WO2020165805A1 - Manufacturing apparatus and method - Google Patents

Manufacturing apparatus and method Download PDF

Info

Publication number
WO2020165805A1
WO2020165805A1 PCT/IB2020/051158 IB2020051158W WO2020165805A1 WO 2020165805 A1 WO2020165805 A1 WO 2020165805A1 IB 2020051158 W IB2020051158 W IB 2020051158W WO 2020165805 A1 WO2020165805 A1 WO 2020165805A1
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
ingredients
admixture
chamber
cheese
rotatable
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IB2020/051158
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
John Andrew RAMSAY
Richard Hamilton Archer
Original Assignee
Fonterra Co-Operative Group 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
Priority claimed from NZ750735A external-priority patent/NZ750735A/en
Application filed by Fonterra Co-Operative Group Limited filed Critical Fonterra Co-Operative Group Limited
Publication of WO2020165805A1 publication Critical patent/WO2020165805A1/en

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/80Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations
    • B29B7/82Heating or cooling
    • B29B7/823Temperature control
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A01AGRICULTURE; FORESTRY; ANIMAL HUSBANDRY; HUNTING; TRAPPING; FISHING
    • A01JMANUFACTURE OF DAIRY PRODUCTS
    • A01J25/00Cheese-making
    • A01J25/008Apparatus for making soft uncured Italian cheese, e.g. Mozzarella, Ricotta, Pasta Filata cheese
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F27/00Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F27/00Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders
    • B01F27/60Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis
    • B01F27/72Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices
    • B01F27/721Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices with two or more helices in the same receptacle
    • B01F27/722Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices with two or more helices in the same receptacle the helices closely surrounded by a casing
    • B01F27/7221Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices with two or more helices in the same receptacle the helices closely surrounded by a casing the stirrers being composed of helices and paddles on the same shaft, e.g. helically arranged ovally shaped paddles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F27/00Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders
    • B01F27/60Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis
    • B01F27/72Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices
    • B01F27/721Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices with two or more helices in the same receptacle
    • B01F27/723Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a horizontal or inclined axis with helices or sections of helices with two or more helices in the same receptacle the helices intermeshing to knead the mixture
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F27/00Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders
    • B01F27/80Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a substantially vertical axis
    • B01F27/92Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a substantially vertical axis with helices or screws
    • B01F27/922Mixers with rotary stirring devices in fixed receptacles; Kneaders with stirrers rotating about a substantially vertical axis with helices or screws with two or more helices, e.g. with intermeshing helices
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F35/00Accessories for mixers; Auxiliary operations or auxiliary devices; Parts or details of general application
    • B01F35/90Heating or cooling systems
    • B01F35/92Heating or cooling systems for heating the outside of the receptacle, e.g. heated jackets or burners
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/02Mixing; Kneading non-continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices, i.e. batch type
    • B29B7/22Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations
    • B29B7/24Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations for feeding
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/30Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/34Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/38Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary
    • B29B7/46Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft
    • B29B7/48Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws
    • B29B7/482Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws provided with screw parts in addition to other mixing parts, e.g. paddles, gears, discs
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/30Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/34Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/38Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary
    • B29B7/46Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft
    • B29B7/48Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws
    • B29B7/482Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws provided with screw parts in addition to other mixing parts, e.g. paddles, gears, discs
    • B29B7/483Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws provided with screw parts in addition to other mixing parts, e.g. paddles, gears, discs the other mixing parts being discs perpendicular to the screw axis
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/30Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/34Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices
    • B29B7/38Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary
    • B29B7/46Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft
    • B29B7/48Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws
    • B29B7/484Mixing; Kneading continuous, with mechanical mixing or kneading devices with movable mixing or kneading devices rotary with more than one shaft with intermeshing devices, e.g. screws with two shafts provided with screws, e.g. one screw being shorter than the other
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/74Mixing; Kneading using other mixers or combinations of mixers, e.g. of dissimilar mixers ; Plant
    • B29B7/7476Systems, i.e. flow charts or diagrams; Plants
    • B29B7/7495Systems, i.e. flow charts or diagrams; Plants for mixing rubber
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/80Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations
    • B29B7/82Heating or cooling
    • B29B7/826Apparatus therefor
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/80Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations
    • B29B7/88Adding charges, i.e. additives
    • B29B7/90Fillers or reinforcements, e.g. fibres
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F35/00Accessories for mixers; Auxiliary operations or auxiliary devices; Parts or details of general application
    • B01F35/90Heating or cooling systems
    • B01F2035/99Heating
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01FMIXING, e.g. DISSOLVING, EMULSIFYING OR DISPERSING
    • B01F2101/00Mixing characterised by the nature of the mixed materials or by the application field
    • B01F2101/06Mixing of food ingredients
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29BPREPARATION OR PRETREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL TO BE SHAPED; MAKING GRANULES OR PREFORMS; RECOVERY OF PLASTICS OR OTHER CONSTITUENTS OF WASTE MATERIAL CONTAINING PLASTICS
    • B29B7/00Mixing; Kneading
    • B29B7/80Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations
    • B29B7/86Component parts, details or accessories; Auxiliary operations for working at sub- or superatmospheric pressure

Definitions

  • the invention relates to an apparatus for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product.
  • the invention also relates to a method of making a product mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture and stretching the admixture to form the product.
  • the product may be a non-food product, for example an industrial non-food product, or a food product, for example a process cheese. Most preferably, the product is a food product, in particular, fibrous pasta filata cheese varieties such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese and/or a pizza cheese analogue.
  • Mixer-cooker devices frequently include augers operated at high rotational speeds to achieve required product flow rates when compressed against backpressure elements.
  • Such mixer-cookers and other apparatuses that mix, heat and stretch one or more ingredients into various food or non-food products continue to be limited in their ability to
  • Such apparatuses may be particularly useful in the manufacture of cheese, in particular pasta filata cheese varieties such as Mozzarella.
  • Such apparatuses may also be useful in the production of products other than cheese, including non-food products such as for example plastic, rubber and/or fibreglass, as well as food products such as for example pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats and/or confections.
  • the present invention broadly consists in an apparatus for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product, the apparatus comprising
  • a housing comprising a chamber, an inlet for delivering the one or more ingredients into the chamber, and an outlet to allow the product to exit from the chamber; first and second rotatable shafts provided within the chamber and adapted to mix the one or more ingredients to form the admixture, to stretch the admixture, and to transport the admixture through the chamber to the outlet; and
  • a temperature regulator adapted to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture
  • the first and second rotatable shafts being located adjacent to each other within the chamber, and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed sections comprising either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
  • the present invention broadly consists in a method of mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture and stretching the admixture to form a product in a unitary process, the method comprising
  • first and second rotatable shafts located adjacent to each other and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, to form an admixture, stretch and transport the admixture, while controlling the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to form the product.
  • the outlet is located vertically above the inlet such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber from the inlet to the outlet.
  • the apparatus is operable in a substantially vertical orientation.
  • first and second rotatable shafts further comprise corresponding third intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade extending from each rotatable shaft.
  • first and second rotatable shafts each further comprise an additional corresponding intermeshed section comprising a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from the first and second rotatable shafts.
  • the chamber comprises at least a first wall section, the first wall section comprising a plurality of protrusions that intermesh with the plurality of protrusions on one or both of the first and second rotatable shafts, when present.
