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Title:
INFUSION PLANT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/012025
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A plant for heat treating heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, baby food liquid concentrates, nutritious drinks or cheese milk. The plant has an infusion chamber, in which the fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, a fluid foodstuff inlet connected to a plurality of openings at the top of the infusion chamber for creating a plurality of essentially downwardly directed separate fluid foodstuff jets. The infusion chamber has a bottom section configured to collect the fluid foodstuff from the jets. The bottom section has an outlet opening at the bottom of the infusion chamber for allowing the collected fluid foodstuff to exit the infusion chamber. The outlet opening is connected to the inlet of a pump. A cooling jacket surrounds the bottom section for cooling the wall of the bottom section, and an optical camera is mounted on the infusion chamber with an angle of view covering at least a portion of the bottom section.

Inventors:
THORSEN, Knud (Tingbakken 35, Gjern, DK-8883, DK)
RIIS, Claus (Mollerupvej 10, Silkeborg, DK-8600, DK)
KJAERULFF, Gorm B. (Turkuvej 2, Silkeborg, DK-8600, DK)
POULSEN, Ole (Silkeborgvej 13, Engesvang, DK-7442, DK)
Application Number:
DK2015/050128
Publication Date:
January 28, 2016
Filing Date:
May 26, 2015
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SPX FLOW TECHNOLOGY DANMARK A/S (Pasteursvej 1, Silkeborg, DK-8600, DK)
International Classes:
A23C3/037; A23L3/16
Domestic Patent References:
2002-08-08
Foreign References:
EP0794706A11997-09-17
EP1124431A12001-08-22
US20120321771A12012-12-20
US4419301A1983-12-06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NORDIC PATENT SERVICE (Bredgade 30, 1260 Copenhagen K, DK)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS :

1. A plant for heat treating heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, baby food liquid concentrates, nutritious drinks or cheese milk, said plant comprising: an infusion chamber, in which the fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, a fluid foodstuff inlet connected to a plurality of openings at the top of said infusion chamber for creating a plurality of essentially downwardly directed separate fluid foodstuff jets, said infusion chamber having a bottom section configured to collect the fluid foodstuff from said jets, said bottom section having an outlet opening at the bottom of said infusion chamber for allowing said collected fluid foodstuff to exit said infusion chamber, said outlet opening being connected to the inlet of a pump, and a cooling jacket surrounding said bottom section for cooling the wall of said bottom section, an optical camera mounted on said infusion chamber with an angle of view covering at least a portion of said bottom section.

2. A plant according to claim 1 wherein said optical camera is mounted at or near top of said infusion chamber, pointing downwards towards said bottom section (32)

3. A plant according to claim 1 or 2, wherein a wall of said infusion chamber is provided with a sight glass for said optical camera.

4. A plant according to claim 3, wherein said sight glass is at least on its inner side facing the interior of said infusion chamber provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on said inner side.

5. A plant according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein said optical camera is a digital optical camera.

6. A plant according to claim 5, wherein images from said optical camera are processed by a processor that is configured to detect changes in said image, said processor further being configured to issue a notification or alarm when said processor has determined that the image from said optical camera has changed relative to an initial image.

7. A plant for heat treating heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, baby food liquid concentrates, nutritious drinks or cheese milk, said plant comprising: an infusion chamber, in which the fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, a fluid foodstuff inlet connected to a plurality of openings at the top of said infusion chamber for creating a plurality of essentially downwardly directed separate fluid foodstuff jets, said infusion chamber having a bottom section configured to collect the fluid foodstuff from said jets, said bottom section having an outlet opening at the bottom of said infusion chamber for allowing said collected fluid foodstuff to exit said infusion chamber, said outlet opening being connected to the inlet of a pump, and a cooling jacket surrounding said bottom section for cooling the wall of said bottom section, an optical camera mounted on said infusion chamber with an angle of view covering at least a portion of said bundle of foodstuff jets.

