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Title:
CUTTING DEVICE AND METHOD FOR SLITTING DOUGH PORTIONS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/160238
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to a cutting device (1) and a method for slitting dough portions, wherein the cutting device (1) comprises a plurality of cutting tools which are arranged on an elongated support member at spaced apart cutting positions and which are each provided with a cutting element for slitting the dough portions under an adjustable cutting angle between said two directions of translation, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a locking element (31) that is movable between a locked position and an unlocked position for locking and unlocking, respectively, of the cutting position of the respective cutting tool (35) along the elongated support member, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is slidable over the elongated support member.

Inventors:
MANSCHOT, Bernardus Hermanus Maria (Nieuwe Maat 15, EK Lichtenvoorde, NL-7131, NL)
Application Number:
NL2015/050208
Publication Date:
October 22, 2015
Filing Date:
April 01, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
KAAK, Johan Hendrik Bernard (Rijksweg 273, DZ Gaanderen, NL-7011, NL)
International Classes:
A21C11/12
Foreign References:
EP2220941A12010-08-25
US4246838A1981-01-27
EP2220941A12010-08-25
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PETERS, Sebastian Martinus (Octrooibureau Vriesendorp & Gaade B.V, Koninginnegracht 19, AB Den Haag, NL-2514, NL)
Download PDF:
Claims:
C L A I M S

1. Cutting device for slitting dough portions, wherein the cutting device is arranged for receiving a product carrier with a support surface for supporting a batch of the dough portions, wherein the cutting device comprises a tool carrier that is arranged to be movable relative to the support surface in at least two substantially orthogonal directions of translation parallel to the support surface, wherein the tool carrier is provided with :

- an elongated support member that is arranged to extend parallel to the support surface;

- a plurality of cutting tools which are arranged on the elongated support member at spaced apart cutting positions along the elongated support member and which are each provided with a cutting element for slitting the dough portions under an adjustable cutting angle between said two directions of translation; and

- a cutting angle drive that is arranged to be operationally connected to the cutting elements of the cutting tools for driving the adjustment of the cutting angles of the connected cutting elements simultaneously;

wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a locking element that is movable between a locked position and an unlocked position for locking and unlocking, respectively, of the cutting position of the respective cutting tool along the elongated support member, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is slidable over the elongated support member.

2. Cutting device according to claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a transmission element that is arranged to be placed between the respective cutting element and the cutting angle drive for operationally converting the drive of the cutting angle drive into the cutting angle adjustment of the respective cutting element, wherein the transmission element is movable between a transmission position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is rotationally fixed to the transmission element and a disengaged position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the transmission element.

3. Cutting device according to claim 2, wherein, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the cutting angle drive.

4. Cutting device according to claim 2 or 3, wherein, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the cutting angles of the other of the plurality of the cutting tools.

5. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is steplessly slidable over the elongated support member.

6. Cutting device according to any one of claims 2-5, wherein, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is steplessly adjustable independent of the transmission element.

7. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a home indicator indicative of a predetermined home cutting angle, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a cutting angle indicator indicative of the cutting angle of the cutting element, wherein the home indicator and the cutting angle indicator are placed in mutual proximity to allow for visual alignment .

8. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a friction element that is rotationally fixed with respect to the cutting angle of the respective cutting element, and a biasing element for biasing the respective transmission element into the transmission position against the friction element, wherein, in the transmission position, the friction element rotationally fixes the transmission element with respect to the cutting angle of the respective cutting element through friction .

9. Cutting device according to claim 8, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a lifting element for at least partially countering the bias of the respective biasing element to move the respective transmission element into the disengaged position.

10. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the cutting angle drive comprises a gear rack, wherein the transmission element comprises a gear, wherein the gear rack and the gear are arranged to be placed in meshing interaction.

11. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is tiltable in a tilting direction about the elongated support member between an active position in which the respective cutting tool is operationally connected to the cutting angle drive and an inactive position in which the respective cutting tool is disconnected from the cutting angle drive.

12. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, further comprising an indexing guide assembly with a set of guides for guiding and indexing the plurality of the cutting tools to a predetermined series of indexed cutting positions specific to a selected guide, wherein each guide of the set of guides has a different indexing distance.

13. Cutting device according to claim 12, wherein each of the plurality of the cutting tools comprises a first indexing element, preferably an indexing protrusion, wherein the guides are provided with second indexing elements, preferably indexing apertures, arranged at the indexed cutting positions, for cooperation with the first indexing elements to position and retain the respective cutting tools in said indexed cutting positions.

14. Cutting device according to claim 12 or 13, when dependent on claim 11, wherein at least one of the guides has a series of indexed cutting positions wherein the number of cutting positions is less than the plurality of cutting tools, wherein, when said guide is selected, some of the cutting tools are placed in the inactive position, wherein, in the inactive position, the inactive cutting tools are decoupled from the indexing guide assembly.

15. Cutting device according to claim 14, wherein the indexing guide assembly is provided with an orientation indicator, preferably a vane, a sensor unit for detecting the orientation of the orientation indicator and a control system for receiving signals from the sensor unit indicative of the orientation of the orientation indicator, wherein the control system, based on the signals, is arranged for deriving the selected guide and for electronically driven only the active cutting tools coupled to said selected guide .

16. Cutting device according to claim 11 or 12, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a coupling element for coupling and decoupling of the respective cutting tool to and from the indexing guide assembly.

17. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the number of cutting tools is at least ten, preferably at least fifteen, and most preferably at least twenty.

18. Cutting device according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the respective cutting elements of the plurality of cutting tools are formed as rotatable cutting discs.

19. Method for slitting dough portions with the use of the cutting device according to claim 1, wherein the method comprises switching over between cutting tool configurations specifically adapted for slitting various batches of dough portions, wherein the switch over comprises the step of moving the locking elements of one or more of the plurality of cutting tools into the unlocked position and subsequently repositioning the one or more unlocked cutting tools in new cutting positions by sliding the one or more unlocked cutting tools over the elongated support member .

20. Method according to claim 19, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a transmission element that is arranged to be placed between the respective cutting element and the cutting angle drive for operationally converting the drive of the cutting angle drive into the cutting angle adjustment of the respective cutting element, wherein the transmission element is movable between a transmission position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is rotationally fixed to the transmission element and a disengaged position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the transmission element, wherein, after repositioning of the one or more unlocked cutting tools into their new cutting positions, the method comprises the step of adjusting the cutting angles of the cutting elements of the one or more repositioned cutting tools independently of their respective transmission elements.

21. Method according to claim 20, wherein the cutting angles of the cutting elements of the one or more repositioned cutting tools are adjusted independently of their respective transmission elements to the same cutting angle .

22. Method according to claim 20 or 21, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is tiltable in a tilting direction about the elongated support member between an active position in which the respective cutting tool is operationally connected to the cutting angle drive and an inactive position in which the respective cutting tool is disconnected from the cutting angle drive, wherein the method comprises the step of placing a number of the plurality of cutting tools in the active position, while placing a remaining number of the plurality of cutting tools in the inactive position.

23. Method according to claim 22, wherein the method further comprises the step of adjusting the cutting angles of the cutting elements of all cutting tools that are in the active position, independently of their respective transmission elements to the same cutting angle.

24. Method according to claim 22 or 23, wherein the cutting device further comprises an indexing guide assembly with a set of guides for guiding and indexing the plurality of the cutting tools to a predetermined series of indexed cutting positions specific to a selected guide, wherein each guide of the set of guides has a different indexing distance, wherein at least one of the guides has a series of indexed cutting positions wherein the number of cutting positions is less than the plurality of cutting tools, wherein, when said guide is selected, the method comprises the step of placing some of the cutting tools in the inactive position, wherein, in the inactive position, the inactive cutting tools are decoupled from the indexing guide assembly.

25. Method according to claim 24, wherein the indexing guide assembly is provided with an orientation indicator, preferably a vane, and a sensor unit for detecting the orientation of the orientation indicator, wherein the method comprises the steps of deriving from the sensor unit which of the guides is selected and driving only the active cutting tools coupled to said selected guide.

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Description:
Cutting device and method for slitting dough portions

BACKGROUND

The invention relates to a cutting device and a method for slitting dough portions. Dough portions for the production of dough products, such as bread, pastries or the like, are provided with slits in their upper surface to improve the quality of the proofing and/or baking, or to improve the aesthetics of the final dough product.

EP 2 220 941 Al discloses a machine for slitting bread dough or the like. The machine comprises a conveyor for movably supporting a plate for receiving the bread dough. The machine further has a frame, a carriage for carrying a tool carrier and actuators for moving the carriage relative to the frame in vertical translation and in a direction perpendicular to the direction of movement of the plate. The tool carrier carries a fixed number of fixed blade cutting tools, arranged in a fixed pitch along the tool carrier. The cutting tools are provided with gears meshing with a gear rack on the tool carrier. By translating the gear rack, the cutting angle of all of the cutting tools can be changed simultaneously. Additionally, the inclination of the cutting tool can be changed to adjust the cutting depth .

When switching between batches of bread dough that require a change of the pitch and/or the number of cutting tools, the operator replaces the tool carrier by another suitable support tool. Thus, in EP 2 220 941 Al, to be able to accommodate switchovers between various batches of bread dough, a great number of suitable support tools has to be kept in stock. Switching between support tools increases the downtime of the machine. The handling of the heavy support tools requires special machinery and the handling of the cutting tools in particular is potentially hazardous to the human operator. Moreover, each support tool has its own set of expensive cutting tools, thereby increasing the operational costs of the machine. Finally, the support tools require regular maintenance, even if the support tools are not regularly used, to prevent degradation of their cutting tools .

It is an object of the present invention to provide an alternative cutting device and an alternative method for slitting dough portions.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect, the invention provides a cutting device for slitting dough portions, wherein the cutting device is arranged for receiving a product carrier with a support surface for supporting a batch of the dough portions, wherein the cutting device comprises a tool carrier that is arranged to be movable relative to the support surface in at least two substantially orthogonal directions of translation parallel to the support surface, wherein the tool carrier is provided with :

- an elongated support member that is arranged to extend parallel to the support surface;

- a plurality of cutting tools which are arranged on the elongated support member at spaced apart cutting positions along the elongated support member and which are each provided with a cutting element for slitting the dough portions under an adjustable cutting angle between said two directions of translation; and

- a cutting angle drive that is arranged to be operationally connected to the cutting elements of the cutting tools for driving the adjustment of the cutting angles of the connected cutting elements simultaneously;

wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a locking element that is movable between a locked position and an unlocked position for locking and unlocking, respectively, of the cutting position of the respective cutting tool along the elongated support member, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is slidable over the elongated support member.

