computer implemented process such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable apparatus provide steps for implementing the functions specified in the flowchart block or blocks.

[00037] The programmable data processing apparatus would include typical components such as a bus for communicating information, and a processor coupled with the bus for processing information, random access memory coupled to the bus for storing information and instructions to be executed by the processor. Random Access Memory also may be used for storing temporary variables or other intermediate information during execution of instructions by the processor, a read only memory coupled to the bus for storing static information and instructions for the processor, and a data storage device coupled to the bus for storing information and instructions. Also the system may be coupled via the bus to a display device, such as an LCD monitor or panel, for displaying information to a user. The programmable data processing apparatus further includes a keyboard and a cursor control, or a keypad.

[00038] The invention will be described hereinafter in connection with a 3D printer 11 as shown in Figure 1 that uses the additive manufacturing method to print food products using a plurality of ingredients in a process defined by a set of directions, wherein each of the ingredients or a mixture of ingredients (also referred to herein an "ingredient mixture") is contained in a respective container and has a plurality of parameters (hereinafter, "ingredient parameters") and rheological properties associated therewith. "Ingredient" and "mixture of ingredients" (or "ingredient mixture") are used hereinafter in describing the operation of a 3D printer in the production of a food product according to a recipe, via an additive manufacturing method. Such a 3D food printer is described in the afore-mentioned International Publication No. WO2014190168A1. However, as will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, the invention can also be used standalone in connection with any food container, that is, any device with a closed structure that is used to contain food. [00039] The 3D printer 1 1 has a container changing system (including a container repository 25 and with five container-storage stations (slots) 27 (individually designated as 27A, 27B, 27C, 27D, 27E) for storing containers 59 therein) (shown schematically in Figure 2A) and container heating systems 500 (individually designated 500A, 500B, 500C, 500D, 500E and shown schematically in Figure 2B). Also included in the system 11 as shared components of the container changing system and the container heating systems are a processor 17, a tool 23 for extruding material (that is, the ingredient) from the containers 59, and a controller 21 for controlling the movement of the tool 23 according to computer program instructions stored in a read- write memory (RWM) 19 of the system 11. [00040] Each container storage station 27 is equipped with a container holder 53

(individually designated as 53A, 53B, 53C, 53D, and 53E), each of which is configured to have an ingredient- or ingredient mixture-containing removable container 59 (which are individually designated as 59A, 59B, 59C, 59D, and 59E) inserted therein and includes a heating device for adjusting the temperature of the ingredient or ingredient mixture contained in the container inserted in the container holder, based on ingredient parameters and properties associated respectively with the ingredient or ingredient mixture, and the directions. The components of the heating systems 500A, 500B, 500C, 500D, and 500E include respective heat sensors 29A, 29B, 29C, 29D, and 29E for each of the container holders 53A, 53B, 53C, 53D, and 53E; and respective transducers(thermal mesh) 31A, 31B, 31C, 31D, and 31E for each of the container holders 53A, 53B, 53C, 53D, and 53E), and an extrusion mechanism 51 1 (shown schematically in Figure 2C) used to extrude the ingredient from its container.

[00041] The ingredient parameters include, but are not limited to printing temperature, heating curve, extrusion speed, extrusion multiplier, waiting time between layer deposition, axis speed, optimal nozzle diameter, vertical precision, horizontal precision, viscosity curve, density, freezing temperature, melting temperature, etc., and define how the 3D printer 1 1 handles the ingredient or ingredient mixture associated with the ingredient parameters. The rheological properties of the ingredients or ingredient mixtures can readily be determined by a person with ordinary skill in the technology. [00042] The homogenization and stabilization apparatus in accordance with the present invention comprises a plurality of containers (e.g., containers 59A, 59B, 59C, 59D, and 59E), a power ultrasound system associated with each of the containers for generating ultrasounds to homogenize and stabilize the ingredient mixture in the associated container, and programmable data processing apparatus for controlling the power ultrasound systems. In the accompanying drawings, the ultrasound systems are designated by reference number 514, the reference number associated with each ultrasound system being followed by a respective letter A to E.

