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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
FOOD PROCESSOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2014/133583
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Food processing assemblies for rotating processing tools inside a container are disclosed. A portion of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction while the processing assembly is driven. In some embodiments, one end of the food processing assembly may be rotationally fixed to a container lid in at least one rotational direction. The processing tool may include a transmission system, where a portion of the transmission is rotationally fixed to the container in at least one rotational direction.

Inventors:
AUDETTE, David, M. (17 Fairfield Street, Webster, MA, 01570, US)
Application Number:
US2013/057210
Publication Date:
September 04, 2014
Filing Date:
August 29, 2013
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
EURO-PRO OPERATING LLC (180 Wells Avenue, Suite 200Newton, MA, 02459, US)
International Classes:
A47J43/04; A47J43/07; A47J43/08
Foreign References:
US20110226140A12011-09-22
US8382627B22013-02-26
US4480926A1984-11-06
EP0529287B11995-09-20
EP0529287B11995-09-20
Other References:
See also references of EP 2961301A4
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AMUNDSEN, Eric, L. (Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks P.C.,600 Atlantic Avenu, Boston MA, 02210-2206, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A food processing apparatus comprising:

a container having a food-containing volume;

a lid for the container; and

a rotatable processing assembly having a portion that is engageable with the lid, wherein, when the lid is engaged with the container and the portion of the processing assembly is engaged with the lid, the portion of the processing assembly and the lid are rotationally fixed relative to each other in at least one rotational direction.

2. The food processing apparatus of 1, wherein the drive coupler is external to the food-containing volume.

3. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a base with a drive coupler,

wherein:

the container operatively interacts with the base; and

a driven coupler of the processing assembly operatively interacts with the drive coupler of the base.

4. The food processing apparatus of claim 3, wherein the driven coupler removably couples with the drive coupler.

5. The food processing apparatus of claim 3, further comprising a motor connected to a drive shaft, wherein the drive shaft is connected to the drive coupler.

6. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the processing assembly includes a transmission system. 7. The food processing apparatus of claim 6, wherein the transmission system comprises a planetary gear system.

8. The food processing apparatus of claim 6, wherein a portion of the transmission system remains rotationally fixed relative to the container when the processing assembly is driven.

9. The food processing apparatus of claim 8, wherein the portion of the transmission system that remains rotationally fixed relative to the container includes a ring gear.

10. The food processing apparatus of claim 9, wherein the ring gear is rotationally fixed relative to the second end of the processing assembly and the lid when the processing assembly is driven.

11. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second end of the processing assembly comprises a lid coupling comprising at least one protrusion, and an underside of the lid comprises at least one indentation that is configured to receive the at least one protrusion.

12. The food processing apparatus of claim 11, wherein the at least one protrusion and the at least one indentation are slanted relative to a longitudinal axis of the processing assembly.

13. The food processing apparatus of claim 11, wherein the lid coupling comprises a plurality of protrusions, and the underside of the lid comprises a plurality of indentations that are configured to receive the protrusions.

14. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second end of the processing assembly comprises a rounded tip, and an underside of the lid further comprises a recess that is configured to receive the rounded tip.

15. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein, with the processing assembly engaged with the drive coupler, engaging the lid with the container causes the second end of the processing assembly to rotate until the second end is received into an underside of the lid.

16. The food processor apparatus of claim 1, wherein the portion of the processing assembly that is engageable with the lid is removably engageable with the lid.

17. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the portion of the processing assembly that is removably engageable with the lid comprises an end of the processing assembly. 18. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the portion of the processing assembly and the lid are rotationally fixed relative to each other in two rotational directions.

19. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the container comprises glass. 20. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the container comprises plastic.

21. The food processing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the container is transparent. 22. A food processing apparatus comprising:

a container having a food-containing volume;

a lid for the container; and

a rotatable processing assembly,

wherein, when the processing assembly is driven by a drive coupler, a portion of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction.

23. The food processing apparatus of claim 22, wherein:

the food processing assembly includes a transmission system; and

a portion of the transmission system remains rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction when the processing assembly is driven.

24. The food processing apparatus of claim 23, wherein the transmission system comprises a planetary gear system.

25. The food processing apparatus of claim 24, wherein the portion of the

transmission system that remains rotationally fixed relative to the container includes a ring gear.

26. The food processing apparatus of claim 25, wherein the ring gear is rotationally fixed relative to the lid via intermediate components.

