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Title:
BEVERAGE VENDING SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/264473
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A beverage vending system that is configured to vend a beverage in a paper cup and present the cup with the beverage therein to a consumer. The paper cup may be devoid of any plastic liner so that it can be recycled along with normal paper waste. The beverage vending system may include a beverage machine having scrolls that support the cups in a stack and, upon receipt of instructions to vend a beverage, cause the scrolls to rotate to dispense the cups. The cups may be pre-filled with a beverage ingredient. Distal surfaces of support ledges of the scrolls may contact an under rim portion of a lowermost cup in the stack, and such contact may help to ensure that the cups are consistently dispensed and vended without failure and without damage to the cup.

Inventors:
NICHOLLS DARREN (GB)
Application Number:
US2020/040059
Publication Date:
December 30, 2020
Filing Date:
June 29, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
LAVAZZA PROFESSIONAL NORTH AMERICA LLC (US)
International Classes:
G07F13/10; A47F1/08; B65H3/06; B65H3/26; B65H3/28; B65H3/30; B65H3/42; G07F11/24; G07F13/06
Foreign References:
GB2173777A1986-10-22
GB2394468A2004-04-28
US4426017A1984-01-17
DE1148789B1963-05-16
EP2195246A22010-06-16
Other References:
MATERIALDISTRICT: "ISLA PLASTIC-FREE PAPER CUP COATING IS COMPLETELY RECYCLABLE", 26 October 2017 (2017-10-26), XP055729589, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20200910]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BELLES, Brian, L. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A beverage vending system comprising:

a cup dispensing assembly comprising:

a ring gear comprising gear teeth; and

a plurality of scrolls, each of the scrolls comprising:

a gear portion comprising gear teeth that are configured to interact with the gear teeth of the ring gear to rotate the scroll about a rotational axis; and

a body portion comprising a main body and a support ledge extending from the main body to a distal surface;

a plurality of cups formed from paper and arranged in a stack, each of the cups comprising a floor and a sidewall having a top portion that is rolled to form a rim, the sidewall oriented at a constant angle relative to the floor from the floor to the rim; and

wherein the stack of cups is supported by the support ledges of the plurality of scrolls so that the rim of a lowermost cup of the stack rests atop of an upper surface of the support ledge and the distal surface of the support ledge is in contact with an under rim portion of the sidewall of the lowermost cup of the stack.

2. The beverage vending system according to claim 1 wherein the cup has a first outer diameter measured at the under rim portion and wherein the distal surfaces of the support ledges of each of the plurality of scrolls are tangent to a first reference circle having a second diameter that is less than the first diameter.

3. The beverage vending system according to claim 2 wherein a difference between the first outer diameter and the second diameter is greater than 0.2mm.

4. The beverage vending system according to claim 3 wherein the difference between the first outer diameter and the second diameter is between 0.3mm and 0.4mm.

5. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 4 wherein each of the scrolls further comprises a cam surface extending helically from the main body of the body portion, and wherein during rotation of the plurality of scrolls the cam surfaces of the plurality of scrolls apply a downward force onto the lowermost cup in the stack while the scrolls support a remainder of the stack to separate the lowermost cup from the remainder of the stack and dispense the lowermost cup from the cup dispensing assembly.

6. The beverage vending system according to claim 5 wherein an entirety of the sidewall located between the floor and the rim is oriented at the same angle relative to the floor.

7. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 5 wherein each of the plurality of cups comprises a cavity containing a beverage ingredient, the cavity defined by an upper surface of the floor and an upper portion of the sidewall that extends from the floor to a top edge of the cup.

8. The beverage vending system according to claim 7 wherein the sidewall of each of the plurality of cups comprises a lower portion that extends from the floor to a bottom edge of the cup, each of the plurality of cups comprising a pocket defined by a lower surface of the floor and the lower portion of the sidewall, and wherein when the plurality of cups are arranged in the stack at least a portion of the beverage ingredient in each cup is located within the pocket of another cup that is nested within the cavity of said cup.

9. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 8 wherein the distal surface of the support ledge of each of the scrolls is parallel to the rotational axis of the scroll and wherein the sidewall of the lowermost cup is oblique to the distal surface of the support ledge.

10. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 9 wherein the sidewall of the lowermost cup and the distal surface of the support ledge of each of the scrolls intersect at an acute angle.

11. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 10 wherein the main body of the body portion of each of the scrolls comprises an upstanding wall that extends from the upper surface of the support ledge towards a top end of the scroll, and wherein an outer surface of the rim is in contact with the upstanding wall.

12. The beverage vending system according to claim 11 wherein the cup has a third outer diameter measured at the rim and wherein the upstanding wall of the main body of each of the scrolls are tangent to a second reference circle having a fourth diameter that is less than the third outer diameter.

13. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 12 wherein the main body of each of the scrolls comprises a bottom end and a top end, the gear portion extending from the bottom end, and wherein the support ledge is located closer to the top end than to the bottom end.

14. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 13 wherein when viewed in cross-section, an entirety of the sidewall of each of the cups is planar from the floor to the rim.

15. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 14 wherein the sidewall intersects the floor at an angle that is between 91° and 98°.

16. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 15 wherein each of the cups is free of a plastic lining so that the cups are recyclable with normal paper waste.

17. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 1 to 16 wherein each of the cups is biodegradable.

18. The system according to any one of claims 1 to 17 wherein each of the cups is formed entirely from paper and a water-based dispersion barrier.

19. A beverage vending system comprising: a cup dispensing assembly comprising:

a ring gear comprising gear teeth; and

a plurality of scrolls, each of the scrolls comprising:

a gear portion comprising gear teeth that are configured to interact with the gear teeth of the ring gear to rotate the scroll about a rotational axis; and

a body portion comprising a main body and a support ledge extending from the main body to a distal surface, the plurality of scrolls arranged so that the distal surface of the support ledge of each of the plurality of scrolls is tangent to a reference circle having a diameter;

a plurality of cups formed from paper and arranged in a stack that is supported by the support ledges of the plurality of scrolls, each of the cups comprising a floor and a sidewall having a top portion that is rolled to form a rim, the cups having an outer diameter measured along an under rim portion of the sidewall of the cups that is immediately beneath the rim;

wherein the diameter of the reference circle is less than the outer diameter of the cups so that as the rim of a lowermost cup in the stack rests atop an upper surface of the support ledge, the distal surfaces of the support ledges press against the under rim portion of the lowermost cup; and

wherein the distal surfaces of the support ledges of the scrolls are noncoplanar with the sidewall of the lowermost cup.

20. The beverage vending system according to claim 19 wherein the sidewall of each of the cups is planar from the floor to the rim, and wherein the sidewall of the lowermost cup intersects the distal surfaces of the support ledges of the scrolls at an acute angle.

21. The beverage vending system according to claim 20 wherein the distal surface of the support ledge of each of the scrolls lies in a plane that is parallel to the rotational axis.

22. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 19 to 21 wherein a bottom of the rim of the lowermost cup in the stack is tangent to a plane that intersects the sidewall at the under rim portion.

23. A beverage vending system comprising:

a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly comprising a plurality of scrolls;

a stack of cups supported by the scrolls of the cup dispensing assembly, the stack of cups comprising a plurality of cups formed from paper and being devoid of a plastic lining so that each of the cups is recyclable in standard paper waste streams, each of the cups being pre-filled with a beverage ingredient; and

wherein in response to a user input on the beverage vending machine, the plurality of scrolls rotate to dispense a lowermost cup of the stack of cups.

24. The beverage vending system according to claim 23 wherein each of the cups is biodegradable.

25. The system according to any one of claims 23 to 24 wherein each of the cups is formed entirely from paper and a water-based dispersion barrier.

26. A beverage vending system comprising:

a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly;

a stack of cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the stack of cups comprising a plurality of cups formed from paper and having a draft angle between 3.5° and 4.5°, a cup to cup clearance between 0.35mm and 0.45mm, and a stacking pitch between 10mm and 12mm;

a beverage ingredient comprising a plurality of particles located in each of the plurality of cups, the beverage ingredient having a throw weight less than 12g, and wherein no more than 4% of the particles of the beverage ingredient have a particle size less than 106pm;

wherein the cup dispensing assembly is configured to dispense a lowermost cup of the stack of cups so that the beverage machine can fill the lowermost cup with a liquid that mixes with the beverage ingredient to form a beverage, and wherein the lowermost cup with the beverage therein is provided to a consumer.