  • the apparatus further comprises a third rotatable shaft positioned at or near the outlet and at an angle to or parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts.
  • the at least one arm at each instance comprises
  • first portion provided to the rotatable shaft and being substantially perpendicular to the rotatable shaft, and a second portion provided to the first portion and being substantially parallel to the rotatable shaft.
  • first and second rotatable shafts are parallel to each other.
  • the section comprising the helical blade is at each instance an Archimedes screw.
  • the chamber comprises an inner diameter
  • the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present each have or describe an outer diameter in use, and the outer diameter of the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present is between about 90 to about 100% of the inner diameter of the chamber.
  • first and second rotatable shafts are adapted to rotate
  • first and second rotatable shafts are adapted to rotate at different speeds along each section of the rotatable shaft.
  • the chamber further comprises one or more secondary entrance portals for delivering one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
  • the apparatus does not comprise a system for recirculating the one or more ingredients or admixture.
  • the apparatus, the housing and/or at least one of the first and second rotatable shafts has a modular structure.
  • the housing has a modular structure and comprises a removable front face plate.
  • the chamber has a volume of from about 0.15 L to about 7,500 L.
  • the temperature regulator comprises one or more ports for the introduction of a heating and/or cooling medium, and/or a jacketed wall at least partially surrounding the chamber.
  • the one or more ports and/or the jacketed wall are adapted to regulate the temperature of the chamber using a heating and/or cooling medium.
  • the heating or cooling medium is a fluid.
  • the heating medium is selected from the group consisting of steam and an appropriate gas, or a combination of both.
  • the chamber further comprises one or more exit portals for removing the heating and/or cooling medium from the jacketed wall.
  • the apparatus does not comprise a water bath.
  • the apparatus further comprises instrumentation selected from the group consisting of a temperature probe, pressure valve or gauge, vacuum valve or gauge, steam valve or gauge and flow meter, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • instrumentation selected from the group consisting of a temperature probe, pressure valve or gauge, vacuum valve or gauge, steam valve or gauge and flow meter, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • apparatus further comprises a conveyor and/or pump provided to the inlet to introduce the one or more ingredients into the chamber though the inlet.
  • the inlet, the outlet, and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals comprise a flow meter to monitor the flow through the inlet, the outlet and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals respectively.
  • the chamber comprises radiused corners.
  • the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
  • the admixture is stretched and transported such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the apparatus.
  • the method further comprises a temperature adjustment step.
  • the method further comprises providing one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
  • the one or more ingredients is provided to the apparatus sequentially or at the same time before forming the admixture.
  • first and second rotatable shafts or each of the sections of the rotatable shafts rotate at a tip speed of about 0.1 to about 2 m/s.
  • each of the first and second rotatable shafts rotate in the same direction.
  • each of the first and second rotatable shafts rotate in a different direction.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture at a temperature of from about 20 to about 400°C.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture at a temperature of from about 20 to about 160°C.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients. [0051] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the admixture.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and the admixture.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture while mixing or stretching.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture while mixing and stretching.
  • the method may comprise one or more temperature adjustment steps.
  • each of the temperature adjustment steps may comprise heating or cooling.
  • the apparatus may be adapted to cool the one or more ingredients and/or admixture.
  • the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture may be cooled to a temperature of from about 20 to about 95°C.
  • the one or more ingredients is selected from the group consisting of cheese, cheese curd, skim milk cheese, lactic casein curd, enzyme modified cheese, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, butter milk, whey, concentrated milks, whole milk powder, non-fat dry milk, skim milk powder, butter milk powder, one or more starter microorganisms, rennet, milk retentates produced by membrane filtration, dried milk protein concentrate, dried-mineral adjusted milk protein concentrate, dried-ion exchanged milk protein concentrate, dry sweet whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried ion exchanged whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, total milk protein, cream, high fat cream, butter, ghee, beta serum, permeate, dried permeate, lactose, minerals obtained by fractionating dairy ingredients, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, potassium caseinate, calcium caseinate and lactic casein, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • milk retentates are produced by a type of membrane filtration selected from the group consisting of microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, diafiltration and reverse osmosis, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • the one or more additional ingredients is one or more generally recognised as safe ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, salt, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (for example, spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, bleaching agents, sweeteners, starches, vitamins, minerals, non-dairy fats, fat replacers and non-dairy proteins, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • safe ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, salt, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (for example, spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, antica
  • the product is a food product.
  • the food product is selected from the group consisting of cheese, pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats and confections.
  • heating comprises cooking the one or more ingredients to form the food product.
  • the food product is cheese.
  • the food product is a fibrous food product.
  • the cheese is selected from the group consisting of process cheeses, pizza cheeses and cheese analogues.
  • the cheese is a pasta filata cheese.
  • the pasta filata cheese is Mozzarella.
  • the cheese comprises aligned casein fibres.
  • the cheese comprises elongated casein fibres, for example aligned and elongated casein fibres.
  • the presence of the aligned casein fibres is determined by confocal laser scanning microscopy or scanning electron microscopy.
  • the presence of the elongated casein fibres is
  • the product is a non-food product.
  • the non-food product is selected from the group consisting of rubber, plastic, fibreglass and synthetic fibres.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to a temperature sufficient to react the one or more ingredients to form the product.
  • the admixture is homogenous.
  • the admixture is heterogeneous.
  • the admixture forms a uniformly mixed and stretched product.
  • the admixture comprises aligned fibres.
  • This invention may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, and any or all combinations of any two or more said parts, elements or features, and where specific integers are mentioned herein which have known equivalents in the art to which this invention relates, such known equivalents are deemed to be
  • Figure 1 shows a frontal view of an apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.
  • Figure 2 shows the frontal view of the apparatus of Figure 1 with the front face plate removed.
  • Figure 3 shows a close-up schematic illustration of a steam injection nozzle of an apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.
  • Figure 4 shows a rotatable shaft for use in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
  • Figure 5 shows a closer view of the pair of arms of the rotatable shaft shown in Figure 4.
  • Figure 6 shows a partial view of a rotatable shaft according to an embodiment of the invention, the shaft comprising a plurality of protrusions along one section of the shaft and a helical blade along another section of the shaft.
  • the present invention relates to an apparatus and a method for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching (that is, mechanically working) the admixture to form a product.
  • the apparatus may be used in numerous industrial and food applications.
  • the invention particularly relates to mixing and cooking one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product.
  • the invention relates to an apparatus or method of forming a fibrous product, particularly a fibrous food product such as
  • the apparatus and/or method may allow mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product as a unitary process.
  • unitary process refers to the ability of an apparatus or method to mix and heat one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretch the admixture to form a product in a single processing step, that is, in a single pass from inlet 11 to outlet 16, without the need for recirculation and/or auxiliary equipment to complete processing.
  • the apparatus processes one or more ingredients in a temperature-controlled chamber comprising first and second rotatable shafts.
  • the apparatus may be used in methods of food manufacture, particularly for producing food products selected from the group consisting of cheese (for example, process and related cheese varieties), pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats, meat analogues and/or confections.
  • cheese for example, process and related cheese varieties
  • pasta, cereals, nutrition bars processed meats, meat analogues and/or confections.