27. The food processing apparatus of claim 23, wherein the transmission system is positioned within a transmission housing in an arrangement that prevents entry of fluid into the transmission housing.

28. The food processing apparatus of claim 22, wherein the portion of the processing assembly that remains rotationally fixed relative to the container is removably connected to the lid.

29. The food processing apparatus of claim 28, wherein the portion of the processing assembly that remains rotationally fixed relative to the container is removably connected to a member that extends from the lid.

30. The food processing apparatus of claim 22, wherein the portion of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the container in two rotational directions.

31. The food processing apparatus of claim 22, further comprising a base with a drive coupler, wherein:

the container engages with the base; and

a driven coupler of the processing assembly engages with the drive coupler of the base.

32. The food processing apparatus of claim 31, wherein the base includes a motor and a drive shaft, wherein the drive shaft rotates the drive coupler.

33. A method comprising:

removably engaging a lid with a container having a food-containing volume such that the lid removably engages a first portion of a rotatable processing assembly; and

rotating a second portion of the processing assembly to process food; wherein the first portion of the processing assembly that is engaged to the lid cannot rotate relative to the lid in at least one rotational direction as the second portion of the processing assembly rotates.

34. The method of claim 33, wherein the step of removably engaging a lid with the container causes the first portion of the processing assembly to rotate until the first portion is in a position wherein the first portion cannot rotate relative to the lid in at least one rotational direction

35. The method of claim 34, wherein the first portion cannot rotate relative to the lid in two rotational directions.

36. The method of claim 33, wherein removably engaging a lid with a container comprises removably engaging a lid with a plastic container.

37. The method of claim 33, wherein removably engaging a lid with a container comprises removably engaging a lid with a glass container.

Description:
FOOD PROCESSOR

FIELD

Aspects herein generally relate to a processing assembly for a food processing apparatus and methods of processing food using a processing assembly. More specifically, aspects disclosed herein relate to a food processing apparatus with a food processing assembly, where a portion of the food processing assembly is rotationally fixed to the container in at least one rotational direction when the processing assembly is driven.

DISCUSSION OF RELATED ART

Food processors such as blenders use rotating blades to process food. In some food processors, the rotating blades are part of a rotating processing assembly which is supported by a container lid at an upper end. The upper end of the processing assembly fits into recess on the underside of the container lid, and the upper end is free to rotate within the recess when the processing assembly is driven.

SUMMARY

According to one embodiment of the invention, a food processing apparatus includes a container with a food-containing volume, a lid for the container, and a rotatable processing assembly having a portion that is engageable with the lid. When the lid is engaged with the container and the portion of the processing assembly is engaged with the lid, the portion of the processing assembly and the lid are rotationally fixed relative to each other in at least one rotational direction.

According to another embodiment of the invention, a food processing apparatus includes a container with a food-containing volume, a lid for the container, and a rotatable processing assembly. When the processing assembly is driven by a drive coupler, a portion of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction.

According to yet another embodiment of the invention, a method includes removably engaging a lid with a container having a food-containing volume such that the lid removably engages a first portion of a rotatable processing assembly. The method also includes rotating a second portion of the processing assembly to process food. The first portion of the processing assembly that is engaged to the lid cannot rotate relative to the lid in at least one rotational direction as the second portion of the processing assembly rotates.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings are not intended to be drawn to scale. In the drawings, each identical or nearly identical component that is illustrated in various figures is represented by a like numeral. For purposes of clarity, not every component may be labeled in every drawing. Various embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGS. 1A-1B are cross-sectional views that depict a processing assembly with a transmission system in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side view that depicts the processing assembly depicted in FIGS. 1A-1B;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged view that depicts the interface between a drive coupler and a driven coupler in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged cross-sectional view that depicts the transmission system depicted in FIGS. 1A-1B;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view that depicts a lid coupling in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged perspective view that depicts the underside of a lid in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view that depicts a first blade assembly in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a top view that depicts a second blade assembly in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a side view that depicts the second blade assembly depicted in FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view that depicts the second blade assembly depicted in FIG. 8; FIG. 11 is a top, cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment; and

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view that depicts a transmission system integrated into a container base in accordance with an aspect of the invention. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Blenders and food processors can be arranged to rotate one or more processing tools to process food. In some conventional devices, the processing tools are part of a processing assembly having an upper end supported by the container lid, where the upper end is free to rotate relative to the container lid.

