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Title:
AUTONOMOUS DOSING, MIXING, KNEADING, SHAPING AND TRANSFER SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/088136
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
An autonomous dosing, mixing, kneading, shaping and transfer system is disclosed. Said system comprises of one or more ingredient containers (f, e) configured to dispense ingredients, primarily flour and water, a mixer (a, b) configured to facilitate the mixing and kneading of said ingredients to the desired consistency and shape, and a mechanism to transfer the said formed mix or dough ball (w) to the next stage, wherein said sequence of actions of the system are controlled by a programmable control module. A method to mix, knead and shape dough, transfer the mix to the next stage as well as a method to regulate water dispensing during the process are also disclosed.

Inventors:
NARAYANAN-Saroja Rejin (Jinra #103, East PattathanamAmmanada P, Kollam Kerala 1, 69102, IN)
M T Binus (Pournami, Yeroor PoKollam 2, Kerala, 69131, IN)
Application Number:
IN2015/000441
Publication Date:
June 09, 2016
Filing Date:
November 30, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
INGEN ROBOTICS PRIVATE LIMITED (Jnra #103, East PattathanamAmmanada P.O, Kollam 1, 69102, IN)
International Classes:
A21C1/00
Download PDF:
Claims:
WE CLAIM

1. An apparatus to facilitate dispensing, mixing, kneading, shaping, coating and transfer of dough in food processing, said apparatus comprising of:

• one or more ingredient containers configured to store and dispense ingredients;

• at least one container to store and dispense water or other liquids;

• at least one mixer mounted on a frame, wherein the mixer is also adapted to perform kneading of the mix, said at least one mixer comprising of: a. cup shaped mixer bowl (b), featuring a mixing element (n) rotatably fixed at the centre of said bowl, wherein the mixer bowl is further provided with a mixer chute (a).

• a mixer motor (d) configured to rotate the mixing element, wherein the speed and duration of actuation is regulated by the control module;

• tilt motor (q) configured to rotate the mixer frame about a horizontal axis in the range 0 to 180 degrees;

• at least one movable flat plate (o) configured to be positioned below the mixer;

• sensors to measure and record flour quantity, amount of water dispensed, consistency of the mix at various stages of processing, determine the tilt and positioning of mixer frame and flat plate, and speed of rotation of mixing motor, wherein feedback from said sensors are relayed to the control module; and • control module comprising of one or more microcontrollers, storing one or more programs in its memory, configured to:

i. constantly monitor attributes including, but not limited to, current drawn by motors, voltage, pressure, weight of ingredients, optical properties including reflectivity, angular or linear speed, frequency, displacement, torque, and vibrations of the system, and use one or more of said attributes to:

• compute the amount of flour required for making a dough ball, and control the dispensers dispensing flour and water;

• regulate the action of mixing motor to facilitate optimal mixing and kneading of the dough to achieve desired consistency;

• control the movements of tilt motor and the flat plate to facilitate the transfer of dough ball; and ii. execute the series of steps required to mix, knead and transfer the mix.

2. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the mixing element comprises of a cylindrical vertical member that progressively widens near its base, wherein at least one curved horizontal member is attached to said vertical member near said base.

3. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2, wherein the inner surface of the mixer bowl and the vertical member of the mixing element form a circular channel of U shaped cross section, wherein its curvature is equal to the desired curvature of the dough ball.

4. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2, wherein the cross section of the horizontal member is wedge shaped (r), wherein it is thinner towards the edge that first hits the dough ball.

5. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2, wherein the horizontal member is positioned 0.5 to 3 millimetres high from the inner base of the mixer bowl.

6. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2, wherein the height of the vertical member is optimized to prevent the dough ball from moving to the centre of the mixer bowl when the mixing element is activated, said height of the vertical member is not less than the radius of curvature of its lower part.

7. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the mixer chute is configured to prevent the ingredients from being thrown out of the mixer during mixing.

