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Title:
IMPROVED DE-AERATION CAVITIES IN A MOULD MEMBER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/193046
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a food product forming apparatus with a food forming member, which comprises a multitude of product cavities and a seal plate which sealingly cooperates with the surface of the mould drum.

Inventors:
VAN GERWEN, Hendrikus Petrus Gerardus (Ter Hofstadlaan 39, 5711VT Someren, 5711VT, NL)
DE BIJL, Andreas Leonardus (Volley 2, 5275 LA Den Dungen, 5275 LA, NL)
Application Number:
EP2018/060071
Publication Date:
October 25, 2018
Filing Date:
April 19, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GEA FOOD SOLUTIONS BAKEL B.V. (Beekakker 11, 5761 EN Bakel, 5761 EN, NL)
International Classes:
A22C7/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2012012581A12012-01-26
WO2011131372A22011-10-27
WO2015082254A12015-06-11
WO2013014010A12013-01-31
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BROSCH, Oliver et al. (Kutzenberger Wolff & Partner, Theodor-Heuss-Ring 23, Köln, 50668, DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Food product forming apparatus (1 ) with a mould drum (6), which comprises a multitude of product cavities (7) and a seal member (9), preferably a seal plate (9), which sealingly cooperates with the surface of the mould drum (6), characterized in that the seal member (9) comprises a venting means (17 - 20).

Food product forming apparatus (1 ) according to claim 1 , characterized in, that the venting means (17 - 20) is a valve.

Food product forming apparatus (1 ) according to one of the preceding claims,

characterized in, that the venting means is a gap (20) between the mould drum (6) and the seal member (9).

Food product forming apparatus according to claim 3, characterized in, that it comprises a pressure element (15, 16) which presses the seal member (9) against the mould drum (6) and control means which control the pressure member to influence the size of the gap (20).

Food forming member according to one of the preceding claims, characterized in, that the mould drum is a drum with cavities (7) at its circumference.

Food forming member according to one of the preceding claims, characterized in, that the cavities are at least partially made from a porous material.

Food forming member according to claim 6, characterized in, that the cavity is vented via the porous material.

Method to form a food product in a cavity (7) of a mould drum (6), which is sealed by a seal member (9), wherein the cavity is at least partially vented via the seal member or a gap between the seal member (9) and the mould drum (6).

Method according to claim 8, characterized in that a pressure between the seal member (9) and the mould drum (6) is released until the entrapped air escapes.

0. Method according to claims 8 or 9, characterized in, that a valve in the seal member is opened during and/or after filling of a cavity

Description:
Improved de-aeration cavities in a mould member

The present invention relates to a food product forming apparatus with a food forming member, which comprises a multitude of product cavities and a seal plate which sealingly cooperates with the surface of the mould drum.

During filling of such cavities with a food mass such as meat, vegetables and/or fish, entrapped air must be vented. In case the cavity is at least partially made from porous material, this can be done via the porous material. In certain cases, the de-aeration of air via the porous structure of the product cavity is not sufficient.

It was therefore the problem of the present invention to overcome the deficiencies of the state in the art.

The problem is attained with a food product forming apparatus with a food mould drum, which comprises a multitude of product cavities and a seal member which sealingly cooperates with the surface of the mould drum, wherein the seal plate comprises a venting means.

The present invention relates to a food forming apparatus, which forms a food mass such as minced meat, meat pieces or meat filets or the like into a certain shape like a patty. The apparatus comprises a mould drum, in which the food mass is formed. After forming, the formed product is removed from the cavity and the cavity can be refilled. The cavity can be made totally or partially form a porous material, for example a sintered material, such as plastic or metal. Via this porous material, the formed products can be ejected with a gas and/or the during filling the cavities can be vented via the porous material.

The mould member is a mould drum This food forming drum has at its outer surface a multitude of product cavities, which are open towards the circumference of the drum and in which the food mass is formed into a food product, for example a patty. This food forming drum preferably comprises a multitude of rows of product cavities, whereas each row comprises one or a multitude of product cavities, side by side. The rows are arranged in parallel to the middle axis of the inventive drum. During production, the drum turns continuously or intermittently and in one position the product cavities in one row are filled with the food mass and in a downstream position, the formed food mass is discharged from the product cavities, located in one row.