  • the apparatus is used in a method of making pasta filata type cheeses, such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese and/or pizza cheese analogues.
  • the apparatus may also be used in a method of making non-food products, such as for example non-food products selected from the group consisting of rubber, plastic, fibreglass and synthetic fibres, such as for example nylon.
  • the apparatus may be used to make non-food products related to rubber, plastic, fibreglass or synthetic fibres, such as for example products comprising rubber, plastic, fibreglass or synthetic fibres.
  • An example of such a product may be a body-care product comprising plastic microbeads.
  • the admixture and/or the product formed may be homogenous or heterogeneous.
  • the admixture may be homogenous.
  • the product is fibreglass, cereal or nutrition bars, the admixture may be heterogeneous.
  • the apparatus comprises first and second rotatable shafts adapted to mix one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and to stretch and transport the admixture.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts comprise corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed sections comprising either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially
  • the helical blade, arm and plurality of protrusions are each examples of functional elements.
  • each of the rotatable shafts may be specifically selected and/or designed to interact in a unique, complementary manner to promote one or more desirable functional characteristics in the product.
  • the elements of these rotatable shafts are adapted to simultaneously mix and stretch ingredient blends within a
  • the elements are also adapted to knead ingredient blends.
  • the elements on the corresponding intermeshed sections of each of the rotatable shafts may therefore produce multiple beneficial effects that the separate elements cannot produce individually.
  • the selected shaft elements of the apparatus may be capable of transforming one or more ingredients into a tempered, plastic mass having certain desired properties.
  • the apparatus may be adapted to produce finished products with a desired fibrous network, using only a single, unitary processing step, thereby eliminating waste.
  • the production of pasta filata cheeses may comprise heating (cooking), mixing, stretching, kneading and salting.
  • molten Mozzarella curd When heated, molten Mozzarella curd is highly viscoelastic, forming a plastic curd mass that simultaneously possesses both the viscosity of a liquid and the elasticity of a solid.
  • the inventors believe that the high apparent viscosity of the molten Mozzarella curd mass promotes laminar flow, which may inhibit mixing between different fluid layers, or 'lamellae'. Adequate mixing of the separate lamellae is thought to require chaotic motion to physically re-orientate product flow during manufacture. However, chaotic motion is known to destroy fibrous particles.
  • One challenge in the manufacture of pasta filata cheese varieties is therefore the ability of an apparatus to produce a molten curd mass with adequate mixing of lamellae while retaining the fibrous particles within the curd mass.
  • the apparatus and method achieve this result in a single processing step.
  • the inventors believe that the achievement of such effects previously required successive processing steps using multiple types of equipment.
  • the presence of desirable functional characteristics in a product produced in accordance with the invention may be evaluated using methods known in the art.
  • the presence and/or nature, such as size, of elongated casein fibres in pasta filata cheeses may be evaluated using microscopy.
  • Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), including variants such as Cryo-Scanning Electron Microscopy (cryo-SEM) may be used to visualise casein fibres within a sample.
  • Food Res. Intern. 102:458-467 is another reference that illustrates the distinctive fibrous structure of the skin section of Mozzarella when viewed using CLSM (see Figure 2, Al, Bl, Cl, D1 and El).
  • J. Dairy Res. 68:417-427 illustrates the differences between the structure of Mozzarella compared to other types of cheese, namely cream cheese, Cheddar and process cheese (see plates 1 and 2).
  • Tests used to evaluate characteristics other than the fibrous structure of pasta filata cheeses are also known in the art. Such characteristics include, for example, heat- induced functional properties (melting), meltability, stretchability, oiling-off and browning and associated tests are described in, for example, Kindstedt et al. and Jana, A. H., and P.
  • Figure 1 provides a frontal view of an apparatus 10 according to one
  • the apparatus comprises a housing 23 which comprises a chamber (not shown in this figure), an inlet 11 for delivering one or more ingredients into the chamber, and an outlet 16 for removing product from the chamber.
  • the outlet 16 may comprise an optional vacuum system to assist in product removal.
  • the apparatus may comprise one or more secondary entrance portals 12a, 12b to introduce a secondary ingredient stream, for example one or more additional ingredients, into the chamber.
  • the secondary entrance portal 12a, 12b may be positioned above inlet 11 in position 12a as shown in Figure 1.
  • the secondary entrance portal 12a, 12b may be located below inlet 11, in the position indicated as 12b.
  • the housing 23 may have a monocoque design or may have a modular structure.
  • a housing having a modular structure may comprise a front face plate 101 that may be removeable from the rest of the housing 23 as shown in Figure 1. Removal of the front face plate 101 may allow direct access to the chamber or the apparatus 10 for disassembly, maintenance, and/or cleaning.
  • the housing may be fabricated by any suitable means, for example by casting, machining, additive or mixed-mode manufacture. In various embodiments the housing may be manufactured to allow for the use of standard fittings and/or gauges.
  • the one or more ingredients delivered to the chamber 50 of the apparatus for mixing, cooking and stretching may comprise one or more dairy ingredients selected from the group consisting of cheese, cheese curd, skim milk cheese, lactic casein curd, enzyme modified cheese, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, butter milk, whey, concentrated milks, whole milk powder, non-fat dry milk, skim milk powder, butter milk powder, one or more starter microorganisms, rennet, milk retentates produced by membrane filtration (such as by processing with microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, diafiltration and reverse osmosis), dried milk protein concentrate, dried-mineral adjusted milk protein concentrate, dried-ion exchanged milk protein concentrate, dry sweet whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried ion exchanged whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, total milk protein, cream, high fat cream, butter, ghee, beta serum, permeate, dried permeate,
  • the one or more ingredients may be one or more non-food ingredients.
  • the one or more ingredients may comprise one or more types of polymer and one or more types of fibre.
  • the polymer may be any polymer suitable for use in fibreglass manufacture, such as for example epoxy, a vinyl ester, a polyester or a phenol formaldehyde resin.
  • the fibre may be any fibre suitable for use in fibreglass manufacture, such as for example glass fibre, carbon fibre, aramid or another type of synthetic fibre, basalt, paper or wood. In some embodiments more than one polymer and/or more than one fibre may be used.
  • the one or more ingredients may be one or more types of monomers capable of polymerising to form the rubber or plastic.
  • monomers capable of polymerising to form the rubber or plastic.
  • synthetic rubbers are often formed by the polymerisation of one or more types of petroleum-based monomers.
  • the one or more ingredients may be introduced into the apparatus 10 through inlet 11 to initiate processing of the ingredients into an admixture.
  • the one or more ingredients delivered to the chamber 50 of the apparatus for mixing, heating and stretching may comprise a prepared product, such as a pre-prepared mixture, which may include any suitable ingredient or food blend fit to produce the intended product.
  • a pre-prepared mixture may comprise curd or cheese from cheese vats, or alternatively ground cheese blended with added salt, emulsifying salts and/or other suitable generally recognised as safe (GRAS) ingredients for producing process cheese.
  • GRAS generally recognised as safe
  • the pre-prepared mixture may comprise a pre-prepared polymer or copolymer that is then polymerised further with one or more monomers using the apparatus to form, for example a rubber or plastic.
  • an appropriate conveyor and/or pump may be attached or otherwise provided to the inlet 11 to introduce the one or more ingredients into the chamber of the apparatus 10.