Provided herein are embodiments where a portion of a processing assembly remains rotationally fixed in at least one rotational direction relative to the container when the processing assembly is driven. According to one aspect, the processing assembly includes a transmission system, and a portion of the transmission system is rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction.

By providing an arrangement where the end of the processing assembly can be rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction, a portion of the processing assembly can be held stationary during rotation of the processing tools. In some cases, such an arrangement may permit the processing assembly to include a transmission system that is located within the container, where the transmission system requires some portion of the transmission system to be held stationary when the transmission system is driven.

With the transmission being internal to the container, transmissions having different speed ratios may be easily exchanged by using different processing assemblies. For example, a first processing assembly may have a transmission with a speed ratio of 4: 1, and a second processing assembly may have a transmission with a speed ratio of 3: 1, and the user can decide which ratio to use simply by choosing which processing assembly to place in the container.

In addition, with the transmission being part of the processing assembly and the processing assembly being removable from the container in some embodiments, if the transmission is damaged, the transmission can be easily replaced simply by substituting in a new processing assembly.

In some cases, by providing an arrangement where an end of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the container lid, rotational wear between the processing assembly and the lid may be avoided or reduced.

The container lid and processing assembly may be configured in some embodiments such that the upper end of the processing assembly is rotationally fixed relative to the lid when the lid is engaged with the container, but the lid can be separated from the upper end when the lid is removed from the container. As used herein, the term "processing tool" refers to any tool used to process foods and other materials. Processing tools may include, but are not limited to, a blade assembly, a whisk, an ice crushing assembly, a dicing assembly, a grater, a shredder, a shredder/slicer assembly, a cubing attachment, a dough hook, a whipping attachment, a slicer attachment, and a french fry cutter. In some cases, a processing tool may be a tool that is used to clean the food processor container. A blade assembly may contain a single blade or more than one blade. As used herein, the term "food" includes any solid or liquid comestible, and any mix between a solid and a liquid.

As used herein, the terms "connected," "attached," or "coupled" are not limited to a direct connection, attachment, or coupling, as two components may be connected, attached, or coupled to one another via intermediate components.

According to one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 1A, a food processing apparatus 1 includes a lid 400, a container 200, and a base 100. The container 200 removably engages with the base 100 via a locking mechanism 105 which includes a collection of protrusions and indents on the base 100 and the container 200. The container can be removably fixed to the base by placing the container 200 onto the base 100 and twisting the container 200 relative to the base 100 to engage the mechanical locking mechanism 105 between the container 200 and the base 100 as is well known. Any suitable locking mechanism can be used, as this aspect is not so limited. For example, the container may engage with the base by pressing the container down onto the base or by sliding the container laterally onto the base.

In some embodiments, the container does not lock or engage with the base, but instead only operatively interacts with the base, for example to receive rotational power from the base.

The container 200 may be any suitable volume and design. In some cases, the container is a small single- serve jar that may be used as a drinking cup after the processing assembly is removed from the jar. In some cases, the container is a larger pitcher that can hold multiple servings. The container may include a handle and a spout to facilitate pouring of contents and/or the lifting and moving of the container. The lid 400 may include a hole through which food can pass such that food can be added to or removed from the food-containing volume 205 without removing the lid 400 from the container 200. A cap may be used to cover or uncover such a hole in the lid. The cap may attach to the lid in any suitable manner, for example, via threads that allow the cap to be screwed onto the lid, by a hinge that connects the cap to the lid, or via an interference fit, as this aspect is not limited in this regard. As seen in FIG. 1A, the food processing apparatus 1 includes a transmission system 300 that is located inside the food-containing volume 205. As used herein, the "food-containing volume" is the volume in the container within which food is located during food processing. For example, as seen in FIG. IB, the food-containing volume 205 is the space between the lowest surface 401 of the lid 400, the bottom inner surface 203 of the container 200, and the sides of the container 200. As seen in FIG. 2, a first processing tool 250 is vertically spaced from a second processing tool 370 along a longitudinal direction 217 of the processing assembly 215.