Subsequently, the product cavities in one row of cavities can be filled again and so on. In order to vent the product cavities before and/or during and/or after their filling and/or in order to support the discharge of the product, the product cavities can be at least partially made of a porous material, for example sintered metal or plastic, which is gas-permeable and via which the product cavity can be vented or through which gas, for example air, can be discharged, to loosen the formed product from the surface of the product cavity. Preferably, the porous material comprises pores/channels, which are interconnected to each other. The food forming drum further preferably comprises fluid channels, which extend in the longitudinal direction of the drum, i.e. parallel to the center axis of the drum and extend preferably from one end to the other end of the drum. Via each fluid channel, ventilation air can be discharged, for example to the ambient, and/or compressed gas can be forced into the cavities to discharge the formed product.

Additionally, a cleaning fluid can be forced through the channels and/or the porous material of the product cavities.

Before, during and/or after filling the cavity with food mass the cavity will be enclosed with seal member, for instance a seal plate, such that no undesirable leakage of mass occurs. This sealing member sealingly cooperates with the surface of the mould member, for example with the outer circumference of the mould drum. The seal member is preferably a seal plate whose length preferably extends over the entire axial length of the drum. Radially, the seal plate preferably covers the radial length of one cavity. However more preferably, it is longer than the radial length of the cavity in one row. Preferably, the seal plate comprises an opening, preferably a slot, that preferably extends over the entire axial length of the drum. Via this opening, the mould cavities are filled with the food mass. Preferably, the seal member is flexible so that it can compensate irregularities at the surface of the drum and/or so that a gap between the seal member and the surface of the mould member can be established, preferably due to the pressure of the gas to be vented. More preferably the seal member is pressed, at least locally, against the surface of the mould member.

According to the present invention, the seal member comprises venting means. These venting means are utilized to vent the cavities before and/or during and/or after filling. Preferably the venting takes place only during a desired period of time and/or in a desired amount. Via the venting means no or only as little as possible food product should escape out of the cavity.

Preferably only gas can pass the venting means.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the venting means is a valve. The valve can be a passage that extends through the entire thickness of the seal member from the surface that is in touch with the mould member to a surface that is, for example in connection to the ambient. There can be one valve per cavity in one row. The valve can be actuatable, manually and/or automatically. The valves in one row can be set differently. The valves are preferably provided in the vicinity of the upstream end of the seal member or upstream from the filling opening, e.g. the filing slot.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present the venting means is a gap between the mould drum and the seal plate. Preferably, this gap only exists temporarily, before, while or after the cavity or cavities in one row a being filled and/or have already been filled. The gap can occur due to the filling pressure in the cavity during and/or after filling. There can also be additionally or substitutionally mechanical or electrical means which create the gap between the seal member and the surface of the mould member. The gap can for example be provided by releasing the pressure by which the seal member is pressed against the surface of the mould member. The gap is preferably provided only locally, more preferably at the upstream end of each cavity relative to its movement after filling. However, the gap can also extend along the entire axial length of the seal member. Once the cavity is vented, the gap is preferably closed, for example by increasing the pressure on the seal member.

Preferably, the food product forming apparatus comprises a pressure member, preferably one or more piston/cylinder(s), which each presses the seal member against the mould drum and control means which control the pressure member to influence the size of the gap. In case there are more than one pressure member, the members can preferably be controlled individually and more preferably set to different pressures. Preferably, the pressure members are provided upstream from the location in which the cavities are filled.

The problem is also solved with a method to form a food product in a cavity of a mould drum, which is sealed by a seal plate, wherein the cavity is at least partially vented via the seal member or a gap between the seal member and the mould drum.

The disclosure made regarding the inventive food product forming apparatus also applies to the inventive method and vice versa. Subject matters disclosed in connection with the inventive apparatus can also be incorporated into claims referring to the inventive method.

