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Title:
A METHOD AND DISPENSER FOR DISPENSING A FLOWABLE SUBSTANCE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/000037
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Disclosed herein is a dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance. The dispenser comprises a plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the outer surface being rotatable about an axis at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets is substantially matchable to a speed of a tray comprising a plurality of moulds that is movable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of the dispenser. The dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance into the moulds when the outlets are in a position substantially closest to the tray.

Inventors:
HUGHES, Peter (5 86 Belgrave Street, Bronte, New South Wales 2024, AU)
Application Number:
AU2014/050114
Publication Date:
January 08, 2015
Filing Date:
July 05, 2014
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BONDI ENGINEERING AND DESIGN PTY LIMITED (5 86 Belgrave Street, Bronte, New South Wales 2024, AU)
International Classes:
B67D7/02; A23G3/20; A23G9/28; B67D7/36
Foreign References:
US20130122168A12013-05-16
US3421455A1969-01-14
JPH11340254A1999-12-10
US4957425A1990-09-18
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOUNDRY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PTY LTD (PO Box Q1466, Queen Victoria Building, New South Wales 1230, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims:

1. A dispenser for dispensing a flowabie substance, the dispenser comprising a

plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the outer surface being rotatable about an axis at rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets is substantially matchable to a speed of a tray comprising a plurality of moulds that is movable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of the dispenser; the dispenser being operable to dispense the flowabie substance into the moulds when the outlets are in a position substantially closest to t e tray.

2. The dispenser of claim 1 , wherein the outer surface of the dispenser is of cylindrical shape.

3. The dispenser of claim 1 or 2, wherein the plurality of outlets comprise a plurality of nozzles.

4. The dispenser of any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the plurality of outlets form a

pattern on the outer surface of the dispenser, the pattern matching a pattern of moulds on the tray.

5. The dispenser of claim 4, wherein the pattern on the outer surfac of the dispenser comprises of a plurality of rows of the outlets, where each of the plurality of rows of the outlets is alignable with a corresponding row of moulds on the tray,

6. The dispenser of any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the outer surface of the

dispenser is the outer surface of a rotatable sheath of the dispenser, the sheath comprising a plurality of channels via which the flowabie substance can flow to the outlets.

7. The dispenser of claim 6, wherein rotation of the sheath causes an end of each

channel distal to the respective outlet to align with a source of the flowabie

substance when the outlets are at a position close to the tray for dispensing the flowabie substance into the number of moulds in the tray.

8. The dispenser of an one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the outer surface is adapted to rotate between predefined angles, whereby movement of the outlets defines an arc of a circle.

9. The dispenser of claim 8, wherein the outer surface is adapted to rotate from a start position at a rate whereby the peripheral speed of the outlets is substantially matchable to the speed of the tray, and then back to the start position at a faster rate.

10. The dispenser of any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the outer surface is adapted to perform complete revolutions.

11.The dispenser of any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the dispenser further comprises: a. an inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser; and,

b. a pumping mechanism for pumping the flowable substance out of the plurality of outlets.

12. The dispenser of claim 11. wherein the pumping mechanism comprises a rotary

pump.

13. The dispenser of claim 11 or 12, wherein the pumping mechanism comprises a

gerotor.

14. The dispenser of any one of claims 11 to 13, wherein the pumping mechanism is located within the axis about which the outer surface of the dispenser rotates.

15. The dispenser of claim 14, wherein the pumping mechanism comprises a plurality of gerotors arranged along a length of the axis, each gerotor being adapted to pump the flowable substance to predetermined outlets.

16. The dispenser of any one of claims 11 to 15, wherein the dispenser further

comprises one or more slide adjustments, the one or more slide adjustments being configurable to control a volume of the flowable substance dispensed.

17. A dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance, the dispenser comprising:

an inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser;

an elongate dispensing portion comprising a plurality of outlets spaced

therealong, the dispensing portion being adapted to span a surface onto which the flowable substance is dispensable; and

a gerotor adapted to pump the flowable substance to the plurality of outlets, wherein the dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance from the plurality of outlets onto the surface.

18. The dispenser of claim 17, wherein the gerotor comprises a plurality of gerotors

spaced along length of the dispensing portion.

19. The dispenser of claim 18, wherein each gerotor is adapted to pump the flowable substance to a respective outlet.

20. The dispenser of any one of claims 1 to 19, wherein the flowable substance is

confectionary substance.

21.A method for dispensing a flowable substance the method comprising: a. providing a dispenser comprising an outer surface that is rotatable about an axis, the outer surface comprising a plurality of outlets spaced therearound; b. moving a surface under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis;

C. rotating the outer surface of the dispenser about the axis at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets substantially matches a speed of the surface when the outlets are in a position su stantially closest to the surface; and, d, dispensing the flowable substance from the outlets onto the surface when the outlets are in the position substantially closest to the surface.

22. The method of claim 21 , wherein the outer surface rotates between predefined

angles, whereb movement of the outlets def ines an arc of a circle.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein the outer surface rotates from a start position at a rate whereby the peripheral speed of the outlets substantially matches the speed of the surface, and then back to the start position at a faster rate.

24. The method of claim 21 , wherein the outer surface performs complete revolutions.

25. The method of any one of claims 21 to 24, wherein the method comprises moving a plurality of trays comprising a plurality of moulds under the dispenser, whereby the flowable substance is dispensed into the moulds.

26. The method of any one of claims 21 to 25, wherein the method comprises

dispensing with each rotation of the outer surface of the dispenser, an amount of flowable substance to fill the plurality of moulds in any one of:

a. a whole tray;

b. a portion of the tray; and

c. more than one tray.