The transmission system may be vertically positioned between the vertical position of the first processing tool and the vertical position of the second processing tool. As shown in FIG. 1A, transmission system 300 is vertically positioned between the vertical position of the first processing tool 250 and the vertical position of the second processing tool 370. That is, the transmission system is between a horizontal plane that includes the first processing tool and a horizontal plane that includes the second processing tool. If the transmission system 300 were to be shifted horizontally to be offset from the rotational axes of the first and second processing tools, the transmission system 300 would still be considered vertically positioned between the height of the first processing tool 250 and the height of the second processing tool 370. In some embodiments, for example the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1A and IB, the transmission system may be positioned directly between the first and second processing tools. That is, the

transmission system is positioned both horizontally and vertically between the processing tools, in some case with the tools and the transmission aligned along the same axis. As used herein, the term "positioned between" refers to a relative physical location rather than a relative operational location within the path of power delivery. For example, as shown in FIG. 1A, transmission system 300 is physically located between first and second processing tools 250, 370. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1A, the longitudinal axes of the transmission system 300, first processing tool 250, and second processing tool 370 are collinear with the longitudinal axis 217 of the processing assembly. In embodiments where the transmission system is collinear with the axes of rotation of the first and second processing tools, but the transmission system has a smaller diameter than the shafts upon which the first and second processing tools are mounted, the transmission system is still considered to be positioned directly between the first and second processing tools. That is, in some embodiments, the processing tools may have an inner diameter that is attached to the shaft such that the tools do not extend inwardly all the way to the axis of rotation. If the transmission has a small diameter, imaginary vertical projections extending from the transmission would not directly intersect the processing tools. However, such a transmission arrangement would be considered to be positioned directly between the first and second processing tools.

The base 100 includes a motor 110 which is connected to a drive shaft 120, which in turn is connected to a drive coupler 130. The drive coupler 130 interfaces with a driven coupler 210 of the processing assembly 215, as shown in FIG. 2. In some embodiments, the drive coupler 130 and the driven coupler 210 can be removably coupled to one another. In one embodiment, the driven coupler 210 is attached to the container 210 such that, when the container 200 is lifted off the base 100, the driven coupler 210 is removed from the drive coupler 130. In other embodiments, the drive coupler 130 may be permanently attached to the driven coupler 210.

FIG. 3 shows an enlarged view of the interface between the drive coupler 130 and the driven coupler 210. The drive coupler 130 may include a recess with a plurality of protruding teeth 131. Any suitable number of teeth 131 may be used. When the recess of the drive coupler 130 receives the driven coupler 210, the motor 110 becomes connected to the processing assembly 215.

As shown in FIG. 1A, the motor 110 rotates the drive shaft 120, which rotates the drive coupler 130, which in turn drives the driven coupler 210. Rotation of the driven coupler 210 causes a first blade shaft 220 to rotate, which in turn causes a first blade holder 260 and the first blade assembly 250 to rotate. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1A, the axes of rotation of the first blade shaft 220, an output shaft 366, and the drive coupler 130 are collinear. Ball bearings 230 or other bearings may be included facilitate to rotation of the first blade shaft 220 within the bottom opening 201 of the container 200, and a lip seal 240 may be used to seal off the bottom opening 201 of the container 200 such that fluid cannot flow through the bottom opening 201. The ball bearings 230 also may serve to attach the first blade shaft 220 to the container 200.

As seen in FIGS. 1A and 4, a transmission coupling 270 removably attaches to the top of the first blade holder 260 and couples the input shaft 280 of the transmission system 300 to the first blade holder 260. The transmission coupling 270, blade holder 260 and first blade shaft 220 serve as intermediate components that connect the input shaft 280 of the transmission system 300 to the drive shaft 120, thereby allowing the transmission system 300 to be driven by the motor 110.

The transmission system receives power from an input shaft and drives an output shaft. The input shaft is driven at a certain speed and direction by the motor. In some cases, the input shaft is directly driven at the same speed as the motor, and in some cases, gear reductions, overdrives or other suitable transmission systems may be used such that the input shaft rotates at a speed and/or a direction different from that of the motor. The transmission system receives power from the input shaft at a first speed and direction, and drives the output shaft at a different speed and/or direction. In some embodiments, the transmission system may be a reduction type transmission where the transmission system drives the output shaft at a speed that is lower than that of the input shaft, but at a higher torque than the input shaft. In other embodiments, the transmission system may be an overdrive type transmission where the transmission system drives the output shaft at a speed that is higher than that of the input shaft, but at a lower torque than the input shaft.

In some embodiments, the transmission system drives two or more processing tools at the same speed as one another, but at a speed different from that of the motor. In some cases, the processing tools are driven by the output shaft.

In some embodiments, shown in FIGS. 1A and 4, the transmission system 300 is a reduction type transmission where the transmission system 300 drives the output shaft 366 at a speed that is lower than that of the input shaft 280. Of course, it should be appreciated that any type of transmission system is possible, as this aspect is not limited to a reduction type transmission.

