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Title:
OPTIMIZED CUTTER MACHINE FOR WAFER BOOKS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/101966
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method and apparatus for cutting edible wafer books. The method comprises a) feeding a first wafer book into a first cutting station (6); b) extending a first cutting station pusher (10) a first time to push the first wafer book through a first cutter (12) into a second cutting station, so as to cut the wafer books into a plurality of strips aligned in an axis of movement through the first cutter (12); and thereafter retracting the first cutting station pusher (10) a first time; c) feeding a second wafer book into the first cutting station (6); d) extending the first cutting station pusher (10) a second time to push the second wafer book through the first cutter(12) into the second cutting station (16) to a position adjacent the first wafer book, so as to cut the second wafer book into a plurality of first strips aligned in an axis of movement through the first cutter, and thereafter retracting the first cutter station pusher (10) a second time; e) extending a second cutting station pusher (26) in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of movement through the first cutter to simultaneously push the first and second wafer books through a second cutter (28), said second cutter (28) configured to cut the wafer books in a direction traverse to the first cuts so as to cut each of the first strips into a plurality of wafers. The wafer books may be rectangular in shape having two longer sides and two shorter sides. In which case, the first and second wafer books are pushed through the first cutter in an orientation in which a longer side thereof is presented to the cutter.

Inventors:
SCHIZZI, Jarbas (Mondelez Brasil Ltda, Av. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira13.300,Cidade Industrial, CEP: 0-000 Curitiba, 81450, BR)
PAULA, Rene (Mondelez Brasil Ltda, Av. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira13.300,Cidade Industrial, CEP: 0-000 Curitiba, 81450, BR)
BERTOLAZO, Thais (Mondelez Brasil Ltda, Av. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira13.300,Cidade Industrial, CEP: 0-000 Curitiba, 81450, BR)
CHIARELLI, Ronaldo (Mondelez Brasil Ltda, Av. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira13.300,Cidade Industrial, CEP: 0-000 Curitiba, 81450, BR)
Application Number:
IB2015/050091
Publication Date:
July 09, 2015
Filing Date:
January 06, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
KRAFT FOODS R&D, INC. (Three Parkway North, Deerfield, Illinois, 60015, US)
International Classes:
A21C15/04
Foreign References:
GB2440647A2008-02-06
GB2436761A2007-10-03
US2956524A1960-10-18
AT396729B1993-11-25
US4489632A1984-12-25
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1 A method of cutting edible wafer books, the method comprising

a) feeding a first wafer book into a first cutting station;

b) extending a first cutting station pusher a first time to push the first wafer book through a first cutter into a second cutting station, so as to cut the wafer books into a plurality of strips aligned in an axis of movement through the first cutter; and thereafter retracting the first cutting station pusher a first time;

c) feeding a second wafer book into the first cutting station;

d) extending the first cutting station pusher a second time to push the second wafer book through the first cutter into the second cutting station to a position adjacent the first wafer book, so as to cut the second wafer book into a plurality of first strips aligned in an axis of movement through the first cutter, and thereafter retracting the first cutter station pusher a second time;

e) extending a second cutting station pusher in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of movement through the first cutter to simultaneously push the first and second wafer books through a second cutter, said second cutter configured to cut the wafer books in a direction traverse to the first cuts so as to cut each of the first strips into a plurality of wafers.

2 The method according to claim 1 , wherein extending the first cutting station pusher a first time to push the first wafer book through a first cutter into the second cutting station comprises extending the first cutting station pusher until an edge of the first wafer book abuts a first aligner.

3 The method according claim 1 or 2, wherein, after pushing the first wafer book through the first cutter into the second cutting station, and before pushing said second wafer book through the first cutter into a second cutting station, the method further comprises locating a second aligner in the second cutting station such that extending the first cutting station pusher the second time pushes the second wafer book into the second cutting station until an edge of the second wafer book abuts the second aligner.