The sliding of the cutting tools allows for different configurations or a different distribution of the cutting position along the elongate support member. Thus, the same tool carrier can be used to accommodate the slitting of various different batches of dough portions, without the need for replacing one tool carrier by another. This can increase the flexibility of the cutting device and reduce the operational costs and efficiency of the cutting device considerably.

In an embodiment each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a transmission element that is arranged to be placed between the respective cutting element and the cutting angle drive for operationally converting the drive of the cutting angle drive into the cutting angle adjustment of the respective cutting element, wherein the transmission element is movable between a transmission position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is rotationally fixed to the transmission element and a disengaged position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the transmission element. When a cutting tool is repositioned along the elongate support member, the cutting angle imposed on the cutting tool by the transmission element may not be the optimal cutting angle. The transmission element according to the invention may allow for small adjustments to be made to the cutting angle, independently from the transmission element. In particular, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the cutting angle drive, such that the cutting angle may be adjusted independently of both the transmission element, the cutting angle drive and/or the connection between the transmission element and the cutting angle drive.

In an embodiment, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the cutting angles of the other of the plurality of the cutting tools. Thus, when one or more of the cutting tools has a cutting angle that is out of alignment with the rest of the cutting angles, e.g. as a result of repositioning, they can be corrected accordingly to ensure uniformity in the slitting of the dough portions.

In an embodiment, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is steplessly slidable over the elongated support member. Thus, the cutting tool can be moved to any cutting position along the elongate support member.

In an embodiment, when the transmission element is in the disengaged position, the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is steplessly adjustable independent of the transmission element. Thus, the cutting angle of the cutting tool can be adjusted to any cutting angle within the adjustable range.

In a user-friendly embodiment each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a home indicator indicative of a predetermined home cutting angle, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a cutting angle indicator indicative of the cutting angle of the cutting element, wherein the home indicator and the cutting angle indicator are placed in mutual proximity to allow for visual alignment.

In an embodiment each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a friction element that is rotationally fixed with respect to the cutting angle of the respective cutting element, and a biasing element for biasing the respective transmission element into the transmission position against the friction element, wherein, in the transmission position, the friction element rotationally fixes the transmission element with respect to the cutting angle of the respective cutting element through friction. The friction element can rotationally fix the transmission element in any of the cutting angles. In a simple and preferred embodiment thereof each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a lifting element for at least partially countering the bias of the respective biasing element to move the respective transmission element into the disengaged position.

In an embodiment the cutting angle drive comprises a gear rack, wherein the transmission element comprises a gear, wherein the gear rack and the gear are arranged to be placed in meshing interaction. The meshing inherently generates a limited amount of positions in which the teeth of the gear mesh optimally with the teeth of the gear rack. To prevent that this mechanical drawback of the gear limits the adjustability of the cutting angle, the gear can be disengaged from the cutting element as indicated above.

In an embodiment, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is tiltable in a tilting direction about the elongated support member between an active position in which the respective cutting tool is operationally connected to the cutting angle drive and an inactive position in which the respective cutting tool is disconnected from the cutting angle drive. Thus, unused cutting tools can be placed in an inactive position in which the risk of damage to the dough portions by unused cutting tools can be reduced and unnecessary wear of the unused cutting tools may be prevented.

In an embodiment, the cutting device further comprises an indexing guide assembly with a set of guides for guiding and indexing the plurality of the cutting tools to a predetermined series of indexed cutting positions specific to a selected guide, wherein each guide of the set of guides has a different indexing distance. The guides can help an operator during the switch over between different configurations of the cutting tools by providing clear references to the cutting positions. In particular, each of the plurality of the cutting tools comprises a first indexing element, preferably an indexing protrusion, wherein the guides are provided with second indexing elements, preferably indexing apertures, arranged at the indexed cutting positions, for cooperation with the first indexing elements to position and retain the respective cutting tools in said indexed cutting positions.

In an embodiment at least one of the guides has a series of indexed cutting positions wherein the number of cutting positions is less than the plurality of cutting tools, wherein, when said guide is selected, some of the cutting tools are placed in the inactive position, wherein, in the inactive position, the inactive cutting tools are decoupled from the indexing guide assembly. In particular, the indexing guide assembly is provided with an orientation indicator, preferably a vane, a sensor unit for detecting the orientation of the orientation indicator and a control system for receiving signals from the sensor unit indicative of the orientation of the orientation indicator, wherein the control system, based on the signals, is arranged for deriving the selected guide and for electronically driven only the active cutting tools coupled to said selected guide. Thus, unnecessary wear can be prevented and power usage can be reduced.

In an embodiment each of the plurality of cutting tools is provided with a coupling element for coupling and decoupling of the respective cutting tool to and from the indexing guide assembly. The coupling can ensure that the cutting tools remain in their indexed cutting positions during operation.

In an embodiment the number of cutting tools is at least ten, preferably at least fifteen, and most preferably at least twenty. By increasing the number of cutting tools, the capacity and flexibility of the cutting device can be increased.

In an embodiment the respective cutting elements of the plurality of cutting tools are formed as rotatable cutting discs. Said discs can be rotated at high speeds to increase the quality of the cut and to achieve a self cleaning effect through centrifugal force.