In one embodiment, the transmission system 300 is a planetary gear system with a sun gear 320 and a plurality of planet gears 330 surrounding the sun gear 320. The planetary gear system may have any number of planet gears, including 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, or more planet gears, as this aspect is not limited in this regard. As best seen in FIG. 4, the input shaft 280 of the transmission system 300 is coupled to a sun gear 320 via a sun gear coupling 310. In this embodiment, the sun axis is collinear with the longitudinal axis of the processing assembly 217. Rotation of the sun gear 320 about the sun axis 217 causes the planet gears 330 to both rotate about their own individual planet axes and revolve around the sun gear 320 within the ring gear 380. The ring gear 380 is held fixed to the lid 400 by the stationary shaft 390, as discussed below in detail.

The planet carrier includes two plates: an upper plate 341 and a lower plate 340. Each planet gear rotates about an axle that passes through the planet gear along the planet gear's longitudinal axis. The upper end of each axle is attached to the upper plate 341, and the lower end of each axle is attached to the lower plate 340. Revolution of the planet gears 330 around the sun gear 320 causes the upper and lower plates 341, 340 to rotate about the sun axis 217. The lower plate 340 is rotationally fixed to a planetary drive coupling 350 which in turn is rotationally fixed to the bottom cap 360. Thus, rotation of the lower plate 340 about the sun axis 217 causes the planetary drive coupling 350 and the bottom cap 360 to rotate about the sun axis 217 as well. The bottom cap 360 is fixed to transmission housing 362, which is fixed to or integrally formed with the output shaft 366. Thus, rotation of the bottom cap 360 about the sun axis 217 causes rotation of the transmission housing 362, output shaft 366 and second blade assembly 370 about the sun axis 217 as well. As seen in FIG. 1A, bearings 368 and 396 permit the output shaft 366 and the second blade assembly 370 rotate about the stationary shaft 390, while the stationary shaft 390 is held rotationally fixed to the lid 400.

In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 4, the output shaft 366 and the transmission housing 362 are integrally formed with one another. In other embodiments, the output shaft and transmission housing may be separate components that are attached to one another either directly or via intermediate components.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1A and 4, the transmission system 300 is a reduction type transmission. One rotation of the sun gear 320 results in less than one revolution of the planet gears 330 around the sun gear 320, and therefore less than one rotation of the lower plate 340, planetary drive coupling 350, bottom cap 360, and output shaft 366. Accordingly, the transmission system 300 outputs a rotation speed to the second blade assembly 370 that is lower than the input rotation speed of the input shaft 280. The input to output rotation speed ratio of the transmission system 300 is determined by the gear ratio between the sun gear 320 and the ring gear 380. In one embodiment, the planetary gear system provides an input to output rotation speed ratio of approximately 4.8 to 1. In some embodiments, the first processing assembly 250 is rotated at 24,000 RPM, and the second processing assembly is rotated at 5,000 RPM. It should be appreciated that any suitable input to output rotation speed ratio may be used, and the first and second processing assemblies may be rotated at any suitable rotation speed, as this aspect is not limited in this regard. Gear systems other than planetary gear systems such as a step gear system, worm gears, beveled gears, and/or spur gears may be used in some embodiments.

According to another aspect, a portion of the transmission system is rotationally fixed relative to the container in at least one rotational direction. In some embodiments, the portion of the processing assembly is arranged to be rotationally fixed to the lid in only one rotational direction, i.e. either clockwise or counterclockwise about the rotational axis of the processing assembly. In other embodiments, a portion of the processing assembly is arranged to be rotationally fixed to the lid in both rotational directions, i.e. both clockwise and

counterclockwise. As used herein, "rotationally fixed" means rotationally fixed in at least one rotational direction, i.e., only clockwise, only counterclockwise, or both clockwise and counterclockwise about the rotational axis of the processing assembly. Further, "rotationally fixed" encompasses arrangements in which small rotational movements may occur. For example, the rotational interaction between the lid and the processing assembly may permit a portion of the processing assembly to initially rotate a small amount, such as less than rotation in some cases, before further rotation is prevented. In such an arrangement, the arrangement would still be considered as being rotationally locked.