4 The method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein, after extending the first cutting station pusher a second time, and before extending a second cutting station pusher, the method further comprises locating a third aligner adjacent to the edge of the second wafer book on the side thereof facing the first cutting station pusher.

5 A method according to any preceding claim wherein the wafer books are rectangular in shape having two longer sides and two shorter sides, and wherein the first and second wafer books are pushed through the first cutter in an orientation in which a longer side thereof is presented to the cutter.

6 A method according to claim 5 wherein the first and second wafer books are pushed through the second cutter in an orientation in which the shorter sides thereof are presented to the cutter.

7 A confectionery product comprising a wafer cut according to the method of any one of the preceding claims.

8 The confectionery product according to claim 7, wherein the wafer is enrobed with chocolate.

9 An apparatus for cutting a wafer book, the apparatus comprising:

a first cutting station having an in-feed side and an out-feed side and configured to receive wafer books at the in-feed side, the first cutting station having: a first cutting station pusher, extendable between a first position and a second position along a first axis of motion;

a second cutting station having an in-feed side and an out-feed side and configured to receive wafer books from the first cutting station at the in-feed side; the second cutting station having: a second cutting station pusher, extendable between a first position and a second position along a second axis of motion;

a first cutter positioned between the out-feed side of the first cutting station and the in-feed side of the second cutting station;

a second cutter positioned at the out-feed side of the second cutting station; and a controller configured to operate the machine according to the method of claim 1.

10 The apparatus according to claim 9 further comprising a first retaining means for, in use, retaining the first wafer book in the second cutting station; and wherein the controller is configured to control the first retaining means to operate prior to the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the first time.

1 1 The apparatus according to claim 10 further comprising a second retaining means for, in use, retaining the second wafer book in the second cutting station; and wherein the controller is configured to control the second retaining means to operate prior to the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the second time.

12 The apparatus according to any one of claims 1 1 to 13 further comprising a first retractable aligner located in the second cutting station substantially perpendicular to the first axis of movement, the first retractable aligner movable between an aligning position and a non-aligning position.

13 The apparatus according to claim 12, further comprising a second retractable aligner located in the second cutting station substantially perpendicular to the first axis of movement, the second retractable aligner movable between an aligning position and a non-aligning position.

14 The apparatus according to claim 13 wherein the controller is configured to operate the second retractable aligner such that after the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the second time the second retractable aligner is moved into the aligning position.

15 The apparatus according to any one of claims 9 to 14 wherein the in-feed side and the out-feed side of the first cutting station are provided with an in-feed opening and an out-feed opening respectively and wherein the out-feed opening is wider than the in-feed opening.

16 The apparatus according to claim 15 wherein the in-feed side and the out-feed side of the second cutting station are provided with an in-feed opening and an out-feed opening respectively and wherein the out-feed opening is wider than the in-feed opening. 17 The apparatus according to claim 16 wherein the width of the out-feed opening of the second cutting station is at least twice the width of the in-feed opening of the first cutting station. 18 The apparatus according to claim 16 or 17 wherein the in-feed opening of the second cutting station comprises the out-feed opening of the first cutting station.

19 The apparatus according to any one of claims 11 to 21 wherein the first cutting station has a receiving area for receiving an uncut wafer book and the second cutting station has a receiving area for receiving the wafer book from the first cutting station and wherein the receiving area of the second cutting station is twice the size of the receiving area of the first cutting station.

Description:
Optimized Cutter Machine for Wafer Books

This invention relates to cutting of wafer books, in particular to the optimization of the method of cutting wafer books in a production line, and an apparatus for the same.

Wafer books are a precursor product to some confectionery products, and comprise a layered product made up of a plurality of sheets of thin edible wafer interspersed with a cream, chocolate or other edible foodstuff that attaches the sheets of wafer to one another.

After manufacture, the wafer books are processed to turn them into a finished confectionery product. Part of the processing is the cutting of the wafer books into individual wafer products. These individual wafers themselves may be the finished confectionery product or may be further processed, for example by enrobing them in chocolate.