27. The beverage vending system according to claim 26 wherein the draft angle is approximately 4°, the cup to cup clearance is approximately 0.39mm, and the stacking pitch is approximately 11mm.

28. The beverage vending system according to claim 26 or claim 27 wherein the throw weight of the beverage ingredient in the cups is less than 3g.

29. A beverage vending system comprising:

a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly;

a first stack of cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the first stack of cups comprising a plurality of first cups formed from paper, each of the first cups having a first draft angle and a first stacking pitch, each of the first cups containing a first beverage ingredient having a throw weight less than or equal to 12g and a particle size distribution such that no more than 4% of particles of the first beverage ingredient have a particle size that is less than 106pm; and

a second stack of cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the second stack of cups comprising a plurality of second cups formed from paper, each of the second cups having a second draft angle that is greater than the first draft angle and a second stacking pitch that is less than the first stacking pitch, each of the second cups containing a second beverage ingredient having a particle size distribution such that no more than 1% of particles of the second beverage ingredient has a particle size greater than 500pm.

30. The beverage vending system according to claim 29 wherein the first beverage ingredient has an aerated bulk density range between 0.16g/ml and 0.28g/ml, and wherein the second beverage ingredient has an aerated bulk density range between 0.5g/ml and 0.65g/ml.

31. The beverage vending system according to claim 29 or claim 30 wherein the first draft angle is between 3.5° and 4.5° and the second draft angle is between 5.5° and 6.5°, and wherein the first stacking pitch is between 10mm and 12mm and the second stacking pitch is between 6.5mm and 8.5mm.

32. The beverage vending system according to any one of claims 29 to 31 wherein between 25% and 35% of the particles of the second beverage ingredient have a particle size that is less than lOOpm.

Description:
BEVERAGE VENDING SYSTEM

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATD APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims priority to United States Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 62/868,367, filed June 28, 2019, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Tn Cup’ beverage vending machines create a beverage in a disposable cup and then present the disposable cup with the beverage therein to a consumer. Such Tn Cup’ beverage vending machines typically use cups that are pre-filled with powdered ingredients and inject a liquid such as water (and/or milk and sugar) into the cups to form the desired beverage. The cups are held inside the machine in multiple stacks to maximize the number of cups that can be stored. The cups themselves are pre-filled with powdered ingredients and stacked one inside the other to facilitate ongoing handling. The cups are typically shipped in wrapped stacks of 20 or more. These stacks are then unwrapped onsite and loaded into columns inside the machine.

[0003] There is a pressing need in all industries to move away from forming disposable items out of plastic for several reasons. First, plastic often ends up in oceans rather than landfills, resulting in excessive marine debris. Furthermore, plastic is made from fossil fuel, which has problems associated with it related to oil spills and groundwater pollution during extraction and transportation. Moreover, converting fossil fuel into plastic feedstocks requires large chemical processing plants which emit a variety of pollutants into the air. Along the same lines, plastics contain chemical additives which can leach out of the material, getting into our food, water, and bodies. Finally, plastic stays around for hundreds of years or more, overcrowding our landfills and also showing up in unexpected and unwelcome places. Thus, there is a desire to have Tn Cup’ beverage vending systems that dispense beverages in cups that are made from paper and that do not include any plastic even as a liner for the cup.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] The present invention is directed to a beverage vending system that is configured to vend a beverage in a paper cup and present the cup with the beverage therein to a consumer. The paper cup may be devoid of any plastic liner so that it can be recycled along with normal paper waste. The beverage vending system may include a beverage machine having scrolls that support the cups in a stack and, upon receipt of instructions to vend a beverage, cause the scrolls to rotate to dispense the cups. The cups may be pre-filled with a beverage ingredient. Distal surfaces of support ledges of the scrolls may contact an under rim portion of a lowermost cup in the stack, and such contact may help to ensure that the cups are consistently dispensed and vended without failure and without damage to the cup.

[0005] In one aspect, the invention may be a beverage vending system comprising: a cup dispensing assembly comprising: a ring gear comprising gear teeth; and a plurality of scrolls, each of the scrolls comprising: a gear portion comprising gear teeth that are configured to interact with the gear teeth of the ring gear to rotate the scroll about a rotational axis; and a body portion comprising a main body and a support ledge extending from the main body to a distal surface; a plurality of cups formed from paper and arranged in a stack, each of the cups comprising a floor and a sidewall having a top portion that is rolled to form a rim, the sidewall oriented at a constant angle relative to the floor from the floor to the rim; and wherein the stack of cups is supported by the support ledges of the plurality of scrolls so that the rim of a lowermost cup of the stack rests atop of an upper surface of the support ledge and the distal surface of the support ledge is in contact with an under rim portion of the sidewall of the lowermost cup of the stack.

[0006] In another aspect, the invention may be a beverage vending system comprising: a cup dispensing assembly comprising: a ring gear comprising gear teeth; and a plurality of scrolls, each of the scrolls comprising: a gear portion comprising gear teeth that are configured to interact with the gear teeth of the ring gear to rotate the scroll about a rotational axis; a body portion comprising a main body and a support ledge extending from the main body to a distal surface; and wherein the plurality of scrolls are arranged so that the distal surface of the support ledge of each of the plurality of scrolls is tangent to a reference circle having a diameter; a plurality of cups formed from paper and arranged in a stack that is supported by the support ledges of the plurality of scrolls, each of the cups comprising a floor and a sidewall having a top portion that is rolled to form a rim, the cups having an outer diameter measured along an under rim portion of the sidewall of the cups that is immediately beneath the rim; wherein the diameter of the reference circle is less than the outer diameter of the cups so that as the rim of a lowermost cup in the stack rests atop an upper surface of the support ledge, the distal surfaces of the support ledges press against the under rim portion of the lowermost cup; and wherein the distal surfaces of the support ledges of the scrolls are noncoplanar with the sidewall of the lowermost cup.

[0007] In still another aspect, the invention may be a beverage vending system comprising: a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly comprising a plurality of scrolls; a stack of cups supported by the scrolls of the cup dispensing assembly, the stack of cups comprising a plurality of cups formed from paper and being devoid of a plastic lining so that each of the cups is recyclable in standard paper waste streams, each of the cups being pre-filled with a beverage ingredient; and wherein in response to a user input on the beverage vending machine, the plurality of scrolls rotate to dispense a lowermost cup of the stack of cups.

[0008] In yet another embodiment, the invention may be a beverage vending system comprising: a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly; a stack of cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the stack of cups comprising a plurality of cups formed from paper and having a draft angle between 3.5° and 4.5°, a cup to cup clearance between 0.35mm and 0.45mm, and a stacking pitch between 10mm and 12mm; a beverage ingredient comprising a plurality of particles located in each of the plurality of cups, the beverage ingredient having a throw weight less than 12g, and wherein no more than 4% of the particles of the beverage ingredient are smaller than 106pm; wherein the cup dispensing assembly is configured to dispense a lowermost cup of the stack of cups so that the lowermost cup can be filled with a liquid that mixes with the beverage ingredient to form a beverage, and wherein the lowermost cup with the beverage therein is provided to a consumer.

[0009] In a further embodiment, the invention may be a beverage vending system comprising: a beverage vending machine comprising a cup dispensing assembly; a first stack cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the first stack of cups comprising a plurality of first cups formed from paper, each of the first cups having a first draft angle and a first stacking pitch, each of the first cups containing a first beverage ingredient having a throw weight less than or equal to 12g and a particle size distribution such that no more than 4% of particles of the first beverage ingredient are smaller than 106pm; and a second stack of cups supported by the cup dispensing assembly, the second stack of cups comprising a plurality of second cups formed from paper, each of the second cups having a second draft angle that is greater than the first draft angle and a second stacking pitch that is less than the first stacking pitch, each of the second cups containing a second beverage ingredient having a particle size distribution such that no more than 1% of particles of the second beverage ingredient are greater than 500pm.

