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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
GUM STRIP CUTTING AND HANDLING SYSTEM FOR SLAB WRAPPING MACHINE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/064723
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method of manufacturing a comestible is provided including forming a comestible mass into a comestible structure (22). The comestible structure is formed in a machine direction. A plurality of first cuts extending in a first direction is formed in said comestible structure with a first cutting device (30). The comestible structure is separated along said plurality of first cuts to form individual comestible strips. The strips are separated by transferring the comestible structure from a first transport device having a first velocity to a second transport device having a second, different velocity.

Inventors:
GUTIERREZ, Margarita Tecanhuey (Carretera México-Veracruz No. 1028, Parque Industrial Puebla 2000Puebla, 72220, MX)
TREJO, David Guevara (Carretera México-Veracruz No. 1028, Parque Industrial Puebla 2000Puebla, 72220, MX)
MENDOZA, Arturo Perez (Carretera México-Veracruz No. 1028, Parque Industrial Puebla 2000Puebla, 72220, MX)
BENITEZ, Martin Villarreal (Av. Independencia No. 101, Col. Chapultepec C.P.Puebla, 72320, MX)
SANTILLANA, Cesar Diaz (Av. Independencia No. 101, Col. Chapultepec C.P.Puebla, 72320, MX)
LUNA, Luis Eduardo Oliver (21 Sur #1502, esq. 15 PonienteColonia La Pa, Puebla ., 72160, MX)
VARGAS, Jorge Alberto Nava (21 Sur #1502, esq. 15 PonienteColonia La Pa, Puebla ., 72160, MX)
LEYVA, Rafael Naranjo (21 Sur #1502, esq. 15 PonienteColonia La Pa, Puebla ., 72160, MX)
Application Number:
US2015/056202
Publication Date:
April 28, 2016
Filing Date:
October 19, 2015
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
INTERCONTINENTAL GREAT BRANDS LLC (100 Deforest Ave, East Hanover, New Jersey, 07936, US)
International Classes:
A23G4/02; A23G7/00; B65G47/54
Foreign References:
US20130202734A12013-08-08
US3355003A1967-11-28
US20070137502A12007-06-21
US20140271986A12014-09-18
US20120048678A12012-03-01
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GIBSON, Daniel R. (Cantor Colburn LLP, 20 Church Street22nd Floo, Hartford Connecticut, 06103-3702, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

What is claimed is:

1. A method of manufacturing a comestible, comprising:

forming a comestible mass into a comestible structure, wherein said comestible structure; is formed in a machine direction;

forming a plurality of first cuts in said comestible structure with a first cutting device, said plurality of first cuts extending in a first direction, wherein each of said plurality of first cuts extends through an entire thickness of said comestible structure; and

separating said comestible structure along said plurality of first cuts to form individual comestible strips, wherein said separating occurs by transferring said comestible structure from a first transport device having a first velocity to a second transport device having a second velocity, said first velocity and said second velocity being different.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein said comestible structure provided to said first cutting device is a continuous gum sheet.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein said comestible structure provided to said first cutting device is a gum slab.

4 The method according to claim 1 , wherein said first direction is a cross-machine direction.

5. The method according to claim 1, wherein said second transport device is arranged inline and downstream from said first transport device.

6. The method according to claim 1, further comprising:

individually stacking said plurality of comestible strips within a container; and forming a plurality of second cuts in said comestible strips to form a plurality of comestible pieces, said plurality of second cuts extending in a second direction.

7. The method according to claim 6, wherein said first direction is perpendicular to said second direction.

8. The method according to claim 7, wherein said second direction is a machine direction.

9. The method according to claim 6, further comprising trimming excess material from said comestible structure occurs downstream of said forming said plurality of first cuts.

10. The method according to claim 9, wherein said trimming only occurs during said forming of said plurality of second cuts in each comestible strip.

11. The method according to claim 10, wherein said trimming removes in total less than 5% of said comestible strip.

12. The method according to claim 1, wherein forming said comestible structure occurs at a forming system having only one pair of sizing rollers.

13. The method according to claim 1, wherein forming said comestible structure occurs at a forming system having two or more pairs of sizing rollers.