8. A plant according to claim 7, wherein said optical camera is mounted at or near the bottom of said infusion chamber, pointing upwards towards said upper section. 9. A plant according to claim 7, wherein said optical camera is mounted at or near upper section of said infusion chamber, pointing across the upper section.

10. A plant according to any one of claims 7 to 9, wherein a wall of said infusion chamber is provided with a sight glass for said optical camera.

11. A plant according to claim 10, wherein said sight glass is at least on its inner side facing the interior of said infusion chamber provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on said inner side.

12. A plant according to any one of claims 7 to 11, wherein said optical camera is a digital optical camera.

13. A plant according to claim 12, wherein images from said camera are processed by a processor that is configured to detect changes in said image, said processor further being configured to issue a notification or alarm when said processor has determined that the image from said optical camera has changed relative to an initial image. 14. A method for operating an infusion plant with an infusion chamber, in which fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, said method comprising : feeding fluid foodstuff into said infusion chamber with a plurality of fluid foodstuff jets, feeding steam into said infusion chamber, taking an initial image with a digital optical camera of at least a portion of the interior of said infusion chamber, recording said initial image, repetitively taking images of said portion of the walls of said portion of the interior of said infusion chamber, comparing the last image taken with said initial image, and issuing a notification or alarm when the last image taken is different from the initial image.

15. A method according to claim 14, wherein said portion of the interior of the infusion chamber comprises at least a portion the walls of said infusion chamber where fouling and/or burn-on is most likely to occur.

16. A method according to claim 15, wherein said step of comparing the last image taken with said initial image comprises comparing a change in color of said last image taken compared to said initial image.

17. A method according to claim 14, wherein said portion of the interior of the infusion chamber covers at least a portion of said bundle of fluid foodstuff jets.

18. A method according to claim 17, wherein said step of comparing the last image taken with said initial image comprises comparing a change in pattern of said last image taken compared to said initial image.

Description:
INFUSION PLANT TECHNICAL FIELD

The disclosure relates to a plant for ultra-high temperature treatment (UHT) of heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, nutritious drinks and cheese milk, the plant comprising an infusion chamber in which the fluid is heat treated by way of supply of steam.

BACKGROUND

EP 0 794 706 discloses an infusion plant for high temperature treatment heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate and cheese milk. The plant has an infusion chamber, in which the fluid is subjected to a heat treatment by feeding steam. The food product is introduced at the top of the infusion chamber as a bundle of separate and mainly downwardly directed jets of foodstuff. The lower section of the infusion chamber serves to collect the foodstuff and has cooled walls using a cooling jacket. An outlet opening of the infusion chamber is arranged at the bottom of the infusion chamber and the outlet opening is connected to the inlet of a positive-displacement pump. The outlet of the positive-displacement pump is connected to the inlet of a vacuum chamber that serves to remove water from the food product that was added during the steam infusion.

The infusion plant uses high temperature for a short time to kill micro-organisms by steam infusion. This technology is widely used in the dairy industry where products can lose their nutritional value, flavor and appearance as micro-organisms multiply. These organisms thrive at certain temperatures but if they are not present in a product, the product can be stored for many months without the need for refrigeration. Steam infusion achieves this objective with minimal heat degradation compared with other UHT processes. It helps protect essential components such as vitamins and results in fresh tasting products with outstanding quality. It provides the necessary kill rate for commercial sterility and can handle a wide product viscosity range - covering fluids from milk, puddings, ice cream, baby food, condensed milk, processed cheese, sauces and creams to lotions .

In the known infusion plant a cooling jacket is provided around the bottom section of the infusion chamber for minimizing burn-on and fouling. However, fouling is not completely prevented and cleaning and/or rinsing of the infusion chamber is necessary after a given period of operation, depending e.g. on the type of foodstuff. It is though desirable to minimize fouling and to obtain longer running times between cleaning operations and thereby achieve better production efficiency. Also, a more predictable length of run time before cleaning is needed would be desirable. Overall, the market requests more efficient bacteria killing equipment to meet the increasingly demand to produce heat sensitive products like baby foods.