[0010] Further areas of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating the preferred embodiment of the invention, are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a beverage vending system in a closed state in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0013] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the beverage vending system of FIG. 1 with a door thereof in an open state to expose an interior cavity;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a cup dispensing mechanism of the beverage vending system of FIG. 1;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a close-up view of area IV of FIG. 3 illustrating a cup dispensing assembly of the cup dispensing mechanism;

[0016] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a portion of the cup dispensing mechanism of FIG. 3 with a stack of cups therein;

[0017] FIG. 6A is a perspective view of a scroll of the cup dispensing mechanism of FIG. 3;

[0018] FIG. 6B is a front plan view of the scroll of FIG. 6A;

[0019] FIGS. 7A-7F are close-up views of a portion of the cup dispensing mechanism of FIG. 3 illustrating the operation of the cup dispensing mechanism to dispense a lowermost cup in the stack of cups;

[0020] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a paper cup that is dispensed by the cup dispensing mechanism of FIG. 3;

[0021] FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view taken along line IX-IX of FIG. 8;

[0022] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a stack of the paper cups of FIG. 8; [0023] FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view taken along line XI-XI of FIG. 10;

[0024] FIG. 12 is a close-up view of area XII of FIG. 11;

[0025] FIG. 13 is a top plan view of one of the cup dispensing assemblies of the cup dispensing mechanism of FIG. 3;

[0026] FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view taken along line XIV-XIV of FIG. 13 and also including a cup being supported by the scrolls of the cup dispensing assembly;

[0027] FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view taken along line XV-XV of FIG. 14; and

[0028] FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view taken along line XVI-XVI of FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0029] The following description of the preferred embodiment(s) is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the invention, its application, or uses.

[0030] The description of illustrative embodiments according to principles of the present invention is intended to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are to be considered part of the entire written description. In the description of embodiments of the invention disclosed herein, any reference to direction or orientation is merely intended for convenience of description and is not intended in any way to limit the scope of the present invention. Relative terms such as“lower,”“upper,”“horizontal,”“vertical,” above,”“below,” “up,” “down,” “top” and “bottom” as well as derivatives thereof (e.g., “horizontally,” “downwardly,”“upwardly,” etc.) should be construed to refer to the orientation as then described or as shown in the drawing under discussion. These relative terms are for convenience of description only and do not require that the apparatus be constructed or operated in a particular orientation unless explicitly indicated as such. Terms such as “attached,” “affixed,” “connected,”“coupled,”“interconnected,” and similar refer to a relationship wherein structures are secured or attached to one another either directly or indirectly through intervening structures, as well as both movable or rigid attachments or relationships, unless expressly described otherwise. Moreover, the features and benefits of the invention are illustrated by reference to the exemplified embodiments. Accordingly, the invention expressly should not be limited to such exemplary embodiments illustrating some possible non-limiting combination of features that may exist alone or in other combinations of features; the scope of the invention being defined by the claims appended hereto. [0031] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a beverage vending system 1000 is illustrated in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The beverage vending system 1000 comprises a beverage dispensing machine (hereinafter“the machine”) 100, a cup dispensing mechanism 200 housed in the beverage dispensing machine 100, and a plurality of stacks of cups 300 supported by the cup dispensing mechanism 200. Operation of the beverage vending system 1000 includes automatic dispensing of one cup from one of the stacks of cups 300 using the cup dispensing mechanism 200, filling the cup (which may pre-filled with a beverage ingredient) with hot or cold water, and presenting the cup with the beverage therein to a consumer. All of these actions are achieved by the beverage vending system 1000 automatically upon a user putting money into the machine (if required) and pressing a button associated with a particular beverage. Thus, a user need not use his or her own cup with the beverage vending system 1000, but rather the beverage vending system 1000 vends a beverage in a cup stored within the machine 100 and then provides the cup and beverage to the user. Thus, there is a desire in the industry to modify such machines so that they dispense paper cups rather than plastic cups for purposes of increased recyclability.

[0032] The machine 100 comprises a housing 101 that includes a body portion 102 and a door

103 that can be closed (FIG. 1) and open (FIG. 2). The door 103 is closed during normal use of the machine 100 and open during maintenance, cleaning, and/or when additional cups need to be loaded into the machine 100. In the exemplified embodiment, there are a plurality of buttons 104 located on the door 103, each of which includes indicia, graphics, or labeling for a different type of beverage. For example, one of the buttons 104 may include a graphic image of a particular type of coffee and another one of the buttons 104 may include a graphic image of hot chocolate, iced or hot tea, plain or flavored water, a type of soup, or the like. Basically, each of the buttons

104 is associated with one of the types of beverages that the beverage vending system 1000 is configured to create.

[0033] The machine 100 includes a payment receiving section 105 (for receiving payment in coins, cash, or electronic payment which may include payment via a credit or debit card or payment via an electronic key that has money associated therewith) and a coin return area 106. However, the machine 100 may be preset to operate without requiring payment in some instances, such as if the machine 100 is placed in a place of employment and the employer desires to provide free beverages from the machine 100 as a perk. Furthermore, the machine 100 includes a beverage pick-up zone 107 which is where the user/consumer can pick up the beverage after it is made by the machine 100. The beverage pick-up zone 107 is formed as an opening in the door 103 so that a user can reach into the opening to grab the beverage after it is made.

[0034] As shown in FIG. 2, the door 103 can be opened to expose an interior cavity 108 of the machine 100, which houses the cup dispensing mechanism 200. The cup dispensing mechanism 200 will be described in much greater detail below. There are also some other components within the interior cavity 108 that are necessary for proper operation of the machine 100. For example, there is a fluid delivery subsystem 150 that comprises various conduits 109 that are used to fill the cups with water during beverage generation. The various conduits 109 may be operably coupled to a water main so that water (hot and/or cold) can be made to flow into the machine 100 for generating the desired beverage. There is also a delivery mechanism 160 positioned beneath the fluid delivery subsystem 150 and beneath the cup dispensing mechanism 200. During use, one of the cups is dispensed from the cup dispensing mechanism 200 into the delivery mechanism 160, and then the delivery mechanism holds the cup while it is filled with water, which mixes with the beverage ingredient pre-filled in the cup. After a sufficient amount of water is added to the cup, the delivery mechanism 160 rotates or otherwise moves to place the cup into alignment with the beverage pick-up zone 107 (i.e., opening) in the door 103 so that a user can grab the cup for consumption of the beverage.

[0035] The machine 100 also includes a processor and/or circuitry 110 that includes all of the electronic components required for proper operation of the machine 100. For example, the processor 110 is configured to receive signals indicative of a choice of beverage selected by a consumer (i.e., user input) and initiate operation of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 so that the correct beverage is generated and provided to the consumer.

[0036] Referring to FIG. 3, a top plan view of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 is illustrated (with only one stack of cups shown in the view provided). The cup dispensing mechanism 200 comprises a carousel 290 that comprises a plurality of cup dispensing assemblies 201, each of which is configured to hold one of the stacks of cups 300 and to dispense cups from that stack one at a time upon user selection of a beverage on the machine 100. The carousel 290 is configured to rotate about a rotational axis Z-Z during operation of the beverage vending system 1000 to align a desired one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 with an actuator mechanism (not shown) to dispense a desired cup in accordance with a beverage selection made by a consumer.

[0037] In FIG. 3, one of the stacks of cups 300 is depicted in one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 and in that cup dispensing assembly 201 a top plate has been removed to expose the internal components that facilitate the dispensing of an individual cup. Each of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 may support one of the stacks of cups 300. Furthermore, for each stack 300, each cup within that stack 300 holds the same beverage ingredient. With that in mind, each stack of cups 300 may include cups holding the same beverage ingredient, with the beverage ingredient varying from one stack to another. Thus, the stack of cups 300 held by a first one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201a may contain a black coffee ingredient (e.g., coffee grounds), the stack of cups 300 held by a second one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201b may contain coffee grounds, sugar, and whitener, the stack of cups 300 held by a third one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201c may contain tea. Of course, two of the stacks of cups 300 may contain the same beverage ingredient in some embodiments so that there are more cups available with the most popular beverage ingredient selections. However, in the exemplified embodiment there are sixteen different cup dispensing assemblies 201 and therefore it is possible for the machine 100 to vend sixteen different beverages if each cup dispensing assembly 201 supports a stack of cups 300 holding a different beverage ingredient. As noted above and described further below, when the cups are inserted into the machine 1000, the cups are pre filled with a beverage ingredient (e.g., coffee grounds, hot chocolate powder, tea, flavored water powder, soup base ingredients, etc.). Thus, when a beverage is selected by a consumer, a cup having the desired beverage ingredient is dispensed from the cup dispensing mechanism 200 and then either hot or cold water is added to create the beverage that is then provided to the consumer.