14. The method according to claim 1, wherein said comestible structure is at least one of cooled and conditioned before forming said plurality of first cuts.

15. A system for manufacturing a comestible structure comprising:

a separating device configured to receive a comestible structure, said separating device including a first conveying mechanism configured to transport said comestible structure in a first direction and a second conveying mechanism configured to transport said comestible structure in a second direction, said second direction being perpendicular to said first direction, wherein only one of said first conveying mechanism and said second conveying mechanism is configured to transport said comestible structure at a given time.

16. The system according to claim 15, wherein said first conveying mechanism is movable between a first position and a second position.

17. The system according to claim 16, wherein said separating device further includes at least one sensor for monitoring a position of a plurality of strips formed in said comestible structure, wherein a position of said first conveying mechanism is controlled in response to said at least one sensor.

18. The system according to claim 16, wherein said separating device further comprises a third conveying mechanism arranged adjacent said second conveying mechanism, said third conveying mechanism being configured to transport said comestible structure in a third direction.

19. The system according to claim 18, wherein said third direction is parallel to said second direction.

20. The system according to claim 18, wherein a speed of said third conveying

mechanism is different than a speed of said second conveying mechanism, and said difference in speed causes a plurality of strips formed in said comestible structure to separate.

21. The system according to claim 15, further comprising a cutting device configured to form a plurality of first cuts in a comestible structure, said plurality of cuts extending in a cross-machine direction to define said plurality of comestible strips.

22. The system according to claim 21, wherein said cutting device is arranged downstream from a forming system, and wherein an orientation of said comestible structure remains constant between an output of said forming system and said cutting device.

23. The system according to claim 22, wherein said forming system includes a single pair of sizing rollers.

24. The system according to claim 22, wherein said forming system includes two or more pairs of sizing rollers.

25. A method of manufacturing a comestible comprising:

forming a comestible mass into a comestible structure at a forming station;

forming a plurality of first cuts in said comestible structure, said plurality of first cuts extends through a thickness of said comestible structure in a cross-machine direction to define a plurality of comestible strips, wherein no trimming of excess material occurs before said forming said plurality of first cuts; and

forming a plurality of second cuts in said comestible strips, said plurality of second cuts being arranged in a machine direction to define a plurality of comestible pieces.

26. The method according to claim 25, wherein trimming of excess material from said comestible structure occurs downstream of said forming of said plurality of first cuts.

27. The method according to claim 26, wherein said trimming occurs during said forming of said plurality of second cuts in said comestible structure.

28. The method according to claim 26, wherein said trimming removes less than 5% of said comestible strip.

29. The method according to claim 25, wherein said forming station includes only a single pair of rollers.

30. The method according to claim 25, wherein no trimming of excess material from the comestible structure occurs at any point within the method of manufacture.

Description:
GUM STRIP CUTTING AND HANDLING SYSTEM FOR SLAB WRAPPING MACHINE

FIELD

[0001] The disclosure relates generally to a system and method for manufacturing a comestible, and more particularly, to a system and method for cutting and separating a comestible.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Conventional rolling and scoring lines used in continuous comestible manufacturing systems can require multiple process steps, including moving scored sheets from the production line for off-line conditioning, separation, and cutting. Comestibles manufactured on such conventional rolling and scoring lines can sometimes include deformations and other inconsistencies due to transportation off-line to areas for conditioning and separation. In addition, conventional rolling and scoring devices often require manual operator activities (such as the above mentioned transportation) that can result in

inefficiencies of time, space, and cost.

[0003] Accordingly, a system capable of streamlining a process for cutting and separating a formed comestible while reducing deformation thereof is desirable. In addition, a system for reducing an amount of waste material trimmed during the comestible manufacturing process is desirable.

SUMMARY

[0004] According to one embodiment of the invention, a method of manufacturing a comestible is provided including forming a comestible mass into a comestible structure. The comestible structure is formed in a machine direction. A plurality of first cuts extending in a first direction is formed in said comestible structure with a first cutting device. The comestible structure is separated along said plurality of first cuts to form individual comestible strips. The strips are separated by transferring the comestible structure from a first transport device having a first velocity to a second transport device having a second, different velocity.