According to a second aspect, the invention provides a method for slitting dough portions with the use of the aforementioned cutting device, wherein the method comprises switching over between cutting tool configurations specifically adapted for slitting various batches of dough portions, wherein the switch over comprises the step of moving the locking elements of one or more of the plurality of cutting tools into the unlocked position and subsequently repositioning the one or more unlocked cutting tools in new cutting positions by sliding the one or more unlocked cutting tools over the elongated support member. As indicated above in relation to the cutting device, the sliding of the cutting tools allows for different configurations or a different distribution of the cutting position along the elongate support member. Thus, the same tool carrier can be used to accommodate the slitting of various different batches of dough portions, without the need for replacing one tool carrier by another. This can increase the flexibility of the cutting device and reduce the operational costs and efficiency of the cutting device considerably.

In an embodiment each of the plurality of cutting tools further comprises a transmission element that is arranged to be placed between the respective cutting element and the cutting angle drive for operationally converting the drive of the cutting angle drive into the cutting angle adjustment of the respective cutting element, wherein the transmission element is movable between a transmission position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is rotationally fixed to the transmission element and a disengaged position in which the cutting angle of the respective cutting element is adjustable independent of the transmission element, wherein, after repositioning of the one or more unlocked cutting tools into their new cutting positions, the method comprises the step of adjusting the cutting angles of the cutting elements of the one or more repositioned cutting tools independently of their respective transmission elements. The transmission element according to the invention may thus allow for small adjustments to be made to the cutting angle, independently from the transmission element.

In an embodiment the cutting angles of the cutting elements of the one or more repositioned cutting tools are adjusted independently of their respective transmission elements to the same cutting angle. By positioning all of the cutting elements in the same direction, it is ensured that all dough portions are cut uniformly.

In an embodiment, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is tiltable in a tilting direction about the elongated support member between an active position in which the respective cutting tool is operationally connected to the cutting angle drive and an inactive position in which the respective cutting tool is disconnected from the cutting angle drive, wherein the method comprises the step of placing a number of the plurality of cutting tools in the active position, while placing a remaining number of the plurality of cutting tools in the inactive position. Thus, unused cutting tools can be placed in an inactive position in which the risk of damage to the dough portions by unused cutting tools can be reduced and unnecessary wear of the unused cutting tools may be prevented.

In an embodiment the method further comprises the step of adjusting the cutting angles of the cutting elements of all cutting tools that are in the active position, independently of their respective transmission elements to the same cutting angle. Thus, when one or more of the cutting tools has a cutting angle that is out of alignment with the rest of the cutting angles, e.g. as a result of the repositioning, they can be corrected accordingly to ensure uniformity in the slitting of the dough portions.

In an embodiment the cutting device further comprises an indexing guide assembly with a set of guides for guiding and indexing the plurality of the cutting tools to a predetermined series of indexed cutting positions specific to a selected guide, wherein each guide of the set of guides has a different indexing distance, wherein at least one of the guides has a series of indexed cutting positions wherein the number of cutting positions is less than the plurality of cutting tools, wherein, when said guide is selected, the method comprises the step of placing some of the cutting tools in the inactive position, wherein, in the inactive position, the inactive cutting tools are decoupled from the indexing guide assembly.

In an embodiment the indexing guide assembly is provided with an orientation indicator, preferably a vane, and a sensor unit for detecting the orientation of the orientation indicator, wherein the method comprises the steps of deriving from the sensor unit which of the guides is selected and driving only the active cutting tools coupled to said selected guide. Thus, unnecessary wear can be prevented and power usage can be reduced.

The various aspects and features described and shown in the specification can be applied, individually, wherever possible. These individual aspects, in particular the aspects and features described in the attached dependent claims, can be made subject of divisional patent applications . BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be elucidated on the basis of an exemplary embodiment shown in the attached schematic drawings, in which:

figure 1 shows an isometric view of a cutting device according to the invention, wherein the cutting device has received a batch of dough portions and is provided with a plurality of cutting tools for slitting the dough portions;

figure 2 shows various examples of slits in dough portions ;

figures 3A, 3B and 3C show front views of the cutting device according to figure 1, wherein, for each view, the cutting tools are in a different configuration to switchover between different batches of dough portions;

figure 4 shows a detail view in perspective of some of the cutting tools of figure 1, one of which is in an inactive position;

figure 5 shows a detail view in perspective of some of the cutting tools of figure 4, wherein the cutting tools are rotated to change the cutting angle thereof;

figure 6 shows an exploded view of one of the cutting tools according to figures 4 and 5;

figures 7A and 7B show side views of one of the cutting tools according to figures 4 and 5, during repositioning of said cutting tool to arrive at a different configuration of the cutting tools, e.g. as shown in figures 3A, 3B and 3C;

figure 8 shows a view in perspective of a drive for driving the rotation of the cutting tools as shown in figure 5, and a guide assembly for guiding the switchover between the different configurations as shown in figures 3A, 3B and 3C; and

figure 9 shows a view in perspective of the guide assembly according to figure 8. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Figure 1 shows a cutting device 1 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, for cutting, scarifying or slitting a batch 9 of dough portions 90. Figure 2 shows various examples of slit configurations in dough portions, ranging from a single slit to a plurality of slits, from mutually parallel slits to crossing slits, and from orthogonal slits to inclined or forty-five degree slits. As shown in figure 2, the dough portions of the different batches may have different dimensions, ranging from elongate (e.g. a baguette) to a spherical shape.