[0038] Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4 concurrently, each of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 comprises an opening 202 through which a cup is dispensed, four scrolls 210 that support the stack of cups 300 and dispense the lowermost cup in the stack when desired (i.e., when a user pushes the button to dispense a beverage that is associated with a particular stack of cups), and a ring gear 205 that interacts with the four scrolls 210 as described further below to facilitate the dispensing of the lowermost cup from the stack 300. The four scrolls 210 are identical in structure in this embodiment, and the particular structure of the scrolls 210 will be described in greater detail below with reference to FIGS. 6 A and 6B. In the exemplified embodiment, there are two outer scrolls 210 that are spaced apart by a first distance and two inner scrolls 210 that are spaced apart by a second distance that is less than the first distance (the inner scrolls are the ones closest to the rotational axis Z-Z and the outer scrolls are the ones furthest from the rotational axis Z-Z). Of course, there could be more or less than four scrolls 210 in other embodiments and the spacing between the scrolls 210 could be modified to be different than that which is shown in the exemplified embodiment in some alternative embodiments. In FIG. 4, there is a cup or a stack of cups 300 positioned within the opening 202 of the cup dispensing assembly 201 that is shown in that figure.

[0039] Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 will be described in greater detail. As noted above, the cup dispensing assembly 201 comprises the ring gear 205 and four of the scrolls 210. In the exemplified embodiment, the ring gear 205 has an inner surface 207 that faces the opening 202 and an opposite outer surface 208. In the exemplified embodiment, the inner surface 207 of the ring gear 205 is smooth and the outer surface 208 of the ring gear 205 comprises one or more sets of gear teeth 209 that are configured to interact with gear teeth 211 of the scrolls 210, as described further below. In other embodiments, the gear teeth 211 may be located on the inner surface 207 of the ring gear 205 rather than the outer surface 208 of the ring gear 205.

[0040] Briefly, the scrolls 210 comprise a body portion 220 and a gear portion 240 extending from a bottom end of the body portion 220. The gear portion 240 comprises gear teeth 211 that are configured to interact with the gear teeth 209 of the ring gear 205 as described in more detail below. In the exemplified embodiment, the four scrolls 210 are positioned so as to surround the outer surface 208 of the ring gear 205 so that the gear portions 240 of the four scrolls 210 are adjacent to the outer surface 208 of the gear ring 205. In other embodiments, the ring gear 205 may surround the scrolls 210 such that the scrolls 210 are positioned within the interior of the ring gear 205 and adjacent to the inner surface 207 of the ring gear 205. In such an embodiment, the gear teeth 209 on the ring gear 205 would be located on the inner surface 207 rather than the outer surface 208 of the ring gear 205.

[0041] In the exemplified embodiment, there are four sets of the gear teeth 209 arranged in a spaced apart manner along the outer surface 208 of the ring gear 205 so that each set of gear teeth 209 is located in the vicinity of the gear portion 240 of one of the scrolls 210. During operation, an actuator is coupled to the ring gear 205 and causes the ring gear 205 to rotate about a rotational axis (when a beverage associated with the beverage ingredient in the cups being supported by the scrolls 210 of a particular cup dispensing assembly 201 is actuated/selected by a user/consumer). As the ring gear 205 rotates, the gear teeth 209 of the ring gear 205 engage the gear teeth 211 of the scrolls 210, thereby causing the scrolls 210 to rotate about a rotational axis. The rotation of the scrolls 210 causes a lowermost cup of the stack of cups 300 to be separated from the remainder of the stack 300 and thereby dispensed. This operation of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 will be described in greater detail below with reference to FIGS. 7A- 7F. Furthermore, the manner in which the scrolls 210 cause the lowermost cup to be separated from the remainder of the stack 300 will be better understood following a detailed description of the structure of the scrolls 210 provided below with reference to FIGS. 6A and 6B.

[0042] Once a particular beverage is selected by a consumer, the carousel 290 of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 rotates such that all of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 move about the rotational axis Z-Z (see FIG. 3). The carousel 290 of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 rotates until the cup dispensing assembly 201 containing a stack of cups having the beverage ingredient that is associated with the particular beverage selected by the consumer is aligned with an actuator (not shown) of the cup dispensing mechanism 200. Next, the actuator will actuate the ring gear 205 of that cup dispensing assembly 201 so that it rotates, which then causes the scrolls 210 of that cup dispensing assembly 201 to rotate, which causes dispensing of one of the cups held within that cup dispensing assembly 201 of the cup dispensing mechanism 200.

[0043] Referring to FIGS. 6A and 6B, the scrolls 210 will be described in detail. As noted above, each of the scrolls 210 includes a body portion 220 and a gear portion 240 having gear teeth 211 thereon. The body portion 220 extends from a bottom end 221 to a top end 222, and the gear portion 240 extends downwardly from the bottom end 221 of the body portion 220. As described above, the gear teeth 211 of the gear portions 240 of the scrolls 210 interact with the gear teeth 209 of the ring gear 205 during operation to dispense a cup. Thus, each of the scrolls 210 is rotatable about a rotational axis A- A during this operation, the rotational axes A- A being parallel to a rotational axis of the ring gear 205 and to the rotational axis Z-Z of the carousel 290.

[0044] The body portion 220 of the scroll 210 comprises a main body 217 having a generally cylindrical shape and having an outer surface 218. Furthermore, the body portion 220 of the scroll 210 comprises a support ledge 212 extending from the outer surface 218 of the main body 217. The support ledge 212 comprises an upper surface 225, a lower surface 226, and a distal surface 227 which is the terminal end surface of the support ledge 212 located furthest from the main body 217. The support ledge 212 is configured to support a rim of a lowermost cup of one of the stacks of cups 300 on its upper surface 225, thereby supporting the entire stack of cups. The support ledge 212 is level or planar to facilitate the support of the rim of the cup as described herein. Stated another way, the upper surface 225 of the support ledge 212 lies in a plane Y-Y. Referring briefly to FIGS. 4 and 5, the support ledges 212 of the four scrolls 210 collectively support the stack of cups 300 by the rim of the lowermost cup in the stack of cups 300 resting atop of the support ledges 212 of each of the four scrolls 210. In the exemplified embodiment, the support ledge 212 is located closer to the top end 222 of the body portion 220 than to the bottom end 221 of the body portion 220.

[0045] The main body 217 of the body portion 220 of the scrolls 210 comprises an upstanding wall 230 that extends from the upper surface 225 of the support ledge 212 to the top end 222 of the scroll 210. The upstanding wall 230 may be in contact with an outer surface of the rim of the lowermost cup in the stack 300 in some embodiments, as will be described in greater detail below with particular reference to FIGS. 13-15.

[0046] Referring back to FIGS. 6A and 6B, each of the scrolls 210 also comprises a cup splitter 213 protruding from the outer surface 217 of the main body 218 of the scroll 210. The cup splitter 213 is configured to force two adjacent cups in a stack of the cups (i.e., the lowermost cup and the second lowermost cup) to separate from one another so that the lowermost cup can be dispensed. The cup splitter 213 comprises a bottom surface 214 and a top surface 215. The bottom surface 215 of the cup splitter 213 may also be referred to herein as a cam surface. In the exemplified embodiment, the top surface 215 of the cup splitter 213 is flat and the bottom surface 214 of the cup splitter 213 is inclined and/or arranged helically around the outer surface 217 of the main body 218 of the body portion 220 of the scroll 210. Due to the varying orientations (flat and helical) of the top and bottom surfaces 215, 214 of the cup splitter 213, the cup splitter 213 has a tip portion 216, and a height of the cup splitter 213 measured between the bottom and top surfaces 214, 215 of the cup splitter 213 increases as the cup splitter 213 extends circumferentially away from the tip portion 216. This is because the top surface 215 of the cup splitter 213 is flat and level (and perpendicular to the axis A- A) whereas the bottom surface 214 of the cup splitter 213 is inclined or angled or helical. Thus, as the scroll 210 rotates about the rotational axis A- A as has been described herein, the cup splitter 213 creates a separation between the lowermost cup and the second lowermost cup to force the lowermost cup to become detached from the remainder of the stack 300 and thereby dispensed from the cup dispensing assembly 201.