[00043] The heating systems 500A to 500E can work in conjunction with the ultrasound systems as described hereinafter. In the case of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus in accordance with the present invention, the mixture of ingredients in the containers is a heterogeneous mixture of a liquid component and a solid (powdered or lyophilized) component or a mixture of a plurality of liquid components that tend to separate over time (for example, tomato sauce, which separates into water at the top and tomato at the bottom).

[00044] The ultrasound homogenization and stabilization apparatus includes at least one power ultrasound system located inside the 3D printer 1 1, and each power ultrasound system 514A to 514E includes at least one ultrasound source. The present invention allows a mixture of ingredients to be homogenized and stabilized using the at least one ultrasound system. The at least one ultrasound system 514 is controlled by computer program instructions of the programmable data processing apparatus, which manages the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters to ensure an appropriate homogenization and stabilization process, as described hereinafter.

[00045] Referring now to Figures 2A-2C, the programmable data processing apparatus can be included in the 3D printer 1 1, and includes the aforementioned processor 17 for executing specific computer program instructions of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus stored in a read-write memory (RWM) 19 and a controller 21 , which in addition to controlling the movement of the tool 23,also controls an at least one ultrasound system according to specific computer program instructions. Data used by the computer program instructions of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus for managing the at least one ultrasound system can also be stored in the RWM 19. The end user can enter data and instructions via a user interface 15. Preferably, the processor 17 is integrated into the 3D printer 11 , but the 3D printer 11 can be configured to allow a user's extemal device (for example, a computer or tablet) to communicate with the processor 17, so that the user can control the at least one ultrasound system of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus via his or her own device.

[00046] The computer program instructions manage the specific homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters and physical conditions of the ultrasound systems in order to guarantee an appropriate homogenization and stabilization procedure of the food. The main homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters controlled by the computer program instructions include: ultrasound power, ultrasound frequency or range of frequencies, temperature inside containers 59A to 59E, exposure time, and rate at which the ingredient is fed out ("printed") from its container. Homogenizing and stabilizing can result in different textures, depending on how the at least one ultrasound source of each ultrasound system is applied to the food container. The computer program instructions therefore adapt the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters depending on characteristics and components of the mixture, in order to determine an appropriate homogenization and stabilization process, which results in a homogeneous texture of the mixture.

[00047] The ultrasounds used in the homogenization and stabilization method and apparatus can be produced by ultrasound sources that are all the same, or are of different type. Examples of ultrasound sources that can be used in the present invention include, but are not limited to, ultrasound transducers, ultrasound motors and laser ultrasonics systems able to apply ultrasounds to a food container.

[00048] In the case of a 3D printer, the at least one ultrasound system can be used to homogenize and stabilize the food mixture contained in the food container before or while it is being printed using additive manufacturing. The at least one ultrasound system can also be used standalone to homogenize and stabilize the food mixture contained in an external food container. [00049] The method of homogenizing and stabilizing a mixture in accordance with the present invention will now be described with reference to the flow chart of Figure 3. This warming and homogenizing and stabilizing method is performed based on a homogenizing and stabilizing process algorithm, which is implemented by computer program instructions stored in the read- write memory (RWM) 19, and can be carried out both inside the 3D food printer 11 and standalone for food containers 59.

[00050] A routine for carrying out the steps of the homogenization and stabilization method is entered, starting at block 100, each time data or a command that involves homogenization and stabilization of a food mixture is entered into processor 17. [00051] Control is transferred from block 100 to block 1 10. At block 110, the recipe information is fetched from the read- write memory (RWM) 19 of the processor 17 integrated into the printer 1 1. This recipe information includes in which order the ingredients are going to be used in order to prepare the printed food product and the process to be carried out for each food mixture to achieve the required homogenization and stabilization. The result sought may include, but is not limited to mixing, warming, and (in the case of chocolate, for example) tempering. From block 1 10, control is transferred to block 115, where the information related to the food mixture (hereafter, "food mixture information") is also fetched from the RWM 19. The food mixture information fetched in block 1 15 includes the temperature information needed to carry out the homogenization and stabilization process. This food mixture information fetching step is performed for every ingredient in the printer 11.

