The invention relates to a device for cleaning drinks receptacles, particularly, for cleaning casks, barrels or kegs used in the brewing and distilling industries, so that they can be reused and refilled.
Background to the Invention
Casks, barrels and kegs that are often used in the drinks industry are difficult to safely clean, sanitize, and reuse. The unused beer and organic matter inside the dark wet receptacle create a perfect environment for microorganisms to incubate and grow. Furthermore, the other components residue beer drink can leave other contaminants within the receptacle and they can be very difficult to remove. Therefore, the inside of the receptacle must be thoroughly cleaned before reuse, otherwise, there is a significant risk of contamination and health risks to the consumers of drinks subsequently stored in the receptacle.
Presently, when casks, barrels and/or kegs need to be cleaned, cleaning solutions are used which can often involve caustic chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. If the cleaning solution is not completely removed from the cask, barrel or keg, before the receptacle is next used, the flavour of the beverage may be impaired, or the residual chemicals may cause injury to those that consume the beverage.
-2Summary of the Invention
Accordingly, the present invention is directed to an automated beverage storage receptacle cleaning device comprising:
an inlet into which a beverage storage receptacle can be inserted;
a beverage storage receptacle securing device to hold and secure the beverage storage receptacle in place;
an ultra-high-pressure fluid lance that is arranged to be inserted into and removed from the secured beverage storage receptacle;
an outlet from which the beverage storage receptacle is output once cleaned.
In accordance with the present invention, beverage storage receptacles, which may be in the form of casks, barrels and/or kegs, can be placed into an automated cleaning device, as set out herein. The storage receptacle is held securely within the device whilst a highpressure fluid lance is inserted into the receptacle and high-pressure fluid, preferably ultra-high-pressure fluid, is employed to clean the inside of the storage receptacle. The automated device of the present invention allows for a simplified and safer cleaning system that is also more environmentally friendly as fewer chemicals are required.
The use of ultra-high-pressure fluid, which may be dispensed from the lance at a pressure of between 14,000kPa and 250,000kPa, can reduce the need for cleaning solutions because the pressure of the fluid within the receptacle is able to clean the internal surface. It may be desirable to employ a lower pressure, such as high-pressure fluid closer to 14,000kPa; however, it is particularly beneficial that the fluid is dispensed at ultra-high pressure, that is, at a pressure of 250,000kPa, or substantially that pressure, for example, between 150,000kPa and 275,000kPa, and, preferably between 230,000kPa and 255,000kPa. The high-pressure fluid is able to dislodge any residue within the receptacle and, with the pressure being so great, any micro-organisms within the receptacle are also killed upon contact with the high-pressure fluid dispensed from the high-pressure lance. This allows the storage receptacle to be cleaned using a considerably lower concentration of cleaning chemicals. It is envisaged that the receptacles can be cleaned without the use
-3 of any chemicals, thereby making the system safer for users, consumers of the liquid stored within the storage receptable and for the environment. Thus, the waste liquid from the cleaning process may be majority water with organic matter from the previously stored beverage.
The present invention has the additional benefit of not requiring the application of heat to either heat the cleaning fluid or dry the receptacle, thereby reducing the energy required to clean the receptacle.
It is preferable that after the inlet to the automated cleaning device, the device comprises a plurality of lanes, each lane having a beverage storage receptacle securing device and a high-pressure fluid lance. This arrangement allows for multiple storage receptacles to be cleaned in parallel, thereby making the system quicker to use than conventional cleaning systems that clean receptacles in series. It may be that the plurality of lanes is connected to a common outlet to allow for a single inlet and a single outlet, although it will be appreciated that the device may be provided with individual outlets for each of the plurality of lanes.
Whilst the storage receptacle can be moved over the lance so that the receptacle is placed over the high-pressure lance with the high-pressure lance received internally within the receptacle, it is advantageous that the, or each, high-pressure fluid lance is connected to a lifting carriage to raise and lower the lance, relative to the secured storage receptacle. This allows the storage receptacle to be held still whilst the lance is moved inside the storage receptacle and then removed therefrom. Furthermore, in such an arrangement, the receptacle can move through the system at a generally constant height from the ground, thereby reducing energy requirements.
In a preferred arrangement, the, or each, high-pressure fluid lance is provided with a rotary drive. This allows the lance to be rotated to ensure that the internal surface of the storage receptacle is exposed to the high-pressure fluid. Additionally, or alternatively, it may be that the rotary drive is applied to the securing device to rotate the storage receptacle relative to the lance; however, it is generally easier to rotate the lance.
-4The securing device may comprise at least one clamp to releasably grip and retain the beverage storage receptacle. This allows the storage receptacle that is to be cleaned to be held securely within the automated cleaning device to avoid it becoming dislodged during the cleaning process.
In one arrangement, conveyors are provided to move the beverage storage receptacle between the inlet and the outlet via the securing device. The conveyers may be employed to move the storage receptacles from the inlet, along the, or a, cleaning lane of the device to the securing device. The conveyers may then take the storage receptacle from the securing device to the, or the respective, outlet of the device. The conveyors provide a convenient and reliable movement system to transport the storage receptacles linearly through the cleaning device.
It is advantageous that the high-pressure lance is provided with a supply of water. A separate cleaning fluid reservoir may be provided, but it is preferred that the fluid dispensed from the high-pressure lance is mostly, if not completely, water.
The present invention extends to a method of cleaning beverage storage receptacles comprising the steps of:
loading a beverage storage receptacle into the inlet of a device according to any preceding claim;
gripping the beverage storage receptacle in the securing device;
when the beverage storage receptacle is held within the securing device, moving the high-pressure lance such that it is at least partially positioned within the beverage storage receptacle;
dispensing fluid at a pressure of over 14,000kPA (2,000 psi), and preferably at a pressure of between 150,000kPa and 260,000kPa, advantageously at 250,000kPa, through the high-pressure lance to clean the inside of the beverage storage receptacle;
removing the high-pressure lance from within the beverage storage receptacle;
un-gripping the beverage storage receptacle from the securing device; and dispensing the beverage storage receptacle from the device via the outlet.
- 5 The automated cleaning device allows for a method of cleaning beverage storage receptacles that is safer for users, consumers and the environment because fewer, or no, chemicals are required. Furthermore, the user inserts the beverage storage receptacle at the inlet of the device and retrieves it from the outlet once it has been cleaned. Therefore, there is a reduced risk of operator error causing injury to the operator or the storage receptacle.
It is preferable that in the method of the present invention, the fluid dispensed from the high-pressure lance is majority, or entirely, water.
Brief Description of the Drawings
An embodiment of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
Figure 1 shows a perspective view of an automated beverage storage receptacle cleaning device in accordance with the present invention;
Figure 2 shows a top view of the cleaning device Figure 1;
Figure 3 shows an end view of the cleaning device of Figure 1;
Figure 4 shows a view of the lance module of the cleaning device of Figure 1; and Figure 5 shows a further view of the lance module of the cleaning device of Figure 1.
Detailed Description of Exemplary Embodiments
Figures 1 to 5 show a beverage storage receptacle cleaning device 10 comprising a modular arrangement of stations. The modular stations of the invention comprise an inlet 12, having an inlet conveyor, that is connected to two lateral passageways 14, wherein the two lateral passageways 14 extend in opposing directions from the inlet 12 so as to reach from the inlet 12 to two spaced apart lanes 16. Above the inlet 12 is a top carriage 15 that is provided with a selection arm 17 that extends downwards towards the lateral passageways 14 to direct to one of the two lateral passageways 14. The end of each lateral passageway 14 that is distal from the inlet 12 is provided with a receptacle pusher
The receptacle pusher 18 is arranged to move a receptacle from the lateral conveyor 14 onto a first end of a cleaning approach conveyor 20. The other end of the cleaning approach conveyor 20 is arranged to enter into a cleaning station 22, within which is a securing device in the form of a receptacle clamp 24 to receive a receptacle and to securely retain it within the cleaning station 22. The receptacle clamp 24 further incorporates a receptacle rotation assembly 25 that is able to rotate a receptacle held therein.
Below the cleaning station 22 is an ultra-high-pressure lance 26 that is mounted upon a lifting carriage 28. A linear drive 30 is provided to raise and lower the lance 26 from a first position to a second position, as shown in Figure 5.
The adjacent the cleaning station 22, on the side that is distal from the inlet 12, is a first end of a removal conveyor 32, that is arranged to take cleaned receptacles from the cleaning station 22. The second end of the removal conveyor 32 is provided with a pusher 34 arranged to extend over the removal conveyor 32 to push receptacles from the removal conveyor 32 onto an outlet 36. The outlet 36 is common to both lanes 16 and so it will be appreciated that the respective pushers 34 in each lane 16 are directed towards one another and towards the common outlet 36.
Guides 38 are provided on the conveyors to ensure that the receptacles are moved in the correct direction. Furthermore, drip trays 40 are provided beneath the cleaning station 22 and may be positioned beneath the conveyors and/or other parts of the device to collect wastewater.
In use, an operator leads a dirty receptacle into the inlet 12 of the device 10 with the opening to the receptacle downwards, that is, facing the floor. The receptacle is then moved laterally by the selection arm 17 through the passageway 14 towards one of the two lanes 16. Once moved laterally, the receptacle pusher 18 slides the receptable to the cleaning approach conveyor 20, which takes the receptacle into the cleaning station 22, passing through guides 38 on the way in order to centralise and stabilise the receptacle. Once received within the cleaning station 22, the receptacle clamp 24 grips the receptacle
-7and secures it within the cleaning station 22. The high-pressure lance carriage 28 is then raised by the linear drive 30 so that the high-pressure lance 26 is inserted within the receptacle. The high-pressure lance 26 then dispenses water through its end at a pressure of 250,000kPa, which cleans the inside of the receptacle. The high-pressure lance and/or the receptacle may be rotated to ensure an even clean. The wastewater falls from the receptacle into drip trays 40 and may be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
Once cleaned, the receptacle moves through to the removal conveyor 32 and reaches the end of the same, at which point, the pusher 34 directs the receptacle towards the outlet 36, from which it exits the device via a conveyor.
It will be appreciated that the receptacles may be places on an angle rather than being positioned in an “opening-down” manner.
Where cleaning products are employed, it may be desirable to reduce the pressure of the fluid exiting the cleaning lance to that of high-pressure, that is to say, fluid at a pressure of over 14,000kPa. It is envisaged that the pressure of the fluid may be over 200,000kPa and, preferably around 250,000kPa. The most effective pressure was found to be substantially 250,000kPa. A fluid pressure greater than this and more than this can damage the material of the beverage storage receptacle, particularly if the lance or receptacle is not rotated with sufficient speed.
The lance carriage may be controlled in respect of its travel speed and the rotation of the carriage and/or the lance and/or the receptacle may be controlled to ensure the most appropriate parameters for thoroughly cleaning the receptacle. The whole device and system may be automated, thereby just requiring the loading and unloading of the device. Alternatively, part of the device and system may be automated, thereby requiring some operator interaction.