  • Suitable blenders, ribbon blenders, vats and/or other devices may hold and/or supply pre-prepared mixtures, for example curd, to the conveyor (where present) that feeds ingredients into the apparatus 10.
  • the apparatus 10 may also comprise one or more secondary entrance portal(s) 12a, 12b for delivering one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
  • the one or more additional ingredients may be one or more GRAS non-dairy ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, sodium chloride, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (including spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, bleaching agents, sweeteners, starches, vitamins, minerals, non-dairy fats, fat replacers and non-dairy proteins, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • GRAS non-dairy ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, sodium chloride, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (including spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chel
  • Inorganic and organic acids may include but are not limited to for example, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, carbonic acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, benzoic acid, lactic acid, gluconic acid, malic acid, propionic acid, tartaric acid, fumaric acid, and hexanoic acid or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • Emulsifiers may include but are not limited to for example, sodium caseinate, mono and diglycerides and polysorbate compounds.
  • Stabilizers and gums may include but are not limited to for example, gum Arabic, guar gum, carboxymethylcellulose, carrageenan, agar, starch, pectin and gelatin.
  • Safe and suitable enzymes may include but are not limited to for example, lipases, proteases, amylases and transglutaminase.
  • Emulsifying salts may include but are not limited to for example, sodium, dipotassium phosphate; and calcium salts of the mono-, di-, and polyphosphoric acids, sodium, potassium, and calcium salts of citric acid, sodium and potassium salts of tartaric acid, sodium hydrogen carbonate and/or calcium carbonate.
  • Such salts may comprise monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium acid
  • pyrophosphate tetrasodium
  • pyrophosphate trisodium polyphosphate
  • sodium aluminium phosphate sodium hexametaphosphate
  • sodium polyphosphate potassium polyphosphate
  • magnesium polyphosphate ammonium polyphosphate
  • trisodium citrate (tri)potassium citrate, monocalcium citrate, calcium citrate, sodium tartrate and/or sodium potassium tartrate.
  • Non-dairy fats may be any suitable animal and/or vegetable fats.
  • Non-dairy proteins may include but are not limited to for example, any suitable animal, egg and/or vegetable proteins, such as for example soy and pea proteins.
  • the one or more additional ingredients may be, for example, one or more polymerisation initiators, binders, solvents, catalysts, quenching agents and/or additives such as pigments.
  • the one or more additional ingredients may be delivered into the chamber 50 as fluids, such as for example salt brines, dissolved blends of emulsifying salts, dissolved GRAS ingredients, and/or ingredient slurries.
  • an appropriate conveyor or pump (not shown) may be attached or otherwise provided to entrance portal 12 to introduce such ingredients into the chamber 50.
  • the one or more ingredients and/or one or more additional ingredients may be provided to the chamber 50 either sequentially or simultaneously to form the admixture. In some embodiments some of the ingredients may be provided to the chamber at the same time, while others may be added sequentially.
  • the addition of one or more ingredients, through either the inlet 11 and/or one or more of the secondary entrance portals 12a, 12b may be controlled using one or more suitable positive pumps and/or nozzles 13.
  • the addition of ingredients to the chamber 50 may be monitored using a suitable flow meter(s) and/or gauge(s) provided to the inlet 11, secondary entrance portal 12 and/or pump.
  • suitable flow meters and/or gauges may also be provided to outlet 16 to monitor and/or regulate product flow from the chamber 50.
  • the method comprises controlling the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to form the product.
  • the apparatus 10 comprises a temperature regulator adapted to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture as the one or more ingredients move through the chamber 50 to the outlet 16.
  • the temperature regulator may comprise one or more ports 13 for the introduction of a heating and/or cooling medium, and/or a jacketed wall 29 (see Figure 2) at least partially surrounding the chamber.
  • the one or more ports and/or the jacketed wall 29 is adapted to regulate the temperature of the chamber using a heating medium, that may be either a suitable liquid or a suitable gas, such as for example steam.
  • the heating medium for example steam
  • Figure 3 shows an embodiment of the steam injectors 31 that may be used in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. Any suitable steam injector design may be employed.
  • the chamber 50 comprises an inner chamber wall 32. Preferred nozzles fit exactly or substantially flush into the inner chamber wall 32 to avoid interfering with rotation of the rotatable shafts and/or to promote admixture movement through the chamber.
  • the nozzles 31 may uniformly disperse steam throughout the chamber as product passes by the injector port 13.
  • nozzles 31 may be equipped with orifices that express steam in a defined, desired pattern.
  • the apparatus is adapted to heat ingredients at a range of temperatures.
  • pasta filata cheese curd may be heated at a temperature of from about 20 to about 95°C during processing.
  • apparatus 10 does not contain a backpressure plate for processing the product, preferably food product, preferably Mozzarella and/or other pasta filata cheeses.
  • the apparatus may comprise one or more backpressure plates or valves, for example to make ultrahigh temperature (UHT) products.
  • UHT ultrahigh temperature
  • UHT products often uses sufficient pressure to heat one or more ingredients and/or admixture to temperatures greater than or equal to 100°C, typically achieving temperatures between 120 to 160°C. Accordingly, in various
  • heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture comprises heating at a temperature of from about 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 150, 155 or 160°C, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values for example from about 25 to about 160, from about 50 about 160, from about 80 to about 160, from about 100 to about 160, from about 120 to about 160, about 25 to about 100, about 35 to about 95, about 35 to about 70, or about 35 to about 60°C.
  • heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture comprises heating at a temperature of from about 160, 180, 200, 220. 240.
  • 260, 280, 300, 320, 340, 360, 380 or 400°C or more may be selected from any of these values for example from about 160 to about 400, from about 160 about 300, from about 180 to about 200, from about 200 to about 400, from about 200 to about 300, about 240 to about 400, about 240 to about 300, about 280 to about 400, or about 280 to about 300°C.
  • heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to a temperature sufficient to react the one or more of the ingredients to form the product.
  • a person skilled in the art will be able to select an appropriate temperature for heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture.
  • the presence, absence or quantity of unreacted monomer may be used to monitor the production of the plastic product, and to aid in the selection of an appropriate temperature for heating.
  • the presence, absence or quantity of unreacted monomer may be monitored by techniques known in the art, for example using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, or a combination thereof.
  • NMR nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Certain desirable functional characteristics, for example the degree of cross-linking in plastic products may also be monitored using these techniques.
  • Other techniques will be apparent to a person skilled in the art and will depend, at least partly, on the type of product produced.
  • the apparatus may also be adapted to cool the one or more ingredients and/or admixture. Therefore, in some embodiments the method may comprise one or more optional temperature adjustment steps, for example one or more cooling steps.
  • the one or more ingredients and/or admixture may be cooled to a temperature of about 95, 90, 85, 80, 75, 70, 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25 or about 20°C, and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 20 to about 95, about 30 to about 95, about 50 to about 95, about 70 to about 95, about 20 to about 90, about 25 to about 90, about 45 to about 90, about 65 to about 90, about 25 to about 75, about 20 to about 60, about 20 to about 50, about 20 to about 40, or about 20 to about 30°C.
  • cooling temperatures may be applicable to a number of food and non-food products produced in accordance with the invention. However, in some embodiments other cooling ranges may be desired for other products.