[0047] Referring to FIGS. 7A-7F sequentially, the operation of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 will be described along with illustrations showing the dispensing of a lowermost cup 301 from the stack of cups 300. Thus, FIG. 7A illustrates one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 whereby the scrolls 210 are supporting the stack of cups 300. Specifically, a rim 302 of the lowermost cup 301 of the stack of cups 300 rests on the support ledges 212 of the four scrolls 210. The second lowermost cup 303 nests within the cavity of the lowermost cup 301, and additional cups (not shown) will nest within the cup directly below to form the stack 300. A bottom portion of the lowermost cup 301 (and some of the other cups in the stack of cups 300) extends through the opening 202 in the cup dispensing assembly 201.

[0048] Referring to FIG. 7B, the same cup dispensing assembly 201 of the cup dispensing mechanism 200 is illustrated, but in FIG. 7B the ring gear 205 has rotated slightly in a clockwise direction and the scrolls 210 have rotated slightly in a counter-clockwise direction about their respective rotational axes A-A. Specifically, as the actuator (not shown) causes the ring gear 205 to rotate, the interaction between the gear teeth 209 of the ring gear 205 and the gear teeth 211 of the scrolls 210 causes the scrolls 210 to also rotate. As the scrolls 210 begin to rotate, the rim 302 of the lowermost cup 301 is no longer supported by the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210. However, the stack of cups 300 remains supported by the scrolls 210 because upon this first degree of rotation the rim 305 of the second lowermost cup 303 in the stack of cups 300 rests atop of the top surface 215 of the cup splitters 213 of the scrolls 210. The lowermost cup 301 remains attached to the second lowermost cup 303 due to friction between the cups.

[0049] Referring to FIG. 7C, as the scrolls 210 continue to rotate in the counter-clockwise direction about their rotational axes A- A, the cup splitter 213 wedges itself in between the lowermost cup 301 and the second lowermost cup 303 to force the lowermost cup 301 to separate from the second lowermost cup 303 and be dispensed. Because the bottom surface (i.e., cam surface) 214 of the cup splitter 213 is angled and positioned helically around the body portion 220 of the scroll 210, rotation of the scrolls 210 causes the lowermost cup 301 to be pushed downwardly away from the second lowermost cup 303. Specifically, as the scrolls 210 rotate the distance between the portion of the top surface 215 of the cup splitter 213 that supports the second lowermost cup 303 and the portion of the bottom surface 214 of the cup splitter 213 that is contacting the lowermost cup 301 increases, which increases the size of the space/distance between the lowermost cup 301 and the second lowermost cup 303. Eventually, there is insufficient friction between the lowermost cup 301 and the second lowermost cup 303 for the lowermost cup 301 to remain attached to the stack 300. Furthermore, at this time the lowermost cup 301 is not supported by the scrolls 210 or any other component of the cup dispensing mechanism 200. Thus, once a sufficient space is created between the lowermost cup 301 and the second lowermost cup 303, the lowermost cup 301 is dispensed through the opening 202.

[0050] Specifically, referring to FIG. 7D, the lowermost cup 301 is illustrated having been separated from the second lowermost cup 303 and the rest of the stack such that the lowermost cup 301 is being dispensed through the opening 202. The lowermost cup 301 that is dispensed is then retrieved by the delivery mechanism 160 described above with regard to FIG. 2. At the next stage in the beverage generating process, water or the like will be poured into the lowermost cup 301 to generate the desired beverage as the water mixes with the beverage ingredient pre-filled in the lowermost cup 301. The delivery mechanism 160 will then deliver the lowermost cup 301 with the beverage therein to the user through the beverage pick-up zone 107 described above with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2.

[0051] Referring to FIGS. 7E and 7F, once the lowermost cup 301 in the stack has been dispensed, the ring gear 205 is made to rotate in the opposite direction. Thus, during dispensing of the lowermost cup 301 from the stack the ring gear 205 was rotating in a clockwise direction and after dispensing of the lowermost cup 301 from the stack the ring gear 205 rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Of course, the direction at which the ring gear 205 rotates could be opposite to that which is described herein with reference to the exemplified embodiment. Specifically, the ring gear 205 is rotated in the opposite direction to“reset” the position of the ring gear 205 and of the scrolls 210 back to the position of FIG. 7A. Thus, the ring gear 205 and the scrolls 210 rotate back to the initial position whereby the previously denoted second lowermost cup 303 (which is now the lowermost cup because the previously denoted lowermost cup 301 has been dispensed) rests atop of the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210. Similar to that which was described above, rotation of the ring gear 205 causes rotation of the scrolls 210 due to the interaction between the gear teeth 209 of the ring gear 205 and the gear teeth 211 of the scrolls 210.

[0052] Thus, the ring gear 205 and the scrolls 210 do not rotate a full 360° in accordance with the exemplary embodiment. Rather, the ring gear 205 and the scrolls 210 may rotate up to 300° in some embodiments, or up to any one of 290°, 280°, 270°, 260°, 250°, 240°, 230°, 220°, 210°, 200°, 190°, 180°, 170°, 160°, 150° in other embodiments. Specifically, the ring gear 205 and the scrolls 210 may rotate up to 300° (or any of the other distances) in the first direction during dispensing of the lowermost cup 301, and then the ring gear 205 and the scrolls 210 may rotate up to 300° (or any of the other distances) in a second direction that is opposite the first direction to“reset” back to the non-dispensing position.

[0053] Referring to FIGS. 8 and 9, a paper cup 400 is illustrated in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The paper cup 400 may be arranged in a stack (such as the stack 300 described above) and used with the machine 100 described above. Thus, the machine 100 may dispense one of the paper cups 400 from a stack of the paper cups 400 during operation to vend a beverage. However, selecting just any paper cup for use with the machine 100 may not work consistently for several reasons. First, with some paper cups, the ingredient stored therein will become caught between two adjacent cups in the stack which makes it more difficult to separate the cups from one another (i.e., it results in the need for an increased splitting force in order to separate the lowermost cup from the remaining cups in the stack for dispensing). Second, with some paper cups, the rim of the paper cup will deform and/or pass over the cup splitter 213 rather than the cup splitter 213 remaining on the top of the rim and forcing the cup away from the stack. Furthermore, in some instances the paper cups may rotate along with the scrolls 210, which can cause issues in consistent cup dispensing performance. Thus, the cups 400 described herein were specifically selected to ensure that it would work and be dispensed consistently from the machine 100 without issue.

[0054] The cup 400, and all of the cups used as part of the beverage vending system 1000 described herein, may be formed from paper as noted above. Specifically, the cups 400 may be formed primarily from a paperboard made of virgin wood fiber. The cups 400 may also include a water-based dispersion barrier. Furthermore, the cups 400 are devoid of a plastic liner, such as one that is conventionally made from polyethylene (PE). A problem with paper cups formed with a PE liner is that they cannot be easily recycled because the plastic liner needs to be separated from the paper before each can be recycled using separate processes. However, during this process the plastic liner may break up into relatively large flakes that pass through coarse pulping screens but may clog fine screens. Thus, such paper cups with plastic liners often end up in the landfill rather than being recycled because it is easier. In order to ensure that the cups 400 used herein are recycled, there is no PE liner used on the cups 400. Rather, the water-based dispersion barrier serves the same purpose as the previous PE liner, while still enabling the cups 400 to be completely recyclable in normal paper waste streams. The water-based dispersion barrier comprises polymers that are heat-sealable, block-resistant, and provide a liquid barrier. Thus, the cups 400 described herein are free of a plastic lining so that they are recyclable as paper waste in standard paper waste streams, the cups 400 are biodegradable, and in some embodiments the cups are formed entirely from paper and a water-based dispersion barrier. More specifically, the cups 400 are free or devoid of a polyethylene lining or coating on the interior surface thereof.