8. A method to regulate water dispensing in the mixer, said method comprising the steps of: • computing the baseline current (lb) consumed by the mixing motor, when the mixer is empty, wherein said baseline current is calculated as the average of a number of instantaneous current values;

• computing the moving average of current values (la) consumed by the mixing motor;

• dosing water until the moving average of current readings (la) exceeds a first threshold value (D x lb), wherein the value of D is either pre-set or dynamically chosen based on flour type used;

• regulating the rate of flow of water supplied to a pre-set fraction of the original rate of flow; and

• stopping the water dispensing once the moving average of current readings (la) drops below a second threshold value (M x lb), wherein value of M is either pre-set or dynamically chosen based on flour type used.

9. A method to regulate water dispensing to the mixer, said method comprising the steps of:

• computing the base line current (lb) consumed by the mixing motor, when the mixer is empty, wherein said base line current is calculated as the average of a number of instantaneous current values;

• computing the moving average of current values (la) consumed by the mixing motor;

• computing a dispensing rate based on said moving average of current values (la), wherein said rate is dynamically varied in proportion to the variations in the moving average of current values; and • stopping the water dispensing when the moving average of current values (la) drops below a pre-set threshold value.

10. A method to mix, knead and shape the dough ball, said method comprising the steps of:

• computing the base line current (lb) consumed by the mixing motor, when the mixer is empty, wherein said base line current is calculated as the average of a number of instantaneous current values;

• adding a measured quantity of flour into the mixer, wherein said quantity is determined based on weight, or the duration of actuation of the dispensing motor;

• actuating the mixing element, wherein water is simultaneously dispensed into the mixer through the opening provided in the mixer chute;

• computing the moving average of current values (la) consumed by the mixing motor while the speed of the motor is regulated;

• continuing the dosing of water until the moving average of current readings (la) exceeds a first threshold value (D x lb), whereupon the rate of flow of water supplied is regulated to a pre-set fraction of the original rate of flow;

• stopping dispensing of water once the moving average of current readings (la) drops below a second threshold value (M x lb);

• operating the mixing element further for 5 to 20 seconds or until the dough ball is formed; and • further dosing flour or other ingredients in desired quantities in order to coat the dough ball to facilitate its easy removal from the mixer.

11. A method to transfer the dough ball from the mixer, wherein said dough ball is accurately dropped on a typically heated flat plate held below the mixer, said method comprising the steps of:

• tilting the mixer slowly to an inverted position;

• positioning the flat plate below the mixer chute, wherein said plate and the mixer are vertically aligned;

• actuating the mixing element to drop the dough ball held between the vertical member of the mixing element and the inner walls of the mixer bowl on the plate, through the mixer chute; and

• lowering the flat plate, and subsequently, tilting the mixer to its original position.

12. The method as claimed in claim 10, wherein the mixing element is rotated in the range of 400 to 800 RPM, wherein water is simultaneously added at a flow rate of 0.2 to 3 milliliters per second.

13. A method to transfer the dough ball from the mixer, wherein said dough ball is accurately dropped on a flat plate held below the mixer chute opening when the mixer is positioned in an inverted position, said method comprising the steps of:

• gradually tilting the mixer to an inverted position; • positioning the flat plate below the mixer chute, wherein said plate and the mixer are vertically aligned;

• actuating the mixing element to drop the dough ball held between the vertical member of the mixing element and the inner walls of the mixer bowl on to the plate;

• relatively moving the mixer and flat plate in opposite directions simultaneously; and

• tilting the mixer back to its original position;

14. The method as claimed in claims 11 or 13, wherein the dough ball partially remains within the confines of the mixer chute after falling on the flat plate.

15. The method as claimed in claims 11 or 13, wherein the mixing element is held stationary or slowly activated during tilting of the mixer.

16. The method as claimed in claims 9 or 10, wherein the values of D and M are either pre-set or dynamically chosen based on the flour type used.

Description:
AUTONOMOUS DOSING, MIXING, KNEADING, SHAPING

AND TRANSFER SYSTEM

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention, in general, relates to automated and compact apparatuses to facilitate mixing, kneading and transfer of dough in food processing. More particularly, the present invention relates to an autonomous apparatus capable of dispensing ingredients, mixing, kneading, shaping and a means for transferring the resulting mix to the next stage of processing or to a container.

DESCRIPTION OF PRIOR ART

[0002] Various devices that makes use of automated processes for mixing, kneading and dosing of dough or batter to produce a mix of desired consistency is known in the prior art. The proposed invention presents advantages over these known devices as explained below.