  • the cooling step may be carried out before or after the heating step.
  • the method may comprise multiple temperature adjustment steps, for example more than one heating step and/or more than one cooling step.
  • the method may comprise two consecutive alternating heating and cooling steps.
  • one or more ingredients may be delivered into chamber 50 first, and the one or more ingredients may be heated or cooled prior to the delivery of one or more other ingredients into chamber 50.
  • FIG. 1 Although Figure 1 only shows four injection ports 13, the number of injection ports 13 may be adjusted as needed to meet specific apparatus, product and processing requirements.
  • heating and/or cooling of the chamber may be achieved by the introduction of heating and/or cooling fluids into apparatus 10 through jacket portals 14 to a jacketed wall 29 of the chamber to provide indirect temperature adjustment.
  • a halocarbon coolant such as halocarbon coolants available under the brand name Freon® may be used.
  • cooling may be achieved by a gas/liquid phase transition of the coolant.
  • Exit portals 15 may be provided to allow removal of the tempering fluids (heating and/or cooling liquid) from the jacketed wall 29. Suitable flow meters and/or gauges may also be provided to the injection ports 13 and/or exit portals 15 to monitor and/or regulate the flow of tempering fluids to/from the jacketed wall respectively.
  • a number of traditional mixer-cookers and other apparatuses use interior cooling or heating water baths to control the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or admixture during various stages of processing.
  • the inventors believe that the use of water baths may lead to the production of large amounts of wastewater, which may in turn produce excessive amounts of waste.
  • large amounts of wastewater may promote high curd and/or milk fat losses. Therefore, in various embodiments the apparatus 10 does not comprise a water bath.
  • the apparatus 10 allows for direct dry salt or fluid salt brine addition, eliminating salt whey production, and therefore minimising or eliminating waste streams.
  • Figure 2 shows a frontal interior view of the apparatus 10 according to an embodiment of the invention.
  • the apparatus 10 is illustrated with the front face plate 101 removed, providing a cut away view exposing two rotatable shafts 21 provided within the chamber 50.
  • the apparatus may comprise 2, 3, 4 or 5 rotatable shafts, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example 2 to 5, or 2 to 4 rotatable shafts, preferably 2 rotatable shafts, preferably 3 rotatable shafts.
  • the one or more ingredients are contacted with an apparatus comprising first and second rotatable shafts.
  • first and second rotatable shafts 21 are parallel to each other. However, other orientations of the first and second rotatable shafts are also contemplated herein.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 are adapted to mix the one or more ingredients and optionally the one or more additional ingredients to form an admixture, and to stretch and transport the admixture.
  • the apparatus is adapted to stretch and transport the admixture such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the apparatus.
  • the rotatable shafts 21 may take any form suitable to effectively mix, stretch and transport the one or more ingredients and/or admixture.
  • the rotatable shafts may have a high stiffness allowing for geometric precision under load.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 are located adjacent to each other within the chamber 50, and comprise corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed section comprising a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprising either at least one arm 80 extending from each rotatable shaft 21 or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft 21.
  • the first section of the first shaft is intermeshed with the first section of the second shaft, such that the first section of the first shaft corresponds with the first section of the second shaft, and
  • the second section of the first shaft is intermeshed with the second section of the second shaft, such that the second section of the first shaft corresponds with the second section of the second shaft.
  • the intermeshed sections may allow for overlapping flow channels for ingredient and/or admixture transport and mixing.
  • the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises at least one arm 80 extending from each rotatable shaft 21.
  • the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft 21.
  • the helical blade is at each instance an Archimedes screw.
  • each rotatable shaft 21 may be modular, such that they are combinable in various sequences as desired. Such modularity may also facilitate disassembly of the rotatable shaft 21 for cleaning and maintenance.
  • the rotatable shaft 21 may comprise the following three distinct sections: • an initial section equipped with a helical blade 60, preferably a helical blade 60 in the form of an Archimedes screw, comprising approximately a third of the rotatable shaft
  • a third section equipped with a helical blade 60, preferably a helical blade 60 in the form of an Archimedes screw, comprising approximately the final third of the rotatable shaft 21.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates each arm 80 of Figure 4 in more detail.
  • each arm 80 where present, may comprise a first portion 81 provided to the rotatable shaft 21 and being substantially perpendicular to the rotatable shaft 21, and a second portion 82 provided to the first portion 81 and being substantially parallel to the rotatable shaft 21.
  • the corresponding arms 80 of the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may be spaced apart from each other. Alternatively, the corresponding arms 80 of the first and second rotatable shafts may be intermeshed. In the context of corresponding arms 80, intermeshed means that the second portion 82 of the first rotatable shaft 21 may pass within the space defined by the second portion 82 of the second rotatable shaft 21 and the cylinder 100 of the second rotatable shaft 21, and vice versa.
  • first and second rotatable shafts 21 each further comprise an additional corresponding intermeshed section comprising a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from the first and second rotatable shafts.
  • the plurality of protrusions may be in the form of flaps, fingers, projections, hooks or pins.
  • the protrusions of the first rotatable shaft 21 are shaped to intermesh with protrusions of the second rotatable shaft 21, and vice versa.
  • the apparatus comprises a first and second rotatable shaft 21.
  • the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a ring A of protrusions around the circumference of, and projecting outwardly from, the first rotatable shaft 21 as indicated by arrow A in Figure 6.
  • the second rotatable shaft 21 (not shown in Figure 6) may comprise a corresponding ring B of protrusions around the circumference of, and projecting outwardly from, the second rotatable shaft 21.
  • intermeshing may comprise interleaving the protrusions of ring A of the first rotatable shaft 21 with the corresponding protrusions of ring B of the second rotatable shaft 21, such that each protrusion of ring A is intermeshed between two protrusions of ring B, and vice versa.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may comprise one or more, preferably several rings of protrusions.
  • intermeshing may occur as described above.
  • intermeshing may be between rings rather within rings, such that each ring A is intermeshed between two rings B, and vice versa.
  • the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a set of protrusions A, with the set of protrusions A comprising several rings A of protrusions.
  • the second rotatable shaft 21 may also comprise a set of protrusions B, with the set of protrusions B comprising several rings B of protrusions.
  • intermeshing may be between sets of protrusions rather than between rings of protrusions, such that each set A is intermeshed between two sets B, and vice versa.
  • the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a row C of protrusions extending longitudinally along and projecting outwardly from the first rotatable shaft 21 as indicated by arrow C in Figure 6.
  • the second rotatable shaft 21 (not shown in Figure 6) may comprise a corresponding row D of protrusions with the protrusions in row D extending longitudinally along and projecting outwardly from the second rotatable shaft 21.
  • intermeshing may comprise interleaving the protrusions of row C of the first rotatable shaft 21 with the corresponding protrusions of row D of the second rotatable shaft 21, such that each protrusion of row C is intermeshed between two protrusions of row D, and vice versa.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may comprise one or more, preferably several rows of protrusions.
  • intermeshing may occur as described above.
  • intermeshing may be between rows rather than between individual protrusions of rows, such that each row C is intermeshed between two rows D, and vice versa.
  • the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a set of protrusions C, with the set of protrusions C comprising several rows C of protrusions.
  • the second rotatable shaft 21 may also comprise a set of protrusions D, with the set of protrusions D comprising several rows D of protrusions.
