|P a e a t c l a i m s
1 Apparatus for automatic dish preparation, the apparatus comprising:
* a controller unit (24) for controlling said apparatus during dish preparation
according to a user selectable dish recipe,
® a supply for potable water (3) for cleaning purposes and/or as a dish ingredient,
® at least one storage containers (21,2) for further dish ingredients,
« at least one conveyor (22) to move a recipe-specific quantity of at. least one of the dish ingredients from the storage eontainer(s) (2,21) into a receiving container (12), characterized by
® said storage container(s) (2,21) being thermally insulated,
® a cooling means (4,5) being arranged to keep the dish ingredients in the storage container(s) cool, and
* a heating means (17,18,6,7,8,9) to heat at least one of said ingredients if specified by the recipe.
2 Apparatus according to claim 1,
characterised isi that each storage container (2,21) is equipped with its own conveyor (19,22).
3 Apparatus according to claim 1 ,
characterized m that said receiving container (12) is one of a cup and a bowl being a delivery container for serving the dish to a consumer.
4 Apparatus according to claim 1 ,
characterized in that said heating means (17,18) to heat the ingredients is arranged at the at least one conveyor, heating during conveyance from the storage container(s) (2,21) to the receiving container (12). 5 Apparatus according to claim 1,
characterized in that said heating means is an alternative heating means (6,7,8,9) arranged to heat the at least one ingredient when arrived in the receiving container (
6 Apparatus according to claim 5,
characterized in that said alternative heating means is a microwave heating device
7 Method for automatically preparing a dish with an apparatus according to claim 4,
characterized by repeating the following steps a~b until completion of said dish: a) conveying at least one recipe-specifk dish ingredient from a cooled, insulated storage container (2,21) and/or water inlet (3) to a receiving container (12), and b) if specified by the recipe for the at least one dish ingredient: heating said dish ingredient(s) during conveying.
8 Method for preparing a dish with an apparatus according to claim 5, characterized by repeating the following steps a-h until completion of said dish: a) conveying at least one recipe-specific dish ingredient from a cooled, insulated storage container (2,21) and/or water inlet (3) to a receiving container (12), and b) if specified by the recipe for the at least one dish ingredient: heating said dish ingredient(s) when arrived in the receiving container (12),
The present invention belongs to the field of automated dish preparation. More specifically, the invention belongs to the field of machines for automated making of dishes from a number of ingredients including the use of precooled ingredients and heating of the food.
In the technical field of automated dish preparation ('dish', or 'food', 'meal' in the broadest possible meaning: from a glass of potable water to multi-ingredient warm dishes, including soup-like food with different grades of viscosity, fluent chocolate, slush, smoothie, chilled cream, soft ice cream and similar), there are well-known a number of devices doing the preparation and dispensing of the dish: from the simple water dispenser over high-capacity, thermally insulated coffee containers, where the user/consumer places a cup beneath a dispensing valve and then opens the valve manually until the cup is filled, to fresh juice dispensing, fruit-squeezing machines, to the fully automatic coffee system, permanently connected to a potable water line and equipped with a grinder to prepare the coffee on the basis of freshly grinded coffee beans including adding of sugar, milk and the possibility of adjusting strength and/or taste, there are a wide range of food/drink dispensers and preparation machines known in the prior art.
Ail the advanced systems are typically controlled by some electronic device which allows the consumer to specify his/her wishes and then the device controls a sequence of steps leading to the finally prepared dish/drink according to the technical equipment used in the system and the recipe for the dish selected by the consumer and potentially modified/adjusted according to personal preferences.
In the prior art, the components of the final product, the ingredients, are kept in a form which permits long-term storage: dried and/or fine grained substances (powder) or high viscous concentrates often resulting in loss of nutrition value or reduced taste/experience quality. Furthermore, the prior art devices are typically limited to quite a simple temperature regime for the final product.