[0003] US Pat No. 5630358 discloses a counter-top appliance for automatically making a plurality of disk-shaped edibles. However, as per the invention, ingredients in measured quantities need to be added to the appliance by the user. Said appliance also does not have a means to store ingredients before they're converted into dough. Further, said apparatus is bulky for domestic use. [0004] US Pat No. 4806090 teaches an apparatus for use in manufacturing a substantially circular dough product from a mass of dough. But in the said invention, manual kneading of dough ingredients is still required before using the flattener.

[0005] EP 2418957 A1 discloses a compact appliance for automatically making a plurality of flat edibles. However, said invention requires a horizontal transfer of dough portions, which in turn means additional parts to clean, and a longer route for the flow of food material under different stages of preparation. ADMKSTS (Autonomous Dosing, Mixing, Kneading, Shaping and Transfer System) requires no horizontal transfer of dough ball, and has no parts to be cleaned on account of transfer of dough portions. ADMKSTS also makes dosing or dispensing, especially continuous dosing easier because the mixer is upright, and has an opening at the top. The said invention needs additional actuators and related devices for horizontal transfer which makes it relatively more expensive.

[0006] US Pat No. 4630930 teaches a dough batch mixing process and apparatus where the ingredients are mixed first at a high rate of speed and then transferred for developing in a separate chamber. But said apparatus is meant to provide semi- continuous dough mixing process for mixing and developing bakery dough that is required in large quantities, and is not adapted for household use.

[0007] US Pat No. 5,272,962 discloses a method and apparatus capable of both mixing ingredients and flattening the resulting dough into a single sheet. However, said invention requires ice particles for its operation. Further, it is not suited for domestic use. [0008] US patent application no. 20150181897 A1 teaches a kneading mechanism having a kneading container with an open bottom face a kneading base. An adaptive kneading technology is used to find the amount of water to make dough balls. However the said apparatus requires measurement of force exerted on the blade assembly. In addition, it is unsuitable for batter or semisolid preparations.

[0009] European publication identified by EP1191996 B1 teaches a kneading machine with dosing device. However the said invention has more number of parts, and is not as easy to wash after use as the proposed invention.

[0010] US Pat No. 8,820,221 teaches a compact apparatus for automatically making a plurality of flat edibles includes a storage and dispensing unit that makes it unnecessary for a user to pre-measure ingredients. The apparatus also includes a mixing and kneading unit for making dough of optimal consistency, wherein the dough prepared may be transferred onto a lower platen from a transfer base by a transfer sweeper. However the said apparatus requires additional transfer mechanisms to transfer the dough ball from the mixer to the next stage of processing, and these results in more components, increased complexity of control electronics and software, and more parts that need to be washed, resulting in reduced usability.

[0011] US Patent application US20150181896 A1 teaches a transfer apparatus for moving the dough product from a first position to a final position. The transfer apparatus uses the arm to move the dough product and a motor and software that controls the movement of the arm. However, said invention features multiple parts, and any failure to one or more components could lead to its malfunction. Further, if the dough is too sticky, the arm might fail to transfer it to the final position. Also, cleaning the apparatus, including the roller and the arm, is time consuming, given its constructional complexity. It also has lower usability because there is more number of parts that need to be washed.

[0012] There exists therefore, a need for an improved apparatus to facilitate automatic dispensing of ingredients, mixing, kneading, optional shaping or coating, and dispensing of the mix thus produced having the desired consistency, wherein the quantity of ingredients to be mixed, and the extent and nature of mixing, may be preset by the user, or automatically determined by the apparatus.

[0013] Our invention proposes an apparatus designed to perform one or more of the following steps:

1. Dispense a specified combination of ingredients into the mixer and dynamically adjust their proportion, quantity, and sequence to achieve the right consistency.

2. Mix the ingredients to the required extent, with the desired force and with the desired speed.

3. Further add ingredients while the mixing is in progress, or even after mixing is complete, based on preset values or dynamically calculated or estimated values to achieve the desired consistency.

4. Knead the mix thus formed to the desired extent and to arrive at the desired consistency. Actuate the mixing element wherein the shape of the mixing element, shape of the mixer bowl, and the speed (which may be varied to achieve the proper result) of the actuation results in the desired shape of the mix.