  • intermeshing may be between sets of protrusions rather than between rows of protrusions, such that each set C is intermeshed between two sets D, and vice versa.
  • the protrusions within a ring or within a row may be equidistant from each other.
  • rings or rows may be equidistant from each other.
  • a first rotatable shaft 21 comprises several rings A of protrusions or several rows C of protrusions
  • the rings A or the rows C may be equidistant from each other.
  • the second rotatable shaft 21 comprises several rings B of protrusions or several rows D of protrusions
  • the rings B or rows D may be equidistant from each other.
  • the chamber 50 may comprise at least a first wall section.
  • the first wall section may comprise a plurality of
  • the protrusions on the first wall section may intermesh with the protrusions 30 on one or both of the first and second rotatable shafts 21.
  • the protrusions on the first wall section are shaped to intermesh with the protrusions on one or both, preferably both, the first and second rotatable shafts 21, as described above for intermeshing between shafts. Accordingly, the protrusions on the wall of chamber 50 may be arranged as rings about the circumference of the chamber 50, or as rows extending in a longitudinal direction along the chamber 50, each protrusion projecting into the chamber 50.
  • Figure 6 shows a partial view of a rotatable shaft 21 comprising a plurality of protrusions 30 along one section of the shaft 21 and a helical blade 60 along another section of the shaft.
  • the protrusions 30 shown in Figure 6 are cylindrical in shape.
  • the protrusions 30 may have any suitable shape, such as for example cylindrical, conical, cuboidal or substantially or partially spherical.
  • Rotatable shafts 21 comprising a plurality of protrusions 30 may be manufactured by various ways known in the art.
  • protrusions 30 may be set into the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50 by methods known in the art.
  • the plurality of protrusions 30 may be set into the rotatable shaft 21 by, for example, welding, pinning, screwing, or similar methods for attachment known to those skilled in the art. Similar processes may also be used to set the protrusions 30 into the first wall section of the chamber 50.
  • the protrusions 30 may be removable from the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50, for example during cleaning.
  • the helical blade 60 and/or the pair of arms 80 may also be removable from the rotatable shaft 21.
  • the helical blade 60, the arm 80 and/or the protrusions 30, where present, may be permanently fixed in the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50.
  • an apparatus 10 comprising the first and second rotatable shafts 21 and at least one other rotatable shaft is also contemplated herein.
  • the apparatus 10 may comprise a first and second rotatable shafts 21, preferably parallel to each other.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may be positioned along a length of the chamber 50 and may each comprise two sections, each section comprising a helical blade 60, and a third section comprising a pair of arms 80, the third section separating the two sections comprising the helical blade 60 surrounding the rotatable shaft 21.
  • the apparatus 10 may further comprise a third rotatable shaft, preferably positioned parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts 21, preferably behind, and between the first and second rotatable shafts.
  • the third rotatable shaft may be adapted to enhance mixing and stretching by the first and second shafts and/or may be adapted to stretch and transport the admixture while maintaining an emulsion.
  • the third rotatable shaft may be positioned at an angle or parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts 21.
  • the third rotatable shaft may be positioned at or near the outlet 16, for example at or near the outlet at an angle to the first and second rotatable shafts 21.
  • suitable drives 211 may be provided to each rotatable shaft 21 to provide rotation.
  • the drives 211 may each comprise a motor, preferably a suitable electric motor, and suitable gearbox.
  • a range of different drives may be compatible with the apparatus.
  • the drives selected in various embodiments will operate the apparatus to maximise useful work relative to mechanical losses from the drive and any associated gearbox.
  • the rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction, such that in some embodiments each of the rotatable shafts 21 may each rotate in the same or in counter directions to each other.
  • the rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in a first direction, for example to transport the one or more ingredients and/or admixture through the chamber 50 from the inlet 11 to the outlet 16, and may rotate or be adapted to rotate in a second direction, opposite to the first direction, for example to facilitate apparatus cleaning.
  • sections of the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction, such that in some embodiments different sections of the same rotatable shaft 21 may each rotate in the same or counter directions to each other.
  • any or all the rotatable shafts may be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction independently of each other.
  • Each of the rotatable shafts and/or each section of each rotatable shaft may rotate or be adapted to rotate at different tip speeds.
  • the first and second rotatable shafts 21 or each of the sections of the first and second rotatable shafts may rotate at a tip speed independently selected from about 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 or 2 m/s or more, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values for example a speed of about 0.1 to about 2 m/s, 0.1 to about 1 m/s, about 0.1 to about 0.8, about 0.1 to about 0.5, about 0.2 to about 1, about 0.2 to about 0.8, or about 0.2 to about 0.5 m/s.
  • independent rotation of each rotatable shaft and/or of each section of each rotatable shaft may allow for increased control over the processing of the one or more ingredients into the product, preferably food product, and may in turn lead to improved outcomes, for example improved control over product characteristics, processing efficiency and/or reduced waste.
  • Other features of apparatus 10 may also be tailored to promote processing of the one or more ingredients into the desired product, for example a fibrous food product.
  • the corners of chamber 50 may be radiused to facilitate the movement of the admixture through the chamber 50 and/or to eliminate or limit dead spots that may retain and hold a measure portion of the admixture in the chamber 50. Radiused corners may further facilitate cleaning and maintenance.
  • a typical cleaning-in-place system may comprise a balance tank comprising a cleaning solution (not shown).
  • the cleaning solution may be connected to an appropriate pump that allows for the introduction of the cleaning solution through the inlet 11 of apparatus 10.
  • the cleaning solution may then flow through apparatus 10 to exit the apparatus 10 through outlet 16.
  • Cleaning liquids may be returned to the original balance tank and recirculated as needed to complete cleaning.
  • One of the disadvantages of some conventional product processing apparatuses is that they often hold a large volume of product and have dead spots that may retain and hold a measure portion of the admixture as described above.
  • a large internal volume (heel volume) may lead to product wastage if product is trapped in the apparatus after it is shut down.
  • the apparatus of the present invention comprises a chamber 50 with a volume of at least about 0.15, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.35, 0.4, 0.45, 0.5, 0.55, 0.6, 0.65, 0.7, 0.75, 0.8, 0.85, 0.9, 0.95, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, 500, 525, 550, 575, 600, 625, 650, 675, 700, 725, 750, 775, 800, 825, 850, 875, 900, 925, 950, 975, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, 2,500, 3,000, 3,500, 4,000, 4,500, 5,000, 5,500,
  • 6,000, 6,500, 7,000 or 7,500 L and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 0.15 L to about 7,500 L, from about 1 to about 3,000, from about 1 to about 1,500, from about 1 to about 1,000, from about 100 to about 1,500, preferably from about 300 to about 1,500, more preferably from about 500 to about 1,200 L.
  • the inventors believe that in various embodiments the interior design of the apparatus described herein may reduce product wastage during processing.
  • Another feature that may minimise product wastage and/or enhance ingredient mixing efficiency is a close clearance between an inner diameter of the chamber 50 and an outer diameter of the helical blade 60 and/or arm 80 in use where present.
  • the helical blade 60 and/or the arm 80 where present, each have an outer diameter of from about 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 or substantially 100% if the inner diameter of the chamber 50, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 90 to about 100, about 92 to about 100, about 95 to about 100, or about 98 to about 100% of the inner diameter of the chamber 50.