This subject matter of the present patent application refers to a method to form a food product, for example a patty, from food mass, for example minces meat. The food mass is formed in a cavity, which is open on one side. The cavity is part of a mould drum. Before, during and/or after the filling takes place, the open side of the cavity is at least partially sealed with a seal member, for example a seal plate.

According to the present invention, the cavity is vented before and/or during and/or after filling via the seal member and/or via gap between the seal member and the mould drum. The venting preferably takes place via a valve in the seal member. This valve can be a simple recess, that extends from the interface between the seal member and the mould drum until the ambient and/or a volume, which takes up the vented gas. The valve may comprise a movable body which can be actuated manually or automatically. In case that there is a multitude of cavities in one row, which are filled and emptied simultaneously, preferably each cavity comprises a recess/valve, which more preferably can be adjusted individually. In case the cavity is vented via a gap, the size of this gap is preferably controllable, so example by adjusting the pressure and/or the location at which the seal member, preferably a seal plate, is pressed against the mould drum. Preferably, the pressure between the seal member and the mould drum is released until the entrapped air escapes and is then increased again. According to another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the sealing between the seal member and the mould drum is self- adjusting, i.e. if the pressure of in the cavity exceeds a certain limit, a gap between the mould drum and the seal member establishes, via which the entrapped gas can escape. However, preferably this gap remains so small that only gas and no or very little food mass particle or food product liquid can escape from the cavity. As soon as the pressure decreases the gap reduces its size automatically. According to another preferred embodiment, there are means to mechanically and/or electrically and/or magnetically establish the gap between the seal- and the mould drum.

In case an actuatable valve is provided in the seal plate, it is preferably opened during and/or after filling of a cavity.

The venting of each cavity during and/or after filling is preferably a supplement to the venting of the cavities via a porous, gas permeable structure which is part of each cavity. However, the venting can also exclusively be executed via the seal member and/or a gap between the seal- and the mould drum.

The inventions are now explained according to the Figures. Theses explanations do not limit the scope of protection. The explanations apply to all embodiments of the present invention likewise.

Figures 1 and 2 depict the state in the art. Figures 3 - 6 each depict an embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 1 depicts a food forming apparatus 1 according Figure 25 (Figure 1a) and Figure 28

(Figure 1 b) of WO2013014010. The mould member is a mould drum 6 rotating in counterclockwise direction and provided at its circumference with a multitude of cavities 7. As can be seen, there are more than one cavity in one row, i.e. more than one cavity is filled and emptied simultaneously. These cavities comprising a bottom wall and a sidewall and are in this

embodiment at least partially made from a porous structure. During filling air entrapped within the cavity and within the food mass will be removed through the porous structure of the cavities to the fluid passage 8 and from thereon to the ambient. Driving force for this is the pressurized mass flowing via mass supply 2 (food pump, not depicted) and food mass infeed channel 3 into the cavity. To prevent distortion of the formed food product a pressurized cutting member 10 is pressing against the seal plate or directly against the mould drum in the downstream area of the manifold.

Pressure means 12 and 13 are depicted as stabilization elements, more specifically as blocks, preferably plastic blocks, however these stabilization elements can be designed differently, for instance a bended plate as long as the design allows the stabilization elements to follow the deformation of the drum. Pressure elements 16 in row A and B in upstream sealing area 4 will press seal plate 9 via upstream stabilization element 12 and manifold 1 1 against the

circumference of drum 6. Pressure elements 16 in row C and D in downstream sealing area 5 will press seal plate 9 via downstream stabilization element 13 and manifold 1 1 against the circumference of drum 6. The seal plate 9 is flexible and hence able to follow the irregularity of the surface of the drum and is in the upstream sealing area and the downstream area in sealing connection with the drum, so no air can escape to the ambient.

