Patent application title: Portable, compact, food seasoning replenishment system
Maurice Hunking (Lewisville, TX, US)
Brian Dale Turley (Garland, TX, US)
IPC8 Class: AA47G1924FI
Class name: Coating apparatus edible base or coating type projected of forced flow of coating material
Publication date: 2011-03-03
Patent application number: 20110048317
A portable seasonings replenishment system delivers, in a dust free
manner, food seasonings in powder-like state from a replenishment
seasonings supply residing in a hermetically sealable chamber. Portions
of the supply are ablated from the main body of seasonings through
impingement of air thereon emanating from a foraminous member supporting
the seasoning supply. As needed, the ablated seasoning portions are
dispensed through a conduit to a reception location at a food processing
1. Portable apparatus for distribution in a fluidized stream powder like
substances such as food seasonings, comprising:a canister serving to
receive a supply of such substances,rollable means arranged on a lower
portion of said canister serving to permit rolling movement of the
canister from station to station along a food processing deck,the
canister being equipped with a reception port and a discharge port for
passage there through of the powder like substances at a food processing
station;an air plenum chamber formed in one portion of said canister and
equipped to receive and hold a volume of pressurized air;a foraminous,
inclined member within said canister serving to define the upper portions
of said air plenum chamber and serving to support a supply of seasoning
powder;pressurized air inlet supply means in communication with said air
plenum chamber permitting air delivery into said chamber and thence
through said foraminous member to ablade portions of the seasoning powder
to transmute into a fluidize state;said discharge port communicating with
said foraminous member for moving the powder from the apparatus in a
2. The portable apparatus of claim 1 wherein said foraminous, inclined member is a cone and wherein spaced apart apertures extend through the cone walls and are arrayed in a pattern along a plurality of circumferential rows.
3. The portable apparatus of claim 2 wherein the apertures are formed with diameters in the range of about 0.01 inches (0.025 mm) to 0.05 inches (1.27 mm).
4. The portable apparatus of claim 1 wherein the portion of said canister having the powder reception port is hermetically sealable serving to support an air pressure head above the powder bulk supply.
5. The portable apparatus of claim 1 wherein the reception port on said canister comprises a door arranged in the top wall of said canister and configured therewith to establish a sealed closed, substantially air tight condition.
6. The portable apparatus of claim 2 wherein said foraminous cone member extends downwardly into said air plenum and at its upper perimeter is joined in a dust tight manner with the air plenum and canister.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention concerns distribution of powder-like substances and particularly relates to a readily portable apparatus, and its functional process, for distributing between multiple processing stations arranged along a food processing deck, particulate food seasonings such as curry powder, sausage seasoning, lemon pepper and the like, in a substantially dust-free, fluidized-like manner.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
In both the process food and snack food fields seasonings are applied to food products for enhancement of the consumers' taste experience as well as to establish the expected flavor profile typical of the products. Frequently the seasonings are furnished to the food processor in bulk, such as in sacks weighing 35 to 50 lbs (15.8 to 22.7 kg) or more. The seasonings are in fine particle form that can be characterized as a powder and frequently the particle sizes range from about 3 microns to about 3 mm. Although there are instances where the seasoning constituents are quite uniform in particle size, there are many other instances where the constituents are quite heterogeneous ranging from large to small particles and consequently tend to segregate into distinct volumes of the small and the large particles during storage.
Generally in food processing plants there are several operating lines producing products differing in sizes, shapes and flavors. Specific seasonings are associated with each of those products and are applied to the products at seasoning "stations" on the processing line. Each seasoning station includes a container or bin of some sort holding a supply of the designated seasonings from which the seasoning is dispensed. This container must be replenished from time to time during a product production run as the seasonings are dispensed on to the products. The intervals for replenishment vary and a replenishment system may stand idle during such intervals. In prior art replenishment systems it was found that during the idle intervals many of the powder like seasonings would segregate, coalesce or generally pack so tightly that to again effectively distribute them some human basic physical efforts were required such as applying blows on the sidewalls of the seasoning container, stirring using an implement or physically shaking the unit. The results of such efforts were uneven and clumps of seasonings would sometimes inadvertently be deposited on the food products which is quite undesirable.