[0005] According to another embodiment of the invention, a system for

manufacturing a comestible structure is provided including a separating device configured to receive a comestible structure. The separating device includes a first conveying mechanism configured to transport said comestible structure in a first direction and a second conveying mechanism configured to transport said comestible structure in a second direction. The second direction is perpendicular to the first direction. Only one of the first conveying mechanism and the second conveying mechanism is configured to transport the comestible structure at a given time.

[0006] According to yet another embodiment of the invention, a method of manufacturing a comestible is provided including forming a comestible mass into a comestible structure at forming station. A plurality of first cuts extending in a cross-machine direction is formed in said comestible structure to define a plurality of comestible strips. The plurality of cuts extends through the thickness of the comestible structure. No trimming of excess material of the comestible structure occurs before forming the plurality of first cuts. A plurality of second cuts is formed in the comestible strips. The plurality of second cuts is arranged in a machine direction to define a plurality of comestible pieces.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0007] The accompanying drawings incorporated in and forming a part of the specification embodies several aspects of the present invention and, together with the description, serves to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

[0008] FIG. 1 is a schematic view of a system for manufacturing a comestible according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0009] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a cutting and separating system of the manufacturing system of FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0010] FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a cutting device of the cutting and separating system according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0011] FIG. 4 is a schematic view of a separating device of the cutting and separating system according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0012] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a separating device of the cutting and separating system in a first position according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0013] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a separating device of the cutting and separating system in a second position according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0014] FIG. 7 is a schematic view of a cutting and separating system of the manufacturing system of FIG. 1 according to another embodiment of the invention;

[0015] FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the packaging system of the comestible manufacturing system according to an embodiment of the invention; [0016] FIG. 9 is a top view of a cut piece of comestible structure after passing through the cutting device of the packaging system according to an embodiment of the invention; and

[0017] FIG. 10 is an example of a forming system of the gum manufacturing system according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0018] The following disclosure will detail particular embodiments according to the present invention, which provides improvements for cutting a comestible structure and facilitating separation of the comestible structure into individual servings, pieces, or pellets. In one embodiment, a system includes a cutting device for forming cuts in the comestible sheet and at least one separating device for separating the comestible sheet along the one or more of the cuts. The system can eliminate a need for manual operating activities required in conventional manufacturing systems. By eliminating these manual operating activities, the system can operate much more efficiently than the conventional lines, such as by reducing the required space, time, and cost to operate the system.

[0019] The comestible included in the comestible mass and structure discussed herein includes any type of edible product, including but not limited to chewing gum (at any stage including elastomer, partially finished base, finished chewing gum base, and finished chewing gum), confection (which may be synonymous with chewing gum and candy), sweet and savory biscuits and cakes, nuts, and grains. For ease of description, the comestible will be referred as chewing gum for the remainder of the description. Certain compositions of chewing gum may have a non-uniform texture and/or a multi-layered composition.

[0020] Referring now to FIG. 1, an exemplary system 10 for manufacturing a comestible, such as a chewing gum for example, includes a system 20 configured to cut all the way through and separate the comestible structure 22. The comestible structure 22, as discussed herein, may refer to any comestible composition having a continuous or discontinuous shape that may desirably require cutting and separating.

[0021] In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, the system 20, includes a cutting device 30 of any type suitable for use with a comestible structure 22, such as cutting knives, cutting knife rings, or cutting rollers for example. The cutting device 30 is configured to form a plurality of cuts 32 in the comestible structure 22, such that the comestible structure 22 includes a plurality of cut pieces 24, such as strips for example. The cuts 32 are formed in the comestible structure in a direction substantially perpendicular to a machine direction in which the comestible structure 22 was formed, for example at an upstream forming system 100 (FIG. 1). The strips 24 of comestible structure 22 formed by the cutting device 30 may be substantially identical in size, or may vary. To form the cuts in the cross-machine direction, the comestible structure 22 may be configured to move through the cutting device 30 in a direction, indicated by arrow A, substantially perpendicular to the machine direction, such as via a transport device 40, for example a conveyor, while maintaining a constant orientation of the comestible structure 22 within to the system 10. . In the illustrated, non- limiting embodiment, the one or more cuts 32 created by the cutting device 30 to define adjacent strips 24 of comestible structure 22 extend in a direction substantially parallel to the direction of travel of the comestible structure 22 through the cutting device 30. In addition, the depth of the cuts 32 extends fully through the thickness of the comestible structure 22 such that strips 24 remain directly adjacent one another but are not technically connected.