  • the distance between functional elements (for example, helical blades 60 and/or arms 80) on different rotatable shafts 21 is also a feature that may be modified to optimise mixing efficiency.
  • the minimum separation between the elements on at least one of the two rotatable shafts 21 and the elements on the other of the rotatable shafts 21 may be less than about 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1% of the inner diameter of the chamber 50, and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 1 to about 20, from about 1 to about 15, from about 1 to about 10, from about 1 to about 5, from about 1 to about 4, from about 1 to about 3 or from about 1 to about 2%.
  • the housing comprises a first end and a second end.
  • the first end may be the end nearest the inlet 11 and the second end may be the end nearest the outlet 16.
  • a base plate may seal the first and/or second end of the housing 23.
  • a base plate 22 may seal one end, for example the first end of the apparatus 10.
  • the base plate 22 may be attached to the housing 23.
  • the base plate 22 may be attached to the housing 23 by suitable bolts, pins, screws 24, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
  • Each of the rotatable shafts 21 also comprise a first end and a second end.
  • each of the rotatable shafts 21 may be held in place to the base plate 22 by suitable bolts, pins, studs, screws 25, or a combination of any two or more thereof, that fit into an appropriate anchor plate 26.
  • the other end of each of the rotatable shafts 21 may fit into one or more suitable upper anchor plates 27, also attached by suitable bolts, pins, studs, screws, or a combination of any two or more thereof, to the appropriate upper base plate 28.
  • the apparatus 10 may be mounted upon any suitable platform, base, frame, bench, table or scaffold (not shown) for support.
  • the outlet 16 of apparatus 10 is located vertically above the inlet 11 such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber 50 from the inlet 11 to the outlet 16.
  • the apparatus 10 may be positioned substantially horizontally or at any appropriate angle, provided that the outlet is above the inlet.
  • the apparatus 10 may be positioned substantially vertically. A vertical orientation of apparatus 10 may be advantageous, for example in minimizing the plant floor footprint of the apparatus.
  • an apparatus in which the outlet 16 is above the inlet 11 such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber may enhance product mixing, heating and/or stretching. Such an arrangement may ensure the slow movement of the admixture through the chamber 50 (against gravity).
  • the apparatus does not require a system to recirculate the one or more ingredients or admixture to complete the mixing, stretching and heating process.
  • the supplemental equipment often needed by traditional apparatuses, in particular, apparatuses used to process cheese.
  • Such apparatuses often require recirculating systems to complete mixing, heating and stretching to form products, in particular food products such as cheese, with suitable and/or desirable characteristics.
  • the product is removed from chamber 50 through the outlet 16 for packaging.
  • products may undergo further processing after removal from the apparatus 10.
  • further processing may include vacuum treatment and/or packaging in bulk boxes as blocks or loaves, individually wrapped slices or slice-on-slice cheese.
  • the cheese may be cast as a sheet on a suitable cooling surface, cut into shreds or other suitable shapes or forms, frozen and/or packaged.
  • further processing may comprise, for example moulding, cutting to size and/or packaging.
  • the apparatus and method described herein has use in many industrial processes, including but not limited to for example the manufacture of process cheeses and fibrous pasta filata cheeses such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese, and/or pizza cheese analogues.

Abstract

An apparatus and method for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product comprising a housing (23) comprising a chamber (50), first and second rotatable shafts (21) adjacent to each other within the chamber (50) and comprising first and second intermeshed sections, the first intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade (60) and the second intermeshed sections comprising at least one arm (80) extending from each rotatable shaft (21) or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicular from each rotatable shaft (21).

Description

MANUFACTURING APPARATUS AND METHOD FIELD OF THE INVENTION
[0001] The invention relates to an apparatus for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product. The invention also relates to a method of making a product mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture and stretching the admixture to form the product. The product may be a non-food product, for example an industrial non-food product, or a food product, for example a process cheese. Most preferably, the product is a food product, in particular, fibrous pasta filata cheese varieties such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese and/or a pizza cheese analogue.
BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION
[0002] Many industrial applications require the mixing, heating and stretching of ingredient mixtures. However, available mechanical systems are limited in their ability to perform such operations in a single processing step.
[0003] An example of an application that requires mixing, heating, and stretching of ingredient mixtures is the manufacture of Mozzarella and related pasta filata cheese varieties. Attempts to enhance Mozzarella manufacturing efficiency typically focus on automating the curd cooking procedure, frequently when combined with automated kneading and stretching. Most automated systems attempt to duplicate these effects by introducing milled curd into a "mixer - cooker" device.
[0004] Mixer-cooker devices frequently include augers operated at high rotational speeds to achieve required product flow rates when compressed against backpressure elements. Such mixer-cookers and other apparatuses that mix, heat and stretch one or more ingredients into various food or non-food products continue to be limited in their ability to
• produce pasta filata cheeses, for example Mozzarella, and other products by a single processing step, without the need to recirculate ingredients to complete the heating/cooking process, such that complete processing typically requires additional equipment and procedures,
• adequately mix ingredients, which may lead to reduced product functionality, and/or
• prevent or mitigate product loss and therefore maximise product yield and/or processing efficiency, often requiring secondary working steps involving additional equipment to achieve proper mixing. [0005] The additional equipment requirement of traditional apparatuses often has the disadvantage of creating waste streams. As an example, many pasta filata cheese mixer- cookers heat curd particles in a hot liquid medium such as water and/or whey, either immediately prior to cooking and stretching and/or within the mixer-cooker device. Such devices therefore often require large amounts of heated water or whey and so produce extensive amounts of waste water or waste whey. Such wasteful systems promote excessive milk solids and/or salt whey losses during cheese processing, particularly incurring high fat losses.
[0006] There remains a need for improved or alternative apparatuses for use in applications requiring mixing, heating and stretching. Such apparatuses may be particularly useful in the manufacture of cheese, in particular pasta filata cheese varieties such as Mozzarella. Such apparatuses may also be useful in the production of products other than cheese, including non-food products such as for example plastic, rubber and/or fibreglass, as well as food products such as for example pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats and/or confections.
[0007] It is an object of the present invention to provide an apparatus which overcomes or at least partially ameliorates some of the above-mentioned disadvantages and/or to at least provide the public with a useful choice.
[0008] Other objects of the invention may become apparent from the following description which is given by way of example only.
[0009] In this specification, where reference has been made to external sources of information, including patent specifications and other documents, this is generally for the purpose of providing a context for discussing the features of the present invention. Unless stated otherwise, reference to such sources of information is not to be construed, in any jurisdiction, as an admission that such sources of information are prior art or form part of the common general knowledge in the art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
[0010] In a first aspect the present invention broadly consists in an apparatus for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product, the apparatus comprising
a housing comprising a chamber, an inlet for delivering the one or more ingredients into the chamber, and an outlet to allow the product to exit from the chamber; first and second rotatable shafts provided within the chamber and adapted to mix the one or more ingredients to form the admixture, to stretch the admixture, and to transport the admixture through the chamber to the outlet; and
a temperature regulator adapted to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture,
the first and second rotatable shafts being located adjacent to each other within the chamber, and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed sections comprising either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
[0011] In a second aspect the present invention broadly consists in a method of mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture and stretching the admixture to form a product in a unitary process, the method comprising
contacting the one or more ingredients with an apparatus comprising first and second rotatable shafts located adjacent to each other and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, to form an admixture, stretch and transport the admixture, while controlling the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to form the product.