The batch 9 of dough portions 90 is supported on a support surface 91 of a product carrier, in this example in the form of a substantially flat tray or plate which is known per se. The dough portions 9 are arranged on or distributed over the product carrier 91 in a predetermined pattern, preferably in a matrix pattern with a plurality of rows. In the example as shown in figures 1 and 3A, the batch 9 of dough portions 90 comprises twenty rows. Figures 3B and 3C show alternative batches 109, 209 of dough portions with a different number of rows and/or a different distribution of dough portions over the product carrier 91.

The cutting device 1 comprises a frame 10, a conveyor 11 extending through said frame 10 for conveying the plate 91 with the batch 9 of dough portions 90 into and out of the frame 10 in a transport direction T, a cutting assembly 2 movably supported by said frame 10 above the conveyor 11 and a multi-directional, XY or XYZ drive system for driving the cutting assembly 2 in controlled movements relative to the frame 10 and the conveyor 11.

In this example, the frame 10 is placed substantially level or horizontal on a factory floor. The frame 10 is provided with two mutually parallel rails 12, 13 extending in a first direction of translation X parallel to the transport direction T and the support surface 91 of the product carrier. The cutting assembly 2 is slidably mounted to said rails 12, 13. The drive system comprises a first actuator or first drive 14 in the form of an electrically driven timing belt for driving the cutting assembly 2 in a controlled movement in the first direction of translation X within the boundaries of the rails 12, 13, parallel to the transport direction T and relative to the conveyor 11. Alternatively, the relative movement may be achieved by controlled movement of the conveyor 11 in the transport direction T with respect to the cutting assembly 2.

The conveyor 11 may be any suitable conveyor for conveying the aforementioned product carrier 91 through the frame 10, in particular an endless belt conveyor, a roller conveyor or a linked belt conveyor which are all known per se. During its passage through the frame 10, the upper surface or transport surface of the conveyor 11 is substantially level or horizontal.

The cutting assembly 2 comprises a first carriage 21 extending perpendicular to the first direction of translation X and preferably perpendicular to the transport direction T between the rails 12, 13 of the frame 10. The first carriage 21 is slidably mounted to the rails 12, 13 and operationally coupled to the first drive 14 so as to be moveable in the first direction of translation X. The cutting assembly 2 is provided with a second carriage 22 that is slidably suspended from the first carriage 21 above the conveyor 11. The drive system comprises a second actuator or second drive 13 in the form of an electrically driven timing belt that is arranged between the first carriage 21 and the second carriage 22 for driving the second carriage 22 in a controlled movement along and with respect to the first carriage 21 in a second direction of translation Y, parallel to the support surface 91 of the product carrier and orthogonal to the first direction of translation X. The cutting assembly 2 finally comprises a third carriage or tool carrier 3 suspended from the second carriage 22. The drive system is provided with a third actuator or third drive 15 between the second carriage 22 and the tool carrier 3, for adjusting the height of the tool carrier 3 with respect to the second carriage 22 and the conveyor 11 in a vertical height adjustment direction Z. As shown in more detail in figures 4 and 8, the tool carrier 3 comprises an elongated support member 30, in particular a support shaft 30, extending in the second direction of translation Y, parallel to the transport surface of the conveyor 12. The tool carrier 3 is further provided with a plurality of cutting tools 31 supported on the support shaft 30 at spaced apart, cutting positions, a cutting angle actuator or drive 70 for setting the cutting angle of the cutting tools 31 in a range between the first direction of translation X and the second direction of translation Y, and an optional indexing guide assembly 80 for guiding, indexing and/or retaining the cutting tools 31 to predetermined, indexed cutting positions. In this exemplary embodiment, the support shaft 30, the cutting angle drive 70 and the optional indexing guide assembly 80 are mutually in a fixed relative position, defined by bearings and/or mounting holes in at least two end plates 61, 62.

The cutting tool 31 as shown in figure 6 is exemplary for each of the plurality of cutting tools 31 as shown in figures 1-5, 7A, 7B and 8. The cutting tool 5 comprises a base body 32 with a first bore 33 that loosely fits on the support shaft 30. The cutting tool 31 is further provided with a locking element 34 that is movable between an unlocked position and a locked position. In the unlocked position, the base body 32 is freely and/or steplessly slidable in an indexing direction W over the support shaft 30 to a chosen cutting position and tiltable about a tilting axis R in a tilting direction A between an active position, as shown in figure 4 on the left-hand side, or an inactive position, as shown in figure 4 in the middle. Meanwhile, in the locked position, the locking element 34 is arranged for exerting a clamping force on the support shaft 30 to lock the base body 32 against sliding or tilting with respect to the support shaft 30 in a chosen cutting position. In this example, the locking element 34 is a quick-acting clamp or clamping lever with an eccentric cam that indirectly exerts a clamping force on the support shaft 30 through forcing together of two halves of the base body 32 on opposite sides of the first bore 33 to decrease the diameter of the first bore 33.