Transfer the mix to a container or to the next stage in a system that processes this mix further.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0014] It is therefore the primary objective of the present invention to propose an autonomous apparatus capable of ingredient dispensing, autonomous mixing and autonomous kneading to produce a mix of desired consistency.

[0015] It is another object of the invention to propose an autonomous mixing and kneading apparatus capable of transferring the mix, which typically is dough, batter or similar preparations, in desirable quantities and desirable form.

[0016] It is yet another object of the invention to eliminate the need for further processing for purposes or portioning or shaping.

[0017] It is a further object of the invention to propose an apparatus wherein the quantity of ingredients to be mixed may be specified by the user.

[0018] It is another object of the invention to provide a single apparatus adapted to mix, knead, shape dough into balls, coat dough balls with ingredients, and transfer it to the next stage of processing, therein eliminating the need for multiple apparatuses to perform the said functions.

[0019] It is yet another objective of the invention to propose a method to regulate water dispensing into the mixer. [0020] Accordingly, the present invention proposes an apparatus to facilitate mixing, kneading and transfer of dough in food processing, said apparatus comprising of:

• one or more ingredient containers configured to store and dispense ingredients;

• at least one container to store and dispense water or other liquids;

• at least one mixer mounted on a frame, wherein the mixer is also adapted to perform kneading of the mix, said at least one mixer comprising of:

a. cup shaped mixer bowl, featuring a mixing element configured to rotate inside said bowl, wherein the mixer bowl is further provided with a mixer chute.

• a mixer motor configured to rotate the mixing element, wherein the speed and duration of actuation is regulated by the control module;

• tilt motor configured to rotate the frame about a horizontal axis in the range 0 to 180 degrees;

• at least one movable flat plate configured to be positioned below the mixer;

• sensors to measure and record flour quantity, amount of water dispensed, consistency of the mix at various stages of processing, determine the tilt and positioning of mixer bowl and flat plate, and speed of rotation of mixing motor, wherein feedback from said sensors are relayed to the control module; and

• control module comprising of one or more microcontrollers, storing one or more programs in its memory, configured to:

i. constantly monitor attributes including, but not limited to, current drawn by motors, voltage, pressure, weight of ingredients, optical properties including reflectivity, angular or linear speed, frequency, displacement, offset, torque, and vibrations of the system, and use a combination of one or more of said attributes to:

• compute the amount of flour required for making a dough ball, and control the dispensers dispensing flour and water;

• regulate the action of mixing motor to facilitate optimal mixing and kneading of the dough to achieve desired consistency;

• control the movements of tilt motor and the flat plate to facilitate the transfer of dough ball; and

• execute the series of steps required to mix, knead and transfer the mix.

[0021] The present invention also proposes a method to mix, knead and shape the dough ball, said method comprising the steps of:

• computing the base line current (l b ) consumed by the mixing motor, when the mixer is empty, wherein said base line current is calculated as the average of a number of instantaneous current values;

• adding a measured quantity of flour into the mixer, wherein said quantity is determined based on weight, or the duration of actuation of the dispensing motor;

• actuating the mixing element, wherein water is simultaneously dispensed into the mixer through the opening provided in the mixer chute;

• computing the moving average of current values (l a ) consumed by the mixing motor while the speed of the motor is regulated; • continuing the dispensing of water until the moving average of current readings (l a ) exceeds a first threshold value (D * l b ), whereupon the rate of flow of water supplied is regulated to a pre-set fraction of the original rate of flow;

• stopping the water input once the moving average of current readings (l a ) drops below a second threshold value (M * l b );

• operating the mixing element further for 5 to 20 seconds or until the dough ball is formed; and

• further dispensing flour or oil in desired quantities in order to coat the dough ball to facilitate its easy removal from the mixer bowl.

[0022] Also, a method to transfer the dough ball from the mixer bowl, wherein said dough ball is accurately dropped on a typically heated flat plate held below the mixer, said method comprising the steps of:

• tilting the mixer slowly to an inverted position;

• positioning the flat plate below the mixer chute, wherein said plate and the mixer are vertically aligned;

• actuating the mixing element to drop the dough ball held between the vertical member of the mixing element and the inner walls of the mixer bowl on the plate; and

• lowering the flat plate, and subsequently, tilting the mixer to its original position.