SUMMARY It is an object of the invention to provide an infusion plant for ultra-high treatment of fluid foodstuffs with longer and/or more predictable running time between cleaning operations necessitated by fouling or burn-on. This object is achieved according to a first aspect of the invention by providing a plant for heat treating heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, baby food liquid concentrates, nutritious drinks or cheese milk, the plant comprising an infusion chamber, in which the fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, a fluid foodstuff inlet connected to a plurality of openings at the top of the infusion chamber for creating a plurality of essentially downwardly directed separate fluid foodstuff jets, the infusion chamber having a bottom section configured to collect the fluid foodstuff from the jets, the bottom section having an outlet opening at the bottom of the infusion chamber for allowing the collected fluid foodstuff to exit the infusion chamber, the outlet opening being connected to the inlet of a pump, and a cooling jacket surrounding the bottom section for cooling the wall of the bottom section, an optical camera mounted on the infusion chamber with an angle of view covering at least a portion of the bottom section.

By providing a camera with an angle of view covering at least a portion of the bottom section transition fouling and burn-on can be instantly detected. This means that the operation can continue until fouling and/or burn-on is detected and the running time before cleaning does not have to be set at a preventively short interval, thereby providing longer and safer production time between cleanings, which significantly increases production efficiency of the infusion heat treatment plant. In a first possible implementation form of the first aspect the optical camera is mounted at or near top of the infusion chamber, pointing downwards towards the bottom section.

In a second possible implementation form of the first aspect a wall of the infusion chamber is provided with a sight glass for the camera. In a third possible implementation form of the first aspect the sight glass is at least on its inner side facing the interior of the infusion chamber provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on the inner side.

In a fourth possible implementation form of the first aspect the optical camera is a digital optical camera.

In a fifth possible implementation form of the first aspect images from the camera are processed by a processor that is configured to detect changes in the image, the processor further being configured to issue a notification or alarm when the processor has determined that the image from the camera has changed relative to an initial image.

The object above is also achieved according to a second aspect of the invention by providing a plant for heat treating heat-sensitive fluid foodstuffs, such as whey protein concentrate, baby food, baby food liquid concentrates, nutritious drinks or cheese milk, the plant comprising an infusion chamber, in which the fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, a fluid foodstuff inlet connected to a plurality of openings at the top of the infusion chamber for creating a plurality of essentially downwardly directed separate fluid foodstuff jets, the infusion chamber having a bottom section configured to collect the fluid foodstuff from the jets, the bottom section having an outlet opening at the bottom of the infusion chamber for allowing the collected fluid foodstuff to exit the infusion chamber, the outlet opening being connected to the inlet of a pump, and a cooling jacket surrounding the bottom section for cooling the wall of the bottom section, an optical camera mounted on the infusion chamber with an angle of view covering at least a portion of the bundle of foodstuff jets. By providing a camera with an angle of view covering at least at least a portion of the bundle of foodstuff jets fouling and burn-on caused by a misaligned liquid foodstuff jet can be instantly detected. This means that the operation can continue until fouling and/or burn-on is detected and the running time before cleaning does not have to be set at a preventively short interval, thereby providing longer and safer production time between cleanings, which significantly increase production efficiency of the infusion heat treatment plant.

In a first possible implementation form of the second aspect the optical camera is mounted at or near the bottom of the infusion chamber, pointing upwards towards the upper section.

In a second possible implementation form of the second aspect the optical camera is mounted at or near upper section of the infusion chamber, pointing across the upper section. In a third possible implementation form of the second aspect a wall of the infusion chamber is provided with a sight glass for the camera.

In a fourth possible implementation form of the second aspect the sight glass is at least on its inner side facing the interior of the infusion chamber provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on the inner side.