At the bottom of the base body 32, at the side thereof facing the conveyor 11, the cutting tool 31 is provided with a cutting element 35 and a holder 36 for holding the cutting element 35. Preferably, the cutting element 35 is a cutting disc 35 for rotary cutting and the holder 36 is arranged for rotatably holding the cutting disc 35. The cutting disc 35 is powered by an electric motor 37 which is able to spin the cutting disc 35 up to high rotational speeds, up to or in excess of 25.000 rpm. At these rotational speeds, any contaminations or deposits of the dough portions 90 on the cutting discs 35 during the slitting will tend to be thrown of the cutting discs 35 by high centrifugal force. The cutting discs 35 are thus self- cleaning .

The cutting tool 31 further comprises a connecting shaft 38 that extends vertically through a second bore (not shown) in the base body 32 and that is rotatable with respect to the base body 32 about a vertically extending cutting angle axis V. The connecting shaft 38 couples the holder 36 at the bottom of the base body 32 to a cutting angle indicator 39 at the top of the base body 32 in a rotationally fixed manner, such that any rotation of the holder 36 about the cutting angle axis V is directly imposed on or reflected by the cutting angle indicator 39, as clearly shown in figure 5.

As further shown in figure 6, the cutting tool 31 is provided with an indexing element 40 in the form of an indexing plate 40 that is arranged to be coupled to the base body 32 at or near the top thereof. The indexing plate 40 is arranged to engage with the indexing guide assembly 80 in a manner which will be described in more detail hereafter. The indexing plate 40 is provided with an first index element 41, in this example in the form of an index protrusion 41 extending in the direction of the indexing guide assembly 80. The indexing plate 40 further comprises a cutting angle aperture or window 42 with a home or origin reference or home or origin indicator 43. The cutting angle window 42 is arranged to be positioned around, nearby or in proximity to the cutting angle indicator 39 such that the relative orientation and/or alignment of the cutting angle indicator 39 with respect to the home indicator 43 can be visually determined. In particular, the indicators 39, 43 are arranged such that, when both indicators 39, 43 are aligned and/or directly opposite with respect to each other, the cutting angle of the cutting element 35 is aligned with or parallel to the transport direction T and/or the first direction of translation X.

The cutting tool 31 is provided with a transmission part 44 that is arranged to engage with the cutting angle drive 70. The transmission part 44 is movable into a transmission position in which the transmission part 44 is operationally coupled to the connection shaft 38 for transferring the driving movement of the cutting angle drive 70 into a rotary movement of the connection shaft 38 about the cutting angle axis V and an idling position in which the transmission part 44 is at least partly disengaged from the connection shaft 38.

In this example, the transmission part 44 is a gear 44 that is concentrically placed around the connection shaft 38. The gear 44 itself is freely rotatable about the cutting angle axis V with respect to the connection shaft 38. The cutting tool 31 comprises a biasing element 45, in particular a spring arranged around the connection shaft 38, that is arranged to bias the gear 44 towards and/or into the transmission position. As best seen in figure 7A, the gear 44, in the transmission position, is placed on a receiver plate 45 via a friction element 47 that is arranged to be rotationally fixed to the receiver plate 46, which in turn is arranged to be rotationally fixed to the connection shaft 38. As long as the gear 44 is in contact with the friction element 47 in the transmission position, any driving movement transmitted from the cutting angle drive 70 onto the gear 44 is directly transmitted via the receiver plate 46 onto the connection shaft 38 as if the connection shaft 38 was rotationally fixed or coupled to the gear 44.

However, as shown in figure 6, the cutting tool 31 is further provided with a lifting plate 48 with an upright lifting element, in this example in the form of two flanges, for contacting and lifting the gear 44 from below into a lifted or disengaged position, as shown in figure 7B. In the disengaged position at least a part of the biasing force exerted by the biasing element 45 on the gear 44 is countered and the pressure of the gear 44 on the friction element 47 is reduced, or the gear 44 is lifted completely free of or out of contact with the friction element 47. As a result, the friction between the friction element 47 and the gear 44 can be reduced or even eliminated, thereby allowing the gear 44 to become a slipping clutch. In the disengaged position of the gear 44, the operator can manually adjust the cutting angle of the respective cutting tool 31 by manually exerting a force in an adjustment direction B on the connection shaft 38, the holder 36, the motor 37 and/or the cutting disc 35, freely, steplessly and/or independently of the gear 44.

As shown in figures 6, 7A and 7B, the cutting tool

31 is provided with a coupling element 50, in this example in the form of a bracket, which is arranged for coupling and decoupling of the cutting tool 31 onto and from the indexing guide assembly 80. In this exemplary embodiment, the coupling element 50 is also operationally coupled to the lifting plate 48 via two bolts 49 to simultaneously lift and lower the lifting plate 48 with the decoupling and coupling, respectively, of the cutting tool 31. Alternatively, a separate operational element can be provided for lifting and lowering the lifting plate 48. The coupling element 50 comprises an pushing lever section 51, a set of hooks 52 at the end of the coupling element 50 opposite to the pushing lever section 51 and an intermediate tilting section 53. The latter is arranged in abutment with the indexing plate 40.