[0023] A further method to transfer the dough ball from the mixer, wherein said dough ball is accurately dropped on a flat plate held below the mixer chute opening when the mixer is positioned in an inverted position, said method comprising the steps of:

• gradually tilting the mixer to an inverted position;

• positioning the flat plate below the mixer chute, wherein said plate and the mixer are vertically aligned;

• actuating the mixing element to drop the dough ball held between the vertical member of the mixing element and inner walls of the mixer bowl on the plate;

• relatively moving the mixer and plate in opposite directions simultaneously; and

• tilting the mixer back to its original position.

[0024] The other objectives, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the ensuing detailed description of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPANYING FIGURES

[0025] FIG.1 shows an overview of a typical configuration of ADMKSTS.

[0026] FIG.2 depicts the components of the mixer.

[0027] FIG.3 illustrates the transfer of dough ball from the mixer to the flat plate.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

[0028] The preferred embodiments of the present invention will now be explained with reference to the accompanying drawings. It should be understood however that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. The following description and drawings are not to be construed as limiting the invention and numerous specific details are described to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention, as the basis for the claims and as a basis for teaching one skilled in the art how to make and/or use the invention. However in certain instances, well-known or conventional details are not described in order not to unnecessarily obscure the present invention.

[0029] The preferred embodiment of the present invention discloses an autonomous dosing, mixing, kneading, shaping and transfer system (ADMKSTS) to facilitate dosing or dispensing of ingredients, mixing, kneading and transfer of dough, batter or similar preparations, as shown in FIG.1. Said ADMKSTS is adapted to perform the following functions:

• dispense a specified combination of ingredients into the mixer and dynamically adjust their proportion and/or quantity to achieve the right consistency.

• Mix the ingredients to the required consistency.

• Further add ingredients while the mixing is in progress, or even after mixing is complete, based on preset values or dynamically calculated values.

• Knead the mix thus formed to the desired extent and to arrive at the desired consistency.

• Actuate the mixing element in such a way that the speed of the actuation, which may be varied to achieve the proper outcome, and the shape of the element combines to give the desired shape of the mix.

• Actuate the mixing element and dispense the required ingredients to obtain a coating on the shaped mix.

• Transfer the mix to the next stage by tilting or inverting the mixer.

[0030] The term "mix" refers to the output of the apparatus or the output of any of the components in the apparatus that results from subjecting the ingredients to one or more of the aforesaid processes.

[0031] The system is tightly integrated, with the mixer bowl, mixer chute, mixing element, mixer motor, tilt motor, control module and sensors forming the core. The associated sensors and processing circuitry, together with the described methods, controls dispensing of ingredients into the mixer, based on actual feedback as the mixing and other actions take place. Thus by use of a single unit for different steps of dough processing, and controlling critical functions of dispensing of ingredients and transfer of final mix, the proposed system provides a compact, easy to clean apparatus that is ideally suited for use in kitchen appliances.

[0032] Referring to FIG.1 , the automated dosing, mixing, kneading and transfer system (ADMKSTS) comprises of ingredient containers (e,f), dispensers (i,h), mixer bowl (b), mixer chute (a), mixer motor (d), tilt motor(q) and control module (m). The mixer chute (a) is adapted to lock on to the mixer bowl, as shown in FIG.2. The ADMKSTS further comprises of mixing element (n), tilt mechanism and sensors. In another embodiment the mixer chute (a) includes a lid. Depending on the recipes to be processed there may be any number of ingredient containers and dispensers.

[0033] The dispensers are controlled by the control module (m). Said control module uses sensor data to produce a mix of optimal quantity, optimal mixing, optimal kneading, and optimal properties for transfer to the next stage (o). The control module measures the consistency of the mix based on multiple parameters, including but not limited to, current drawn by motors , voltage, pressure, colour, reflectivity, or other optical properties, angular or linear speed, frequency, displacement, torque, vibrations, or sound in any of the constituent components or the mix.