[0022] The system 20 illustrated in FIGS. 1-6 additionally includes a separating device 50 positioned generally downstream from the cutting device 30. The separating device 50 is configured to separate the two or more strips 24 of the comestible structure 22 along the cuts 32 formed by the cutting device 30 as a result of a difference in velocity of adjacent conveyors.

[0023] The separating device 50, best shown in FIGS. 4-6, includes a distinct first conveying mechanism 52 and second conveying mechanism 54 arranged at least partially within a frame 56. The first conveying mechanism 52 receives the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 and moves them in a first direction, indicated by arrow B, into the frame 56 of the separating device 50. In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, the first direction of the first conveying mechanism 52, indicated by arrow B, is substantially identical to the direction of travel of the comestible structure 22 through the cutting device 30, indicated by arrow A. The second conveying mechanism 54 may be configured to move the plurality of strips 24 of comestible structure 22 from the frame 56 of the separating device 50 in a second direction, indicated by arrow C. As shown, the second direction is substantially

perpendicular to the first direction.

[0024] The contemplated first conveying mechanism 52 and second conveying mechanism 54 may be any type suitable for use with the strips 24 of comestible structure 22. The first and second conveying mechanisms 52, 54 may be substantially identical, or alternatively, may be different. For example, the first conveying mechanism 52 may be a single roller or a series of rollers spaced apart from one another within the frame 56, and the second conveying mechanism 54 may include one or more continuous belts or conveyors driven by a rotating shaft (not shown). In embodiments where at least one of the first conveying mechanism 52 and the second conveying mechanism 54 includes a series or plurality of individual mechanisms spaced within the frame 56, at least a portion of the first conveying mechanism 52 and the second conveying mechanism 54 may be interposed.

[0025] An actuation device 58 is configured to move the first conveying mechanism 52 between a first, extended position (FIG. 5), and a second, retracted position (FIG. 6). In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, when in the first, extended position, the first conveying mechanism 52 is positioned generally vertically above the second conveying mechanism 54, directly adjacent the path of travel of the comestible structure 22. As a result, only the first conveying mechanism 52 is configured to receive and contact the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 fed to the separating device 50 from the adjacent transport device 40. In the second, retracted position, the first conveying mechanism 52 is positioned generally below the second conveying mechanism 54 such that only the second conveying mechanism 54, and not the first conveying mechanism 52, is in contact with the strips 24 of comestible structure 22. Movement of the first conveying mechanism 52 between the first position and the second position is intended to control operation of the separating device 50 by

transferring the comestible structure 22 from the first conveying mechanism 52 to the second conveying mechanism 54. Although the first conveying mechanism 52 is described as being movable to control which of the first and second conveying mechanisms 52, 54 are in contact with the comestible structure 22 at a given time, embodiments where the actuation device 58 is alternatively configured to move the second conveying mechanism 54 are within the scope of the invention.

[0026] The separating device 50 may additionally include at least one sensor 60 operably coupled to the actuation device 58. The sensor 60 is configured to monitor a position of one or more of the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 with respect to the separating device 50. In one embodiment, the separating device 50 includes a plurality of sensors 60 such that each sensor 60 monitors the position of one of the plurality of strips 24 of comestible structure 22, respectively. The actuation device 58 is configured to move the first conveying mechanism 52 in response to a signal from the at least one sensor 60. Upon detection by the one or more sensors 60 that the plurality of strips 24 have reached a desired, aligned position within the frame 56 of the separating device 50, such as adjacent a front edge 62 of the frame 56 for example, the actuation device 58 moves the first conveying mechanism 52 from the first position to the second position. This movement of the first conveying mechanism 52 causes the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 to move out of contact with the first conveying mechanism 52 and into contact with the adjacent second conveying mechanism 54, thereby changing a direction of travel of the strips 24.