[0055] The cup 400 generally comprises a floor 401 and a sidewall 402. The sidewall 402 comprises an upper portion 403 that extends from the floor 401 to a top edge 405 of the cup 400 and a lower portion 404 that extends from the floor 401 to a bottom edge 406 of the cup 400. The sidewall 402 comprises an inner surface 407 and an outer surface 408. The inner surface 407 of the upper portion 403 of the sidewall 402 and the floor 401 collectively define a cavity 409 that is configured to hold a beverage ingredient 410 and/or a beverage formed therefrom after water is added into the cavity 409. Specifically, when the cup 400 is retained in the machine 100, the cup 400 has a beverage ingredient 410 (coffee grounds, chocolate powder, soup ingredients, tea ingredients, flavored water powder, or the like) in the cavity 409. Once water is poured into the cavity 409 (such as via the fluid delivery subsystem 150 described above with reference to FIG. 2), the water mixes with the beverage ingredient 410 to form a liquid beverage that is held in the cavity 409. The inner surface 407 of the lower portion 404 of the sidewall 402 and the floor 401 collectively define a lower pocket 411. When the cups are stacked, the beverage ingredient 410 in a lower cup may at least partially nest within the lower pocket 411 of an immediately adjacent upper cup that is nesting within the cavity 409 of the lower cup.

[0056] The sidewall 402 has a top portion 420 that is rolled to form a rim 421 of the cup 400. That is, to form the rim, the top portion 420 of the sidewall 402 is rolled upon itself, which forms the rim 421 and provides the rim 421 with some structural rigidity that is greater than the rigidity of the non-rolled portions of the sidewall 402. This structural rigidity of the rim 421 is helpful in allowing the cup dispensing assembly 201 to dispense the cup 400 without damaging the rim 421 and also allows for proper use of the cup 400 while the cup 400 maintains its structural integrity.

[0057] The cup 400 also includes an under rim portion 430, which is a portion of the sidewall 402 that is located immediately beneath the rim 421. The under rim portion 430 is an annular portion of the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 that is located below the rim 421. To better describe the location of the under rim portion 430, the cup 400 has a longitudinal axis B-B as shown, said longitudinal axis B-B being perpendicular to the floor 401 of the cup 400. Furthermore, a bottom 422 of the rim 421 is tangent to a plane X-X that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis B-B. The location where the plane X-X intersects the sidewall 402 is the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400.

[0058] The sidewall 402 extends from the bottom end 406 to the top end 405. Furthermore, the sidewall 402 extends at a constant angle relative to the floor 401 (and relative to the longitudinal axis B-B) from the bottom end 406 to the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400. That is, the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 has a constant draft angle Q1, which is the angle formed between the sidewall 402 and the longitudinal axis B-B. In some embodiments, the draft angle Q1 may be between 1° and 10°, more specifically between 1° and 8°, and more specifically between 4° and 7°. Thus, the angle formed between the sidewall 402 and the floor 401 is between 91° and 100°, more specifically between 91° and 98°, and still more specifically between 94° and 97°. The draft angle Q1 may be modified on a cup-by-cup basis depending on the beverage ingredient contained therein, as will be described in greater detail below. However, within a single cup and for all cups within a single stack, the draft angle Q1 is constant and the same. That is, the sidewall 402 does not have multiple portions that are angled relative to one another. Stated another way, when viewed in cross-section as shown in FIG. 9, an entirety of the sidewall 402 from the floor 401 (or from the bottom end 406) to the rim 421 is planar (this including the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400). In FIG. 9, a plane W-W is shown, and the entirety of the sidewall 402 from the floor 501 to the rim 421 is located on the plane W-W.

[0059] The cup 400 has a thickness T1 measured between the inner and outer surfaces 407, 408 of the sidewall 402 of between approximately 0.35 mm and 0.40 mm, and more specifically approximately 0.385 mm. The distance D1 between the bottom edge 406 and the floor 401 (which is the height of the pocket 411) is between 10.5 mm and 11.5 mm, and more specifically between 10.6 mm and 11.2 mm, and more specifically approximately 10.9 mm. The distance D2 between the bottom end 406 and the top end 405 (which is the height of the cup 400) is between 75 mm and 85 mm, more specifically between 79 mm and 80 mm, and still more specifically approximately 79.5mm. Furthermore, the top end 405 of the cup 400 at the rim 421 has an outer diameter (also referred to herein as the rim diameter) D3 of between 70mm and 76 mm, and more specifically between 73 mm and 75 mm, and still more specifically approximately 73.9 mm. The top end 405 of the cup 400 has an inner diameter D4 of between 66mm and 70 mm, and more specifically between approximately 68 mm. The bottom end 406 of the cup 400 has a diameter D5 of between 55 mm and 65 mm, and more specifically between 59 mm and 60 mm. The cup 400 also has an outer diameter (also referred to herein as an under rim diameter) D6 measured at the under rim portion 430 that is between 68mm and 70mm, and more specifically approximately 68.9mm. This outer diameter D6 at the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400 ensures that the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is in contact with the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup in a stack that is supported by the scrolls 210, as described in greater detail below with reference to FIGS. 13-16.

[0060] Furthermore, in some embodiments, the volume of the lower pocket 411 may be between 25 cubic centimeters (cc) and 30cc, and more specifically between 27cc and 28cc, and still more specifically approximately 27.7cc. Moreover, in some embodiments, the volume of the beverage ingredient 410 that is placed in the cavity 409 may be between 10.5cc and 22cc, although this volume could also be less than 10.5cc in other embodiments. In some embodiments, a height of the beverage ingredient 410 measured from the floor 401 to a top surface of the beverage ingredient 410 when the top surface of the beverage ingredient is flat is less than the first distance Dl, which is essentially the height of the lower pocket 411. Thus, when the cups are stacked, all of the beverage ingredient in a lower cup may fit within the pocket 411 of an immediately adjacent upper cup.

[0061] As mentioned above, in some embodiments the beverage ingredient 410 may be coffee grounds (more specifically soluble coffee grounds) alone or with sugar and whitener. It has been found that using the cups 400 described herein along with the machine 100 described herein, consistent cup dispensing may be maximized when the beverage ingredient 410 includes relatively larger and less dusty particles (the smaller, dustier particles can cause locking between adjacent cups that may prevent cup dispensing on occasion). Thus, in one particular embodiment the beverage ingredient 410 may comprise coffee grounds and whitener and in another particular embodiment the beverage ingredient 410 may comprise coffee grounds, whitener, and sugar. When a whitener and/or sugar are used, they may have a particle size distribution as shown in Table 1 below.

TABLE 1

[0062] The sugar may be white, fine grade crystalline sugar in some embodiments. The whitener may be refined fully hydrogenated coconut oil, glucose syrup, stabilizers (such as E340ii, E452i), lactose, caseinate (milk), free flowing agent (E551), and emulsifiers (E471) in some embodiments.

[0063] Furthermore, the coffee grounds may have a particle size distribution such that 95% of the particles are greater than 500pm and 5% of the particles are less than or equal to 500pm, in some embodiments. The coffee grounds may be soluble freeze dried coffee in some embodiments.

[0064] Referring to FIGS. 10 and 11, a stack 450 of the cups 400 is illustrated in perspective and cross-sectional views, respectively. As can be seen, the cups 400 are stacked one inside the other such that each cup 400 is nested inside of the cavity 409 of another.

[0065] As best seen in FIG. 12, as the cups 400 are nested inside one another to form the stack 450, the bottom edge 406 of each cup 400 is embedded within the beverage ingredient 410 that is located in the cavity 409 of the cup 400 below. In some embodiments, the bottom edge 406 of each cup 400 may penetrate into the beverage ingredient 410 in the cup below such that some of the beverage ingredient 410 will end up within the lower pocket 411 of the cup above. In other embodiments, the bottom edge 406 of an upper cup may simply rest atop of the beverage ingredient 410 in a lower cup. In either case, the bottom edge 406 of each cup (except for the lowermost cup in the stack 450) will rest atop of the beverage ingredient 410 in the cavity 409 of the cup below, whether it is resting atop of the exposed upper surface of the beverage ingredient 410 or it is located at some distance below the exposed upper surface of the beverage ingredient 410.