When a manual pushing force is exerted in a downward direction D on the pushing lever section 51, the coupling element 50 is tilted with respect to the indexing plate 40 about the intermediate tilting section 53 around a tilting axis E and, as a consequence, the opposite set of hooks 52 is lifted upwards in a decoupling direction F into a decoupled position. At a distance from the intermediate tilting section 53, between said intermediate tilting section 53 and the coupling hooks 52, the coupling element 50 is provided with an attachment section 54 for attachment of the two bolts 49. With the upward movement of the coupling hooks 52 in the decoupling direction F, the two bolts 49 are also at least partially lifted in a direction parallel to the decoupling direction F, thereby also lifting the lifting plate 48 attached thereto. Similarly, when the pushing force is absent, the biasing element 45 will bias the gear 44, and thus the lifting plate 48 to the lowered transmission position, which, through the bolts 49 causes the coupling element 50 to return to the coupled position as shown in figure 7A.

The abovementioned gear 44 is arranged to interact with the cutting angle drive 70, as shown in figure 5. In particular, the cutting angle drive 70 is provided with a linear actuator 71, in this example a gear rack 71, that extends along the cutting tools 31, parallel to the support shaft 30, and that is supported by slide bearings 72, 73 at or near the end plates 61, 62. The gear rack 71 is arranged to mesh with the teeth of any of the gears 44 of the cutting tools 31 which are placed in the active position. As such, any linear movement C of the gear rack 71 is directly converted into a rotary movement of the gears 44 about their respective cutting angle axis V. In figures 5 and 7A, the situation is shown in which the gear 44 is biased into the transmission position in which the gear 44 transmits its rotary movement about the cutting angle axis V through the friction element 47 directly onto the receiver plate 45 and the connection shaft 38 rotationally fixedly attached thereto. Thus, the rotary movement of the gears 44 is directly transferred into a rotary movement of the respective connection shafts 38, the holders 36 and the cutting discs 35. As a consequence, the gear rack 71 acts as a common actuator for simultaneously changing or adjusting the cutting angles of all cutting tools 31 which are operationally coupled via their respective gears 44 to the gear rack 71.

As shown in figure 8, the gear rack 71 is driven by an electric motor 74 which has a limited range of rotary movement G due to an associated arm 75 that is arranged to move is in a slot at or near one of the end plates 61, 62. The limited range corresponds to a maximum cutting angle range of approximately one-hundred-and-thirty-five degrees between the first direction X and the second direction Y, in particular ninety degrees at one side of the first direction X in or towards the second direction Y, and another forty- five degrees at the opposite side of the first direction X towards the second direction Y. The electric motor 74 is controlled to set the cutting angle in accordance with the controlled movement of the tool carrier 3 in the first direction X, the second direction Y or a combination thereof.

The indexing guide assembly 80, as shown in figures 4, 5, 8 and singled out in figure 9, comprises a set of guides 81A-81D, in particular in the form of metal strips, preferably angled strips, extending in the second direction of translation Y between two revolver plates 84 to be rotatable as a set in a revolving direction H about a revolver axis S extending in the same second direction of translation Y. The guides 81A-81D are spaced apart and/or distributed circumferentially around the revolver axis S. Although only four guides 81A-81D are shown, it will be clear to one skilled in the art that another number of guides similar to the four guides 81A-81D may be provided depending on the available space or the required distribution. The indexing guide assembly 80 is provided with a stop 85 for stopping and/or fixing the set of guides 81A-81D in an angular position with respect to the revolver axis S in which one of the guides 81A-81D is positioned directly opposite to the plurality of cutting tools 31, in particular directly opposite to the indexing plates 40 and the coupling elements 50 of the cutting tools 31.

Each of the guides 81A-81D is provided with its own series of second indexing elements 82, in this example in the form of indexing notches, indentations or apertures 82 which are able to mate with or receive the indexing protrusions 41 of the indexing plates 40 in predetermined cutting positions along the respective guide 81A-81D. For each guide 81A-81D, the indexing apertures 82 are spaced apart at a specific indexing distance 11-14. In this example, the indexing apertures 82 are distributed evenly over the length of the guides 81A-81D. Alternatively, the distribution of the indexing apertures 82 may also be unevenly distributed, e.g. an alternative guide (not shown) may have two sections of indexing apertures 82, wherein each section has its own indexing distance between the indexing apertures 82.

The indexing guide assembly 80 further comprises engagement elements 83, in this example in the form of engagement openings 83 arranged in sets of two on both sides of each of the indexing apertures 82 in the second direction of translation Y, for securely interacting with or receiving one of the sets of hooks 52 from the cutting tools 31.

The set of guides 81A-81D is either manually rotated about the revolver axis S or driven by a guide drive 88. At or near one of the end plates 84, the indexing guide assembly 80 is provided with an orientation indicator 86 that is rotationally fixed to the set of guides 81A-81D and a sensor unit for detecting the orientation indicator 86. In this example, the orientation indicator 86 is formed as a vane 86 having three distinctly detectable sections and the sensor unit comprises three sensors 87A-87C for individually detecting the detectable sections. Depending on the detection signals, the presence or absence of one or more of the detectable sections of the vane 86 can be detected by the three sensors 87A-87C, from which the angular orientation of the set of guides 81A-81D about the revolver axis S can be derived.

The method for slitting dough portions 90, with the use of the aforementioned cutting device 1, will be described hereafter with reference to figures 1-9.