In a fifth possible implementation form of the second aspect the optical camera is a digital optical camera. In a sixth possible implementation form of the second aspect images from the camera are processed by a processor that is configured to detect changes in the image, the processor further being configured to issue a notification or alarm when the processor has determined that the image from the camera has changed relative to an initial image.

The object above is also achieved according to a third aspect of the invention by providing a method for operating an infusion plant with an infusion chamber, in which fluid foodstuff is subjected to a heat treatment by a feeding of steam, the method comprising feeding fluid foodstuff into the infusion chamber with a plurality of fluid foodstuff jets, feeding steam into the infusion chamber, taking an initial image with a digital optical camera of at least a portion the interior of the infusion chamber, recording the initial image, repetitively taking images of the portion of the walls of the portion of the interior of the infusion chamber, comparing the last image taken with it the initial image, and issuing a notification or alarm when the last image taken is different from the initial image. By taking images with a digital camera and comparing an initial image taken at the start of a production run with a present image fouling and burn-on can be instantly detected. This means that the operation can continue until fouling and/or burn-on is detected and the running time before cleaning does not have to be set at a preventively short interval, thereby providing longer and safer production time between cleanings, which significantly increases production efficiency of the infusion heat treatment plant.

In a first possible implementation form of the third aspect the portion of the interior of the infusion chamber comprises at least a portion the walls of the infusion chamber where fouling and/or burn-on is most likely to occur.

In a second possible implementation form of the third aspect the step of comparing the last image taken with the initial image comprises comparing a change in color of the last image taken compared to the initial image.

In a third possible implementation form of the third aspect the portion of the interior of the infusion chamber covers at least a portion of the bundle of fluid foodstuff jets.

In a first possible implementation form of the third aspect the step of comparing the last image taken with the initial image comprises comparing a change in pattern of the last image taken compared to the initial image.

The foregoing and other objects are achieved by the features of the independent claims. Further implementation forms are apparent from the dependent claims, the description and the figures.

These and other aspects of the invention will be apparent from and the embodiments described below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following detailed portion of the present disclosure, the invention will be explained in more detail with reference to the example embodiments shown in the drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a diagrammatic view of an ultra-high temperature treatment plant,

Fig. 2 is a sectional view of an infusion plant according to an example embodiment,

Fig. 3 is an initial image taken by a camera of the infusion plant of Fig. 2,

Fig. 4 is an image taken by a camera of the infusion plant of Fig. 2 after a running time, and

Fig. 5 is a flow chart illustrating an example embodiment of a method for using an optical digital camera with an infusion plant. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Fig. 1 discloses a plant for ultra-high temperature treatment of liquid foodstuff. The liquid foodstuff can be any foodstuff in liquid form, but the disclosed plant is particularly useful for temperature sensitive foodstuffs that should be heated for killing bacteria for a short period only so as to preserve their flavor, consistency and nutritious qualities. Examples of such liquid foodstuffs are milk, baby food liquid, baby food liquid concentrate or nutritional drinks (with high protein content) . The liquid foodstuff may have a high dry matter content (40% and higher) and/or high protein content (6% or higher) . The plant of Fig. 1 has an infusion chamber 1 of a conventionally known type. The infusion chamber 1 is connected to a tube 2 for feeding fluid foodstuff to be heat treated inside the infusion chamber 1, and a tube 3 for the feeding of steam. Finally, the infusion chamber is connected to tubes 4 and 5 for feeding and removing liquid for cooling the bottom of the infusion chamber 1. In an embodiment the cooling liquid is water. The outlet of the infusion chamber 1 directly connected with a pump 6. In an embodiment the pump 6 is a centrifugal pump. In another embodiment the pump 6 is a positive displacement pump, such as a lobe or gear pump. The outlet of the pump 6 is connected to the inlet of a vacuum chamber 10 of a conventionally known type through a tube 9. This vacuum chamber is adapted to remove the amount of water being supplied in form of steam in the infusion chamber through a tube 11, whereas the concentrated fluid foodstuff is drained off through a tube 12 and a pump 13 in a conventionally known manner. Fig. 2 is a diagrammatic sectional view of the infusion chamber. The infusion chamber is preferably essentially rotation symmetrical around a vertical axis. The upper section 30 of the infusion chamber has a hollow cylindrical part and a top part that is shaped similar to a conical frustum. A bottom section 32 is releasably connected to the upper section 30 by a flanged connection 34 for allowing access to the interior of the infusion chamber 1 for cleaning and/or maintenance. The bottom section 32 has in an embodiment a shape similar to a conical frustum. At the lower end of the infusion chamber there is an outlet opening 19 that is directly connected to the inlet of a lobe pump 6. The fluid foodstuff to be treated is carried through the tube 2 into the infusion chamber 1. The fluid foodstuff enters the infusion chamber 1 as a bundle 7 of separate liquid foodstuff jets through a plurality of openings in a nozzle at the top of the infusion chamber 1. Hot steam is injected into the infusion chamber 1 through a circumferential steam distribution chamber in a well- known manner. In the infusion chamber 1 the liquid foodstuff jets meet the hot steam and the foodstuff is thereby heated and absorbs the steam.