[0027] The second conveying mechanism 54 transfers the aligned strips 24 of comestible structure 22 to an adjacent third conveying mechanism 64 of the separating device 50. In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, the third conveying mechanism 64 transports the strips 24 in a direction substantially parallel to the direction of the second conveying mechanism 54. The speed of the third conveying mechanism 64 is different, such as faster for example, than the speed of the second conveying mechanism 54. As a result, as strips 24 of comestible structure 22 transition from the second conveying mechanism 54 to the third conveying mechanism 64, this difference in speed causes the strips 24 to separate from one another along cuts 32. This automatic separation of the plurality of strips 24, which is made possible by forming cuts 32 extending all the way through the comestible structure 22 rather than scores, eliminates the need for manual separation common in conventional comestible manufacturing systems.

[0028] Another embodiment of the system 20 configured to cut all the way through and separate the comestible structure 22 into strips 24 is illustrated in FIG. 7. Similar to the embodiment illustrated in FIGS 1-6, the system 20 includes a cutting device 30 configured to cut the comestible structure 22 into a plurality of strips 24. In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, the cutting device 30 is arranged in-line with an upstream forming station 100. The cuts 32 formed by the cutting device 30 extend in a direction substantially perpendicular to a machine direction in which the comestible structure 22 was formed. In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, the one or more cuts 32 created by the cutting device 30 to define adjacent strips 24 of comestible structure 22 extend across the width of the comestible structure 22 in a direction substantially perpendicular to the direction of travel of the comestible structure 22, on transport device 42, through the cutting device 30. In such embodiments, the comestible structure 22 provided to the cutting device 30 may be a cut slab or a continuous sheet.

[0029] Another transport device 44 is located in line with and downstream from transport device 42. Transport device 44 is configured to move the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 in substantially the same direction as transport device 42. The speed of the transport device 44 is different, for example faster, than the speed of the adjacent transport device 42. As a result, as the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 transition between the two transport devices 42, 44, the difference in speed causes the strips 24 to separate from one another along cuts 32. [0030] With reference now to FIGS. 4, 7, 8 and 9, a packaging system 70 is located downstream from the cutting and separating system 20. The portion of the packaging system 70 illustrated in the FIGS, includes a hollow tray or container 72 containing a stack of one or more separated cut pieces 24 of comestible structure 22. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, a transport device 46 is configured to receive each strip 24 of the comestible structure 22 from the third conveying mechanism 64 and individually transport these cut pieces 24 downstream and deposit them into the tray 72. In the illustrated, non-limiting embodiment, a direction of travel of the transport device 46 is arranged substantially parallel to the direction of travel of transport device 40. For embodiments of the cutting and separating system 20 illustrated in FIG. 7, the tray 72 of the packaging system 70 is arranged generally in line with and downstream from system 20 such that the separated strips 24 are supplied from transport device 44 directly into the tray 72.

[0031] A translatable plunger 76 located adjacent a base 74 of the tray 72 is movable between a first position (shown) and a second position (not shown). When the plunger 76 is moved to the second position, such as by an actuator or other mechanism (not shown) for example, the plunger 76 contacts the strip 24 of comestible structure 22 arranged at the bottom of the stack adjacent the base 74. The force applied by the plunger 76 moves the bottom strip 24 from the tray 72 and onto an adjacent transport device 48, such as a conveyor for example, configured to provide the strip24 to a downstream cutting device 80. When the plunger 76 returns to the first position, the stacked strips 24 of comestible structure 22 arranged within the tray 72 move vertically downward such that an adjacent strip 24 of comestible structure 22 is then arranged at the base 74 of the tray 72, substantially aligned with the plunger 76. The transport device 48 is configured to move the strip 24 of the comestible in a direction indicated by arrow D. The direction D of the transport device 48 may be arranged parallel to or substantially perpendicular to the direction of travel of an upstream transport device 42, depending on the configuration of system 20.