Seasoning replenishment equipment desirably should be characterized by ease of cleaning so that different seasonings may be applied to differing products using the same equipment with only insignificant seasoning "carry over." The prior art screw conveyors, drag conveyors and bucket elevators were all difficult to clean and required large radius turns and large equipment footprints. In a food processing plant having a number of processing lines each requiring seasonings it is highly desirable to have the seasoning replenishment equipment readily portable so as to facilitate servicing the individual processing lines with ease and with a minimum of disruption or obstruction along the plant's processing deck.
Working with powder-like substances such as seasonings carries the risk of injecting particulate matter or "dust" into the ambient atmosphere within the food processing plant. This is a highly undesirable condition which, if left unaddressed, will deteriorate the working environment and, indeed, may amount to an industrial offense when contravening governmental regulations concerning dean air in the workplace. The prior art pneumatic conveying systems for seasonings seemed to exacerbate this risk and were vulnerable to air leaks, hence dust leaks, within the pneumatic seasonings conveying system. The amount of dust created in a powder transfer process is exponentially related to the volume and velocity of the air used. Moreover, in pneumatic conveying systems the phase density of the conveyed stream is usually quite low given that the propulsive air is mixed with the seasonings, causing a substantial degree of segregation, and also produces dust at the outlet. By phase density we mean powder flow in pounds (kgs) per hour divided by conveying air used in pounds (kgs) per hour. On the other hand, a high phase density means a higher efficiency and lower energy costs, less segregation, less product/seasoning damage and less dust. Long recognized is that system wear in powder conveying systems increases roughly to the 2.8 power of the conveying velocity. Depending on particle friability, size and shape the damage to seasoning particles increases by roughly the same exponent. By vastly increasing the phase density and lowering the transport velocity, the wear on components and damage to the seasoning powder goes down exponentially.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION AND OBJECTS
The invention in summary concerns a portable seasoning replenishment apparatus including a canister serving to contain a supply of a seasoning to be dispensed at a seasoning applying station arranged in a food processing line. The canister is portable in a rolling action to facilitate serving a plurality of processing stations. One portion of the body of the canister is equipped with a seasonings reception chamber and having reception port means and a seasonings discharge port means. Another portion of the canister body is equipped with a pneumatic chamber or plenum serving to receive a volume of pressurized air and being equipped with an air permeable member serving to emit air into the seasonings chamber at a rate sufficient to fluidize by ablating a portion of the seasonings therein most adjacent to the permeable member. The apparatus may carry its own pressurized air supply or may be connected with a supply of pressurized air within the processing plant. A flexible conduit is coupled to the seasonings discharge port for delivery of seasonings in a fluidized stream at the seasonings applying station in a substantially dust free manner.
A general object of the invention is to curb and control the dispersion of dust components of food seasonings within the food processing plant during seasoning transport at the needed replenishments.
Another object of the invention is to facilitate the handling of food seasonings of the type that tend to duster and sometimes segregate by transporting the seasonings in an improved and gentle manner in a continuous stream that eliminates the need to manually stir or agitate the seasonings such as when encouraging seasoning flow during the replenishing operation.
Still another object of the invention is to provide for the efficient transport of powder-like substances in an improved manner that utilizes a lowered volume and velocity of the transport air thereby to reduce substantially the velocity of the substances and to minimize the disturbance of the main bulk of the substance.
Yet another object of the invention is to reduce the segregation of multi-constituent powder during transport while reducing substantially the incidence of dust dispersion from the powder being moved.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a seasoning replenishment system for transporting powder-like substances that is non-segregating, non harmful to fragile products, low in energy consumption, reliable, dean and safe to operate.
These and other objects of the invention will become apparent from the descriptions of the preferred embodiments that follows taken in connection with the drawings illustrating the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the seasoning replenishment system made in accordance with and embodying the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a view like FIG. 1 and showing the opposite side of the replenishment system;
FIG. 3 is a perspective, three-quarter sectional view taken in the direction of the arrows 3-3 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view showing several major components of the subject system: plenum, air permeable cone and powder chamber displayed in a separated relationship, and
FIG. 5 is a greatly enlarged detailed view of the foraminous fluidizing cone showing the air passing apertures therein.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
The seasoning replenishment system 10 of the present invention is shown clearly in FIGS. 1-3 and comprises a canister body 11 carried by wheels 12 that enable its portability along a processing deck in a food processing plant. A handle 13 is mounted at an upper portion of the canister body 11 and a flexible, seasoning discharge conduit 14 is arranged in communication with the interior of the canister body in a manner to be more fully described below. A vertically adjustable support peg 16 is mounted on the body in a position spaced from the common axis of the wheels 11 so, acting together, the peg 16 and wheels 12 establish a stable platform for receipt and discharge of powder-like seasonings from the canister 11. A hermetically sealable product loading hatch or door 17 is arranged in the top of the canister body 11 providing for loading of food seasonings 20 into a powder chamber 15, as shown in FIG. 3.