27. The method of any one of claims 21 to 26, wherein the method is performed with the device of any one of claims 1 to 16.

Description:
A Method and Dispenser for Dispensing a Flowable Substance

Technical Field

[1] The present invention relates to a method and a dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance, and in one particular example, to a method and a dispenser for dispensing flowable confectionary.

Background Art

[2] Any reference herein to prior art is not intended to imply that such prior art forms or formed a part of the common general knowledge in Australia or any other country.

[3] Machinery for manufacturing confectionery using starch moulding is known in the industry as a Mogul, a Mogul system, or a Mogul line. A variety of confectionery products can be produced on Moguls, including jelly, hard candy and centre-filled confectionery. In such systems, dry starc with a moisture content of about 6% is deposited into a tray and an array of moulds are formed in the starch before a confectionary fluid (typically a slurry), with a moisture content of approximately 25%, is deposited into the moulds. From the Mogul, the filled trays are taken to drying rooms where the starch assists the confectionary fluid to dry to approximately 15% moisture and solidify in the shape of the mould to form the confection, Alternatively, plastic trays having mould inserts can be used in place of moulds formed in starch. The trays are then returned to the Mogul where the confection and the starch/tray are separated. In these systems, it is important to control the moisture and temperature of both the confectionary fluid and the starch in order to achieve the desired flavour and texture in the final product.

[4] In one form of Mogul system, the tray is stopped under a fixed pump long enough for the confectionary fluid deposit to be made. However, this stopping and starting of the tray can disturb the starch that forms the mould shape and requires additional energy. A stringer, also called a filament or tail, can also form between the nozzle and the deposit when the deposit is finished, which also has the potential to distort the deposit and soil the tray when it is advanced. In some systems, the tray can be lifted up towards the pump as the deposit starts and lowered at the end in order to break the stringers, but this further complicates the system and requires additional energy to operate. [5] In another form of Mogul system, the tray moves smoothly and uniformly through the depositing section of the Mogul whilst the pump slides or swings back and forth above the tray as it moves past so that both the tray and pump are moving at a similar speed long enough for the deposits to be made. However, as the pump is heavy and must be moved quite fast, significant force is required and this causes vibration that can disturb the starch that forms the mould. Further, whilst the rapid change in direction of the pump typically breaks the stringer, it does not necessaril stop the tray f rom being soiled because the stringer may still be pulled across the tray.

Summary of Invention

[6] In a first aspect, the present invention provides a dispenser for dispensing a flowab!e substance. The dispenser comprises a plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the outer surface being rotatable about an axis at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets is substantiall matchable to a speed of a tray comprising a plurality of moulds that is movable under the dispenser i a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of the dispenser. The dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance into the moulds when the outlets are in a position substantially closest to the tray.

[7] As will be appreciated, the dispenser of the present invention is capable of substantially matching the peripheral speed of the outlets of the rotating outer surface with the speed of a tray that is being moved under the dispenser. Thus, when the outlets are in the position substantially closest to the tray (i.e. either directly above the tray or approaching this position in normal use), their peripheral velocity is

approximately the same as the velocity of the tray, The flowable substance dispensed from the outlets can therefore be neatly deposited into the moulds on the tray in a smooth and continuous action and in a manner requiring significantly less energy than some prior art Mogul systems. Further, as the rotating nozzles move away from th position closest to the tray, they move in a direction relatively upwards from the tray, which the inventor has found is highly effective in breaking stringers.

[8] As will be appreciated, it may not be necessary to exactly match the velocity of the tray and the peripheral velocity of the outlets, and the outlets can be displaced a little to either side as required by the pattern of moulds. Further, the movement of the tray with respect to the axis of the dispenser could also deviate slightly from 90°, provided thai the relative speeds of the outlets and the moulds does not differ by too much.

£9} in some embodiments, the flowable substance to be dispensed may be a liquid, for example, a flowable confectionary substance.

[10] In some embodiments, the outer surface of the dispenser can be of cylindrical shape. As will be appreciated, rotation of a cylinder about a central axis will result in a constant distance between the outlet and the tray throughout the entire revolution, which consistency may be useful for depositing some flowable substances.

[11] In some embodiments, the plurality of outlets may comprise a plurality of nozzles. In some embodiments, the plurality of outlets can form a pattern o the outer surface of the dispenser, the pattern matching a pattern of moulds on the tray. For example, in some embodiments, the pattern on the outer surface of the dispenser can comprise a plurality of rows of the outlets, where each of the plurality of rows of the outlets is aiignable with a corresponding row of moulds on the tray. Thus, in such embodiments, the outlets can neatly align with the respective moulds during use of the dispenser, which can further assist to neatly deposit the flowable substance in the moulds in the tray.

[12] In some embodiments, the outer surface of the dispenser can be the outer surface of a rotatable sheath of the dispenser, the sheath comprising a plurality of channels via which the flowable substance can flow to the outlets. I some

embodiments, rotation of the sheath can cause an end of each channel distal to the respective outlet to align with a source of the flowable substance when the outlets are at a position close to the tra (i.e. being directly above the tray or near to o approaching this position in normal use) for dispensing the flowable substance into the number of moulds in the tray.

[13] In some embodiments, the outer surface may be adapted to perform complete revolutions. However, in alternate embodiments, the outer surface of the dispenser may be adapted to rotate between predefined angles, whereby movement of the outlets defines an arc of a circle. That is, the outer surface has a too-and-fro type movement whereby the outlets move between end positions. In some embodiments, the outer surface is adapted to rotate from a start position at a rate whereby the peripheral speed of the outlets is substantially matchable to the speed of the tray, and then back to the start position at a faster rate. As will be appreciated, such partial rotation of the outer surface of the dispenser would be less energy intensive and prone to causing vibrations of the kind caused by using the swinging or to-and-fro type pumps of existing Mogul systems. Furthermore, the dispenser of the present invention is likely to be less complex than dispensers which have a much larger range of movement.