[0032] The cutting device 80 of the packaging system 70 may be substantially identical, or alternatively, may be different than the cutting device 30 of system 20. As a result of its orientation, the cutting device 80 is configured to form a plurality of cuts 82 in a machine direction such that the cuts 82 formed by the cutting device 80 are substantially perpendicular to the cuts 32 formed by cutting device 30. The cuts 82 formed by the cutting device 80 extend substantially parallel to a direction of travel of the strip 24 through the cutting device 80. As a result, the cutting device 80 is configured to cut each strip 24 of comestible structure 22 into a plurality of smaller pieces 26 of comestible structure 22 (FIG. 9). In one embodiment, the smaller pieces 26 of comestible structure 22 have dimensions desirable for a finished comestible product, such as a finished gum. The dimensions of the smaller pieces 26 may be altered by controlling the relative position of the plurality of first cuts 32 formed by the cutting device 30 and the plurality of second cuts 82 formed by cutting device 80. As a result, the comestible manufacturing system 10 may have the ability to manufacture standard and elongated pellets or comestible slabs of final dimensions by manipulating the relationship of the plurality of first cuts 32 and the plurality of second cuts 82 where applicable.

[0033] Referring again to FIG. 1, prior to entering the system 20, the comestible structure 22 is formed into a desired size and shape at an upstream forming system 100. After the forming system 100, the comestible structure 22 may be prepared, smoothed or embossed, and/or conditioned, such as in a cooling tunnel (not shown) for example before being supplied to system 20.

[0034] An exemplary forming system 100 is illustrated in more detail in FIG. 10. In the illustrated, non- limiting embodiment, the forming system 100 includes a hopper 102 and a single pair of rollers 104, such as an upper roller 106 and a lower roller 108 for example, as is known in the art. The rollers 106, 108 are externally driven, for example by an operably coupled motor (not shown). In an exemplary embodiment, each of the rollers 106, 108 is provided with a motor, such that the rotational speed of each of the rollers 106, 108 can be controlled independently. Although a hopper 102 is illustrated and described with respect to forming system 100, a forming system that does not include a hopper is within the scope of the invention.

[0035] The hopper 102 is disposed proximate the pair of rollers 104, and may be used for upstream surge control, capacity and feed control. The hopper 102 constrains, accumulates, and feeds a comestible mass 18 into an inlet or gap region 110 generally between the pair of rollers 104.

[0036] The comestible mass 18 moves through the hopper 102, such as via gravity or with the assistance of guide rollers (not shown) disposed within the hopper 102. In the exemplary embodiment of Figure 10, as the comestible mass 18 exits the hopper 102 it is guided by the lower roller 108 toward the upper roller 106 and the gap 110 formed therebetween. The counter rotating upper roller 106 and lower roller 108 pull the comestible mass 15 through the gap 110 between the pair of rollers 104 (also referred to as "forming rollers" or "sizing rollers" herein) to form and size the comestible mass 18 into a comestible structure 22, such as a sheet or slab for example, having a final or substantially final thickness. Although the forming system 100 illustrated and described herein includes only a single pair of rollers, conventional forming systems 100 having a forming extruder and two or more pairs of sizing rollers arranged in series are also within the scope of the invention.

[0037] The longitudinal edges 21 of the comestible structure 22 produced by the forming system 100 illustrated in FIG. 10 are substantially smoother than those of comestible structures formed by other forming systems. As a result, the comestible structure 22 produced by a forming system 100 having only a single pair of sizing rollers has a reduced amount of waste material, and therefore, trimming of the edges 21 of the comestible structure 22 downstream of the forming system 100 may be unnecessary. In one embodiment, the waste material removed from a comestible structure 22 formed by the forming system 100 of FIG. 10 is between about 3% and 5%. This waste material is generally removed at the packaging system 70 when a comestible strip 24 is cut into a plurality of pieces 26. This 3- 5% is significantly less than the 15% waste material which is commonly removed from comestible structures formed using other forming systems, such as systems including multiple pairs of rollers arranged in series for example, which require multiple trimming operations. In a conventional system, for example, a first trimming operation may be performed after the formation of the comestible structure and a second trimming operation may be performed when cutting the structure into smaller strips, pieces, or pellets.

Conventional manufacturing systems commonly include a smoothing roller and a cutting roller (not shown) arranged downstream from the forming system 100. Because of the reduction in the amount of waste material to be removed from the comestible structure 22, no trimming of the comestible structure 22 occurs upstream of the packaging station 80. As a result, such additional smoothing and cutting rollers may be unnecessary in the

manufacturing system 10 described herein.