In a planetary gear system, one of the sun gear, planet carrier, or ring gear is held stationary to produce an output that differs from the input. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1A and 4, the ring gear is rotationally fixed relative to the container. In such an arrangement, the planetary gear system serves as a reduction type transmission. The ring gear may be held stationary relative to the container in any suitable manner. In some embodiments, the ring gear may be fixed to the lid of the container via intermediate components. In one embodiment, as best seen in FIG. 1A, the ring gear 380 is fixed to a stationary shaft 390. The stationary shaft 390 is connected to a lid coupling 392, and the lid coupling 392 is rotationally fixed to the lid 400 (though lid 400 may be removed from lid coupling 392 when the blender is not in operation). In some embodiments, the lid coupling may be positioned such that the lid coupling is recessed further into the lid than shown in FIG. 1A.

In some embodiments, the end of the processing assembly and the underside of the lid cooperate with one another to rotationally fix the end of the processing assembly relative to the lid. In some cases, elements located at the end of the processing assembly cooperate with elements located on the underside of the lid to facilitate interaction between the processing assembly and the lid. In some embodiments, these elements are removably engageable such that the lid is removable from the processing assembly. A self-seating arrangement may be used in some embodiments so that the lid engages with the processing assembly when the lid is positioned on the container. For example, as the lid is pushed downwardly onto the container, the lid may include slanted elements which rotate complementary slanted elements on the processing assembly until the end of the processing assembly and the lid are operationally engaged.

It should be appreciated that a portion of the processing assembly may be rotationally fixed to the lid via one or more intermediate components, as opposed to direct engagement with the lid. For example, a portion of the processing assembly may be rotationally fixed to an extension or protrusion that is integral with or connected to the lid, or to a component that is rotationally fixed to the lid, and as a result, the portion of the processing assembly may be rotationally fixed to the lid as well.

One embodiment is shown in FIG. 5, which depicts an enlarged view of the lid coupling 392. Lid coupling 392 includes a rounded bull nose tip 393 and a series of slanted fan blade protrusions 395. FIG. 6 depicts an enlarged view of the underside of the lid 400, which includes a recess 493 that receives the bull nose tip 393 of the lid coupling 392. The underside of the lid 400 also includes a series of slanted fan blade indentations 495 that cooperate with the protrusions 395 of the lid coupling 392. When the container 200 is engaged with the base 100 and the driven coupler 210 of the processing assembly 215 is engaged with the drive coupler 130, the lid 400 engages with the lid coupling 392 by pressing the lid 400 down into the top opening 202 of the container 200. As the lid 400 is pressed downwardly to engage with the container 200, the lid coupling 392 rotates about the axis 217 until the fan blade protrusions 395 of the lid coupling 392 slide into the slanted indentations 495 of the underside of the lid. As such, the lid coupling 392 self-seats into a position in which the coupling 392 can be received into the lid recess 493. Once the lid coupling 392 is accepted into the lid recess 493 and the lid 400 is engaged with the top opening 202 of the container, the lid coupling 392 is rotationally fixed relative to the lid 400 and the container 200 due to the receipt of the lid coupling protrusions 395 into the indentations 495 of the lid underside, and thus the lid coupling 392 can no longer rotate. Consequently, the stationary shaft 390 and the ring gear 380, which are fixed relative to the lid coupling 392, become rotationally fixed relative to the lid 400 and the container 200 as well.

Although FIGS. 5 and 6 depict lid coupling 392 as having a series of protrusions 395, and the underside of lid 400 having a series of indentations 495, it should be appreciated that any number of protrusions and indentations may be used, as this aspect is not limited in this regard. A single protrusion and indentation may be used, or a plurality of protrusions and indentations may be used. In another embodiment, the elements on the lid coupling and the lid underside may be reversed. That is, the lid coupling may have the indentations and the lid underside may have the protrusions, as this aspect is not limited in this regard.

Various aspects of the lid coupling and the lid underside may be of any suitable shape and arrangement to cooperate with one another. In one embodiment, a lock and key type arrangement may be used, where the end of the processing assembly engages with the lid underside in only a single orientation. As another example, the lid underside may include a helical groove or thread that cooperates with a protruding tab on the end of the processing assembly such that the process of engaging the lid with the container causes the processing assembly to rotate as the protruding tab on the processing assembly travels along the helical groove until the lid is fully engaged with the container. Of course, it should be appreciated that the features may be reversed, in that the helical groove is on the processing assembly and the protruding tab is on the lid underside. As another example, instead of a helical groove, a slanted portion may be on the lid underside, and a protruding tab may be on the processing assembly, or vice versa, and the slanted portion cooperates with the protruding tab to cause the processing assembly to rotate until the lid is fully engaged with the container. In some cases, a stop feature such as a vertical recess or pocket may be located at the end of the helical groove or slanted portion such that the protruding tab slides down into the recess to inhibit further rotation of the end of processing assembly relative to the lid. As yet another example, two cooperating helixes or slanted portions may be used, one on the lid underside and one on the end of the processing assembly.