[0066] In the exemplified embodiment there are no locking features built into the cups 400 to prevent one cup from resting atop of the beverage ingredient 410 in another cup. Instead, in the exemplified embodiment, each cup other than the lowermost cup is intended to be embedded within the beverage ingredient 410 in the cup below it. When the cups are stacked as shown, the clearance between two stacked cups is one board width (i.e., the thickness of the sidewall of the cups), which may be 0.35 mm to 0.425 mm, or more specifically 0.37 mm to 0.40 mm, and more specifically approximately 0.385 mm. In one embodiment, the clearance between two cups may be between 0.3mm and 0.8mm. Of course, this clearance may be made to be smaller or larger than the aforementioned ranges in other embodiments.

[0067] Table 2 below provides some dimensions of different cups that were tested with the machine 100, including dimensions for a plastic cup for reference. Paper Cup VI and Paper Cup V2 were found to have a higher than acceptable failure rate and are therefore not used as part of the beverage vending system 1000. Paper Cup V3, Paper Cup V4, and Paper Cup V5 were found to have an acceptable failure rate and may therefore used as part of the beverage vending system 1000 in various different embodiments, with each of Paper Cup V3, V4, and V5 being used to hold different beverage ingredients, with some non-limiting examples of those ingredients indicated in the table.

TABLE 2

[0068] The rim diameter and under rim diameter were discussed above. The stacking pitch is the distance from a top end of one cup to a top end of an adjacent cup, illustrated as distance SP1 in FIG. 11. The cup to cup clearance is the gap between the cups when nested together, illustrated as gap Cl in FIG. 12. And, as mentioned above, the draft angle is the angle formed between the sidewall of the cup and the longitudinal axis B-B of the cup. The variations in cup to cup clearance, draft angle, and stacking pitch among the various versions of the Paper Cups may render the paper cups more suitable for proper and consistent dispensing from the machine 100 depending on the ingredient contained therein. Specifically, certain of the paper cups have an unacceptable failure rate when used with certain ingredients, which may be dictated by the throw weight of the beverage ingredients (e.g., the dry weight of the ingredients) and the particle size of the beverage ingredients. This will be discussed in a bit more detail below.

[0069] The plastic cup with the dimensions noted above was previously used with the machine 100 and is still acceptable for use. However, as noted throughout this document, there is a desire to switch from plastic cups to paper cups due to their susceptibility to recycling and better environmental impact. It was found that using a paper cup having the same exact dimensions as the Plastic Cup resulted in an unacceptable failure rate. Therefore, testing was done with different cups to determine which performed the best (i.e., most consistent dispensing with lowest failure rate). A failure is determined when a beverage is not delivered to a consumer despite the consumer requesting that such beverage be vended. The most likely reason for this to occur is when the beverage vending system 1000 has a failure in the dispensing of the cup.

[0070] Paper Cup VI was tested with the machine 100 with the beverage ingredient of coffee + whitener + sugar, with a total throw weight of approximately 9.5g. Thus, a stack of Paper Cup VI was supported by the scrolls 210 of one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 of the machine 100. Across 11,400 vends, there was a failure rate of 0.77%. This is likely because the Paper Cup VI was not being dispensed properly in 0.77% of vends for any of a variety of reasons.

[0071] As a comparison, Paper Cup V5 was tested with the same beverage ingredients of coffee + whitener + sugar with a throw weight of approximately 9.5g. Across 18,000 vends, there was a failure rate of 0% (i.e., no failures). Thus, it was determined that Paper Cup V5 performs acceptably with that beverage ingredient whereas Paper Cup VI does not. Paper Cup V3 and Paper Cup V4 were similarly found to perform acceptably, whereas Paper Cup V2 was found to not perform acceptably (i.e., too high of a failure rate). As can be seen, each of Paper Cup V3, Paper Cup V4, and Paper Cup V5, all of which were found to perform and be dispensed with an acceptable (or no) failure rate, has the same rim diameter (noted as D3 in FIG. 9) and under rim diameter (noted as D6 in FIG. 9). Thus, without intending to be bound by theory, it is believed that the rim diameter D3 and/or the under rim diameter D6 play a pivotal role in reducing and/or eliminating failures during cup dispensing, and this will be discussed in some additional detail below with reference to FIGS. 13-16.

[0072] Thus, it has been found that Paper Cup VI and Paper Cup V2 are not suitable for use with the machine 100 described herein, but that Paper Cup V3, Paper Cup V4, and/or Paper Cup V5 are suitable with different ingredients. For example Paper Cup V3 is more suitable for beverage ingredients with smaller particle size, due in part to the higher draft angle and lower stacking pitch. The increase in cup angle for Paper Cup V3 allows air to be exhausted far quicker, which prevents powder from being driven out with the air acceleration. When powder is driven out with the air acceleration, the powder can become trapped within the gap between the cups (i.e., within the cup to cup clearance area marked as Cl in FIG. 12), which can cause issues in cup dispensing. Paper Cup V4 has an increased cup to cup clearance which reduces the impact of cup locking with powder (i.e., when the powder of the beverage ingredient is located between the cups causing them to lock together). Paper Cup V5 has been found to be suitable for lower throw weight beverage ingredients.

[0073] Referring to FIG. 13, a top plan view of one of the cup dispensing assemblies 201 is illustrated. FIG. 13 is similar to FIG. 4 except that no cups are being supported by the scrolls 210 so that the scrolls 210 and the support ledges 212 thereof are visible. As noted previously, the support ledges 212 extend from the upstanding wall 230 of the main body 217 of the body portion 220 and terminate at distal surfaces 227. In FIG. 13, there is a first reference circle RC1 drawn and the distal surfaces 227 of each of the support ledges 212 of each of the scrolls 210 are tangent to the first reference circle RC1. The first reference circle RC1 has a diameter D7 that is less than the under rim diameter D6 of the cups 400 described above. The diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC1 may be between 66mm and 72mm, more specifically between 68mm and 69mm, and still more specifically approximately 68.58mm. As noted above, the under rim diameter D6 of the cups 400 is approximately 68.9mm. Thus, in some embodiments, the under rim diameter D6 may be at least 0.2mm greater than the diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC1. In other embodiments, the under rim diameter D6 may be between 0.3mm and 0.4mm greater than the diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC 1. In one specific embodiment of the invention, the under rim diameter D6 may be approximately 0.32mm greater than the diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC1. As discussed below with reference to FIG. 14, when the stack of cups are supported on the scrolls 210, the distal surface 227 of the support ledges 212 are aligned with and therefore contact the under rim portion 430 of the cups 400 due to the reference circle RC1 having a smaller diameter than the under rim portion 430 of the cups 400.

[0074] In FIG. 13, there is a second reference circle RC2 drawn and the upstanding walls 230 from which the support ledges 212 extend are tangent to the second reference circle RC2. The second reference circle RC2 has a diameter D8 in a range of 72mm to 75mm, more specifically 73mm to 74mm, and still more specifically approximately 73.82mm. When the cups 400 are supported on the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210, the rims 420 of the cups 400 rest on the support ledges 212. Furthermore, as noted above, the cups 400 have a diameter D3 taken at the rim 421, and the diameter D4 is between 70mm and 76 mm, and more specifically between 73 mm and 75 mm, and still more specifically approximately 73.9 mm. Using the specific approximate values, the diameter D4 of the cups 400 taken at the rims 420 is 73.9 whereas the diameter D8 of the second reference circle RC2 is approximately 73.82, such that the diameter D4 of the cups 40 at the rims 420 is greater than the diameter D8 of the second reference circle RC2. Thus, the rims 420 of the cups 400 may abut against the upstanding wall 230 in some embodiments. However, the diameter D3 of the cups 400 at the rims 420 is only 0.08mm (or between 0.05mm and 0.2mm in various different embodiments) greater than the diameter D8 of the second reference circle RC2. Thus, the contact between the upstanding wall 230 and the rim 421 of the cup 400 is minimal, and it may be a transitional fit such that depending on tolerances some cups 400 may not abut against the upstanding wall 230 while others will.

[0075] Turning to FIGS. 14-16, the interaction between the cups 400 and the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210 will be described in greater detail. Although only one scroll 210 and one support ledge 212 is illustrated in FIG. 14, it should be appreciated that the same interaction occurs between the cup 400 and each of the scrolls 210 (as shown in FIGS. 15 and 16). Furthermore, although only one of the cups 400 is illustrated, the cup 400 is the lowermost cup in a stack of the cups such that other cups may be nested within each other to form the stack. A single cup is shown in FIG. 14 for clarity.