A compressed air supply source 18 may be mounted integrally with the canister body 11, as shown in FIG. 1, and may comprise well known components such as an electric motor driven air compressor and an associated compressed air storage tank, pressure regulator valve, gauge and filter (not shown). An air supply conduit 19, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, serves to supply air at a preselected pressure into an air plenum 21 disposed as shown in FIG. 3 at a lower portion of the canister 11. Where the processing plant has a readily accessible supply of compressed air, as is frequently the case, the supply conduit 19 may be coupled to such air supply with appropriate couplings and air control valves and pressure gages, all well understood in the field. Desirably air pressure in the unit 10 for ablating and fluidizing purposes (which is to be distinguished from pneumatic conveying where air pressure "blows" the powder through a pipe) can be in the range of about 0.5 psi to about 12 psi. However the vast majority of seasoning powders 20 ablate from the bulk powder towards a fluidize flow below 7 psi and quite well at 3 psi. The operating principle is that when fluidized powder has all the properties of a fluid including hydrostatic head. Fluidized seasoning powder will readily flow up to a height above the container depending only on the difference in head pressure and the density of the powder. The fundamental formula Ap=yh applies where Ap=change in head pressure, y=the specific weight of the "liquid" (powder), and h=the change in elevation. It is this relationship that allows the velocity in the conduit 14 to be very low if desired, say for very fragile seasonings, or quite high. Pneumatic conveying systems cannot obtain such ranges of low flow velocities.
The air plenum 21 is shown in FIG. 4 separately from the assembled arrangement of FIG. 3 and includes a cylindrical sidewall 22 ending at the upper portion with an outwardly extending belt flange 23. Secured to the sidewall 22 is a bottom plate 24 with a central opening 26 for receipt there through in an air tight manner the seasoning discharge conduit 14. An air conduit fitting 27 is mounted in the sidewall 22 to receive compressed air from the air conduit 19.
Referring specifically to FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, a right cone 31 of foraminous construction is shown and is equipped with a circumferential flange 32 at its widest upper portion, the flange 32 being constructed to mate in an air tight manner with the belt flange 23 of the plenum 21. At its lower portion the foraminous cone 31 is equipped with a coupling 33 that enables a connection with the seasoning discharge conduit 14 as indicated in FIGS. 3 and 4b. It will be understood that seasoning powder 20 loaded into the powder chamber 15 seasoning unit 10 will free fall and be supported by the cone 31. To prevent the powder 20 from packing down, the cone 31 is equipped with a multiplicity of apertures 34 for receiving there through a flow of air from the air plenum 24 which serves to "liquidify" the powder by ablating the boundary layer of seasoning powder laying on the cone 31, or in other words cause the layer of powder 20 to react much like a liquid, flow like a liquid including supporting a "hydrostatic head." This quality enables the powder to flow through the conduit 14 for delivery to the selected seasoning station on the processing plant's operation deck (not shown).
The apertures 34 are formed in the fluidizing cone 31 in a process that virtually eliminates burrs which could impede smooth downward flow of the seasoning powder. One process that was found satisfactory, although others may be available, is that of chemical etching causing a hole through the stainless steel cone 31. A preferable aperture or diametric hole size is about 0.03 inches (0.76 mm) although holes in the range of about 0.01 inches (0.025 mm) to 0.05 inches (1.27 mm) are effective to help the boundary layer of powder (where the powder seeks to contact the walls of the cone 31) to collapse and to keep the powder fluidized for flow through the conduit 14.
The apertures or holes 34 may be arrayed in horizontal rings along the cone wall in a spaced apart relationship in a range of about 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) to about 3.5 inches (88.9 mm) between adjacent holes in the ring with the spacing gradually increasing with the increase in the diameter of the ring. However the holes 34 in the uppermost rings are preferably about 2 inches (50.8 mm) apart so as to encourage more air flow sufficient to squelch the tendency of the power to clump or adhere to the adjacent metal surfaces.