[00052] Control is then transferred to block 120, where the processor 17 integrated into the printer 11 calculates the food mixture process curve, which will result in a set of temperature points the food mixture has to reach and the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters to be applied to the heating system and the ultrasound system in each point of the curve, and time the food mixture has to remain at every point of the curve.

[00053] Control is then transferred to block 125, where the heating system 500 is activated. From block 125, control is transferred to block 130, where the ultrasound system 514 is also activated. [00054] From block 130, control is transferred to blocks 135 to 155, where the processor 17 will use the food mixture information fetched from the RWM 19 of the printer 1 1 , in order to perform setup of the ultrasound systems 514 and heating systems 500 by calculating the appropriate ultrasounds power, food mixture temperature, ultrasounds frequency, time to apply ultrasounds at the current homogenization and stabilization curve point, and requested heating system temperature. Control is transferred then to blocks 180 and 185, where the information calculated in blocks 135 to 155 is used to recalculate the requested homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters of the heating systems 500 and the ultrasound systems 514 and apply them to update the heating systems 500 and the ultrasound systems 514. This recalculation step is performed for every ingredient mixture in the printer 11. A table is saved in the RWM 19, which includes for each ingredient mixture each one of the points of the homogenization and stabilization curve and the set of food mixture parameter values to be adjusted during the homogenization and stabilization process, including power, time, frequency or range of frequencies, and temperatures. The value of the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters will depend on the characteristics of the ingredient mixture and the result that must be achieved for each ingredient mixture.

[00055] A control sub-routine 195 is entered from block 185 to determine if the desired food mixture temperature has been reached.

[00056] If the desired temperature of the food mixture has been reached, control is transferred from block 195 to block 200, where the processor 17 provides instructions to the controller 21 to keep both the heating systems 500 and the ultrasound systems 514 working at the specified homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters during the time calculated in block 150.

[00057] Once the time calculated in block 150 has lapsed, control is transferred to block 210, where the processor 17 determines if the homogenization and stabilization process has ended. If the homogenization and stabilization process has not ended, control is transferred back to block 185 to recalculate the homogenization and stabilization apparatus parameters in order to complete the appropriate homogenization and stabilization process for the food mixture. [00058] If the homogenization and stabilization process has ended, control is transferred to block 215, and then to block 220, where processor 17 respectively provides instructions to the controller 21 to shut down the heating and ultrasound systems.

[00059] Process Overview [00060] An overview of the complete process carried out by the system 1 1 in homogenizing and stabilizing a food mixture in preparation for printing a food product will now be described. The ingredients used in system 11 may need some previous homogenization and stabilization before the printing job can start, thus there may be a need for some preparation of the food mixtures contained in containers 59A to 59E. In some cases this is due to the nature of the ingredient itself, like chocolate, which needs tempering before printing. In some others there is a separation between liquid and solid phases that requires proper mixing before printing. This homogenization and stabilization process ensures that the ingredient being printed has homogeneous rheological properties that can be parameterized and thus, the system 1 1 is able to know how to print food with these ingredients. [00061] The process starts with fetching the information related to the recipe selected by the end user and ingredients contained in the containers. At this point, the ingredients are food mixtures that may not be ready to be used by system 1 1 in the printing process. All relevant information related to the specified recipe and the ingredients loaded in the system is then stored in the RWM 19. Once the information relevant thereto has been stored in the RWM 19, the system 11 retrieves from the RWM 19 all the relevant information related to the recipe and the ingredients being used, so the homogenization and stabilization process can be set up and the homogenization and stabilization process curves can be calculated by processor 17.

[00062] Next, the processor 17 proceeds to send instructions to the controller 21 so the ultrasound systems 514 together with the heating systems 500 can start the homogenization and stabilization process. Each container 59 being used follows its own homogenization and stabilization process in order to be used later in the printing process. Once the containers 59 are at their stable target state, that is, homogenized and stabilized ready to be used as ingredients in the printing process, the processor 17 sends instructions to the controller 21 to start the printing process.

[00063] After the homogenization and stabilization process with the container 59 holding the first ingredient is ended, the container heating systems 500, and ultrasound systems 514 are returned to their original states.

[00064] As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, this process can be applied to mixtures other than food mixtures which are composed of multiple materials and require an homogenization and stabilization process before they can be used.