The pressure elements 16 are depicted as double-acting actuators more specifically as double- acting pneumatic cylinders whose piston is directly or via connecting elements 15 connected to the stabilization elements 12, 13. All pressure elements in one row can be pressurized

individually with an individual pressure or with one and the same pressure. All rows can be pressurized with a unique pressure or with one and the same pressure. The outermost pressure elements L and R will prevent leakage of food mass beyond the outer ends of the drum. The number of pressure elements depends mainly on the length of the drum and/or the forces acting on the drum (pressure food mass, pressure of the pressure elements, weight drum) and/or the deformation of the drum versus the stiffness of the stabilization elements. The pressure elements are able to retract the manifold and stabilization elements to a position in which the food forming apparatus can be serviced, cleaned and for instance the seal plate can be exchanged.

Figure 2 depicts de-aeration of the cavity. The filling of the mould cavity will start as soon as, due to rotation of the mould drum, the down stream end of the mould cavity Bmc passes the upstream end of the channel Bfc and will stop as soon as the upstream end of a mould cavity Emc passes the down stream end of the feed channel Efc. Sealing between the seal member 9, here a seal plate, and the mould drum 6, here a mould drum, up stream from the filling slot, takes place between begin sealing area Bsa and begin feed channel Bfc. The sealing length Lsd in circumferential direction drum is here shorter than cavity length Led in circumferential direction drum.

Initially, during the filling of the cavity with pressurized food mass the mass will consequently force the entrapped air within the cavity, which is subjected to a lower pressure, to flow via opening Bsa-Emc to the ambient. During further rotation of the drum the cavity will be further filled with a volume of food mass. The remaining volume of entrapped air in the cavity will be compressed and forced over the decreasing distance Bsa-Emc to the ambient. De-aeration along the sealing will stop as soon as the distance Bsa-Emc is zero. In an embodiment with a cavity with an at least partly porous structure or other de-aeration means such as perforations and/or openings, additional de-aeration can take place via the de-aeration means of the cavity.

Taken into account the desired operating parameters such as fill pressure and rotational speed of the mould drum, the sealing length Lsd will be chosen such that the de-aeration to the ambient along the adapted sealing is sufficient and without any leakage of food mass to the ambient.

It has now been found that the design according to the state in the art may lead to only partially filled cavities.

Figure 3b depicts a first embodiment of the invention to remove entrapped air from the cavity via the seal member, here a seal plate 9. In the present case, vacuum is in fluid-connection with the cavity, not via the porous structure of the cavity but via recess 17 in sealing 9. The person skilled in the art understand, that it may be sufficient to connect the cavity via the seal plate to a pressure lower than the filling pressure, for example ambient pressure. In case mass properties and/or properties related to the cavity and/or process parameters will vary, vacuum parameters can be adjusted such that each cavity is entirely filled in combination with the correct weight and without leakage of mass via the vacuum connection. Preferably the vacuum parameters such as the level of vacuum and the timing (the instant that vacuum start and stops, duration) in which the vacuum connection is in contact with the cavity, will be determined within the control system, preferably automatically, such that no human action is needed. In case a connection to a vacuum source during production of the food forming apparatus is not required this embodiment can operate without vacuum and still de-aeration along the sealing and through recess 17 will take place as depicted in Figure 3a. In case no de-aeration at all along the sealing is required recess 17 can be closed-off (not depicted). In case there is more than one cavity in one row, the vacuum applied to each cavity, can preferably controlled individually.

A second embodiment is depicted in Figure 4a. Here, a valve 19 is provided to control and/or adjust the vent-gas flow from each cavity or a row of cavities. This valve can be actuated manually but is preferably operated by motorized drive means such that de-aeration of entrapped air within the cavity takes place during sealing of the cavities, through recess 17 and, for example via housing 18, to the ambient. Figure 4b depicts the valve in a closed position such that no de- aeration from the cavity to the ambient can take place. There can be one valve per cavity in one row. However, there can be also less valves than cavities in one row. In the second case, there is preferably a manifold provided in the seal plate, which collects the vented gas and leads it to the valve and then for example to the ambient.