It is the object of the present invention to provide a new type of dish preparation apparatus, which avoids the above mentioned disadvantages and at the same time allows being used for automatic preparation and dispensing of an increased variety of dish types. One aspect of the disclosed invention is an apparatus for automatic dish preparation. The apparatus comprises: 1) a controller unit for controlling the apparatus during dish preparation according to a user selectable dish recipe, 2) a supply for potable water for cleaning purposes and/or as dish ingredient, 3) ai least one storage container for farther dish ingredient(s), and 4) at least one conveyor to move a recipe-specific quantity of the dish ingredients from storage container(s) into a receiving container. The inventive features of the apparatus are: 5) the storage container(s) are thermally insulated, 6) a cooling means is arranged to keep the dish ingredients in the storage container(s) cool, and 7) a heating means exists to heat said ingredients if spec fied by the recipe.
Each storage container may be equipped with a conveyor of its own.
The above mentioned receiving container is a cup or a bowl to be used as a deliver}' container for serving the dish to a consumer.
At least one of the conveyors comprises heating means to heat the ingredients during conveyance from the storage container to the receiving container.
An alternative heating means can be arranged to heat the ingredient(s) when the ingredients have arrived in the receiving container. This alternative heating means can be a microwave-based heating device.
Another aspect of the disclosed invention is a method for automatically preparing a dish according to a recipe with an apparatus as described above, by repeating the following steps a-b until completion of the dish: a) conveying at least one dish ingredient to a receiving container, and b) if specified by the recipe for the at least one dish ingredient: heating the at least one dish ingredient during conveying.
Another aspect is a method for preparing a dish with an apparatus as above with microwave heating means, where the method comprises repeating the following steps a-b until completion of the dish: a) conveying at least one dish ingredient to a receiving container, and b) if recipe-specified for the at least one dish ingredient: heating the at least one dish ingredient when arrived in the receiving container.
Furthermore, the invention is defined by the attached claim set.
Brief description of the drawings
Below, a preferred embodiment of the present invention will be described with reference to the attached drawing, where Fig. 1 shows an apparatus-embodiment of the invention in exploded view,
Fig. 2 shows an embodiment of the invention in top view,
Fig. 3 sho ws an embodiment of the invention in cross-section view,
Fig. 4 shows an embodiment of the invention in partly dismantled view.
Detailed description of preferred essbodimeRts
Fig, 1 shows one embodiment of the inventive apparatus for automatically preparing of a dish in a partly exploded view.
The figure shows in the center the housing/frame with housing panels 1 of the apparatus where the panels in one embodiment may constitute thermal insulation.
To the right ( ::: rear of the apparatus), one can see a refrigeration module 5 with condenser, compressor and refrigeration controller mounted on a base plate.
Most to the left ( :=: front of the apparatus), a further exploded-view radiation chamber 1 1 for an embodiment using microwave-heating of dish ingredients is indicated, with a container (a cup, in this case) 12 inside the chamber to receive the ingredients during dish making. Below the main part of the radiatio chamber, a rotary motor 9 is located to turn the receiving container 12 during microwave-heating. Between the radiation chamber and the housing/frame, a microwave emitter module 7 is located, with a cooling fan 6 on top of it.
In front of the housing, a box-like part stands for a controller 24, controlling preferably the technical functions of the apparatus.
A further device (not shown in the figure, can be mounted to the front of the apparatus, for instance to the panel above the radiation chamber), could in one embodiment run the user interface including selecting one of the internally stored recipes, modifying the selected recipe, payment procedures and similar.
Above the housing/frame, the uppermost part is a lid for the housing, i.e. top panel of the housing. As for the side panels, this top panel may constitute thermal insulation if no other insulation is provided for the below introduced storage containers. Below the top panel a meander- shaped vaporizer 4 for the refrigeration/cooling module 5 and three containers for food/dish ingredients are shown: partly hidden behind the vaporizer 4 in the figure resides a food container 2 for a liquid food ingredient. Somewhat lower, right above the housing, there are shown containers 21 (the second one not numbered) with integrated conveyors 22 at their bottom, driven by small electrical motors, and - in the embodiment on the right one - indicated to work as screw 22 conveyor.