It should be appreciated that the ring gear can be rotationally fixed relative to the container without attaching to the lid. In some embodiments, instead of attaching to the lid, the ring gear may be held against the walls or other interior portion of the container. For example, as shown in FIG. 11, in some embodiments, the ring gear 380 may be attached to laterally extending arms 410 which extend outwardly from the processing assembly to contact the internal walls of the container. The container may have a square, rectangular, or otherwise polygonal shape, where two adjacent walls of the container meet at a vertex 204. The arms extend outwardly and abut against the vertices 204 of the container from the inside of the container such that the ring gear cannot rotate within the container due to the abutment between the arms and the vertices of the container. In such an arrangement, the top end of the processing assembly need not be rotationally fixed to the lid. Instead, the top end of the processing assembly may be free to rotate relative to the lid. In the illustrated embodiment, the ring gear is attached to two arms that extend from the transmission housing 362 at a 180 degree angle relative to one another, and the cross-section of the food-containing volume of the container is approximately square shaped. When the ring gear is placed into the container, the arms slide down two vertices of the container that are also at a 180 degree angle relative to one another. The length of the two arms and the diameter of the ring gear are equal to the diagonal of the cross-section of the food-containing volume. Because the ring gear and arms span the longest local dimension of the food-containing volume, the ring gear cannot rotate within the food-containing volume. Of course, it should be appreciated that any suitable cross-sectional food-containing volume shape can be used and any number of arms may be used, as this aspect is not so limited.

In other embodiments, the planetary gear system may be configured to drive the output shaft in a direction opposite to that of the input shaft by changing which portion of the planetary gear system is held stationary. In one arrangement, instead of the ring gear being held stationary, the planet carrier is held stationary, the ring gear serves as the output shaft, and the sun gear rotates with the input shaft. In such an arrangement, the planetary gear system drives the output shaft in a direction opposite to that of the input shaft and at a speed that is lower than that of the input shaft.

In yet further embodiments, the planetary gear system can be configured as an overdrive type transmission where the output speed is higher than the input speed. To achieve this result, in one arrangement, the sun gear is held stationary, the planet carrier rotates with the input shaft, the ring gear serves as the output shaft. In such an arrangement, the output shaft of the transmission system rotates at a speed higher than that of the input shaft.

Of course, it should be appreciated that the transmission system is not limited to a planetary gear system, as this aspect is not limited in this regard. For example, in some embodiments, the transmission system may utilize a step gear arrangement. In some

embodiments, the transmission system may utilize a clutch and pressure plate arrangement.

According to one aspect, with the transmission system located within the food- containing volume, the transmission system is housed in a transmission system housing in an arrangement that prevents the entry of foods into the transmission system housing.

In some embodiments, as seen in FIGS. 1A and 4, the transmission system 300 is enclosed by a bottom cap 360, a transmission housing 362, and a top cap 394. The top cap 394 is attached to the transmission housing 362, and the transmission housing 362 is attached to the bottom cap 360. A lip seal 365 is located within the transmission housing 362 to create a seal between the top cap 394 and the stationary shaft 390 and prevent entry of fluid into the transmission housing 362. The bottom cap 360 is fixed to the transmission housing 362. A bearing 231 is located between the input shaft 280 and the bottom cap 360 such that the input shaft 280 and the bottom cap 360 can rotate at different speeds relative to one another. A lip seal 364 seals against the bottom cap 360 and the input shaft 280 to prevent entry of fluid into the transmission housing 362.

As shown in FIGS. 1A and 4, the bottom cap 360 and the top cap 394 are screwed onto the transmission housing 362 via a series of threads. In some cases, the top and bottom caps 360, 394 can be unscrewed from the transmission housing 362 to permit access to the transmission system 300 for component replacement or maintenance. In some embodiments, the top and bottom caps 360, 394 are permanently attached to the transmission housing 362. The top and bottom caps 360, 394 may attach to the transmission housing 362 in any suitable manner, such as through an interference fit, via mechanical fasteners, with an adhesive, or via ultrasonic welding. The top and/or bottom caps 360, 394 may also be integrally formed with the transmission housing 362.