Initially, a new batch 9 of dough portions 90 is provided, in which the dough portions 90 are placed in a particular pattern, e.g. the exemplary matrix distribution as shown in figure 1, having twenty rows of dough portions 90. The operator prepares the cutting device 1 for said batch 9 by optionally selecting a suitable guide 81A-81D for the current batch by rotating the set of guides 81A-81D in the revolving direction H about the revolver axis S into the desired position. If one or more of the cutting tools 31 are still coupled to the indexing guide assembly 80, e.g. as a result of a previous configuration of the cutting tools 31 for a previous batch, the one or more cutting tools 31 need to be decoupled first, by pressing in a downward pushing direction D on the coupling element 50, as shown in figure 7B, before another guide 81A-81D can be selected. After setting the indexing guide assembly 80 to a specification guide 81A-81D, the sensors 87A-87C send a signal to a control system (not shown) , which determines the selected guide 81A-81D and, during the slitting operation, correspondingly only drives the motors 37 of the cutting tools 31 which are designed to be coupled into the active position to said selected guide 81A-81D.

If the optional indexing guide assembly 80 is absent in the cutting device 1, the operator can directly start with the following steps of the method.

Subsequently, the operator freely and/or steplessly repositions a required number of cutting tools 31, e.g. at least one cutting tool 31 per row of dough portions 90, into the required cutting positions as defined by the selected guide 81A-81D. After the repositioning, the operator places the required number of cutting tools 31 in the active position. The remaining, unused cutting tools 31 (if any) are placed into the inactive position, in which they are decoupled or disconnected from both cutting angle drive 70 and the indexing guide assembly 80.

Figures 3A, 3B and 3C show three exemplary configurations of the cutting tools 31, specifically adapted for three exemplary batches 9, 109, 209. It will be evident to one skilled in the art that many different configurations are possible, ranging from only one active cutting tool 31 to all of the cutting tools 31 being activated. To quickly switch over between the configurations, the operator can simply move the clamping levers 34 of the cutting tools 31 that require repositioning into the unlocked position U as shown in figure 4, thereby increasing the size of the bore 33 in the base body 32. Subsequently or simultaneously, the coupling element 50 at the top of the unlocked cutting tool 31 is pressed downward in the pushing direction D as shown in figure 7B, such that the oppositely located set of hooks 52 are released from their respective engagement openings 83 in the indexing guide assembly 80. The unlocked cutting tool 31 is now ready to be tilted into the inactive position as shown in the middle of figure 4.

While released from the indexing guide assembly 80, the unlocked cutting tool 31 can be freely and/or steplessly moved along the support shaft 30 in the indexing direction W in a range that is only limited by the directly adjacent cutting tools 31. In the inactive position, the gear 44 is not meshing with the gear rack 71, such that the unlocked cutting tool 31 may be moved relative to the gear rack 71 without the gear 44 and the associated cutting disc 35 rotating wildly or uncontrollably about the cutting angle axis V. When the unlocked cutting tool 31 has been repositioned in its desired, chosen or predetermined cutting position, the repositioned cutting tool 31 is tilted back into the active position as shown on the left and right hand side of figure 4, until the indexing protrusion 41 is received in the indexing aperture 82 and until the gear 44 meshes again with the gear rack 71. Some manual adjustment of the gear 44 about the cutting angle axis V may be required to accurately mesh the teeth of the gear 44 with the teeth of the gear rack 71. The coupling element 50 is again pushed into the decoupled position as shown in figure 7B to allow the set of hooks 52 to engage the indexing guide assembly 80 in the new cutting position.

As the new cutting position for the repositioned cutting tool 31 can be chosen freely and/or steplessly, it may be that in the new position, the optimal orientation of the gear 44 for meshing with the gear rack 71 does not correspond to the optimal or home cutting angle of the cutting disc 35. This can be compensated by temporarily pushing down on the coupling element 50 of the repositioned cutting tool 31, thereby lifting the lifting plate 48. This allows the connection shaft 38, the holder 36 and/or the cutting disc 35 to be freely rotated or to be rotated through slipping contact with respect to the gear 44 into the optimal or home cutting angle. The operator may use the home mark 43 and the cutting angle indicator 39 to accurately align the cutting angle with the home cutting angle .

After all cutting tools 31 are repositioned, activated and/or deactivated, the slitting may commence. The first drive 15 or alternatively the conveyor 12 are operated to relatively move the cutting tools 31 and the batch 90 of dough portions 91 in the first direction of translation X. The second drive 16 and/or the third drive 17 are operated to achieve optional and/or combined movement of the cutting tools 31 in the second direction of translation Y and the third direction Z. Depending on the desired arrangement of the slits, e.g. based on the exemplary dough portions 90, 93-97 as shown in figure 2, the cutting tools 31 controllably moved in the direction of the slits.

In summary, the invention relates to a cutting device and a method for slitting dough portions, wherein the cutting device comprises a plurality of cutting tools which are arranged on an elongated support member at spaced apart cutting positions and which are each provided with a cutting element for slitting the dough portions under an adjustable cutting angle between said two directions of translation, wherein each of the plurality of cutting tools comprises a locking element that is movable between a locked position and an unlocked position for locking and unlocking, respectively, of the cutting position of the respective cutting tool along the elongated support member, wherein, in the unlocked position of the locking element, the respective cutting tool is slidable over the elongated support member.

It is to be understood that the above description is included to illustrate the operation of the preferred embodiments and is not meant to limit the scope of the invention. From the above discussion, many variations will be apparent to one skilled in the art that would yet be encompassed by the spirit and scope of the present invention .