[0034] In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the control module measures the rotational speed of the mixing element at small, discrete intervals, and controls the power fed to the motor to maintain an overall constant rotational speed. As the resistance of the mix varies at different stages of mixing, said current also varies accordingly, so that a constant speed is maintained. The current consumed by the motor is calculated from the voltage generated across a resistor connected in series in the corresponding electrical circuit of the motor. Patterns of variations in this voltage is also used to determine the flow rate of liquid ingredients into the mixer, as well as the point in time at which dispensing of ingredients, particularly liquids, should be stopped, and eventually when mixing itself should be stopped. [0035] In an alternate embodiment, the control module does not attempt to regulate speed, and instead uses the speed variations measured to control dispensing of one or more ingredients, and to decide when the mixing should be stopped. In yet another embodiment of the invention, the signals sent to a current control device is monitored to control dispensing and mixing while speed regulation is done.

[0036] The ingredient containers are configured to hold sufficient quantity of ingredients required to make the desired number of portions or dough balls, without the need for refilling. The containers may be of different types, to hold flours of different types, liquids including water and oils, or mixtures. In another embodiment, the containers further feature attachments such as vibrators, stirrers, and heaters to facilitate free flow of ingredients.

[0037] As shown in FIG.1 , the ingredients from the containers pass through dispensers or dosing mechanisms into the mixer. The addition of ingredients or said dispensing is achieved by actuating the dispensers associated with the ingredient containers or alternatively, using conveyance mechanisms to transfer ingredients from ingredient containers to the mixer. The dispensed ingredients may fall directly into the mixer or be intercepted by other systems that do further processing before it gets into the mixer.

[0038] The ingredient dispensing process is metered using sensors or timers that actuate the dispensing mechanism to dispense a roughly consistent amount of ingredient(s). Alternatively, using sensor data and suitable methods, the control module automatically decides on the rate of dispensing and the amount of ingredients to be dispensed, such that the desired consistency of the mix is achieved.

[0039] More specifically, the control module constantly uses sensor data, user settings and other parameters, before, during and after mixing process, to activate the dispensers as well as the mixer to obtain a mix of optimal consistency. For example, some ingredients are dispensed continuously or intermittently during mixing while the consistency is continuously measured. Once the right consistency is attained, dispensing and mixing is stopped. In other recipes, this could be based on how the addition of a subset of ingredients develops into a required consistency, only after which other ingredients are added.

[0040] As per the preferred embodiment of the present invention, a roughly measured (by weight, volume or duration of actuation of the dispensing motor) quantity of ingredients of sufficient quantity to prepare a dough ball, typically flour preparations with natural or added gluten, like wheat flour, are dispensed into the mixer, and optionally a part of water required to prepare the dough may also be added at this stage. Once the dough is transferred into the mixer bowl, the mixing element is rotated at a speed in the range of about 400 to 800 RPM, and simultaneously water is dispensed into the mixer through the opening provided in the mixer chute, at a flow rate in the range 0.2 millilitres to 3.0 millilitres per second.

[0041] As mentioned, the mixer motor has a very low value resistor connected in series, typically in the range of 0.001 to 0.005 ohms, wherein control module measures the voltage across this resistor to calculate the current consumed by the motor. Since the motor is controlled by PWM (pulse width modulation), a large number of such samples are taken and averaged to compute the instantaneous current consumed by the motor, and the pattern of variations in this average current is recorded and monitored.

[0042] With the mixer empty, periodically, typically when the machine is switched on, the mixing element is rotated at the typical mixing speed and the averaged current is recorded, to baseline the current consumption of the motor (l b ).

[0043] While mixing is in progress and water is being added, the average current is monitored. Typically it increases because the flour particles adhere to one another, rather strongly when gluten is present, and once the average current crosses a threshold D x l b , where D is a value that is either a preset value for typical wheat flours or chosen based on flour type or recipe, the rate of flow of water is reduced to a preset fraction of the normal flow rate, and thereafter once the average current falls below a threshold M x l a , where M is a value preset or selected similar to D, dispensing of water is stopped, the reason for fall in average current being the formation of granules or small lumps of the flour, which roll on the mixing element, and offer it lower resistance than the sticky mass it was earlier.