Fig. 2 - a top view - focuses on the three food containers. On the top of the figure (back-part of the apparatus), there is a container for a liquid/viscose dish ingredient to be pumped by pump 19 through flexible tubing 16 to the receiving container.
One can see on the left side of the rear panel of the housing a connector for a potable water supply. By using a controllable T- valve 20, the tubing 23 and pump 19 can be used to supply water from this connector to the receiving container as one of the ingredients to the dish or for cleaning the apparatus in a cleaning mode.
Below in the figure/in front of the apparatus, also 2 containers 21 (only one identified by reference numeral) for non-liquid ingredients are shown. While the liquid from container 2 (numeral see fig. 1) is conveyed by pump through tubing 18 , the ingredients from the other two storage containers can be conveyed by screw 22 conveyors, also indicated for one of them in the figure. All containers as a group are enclosed - in this embodiment - by insulating housing panels 1 for thennal insulation. However, in a different embodiment, the insulation is preferably arranged more close to the storage containers, specifically in embodiments with tube heating as elaborated below. In such an embodiment, one or more of the storage containers could be located outside the insulation for use with ingredients that do not require cooling.
The vaporizer 4 for the cooling unit is indicated below the liquid container, meaning due to the top- view of the figure, in front of the liquid container (or in the center of the group of containers).
Fig. 3 displays a cross section through the apparatus, where the cut plane is perpendicular to the bottom and top and front and rear of the apparatus. In the figure, the front of the apparatus is on the left side of the figure.
Again, fig. 3 shows insulation panels 1, enclosing liquid ingredient storage container 2 and - not as clearly visible on this figure as on previous figs 1 and 2 ~ one of the in this embodiment remaining two non-liquid ingredient storage containers 21.
The liquid container 2 may be emptied for the liquid through tubing from the bottom of the container 2, the tubing being connected to a T-valve 20 at the top. From here, the liquid ingredient is pumped by a pumping means 19 to the receiving container 12 through inlet 14. As mentioned above, through the T-valve 20, also water can be drawn from water line connector 3 for cleaning purposes or/and as a dish ingredient.
Module 5 below on the right side is the cooling/refrigeration module with attached condenser, feeding the vaporizer 4 inside the insulated space. Other types of cooling means could be used in different embodiments of the present invention. The conveyor at the bottom of the insulated space is driven by a small electrical motor (cyiindricai unit, residing directly on the insulation here), driving an Archimedes' screw to convey the ingredient from the storage container through inlet 15 into the receiving container 12 standing on receiving container platform 8. The screw-type conveyor permits to use ingredients of a more coarse texture, such like vegetable/meat/fruit pieces,
in the embodiment with microwave-heating in the receiving container 12 with microwave-module 7, the platform being rotated by rotary motor 9 assures distribution of the heating energy in the dish.
As an alternative embodiment without microwave heating of the ingredients, conveyors from ingredient storage containers (both non-liquid 21 and liquid 2) to the receiving container 12 may he equipped with heating means 17, 18 to heat the ingredients on the way from storage to the receiving container 12, These heating means 17 are indicated only in figure 3, and would normally make the microwave equipment 6, 7, 8, 9, 1 1 obsolete, in such an embodiment, the heating means - and thus a major part of the conveyors - would preferably be located outside the cooled/insulated space,
A. Method for preparing a warm dish
To prepare - as an example - a warm soup using only a few ingredients with the apparatus according to the present invention with microwave-heating, the following steps would typically be performed:
1. A receiving container 12 - typically a cup - is placed into the receiving chamber 1 1 either automatically by some mechanism not shown here, but well-known to the skilled man, or manually by the user. This step - specifically in the automatic version - could also be performed later as step 4,
2. The user of the apparatus (in self-service application being identical with the consumer) selects a dish using a device with appropriate user interface (UI) abilities, which is typical ly mounted to the front of the apparatus; further options dependent on embodiment: the consumer/user modifies the recipe of the dish and in many self-service applications pays for the dish.