[0038] As the comestible structure 22 is provided to the system 20, such as after conditioning for example, the orientation of the comestible structure 22 remains substantially the same as the orientation of the comestible structure output from the forming system 100. However, depending on the configuration of the system 20, the comestible structure 22 may be moved in a direction perpendicular to the machine direction, or direction of travel through the forming system 100, such that the longitudinal edges 21 of the comestible structure 22 output from the forming system 100 are the leading and trailing edges of the comestible structure 22 as it passes through the cutting device 30 via transport device 40 (FIG. 3). In such embodiments of the system 20, the strips 24 of comestible structure 22 are provided to the separating device 50 by transport device 40. The first conveying mechanism 52 of the separating mechanism 50 moves the plurality of strips 24 into the frame 56. Upon detection by the sensors 60 that the strips 24 are aligned and arranged at a desired position within the frame 56, the strips 24 move into contact with the second conveying mechanism 54. From the second conveying mechanism 54, the strips 24 are transferred to a third conveying mechanism 64, causing each of the strips 24 to separate from one another along cuts 32. An adjacent transport device 46 receives each individual strip 24 from the third conveying mechanism 64 and stacks it within a tray 72 of a downstream packaging system 70.

[0039] With respect to the embodiment of the system 20 illustrated in FIG. 7, the orientation of the comestible structure 22 also remains substantially the same as the orientation of the comestible structure 22 output from the forming system 100. After cutting a comestible structure 22 into a plurality of strips 24 oriented perpendicular to the machine direction, the strips 24 are provided to an adjacent transport 44 device moving at a different speed. As the strips 24 transfer from transport device 42 to transport device 44, the strips 24 separate from another before being stacked in tray 72 of an in-line and downstream packaging system 70.

[0040] The lowest strip 24 of comestible structure 22 arranged within the tray 72 is provided to another cutting device 80 by a movable plunger 76 and the third transport device 44. As shown in FIG. 8, the cutting device 80 is configured to divide each strip 24 of comestible structure 22 into a plurality of smaller pieces 26 of comestible structure 22. The cutting device 80 may additionally be configured to trim a section of waste 27 from the opposing outer edges 21 of each strip 24. As a result, only a single trimming operation of the comestible structure 22 may occur within the comestible manufacturing system 10.

[0041] With respect to the embodiments of FIGS. 1-10, the cutting and separating system 20 is an "in-line" system. For purposes of this disclosure, an "in line" system is designed as a system wherein the comestible structure 22 can be transported from one element or device of the cutting and separating system 20 for process of that system without need for removal from the system 20. That is, in an in line system, the comestible structure 22 does not have to be removed from the transportation device 40 for any necessary processing. This allows greater production speed, volume, and efficiency relative to conventional processes wherein the comestible structure 22 may need to be removed from the production line for various types of processing. In addition, the cutting and separating system 20 is arranged "in-line" with the downstream packaging system 70 such that the cut pieces 24 of comestible structure 22 may be transferred between the plurality of components, such as from the separating mechanism 50 to the tray 72 without removal from the comestible manufacturing system 10. In the illustrated and described comestible manufacturing system 10, the comestible structure 22 does not need to be removed from system 20 to manually separate the cut pieces 24 and provide the individual cut pieces 24 to a downstream packaging system 70. Depending on the configuration of the cutting and separating system 20, the system 20 may also be arranged in-line with and downstream from a forming system 100 of the manufacturing system 10.

[0042] Inclusion of the cutting and separating system 20 and the packaging system 70 allows for continuous and expedited comestible production. Because the cutting and separating system 20 eliminates scoring of the comestible as well as manual portions of the packaging process, such as separating cut comestible strips 24 for example, high speeds and continuous operation of the system 20 can be achieved.

[0043] All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

[0044] The use of the terms "a" and "an" and "the" and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) is to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms "comprising," "having," "including," and "containing" are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning "including, but not limited to,") unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., "such as") provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

[0045] Exemplary embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.




 
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