In production lines, processes are often limited by the capacity of the line. In production lines for manufacturing wafer products, in particular products that include one or more post cutting procedures, e.g. chocolate enrobing, drying, flow wrapping etc, that can be operated as continuous processes, the cutting of the wafer books into individual products can limit the output of the production line as a whole. It is therefore desirable to increase the throughput of the wafer cutting process in such production lines.

A typical wafer cutting operation will first push a wafer book through a cutter in one direction, and will then push the wafer book through a cutter in the opposite direction. The speed at which the machine can operate is dictated by the maximum speed that the wafers can be pushed through the cutters and still result in an acceptable cut product. Pushing too fast may buckle the wafer product or create tears or other poor cut surfaces, or can even cause the wafer book to delaminate or burst.

A known solution to increase the throughput of the wafer cutting process is described in GB patent application 2436761 A. This document discloses a process in which wafer blocks (or wafer books) are cut in two perpendicular directions to divide them into a number of wafer fingers. In a first part of the process two wafer books are fed through cutting blades, one at a time, into each side of a continuous process line, to cut the wafer books in a first direction. As part of the continuous process the sections made by the first cuts are separated and pushed together through another cutting blade to simultaneously cut them in the other direction into fingers. Although such a solution does increase throughput of cutting it significantly increases the factory footprint required for the wafer cutting.

It is the purpose of the present invention to increase the throughput of a cutting station without significantly increasing the footprint required for wafer cutting and without causing damage to the wafer books.

According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided a method of cutting edible wafer books. The method comprises feeding a first wafer book into a first cutting station and then extending a first cutting station pusher a first time to push the first wafer book through a first cutter into a second cutting station. This cuts the wafer books into a plurality of first strips aligned in the axis of movement through the first cutter. The first cutting station pusher is then retracted a first time. The method further comprises feeding a second wafer book into the first cutting station and then extending the first cutting station pusher a second time to push the second wafer book through the first cutter into the second cutting station to a position adjacent the first wafer book. This cuts the second wafer book into a plurality of first strips aligned in the axis of movement through the first cutter. The first cutter station pusher is then retracted a second time. A second cutting station pusher is then extended in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis of movement through the first cutter to simultaneously push the first and second wafer books through a second cutter. This cuts the wafer books in a direction traverse to the first cuts so as to cut each of the first strips into a plurality of wafers fingers.

In this manner two wafer books are passed through the second stage of cutting simultaneously and this results in an increase in the throughput.

The method preferably includes the further step of, after extending the first cutting station pusher a first time and prior to retracting the first cutting station pusher a first time, retaining the first wafer book in the second cutting station. This will ensure that the wafer strip alignment is maintained as the first cutting station pusher is retracted. Extending the first cutting station pusher a first time to push the first wafer book through a first cutter into the second cutting station preferably comprises extending the first cutting station pusher until an edge of the first wafer book abuts a first aligner. This ensures good alignment of the first strips of the first wafer book in the second cutting station.

After pushing the first wafer book through the first cutter into the second cutting station, and before pushing the second wafer book through the first cutter into the second cutting station, the method may further comprise: locating a second aligner in the second cutting station such that the step of extending the first cutting station pusher the second time pushes the second wafer book into the second cutting station until an edge of the second wafer book abuts the second aligner. This ensures good alignment of the first strips of the both wafer books in the second cutting station and assists in ensuring that when pushed through the second cutting blade the waver strips are perpendicular thereto.

After extending the first cutting station pusher a second time, and prior to retracting the first cutting station pusher a second time, the method may further comprise retaining the second wafer book in the second cutting station. This will ensure that the wafer strip alignment is maintained as the pusher is retracted, i.e. if there is any adhesion of the wafer to the pusher (for example by the foodstuff sandwiched between the wafer layers) that the pusher will separate therefrom without moving the first strips of the second wafer book. After the first cutting station pusher is retracted a second time, and before pushing the two wafer books into the second cutting station through the second cutter, the method may further comprise: locating a third aligner adjacent to the edge of the second wafer book on the side adjacent the first cutting station pusher. This assists in providing good alignment of the first strips of the second wafer book in the second cutting station.