[0044] Further, the mixing element is rotated with a varying speed to facilitate the lumps to form a single dough ball (w), a process which the shapes of the mixing element and the mixer bowl facilitates, and the rotation of the mixing element is continued for roughly 5 to 20 seconds so that the dough ball has formed. [0045] The number of thresholds can be increased, wherein the flow rate is changed proportionately, or the flow rate is continuously varied in proportion to the average current.

[0046] In another embodiment, instead of monitoring the average current of the motor, the average current or one of these measurements, or a combination thereof are used. That is, the speed of the motor is regulated using a closed loop control circuit that uses an optical encoder or similar device to continuously measure the speed of the motor, and regulate it by changing the PWM duty cycle used to control the power fed to the motor, and under this condition of speed regulation, the average current is measured. In the above method, under speed regulation, changing duty cycle values are alternatively used instead of the average current.

[0047] In another embodiment, by letting the motor run without active speed control, wherein the speed variations of the motor is used instead of the average current.

[0048] The mixer is designed as a removable component that is removably-coupled to its drive mechanism to facilitate washing by hand or in dishwashing apparatus. The inner walls of the mixer is given a smooth finish, and coated with a non-stick material.

[0049] As per the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the mixing of ingredients takes place in the mixer bowl. As shown in FIG. 2, mixer comprises of a cup shaped container (b) with a mixing element (n) wherein it is further provided with a mixer chute (a) to allow dispensing ingredients into the mixer, and to allow the mix out of the mixer when it is tilted or inverted. The mixer chute opening may optionally be held against a surface to keep the ingredients from spilling out of the mixer. The mixer is also adapted to be activated in such a way that the ingredients are not thrown out of the mixer during mixing even without holding the opening against a surface.

[0050] The base of the mixing element is slightly above from the inner base of the mixer bowl, by 0.5 to 3 millimetres, so that flour does not jam the mixing element, and yet the lumped mix easily moves over the horizontal member of the mixing element.

[0051] The wider base of the vertical member of the mixing element and the lower inner surface of the mixer bowl together form roughly a semicircular shape that matches the circular outline of the dough ball of desired size so that the revolving dough ball picks up granules and dry flour from the bottom of the mixer bowl.

[0052] The mixing element is configured to rotate inside the mixer bowl, wherein the mixer bowl and the mixing element are shaped in such a way that a single dough ball of desired size can be held between the vertical member of the mixing element and the walls of the mixer, wherein it is held tight enough so as to not fall down when the mixer is inverted and the mixing element is held stationary, yet not too tight as to deform or break the dough ball (w), and to permit the dough ball to fall down when the mixing element is slowly actuated in the inverted position for transferring the dough ball from the apparatus to the next stage of processing. The mixer motor is coupled to the mixing element by means of a coupling that is easily removable and washable. The mixer motor further features sensors connected to it in order to continuously monitor its parameters.

[0053] The height of the vertical member of the mixing element is optimized in such a way that it is high enough to hold the dough ball in a circular path around it while the mixing element is actuated, without the dough ball moving to the centre of the mixer bowl, and short enough that it does not come in the way of the dough ball when it is transferred to the flat plate. In the preferred embodiment, the height of the vertical member is not less than the radius of curvature of its lower part.

[0054] Once the dough becomes sticky and forms a lump, it revolves around the vertical member of the mixing element(n), and as it performs this revolving motion it is subjected to rotational movements, and the axis of rotation keeps changing as it revolves around the vertical member, as a result of which it forms into a ball shape. In particular, contact with the vertical member of the mixing element promotes rotation along a vertical axis, contact with the horizontal member promotes rotation along a horizontal axis, and contact with the wider base of the vertical member promotes rotation along oblique axes. The rotation of the dough ball during shaping is rather chaotic, and the changes in the axis of rotation results in a spherical shaped dough ball. [0055] The shape of the dough ball may not be exactly spherical; it may resemble an ellipsoid, or a short cylinder with hemispherical ends. This is apparent if the quantity of ingredients is increased resulting in a larger dough ball, and this causes the portion in contact with the vertical member of the mixing element and the walls of the mixer bowl to compress resulting in this change in shape.

[0056] Referring to FIG.2, the curved horizontal member of the mixing element (n), wherein the edge which first touches the dough ball is thinner so that the dough ball easily rolls over it. The horizontal member is only slightly higher than the bottom of the mixer bowl such that it does not cut through the mix, and passes under it.