3. The Ul-device sends recipe-specific instructions to the controller 24 of the
apparatus, whereinafter the controller controls the dish preparation by
instructing the components of the apparatus with essentially the following steps.
4. if not already done (see step 1), place a new receiving container 12 onto the receiving container platform, or make sure a receiving container is in place. 5. Initiate conveying from storage containers and/or water inlet of ail ingredients specified by the recipe,
6. Terminate conveying for each ingredient at a point of time after initiating when the recipe-specific quantity of ingredient has been delivered to the receiving container.
7. Assure the microwave heating system is securely operative (heating chamber closed f.inst.), then start heating.
8. Stop heating when dish is heated according to recipe, i.e. disable heating system.
9. Give access to receiving container (=cup) 12 to the consumer, i.e. open radiation chamber 11.
10. Give signal to Ul-device about having finished the recipe specific instructions.
1 l.The Ul-device indicates to the consumer to take the cup 12 with the dish ready for consumption.
To achieve a similar simple result with conveyor heating, step 5 and 6 above would include heating activation and termination, and step 7 and 8 and possibly 9 would be obsolete.
While a simple warm dish normally can be prepared by collecting all ingredients and subsequently heating, 'advanced' dishes as described below in the procedures B and C. require step-wise composition and heating.
B. Procedure for preparing an 'advanced' dish with a 'temperature mix' using
The alternative embodiment using heating in the conveyor, would further allow preparing a dish by a stepwise procedure where different ingredients have different temperatures:
1. conveying one or more ingredients from storage containers and/or water inlet into the receiving container at a first low temperature (without heating, or a specified minor heating),
2. subsequently, feeding one or more different ingredients onto the first
ingredient(s) with a second, high temperature (more heating), and
3. eventually, finishing with a cold topping (less or no heating). For instance, a chilled creamed rice base, with a dash of hot raspberry jam on top of that, and eventually some cinnamon powder onto all this could automatically be prepared by controlling conveying and heating steps from three different storage containers according to an electronically stored recipe. The skilled man will appreciaie that many more variants are possible,
Depending on the power of the cooling and heating means, in a further embodiment of the invention, even some sort of soft ice cream with hot chocolate on top would be possible.
C. Procedure for preparing a dish with a "temperature mix' using microwave heating.
While conveyor heating as described above would allow any mix of cold and hot ingredients, even in an embodiment with microwave heating inside the receiving container 11, one still can make dishes with a warm/hot base and cold toppings by the following steps:
1. conveying one or more first ingredients from storage containers and/or water inlet into the receiving container,
2. microwave- heating the first ingredient(s) in the receiving container 12 (see steps 7-9 in method A), and
3. adding further one or more cold ingredients on top of the warm first
The skilled man will appreciaie that all kinds of dishes from a cold (no ingredient will be heated at all) to a hot/warm dish (all ingredients will be heated) are possible with the present invention.
The skilled man will further appreciate, thai the steps outlined in the methods above do not include many steps that can be necessary for detailed control of the apparatus, as f. inst. detecting empty storage containers, missing water pressure, failure of motor/conveyor/cooling and similar, that are common for many automated procedures and not specific for a dish preparation apparatus as disclosed here.
Furthermore, it will be obvious for the skilled person, that the above disclosure of the invention will cover many more embodiments of the invention. It is the attached patent claims which define the scope of patent protection. insulaied compartment-Insulation panels Bag, containing ingred ent
Coupling to water supply
Microwave emitter module
Receiving container platform
Radiation chamber (split)
Receiving container with produci to be heated Retractable hatch
Solid fresh ingredient dispenser/outlet Feeding tube
Heating coil insulation
Conveyor (f, ex. pump)
Ingredient container, non-liquid
Conveyor with electric motor (screw) Water tube
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