In a preferred embodiment the wafer books are rectangular in shape having two longer sides and two shorter sides, and the first and second wafer books are pushed through the first cutter in an orientation in which a longer side thereof is presented to the cutter. The first and second wafer books may therefore be pushed through the second cutter in an orientation in which the shorter sides thereof are presented to the cutter, as the motion of the second cutting station pusher is substantially perpendicular to the motion of the first cutting station pusher.

According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided a confectionery product comprising a filled wafer that has been cut according to the method of the first aspect of the invention. The confectionery product may be enrobed in chocolate.

According to a third aspect of the invention there is provided an apparatus for cutting a wafer book. The apparatus comprises a first cutting station having an in-feed side and an out-feed side and configured to receive wafer books at the in-feed side. The first cutting station has a first cutting station pusher which is extendable between a first position and a second position along a first axis of motion. The apparatus also comprises a second cutting station having an in-feed side and an out-feed side and configured to receive wafer books from the first cutting station at the in-feed side. The second cutting station has a second cutting station pusher, extendable between a first position and a second position along a second axis of motion. A first cutter is positioned between the out-feed side of the first cutting station and the in-feed side of the second cutting station and a second cutter is positioned at the out-feed side of the second cutting station. A controller is provided which is configured to operate the machine according to the method of the first aspect of the invention.

The apparatus may further comprise a first retaining means for, in use, retaining the first wafer book in the second cutting station; and the controller may be further configured to control the first retaining means to operate prior to the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the first time. The apparatus may also further comprise a second retaining means for, in use, retaining the second wafer book in the second cutting station; and the controller may be further configured to control the second retaining means to operate prior to the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the second time. The retaining means assist in ensuring that the wafer alignment is maintained, and aid the prevention of any adhesion of the wafer strips to the pusher. A first, and optionally a second, retractable aligner may be located in the second cutting station substantially perpendicular to the first axis of movement, the aligner movable between an aligning position and a non-aligning position. The controller may be configured to operate the retractable aligner(s) such that after the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the first time the first aligner is moved into the aligning position. Optionally, after the retraction of the first cutting station pusher the second time, the second retractable aligner is moved into the aligning position.

In a preferred embodiment the in-feed side and the out-feed side of the first cutting station are provided with an in-feed opening and an out-feed opening respectively and the out-feed opening is wider than the in-feed opening. The in-feed side and the out- feed side of the second cutting station may also be provided with an in-feed opening and an out-feed opening respectively and the out-feed opening may be wider than the in-feed opening. The in-feed opening of the second cutting station may comprise the out-feed opening of the first cutting station.

These relative dimensions allow for the cutting of rectangular wafer books which are fed into the first cutting station in an orientation such that the leading edge of the wafer book is a shorter edge. The wafer book is then pushed into the second cutting station in a direction such that the leading edge passing through the first cutter is a longer edge of the rectangular wafer books.

The width of the out-feed opening of the second cutting station is preferably at least twice the width of the in-feed opening of the first cutting station. Two of the rectangular wafer books can therefore be consecutively pushed from the first section into the second section such that in the second section the longer rectangular edges of the rectangular wafer books are adjacent one another. The two books can then be pushed, side by side, through the second cutter and through the out-feed opening of the second cutting station. The first cutting station can have a receiving area for receiving an uncut wafer book and the second cutting station has a receiving area for receiving the wafer book from the first cutting station. The receiving area of the second cutting station is twice the size of the receiving area of the first cutting station, thereby accommodating two wafer books. Exemplary embodiments of the invention are described herein below, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a flow chart of the method of the first aspect of the invention; Figure 2 is a wafer book showing the cut lines achieved in the method of the invention; Figure 3 shows a product in accordance with the second aspect of the invention; Figure 4 is an apparatus in accordance with the third aspect of the invention;

Figure 5 shows a schematic diagram of operation of a prior art machine; and

Figure 6 shows a schematic diagram of operation of the apparatus of the invention. Referring to Figures 1 to 4, the method and apparatus of the invention are as follows.