[14] In some embodiments, the dispenser can further comprise an inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser and a pumping mechanism for pumping the flowabie substance out of the plurality of outlets.

[15] In some embodiments, the pumping mechanism comprises a rotary pump, for example, gerotor. As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, gerotors comprise an inner rotor having N lobes (also referred to as teeth) and an outer rotor having N+1 lobes, the outer rotor and inner rotor being independently rotatabfe eccentrically about each other such that a cavity between the inner rotor and the outer rotor changes shape to draw the flowable substance into the cavity and force the flowable substance out of the cavity. The inventor has discovered that gerotors are surprisingly effective at pumping flowable substance from where they are produced and dispensing them onto trays and the like. For example, in general, confectionary substances need to be pumped from where they were produced and dispensed into moulds as gently as possible so as not to adversely affect their desirable properties, in particular, some types of confectionary (e.g. marshmallow and fondants) are very sensitive to pumping due to their high degree of aeration being affected by too much pumping. The invento has surprisingly discovered that the dispenser of the present invention can be used to pump and dispense even notoriously difficult confectionary fluids without such disadvantageous effects occurring.

[16] In some embodiments, the pumping mechanism may be located within the axis about which th outer surface of the dispenser rotates. In such embodiments, the pumping mechanism may comprise a plurality of gerotors arranged along a length of the axis, each gerotor being adapted to pump the flowable substance to predetermined outlets. The plurality of gerotors may, for example, comprise a plurality of inner rotors spaced along an internal shaft and a plurality of outer rotors, the plurality of outer rotors being coaxial with the plurality of inner rotors.

[17] In some embodiments, the dispenser further comprises one or more slide adjustments, the one or more slide adjustments being configurable to control a volume of the flowabie substance dispensed. In some embodiments, the one or more slide adjustments may also be configurable to provide a "suck back" volume, whereby flowable substance which is not dispensed out of the respective outlet is caused to be drawn back into the outlet because of a negative pressure. As will be appreciated, such a "suck back" may help further reduce the likelihood of stringers.

[18] in some embodiments the volume of the flowable substance dispensed and the

"suck back" can be varied by rotating the position of the centre of rotation of the inner rotor relative to the position of the centre of rotation of the outer rotor.

[19] In some embodiments the volume of the flowable substance dispensed and the

"suck back" can be varied by changing the direction of rotation of the inner and outer rotors part way through the dispensing cycle.

[20] In a second aspect, the present invention provides a dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance. The dispenser comprises an inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser, an elongate dispensing portion comprising a plurality of outlets spaced therealong, the dispensing portion being adapted to span a surface onto which the flowable substance is dispensable, and a gerotor adapted to pump the flowable substance to the plurality of outlets. The dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance from the plurality of outlets onto the surface.

[21 ] As noted above, the inventor has discovered that gerotors are surprisingly effective at pumping f lowable substances and dispensing them onto trays and the like without significantly affecting their properties.

[22] In some embodiments of the second aspect, the gerotor may comprise a plurality of gerotors spaced along a length of the dispensing portion. In such embodiments, each gerotor may be adapted to pump the flowable substance to a respective outlet.

[23] In a third aspect, the present invention provides a method for dispensing a flowable substance. The method comprises:

a. providing a dispenser comprising an outer surface that is rotatable about an axis, the outer surface comprising a plurality of outlets spaced therearound; b. moving a surface (e.g. a flat conveyor or a tray) under the dispenser in a

direction substantially perpendicular to the axis;

c. rotating the outer surface of the dispenser about the axis at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets substantially matches a speed of the surface when the outlets are in a positio substantially closest to the surface; and, d. dispensing the flowable substance from the outlets onto the surface when the outlets are in the position substantially closest to the surface.

[24] The method can be performed with the device of the first aspect described herein. In some embodiments, the outer surface may rotate between predefined angles, whereby movement of the outlets defines an arc of a circle. In such embodiments, the outer surface may rotate from a start position at a rate whereby the peripheral speed of the outlets substantially matches the speed of the surface/tray, and then back to the start position at a faster rate. Alternatively, in some embodiments, the outer surface may perform complete revolutions.

[25] In some embodiments, the method can comprise moving a plurality of trays comprising a plurality of moulds under the dispenser, whereby the flowable substance is dispensed i to the moulds.

[26] In some embodiments, the method can comprise dispensing with each rotation of the outer surface of the dispenser, an amount of the flowable substance to fill the plurality of moulds in any one of: a whole tray; a portion of the tray, and more than one tray.

[27] As will be appreciated, embodiments of the dispensers of the first and second aspects of the present invention and method of the third aspect may, in some forms, reduce vibration and disturbance to the trays and can also save energy due to their smooth rotary action (compared with existing Mogul systems). Further, some

embodiments of the dispenser may be relatively compact and their relatively smaller surface areas (compared with existing Mogul systems) may also help reduce heat loss. Shorter dwell time of the liquid in the pum may also reduce heat loss. Reduced heat loss may also provide more uniform deposits. The smooth rotary action can also reduce wear of the components of the dispenser and therefore help increase service life compared to existing dispensers. Finally, as noted above, the rotational movement of the outlets may also help reduce the formation of stringers, and even more so in aspects of the invention where the outlets are not pulled back over the tray, thereby potentially reducing soiling of the tray.

[28] Also disclosed herein is a dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance, the dispenser comprising a plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the oute surface being rotatable about an axis, such that, a tray comprising a plurality of moulds is moveable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis, whereby during movement of the tray and rotation of the outer surface, a number of the plurality of moulds align with a number of the piurality of outlets such that the flowable substance is dispensable into the number of moulds from the outlets. [29] Also disclosed herein is a device for dispensing a flowable substance, the device comprising a dispenser, the dispenser comprising a plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the outer surface being rotatable about an axis; and, a tray, the tray comprising a plurality of moulds, the tray being moveable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis, whereby during movement of the tray and rotation of the outer surface of the dispenser, a number of the plurality of moulds align with a number of the plurality of outlets such that the flowable substance is dispensable into the number of moulds from the outlets.

[30] In some embodiments, the outer surface of the dispenser of the first aspect may be provided in the form of a nozzle cylinder with channels and nozzles which can rotate around an axis that is both substantially horizontal and in a direction transverse to the tray flow. In one example, the rotational speed of the nozzle cylinder can be geared to the tray flow so that the peripheral speed of the nozzle tips is approximately matched to the tray flow speed when the nozzles are at the position closest to the tray. Each rotation of the nozzle cylinder can exactly match N trays passing under the pump where N is a whole number equal to or greater than 1 or a fraction such as ½ or Va.

[31 ] In some embodiments, the nozzle cylinder may have channels and nozzles which can rotate an oscillating manner around an axis that is both horizontal and in a direction transverse to the tray flow. In one example the oscillation can be controlled such that the flowable substance is dispensed through different sequences of nozzles to suit different mould patterns in the trays.

[32] In one particular example, the nozzle cylinder can be driven from the mogul motor driving th pump or trays. Alternatively the nozzle cylinder can be driven by an independent motor, which can be coupled to the tray movement with encoders. The inner rotor may be driven through gears coupled to the nozzle cylinder or may be an independent motor coupled to the nozzle cylinder and tray movement with encoders.

[33] In some embodiments, the dispensing portion of the dispenser of the second aspect may be provided in the form of a nozzle cylinder or nozzle plate that may have channels and nozzles which do not move relative to the remainder of the dispenser. In one example this configuration deposits the flowable substance into a tray or onto a flat conveyor that is substantially stationery or slow moving while the depositing takes place.

[34] In some embodiments of dispensers disclosed herein, flow can be controlled by coaxial rotary metering pumps. In one particular example, this can be achieved through a gerotor type action where the inner rotor include lobes machined into a common shaft which can be coupled to a gear or motor, and the independent outer rotors are driven by the inner rotors. In the gerotor example, the rotors rotate inside the nozzle cylinder at a fixed gear ratio to the nozzle cylinder on an axis that is also parallel to the nozzle cylinder, and the gear ratio between the rotors and nozzle cylinder can be changed as required by the tray layout. It will be appreciated that other rotary pumping actions are also possible, examples of which are provided below,

[35] Also disclosed herein is an apparatus for depositing confectionery through nozzles mounted in a nozzle cylinder which can rotate around a horizontal axis. In one example, the axis about which the nozzle cylinder rotates is typicall perpendicular to the travel direction of the trays into which the confectionery is deposited. In one example, the nozzle cylinder rotational speed can be geared to the travel speed of the trays such that the horizontal travel speed of the tips of the nozzles at the position closest to th tray approximately matches the travel speed of the trays. In yet a further example, the flow can be controlled by a rotary metering pump mechanism geared to the rotation of the nozzle cylinder and contained within the nozzle cylinder. In yet another example, the nozzle cylinder can include several layers and within these layers, channels can communicate between the output of the pumping mechanism and the nozzles that are arranged to suit the pattern of moulds in the trays.

[36] It will be appreciated that any of the features described herein can be used in any combination.

Brief Description of Drawings

[37] Specific embodiments of the invention will be described below with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

[38] Figures 1 A, 1 B and 1 C are isometric views of dispensers for dispensing a flowabie substance in accordance with three embodiments of the present invention;

[39] Figure 2 is an exploded view of the dispenser of Figure 1 A;

[40] Figures 3A. 3B and 3C are cross-sectional views of the dispensers of Figures 1 A, 1 B and 1C, respectively;

[41 ] Figure 4 is a cross- section l view of a dispenser in accordance with a f urther embodiment of the present invention; and

[42] Figure 5 is an exploded perspective view of half of an outer surface of the dispenser of Figure 1A. Description of Embodiments

[43] Disclosed herein are dispensers for dispensing a flowable substance, in a first aspect, the dispenser comprises a plurality of outlets spaced around an outer surface of the dispenser, the outer surface being rotatable about an axis at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlets is substantially matchable to a speed of a tray

comprising a plurality of moulds that is movable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of the dispenser. The dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance into the moulds when the outlets are in a position substantially closest to the tray.

[44] The dispenser of the first aspect dispenses the substance into, tray, in one example, the tray can have a plurality of moulds. The tray is moveable under the dispenser in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of the outer surface of the dispenser, such that during movement of the tray and rotation of the outer surface, a number of the pluralit of moulds align with a number of the plurality of outlets. The alignment of the moulds with the outlets can allow for the substance to be dispensed into the number of moulds from the outlets.

[45] The plurality of moulds on the tray can, for example, be formed in a particular pattern. Thus, for example, the tray can be rectangular and the moulds can be formed in any pattern in the rectangular tray. The plurality of outlets spaced around the outer surface of the dispenser can also form a pattern on the outer surface of the dispenser, and the pattern on the dispenser can match the pattern of moulds on the tray. Thus, for example, if the pattern on the dispenser comprises of a plurality of rows, each of the plurality of rows comprising a plurality of outlets, then each of the plurality of rows align with a corresponding row of moulds on the tray. However, it will be appreciated that although the Figures herein show the pattern of nozzles being arranged in rows, the pattern of nozzles (and the pattern of moulds on the tray) do not have to be placed i rows, and can form any pattern as required.

[46] in yet a further example, different rows of nozzles can be rotated in different oscillating sequences to match different mould patterns in the trays which pass below.

[47] Typically the flowable substance is dispensed from the outlets at or near the position closest to the tray vi a series of channels. The outlets may be slightly forward or behind the position closest to the tray at the point of discharge depending on the pattern required for the moulds in the tray. [48] The outer surface rotates at a rotational speed such that, at the position closest to the tray, the peripheral speed and direction of the dispenser outlets is similar or equivalent to the speed and direction of the tray, and a metered amount of substance is deposited into a number of moulds in the tray. It will be appreciated that the rotational speed of the outer surface and the movement speed of the tray can be adjusted as required.

[49] In a second aspect, the dispenser comprises an inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser, an elongate dispensing portion comprising a pluralit of outlets spaced therealong, the dispensing portion being adapted to span a surface onto which the flowable substance is dispensable, and a gerotor adapted to pump the flowable substance to the plurality of outlets. The dispenser is operable to dispense the flowable substance from the plurality of outlets onto the surface.

[50] According to one particular example of both aspects, the flowable substance being dispensed is a liquid or a slurry. In a further example, the flowable substance being dispensed is a confectionary substance for making confectionary products or the like. However, it will be appreciated that any substance for which the device is suitable can be dispensed. For example, other flowable substances that could be dispensed using the dispenser of the present invention include, but are not limited to, food products such as juices, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, food substances in the form of slurries, dairy products, and petroleum products such as fuels, lubricants and

detergents.

[51 ] According to one particular example of both aspects, the dispenser can comprise a inlet for receiving the flowable substance into the dispenser. Furthermore, the dispenser can comprise a pumping mechanism for pumping the substance out of the plurality of outlets.

[52] In one particular example, the pumping mechanism can comprise a rotary pump, for example, a gerotor, a gear pump, a lobe pump, a peristaltic pump, rotary vane pump, centrifugal pump and nutating disc. As will be appreciated, gerotors typically comprise an inner rotor and an outer rotor, where the outer rotor and inner rotor are independently rotatable eccentrically about each other such that a cavity between the inner rotor and the outer rotor changes shape to draw the substance into the cavity and force the substance out of the cavity (and hence out of the outlet of the dispenser). It will be appreciated that the rotational speed of the inner and outer rotors may be different to the rotational speed of the outer surface of the dispenser, and that the rotors may also rotate in the opposite direction to that of the outer surface.

[53] in yet a further example of both aspects, the pumping mechanism can comprise a plurality of gerotors. The plurality of gerotors can comprise a plurality of inner rotors spaced along an internal shaft. Furthermore, the plurality of gerotors can comprise a plurality of outer rotors, where the plurality of outer rotors are coaxial with an axis of rotation parallel to and displaced from the axis of rotation of the plurality of inner rotors by the eccentricity between the two sets of rotors. To the best of the inventor's knowledge, such an array of coaxial gerotors (or indeed coaxial rotary pumps) has never been described, let alone in the context of pumping and dispensing flowable substances such as confectionary. In this example, the pumping mechanism can force the flowable substance from the common inlets in the pump body to individual outlets in the pum body and then to the dispenser outlets via channels in the nozzle cylinder. The volume dispensed is influenced by factors such as the magnitude of eccentricity between the inner and outer rotors, the diameter, width and number of lobes, as well as the relative position of their outlets and inlets.

[54] The dispenser can further comprise of a plurality of slide adjustments which may be configured to control a volume of substance dispensed from the dispenser (e.g. by controlling the amount of the flowable substance pumped out of the gerotors, as descri ed below).

[55] The dispenser can further comprise a mechanism to rotate the axial alignment of the inner and outer rotors of the gerotors relative to the position of the inlet and outlet which changes the volume deposited and the amount of suck back.

[58] Referring now to more specific examples of the present invention, Figure 1 A shows a dispenser for dispensing a flowable substance in the form of dispenser A. Dispenser A has a rotatable outer surface in the form of a nozzle cylinder 1 A. The nozzle cylinder 1 A has a number of parallel rows of outlet nozzles 13 spaced

iherearound, and is rotatable about an axis in the direction shown by arrow 100 at a rate whereby a peripheral speed of the outlet nozzles 13 very closely matches the speed at which a tray (not shown) is passed underneath the nozzle cylinder 1 A in direction 101 . In this manner, the flowable substance dispensed from nozzle cylinder 1 via outlet nozzles 13 is dispended at time when the outlet nozzles 13 are at or close to bottom dead centre and moving at a velocity that substantially matches that of the tray, thus affording the advantages discussed above. [57] In dispenser A, the outlet nozzles 13 are provided in 1 rows, each of which contains 42 outlet nozzles 13. Such a configuration of outlets would enable a substance to be dispensed from dispenser A into a tray having 42 moulds across it. It will be appreciated that, in alternate embodiments, the pattern of the outlet nozzles 13 on the nozzle cylinder 1 A ma be varied to provide practically any deposit pattern.

[58] Dispenser A also has a non-driv end bearing support 2 and a drive end bearing support 3 (although the means for driving the nozzle cylinder 1 A and the other components discussed below have been omitted in Figure 1 for clarity), with the nozzle cylinder 1 A spanning the gap therebetween. The flowable substance, in the form of a confectionery slurry in the embodiments described below, enters dispenser A through the ports 99 in the drive end bearing support 3. In alternate embodiments (not shown), the confectionary slurry could enter into dispenser A via ports (not shown) in the non-drive bearing support 2. In alternate embodiments, ports via which the confectionary slurry could enter into dispenser A may be provided in both the non-drive bearing supports and the drive end bearing support 3. In Figure 1A there are two inlet ports 99, with each inlet port being adapted to receive a different colour flowable substance (e.g. confectionary) or different kinds of flowable substances (e.g. for centre filled confectionary products). It will be appreciated that more ports could be provided for dispensing a greater number of colours, or a single port provided for dispensing only one colour.

[59] Once the confectionary slurry enters into dispenser A (via gravity and suction from the pumping action described below) it is channelled to the various coaxial rotary metering pump segment (described in further detail below with respect to Figures 3). Flow into and through dispenser A is controlled by coaxial rotary metering pumps (in the form of gerotors in the dispensers A, B and C), which suck the confectionary slurry into dispenser A and cause it to be extruded out of the outlet nozzles 13 via various channels (see Figure 5) in the nozzle cylinder 1 A as the outlet nozzles 13 approach the position closest to the tray. The pattern of the array of outlet nozzles 13 on the nozzle cylinder 1 A matches the pattern of moulds in the tray and the rotational speed of the nozzle cylinder 1 A is matched to the tray speed so that a metered amount of the slurry is deposited in each individual mould in the tray.

[60] Figure 1 B shows an alternate embodiment of a dispenser for dispensing flowable substance in the form of dispenser B. Dispenser B has an oscillating cylinder 1 B with outlet nozzles 1 3 provided on a nozzle plate 11 , which covers only a small portion of the cylinde 1 B (see also Figure 3B). In use, the cylinder 1 B does not perform complete revolutions, but oscillates 100, first in the same direction as the tray flow direction 101 (whilst the confectionary slurry is deposited into the mould, as discussed above), and then back ( .e. in the direction opposite to the tray flow direction 101 } until it reaches its starting position. The forward cylinder rotational speed is substantially matched to the tray speed, but the return cylinder rotational speed may be significantly greater, The oscillation pattern can be varied so that a metered amount of the slurry is deposited in each individual mould in the tray.

[61] As for dispenser A, the confectioner slurry enters dispenser B through ports 99 in the drive end bearing support 3 and / or the non-drive bearing support 2 where it is channelled into dispenser B (as described in more detail below). Flow is controlled by the coaxial rotary metering pumps inside dispenser B forcing the slurry to be extruded out of the outlet nozzles 13 via various channels (e.g. similar to those shown in Figure 5} in the nozzle plate 11 as the outlet nozzles 13 approach the position closest to the tray.

[62] Figure 1 C shows an alternate embodiment of a dispenser for dispensing a f lowab!e substance in the form of dispenser C. The outlet nozzles 13 of dispenser C are hidden from view in Figure 1 C, but can be seen in Figure 3C. The outlets nozzles 13 in dispenser C are fixed relative to the pump body 4, which is not adapted to rotate. The confectionery slurry enters dispenser C via the inlets 14 which are spaced along the length of the pump body 4 (e.g. from a hopper (not shown) situated above dispenser G). Flow into the pump body 4 is controlled by gravity and the coaxial rotary metering pumps inside the pump body 4, which also force the slurry to be extruded out of the outlet nozzles 13, Pump body 4 also includes apertures 15 via which slide adjustments 8 (see also Figure 3C) can be adjusted (as will be discussed below).

[63] In order to more clearly illustrate how the dispensers operate, Figure 2 shows an exploded view of dispenser A, Confectionary slurries having different colours are introduced into dispenser A via the two inlet ports 99. The slurries then flow into pump body 4 where they travel through pump body 4 via two channels 98 (as can be seen in Figures 3). The liquid confectionary flows into dispenser A and is pumped out of the dispenser using a plurality of gerotors spaced along the length of the pump body 4. The gerotor includes an inner rotor drive shaft 6 and an outer rotor 5, each of which is adapted (using principles well known in the art) to be independently rotated about eccentric axes to thereby pump the confectionary. The gerotor includes twenty four coaxiai pumping sections along its length (one of which is bisected by planes A-A, B-B and C-G), each of which (see Figures 3A, 3B and 3C) includes an inner rotor 6 having two lobes which rotate eccentrically inside the outer rotor 5, which has three lobes. Each of the channels 98 is adapted to supply the liquid confectionary to alternating pumping sections, so that adjacent gerotor pumping sections dispense different colour confectionary.

[64] Rotation of inner rotor drive shaft 6 with respect to outer rotor 5 causes the confectionary slurry to be drawn out of one or other of the channels 98 and into each of the pumping sections, and then out of each of the pumping sections (as will be described below) to the outlet nozzles 13. Dispenser A has twelve rows of outlet nozzles 13 around the perimeter of the nozzle cylinder 1 A, with 42 outlet nozzles 13 in each row. The arc defined between th tips of the outlet nozzles 13 on the nozzle cylinder 1 A is the same length as the tray spacing and the nozzle cylinder 1 A may rotate once as each tray passes underneath it. The outer rotor 5 completes one revolution for every 1.5 revolutions of the inner rotor 6, which the inventor has found appropriate to dispense metered amounts of the flowable substance. The inner rotor shaft 6 of dispenser A is geared to the nozzle cylinder 1 A in a ratio of 6:1. Thus, as each tray passes under the dispenser the inner rotor shaft 6 rotates six times and each half rotation causes the liquid to be pumped from each of the twenty four pumping sections into the 42 outlet nozzles 13 of each row of nozzles in the nozzle cylinder 1 A via channels in the nozzle cylinder 1 (as discussed below in respect of Figure 5) as the nozzles pass the position closest to the tray. The nozzle cylinder 1 A rotates on bearings 7 located at each end, and the inner 6 and outer 5 rotors are driven b motors (not shown) in the drive end bearing support 3. The pump body 4 remains stationary (i.e. it does not rotate) during operation of the dispenser.

[65] Figure 3 shows a cross section of dispenser A (as shown in Figure 1 A) taken through the plane A-A and one of the pumping sections discussed above. The confectionary slurry enters dispenser A through the inlet ports 99 and flows along the channels 98 in the pump bod 4. In Figure 3A, the right channel 98 is in fluid

communication with the gerotor which the plane A-A passes through (hence the left channel 98 would typically be in fluid communication with the gerotors to either side). The confectionary slurry is drawn into and expelled from the cavities I, D and ill created between the inner rotor 6 and the outer rotor 5. Action of the gerotor draws the confectionary slurry in from channel 98 and discharges it through the outlet port 9 in the slurry flow direction 10. Depending on the orientation of the inner rotor 6 and the direction in which it is rotating, the slurry will flow into one of the two uppermost cavities I) and [II defined between the inner rotor 6 and outer rotor 5 of the gerotor. As the inner 8 and outer 5 rotors rotate with respect to each other, the slurr is pumped out of the gerotor into a cavit I and, from there, into the outlet 9. When outlet 9 is in alignment with the respective channels provided in the outer rotating nozzle cylinder 1 A, the slurry will be ejected out of outlet nozzle 13 in the direction 10. At the same time, a tray will be passing underneath the dispenser and a mould in the tray positioned to capture the dispended confectionary slurry.

[66] Dispenser A also has slide adjustments 8 and 12 which are adjustable to control the volume of confectionary slurry deposited. The location of the slide adjustment 8 determines the volume of the deposit, as this determines the point where the slurry flowing out of cavity I of the gerotor is discharged to the nozzle cylinder 1 A rather than back to the inlet channel 98, and thus can provide a fine adjustment of the volume that is deposited. The location of the slide adjustment 12 determines th volume of the suck back as this determines the point where suction pressure changes from the discharge port 9 to the inlet channel 98. If the slide adjustment 12 was moved clockwise past the intake into cavity II, then rotation of the gerotor such that cavity II gets larger will cause some of the slurry in the outlet 9 to be sucked back into the gerotor. As discussed above, such a "suck-back" may assist in the prevention of stringers.

[67] In this particular example, there is one slide adjustment 8 and one slide adjustment 12 for each pumping section (i.e. each individual inner rotor 6 and outer rotor 5), and these can be set individually prior to pumping with the nozzle cylinder 1 A removed. Alternatively, it will be appreciated that it is also possible to move all the slide adjustments 8, 12 together with the nozzle cylinder in place if an additional shaft (not shown) were installed.

[68] Figure 3B shows a cross section of dispenser B (as shown in Figure I B) taken through the plane B-B and one of the pumping sections. The confectionary slurry enters through the inlet ports 99 and flows along the channels 98 in the pump body 4. In Figure 3B, the right channel 98 is in fluid communication with the gerotor. Once in the gerotor, the confectionary slurry is draw into the cavity created between the inner rotor 6 and the outer rotor 5 and discharged through the outlet port 9. The slurry flow direction 10 is shown. Thus, in these examples, the angular alignment between the nozzle plate 1 1 and outlet 9 and the inner rotor shaft 6 determines the timing of the deposit. The nozzle cylinder 1 B oscillates back and forth in the manner discussed above when depositing the confectionary slurry.

[69] Figure 3C shows a cross section of dispenser C (as shown in Figure 1 C) taken through the plane C-C and one of the pumping sections. The liquid enters the pump body 4 via apertures 14, flows into the cavities created between the inner rotor 6 and the outer rotor 5, and is subsequently discharged through the outlet port 9 (i.e. as discussed above). Discharge volume ca be controlled by the positioning of the slide adjustment s, as discussed above. Suck back can be controlled by the positioning of the slide adjustment 12, as discussed above. As discussed above, however, dispenser C does not include a rotating outer cylinder and is therefore more useful for pumping confectionary slurries having properties and characteristics which make them difficult to pump using other techniques onto stationary or slow moving surfaces such as trays or flat conveyors. For example, dispenser C may be useful in systems for depositing marshmaliows or chocolate onto a surface (e.g. a conveyor or tray slowly moving underneath the pump body).

[70] Figure 4 shows a cross section of an alternate embodiment of a pump for use primarily in dispensers such as dispenser C. The confectionary slurry enters at the top of the pump body 4 and flows into the cavities IT and in created between the inner rotor 6 and the outer rotor 5. The liquid slurry is subsequently discharged from cavity 1 through the outlet port 9. In this configuration there are no channels around the outer rotor 5 in the pump body 4 and the outer rotor 5 ports are larger. This configuration reduces stirring of the confectionery slurry which is important for some slurry types such as those used to make marshmaliows. Similar pump flows are possible with the configurations A and B.

[713 Figure 5 shows an exploded view of half of the nozzle cylinder 1 A, and the path which the confectionary slurry takes after being pumped out of the pump body outlet port 9 shown in Figure 3A (a similar nozzle cylinder could be used for dispenser B) through the nozzles on the outer surface of the nozzle cylinder. In the example shown in Figure 5. slurry flow path 95 communicates with one pump body outlet port 9 conducting one colour to a nozzle outlet 13, and the succeeding nozzle outlet 13 communicates with an adjacent pumping section outlet port 9, which may be conducting a different colour, via path 96. In this manner, different colour confectionaries can be deposited on a tray moving underneath the dispenser using only one dispenser. Alternatively, different confectionaries pumped via different (e.g. adjacent) pumping sections (e.g. gerotors) could be added to the same mould to produce centre in shell (i.e. one product inside another) confectionar products.

[72] it will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that other pumping

mechanisms can be used to pump the substance into the trays. For example, gear, lobe, peristaltic, nutating disc, centrifugal or similar rotary actions could be used in place of the gerotor type pumping action described herein.

[73] Further, in alternate embodiments, the number of lobes on the inner rotor shaft may be three and the number of lobes in the corresponding outer rotor be four. In such an embodiment, the pumping action would generally be the same as for the pumping action of the rotors of Figures 3 and 4, except that three pumping actions per revolution of the inner rotor shaft 6 would be provided, and the system could therefore be driven at two thirds of the rotational speed of the shaft shown in Figures 3 and 4 to achieve the same effect. It will be appreciated that two lobes or even higher numbers of lobes in the inner rotor shaft 6 with the outer rotor 5 having one more lobe than the inner rotor 6 are possible.

[74] Further, two inlet channels 98 have been shown in the pump body 4 which can allow two different colours to be deposited. However, the number of channels and hence the number of colours can be varied to suit the application.

[75] Although not depicted in the figures, the typical tray size for use with the dispensers of the present invention into which the deposit is made may be

approximately 400 mm wide by 800 mm or 1200 mm long, with a gap between trays of 45 mm giving a tray spacing of 445 mm in the travel direction of the trays. The diameter described by the outer tips of the nozzles on the nozzle cylinder of this particular example is approximately N x 445 mm / π = 142 mm where N=1 or 283 mm where N =2 or 425 mm where N =3 and N is the number of trays that pass under the pump for each revolution of the nozzle cylinder. A smaller diameter may also be possible, say for example 71 mm where N = ½ and where the nozzle cylinder completes two rotations for each tray that passes under the pump. The nozzle cylinder is slightly longer than the tra length which is typically 800 mm or 1200 mm. The number of pumping sections along the length of the inner rotor shaft 6 is typically between 20 and 40 but could be greater or smaller than this.

[76] As would be appreciated, it would also be possible to use servomotors to control the speed of the drive motors for the gerotors and outer surface of the dispenser. In such embodiments, the rates of rotation could be controlled using a microprocessor and it would be possible to use any diameter dispenser that will accommodate the pumping mechanism.

[77] The dispensers of the present invention can be constructed from materials that conform to standards required for food processing. The nozzle plate cylinder and the inner rotor shaft can, for example, be made from aluminium bronze. The pump body, the non-drive bearing support and the gearbox housing can, for example, be made from stainless steel or similar alloys. The outer rotors can, for example, be made from another grade of brass or bronze or from food grade nylon. Alternatively the moving parts can be made from stainless steel or similar alloys and the pump body from brass or bronze.

[78] It will be appreciated that numerous advantages can be provided by specific examples of the dispenser and method described herein. Such advantages include and are not limited to;

- allowing a smooth tray flow, typically without the need to use large forces that can cause vibrations, and reducing disturbances to the trays and moulds, conserving energy, due to the rotary action of the dispenser (e.g. nozzle cylinder 1 , inner rotor shaft 6 and outer rotors 5) and not typically requiring to drive a reciprocating motion of cylinders, valve bars, trays and pumps;

- reducing heat loss through smaller surface area of the pump and less dwell time of the flowable substance in the dispenser (e.g. by providing a generally continuous suction and pumping action), providing a more consistent deposit;

- reduced stirring of th flowable substance due to a smoother flow path with less directional changes, resulting in less damage to desire properties of the final deposit;

- more effective breaking of the liquid stream from the outlet/nozzle due to the

smaller arc through which the outlet nozzle travels causing the outlet/nozzle to lift quickly away from the tray whilst maintaining position above the deposit for longer without being dragged back over the tray;

- more effective cooling of the outlet nozzle tip due to the rotary movement of the nozzle cylinder;

- greater reliability of pumps since there are less moving parts and the motion is rotary rather than reciprocating, resulting in less wear; - individual adjustment of the volume from each depositing section allowing better control over deposited weight (e.g, due to the ability to move each slide adjuster separately); and

- quieter operation providing a better environment for operators due to the rotary movement of the dispenser (e.g. nozzle cylinder 1 , inner rotor shaft 8 and outer rotor 5} eliminating reciprocating movements, which can be noisy.

[79j In the examples, herein, the rotational speed of nozzle cylinder 1 is such that the tips of the nozzles have approximately the same horizontal speed at the position closest to the tray as the moulds they discharge into. The pumping action can be achieved by a gerotor or other rotary mechanism inside the nozzle cylinder 1 and can be geared to the rotational speed of the nozzle cylinder 1 i a specific ratio. It will be appreciated, however, that the number of pumping sections along the inner rotor drive shaft 8, the number of lobes at each pumping section along the inner rotor drive shaft 6,the width of the lobe in the inner rotor shaft 6 and matching outer rotor 5, the proportions of the lobes in the inner rotor shaft 6 and the matching lobes in the outer rotor 5, eccentricity between the inner rotor shaft 6 and the outer rotor 5, the gear ratio between the inner rotor drive shaft 6 and the nozzle cylinder 1 , the direction of rotation of the inner rotor shaft 6 relative to the nozzle cylinder 1 , the diameter of the nozzle cylinder 1 , the number of nozzle rows in the nozzle cylinder 1 , the number of nozzles in each row of the nozzle cylinder 1 and the number of inlet ports 99 and matching channels 98 can ail be altered to suit the requirements of the process.

[80] Those of skill in the art will appreciate that numerous modifications or changes can be made to the particular embodiments described above without departing from the scope of the invention. AH such modifications and changes are intended to be included withi the scope of the appended claims.

[81 ] The words "comprise", "comprising" and grammatical variations thereof, when used in this specification and in the following claims, are intended to specify the presence of the recited features, but not preclude the addition of one or more other features, integers, components, steps or groups.