The liquid foodstuff jets end on the funnel shaped inner wall of the bottom section 32. The bottom section 32 collects the liquid foodstuff from the liquid foodstuff jets and guides it to the outlet opening 19 at the lower end of the infusion chamber 1 (which is also the lower end of the bottom section 32 and which is also the inlet of the pump 6) .

A cooling jacket 15 is provided around the bottom section 32. The cooling jacket 15 keeps the bottom section 32 cool, to prevent or minimize the liquid foodstuff that gets into contact with the inner walls of the bottom section 32 to foul or burn-on. The cooling jacket 15 provides for a mantle of cooling water or other cooling medium around the bottom section 32. The mantle is divided by a spiral traverse wall 17 that guides the cooling water in a spiral pattern around the bottom section 32. The inlet of the cooling water 4 passes though the pump housing and into a portion 29 of the mantle that extends also into the pump housing. From the portion 29 internal to the pump housing the spiral path of the cooling water continues spirally upwards towards the cooling medium outlet 5 at the top of the cooling jacket 15 and near the top of the bottom section 32.

The lower portion of the bottom section 32 forms the outlet opening 19 of the chamber that connects seamlessly to the inlet of the pump 6. This is in an embodiment achieved by the lower end of the bottom section 32 being made from steel plates, preferably stainless steel, and connected to the pump housing by welds 18. In an embodiment the pump housing is provided with a circular ridge or circular upright flange that facilitates welding of the pump housing to the lower end of the bottom section 32. After welding the transition between the bottom section 32 and the pump housing/pump inlet formed by the welds 18 is machined to provide a perfectly smooth surface without and cracks or fissures that could be difficult to clean or rinse.

The gear or lobe pump 6 is of a conventionally known type and is connected to the outlet 19 of the infusion chamber 1, and the housing of the gear or lobe pump 6 is provided with a temperature sensor 16 at a location where the adjacent surface is kept clean of burnings by means of the teeth of the gear wheels or by the lobes of the rotors 8. In this manner it is possible to ensure a reliable control of the plant. In an example embodiment an optical camera 20, preferably a digital optical camera) is mounted on the infusion chamber 1 with an angle of view 21 covering at least a portion of the bottom section 32 so that an operator or a processor configured therefore can determine that fouling has occurred (or not) and cleaning needs to be performed (or not) . The optical camera 20 is preferably mounted at or near top of the infusion chamber 1, pointing downwards towards the bottom section 32. The wall of the infusion chamber is in an embodiment provided with a sight glass 23 for allowing the optical camera 20 to view into the infusion chamber 1. The sight glass 23 is preferably at least on its inner side facing the interior of the infusion chamber 1 provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on the inner side. In an embodiment, images from the optical camera 20 are processed by a processor (not shown) that is configured to detect changes in the image. The processor is further configured to issue a notification or alarm when it has determined that the image taken by the camera 20 has changed relative to an initial image taken shortly after the start of a production run.