According to yet another aspect, the processing tool that is rotated at a higher speed may be used for a method of processing that benefits from a higher rotation speed, such pureeing or liquefying. The processing tool that is rotated at a lower speed may be used for a method of processing that uses a lower rotation speed, such as shredding, grating, slicing, or chopping.

In some embodiments, the processing tool that is rotated at a higher speed may include blades with an upward and/or downward blade pitch. Such an arrangement may help to create a vortex effect within the food-containing volume to enhance mixing and circulation of the food, thereby promoting more effective pureeing of the food. In one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 7, the first blade assembly 250 includes two upwardly angled blades 252 and two downwardly angled blades 254. In some cases, the blades 252 and 254 may be formed from a single unitary body, as shown in FIG. 7. In other cases, the blades 252 and 254 may be joined together via welding, an adhesive, or other suitable arrangement.

In some embodiments, the blades of the processing tool that is rotated at a lower speed may have a blade pitch that is smaller than that of the blades of the processing tool that is rotated at a higher speed. A smaller blade pitch may permit the processing tool to more easily chop, shred, grate, and/or slice. In some cases, sharp, thin blades with a smaller blade pitch for chopping and slicing may be susceptible to breaking or snapping at high rotation speeds, and thus a lower rotation speed may help to mitigate this risk. In other cases, however, blades with small blade pitches may not be susceptible to such breaking or snapping and may be rotated at high speeds. In one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 8, second blade assembly 370 includes blades 372-375. As shown in FIG. 9, each blade 372-375 may have little to no blade pitch and may thus be nearly or substantially flat. In some cases, the first blade 372 and the second blade 373 may be formed from a single unitary component. In other cases, the first blade 372 and the second blade 373 may be separate blades. The first and second blades 372, 373 may be attached to the output shaft 366 and/or the transmission housing 362 in any suitable manner such as by overmolding, with fasteners, with mechanical locking arrangements, with an adhesive, or by other suitable manner. Similarly, in some cases, the third blade 374 and the fourth blade 375 may be formed from a single unitary component or may be separate blades. The third and fourth blades 374, 375 may be attached to the output shaft 366 and/or the transmission housing 362 via overmolding, fasteners, mechanical locking arrangements, adhesives, or by other suitable manner. In some cases, the blades 372-375 may be removable from their corresponding shafts for cleaning, sharpening or replacement.

In some embodiments, the container may also include a transmission system in the bottom of the container, external to the food-containing volume. As shown in FIG. 12, a transmission system 301 may be integrated into the base 375 of the container 200, where the transmission system 301 is positioned external to the food-containing volume 205. The transmission system 301 may change the speed and/or direction of shaft 221 relative to that of the driven coupler 210. Shaft 221 may then serve as or be coupled to the first blade shaft 220 shown in FIG. 2. In this manner, an additional transmission system 301 may be integrated into the processing assembly 215 of FIG. 2.

The transmission system 301 may serve as a reduction type transmission or an overdrive type transmission. Where the transmission system 301 is a reduction type transmission, the transmission system 301 may have any suitable gear reduction, as this aspect is not limited in this regard, For example, the transmission system 301 may have a gear reduction ratio of 2: 1, 3: 1, 4: 1, 5: 1, 6: 1, 7: 1, 8: 1, 9: 1, or 10: 1. Where the transmission system 301 is an overdrive type transmission, the transmission system 301 may have any suitable overdrive ratio, as this aspect is not limited in this regard, For example, the transmission system 301 may have an overdrive ratio of 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, 1:7, 1:8, 1:9, or 1: 10. The transmission system 301 may be any suitable transmission system, such as, but not limited to, a planetary gear system, a step gear system, worm gears, beveled gears, and/or spur gears.

The container may be made of glass and/or plastic in some embodiments. In some embodiments, the container is transparent.

The above described components may be made with various materials, as the invention is not necessarily so limited.

The above aspects may be employed in any suitable combination, as the present invention is not limited in this respect. Additionally, any or all of the above aspects may be employed in a food processing apparatus; however, the present invention is not limited in this respect, as the above aspects may be employed to process materials other than food.

Having thus described several aspects of at least one embodiment of this invention, it is to be appreciated that various alterations, modifications, and improvements will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Such alterations, modifications, and improvements are intended to be part of this disclosure, and are intended to be within the spirit and scope of the invention.

Accordingly, the foregoing description and drawings are by way of example only.

What is claimed is: