WO2019073196A1 - An assembly for processing food ingredients - Google Patents

An assembly for processing food ingredients Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2019073196A1
WO2019073196A1 PCT/GB2018/052702 GB2018052702W WO2019073196A1 WO 2019073196 A1 WO2019073196 A1 WO 2019073196A1 GB 2018052702 W GB2018052702 W GB 2018052702W WO 2019073196 A1 WO2019073196 A1 WO 2019073196A1
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
assembly
mixing
food ingredients
chamber
drive shaft
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2018/052702
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Richard Weil
Howe CHONG
Ken Lam
Vincent Chan
Darren HUI
Original Assignee
Kenwood Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by Kenwood Limited filed Critical Kenwood Limited
Publication of WO2019073196A1 publication Critical patent/WO2019073196A1/en

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A23FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS; TREATMENT THEREOF, NOT COVERED BY OTHER CLASSES
    • A23PSHAPING OR WORKING OF FOODSTUFFS, NOT FULLY COVERED BY A SINGLE OTHER SUBCLASS
    • A23P30/00Shaping or working of foodstuffs characterised by the process or apparatus
    • A23P30/20Extruding
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47JKITCHEN EQUIPMENT; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; APPARATUS FOR MAKING BEVERAGES
    • A47J43/00Implements for preparing or holding food, not provided for in other groups of this subclass
    • A47J43/04Machines for domestic use not covered elsewhere, e.g. for grinding, mixing, stirring, kneading, emulsifying, whipping or beating foodstuffs, e.g. power-driven
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47JKITCHEN EQUIPMENT; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; APPARATUS FOR MAKING BEVERAGES
    • A47J43/00Implements for preparing or holding food, not provided for in other groups of this subclass
    • A47J43/04Machines for domestic use not covered elsewhere, e.g. for grinding, mixing, stirring, kneading, emulsifying, whipping or beating foodstuffs, e.g. power-driven
    • A47J43/07Parts or details, e.g. mixing tools, whipping tools
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47JKITCHEN EQUIPMENT; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; APPARATUS FOR MAKING BEVERAGES
    • A47J9/00Apparatus or utensils for shaping or dispensing portions of butter or the like
    • A47J9/003Apparatus or utensils for shaping or dispensing portions of butter or the like by slicing slabs or prints into pats
    • A47J9/005Apparatus or utensils for shaping or dispensing portions of butter or the like by slicing slabs or prints into pats combined with extrusion or molding
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B02CRUSHING, PULVERISING, OR DISINTEGRATING; PREPARATORY TREATMENT OF GRAIN FOR MILLING
    • B02CCRUSHING, PULVERISING, OR DISINTEGRATING IN GENERAL; MILLING GRAIN
    • B02C18/00Disintegrating by knives or other cutting or tearing members which chop material into fragments
    • B02C18/30Mincing machines with perforated discs and feeding worms

Definitions

  • This invention relates to the processing of food ingredients. More specifically, the invention relates to apparatus and methods for processing food ingredients to make a snack-bar, such as a cereal and oat bar, for example.
  • Snack-bars are typically formed from raw ingredients such as oats and other cereals; puffed rice; raisins; cut, sliced and/or grated nuts; and fruits, in addition to ingredients such as honey, syrup, or similar, that may act as a binding material to hold (or 'glue') the ingredients together to maintain a desired shape or form.
  • the present invention provides apparatus and methods for processing food ingredients, which can be used to form snack-bars, thereby ameliorating the above-mentioned problems. Aspects and embodiments of the present invention are set out in the appended claims. These and other aspects and embodiments of the invention are also described herein. Broadly, the invention provides a food processing apparatus which can comminute and/or mix and/or form ingredients for making a snack bar, preferably using a common drive shaft which may be coupled to a rotary drive outlet, for example of a kitchen machine such as a stand mixer.
  • a food processing assembly comprising: a rotatable drive shaft having a proximal end and a distal end, the proximal end being adapted for coupling to a rotary drive outlet; means for comminuting food ingredients; and means for mixing the comminuted food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting and the means for mixing are both adapted to be driven by the rotatable drive shaft.
  • the comminuting means and mixing means are arranged along the drive shaft in series.
  • the comminuting means is arranged to cut and/or chop the food ingredients.
  • the means for comminuting is a grinder, preferably a burr-grinder.
  • the grinder comprises a rotor and a stator having cooperating surfaces arranged to comminute the food ingredients between them when the rotor is rotated, for example wherein one or both of the surfaces are abrasive surfaces.
  • the rotor is attached to the shaft and the stator is arranged to be fixed relative to the rotor such that the stator remains stationary during rotation of the rotor.
  • the assembly further comprises means for adjusting the spacing between the rotor and stator.
  • the assembly further comprises one or more guide pins arranged to aid alignment of the rotor relative to the stator.
  • the means for mixing may comprise at least one elongate mixing element.
  • the mixing element may be configured as a helical coil, preferably at least in part.
  • the mixing element comprises substantially one complete turn of a helix.
  • the mixing element comprises two generally parallel portions.
  • the mixing element is mounted, and more preferably the parallel portions are mounted, to the drive shaft via a pair of struts, and still more preferably such that the mixing element is spaced from the drive shaft.
  • the struts are attached to the drive shaft on opposing sides of the drive shaft, for example such that the struts are diametrically opposed so that the drive shaft passes through the mixing element.
  • the struts attach to the mixing element at regions of the mixing element that are remote from the (free) ends of the mixing element.
  • the pitch and/or the radius of the helical coil reduces towards the distal end of the shaft.
  • the at least one mixing element comprises a first mixing element and a second mixing element.
  • the two mixing elements are configured as opposing helixes, for example wherein the first mixing element is arranged as a right-hand helix and the second mixing element is arranged as a left-hand helix, or vice versa.
  • the first and second mixing elements are arranged to intersect at the drive shaft, and more preferably at a position towards the distal end of the drive shaft.
  • the at least one mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
  • the ends of the mixing element are tapered to form a substantially flat edge, for example such that the ends are wedge-shaped.
  • the mixing element is arranged to be detachably mountable to the drive shaft.
  • the mixing element is keyed such that it can only be mounted to the drive shaft in a desired orientation.
  • the assembly further comprises a main housing arranged to define a chamber, wherein the means for mixing is disposed for rotation within said chamber.
  • the main housing is arranged such that the drive shaft is generally horizontally disposed within the chamber, for example in use.
  • an inner surface of the chamber is profiled to facilitate mixing of the comminuted food ingredients by the means for mixing.
  • the means for mixing further comprises means for engaging an inner surface of the chamber whereby to dislodge deposited material.
  • the means for engaging comprises one or more flexible elements disposed on the means for mixing, for example wherein said flexible elements are arranged to wipe the inner surface of the chamber.
  • the inner surface of the mixing chamber is provided with one or more ribs arranged to dislodge food ingredients deposited on the means for mixing as it rotates within the mixing chamber.
  • the one or more ribs are arranged to present an edge in the direction of rotation of the means for mixing to help cut through the food ingredients.
  • the main housing is arranged to provide at least one inlet to the chamber for comminuted food ingredients to be introduced into the chamber, and more preferably wherein said means for comminuting is disposed at said inlet.
  • the at least one inlet comprises a first inlet for comminuted food ingredients, and a second inlet through which food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber without being comminuted.
  • the assembly further comprises a further housing arranged to define a further chamber having an inlet for receiving food ingredients to be comminuted, said further chamber being connected to the inlet for comminuted food ingredients provided by the main housing.
  • the assembly further comprises means for conveying food ingredients to the means for comminuting, said means for conveying being disposed for rotation within the further chamber.
  • the means for conveying is also adapted to be driven by the drive shaft.
  • the means for conveying comprises a lead screw arranged to function as a screw conveyor.
  • the means for conveying is arranged to compress the food ingredients during conveyance.
  • the means for comminuting is disposed in series between the means for conveying and the means for mixing.
  • an inner surface of the further housing is profiled to facilitate conveying of the food ingredients, and more preferably wherein the further housing is generally hollow and/or tubular and/or cylindrical.
  • the further housing is arranged to form part of the means for comminuting, for example the stator of a grinder arrangement.
  • the further housing comprises means for attachment to a kitchen machine, for example a stand mixer.
  • the assembly further comprises means for extruding the mixed food ingredients.
  • the means for extruding comprises a lead screw adapted to be rotated by the drive shaft and arranged to function as an extruding screw.
  • the means for extruding is a scroll-type extruder.
  • the extruding lead screw and the conveying lead screw have the same screw handedness.
  • the main housing is further arranged to define an extruding chamber for (the) means for extruding to be disposed for rotation therein.
  • an inner surface of the extruding chamber is profiled to facilitate extrusion of the mixed food ingredients.
  • the main housing further comprises an outlet for the mixed food ingredients, and more preferably the outlet is arranged to output extruded food ingredients, for example wherein the outlet is configured to form the extruded food ingredients into a desired shape.
  • the assembly further comprises means for cutting the food ingredients once said food ingredients have been formed into a desired shape.
  • the assembly further comprises: a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and a second inlet; wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
  • an assembly for processing food ingredients comprising: a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and second inlet; and means for comminuting food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
  • the assembly further comprises means for mixing food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber.
  • the assembly further comprises a drive shaft, wherein both the means for comminuting and the means for mixing food ingredients are arranged on the same drive shaft.
  • the assembly further comprises means for extruding food ingredients arranged within the chamber.
  • the assembly further comprises: means for coupling to a food processor; and means for engaging a drive output of a food processor so as to drive the means for comminuting.
  • an assembly for processing food ingredients comprising: a housing defining a chamber; means for mixing food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber; wherein the means for mixing has a helical configuration, at least in part.
  • the means for mixing is arranged to rotate within the chamber such that at least part of the means for mixing is constantly in close proximity with an interior surface of the chamber.
  • the assembly further comprises a drive shaft disposed for rotation within the chamber and adapted to rotate the means for mixing.
  • the assembly is configured as an attachment for a kitchen machine having a rotary drive outlet.
  • an apparatus comprising the aforementioned assembly; and a rotary drive outlet adapted to provide rotary drive to the assembly.
  • a mixing tool for a mixing assembly comprising: a mixing element having a helical configuration, at least in part; wherein the mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
  • a method for processing food ingredients comprising: comminuting food ingredients using a means for comminuting food ingredients; and mixing the comminuted food ingredients using a means for mixing food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting and the means for mixing are both adapted to be rotated by a common drive shaft.
  • a method for processing food ingredients comprising: arranging a chamber to have a first inlet and a second inlet; comminuting food ingredients and introducing said comminuted food ingredients into a chamber via a first inlet; introducing one or more food ingredients into the chamber via a second inlet; and wherein the comminuting means is arranged disposed at the first inlet to the chamber such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
  • the invention extends to an apparatus for processing food ingredients substantially as herein described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings.
  • the invention also extends to a method for processing food ingredients substantially as herein described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings.
  • the invention extends to apparatus and/or methods for processing food ingredients as described herein and/or as illustrated in the accompanying figures.
  • the word 'comminute' preferably connotes the reduction of solid materials from one average particle size to a smaller average particle size, by crushing, grinding, cutting, vibrating, or any other similar processes.
  • the word 'or' can be interpreted in the exclusive or inclusive sense unless stated otherwise.
  • the field of use includes the preparation and/or processing of: chemicals; pharmaceuticals; paints; building materials; clothing materials; agricultural and/or veterinary feeds and/or treatments, including fertilisers, grain and other agricultural and/or veterinary products; oils; fuels; dyes; cosmetics; plastics; tars; finishes; waxes; varnishes; beverages; medical and/or biological research materials; solders; alloys; effluent; and/or other substances, and any reference to 'food' (or similar language) herein may be replaced by such working mediums.
  • the processing of food may include the processing and/or blending of liquid, and may also include the processing of solid food or ice into a liquid form.
  • the invention described here may be used in or with any kitchen appliance (or 'machine') and/or as a stand-alone device.
  • This includes any domestic food-processing and/or preparation machine, including both top-driven machines (e.g. stand-mixers) and bottom-driven machines (e.g. blenders). It may be implemented in or with heated and/or cooled machines. It may be used in or with a machine that is built-in to a work-top or work surface, or in a stand-alone device.
  • the invention can also be provided as a standalone device, whether motor-driven or manually powered.
  • the invention may be embodied as an assembly (or apparatus) configured as an attachment for a kitchen appliance arranged as a host device for the attachment and providing a, preferably rotary, drive outlet.
  • the kitchen appliance may be a dedicated stand-alone driver unit or a multi-purpose kitchen machine, such as a stand mixer.
  • Any apparatus feature as described herein may also be provided as a method feature, and vice versa.
  • means plus function features may be expressed alternatively in terms of their corresponding structure.
  • the means for comminuting food ingredients may be a grinder, such as a burr-grinder; the means for mixing may be a mixing element (or 'tool'); and the means for conveying and extruding may be provided by arrangements comprising a lead screw, configured as a screw conveyor and a screw extruder, respectively.
  • any feature in one aspect of the invention may be applied to other aspects of the invention, in any appropriate combination.
  • method aspects may be applied to apparatus aspects, and vice versa.
  • any, some and/or all features in one aspect can be applied to any, some and/or all features in any other aspect, in any appropriate combination. It should also be appreciated that particular combinations of the various features described and defined in any aspects of the invention can be implemented and/or supplied and/or used independently.
  • Figure 1 shows an assembly for processing food ingredients according to the present invention
  • Figure 2 shows a cross-sectional view the assembly of Figure 1 disposed for rotation within a (main) housing;
  • Figure 3 is a schematic illustration of a portion of the assembly of Figures 1 and 2;
  • Figures 4, 5 and 6 show various views of an exemplary mixing element for use with the assembly of Figure 1 ;
  • Figure 7 is a further view of the assembly of Figure 1 ;
  • Figure 8 is an alternative example of the assembly for processing food ingredients of Figure 1.
  • the present invention relates to the processing of food ingredients, and in particular an assembly for processing food ingredients for making a snack-bar, which is arranged to separate the production process into separate stages.
  • the separate stages may include one or more of the following: comminuting, mixing, forming, and transferring.
  • each stage of the process is carried out by a different tool of the apparatus.
  • each tool (or at least two of the tools) is driven by the same (or a 'common') drive.
  • the drive is 'rotary' drive delivered via a drive shaft common to the tools, which itself may be adapted to be driven by a rotary drive outlet, such as an electric motor to which it may be coupled, for example.
  • the rotary drive is, preferably, delivered about a horizontal axis, in use.
  • Each tool is, preferably, mounted in series (or 'sequentially') along the drive shaft.
  • FIG. 1 and 7 shows an assembly 100 for processing food ingredients according to an exemplary embodiment.
  • the assembly 100 includes a drive shaft 102 having a distal end 102a and a proximal end 102b.
  • the proximal end 102b is arranged to couple (or to be coupled) with a rotary drive outlet (not shown), for example which may be provided by a kitchen appliance such as a stand mixer (in particular, a front horizontal output drive).
  • the proximal end 102b may therefore be provided with a suitable fixture (not shown) configured to complement a coupling mechanism of the rotary drive outlet.
  • the coupling mechanism will, preferably, enable the drive shaft 102 to be releasably attached to the rotary drive outlet while enabling the drive shaft 102 to be rotatably driven.
  • the comminution device is a grinder 104, preferably a 'burr grinder', comprising a rotor 106 and a stator 108.
  • the grinder 104 is mounted and/or forms part of a housing 1 10.
  • the stator 108 may be an integral part of the housing 1 10 or it may be adapted to be attached thereto.
  • the housing 1 10 and its components will be described in more detail further on.
  • the rotor 106 is mounted to the drive shaft 102 so as to be rotated by it, though the rotor 106 may alternatively be integral to the drive shaft 102.
  • stopping elements also referred to as "travel limiters”
  • the travel limiters 1 1 1 may, for example, take the form of flat-ended rod-shaped protrusions that can slide against the other half.
  • the travel limiters 1 1 1 When the rotor and the stator are brought close enough together, the travel limiters 1 1 1 will contact the other of the rotor or the stator in an area free of grinding ribs 1 15 (e.g., a smooth ring 1 13 near the rim) to prevent the grinding ribs of the rotor and the stator from coming into contact.
  • the travel limiters only extend about a small section of the circumference of the stator/rotor so as not to obstruct ingredient outflow 1 17.
  • the stator 108 may be integrally formed with the grinder inlet 1 14 and/or housing 1 10, or it may be fastened in place (e.g. bolted, clipped or screwed) to keep it rotationally stationary relative to the rotor 106.
  • Both the rotor 106 and stator 108 are, preferably, at least partially coated with a 'non-stick' material, such as Teflon ® . Where a coating that may be easily damages, for example scratched off, is used, the opposed grinding surfaces of the rotor 106 and the stator 108 may be absent of the coating to prevent such coating material ending up in the ingredients.
  • the grinder 104 may undergo (relatively high levels of) mechanical stress when processing hard ingredients, and therefore the rotor 106 and/or stator 108 are preferably made from a durable material, such as stainless steel, which is a relatively hard material compared to the ingredients it will be processing.
  • a durable material such as stainless steel
  • the spacing between the rotor 106 and stator 108 may be adjustable.
  • the adjustment can be performed manually using an adjustment mechanism such as a slidable adjustment knob 1 16 that is arranged to move the stator 108 (linearly) relative to the rotor 106 thereby to adjust the distance between them.
  • the adjustment knob 1 16 is coupled to the grinder inlet 1 14 thereby to move the grinder inlet along with the rotor.
  • the housing 1 10 is provided with a recess 116-1 for accommodating lateral sliding of the adjustment knob 1 16 and inlet grinder.
  • the recess 1 16-1 also acts as a travel limiter in a direction that separates the grinder and stator.
  • the adjustment mechanism protrudes out of the housing in such a way that it fits into notches in the housing (not shown) so as to hold the stator at specific distances from the rotor.
  • the grinder adjustment slider 1 16 may be attached to the stator 108 via the grinder inlet 1 14, and therefore moves the grinder inlet 1 14 during a sliding adjustment.
  • the spacing could alternatively be performed automatically using linear actuators, for example.
  • One or more grinder guide pins 118 may be provided to help align the rotor 106 with the stator 108, and thereby avoid misalignment of the rotor 106 and stator 108 of the grinder 104 during adjustment.
  • the guide pins 1 18 are disposed between the housing 1 10 and the stator 108, and are arranged to engage with a shoulder 106a (e.g. a flange portion) of the rotor 106, provided on the periphery of the rotor 106, so as to not interfere with the cooperation of the rotor 106 and stator 108, in use.
  • the one or more guide pins 1 18 may alternatively be arranged to engage with one or more corresponding engaging portions (not shown) of the rotor 106 that are devoid of abrasive material.
  • the one or more of said engaging portions may be provided at the periphery of the rotor 106.
  • ingredients that need to be comminuted may be reduced to that desired size by the grinder 104.
  • Ingredients that are already small enough to travel between the rotor 106 and the stator 108 without being cut or crushed may also be inserted along with the material to be cut/crushed, or they can be inserted later in the process.
  • the rotor 106 is shown in Figure 1 to be positioned on the distal side (i.e. closest to proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102) of the grinder 104, it could alternatively be positioned on the proximal side (i.e.
  • stator 106 may be held in place by posts (or other suitable structures) connected to the housing 1 10.
  • a cleaning element 108-1 may be positioned behind and around the rotor 106 (e.g. on the distal side of the rotor 106), the cleaning element being arranged to scrape/wipe the back and/or sides of the rotor 106 as it rotates (relative to the cleaning element) to prevent material from sticking to the rotor 106.
  • the stator 108 is located on the distal side of the grinder 104 then a similar cleaning element may be provided to scrape/wipe the back and/or sides of the stator 108, for example wherein the cleaning element is attached to the rotating drive shaft 104 such that it can be rotated relative to the stator 108.
  • the drive shaft 102 extends out from the distal side of the housing 1 10.
  • a mixing element 120 (as also shown in Figures 4 to 6) for mixing the comminuted ingredients is mounted on the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 is elongate, with a helical coil configuration. More specifically, the mixing element shown has a 'partial' helical coil configuration as it comprises substantially one complete turn of a helix.
  • the mixing element 120 may therefore be referred to herein as a 'helix' or be 'helically-shaped'.
  • the mixing element 120 may be arranged to have parallel portions that cross the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 may be described as being substantially 'U'-shaped structure when viewed in side profile (as in Figure 1 ).
  • the mixing element 120 is mounted to the drive shaft 102 by way of two (e.g. a pair) of struts 121 , preferably such that the mixing element 120 is spaced from the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 may be integrally formed with the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 via its parallel portions, which are remote from its free, unsecured ends 120a, 120b.
  • the mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 such that the drive shaft 102 passes through the mixing element 120 (e.g. through the centre of the 'helix').
  • the mixing element 120 is thereby disposed, in part, on either side of the drive shaft 102.
  • the struts 121 are therefore provided on opposing sides of the drive shaft 102, and as such may be described as diametrically opposed (albeit spaced along the drive shaft 102).
  • the free end 120b of the mixing element 120 disposed towards the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 is configured to collect and convey comminuted food ingredients from the grinder so as to be mixed, and is thereby arranged to pass around part of the housing 110, and in particular around the grinder.
  • the free end 120a of the mixing element 120 disposed towards the distal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 is configured to urge mixed food ingredients up and into an extruding device 122 for forming the snackbar, for example, which will be described in more detail further on.
  • the free ends 120a, 120b of the mixing element may be tapered.
  • Rotation of the drive shaft 102 e.g. by a rotary drive outlet to which the drive shaft 102 is coupled
  • a rotary drive outlet to which the drive shaft 102 is coupled
  • the mixing element 120 will be described in more detail further on.
  • a material conveying device is provided on the drive shaft 102 and arranged between the grinder 104 and the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102.
  • the conveying device is a conveying lead screw 1 12, arranged to function as a screw conveyor (or 'feed screw').
  • the feed screw 1 12 may therefore be described as being positioned 'in front', 'ahead' or 'upstream' of the grinder 104.
  • the feed screw 112 may be (at least a portion of) a sleeve that fits over the drive shaft 102, for example, or it may be integral with the drive shaft 102.
  • the feed screw 1 12 is disposed for rotation within the housing 110, which will be referred to hereon in as the 'conveyor housing 1 10'.
  • the conveyor housing 1 10 defines a conveyance chamber 124 in which the feed screw 1 12 is disposed.
  • An inner surface of the conveyance chamber 124 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction of the feed screw 1 12 with ingredients contained therein.
  • the chamber conveyance 124 is preferably cylindrical such that when the feed screw 1 12 is rotated it passes in close proximity to the inner surface of the conveyance chamber 124 so as to assist with conveyance of the food ingredients towards the grinder 104.
  • One or more bearings may be provided in the conveyor housing 1 10 upon which the drive shaft 102 rotates.
  • the conveyor housing 1 10 has a comminution inlet 1 14 for the introduction of food ingredients to be comminuted to the feed screw 1 12.
  • the comminution inlet 1 14 here is a gravity-fed chute (or 'hopper'). Ingredients to be comminuted (e.g. for the snack-bar) are deposited into the comminution inlet 1 14 where they fall onto and/or are collected by the feed screw 1 12 as it is rotated by the drive shaft 102, in use.
  • the feed screw 1 12 is, preferably, arranged to compress the deposited ingredients as it is rotated, and to convey them towards the grinder 104.
  • the stator 108 provides an opening in the conveyor housing 1 10 through which the ingredients are conveyed, and subsequently urged against the rotor 106. As the ingredients flow towards the outer edges of the grinder 104, they are comminuted (e.g. cut and/or crushed) as they pass between the (rotating) rotor 106 and (stationary) stator 108 before exiting the conveyor housing 1 10.
  • the grinder 104 is, preferably disposed at the inlet to a mixing chamber in which is disposed the mixing element 120, as will be described in more detail further on.
  • the conveying (or extruding) device is an extrusion lead screw 122, arranged to function as a screw extruder. Similar to the feed screw 1 12, the extrusion lead screw 122 may be (at least a portion of) a sleeve that fits over the drive shaft 102, for example. Though it may alternatively be integrally formed with the drive shaft 102 or otherwise mounted thereto.
  • the mixing element 120 is disposed between the grinder 104 and the extrusion lead screw 122.
  • the drive shaft 102 and therefore the feed screw 1 12, mixing element 120 and extrusion lead screw 122, is arranged to be driven clockwise and counter-clockwise.
  • the direction of rotation of the drive shaft may be selected by coupling the proximal end 102b to a selectively reversible drive outlet. In this way, drive can be reversed so as to convey remaining food ingredients out of enclosed portions of the extrusion and grinding chamber, so as to facilitate more effective cleaning.
  • Figure 2 shows the assembly 100 of Figure 1 mounted for rotation within a main housing 138.
  • the exterior of the main housing 138 is, preferably, generally cylindrical or rectangular and generally hollow.
  • the main housing 138 is thus arranged to provide a mixing chamber 126 in which the mixing element 120 is disposed.
  • the mixing chamber 126 comprises an upper mixing chamber 126a and a lower mixing chamber 126b, within which the mixing element 120 is rotated, and the upper part 126a of the chamber, or a part thereof, is removable from the lower part of the chamber 126b so as to give greater access for cleaning and assembly of the device.
  • a further, separate, inlet 130 to the mixing chamber 126 is provided for additional food ingredients (for which chopping/cutting/crushing in the grinder 104 may not be appropriate, such as cherries or pieces of cherry) to be introduced into the mixing chamber 126 without being comminuted.
  • additional food ingredients for which chopping/cutting/crushing in the grinder 104 may not be appropriate, such as cherries or pieces of cherry
  • this allows comminuted food ingredients to be mixed with food ingredients that have not been comminuted within the mixing chamber.
  • An inlet cover 132 may be provided to close the further inlet 130, thereby to prevent food ingredients from exiting the casing 124 while being mixed in the mixing chamber 126, and also to prevent contamination of those food ingredients.
  • Rotation of the mixing element 120 causes the food ingredients within the mixing chamber 126 to be mixed whereby to incorporate them thoroughly into a 'bar-mix', for example.
  • An inner surface of the mixing chamber 126 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction between the mixing element 120 and the ingredients.
  • the helical shape of the mixing element 120 is advantageous as it causes the mixing element 120 to rotate closely adjacent the inner surface of the mixing chamber, thereby mixing food ingredients.
  • the mixing efficacy may be further enhanced by one or more horizontal ribs 126c being formed on the inner wall of the mixing chamber 126, which act to break up lumps of material which may gather on the edges of the mixing tool 120 as it rotates.
  • the ribs 126c are, preferably, relatively thin compared to the mixing element 120 to avoid material gathering on them.
  • the ribs 126c may be arranged to present a sharp edge in the direction of rotation of the mixing element 120 to cut through material in their path.
  • the pitch of the helix of the mixing tool 120 may reduce / tighten (e.g. have more turns per centimetre) towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102.
  • This arrangement may help to provide better mixing (and lifting) of the food ingredients within the mixing chamber 126, whereby food ingredients may be mixed slowly at first by the mixing element 120 at the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 to incorporate larger pieces into the mix and then mixed more quickly as the helix tightens towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102.
  • Another way of describing this may be to say that the pitch of the helix changes with its length.
  • the radius of the helix of the mixing tool 120 may also reduce towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 has a sinuous twist along its length, which twist is configured to ensure that the mixing element 120 remains close to the inner wall of the mixing chamber 126 as it is rotated. In this way, the mixing element 120 drives mixed food ingredients towards the extrusion device, which is preferably disposed in an extrusion chamber 128, as will be described in more detail further on.
  • the mixing element 120 shown comprises a single helix (as shown).
  • the mixing element may comprise two helixes, wherein a first helix turns clockwise (e.g. a 'right-hand' helix), and a second helix turns counter-clockwise (e.g. a left-hand helix), for example. If there are two helixes, they may meet / intersect towards the centre of the mixing chamber 126, preferably at an inlet to the extrusion chamber 128.
  • the free ends 120a, 120b of the mixing element 120 are, preferably, wedge-shaped, which allows them to scrape the end-walls of the mixing chamber 126 to remove food ingredients that may have adhered to them.
  • the arrangement of a mixing element 120 having two helixes may be particularly advantageous in addressing the tendency of food ingredients adhering to the end-wall of the mixing chamber 126 without entering the inlet of the extrusion chamber 128.
  • the mixing element 120 may undergo high mechanical stress in use, and should therefore be made of a (relatively) strong but light material, such as die-cast aluminium, for example.
  • the mixing element 120 may have a flexible (e.g. rubber) wiper (not shown) formed on it to wipe the inner surface of the mixing chamber 126 during rotation to prevent the accumulation of material on it.
  • the mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 via the struts 121 , which may be fastened to the drive shaft 102.
  • the mixing element 120 may be provided on a removable section (or 'sleeve') to the neighbouring tools.
  • the attachment of the mixing element 120 to the drive shaft 102 is preferably via a keyed arrangement / element (not shown), which is configured to allow attachment of the mixing element 120 only in an intended orientation/alignment to prevent the mixing element 120 being attached to the drive shaft 102 with an incorrect orientation/alignment.
  • the other elements / tools may be similarly configured to be removable and attachable to the drive shaft 102 only in an intended orientation/alignment.
  • some or all of the elements / tools may be integrally formed as a single, removable 'sleeve' that fits over the drive shaft 102.
  • the main housing 138 may also define an extrusion chamber 128, as mentioned previously, in which the extrusion lead screw 122 is disposed for rotation. Similar to the conveyor chamber 124, the inner surface of the extrusion chamber 128 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction of the extruder lead screw 1 12 with ingredients, and to assist in urging the ingredients onwards.
  • the free end 120a of the mixing element 120 disposed towards the distal end of the drive shaft 102, is arranged to be rotated around part of the extrusion chamber 128 whereby to collect and mixed food ingredients and to urge them into the extrusion chamber 128 via an extrusion inlet 140 provided at a proximal end of the extrusion chamber 128.
  • the free end 120a is shaped to scrape and lift food matter within and along a channel defined by: a lower wall of a portion of extrusion chamber 128 that overhangs into the mixing chamber 126; and the lower mixing chamber 126b.
  • the free end 120a is arranged to lift ingredients over and into the extrusion chamber 128, via a cut-out 122-1 in the extrusion chamber.
  • the interior surfaces of the conveyance chamber 124, mixing chamber 126, extrusion chamber 128, the mixing element 120 and/or the drive shaft 102 may have a 'non-stick' coating.
  • This coating may be Teflon ® or any other suitable (e.g. food-safe, dish-washer-safe, and/or relatively scratch-resistant) material.
  • An end cover 134 is provided at the distal end of the main housing 138 to close the assembly 100 inside the main housing 138.
  • the front cover 134 may be arranged to provide an extrusion port 136 (or Outlet').
  • the extrusion port 136 may be shaped to correspond with the desired shape of a snack-bar.
  • the mixture of food ingredients for the bar ('bar-mix') is fed into the extrusion chamber 128, from the mixing chamber 126, it is compressed and extruded by the extrusion lead screw 122 before being urged through the, preferably, bar-shaped extrusion port 136.
  • the extrusion port 136 thereby serves to form the bar-mix into a desired bar-shaped piece (or 'extrusion').
  • An electronic guillotine or another suitable cutting mechanism may be arranged within the front cover 134, and configured periodically to cut the extruded bar- shaped piece into sections of a desired length as it is continuously extruded. Such a means for cutting may be integral to the assembly or apparatus.
  • the bar-mix may, alternatively or additionally to being extruded through the bar-shaped extrusion port 136, be extruded into a bar-shaped mould (not shown) for forming the extruded bar-mix into bars of desired length.
  • the bar-mix may be extruded out of the extrusion port 136 and onto a tray with bar-shaped indents (not shown). Either of these arrangements may be used to transfer the bar-mix to a place where it may be heated or cooled (actively, using a freezer/refrigerator, and/or passively, simply by allowing heated bar-mix to cool to room temperature, or otherwise solidify) prior to eating, or alternatively eaten raw where this is desirable.
  • a tray or mould may be placed directly into an over or freezer for cooking/freezing.
  • the assembly may comprise an additional cooking/cooling (or other post-processing, including chocolate-coating or other coating) chamber (not shown) downstream of the extrusion chamber in which bars are cooked/cooled.
  • the mixing chamber 126 and/or extrusion chamber 128 may themselves comprise heating or cooling elements for cooking the bar-mix as it is mixed and/or extruded.
  • extrusion lead screw 122 and extrusion port 136 may be omitted, and the bar-mix may be dispensed directly into a tray or mould by opening a hatch (not shown) provided in the lower mixing chamber 126b.
  • the mixing chamber 126 may have a hinged cover 132 with a suitable locking mechanism to hold it closed during operation.
  • a suitable locking mechanism for example, over-centre latches, screws, clips, or other suitable releasable locking means may be used.
  • the cover may be interlocked using pressure switches, magnetic reed-switches, or other suitable electronic locking means whereby the motor may only be energised when the cover is closed.
  • the extrusion chamber 128 and the conveyor housing 1 10 containing the grinder lead screw 1 12 may similarly have hinged covers, or indeed the entire apparatus 10 may be divisible along its centre line in a fashion similar to that described in UK patent application no. GB2519536A, which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • each element / tool of the assembly 100 is arranged to be driven by a common drive shaft 102 (or axle) simultaneously at the same number of revolutions per minute, which is advantageous as it allows a simple construction.
  • one or more of the elements / tools such as the conveyor device 112 and/or the extrusion device 122 for example, may instead be individually driven. This may be achieved by having dedicated motors for each element / tool or for separate groups of tools, or by having each tool adapted to engage with a drive-shaft using a clutch mechanism, which may be manually or automatically actuated to begin independent operation of a desired tool.
  • each tool may be attached to the drive shaft 102 by suitable gearing to drive it at higher or lower speeds or ration than the drive shaft 102, and with differing torque.
  • the apparatus 100 preferably has a foot-print (i.e. the area which the apparatus 100 either covers or over-hangs when placed on a surface) smaller than an A4 piece of paper (or its American equivalent, 'US Letter Size' paper) for facilitating ease of use in the kitchen and convenient storage in kitchen cupboards.
  • a foot-print i.e. the area which the apparatus 100 either covers or over-hangs when placed on a surface
  • an A4 piece of paper or its American equivalent, 'US Letter Size' paper
  • the mixing tool to the axle-section of a neighbouring tool (e.g. the grinder 104) via suitable gearing (e.g. a bevel-gear arrangement) or a universal joint.
  • suitable gearing e.g. a bevel-gear arrangement
  • a universal joint By angling sections of the assembly 100 relative to each other, it may be possible to achieve a more compact construction, and to add gravitational assistance where it would be advantageous.
  • gravity can assist the compression of material through the grinder 104 and its subsequent fall into the mixing chamber 126, which may enhance performance of the assembly 100.
  • the extrusion lead screw 122 and extrusion port 136 may (also) be oriented downwardly to assist extrusion.
  • the assembly 100 is preferably arranged to be driven by a brush-less electric motor (not shown) in order to avoid the creation of potentially harmful brush-dust, which may contaminate food made in the machine if using an electric brush-motor.
  • the motor is an induction motor such as a switched or synchronous reluctance motor.
  • Rotor position of the motor and/or of individual tools may be detected using a suitable encoder or encoders in electronic communication with a processor such as a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).
  • a processor such as a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).
  • the PCBA may directly sense the rotor position of the motor based on cyclical variations in current flowing through the motor.
  • the PCBA may, for example, ensure that the mixing tool 120 is (where the tool does not wrap around the entirety of the drive shaft 102, or wraps less around one side of the drive shaft 102 than another) oriented so that the majority of the mixing element 102 is located in the lower mixing chamber 126b so as not to impede access to the mixing chamber 126 from above.
  • Another functionality enabled by rotor-speed and/or position detection is the detection of the location of obstacles within the mixing chamber 126; where an obstacle is detected, the motor may be controlled to reverse direction so as to disengage with the obstacle, and then accelerate toward the location of the obstacle in order to clear it.
  • the motor and PCBA are preferably provided in a separate housing (not shown) to the main housing 138. This allows the tools and their respective chambers 124, 126, 128 to be detached for cleaning, for example in a dish-washer, without risking water entering the electrical components of the motor and PCBA.
  • Electronically or manually operable doors or barriers may be provided between chambers to prevent food ingredients moving from one chamber to the next before it has properly been processed, or for preventing back-flow of material.
  • the PCBA may operate these barriers/doors based on a timer, sensor detecting characteristics of the mix to see whether it has achieved a desired characteristic, or on manual input by the user.
  • Sensors may include temperature sensor for establishing a temperature of the mixed food ingredients, nutritional sensors for establishing a nutritional content of the mix, weight sensors for establishing a weight of the mix present in a particular chamber of the apparatus, particle-size sensors (e.g., image recognition via a camera) for establishing a particle-sized of the ingredients present in at least one chamber 124, 126, 128 of the assembly 100, image-recognition to detect a degree of incorporation of the bar-mix.
  • the assembly may be internet-connected to a cloud computing resource including a database of image-data and/or nutritional data. Sensors used are preferably contained in waterproof housings to prevent water-ingress into their electronics.
  • the motor may vary the speed of operation to one appropriate for the tool which the material has arrived at. For example grinding with the burr-grinder 104 may be done quickly whilst mixing with the mixing element 120 may be done more slowly, or vice-versa. Inputs for deciding tool-speed and when to change tool-speed may be similar to those described above in relation to opening and closing doors/barriers.
  • one or more of the chambers 124, 126, 128 may have a transparent viewing-port for allowing the user to see the tools and food ingredients being mixed.
  • This may be formed of glass or a suitable polymer (e.g. TritanTM or a similar food-safe, dish-washer-safe co-polymer or polymer).
  • the entire assembly 100 (or at least that part of it that includes the processing chambers) may be transparent.
  • the assembly 100 is preferably provided with an electronic user-interface (not shown), preferably provided on the motor-housing/PCBA so as to avoid it being washed.
  • This may be a touch-screen interface or similar interface into which the user may input instruction, and from which the user may receive feed-back.
  • a speaker may also be provided with the user interface for providing aural feedback about processing status.
  • Recipes for making snack-bars including instructions related to factors such as ingredient quantities, processing times for each tool, temperatures and so-forth may be manually entered into the user interface and stored on the memory of the PCBA, the memory of the PCBA may also come with recipes pre-loaded.
  • the assembly 100 may be controllable by a mobile electronic device such as a mobile phone or tablet.
  • This mobile electronic device may be connected to the apparatus via a wired or wireless connection, including such communications protocols as BluetoothTM and Wifi, as well as communication through the internet. In this way the apparatus may be remotely controlled.
  • the assembly 100 may be controllable via spoken commands, either using a microphone associated with the apparatus and speech-recognition software stored on the PCBA, or a cloud-enabled internet-connected smart speaker such as a Google HomeTM or Amazon EchoTM speaker with which the assembly communicates electronically.
  • the food ingredient inlets 1 14, 130 have been described as having ingredients fed into them manually, they may instead have a pre-loaded hopper divided into sections by internal barriers containing different ingredients. Ingredients may be drawn from different sections by opening (either manually or using electronic actuators) doors at the bottom of each section of the hopper to allow the desired ingredients to fall into either or both of the mixing chamber and the chamber in which the grinder lead screw is located. This may be carried out by the PCBA in response to a user selecting a recipe (either preloaded into a memory of the PCBA or downloaded into the memory from the internet) to be made by the machine, with the PCBA opening the doors to allow the ingredients specified in the recipe to fall into the machine and then controlling the tools and any heating/cooling elements associated with the machine to carry out the recipe.
  • a recipe either preloaded into a memory of the PCBA or downloaded into the memory from the internet
  • Amounts of ingredients dispensed from the hopper may be measured by weight sensors associated with the different sections of the hopper to detect the weight (and change in weight) of ingredients in each.
  • the ingredients in each section of the hopper may be identified either by simply permanently allocating a separate section to each ingredients (for example, labels on each section tell the user what ingredient is to be placed in that section), or the sections may be flexibly allocated by the user through the user interface.
  • the assembly 100 may automatically detect what ingredients have been placed in each section using, for example, image recognition using one or more cameras, or using nutritional sensors detecting and identifying ingredients by their nutritional content.
  • Recipes may be created on-the-fly based on ingredients detected in the hoppers and compatibility between those ingredients to achieve a user-specified nutritional content (for example, minimum or maximum content of specified nutrients or nutritional measures such as calorific or fat content).
  • This on-the-fly creation may happen either in the PCBA or in a cloud computer resource to which the PCBA is connected and to which it transmits telemetry from, for example, ingredient weight/type sensors and from the user interface.
  • the PCBA may have a clock associated with it that tells the time.
  • the assembly 100 will thus be capable of beginning operation at a pre-set time so that the user may program the machine to make snack-bars in time for a specific meal.
  • the assembly 100 may be connected to a water source or have a water reservoir (not shown).
  • This water may be used to alter the consistency of the bar-mix, or for self- cleaning similar to that which takes place in a fully-automatic coffee machine through operation with only water being added to the assembly 100, and with the resulting dirty water being dispensed through the extrusion port 136 or otherwise dispensed through, for example, a drainage hole.
  • Suitable reservoirs may also be provided for other liquids (such as oils, syrups, honey) in a similar fashion to those described above for solid ingredients. Whilst specific tools have been described herein for forming a snack-bar, other tools may also be capable of and/or included for achieving the same purpose.
  • the comminuting stage may, instead of utilising a burr-grinder 104, instead compress the ingredients through an extrusion screen similar to that used in meat grinders, or use a rotary knife.
  • the mixing element 120 may be replaced by a rotary whipping or beating tool.
  • One or more of the stages of the process may be omitted where appropriate, and/or another suitable culinary process added to the process.
  • the present invention may be embodied in an attachment for a machine, preferably a kitchen machine (or appliance) having a rotational drive outlet, such as a stand mixer having a front rotational drive outlet, for example.
  • Rotary drive could, alternatively, or additionally, be provided by a rotational drive outlet such as a wall-mounted rotational drive.

Abstract

A food processing assembly, for example for making snack bars, comprises a rotatable drive shaft adapted for coupling to a rotary drive outlet,for example of a kitchen machine, the shaft being adapted to drive both a means for comminuting food ingredients and a means for mixing the comminuted food ingredients, and optionally also a means for forming/extruding the mixed food ingredients.

Description

An assembly for processing food ingredients
This invention relates to the processing of food ingredients. More specifically, the invention relates to apparatus and methods for processing food ingredients to make a snack-bar, such as a cereal and oat bar, for example.
Snack-bars are typically formed from raw ingredients such as oats and other cereals; puffed rice; raisins; cut, sliced and/or grated nuts; and fruits, in addition to ingredients such as honey, syrup, or similar, that may act as a binding material to hold (or 'glue') the ingredients together to maintain a desired shape or form.
Making a snack-bar by hand requires the use of a number of different kitchen tools, such as a grater, mixing bowl and mixing tool, to perform each step of the process. This is particularly inconvenient when you wish to make only a limited number of bars as it is difficult to work with small quantities of ingredients by hand. A solution is therefore required that reduces the amount of manual intervention required, and which can produce snack-bars from limited amounts of ingredients.
The present invention provides apparatus and methods for processing food ingredients, which can be used to form snack-bars, thereby ameliorating the above-mentioned problems. Aspects and embodiments of the present invention are set out in the appended claims. These and other aspects and embodiments of the invention are also described herein. Broadly, the invention provides a food processing apparatus which can comminute and/or mix and/or form ingredients for making a snack bar, preferably using a common drive shaft which may be coupled to a rotary drive outlet, for example of a kitchen machine such as a stand mixer. According to at least one aspect described herein, there is provided a food processing assembly, comprising: a rotatable drive shaft having a proximal end and a distal end, the proximal end being adapted for coupling to a rotary drive outlet; means for comminuting food ingredients; and means for mixing the comminuted food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting and the means for mixing are both adapted to be driven by the rotatable drive shaft. Preferably, the comminuting means and mixing means are arranged along the drive shaft in series. Preferably, the comminuting means is arranged to cut and/or chop the food ingredients. Preferably, the means for comminuting is a grinder, preferably a burr-grinder.
Preferably, the grinder comprises a rotor and a stator having cooperating surfaces arranged to comminute the food ingredients between them when the rotor is rotated, for example wherein one or both of the surfaces are abrasive surfaces.
Preferably, the rotor is attached to the shaft and the stator is arranged to be fixed relative to the rotor such that the stator remains stationary during rotation of the rotor. Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for adjusting the spacing between the rotor and stator.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises one or more guide pins arranged to aid alignment of the rotor relative to the stator.
The means for mixing may comprise at least one elongate mixing element. The mixing element may be configured as a helical coil, preferably at least in part. Preferably, the mixing element comprises substantially one complete turn of a helix. Preferably, the mixing element comprises two generally parallel portions. Preferably, the mixing element is mounted, and more preferably the parallel portions are mounted, to the drive shaft via a pair of struts, and still more preferably such that the mixing element is spaced from the drive shaft. Preferably, the struts are attached to the drive shaft on opposing sides of the drive shaft, for example such that the struts are diametrically opposed so that the drive shaft passes through the mixing element. Preferably, the struts attach to the mixing element at regions of the mixing element that are remote from the (free) ends of the mixing element.
Preferably, the pitch and/or the radius of the helical coil reduces towards the distal end of the shaft. Preferably, the at least one mixing element comprises a first mixing element and a second mixing element. Preferably, the two mixing elements are configured as opposing helixes, for example wherein the first mixing element is arranged as a right-hand helix and the second mixing element is arranged as a left-hand helix, or vice versa.
Preferably, the first and second mixing elements are arranged to intersect at the drive shaft, and more preferably at a position towards the distal end of the drive shaft.
Preferably, the at least one mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
Preferably, the ends of the mixing element are tapered to form a substantially flat edge, for example such that the ends are wedge-shaped.
Preferably, the mixing element is arranged to be detachably mountable to the drive shaft. Preferably, the mixing element is keyed such that it can only be mounted to the drive shaft in a desired orientation.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises a main housing arranged to define a chamber, wherein the means for mixing is disposed for rotation within said chamber.
Preferably, the main housing is arranged such that the drive shaft is generally horizontally disposed within the chamber, for example in use.
Preferably, an inner surface of the chamber is profiled to facilitate mixing of the comminuted food ingredients by the means for mixing.
Preferably, the means for mixing further comprises means for engaging an inner surface of the chamber whereby to dislodge deposited material. Preferably, the means for engaging comprises one or more flexible elements disposed on the means for mixing, for example wherein said flexible elements are arranged to wipe the inner surface of the chamber.
Preferably, the inner surface of the mixing chamber is provided with one or more ribs arranged to dislodge food ingredients deposited on the means for mixing as it rotates within the mixing chamber. Preferably, the one or more ribs are arranged to present an edge in the direction of rotation of the means for mixing to help cut through the food ingredients.
Preferably, the main housing is arranged to provide at least one inlet to the chamber for comminuted food ingredients to be introduced into the chamber, and more preferably wherein said means for comminuting is disposed at said inlet. Preferably, the at least one inlet comprises a first inlet for comminuted food ingredients, and a second inlet through which food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber without being comminuted.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises a further housing arranged to define a further chamber having an inlet for receiving food ingredients to be comminuted, said further chamber being connected to the inlet for comminuted food ingredients provided by the main housing.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for conveying food ingredients to the means for comminuting, said means for conveying being disposed for rotation within the further chamber. Preferably, the means for conveying is also adapted to be driven by the drive shaft. Preferably, the means for conveying comprises a lead screw arranged to function as a screw conveyor. Preferably, the means for conveying is arranged to compress the food ingredients during conveyance.
Preferably, the means for comminuting is disposed in series between the means for conveying and the means for mixing.
Preferably, an inner surface of the further housing is profiled to facilitate conveying of the food ingredients, and more preferably wherein the further housing is generally hollow and/or tubular and/or cylindrical. Preferably, the further housing is arranged to form part of the means for comminuting, for example the stator of a grinder arrangement.
Preferably, the further housing comprises means for attachment to a kitchen machine, for example a stand mixer. Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for extruding the mixed food ingredients.
Preferably, the means for extruding comprises a lead screw adapted to be rotated by the drive shaft and arranged to function as an extruding screw. Preferably, the means for extruding is a scroll-type extruder.
Preferably, the extruding lead screw and the conveying lead screw have the same screw handedness.
Preferably, the main housing is further arranged to define an extruding chamber for (the) means for extruding to be disposed for rotation therein.
Preferably, an inner surface of the extruding chamber is profiled to facilitate extrusion of the mixed food ingredients.
Preferably, the main housing further comprises an outlet for the mixed food ingredients, and more preferably the outlet is arranged to output extruded food ingredients, for example wherein the outlet is configured to form the extruded food ingredients into a desired shape. Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for cutting the food ingredients once said food ingredients have been formed into a desired shape.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises: a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and a second inlet; wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided an assembly for processing food ingredients, comprising: a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and second inlet; and means for comminuting food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for mixing food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber. Preferably, the assembly further comprises a drive shaft, wherein both the means for comminuting and the means for mixing food ingredients are arranged on the same drive shaft.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises means for extruding food ingredients arranged within the chamber.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises: means for coupling to a food processor; and means for engaging a drive output of a food processor so as to drive the means for comminuting.
According to yet another aspect of the invention, there is provided an assembly for processing food ingredients, comprising: a housing defining a chamber; means for mixing food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber; wherein the means for mixing has a helical configuration, at least in part.
Preferably, the means for mixing is arranged to rotate within the chamber such that at least part of the means for mixing is constantly in close proximity with an interior surface of the chamber.
Preferably, the assembly further comprises a drive shaft disposed for rotation within the chamber and adapted to rotate the means for mixing. Preferably, the assembly is configured as an attachment for a kitchen machine having a rotary drive outlet.
According to still another aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus, comprising the aforementioned assembly; and a rotary drive outlet adapted to provide rotary drive to the assembly.
According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided in combination, a stand mixer and the aforementioned assembly, wherein the assembly is configured for removable attachment to the stand mixer so as to receive rotary drive from the stand mixer. According to still a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a mixing tool for a mixing assembly, comprising: a mixing element having a helical configuration, at least in part; wherein the mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
According to yet a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for processing food ingredients, comprising: comminuting food ingredients using a means for comminuting food ingredients; and mixing the comminuted food ingredients using a means for mixing food ingredients; wherein the means for comminuting and the means for mixing are both adapted to be rotated by a common drive shaft.
According to another aspect of the invention there is provided a method for processing food ingredients, comprising: arranging a chamber to have a first inlet and a second inlet; comminuting food ingredients and introducing said comminuted food ingredients into a chamber via a first inlet; introducing one or more food ingredients into the chamber via a second inlet; and wherein the comminuting means is arranged disposed at the first inlet to the chamber such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted. The invention extends to an apparatus for processing food ingredients substantially as herein described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The invention also extends to a method for processing food ingredients substantially as herein described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The invention extends to apparatus and/or methods for processing food ingredients as described herein and/or as illustrated in the accompanying figures.
As used herein, the word 'comminute' preferably connotes the reduction of solid materials from one average particle size to a smaller average particle size, by crushing, grinding, cutting, vibrating, or any other similar processes. As used herein, the word 'or' can be interpreted in the exclusive or inclusive sense unless stated otherwise.
Whilst the invention has been described in the field of domestic food processing and preparation machines, it can also be implemented in any field of use where efficient, effective and convenient preparation and/or processing of material is desired, either on an industrial scale and/or in small amounts. The field of use includes the preparation and/or processing of: chemicals; pharmaceuticals; paints; building materials; clothing materials; agricultural and/or veterinary feeds and/or treatments, including fertilisers, grain and other agricultural and/or veterinary products; oils; fuels; dyes; cosmetics; plastics; tars; finishes; waxes; varnishes; beverages; medical and/or biological research materials; solders; alloys; effluent; and/or other substances, and any reference to 'food' (or similar language) herein may be replaced by such working mediums. It will be appreciated that the processing of food may include the processing and/or blending of liquid, and may also include the processing of solid food or ice into a liquid form.
The invention described here may be used in or with any kitchen appliance (or 'machine') and/or as a stand-alone device. This includes any domestic food-processing and/or preparation machine, including both top-driven machines (e.g. stand-mixers) and bottom-driven machines (e.g. blenders). It may be implemented in or with heated and/or cooled machines. It may be used in or with a machine that is built-in to a work-top or work surface, or in a stand-alone device. The invention can also be provided as a standalone device, whether motor-driven or manually powered.
In a preferred embodiment, the invention may be embodied as an assembly (or apparatus) configured as an attachment for a kitchen appliance arranged as a host device for the attachment and providing a, preferably rotary, drive outlet. The kitchen appliance may be a dedicated stand-alone driver unit or a multi-purpose kitchen machine, such as a stand mixer. Any apparatus feature as described herein may also be provided as a method feature, and vice versa. As used herein, means plus function features may be expressed alternatively in terms of their corresponding structure. For example, the means for comminuting food ingredients may be a grinder, such as a burr-grinder; the means for mixing may be a mixing element (or 'tool'); and the means for conveying and extruding may be provided by arrangements comprising a lead screw, configured as a screw conveyor and a screw extruder, respectively.
Any feature in one aspect of the invention may be applied to other aspects of the invention, in any appropriate combination. In particular, method aspects may be applied to apparatus aspects, and vice versa. Furthermore, any, some and/or all features in one aspect can be applied to any, some and/or all features in any other aspect, in any appropriate combination. It should also be appreciated that particular combinations of the various features described and defined in any aspects of the invention can be implemented and/or supplied and/or used independently.
Features implemented in hardware may generally be implemented in software, and vice versa. Any reference to software and hardware features herein should be construed accordingly. One or more aspects will now be described, by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings having like-reference numerals, in which:
Figure 1 shows an assembly for processing food ingredients according to the present invention;
Figure 2 shows a cross-sectional view the assembly of Figure 1 disposed for rotation within a (main) housing;
Figure 3 is a schematic illustration of a portion of the assembly of Figures 1 and 2;
Figures 4, 5 and 6 show various views of an exemplary mixing element for use with the assembly of Figure 1 ;
Figure 7 is a further view of the assembly of Figure 1 ; and
Figure 8 is an alternative example of the assembly for processing food ingredients of Figure 1.
Specific Description
The present invention relates to the processing of food ingredients, and in particular an assembly for processing food ingredients for making a snack-bar, which is arranged to separate the production process into separate stages. The separate stages may include one or more of the following: comminuting, mixing, forming, and transferring.
Advantageously, with the present invention, each stage of the process is carried out by a different tool of the apparatus. Preferably, each tool (or at least two of the tools) is driven by the same (or a 'common') drive. Preferably, the drive is 'rotary' drive delivered via a drive shaft common to the tools, which itself may be adapted to be driven by a rotary drive outlet, such as an electric motor to which it may be coupled, for example. The rotary drive is, preferably, delivered about a horizontal axis, in use. Each tool is, preferably, mounted in series (or 'sequentially') along the drive shaft.
Figures 1 and 7 shows an assembly 100 for processing food ingredients according to an exemplary embodiment. The assembly 100 includes a drive shaft 102 having a distal end 102a and a proximal end 102b. The proximal end 102b is arranged to couple (or to be coupled) with a rotary drive outlet (not shown), for example which may be provided by a kitchen appliance such as a stand mixer (in particular, a front horizontal output drive). The proximal end 102b may therefore be provided with a suitable fixture (not shown) configured to complement a coupling mechanism of the rotary drive outlet. The coupling mechanism will, preferably, enable the drive shaft 102 to be releasably attached to the rotary drive outlet while enabling the drive shaft 102 to be rotatably driven.
Towards the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 there is provided a comminution device 104 arranged to comminute food ingredients. In this example, the comminution device is a grinder 104, preferably a 'burr grinder', comprising a rotor 106 and a stator 108. The grinder 104 is mounted and/or forms part of a housing 1 10. The stator 108 may be an integral part of the housing 1 10 or it may be adapted to be attached thereto. The housing 1 10 and its components will be described in more detail further on.
The rotor 106 is mounted to the drive shaft 102 so as to be rotated by it, though the rotor 106 may alternatively be integral to the drive shaft 102. As best seen in Figure 3, to prevent the opposing ribs on the rotor 106 and stator 108 from clashing during rotation of the rotor 106, stopping elements (also referred to as "travel limiters") 1 1 1 may be formed on the outer edge of either the rotor 106 or the stator 108 (as shown). The travel limiters 1 1 1 may, for example, take the form of flat-ended rod-shaped protrusions that can slide against the other half. When the rotor and the stator are brought close enough together, the travel limiters 1 1 1 will contact the other of the rotor or the stator in an area free of grinding ribs 1 15 (e.g., a smooth ring 1 13 near the rim) to prevent the grinding ribs of the rotor and the stator from coming into contact. The travel limiters only extend about a small section of the circumference of the stator/rotor so as not to obstruct ingredient outflow 1 17.
The stator 108 may be integrally formed with the grinder inlet 1 14 and/or housing 1 10, or it may be fastened in place (e.g. bolted, clipped or screwed) to keep it rotationally stationary relative to the rotor 106. Both the rotor 106 and stator 108 are, preferably, at least partially coated with a 'non-stick' material, such as Teflon®. Where a coating that may be easily damages, for example scratched off, is used, the opposed grinding surfaces of the rotor 106 and the stator 108 may be absent of the coating to prevent such coating material ending up in the ingredients.
The grinder 104 may undergo (relatively high levels of) mechanical stress when processing hard ingredients, and therefore the rotor 106 and/or stator 108 are preferably made from a durable material, such as stainless steel, which is a relatively hard material compared to the ingredients it will be processing.
To allow variation in coarseness/fragment size of the ingredients processed (and output) by the grinder 104, the spacing between the rotor 106 and stator 108 may be adjustable. In the present example, the adjustment can be performed manually using an adjustment mechanism such as a slidable adjustment knob 1 16 that is arranged to move the stator 108 (linearly) relative to the rotor 106 thereby to adjust the distance between them. The adjustment knob 1 16 is coupled to the grinder inlet 1 14 thereby to move the grinder inlet along with the rotor. The housing 1 10 is provided with a recess 116-1 for accommodating lateral sliding of the adjustment knob 1 16 and inlet grinder. The recess 1 16-1 also acts as a travel limiter in a direction that separates the grinder and stator. The adjustment mechanism protrudes out of the housing in such a way that it fits into notches in the housing (not shown) so as to hold the stator at specific distances from the rotor. The grinder adjustment slider 1 16 may be attached to the stator 108 via the grinder inlet 1 14, and therefore moves the grinder inlet 1 14 during a sliding adjustment. The spacing could alternatively be performed automatically using linear actuators, for example.
One or more grinder guide pins 118 may be provided to help align the rotor 106 with the stator 108, and thereby avoid misalignment of the rotor 106 and stator 108 of the grinder 104 during adjustment. The guide pins 1 18 are disposed between the housing 1 10 and the stator 108, and are arranged to engage with a shoulder 106a (e.g. a flange portion) of the rotor 106, provided on the periphery of the rotor 106, so as to not interfere with the cooperation of the rotor 106 and stator 108, in use. The one or more guide pins 1 18 may alternatively be arranged to engage with one or more corresponding engaging portions (not shown) of the rotor 106 that are devoid of abrasive material. The one or more of said engaging portions may be provided at the periphery of the rotor 106.
Thus, ingredients that need to be comminuted (e.g. cut and/or crushed to a desired size) prior to further processing may be reduced to that desired size by the grinder 104. Ingredients that are already small enough to travel between the rotor 106 and the stator 108 without being cut or crushed may also be inserted along with the material to be cut/crushed, or they can be inserted later in the process. Whilst the rotor 106 is shown in Figure 1 to be positioned on the distal side (i.e. closest to proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102) of the grinder 104, it could alternatively be positioned on the proximal side (i.e. distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102) of the grinder 104, with the stator 108 instead being located on the distal side of the grinder 104. For example, the stator 106 may be held in place by posts (or other suitable structures) connected to the housing 1 10.
As best shown in Figure 7, a cleaning element 108-1 may be positioned behind and around the rotor 106 (e.g. on the distal side of the rotor 106), the cleaning element being arranged to scrape/wipe the back and/or sides of the rotor 106 as it rotates (relative to the cleaning element) to prevent material from sticking to the rotor 106. Conversely, if the stator 108 is located on the distal side of the grinder 104 then a similar cleaning element may be provided to scrape/wipe the back and/or sides of the stator 108, for example wherein the cleaning element is attached to the rotating drive shaft 104 such that it can be rotated relative to the stator 108.
The drive shaft 102 extends out from the distal side of the housing 1 10. A mixing element 120 (as also shown in Figures 4 to 6) for mixing the comminuted ingredients is mounted on the drive shaft 102. The mixing element 120 is elongate, with a helical coil configuration. More specifically, the mixing element shown has a 'partial' helical coil configuration as it comprises substantially one complete turn of a helix. The mixing element 120 may therefore be referred to herein as a 'helix' or be 'helically-shaped'. As shown, the mixing element 120 may be arranged to have parallel portions that cross the drive shaft 102. Thus, the mixing element 120 may be described as being substantially 'U'-shaped structure when viewed in side profile (as in Figure 1 ). The mixing element 120 is mounted to the drive shaft 102 by way of two (e.g. a pair) of struts 121 , preferably such that the mixing element 120 is spaced from the drive shaft 102. Alternatively, the mixing element 120 may be integrally formed with the drive shaft 102. The mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 via its parallel portions, which are remote from its free, unsecured ends 120a, 120b. The mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 such that the drive shaft 102 passes through the mixing element 120 (e.g. through the centre of the 'helix'). The mixing element 120 is thereby disposed, in part, on either side of the drive shaft 102. The struts 121 are therefore provided on opposing sides of the drive shaft 102, and as such may be described as diametrically opposed (albeit spaced along the drive shaft 102).
The free end 120b of the mixing element 120 disposed towards the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 is configured to collect and convey comminuted food ingredients from the grinder so as to be mixed, and is thereby arranged to pass around part of the housing 110, and in particular around the grinder. The free end 120a of the mixing element 120 disposed towards the distal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 is configured to urge mixed food ingredients up and into an extruding device 122 for forming the snackbar, for example, which will be described in more detail further on. To facilitate their function, the free ends 120a, 120b of the mixing element may be tapered.
Rotation of the drive shaft 102 (e.g. by a rotary drive outlet to which the drive shaft 102 is coupled) thereby drives both the comminuting device 104 (or at least its rotor 106) and the mixing element 120 in rotation. The mixing element 120 will be described in more detail further on.
A material conveying device is provided on the drive shaft 102 and arranged between the grinder 104 and the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102. In this example, the conveying device is a conveying lead screw 1 12, arranged to function as a screw conveyor (or 'feed screw'). The feed screw 1 12 may therefore be described as being positioned 'in front', 'ahead' or 'upstream' of the grinder 104. The feed screw 112 may be (at least a portion of) a sleeve that fits over the drive shaft 102, for example, or it may be integral with the drive shaft 102.
The feed screw 1 12 is disposed for rotation within the housing 110, which will be referred to hereon in as the 'conveyor housing 1 10'. The conveyor housing 1 10 defines a conveyance chamber 124 in which the feed screw 1 12 is disposed. An inner surface of the conveyance chamber 124 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction of the feed screw 1 12 with ingredients contained therein. The chamber conveyance 124 is preferably cylindrical such that when the feed screw 1 12 is rotated it passes in close proximity to the inner surface of the conveyance chamber 124 so as to assist with conveyance of the food ingredients towards the grinder 104. One or more bearings (not shown) may be provided in the conveyor housing 1 10 upon which the drive shaft 102 rotates. The conveyor housing 1 10 has a comminution inlet 1 14 for the introduction of food ingredients to be comminuted to the feed screw 1 12. The comminution inlet 1 14 here is a gravity-fed chute (or 'hopper'). Ingredients to be comminuted (e.g. for the snack-bar) are deposited into the comminution inlet 1 14 where they fall onto and/or are collected by the feed screw 1 12 as it is rotated by the drive shaft 102, in use.
The feed screw 1 12 is, preferably, arranged to compress the deposited ingredients as it is rotated, and to convey them towards the grinder 104. The stator 108 provides an opening in the conveyor housing 1 10 through which the ingredients are conveyed, and subsequently urged against the rotor 106. As the ingredients flow towards the outer edges of the grinder 104, they are comminuted (e.g. cut and/or crushed) as they pass between the (rotating) rotor 106 and (stationary) stator 108 before exiting the conveyor housing 1 10. The grinder 104 is, preferably disposed at the inlet to a mixing chamber in which is disposed the mixing element 120, as will be described in more detail further on. At the distal end of the drive shaft 102 there is provided a device for extruding / forming the mixed food ingredients, which will be described herein as an extruding device. In this example, the conveying (or extruding) device is an extrusion lead screw 122, arranged to function as a screw extruder. Similar to the feed screw 1 12, the extrusion lead screw 122 may be (at least a portion of) a sleeve that fits over the drive shaft 102, for example. Though it may alternatively be integrally formed with the drive shaft 102 or otherwise mounted thereto. The mixing element 120 is disposed between the grinder 104 and the extrusion lead screw 122.
The drive shaft 102, and therefore the feed screw 1 12, mixing element 120 and extrusion lead screw 122, is arranged to be driven clockwise and counter-clockwise. The direction of rotation of the drive shaft may be selected by coupling the proximal end 102b to a selectively reversible drive outlet. In this way, drive can be reversed so as to convey remaining food ingredients out of enclosed portions of the extrusion and grinding chamber, so as to facilitate more effective cleaning.
In Figures 1 , 2 and 4, the feed screw 1 12 and extrusion lead screw 122 are shown with opposite screw handedness. In a preferred alternative, as shown in Figures 8, both the feed screw 1 12 and extrusion lead screw 122 (and mixing element 120) have the same handedness in order to ensure that both screws convey food in the same direction, the remaining features of the assembly as shown in, and described with reference to, Figures 1 to 7 are also found in the assembly shown in Figure 8.
Figure 2 shows the assembly 100 of Figure 1 mounted for rotation within a main housing 138. The exterior of the main housing 138 is, preferably, generally cylindrical or rectangular and generally hollow. The main housing 138 is thus arranged to provide a mixing chamber 126 in which the mixing element 120 is disposed. The mixing chamber 126 comprises an upper mixing chamber 126a and a lower mixing chamber 126b, within which the mixing element 120 is rotated, and the upper part 126a of the chamber, or a part thereof, is removable from the lower part of the chamber 126b so as to give greater access for cleaning and assembly of the device.
As the comminuted food ingredients are output from the grinder 104 they fall into the mixing chamber 126. A further, separate, inlet 130 to the mixing chamber 126 is provided for additional food ingredients (for which chopping/cutting/crushing in the grinder 104 may not be appropriate, such as cherries or pieces of cherry) to be introduced into the mixing chamber 126 without being comminuted. Advantageously, this allows comminuted food ingredients to be mixed with food ingredients that have not been comminuted within the mixing chamber. An inlet cover 132 may be provided to close the further inlet 130, thereby to prevent food ingredients from exiting the casing 124 while being mixed in the mixing chamber 126, and also to prevent contamination of those food ingredients.
Rotation of the mixing element 120 (via rotation of the drive shaft 102) causes the food ingredients within the mixing chamber 126 to be mixed whereby to incorporate them thoroughly into a 'bar-mix', for example. An inner surface of the mixing chamber 126 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction between the mixing element 120 and the ingredients. The helical shape of the mixing element 120 is advantageous as it causes the mixing element 120 to rotate closely adjacent the inner surface of the mixing chamber, thereby mixing food ingredients.
The mixing efficacy may be further enhanced by one or more horizontal ribs 126c being formed on the inner wall of the mixing chamber 126, which act to break up lumps of material which may gather on the edges of the mixing tool 120 as it rotates. The ribs 126c are, preferably, relatively thin compared to the mixing element 120 to avoid material gathering on them. The ribs 126c may be arranged to present a sharp edge in the direction of rotation of the mixing element 120 to cut through material in their path.
The pitch of the helix of the mixing tool 120 may reduce / tighten (e.g. have more turns per centimetre) towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102. This arrangement may help to provide better mixing (and lifting) of the food ingredients within the mixing chamber 126, whereby food ingredients may be mixed slowly at first by the mixing element 120 at the proximal end 102b of the drive shaft 102 to incorporate larger pieces into the mix and then mixed more quickly as the helix tightens towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102. Another way of describing this may be to say that the pitch of the helix changes with its length. The radius of the helix of the mixing tool 120 may also reduce towards the distal end 102a of the drive shaft 102.
The mixing element 120 has a sinuous twist along its length, which twist is configured to ensure that the mixing element 120 remains close to the inner wall of the mixing chamber 126 as it is rotated. In this way, the mixing element 120 drives mixed food ingredients towards the extrusion device, which is preferably disposed in an extrusion chamber 128, as will be described in more detail further on.
The mixing element 120 shown comprises a single helix (as shown). In another example (not shown), the mixing element may comprise two helixes, wherein a first helix turns clockwise (e.g. a 'right-hand' helix), and a second helix turns counter-clockwise (e.g. a left-hand helix), for example. If there are two helixes, they may meet / intersect towards the centre of the mixing chamber 126, preferably at an inlet to the extrusion chamber 128. As previously mentioned, the free ends 120a, 120b of the mixing element 120 are, preferably, wedge-shaped, which allows them to scrape the end-walls of the mixing chamber 126 to remove food ingredients that may have adhered to them. The arrangement of a mixing element 120 having two helixes may be particularly advantageous in addressing the tendency of food ingredients adhering to the end-wall of the mixing chamber 126 without entering the inlet of the extrusion chamber 128.
The mixing element 120 may undergo high mechanical stress in use, and should therefore be made of a (relatively) strong but light material, such as die-cast aluminium, for example. The mixing element 120 may have a flexible (e.g. rubber) wiper (not shown) formed on it to wipe the inner surface of the mixing chamber 126 during rotation to prevent the accumulation of material on it. As mentioned previously, the mixing element 120 is attached to the drive shaft 102 via the struts 121 , which may be fastened to the drive shaft 102. Alternatively, the mixing element 120 may be provided on a removable section (or 'sleeve') to the neighbouring tools. The attachment of the mixing element 120 to the drive shaft 102 is preferably via a keyed arrangement / element (not shown), which is configured to allow attachment of the mixing element 120 only in an intended orientation/alignment to prevent the mixing element 120 being attached to the drive shaft 102 with an incorrect orientation/alignment. The other elements / tools may be similarly configured to be removable and attachable to the drive shaft 102 only in an intended orientation/alignment. Alternatively, for simplicity, some or all of the elements / tools may be integrally formed as a single, removable 'sleeve' that fits over the drive shaft 102.
The main housing 138 may also define an extrusion chamber 128, as mentioned previously, in which the extrusion lead screw 122 is disposed for rotation. Similar to the conveyor chamber 124, the inner surface of the extrusion chamber 128 is cylindrical and/or profiled to facilitate the desired interaction of the extruder lead screw 1 12 with ingredients, and to assist in urging the ingredients onwards. The free end 120a of the mixing element 120, disposed towards the distal end of the drive shaft 102, is arranged to be rotated around part of the extrusion chamber 128 whereby to collect and mixed food ingredients and to urge them into the extrusion chamber 128 via an extrusion inlet 140 provided at a proximal end of the extrusion chamber 128. In particular, the free end 120a is shaped to scrape and lift food matter within and along a channel defined by: a lower wall of a portion of extrusion chamber 128 that overhangs into the mixing chamber 126; and the lower mixing chamber 126b. In this way, the free end 120a is arranged to lift ingredients over and into the extrusion chamber 128, via a cut-out 122-1 in the extrusion chamber.
Preferably, the interior surfaces of the conveyance chamber 124, mixing chamber 126, extrusion chamber 128, the mixing element 120 and/or the drive shaft 102 may have a 'non-stick' coating. This coating may be Teflon® or any other suitable (e.g. food-safe, dish-washer-safe, and/or relatively scratch-resistant) material.
An end cover 134 is provided at the distal end of the main housing 138 to close the assembly 100 inside the main housing 138. The front cover 134 may be arranged to provide an extrusion port 136 (or Outlet'). The extrusion port 136 may be shaped to correspond with the desired shape of a snack-bar.
Thus, when the mixture of food ingredients for the bar ('bar-mix') is fed into the extrusion chamber 128, from the mixing chamber 126, it is compressed and extruded by the extrusion lead screw 122 before being urged through the, preferably, bar-shaped extrusion port 136. The extrusion port 136 thereby serves to form the bar-mix into a desired bar-shaped piece (or 'extrusion').
An electronic guillotine or another suitable cutting mechanism (not shown) may be arranged within the front cover 134, and configured periodically to cut the extruded bar- shaped piece into sections of a desired length as it is continuously extruded. Such a means for cutting may be integral to the assembly or apparatus.
The bar-mix may, alternatively or additionally to being extruded through the bar-shaped extrusion port 136, be extruded into a bar-shaped mould (not shown) for forming the extruded bar-mix into bars of desired length. Alternatively the bar-mix may be extruded out of the extrusion port 136 and onto a tray with bar-shaped indents (not shown). Either of these arrangements may be used to transfer the bar-mix to a place where it may be heated or cooled (actively, using a freezer/refrigerator, and/or passively, simply by allowing heated bar-mix to cool to room temperature, or otherwise solidify) prior to eating, or alternatively eaten raw where this is desirable. A tray or mould (not shown) may be placed directly into an over or freezer for cooking/freezing. Alternatively the assembly may comprise an additional cooking/cooling (or other post-processing, including chocolate-coating or other coating) chamber (not shown) downstream of the extrusion chamber in which bars are cooked/cooled. In a further alternative (not shown) the mixing chamber 126 and/or extrusion chamber 128 may themselves comprise heating or cooling elements for cooking the bar-mix as it is mixed and/or extruded.
In an alternative embodiment, the extrusion lead screw 122 and extrusion port 136 may be omitted, and the bar-mix may be dispensed directly into a tray or mould by opening a hatch (not shown) provided in the lower mixing chamber 126b.
For facilitating cleaning of the mixing chamber 126 and disassembly of the apparatus 10, the mixing chamber 126 may have a hinged cover 132 with a suitable locking mechanism to hold it closed during operation. For example, over-centre latches, screws, clips, or other suitable releasable locking means may be used. The cover may be interlocked using pressure switches, magnetic reed-switches, or other suitable electronic locking means whereby the motor may only be energised when the cover is closed. The extrusion chamber 128 and the conveyor housing 1 10 containing the grinder lead screw 1 12 may similarly have hinged covers, or indeed the entire apparatus 10 may be divisible along its centre line in a fashion similar to that described in UK patent application no. GB2519536A, which is incorporated herein by reference.
In the example described above, each element / tool of the assembly 100 is arranged to be driven by a common drive shaft 102 (or axle) simultaneously at the same number of revolutions per minute, which is advantageous as it allows a simple construction. Where desired, however, one or more of the elements / tools, such as the conveyor device 112 and/or the extrusion device 122 for example, may instead be individually driven. This may be achieved by having dedicated motors for each element / tool or for separate groups of tools, or by having each tool adapted to engage with a drive-shaft using a clutch mechanism, which may be manually or automatically actuated to begin independent operation of a desired tool. Furthermore, to allow different speeds of rotation for each tool, each tool may be attached to the drive shaft 102 by suitable gearing to drive it at higher or lower speeds or ration than the drive shaft 102, and with differing torque. The apparatus 100 preferably has a foot-print (i.e. the area which the apparatus 100 either covers or over-hangs when placed on a surface) smaller than an A4 piece of paper (or its American equivalent, 'US Letter Size' paper) for facilitating ease of use in the kitchen and convenient storage in kitchen cupboards. To achieve this scale it may be desirable to orient one or more tools at 90 degrees (or any other desired angle) to the preceding tool. This may be achieved by attaching the axle-section of a given tool (e.g. the mixing tool) to the axle-section of a neighbouring tool (e.g. the grinder 104) via suitable gearing (e.g. a bevel-gear arrangement) or a universal joint. By angling sections of the assembly 100 relative to each other, it may be possible to achieve a more compact construction, and to add gravitational assistance where it would be advantageous. For example, by orientating the feed screw 1 12 and grinder 104 downwardly gravity can assist the compression of material through the grinder 104 and its subsequent fall into the mixing chamber 126, which may enhance performance of the assembly 100. In another example, the extrusion lead screw 122 and extrusion port 136 may (also) be oriented downwardly to assist extrusion.
The assembly 100 is preferably arranged to be driven by a brush-less electric motor (not shown) in order to avoid the creation of potentially harmful brush-dust, which may contaminate food made in the machine if using an electric brush-motor. Preferably, the motor is an induction motor such as a switched or synchronous reluctance motor.
Rotor position of the motor and/or of individual tools may be detected using a suitable encoder or encoders in electronic communication with a processor such as a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA). Alternatively the PCBA may directly sense the rotor position of the motor based on cyclical variations in current flowing through the motor. Where rotor speed and/or position is detected by the PCBA, the PCBA may, for example, ensure that the mixing tool 120 is (where the tool does not wrap around the entirety of the drive shaft 102, or wraps less around one side of the drive shaft 102 than another) oriented so that the majority of the mixing element 102 is located in the lower mixing chamber 126b so as not to impede access to the mixing chamber 126 from above. Another functionality enabled by rotor-speed and/or position detection is the detection of the location of obstacles within the mixing chamber 126; where an obstacle is detected, the motor may be controlled to reverse direction so as to disengage with the obstacle, and then accelerate toward the location of the obstacle in order to clear it. The motor and PCBA are preferably provided in a separate housing (not shown) to the main housing 138. This allows the tools and their respective chambers 124, 126, 128 to be detached for cleaning, for example in a dish-washer, without risking water entering the electrical components of the motor and PCBA.
Electronically or manually operable doors or barriers (not shown) may be provided between chambers to prevent food ingredients moving from one chamber to the next before it has properly been processed, or for preventing back-flow of material. The PCBA may operate these barriers/doors based on a timer, sensor detecting characteristics of the mix to see whether it has achieved a desired characteristic, or on manual input by the user.
Sensors (not shown) may include temperature sensor for establishing a temperature of the mixed food ingredients, nutritional sensors for establishing a nutritional content of the mix, weight sensors for establishing a weight of the mix present in a particular chamber of the apparatus, particle-size sensors (e.g., image recognition via a camera) for establishing a particle-sized of the ingredients present in at least one chamber 124, 126, 128 of the assembly 100, image-recognition to detect a degree of incorporation of the bar-mix. To aid image recognition and the analysis of other sensor input (e.g., nutritional sensor input) the assembly may be internet-connected to a cloud computing resource including a database of image-data and/or nutritional data. Sensors used are preferably contained in waterproof housings to prevent water-ingress into their electronics.
As material travels through the assembly 100, the motor may vary the speed of operation to one appropriate for the tool which the material has arrived at. For example grinding with the burr-grinder 104 may be done quickly whilst mixing with the mixing element 120 may be done more slowly, or vice-versa. Inputs for deciding tool-speed and when to change tool-speed may be similar to those described above in relation to opening and closing doors/barriers.
Since the assembly 100 is capable of continuous operation, it can process both small and large quantities of ingredients. This is unlike manual mixing bowls where it is difficult to work with small quantities of material. To facilitate manual control of the assembly 100, one or more of the chambers 124, 126, 128 may have a transparent viewing-port for allowing the user to see the tools and food ingredients being mixed. This may be formed of glass or a suitable polymer (e.g. Tritan™ or a similar food-safe, dish-washer-safe co-polymer or polymer). Alternatively the entire assembly 100 (or at least that part of it that includes the processing chambers) may be transparent.
The assembly 100 is preferably provided with an electronic user-interface (not shown), preferably provided on the motor-housing/PCBA so as to avoid it being washed. This may be a touch-screen interface or similar interface into which the user may input instruction, and from which the user may receive feed-back. A speaker may also be provided with the user interface for providing aural feedback about processing status. Recipes for making snack-bars including instructions related to factors such as ingredient quantities, processing times for each tool, temperatures and so-forth may be manually entered into the user interface and stored on the memory of the PCBA, the memory of the PCBA may also come with recipes pre-loaded.
Alternatively, or in addition to the touch-screen interface, the assembly 100 may be controllable by a mobile electronic device such as a mobile phone or tablet. This mobile electronic device may be connected to the apparatus via a wired or wireless connection, including such communications protocols as Bluetooth™ and Wifi, as well as communication through the internet. In this way the apparatus may be remotely controlled. In a further alternative, the assembly 100 may be controllable via spoken commands, either using a microphone associated with the apparatus and speech-recognition software stored on the PCBA, or a cloud-enabled internet-connected smart speaker such as a Google Home™ or Amazon Echo™ speaker with which the assembly communicates electronically.
Whilst the food ingredient inlets 1 14, 130 have been described as having ingredients fed into them manually, they may instead have a pre-loaded hopper divided into sections by internal barriers containing different ingredients. Ingredients may be drawn from different sections by opening (either manually or using electronic actuators) doors at the bottom of each section of the hopper to allow the desired ingredients to fall into either or both of the mixing chamber and the chamber in which the grinder lead screw is located. This may be carried out by the PCBA in response to a user selecting a recipe (either preloaded into a memory of the PCBA or downloaded into the memory from the internet) to be made by the machine, with the PCBA opening the doors to allow the ingredients specified in the recipe to fall into the machine and then controlling the tools and any heating/cooling elements associated with the machine to carry out the recipe.
Amounts of ingredients dispensed from the hopper may be measured by weight sensors associated with the different sections of the hopper to detect the weight (and change in weight) of ingredients in each. The ingredients in each section of the hopper may be identified either by simply permanently allocating a separate section to each ingredients (for example, labels on each section tell the user what ingredient is to be placed in that section), or the sections may be flexibly allocated by the user through the user interface. Alternatively the assembly 100 may automatically detect what ingredients have been placed in each section using, for example, image recognition using one or more cameras, or using nutritional sensors detecting and identifying ingredients by their nutritional content.
Recipes may be created on-the-fly based on ingredients detected in the hoppers and compatibility between those ingredients to achieve a user-specified nutritional content (for example, minimum or maximum content of specified nutrients or nutritional measures such as calorific or fat content). This on-the-fly creation may happen either in the PCBA or in a cloud computer resource to which the PCBA is connected and to which it transmits telemetry from, for example, ingredient weight/type sensors and from the user interface.
The PCBA may have a clock associated with it that tells the time. The assembly 100 will thus be capable of beginning operation at a pre-set time so that the user may program the machine to make snack-bars in time for a specific meal.
The assembly 100 may be connected to a water source or have a water reservoir (not shown). This water may be used to alter the consistency of the bar-mix, or for self- cleaning similar to that which takes place in a fully-automatic coffee machine through operation with only water being added to the assembly 100, and with the resulting dirty water being dispensed through the extrusion port 136 or otherwise dispensed through, for example, a drainage hole. Suitable reservoirs may also be provided for other liquids (such as oils, syrups, honey) in a similar fashion to those described above for solid ingredients. Whilst specific tools have been described herein for forming a snack-bar, other tools may also be capable of and/or included for achieving the same purpose.
For example, the comminuting stage may, instead of utilising a burr-grinder 104, instead compress the ingredients through an extrusion screen similar to that used in meat grinders, or use a rotary knife. The mixing element 120 may be replaced by a rotary whipping or beating tool. One or more of the stages of the process may be omitted where appropriate, and/or another suitable culinary process added to the process.
The present invention may be embodied in an attachment for a machine, preferably a kitchen machine (or appliance) having a rotational drive outlet, such as a stand mixer having a front rotational drive outlet, for example. Rotary drive could, alternatively, or additionally, be provided by a rotational drive outlet such as a wall-mounted rotational drive. It will be understood that the present invention has been described above purely by way of example, and modifications of detail can be made within the scope of the invention.
Each feature disclosed in the description, and (where appropriate) the claims and drawings may be provided independently or in any appropriate combination. Reference numerals appearing in the claims are by way of illustration only and shall have no limiting effect on the scope of the claims.

Claims

A food processing assembly, comprising:
a rotatable drive shaft having a proximal end and a distal end, the proximal end being adapted for coupling to a rotary drive outlet; and at least two of:
means for comminuting food ingredients;
means for mixing food ingredients; and
means for extruding food ingredients;
wherein the at least two of the means for comminuting, the means for mixing and the means for extruding are both adapted to be driven by the rotatable drive shaft.
The assembly of Claim 1 , wherein the comminuting means and mixing means are arranged along the drive shaft in series.
The assembly of Claim 1 or 2, wherein the comminuting means is arranged to cut and/or chop the food ingredients.
The assembly of any of Claims 1 to 3, wherein the means for comminuting is a grinder, preferably a burr-grinder.
The assembly of Claim 4, wherein the grinder comprises a rotor and a stator having cooperating surfaces arranged to comminute the food ingredients between them when the rotor is rotated, for example wherein one or both of the surfaces are abrasive surfaces.
The assembly of Claim 5, wherein the rotor is attached to the shaft and the stator is arranged to be fixed relative to the rotor such that the stator remains stationary during rotation of the rotor.
The assembly of Claim 5 or 6, further comprising means for adjusting the spacing between the rotor and stator.
The assembly of any of Claims 5 to 7, further comprising one or more guide pins arranged to aid alignment of the rotor relative to the stator.
9. The assembly of any of the preceding claims, wherein the means for mixing comprises at least one elongate mixing element.
10. The assembly of Claim 9, wherein the mixing element is configured as a helical coil, at least in part.
1 1. The assembly of Claim 10, wherein the mixing element comprises substantially one complete turn of a helix.
12. The assembly of any of Claims 9 to 11 , wherein the mixing element comprises two generally parallel portions.
13. The assembly of Claim 12, wherein the mixing element is mounted to the drive shaft via a pair of struts, preferably such that the mixing element is spaced from the drive shaft.
14. The assembly of Claim 13, wherein the struts are attached to the drive shaft on
opposing sides of the drive shaft, for example such that the struts are diametrically opposed so that the drive shaft passes through the mixing element.
15. The assembly of Claim 14, wherein the struts attach to the mixing element at regions of the mixing element that are remote from the (free) ends of the mixing element.
16. The assembly of any of Claims 10 to 15, wherein the pitch and/or the radius of the helical coil reduces towards the distal end of the shaft.
17. The assembly of any of Claims 10 to 16, wherein the at least one mixing element comprises a first mixing element and a second mixing element.
18. The assembly of Claim 17, wherein the two mixing elements are configured as
opposing helixes, for example wherein the first mixing element is arranged as a right- hand helix and the second mixing element is arranged as a left-hand helix, or vice versa.
19. The assembly of Claim 18, wherein the first and second mixing elements are
arranged to intersect at the drive shaft, preferably at a position towards the distal end of the drive shaft.
20. The assembly of any of Claims 9 to 19, wherein the at least one mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
21. The assembly of any of Claims 9 to 20, wherein the ends of the mixing element are tapered to form a substantially flat edge, for example such that the ends are wedge- shaped.
22. The assembly of any of Claims 9 to 21 , wherein the mixing element is arranged to be detachably mountable to the drive shaft.
23. The assembly of any of Claims 9 to 22, wherein the mixing element is keyed such that it can only be mounted to the drive shaft in a desired orientation.
24. The assembly of any of the preceding claims, further comprising a main housing arranged to define a chamber, wherein the means for mixing is disposed for rotation within said chamber.
25. The assembly of Claim 24, wherein the main housing is arranged such that the drive shaft is generally horizontally disposed within the chamber, for example in use.
26. The assembly of Claim 24 or 25, wherein an inner surface of the chamber is profiled to facilitate mixing of the comminuted food ingredients by the means for mixing.
27. The assembly of any of Claims 24 to 26, wherein the means for mixing further comprises means for engaging an inner surface of the chamber whereby to dislodge deposited material.
28. The assembly of Claim 27, wherein the means for engaging comprises one or more flexible elements disposed on the means for mixing, for example wherein said flexible elements are arranged to wipe the inner surface of the chamber.
29. The assembly of any of Claims 26 to 28, wherein the inner surface of the mixing
chamber is provided with one or more ribs arranged to dislodge food ingredients deposited on the means for mixing as it rotates within the mixing chamber.
30. The assembly of Claim 29, wherein the one or more ribs are arranged to present an edge in the direction of rotation of the means for mixing to help cut through the food ingredients.
31. The assembly of any of Claims 24 to 30, wherein the main housing is arranged to provide at least one inlet to the chamber for comminuted food ingredients to be introduced into the chamber, preferably wherein said means for comminuting is disposed at said inlet.
32. The assembly of Claim 31 , wherein the at least one inlet comprises a first inlet for comminuted food ingredients, and a second inlet through which food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber without being comminuted.
33. The assembly of any of Claims 24 to 32, further comprising a further housing
arranged to define a further chamber having an inlet for receiving food ingredients to be comminuted, said further chamber being connected to the inlet for comminuted food ingredients provided by the main housing.
34. The assembly of Claim 33, further comprising means for conveying food ingredients to the means for comminuting, said means for conveying being disposed for rotation within the further chamber.
35. The assembly of Claim 34, wherein the means for conveying is also adapted to be driven by the drive shaft. 36. The assembly of any of Claims 34 or 35, wherein the means for conveying comprises a lead screw arranged to function as a screw conveyor.
37. The assembly of any of Claims 34 to 36, wherein the means for conveying is
arranged to compress the food ingredients during conveyance.
38. The assembly of any of Claims 34 to 37, wherein the means for comminuting is
disposed in series between the means for conveying and the means for mixing.
39. The assembly of any of Claims 34 to 38, wherein an inner surface of the further housing is profiled to facilitate conveying of the food ingredients, and preferably wherein the further housing is generally hollow and/or tubular and/or cylindrical.
40. The assembly of any of Claims 33 to 39, wherein the further housing is arranged to form part of the means for comminuting, for example the stator of a grinder arrangement.
41. The assembly of any of Claims 33 to 40, wherein the further housing comprises
means for attachment to a kitchen machine, for example a stand mixer.
42. The assembly of any preceding claim, further comprising means for extruding the mixed food ingredients.
43. The assembly of Claim 42, wherein the means for extruding comprises a lead screw adapted to be rotated by the drive shaft and arranged to function as an extruding screw. 44. The assembly of Claim 43, wherein the means for extruding is a scroll-type extruder.
45. The assembly of any of Claims 24 to 44, wherein the main housing is further
arranged to define an extruding chamber for (the) means for extruding to be disposed for rotation therein.
46. The assembly of Claim 45, wherein an inner surface of the extruding chamber is profiled to facilitate extrusion of the mixed food ingredients.
47. The assembly of Claim 45 or 46, wherein main housing further comprises an outlet for the mixed food ingredients, and preferably wherein the outlet is arranged to output extruded food ingredients, for example wherein the outlet is configured to form the extruded food ingredients into a desired shape.
48. The assembly of any preceding claim, further comprising means for cutting the food ingredients once said food ingredients have been formed into a desired shape.
49. The assembly of any preceding claim, further comprising :
a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and a second inlet; wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
50. A food processing assembly, for processing food ingredients, comprising:
a housing defining a chamber having a first inlet and second inlet; and means for comminuting food ingredients;
wherein the means for comminuting is disposed at the first inlet such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
51. The assembly of Claim 49 or 50, further comprising means for extruding food ingredients arranged within the chamber.
52. The assembly of any of Claims 49 to 51 , wherein the assembly further comprises:
means for coupling to a food processor; and
means for engaging a drive output of a food processor so as to drive the means for comminuting.
53. The assembly of any of Claims 49 to 52, further comprising means for mixing comminuted food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber. 54. The assembly of Claim 53, further comprising a drive shaft, wherein both the means for comminuting and the means for mixing food ingredients are arranged on the same drive shaft.
55. The assembly of Claim 53 or 54, wherein the means for mixing has a helical configuration, at least in part.
56. An assembly for processing food ingredients, comprising:
a housing defining a chamber;
means for mixing food ingredients, said means for mixing being disposed for rotation within the chamber;
wherein the means for mixing has a helical configuration, at least in part.
57. The assembly of Claim 55 or 56, wherein the means for mixing is arranged to rotate within the chamber such that at least part of the means for mixing is constantly in close proximity with an interior surface of the chamber.
58. The assembly of any of Claims 55 to 57, further comprising a drive shaft disposed for rotation within the chamber and adapted to rotate the means for mixing.
59. The assembly of any preceding claim configured as an attachment for a kitchen
machine having a rotary drive outlet.
60. An apparatus, comprising:
the assembly of any of Claims 1 to 59; and
a rotary drive outlet adapted to provide rotary drive to the assembly.
61. In combination, a stand mixer and the assembly according to Claim 60, wherein the assembly is configured for removable attachment to the stand mixer so as to receive rotary drive from the stand mixer.
62. A mixing tool for a mixing assembly, comprising:
a mixing element having a helical configuration, at least in part; wherein the mixing element is twisted along at least part of its length.
63. A method for processing food ingredients, comprising:
comminuting food ingredients using a means for comminuting food ingredients; and
mixing the comminuted food ingredients using a means for mixing food ingredients;
wherein the means for comminuting and the means for mixing are both adapted to be rotated by a common drive shaft.
64. A method for processing food ingredients, comprising:
arranging a chamber to have a first inlet and a second inlet;
comminuting food ingredients and introducing said comminuted food ingredients into a chamber via a first inlet;
introducing one or more food ingredients into the chamber via a second inlet; and wherein the comminuting means is arranged disposed at the first inlet to the chamber such that food ingredients can be introduced into the chamber via the second inlet without being comminuted.
PCT/GB2018/052702 2017-10-13 2018-09-21 An assembly for processing food ingredients WO2019073196A1 (en)

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