A feed of wafer books are presented to an in-feed edge 2 of a wafer cutting machine 4. The books may be presented to the in-feed edge in a manner as known in the art, for example using moving conveyers.

A first wafer book 210 passes through an in-feed opening in the in-feed edge 2 into a platform of a first cutting station 6. The wafer book 210 is preferably rectangular and is fed 100 into the first cutting station in an orientation such that a shorter rectangular edge enters the in-feed edge 2 first. An alignment plate 8 is provided at the far side of the platform and the wafer book enters the platform until it abuts the alignment plate 8. Once fully received in the first cutting station 6 a first cutting station pusher 10 is extended 110 such that it moves in the direction "X". This pushes the first wafer book 210 through a first cutting blade 12 which is positioned at an out-feed edge (in an out- feed opening) of the first cutting station. The cutting blade 12 comprises a plurality of vertical cutters aligned in a linear array. The cutters may comprise traditional blades or may, for example, comprise pieces of thin wire. The cutting blade 12 is stationary. As the first wafer book is pushed through the first cutting blade 12 it is cut into a plurality of aligned strips 220. The first cutting station pusher 10 comprises a plurality of long pushing fingers 14 each separated by a narrow gap that is aligned in the direction of movement with the cutters of the cutting blade. In this manner the pusher 10 can extend between the cutters of the cutting blade 12 so as to continue to push the wafer book 210 beyond the blade 12. The cutting blade 12 can be easily removed when blades need to be changed, for example as a result of a blade becoming blunt or breaking so that the blades may be quickly and conveniently replaced. Once the first cutting station pusher 10 is fully extended the first wafer book has exited the first cutting station 6 and has entered the second cutting section 16 via an in-feed edge thereof having an in-feed opening. As the movement of the first cutting station pusher 10 is substantially traverse to the direction in which the wafer book 210 entered the platform 6 it passes into the second cutting station 16 with its longer rectangular edge leading until the longer rectangular edge abuts a further alignment plate 18 at the far side of the platform 27 of the second cutting station 16. Once pushed all the way to the far side of the second cutting station a first retaining mechanism 22 of the second cutting station 16 is operated 120 so as to hold the first wafer book 210 in place as the first cutting station pusher 10 is retracted 130 in direction "Y".

Once the pusher 10 is retracted a first retractable alignment plate 20 extends 140 into the second platform area so as to block a path from the first cutting station pusher 10 to the first wafer book. The process 150 of feeding a wafer book into the first cutting station 6 is then repeated with a second wafer book and the first cutting station pusher 10 is again extended 160 until the side of the second wafer book opposite the pusher 10 meets the first retractable aligner 20. In doing so the pusher 10 pushes the second wafer book through the first cutter 12 so that it is cut into strips in the same way as the first wafer book.

Once the second wafer book is pushed all the way to the retractable aligner 20 on the second cutting station, a second retaining mechanism 24 of the second cutting station is operated 170 so as to hold the second wafer book 210 in place as the first cutting station pusher 10 is retracted a second time 180.

At this stage the first and second wafer books are located on the platform 27 of the second cutting station and are oriented such that the long sides of the wafer books are aligned adjacent and parallel to one another and are substantially perpendicular to the direction of travel "X" of the first cutting station pusher 10. The shorter edges of the wafer books are therefore substantially parallel to the direction of travel of the first cutting station pusher 10.

After the first cutting station pusher 10 is retracted a second time, a second retractable alignment plate 29 is moved 190 so that it is adjacent the edge of the second wafer book on the side facing the first cutting station pusher.