[0076] As noted above, the support ledges 212 extend from the upstanding wall 230 to the distal surface 227. The rim 421 of the cup 400 rests atop of the upper surface 225 of the support ledge 212 so that the bottom 422 of the rim 421 is in contact with the upper surface 225 of the support ledge 212. Furthermore, because the diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC1 is smaller than the under rim diameter D6 of the cup 400, the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is in contact with the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400. More specifically, the contact between the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 and the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400 causes the cup 400 to become slightly deformed at the under rim portion 430.

[0077] In the exemplified embodiment, the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is a vertical surface. The distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is planar along its entire length from the upper surface 225 of the support ledge 212 to the lower surface 226 of the support ledge 212. In the exemplified embodiment the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is parallel to the rotational axis A-A of the scroll 210. Moreover, as discussed above, the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 is oriented at an angle between 4° and 7° relative to the longitudinal axis B-B of the cup (with the longitudinal axis B-B of the cup being parallel to the rotational axis A-A of the scroll 210). Thus, when the cup 400 is resting atop of the support ledge 212, the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 is oblique to the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212. More specifically, the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 intersects the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 at an acute angle Q2. As a result, the distal surfaces 227 of the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210 are noncoplanar with the sidewall 402 of the cup 400. More specifically, no part of the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is coplanar with the sidewall 402 of the cup 400.

[0078] The entirety of the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 from the floor 401 to the rim 421 is planar and the entirety of the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 is planar, but the sidewall and distal surface 227 are noncoplanar. Thus, although the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 contacts the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400, a gap is formed between the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 and the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 below the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400. Specifically, the gap between the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 and the sidewall 402 of the cup 400 increases with increasing distance from the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400 towards the floor 401 of the cup 400.

[0079] FIG. 16 also shows the interaction between the under rim portion 430 of the cup 400 and the distal surface 225 of the support ledge 212 of each of the scrolls 210. Specifically, because the under rim diameter D4 is greater than the diameter D7 of the first reference circle RC1 (shown in FIG. 13), the distal surfaces 227 of the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210 contact and press against the sidewall 402 of the lowermost cup 400 at the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup 400. As seen, the distal surface 227 of the support ledge 212 of each scroll 210 is in contact with the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup 400.

[0080] Referring to FIGS. 14 and 15, as noted above, in some embodiments an outermost portion 423 of the rim 421 at which the rim diameter D3 of the cup 400 is measured may be in contact with the upstanding wall 230 of the scroll 210 as the rim 430 of the cup 400 rests atop of the support ledge 212. Specifically, because the rim diameter D3 may be greater than the diameter D8 of the second reference circle RC2 to which the upstanding walls 230 of the scrolls 210 are all tangent, the upstanding walls 230 will contact and press against the outermost portion 423 of the rim 421. However, as noted above, the difference between the rim diameter D3 and the diameter D8 of the second reference circle RC2 may be nominal, such as 0.08mm in some embodiments. Furthermore, there is some tolerance in the sizing and diameters of the cups 400. Thus, it may be that some cups 400 may have rims 421 that contact the upstanding walls 230 while the rims 421 of other cups 400 may not contact the upstanding walls 230.

[0081] Thus, as best shown in FIG. 14, in some embodiments of the invention described herein the distal surface 227 of the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210 will contact (and possibly deform) the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup 400 of the stack of cups and the upstanding wall 230 of the main body 217 of the body portion 220 of the scrolls 210 will contact (and possibly deform) the outermost portion 423 of the rim 421 of the lowermost cup 400 of the stack of cups. In other embodiments, the distal surface 227 of the support ledges 212 of the scrolls 210 will contact the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup 400 but the outermost portion 423 of the rim 421 may be slightly spaced from the upstanding wall 230. In either case, it is believed that the contact between the distal surfaces 227 of the support ledges 212 and the under rim portion 430 of the lowermost cup 400 assists in the cup dispensing operation to decrease or eliminate failures while avoiding damage to the cup 400 (particularly the rim 421 of the cup 400) during the cup dispensing operation.

[0082] As mentioned above, the paper cups are selected for use in the machine and the dimensions of the paper cups may be modified depending on the beverage ingredient being held by that cup. This is done to maintain an adequate dispensing consistency and reduce the dispensing failure rate. Thus, in some embodiments Paper Cup V5 (see Table 2 for dimensional details) is used with beverage ingredients having a throw weight between 1.5g and 2.2g. Furthermore, in some embodiments the beverage ingredient used in Paper Cup V5 may have a particle size distribution such that no more than 4% of the beverage ingredient particles are larger than 106pm. In some embodiments, the particle size distribution of the beverage ingredient used in the Paper Cup V5 is as follows: <106um = 0.33% to 4%, <180um = 8.32%, <500um = 8% to 56%, <1180um = 43% to 75%. This larger particle size allows the beverage ingredient to sit comfortable in the cup without sticking to the sides. Furthermore, the beverage ingredient in the Paper Cup V5 may have an aerated bulk density between 0.16 and 0.28g/ml and a consolidated bulk density between 0.2 and 0.3g/ml. The Paper Cup V5 may also be successfully used with a beverage ingredient having a throw weight of approximately l lg and an aerated bulk density range of 0.8-0.9g/ml.

[0083] In some embodiments, Paper Cup V3 may be used with cold drink beverage ingredients having a throw weight between 1.9g and 2.7g, more specifically approximately 2.3g, and a particle size distribution including 30% less than lOOum and 1% greater than 500um. Furthermore, the aerated bulk density of the beverage ingredient in Paper Cup V3 may be between 0.5g/l and 0.65g/l. It should be appreciated that aerated bulk density is determined by filling with a known volume only under the influence of gravity whereas consolidated bulk density requires consolidating the particles by applying a force or pressure thereon.

[0084] In one particular embodiment, the stack of cups comprises a plurality of cups formed from paper, each having a draft angle between 3.5° and 4.5° and more specifically approximately 4°, a cup to cup clearance between 0.35mm and 0.45mm and more specifically approximately 0.39mm, and a stacking pitch between 10mm and 12mm and more specifically approximately 11mm. Furthermore, each of the cups contains a beverage ingredient comprising a plurality of particles such that the beverage ingredient has a throw weight less than 12g, and no more than 4% of the particles of the beverage ingredient are smaller than 106pm. In some such embodiments, the throw weight may be less than 3g.

[0085] In some embodiments, the machine 100 may hold stacks of different types of cups such that the cup is selected depending on the beverage ingredient held therein to maximize vending success. In one such embodiment, the machine 100 may support a first stack of cups comprising a plurality of first cups formed from paper. Each of the first cups may have a first draft angle and a first stacking pitch, and each of the first cups may contain a first beverage ingredient having a throw weight less than or equal to 12g and a particle size distribution such that no more than 4% of particles of the first beverage ingredient are smaller than 106pm. The machine 100 may also support a second stack of cups comprising a plurality of second cups formed from paper. Each of the second cups may have a second draft angle that is greater than the first draft angle of the first cups and a second stacking pitch that is less than the first stacking pitch of the first cups. Furthermore, each of the second cups may contain a second beverage ingredient having a particle size distribution such that no more than 1% of particles of the second beverage ingredient are greater than 500mhi. The particle size distribution of the second beverage ingredient in the second cups may also be such that at least 30% of the beverage ingredient particles are smaller than lOOum. Thus, in such an embodiment, the first cups may hold a beverage ingredient having a relatively larger particle size and the second cups may hold a beverage ingredient having a relatively smaller particle size.

[0086] As used throughout, ranges are used as shorthand for describing each and every value that is within the range. Any value within the range can be selected as the terminus of the range. In addition, all references cited herein are hereby incorporated by referenced in their entireties. In the event of a conflict in a definition in the present disclosure and that of a cited reference, the present disclosure controls. As used herein, the term“approximately” as it relates to a value, dimension, measurement, or the like is intended to allow for a tolerance of plus or minus 5% from the value, dimension, or measurement provided.

[0087] While the invention has been described with respect to specific examples including presently preferred modes of carrying out the invention, those skilled in the art will appreciate that there are numerous variations and permutations of the above described systems and techniques. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural and functional modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. Thus, the spirit and scope of the invention should be construed broadly as set forth in the appended claims.