The powder chamber 15 is provided with downward and outwardly tapering sidewalls as may be seen in FIG. 3. This feature serves to discourage the seasoning powder 20 from adhering to the sidewalls and will encourage the powder when fluidized or liquefied along the boundary layer to flow from the powder chamber out through the conduit 14 in a quasi liquid or fluidized manner. A circumferential flange 35 on the chamber 15 is configured to match with the flanges 21 and 32 for securing together in an air tight manner the components 15, 21 and 31 to negate the dispersal of dust into the operating environment of the unit 10. It will be understood, as illustrated in FIG. 3, that just the seasoning powder 36 that comes in range of the fluidizing apertures or jets 34 (a boundary layer) in the cone 31 becomes fluidized through ablation and flows downwardly, as indicated by the arrows 37, while the large bulk of powder in the powder chamber 15 is not fluidized. Furthermore air flowing through the jets or apertures 34 penetrates or migrates through the powder bulk and pressurizes the powder chamber 15 furnishing a pressure head to the fluidized powder for delivery through the discharge conduit 14.
In operation of the seasoning apparatus 10 it is to first initially charge the powder chamber 15 with a selected food seasoning 20 via the hermetically sealable hatch 17. A bag or sack of food seasonings may weigh from 35 to 50 lbs. (15.8 to 22.7 kg) and the capacity of the powder chamber 15 is ample to receive such quantity of seasonings or more. Commonly, when a bag of seasoning is poured into the powder chamber the powder mixture is segregated by various segregation mechanisms but when processed through the apparatus 10 the segregated quality is minimized and a substantially uniform seasoning out flow results. The seasonings discharge conduit 14 may terminate in a control or shut-off nozzle (not shown) so that seasoning flow may be stopped, kinking the conduit over a 180 degree bend can have the same effect of halting the initial seasoning flow or the discharge end may be simply elevated above the hydrostatic head. Pressurized air is delivered into the air plenum 21 via the conduit 19 from a suitable air supply 18 or the like thus charging the plenum 21 with air pressure in the desirable range of about 3 psi thus to liquefy or fluidize a quantum of the seasoning powder in the boundary layer along the upper surface of the cone 31 via air migration through the apertures 34 in the cone. An air pressure head is established in the powder chamber 15 above the pile or bulk of seasonings. The fluidized seasoning will thereby flow through the discharge conduit 14 to the delivery point at a food processing station for replenishing the seasonings carried away by the food products being processed. In the processing plant the seasoning replenishment apparatus 10 is parked next to the hopper contained on a seasoning applicator (not shown). By means of an automatic sensing system in the hopper the level of seasoning in the hopper and applicator 10, the hopper is kept full until the apparatus' 10 capacity is depleted of seasoning. At this point the apparatus 10 may be removed for refilling and then returned and reconnected to the hopper while the seasoning equipment continues operation. The ready portability of the unit 10 enabled by the wheels 12, handle 13 and stability peg 16 is a large advantage for servicing several processing stations in the processing plant, rather than to have plant personnel lugging sacks of seasonings from station to station for dumping and thus raising clouds of dust in such operation. The seasoning apparatus 10 provides for essentially dust free delivery of food seasonings in the replenishing mode and effects an economy in the use of all of the seasonings with none resulting in objectionable dust in the processing plant during the replenishment operation.
Presently there is a high awareness of food and seasoning allergies. It is essential to thoroughly clean a food processing system of any trace of the previous seasoning before the next batch with a different seasoning is run. The seasoning replenishment apparatus 10 is simple and easy to dean and with its portability can be removed from the processing area and replaced with another apparatus 10 loaded with another variety of seasoning.
Generally food seasoning are highly hydroscopic and are supplied in plastic lined bags. When a run of a particular seasoning is completed and there is seasoning remaining in another type of conveying system this must be discarded because of its attractiveness for moisture in the air. The replenishment apparatus 10 as described herein acts as an air tight, sanitary storage container for the seasoning powder remaining at the end of the last processing run. The savings here can be considerable.
While we have shown and described above what is considered to be a preferred embodiment of our invention in a portable, compact, food seasoning replenishment system and the process related thereto, we do not limit ourselves to the exact details of the construction set forth or to the air pressures and aperture sizes and orientation disclosed, and our invention embraces such changes, modifications and equivalents of the parts and their formation and arrangement as coming within the purview of the terms of the claims which follow below.
Patent applications in class Projected of forced flow of coating material
Patent applications in all subclasses Projected of forced flow of coating material