Another optical camera 25 (preferably a digital optical camera) is mounted on the infusion chamber 1 with an angle of view 26 covering at least a portion of the bundle 7 of fluid foodstuff jets. The optical camera 25 can be mounted at or near the bottom of the infusion chamber 1, pointing upwards towards the upper section 30. The optical camera 25 can alternatively be mounted at or near upper section 30 of the infusion chamber 1, pointing across the upper section 30. A sight glass 28 is provided in the wall of the infusion chamber 1 for optical camera 25. The sight glass is 28 can at least on its inner side facing the interior of the infusion chamber 1 be provided with a coating to prevent formation of water droplets on its inner side.

Images from camera 25 can in an embodiment be processed by a processor (not shown) that is configured to detect changes in the image, the processor further being configured to issue a notification or alarm when the processor has determined that the image from the optical camera 25 has changed relative to an initial image taken shortly after the start of a production run.

Fig. 3 shows an initial image taken at the start of a production run, i.e. shortly after cleaning and/or maintenance of the infusion chamber 1 with the bundle of fluid foodstuff jets 7 having a correct configuration. Fig. 4 shows an image taken after some running time. The pattern of fluid foodstuff jets 7 has changed, e.g. by foodstuff partially clogging up one of the openings in the nozzle and thereby changing the direction of the fluid foodstuff jet coming from the partially clogged opening. The fluid foodstuff jet with the changed direction will hit the not-cooled side wall of the upper section 30 and thereby cause fouling and/or burn-on. Thus, at the moment where the image of Fig. 4 is taken cleaning and/or maintenance is needed.

Thus, optical camera 25 supervises that fluid foodstuff jets do only spray down on the anti-fouling cooled surface at the bottom section 32 of the infusion chamber 1. If foodstuff product sprays outside bottom anti- fouling surface of the bottom section 32, then fouling will be generated and systems are stopped as a consequence. Optical camera 25 warns the operators of potential problems and the operators can react and adjust to prevent fouling problems.

Fig. 5 shows an example embodiment of a method for operating an infusion plant as described here above. The method includes feeding fluid foodstuff into the infusion chamber 1 with a plurality of fluid foodstuff jets and feeding steam into the infusion chamber 1. Then, taking an initial image with a digital optical camera of the interior of the infusion chamber followed by recording the initial image. Next, repetitively taking images of the portion of the walls of the infusion chamber 1 where fouling and/or burn on is most likely to occur (i.e. the inner walls of the bottom section) , an comparing the last image taken with it the initial image, and issuing a notification or alarm when the last image taken is different from the initial image. The camera 20,25 is in an embodiment with its angle of view directed to cover at least a portion the walls of the infusion chamber 1 where fouling and/or burn-on is most likely to occur. In an embodiment the method may further include comparing the last image taken with the initial image and comparing a change in color of the last image taken compared to the initial image. In another embodiment of the method the portion of the interior of the infusion chamber covers at least a portion of the bundle of fluid foodstuff jets 7. The method may further include comparing the last image taken with the initial image by comparing a change in pattern of the last image taken compared to the initial image and issuing an alarm or notification when a change in pattern has been detected.

The invention has been described in conjunction with various embodiments herein. However, other variations to the disclosed embodiments can be understood and effected by those skilled in the art in practicing the claimed invention, from a study of the drawings, the disclosure, and the appended claims. In the claims, the word

"comprising" does not exclude other elements or steps, and the indefinite article "a" or "an" does not exclude a plurality. A single processor or other unit may fulfill the functions of several items recited in the claims. The mere fact that certain measures are recited in mutually different dependent claims does not indicate that a combination of these measured cannot be used to advantage. The reference signs used in the claims shall not be construed as limiting the scope.