The first and second retaining mechanisms 22, 24 are then released, although it will be appreciated that the first retaining mechanism may be released at any point after the retractable alignment plate 20 is extended into the second platform area.

In this state the second cutting station 16 is loaded with two adjacent rectangular wafer books 210 which have each been cut into a plurality of slices 220, and which are located on their longer sides by three alignment plates, one located between the two wafer books and one on either opposite side of the wafer books.

The second cutting station 16 is then operated so that a second cutting station pusher 26 is extended 200 in a direction perpendicular to the direction of travel "X"-"Y" of the first cutting station pusher 10.

This pushes the first and second wafer books 210 through a second cutting blade 28 which is positioned across an out-feed edge of the second cutting station 16 in an out- feed opening. The cutting blade 28 comprises a plurality of vertical cutters aligned in a linear array. The cutters may comprise traditional blades or may, for example, comprise pieces of thin wire. The cutting blade 28 is stationary and fixed by screws. As the first and second wafer books are pushed through the second cutting blade 28 the strips 220 are each cut in a direction perpendicular to the first cuts 230 to form a plurality of second cuts 240 thereby dividing the wafer book into a plurality of individual wafer products 250.

The second cutting station pusher 26 also comprises a plurality of pushing fingers each separated by a narrow gap that is aligned in the direction of movement with the cutters of the cutting blade. However as the wafer books do not need to be pushed as far past the second cutting blade 28 as they do the first cutting blade 12 the fingers of the second cutting station pusher 26 can be much shorter. An out-feed mechanism, for example a conveyor, is provided adjacent the out-feed opening of the second cutting station 16, downstream of the second cutting blade 28, so as to convey the cut wafer products from the second cutting station 16. The cutting blade 28 can be easily removed when blades are needed to be changed, for example when they become blunt or they break so that the blades may be quickly and conveniently replaced in the same manner as described above in relation to the first cutting blade 12 The invention described herein can increase the throughput of a cutting station as known in the prior art, in particular it can increase the throughput of rectangular shaped wafer books.

Take for example a rectangular wafer book having a long side length of 465mm and a short side length of 278mm. Referring to Figure 5, using a machine that cuts the wafer books one at a time the total minimum distance travelled by pushing mechanisms to cut a wafer book by pushing it through two perpendicularly arranged blades is the twice the sum of the length of the two sides, i.e. the first pusher mechanism must push the wafer book from A to B in one direction at least the length of one side X, and return Y, and the second pusher mechanism must subsequently push the wafer book from B to C in the opposite direction V by at least the length of the other side, and return W. The total travel distance of the pushers to cut a single wafer book is therefore (X+Y)+(V+W), or with the given dimensions 1486mm. Therefore the total distance travelled to cut two wafer books is 2 x 1486mm = 2972mm.

Taking the example of the present invention and using a wafer book having the same dimensions, the movements are shown in Figure 6. The total distance travelled by the pushers to cut two books is (X1+Y1) + (X2+Y2) + (V+W), where

which, with the given dimensions, gives a total travel distance of the pushers of 2598mm, equating to a distance saving of 12.6%. This will equate to a similar time saving on the processing time for cutting two wafer books which will, over a period of time, increase the output of the cutting station. The exact increase in system efficiency will be dependent upon the relative dimensions of the wafer books, the longer and narrower the books the greater the efficiency. However this will be limited as at certain lengths it becomes necessary to reduce the pusher speed so as to prevent damage to the wafer book or filled wafer fingers. It will be appreciated that the speeds and / or cutting and size of the wafer books will be dependent upon a number of factors such as the thickness of the wafer books, the thickness of each wafer layer in the wafer books, the hardness of the wafer filling etc. and the adjustment of the cutting blades to take these factors into consideration will be within the scope of the skilled person.

Although described herein as an method of operating the machinery in which two wafer books are pushed into the second cutting station and then both are pushed through the second cutter simultaneously, it is within the scope of the invention that three or more wafer books could be fed into the second cutting machine, prior to being pushed simultaneously through the second cutting blade.