[0057] In the preferred embodiment, the mixing element is configured to move in a circular fashion even though other forms of motions are possible and are included within the scope of the invention. Its secondary functions include shaping, beating, coating, and assisting transfer of its contents. The motion of the mixing element and the shape of the mixing element combine to give the desired shape to the mix. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the shape of the mixing element is adapted to produce mix of ball shape.

[0058] The mixer further features a mixer chute which is a funnel shaped lid with an opening. The size of the opening of the chute is large enough to allow the dough ball, or the mix which in some cases could be batter, out of the mixer as well as to permit dispensing of ingredients into the mixer, yet small enough to keep the ingredients from spilling out of the mixer during mixing. In the preferred embodiment, the opening is slightly larger than the desired size of the dough ball. In an alternate embodiment, the mixer chute includes an automatic lid. The mixer further features additional ingredient feeders adapted to feed ingredients into the mixer when the lid is closed.

[0059] The height of the chute is just enough to allow the dough ball out, without getting blocked between the top end of the vertical member of the mixing element and the inner wall of the chute. It is also high enough that the dough ball 'falls' on to a flat plate configured to be positioned under the mixer bowl when said bowl is inverted, resulting in a slight flattening of the base of the almost spherical dough ball, which eventually prevents it from rolling off.

[0060] Mixer bowl and mixing element are adapted to perform mixing as well as actions other than mixing, like kneading, transfer etc and are included within the scope of the invention. The speed of the mixing element and the angle at which the mixer is tilted may be varied to suit these secondary functions.

[0061] The mixing starts as soon as ingredient dispensing starts, or after a certain amount of ingredients have been dispensed. The process of dispensing of ingredients may continue till the end of mixing, could take place in an intermittent manner, or continue after the mixing as well. Dispensing takes place during any stage of operation, or between stages, to provide flexibility for recipes.

[0062] ADMKSTS also comprises of a means to coat the dough balls with flour, oil, or other ingredients. Typically a flour coating is used to make it easier to separate the dough ball during transfer of dough ball to the (external) second stage of processing, wherein said stage is a flat plate in the preferred embodiment.

[0063] As illustrated in FIG.1 , the mixer is mounted on the mixer frame that is adapted to be tilted at varying angles to transfer the mix. The tilt mechanism comprises of a tilt motor (q), or a mechanism that derives movement from an existing mechanical movement, using a cam or similar arrangement.

[0064] As shown in FIG.3, the dough ball is transferred to a flat plate (o) configured to be held below the mixer, when the mixer bowl is inverted, wherein said plate and mixer bowl are vertically aligned. More specifically, the mixer frame is gradually tilted to an inverted position by the tilt motor. While the tilting process is in progress, the mixing element is preferably held stationary or moved slowly, wherein the dough ball is held between the vertical member of the mixing element and the inner walls of the mixer bowl tightly enough to prevent it from falling down. Simultaneously, the flat plate is positioned few millimeters below the mixer chute, as shown in the figure. Said action of the tilt motor and positioning of the flat plate are regulated by the control module.

[0065] Referring to FIG.3, once the mixer bowl is inverted, the mixing element is actuated to drop the dough ball on the flat plate. At this stage, the dough ball partially remains within the mixer chute therein preventing it from rolling off on impact. On successful transfer of the dough ball, the flat plate is lowered to its original position, and subsequently, the mixer is tilted back to its initial position, therein leaving the dough ball at the centre of the flat plate. [0066] In another embodiment, the mixer bowl and flat plate are moved relative to each other in opposite directions simultaneously after the transfer of dough ball to the flat plate.

[0067] Autonomous Dosing, Mixing, Kneading, Shaping and Transfer system further uses a host of sensors such as position sensors, optical sensors, magnetic sensors, and other types of sensors to collect information on the current position and state of components, to measure the level of ingredients, and to measure the consistency of the prepared mix.

[0068] Although the present invention has been described in connection with the preferred embodiments thereof with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be noted that various changes and modifications are possible, including applications in fields other than food processing, and are apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications are to be understood as included within the scope of the present invention unless they depart there from.