Figure 5 depicts a third embodiment of the invention in which valve 19 will be displaced, here in valve housing 18, in radial direction with respect to the axis of rotation of the drum. The valve can be moved manually but preferably via drive means. Figure 5b depicts the valve in a closed position.

Figure 6 shows yet another embodiment of the present invention. In this case, the entire venting or the venting additionally to a venting via the cavity takes place by means of a gap 20 between the form- and the seal member 9.

The size of the gap can, for example be controlled by the pressure means explained according to Figure 1. In case no de-aeration of entrapped air via the gap 20 is needed, the seal plate in the upstream sealing area can be pressed over its entire length against the outer surface of the drum as depicted in Figure 1. In cases, de-aeration along the seal plate is required, the relevant pressure elements in row A can be actuated such that before and/or during and/or after filling entrapped air within the cavity can escape via a shortcut from the specific cavity along the sealing and to the ambient. Therefore, the pressure elements will retract the pressure means and sealing away from the position of the drum resulting in deformation of the seal plate as depicted in Figure 6 and/or their pressure is reduced such that the pressure of the air to entrap opens the gap.

Based on the same forming apparatus, process parameters and same position of a cavity relative to the feed channel; in Figure 6a the sealing is subjected to a high degree of deformation resulting in a substantial filled cavity contrary with Figure 6b in which the seal plate is deformed only slightly.

The pressure elements 16 used in row A - D and specifically used in row A can be configured as a mechanism driven by a motor. In another embodiment, the pressure elements are separate inflatable bellows or cylinders in order to press the pressure means and sealing against the circumference of the drum and further separate pressure elements to retract the pressure means and sealing away from the drum. Preferably the pressure elements are double-acting actuators more specifically double-acting pneumatic cylinders which pistons are directly connected to pressure means such as the stabilization element 12 or indirectly via connecting elements 15. Pressure means 12 will preferably be connected to the seal plate.

In order to achieve a stable system and/or stable process, the drive mechanisms to drive the valve in the embodiment according to Figures 4 and 5 and/or to vary the degree of deformation of the seal plate in the embodiment according to Figure 6 are preferably automatically controlled by a control unit which is part of the forming apparatus such that no manual intervention is needed during production, even if the mass properties and/or properties related to a cavity and/or process parameters will vary during production. The valve and/or the size of the gap may be pressure controlled and/or controlled depending on the rotational position of the drum, for example the position of a cavity relative to the filling slot and/or the seal member.

In case de-aeration via a cavity will be combined with additional de-aeration means such as described in inventive embodiments, the pressure on the food mass can be reduced. Less force on the food mass will result in less damage of the composition/structure of the mass during transportation from the mass supply system to the cavity. Further it will prevent clogging of the porous structure and/or openings in the cavity.

For all described embodiments, de-aeration along and/or through the sealing can already start before the downstream end of the mould cavity Bmc passes upstream end of the feed channel Bfc, thus before filling of the cavity actually starts. Beside the described embodiments, a combination of embodiments such as a cavity with a porous structure connected to the ambient, vacuum connected to a cavity via the sealing, sealing provided with a valve, retractable sealing, etcetera can be used.

Embodiments of inventions described in combination with a mould drum may also be used in combination with a mould plate.

List of reference signs

1 food product forming apparatus

2 mass supply

3 food mass infeed channel

4 upstream sealing area

5 downstream sealing area

6 food forming member, drum, mould drum

7 product cavity

8 fluid passage

9 seal member, seal plate

10 cutting member

1 1 manifold

12 upstream stabilization element

13 downstream stabilization element

14 frame

15 connecting element, piston

16 pressure element, actuator, cylinder

17 Recess

18 Valve housing

19 Valve

20 gap between seal plate 9 and mould drum 6 A-D row numbers

L-R individual pressure elements left - right

Bsa begin sealing area

Esa end sealing area

Bfc begin feed channel

Efc end feed channel

Bmc begin mould cavity seen in rotational direction drum

Emc end mould cavity seen in rotational direction drum

Led cavity length in circumferential direction mould drum

Lsd sealing length in upstream sealing area mould drum