[0012] In some embodiments the outlet is located vertically above the inlet such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber from the inlet to the outlet.
[0013] In some embodiments the apparatus is operable in a substantially vertical orientation.
[0014] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts further comprise corresponding third intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade extending from each rotatable shaft.
[0015] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts each further comprise an additional corresponding intermeshed section comprising a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from the first and second rotatable shafts.
[0016] In some embodiments the chamber comprises at least a first wall section, the first wall section comprising a plurality of protrusions that intermesh with the plurality of protrusions on one or both of the first and second rotatable shafts, when present.
[0017] In some embodiments the apparatus further comprises a third rotatable shaft positioned at or near the outlet and at an angle to or parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts.
[0018] In some embodiments the at least one arm at each instance comprises
a first portion provided to the rotatable shaft and being substantially perpendicular to the rotatable shaft, and a second portion provided to the first portion and being substantially parallel to the rotatable shaft.
[0019] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts are parallel to each other.
[0020] In some embodiments the section comprising the helical blade is at each instance an Archimedes screw.
[0021] In some embodiments the chamber comprises an inner diameter, and the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present each have or describe an outer diameter in use, and the outer diameter of the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present is between about 90 to about 100% of the inner diameter of the chamber.
[0022] In some embodiments there is a minimum separation between the helical blade or the at least one arm on the first rotatable shaft and the helical blade or the at least one arm on the second rotatable shaft and the minimum separation is between 1 and 20% of the inner diameter of the channel.
[0023] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts are adapted to rotate
in a first direction to transport the one or more ingredients, or admixture through the chamber from the inlet to the outlet, and in a second direction, opposite to the first direction. [0024] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts are adapted to rotate at different speeds along each section of the rotatable shaft.
[0025] In some embodiments the chamber further comprises one or more secondary entrance portals for delivering one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
[0026] In some embodiments the apparatus does not comprise a system for recirculating the one or more ingredients or admixture.
[0027] In some embodiments the apparatus, the housing and/or at least one of the first and second rotatable shafts has a modular structure.
[0028] In some embodiments the housing has a modular structure and comprises a removable front face plate.
[0029] In some embodiments the chamber has a volume of from about 0.15 L to about 7,500 L.
[0030] In some embodiments the temperature regulator comprises one or more ports for the introduction of a heating and/or cooling medium, and/or a jacketed wall at least partially surrounding the chamber.
[0031] In some embodiments the one or more ports and/or the jacketed wall are adapted to regulate the temperature of the chamber using a heating and/or cooling medium.
[0032] In some embodiments the heating or cooling medium is a fluid.
[0033] In some embodiments the heating medium is selected from the group consisting of steam and an appropriate gas, or a combination of both.
[0034] In some embodiments the chamber further comprises one or more exit portals for removing the heating and/or cooling medium from the jacketed wall.
[0035] In some embodiments the apparatus does not comprise a water bath.
[0036] In some embodiments the apparatus further comprises instrumentation selected from the group consisting of a temperature probe, pressure valve or gauge, vacuum valve or gauge, steam valve or gauge and flow meter, or a combination of any two or more thereof. [0037] In some embodiments the apparatus further comprises a conveyor and/or pump provided to the inlet to introduce the one or more ingredients into the chamber though the inlet.
[0038] In some embodiments the inlet, the outlet, and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals comprise a flow meter to monitor the flow through the inlet, the outlet and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals respectively.
[0039] In some embodiments the chamber comprises radiused corners.
[0040] In some embodiments the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
[0041] In some embodiments the admixture is stretched and transported such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the apparatus.
[0042] In some embodiments the method further comprises a temperature adjustment step.
[0043] In some embodiments the method further comprises providing one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
[0044] In some embodiments the one or more ingredients is provided to the apparatus sequentially or at the same time before forming the admixture.
[0045] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts or each of the sections of the rotatable shafts rotate at a tip speed of about 0.1 to about 2 m/s.
[0046] In some embodiments each of the first and second rotatable shafts rotate in the same direction.
[0047] In some embodiments each of the first and second rotatable shafts rotate in a different direction.
[0048] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture at a temperature of from about 20 to about 400°C.
[0049] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture at a temperature of from about 20 to about 160°C.
[0050] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients. [0051] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the admixture.
[0052] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and the admixture.
[0053] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture while mixing or stretching.
[0054] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture while mixing and stretching.
[0055] In some embodiments the method may comprise one or more temperature adjustment steps.
[0056] In some embodiments each of the temperature adjustment steps may comprise heating or cooling.
[0057] In some embodiments the apparatus may be adapted to cool the one or more ingredients and/or admixture.
[0058] In some embodiments the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture may be cooled to a temperature of from about 20 to about 95°C.
[0059] In some embodiments the one or more ingredients is selected from the group consisting of cheese, cheese curd, skim milk cheese, lactic casein curd, enzyme modified cheese, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, butter milk, whey, concentrated milks, whole milk powder, non-fat dry milk, skim milk powder, butter milk powder, one or more starter microorganisms, rennet, milk retentates produced by membrane filtration, dried milk protein concentrate, dried-mineral adjusted milk protein concentrate, dried-ion exchanged milk protein concentrate, dry sweet whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried ion exchanged whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, total milk protein, cream, high fat cream, butter, ghee, beta serum, permeate, dried permeate, lactose, minerals obtained by fractionating dairy ingredients, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, potassium caseinate, calcium caseinate and lactic casein, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
[0060] In some embodiments milk retentates are produced by a type of membrane filtration selected from the group consisting of microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, diafiltration and reverse osmosis, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
[0061] In some embodiments the one or more additional ingredients is one or more generally recognised as safe ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, salt, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (for example, spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, bleaching agents, sweeteners, starches, vitamins, minerals, non-dairy fats, fat replacers and non-dairy proteins, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
[0062] In some embodiments the product is a food product.
[0063] In some embodiments the food product is selected from the group consisting of cheese, pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats and confections.
[0064] In some embodiments heating comprises cooking the one or more ingredients to form the food product.
[0065] In some embodiments the food product is cheese.
[0066] In some embodiments the food product is a fibrous food product.
[0067] In some embodiments the cheese is selected from the group consisting of process cheeses, pizza cheeses and cheese analogues.
[0068] In some embodiments the cheese is a pasta filata cheese.
[0069] In some embodiments the pasta filata cheese is Mozzarella.
[0070] In some embodiments the cheese comprises aligned casein fibres.
[0071] In some embodiments the cheese comprises elongated casein fibres, for example aligned and elongated casein fibres.
[0072] In some embodiments the presence of the aligned casein fibres is determined by confocal laser scanning microscopy or scanning electron microscopy.
[0073] In some embodiments the presence of the elongated casein fibres is
determined by confocal laser scanning microscopy or scanning electron microscopy.
[0074] In some embodiments the product is a non-food product.
[0075] In some embodiments the non-food product is selected from the group consisting of rubber, plastic, fibreglass and synthetic fibres. [0076] In some embodiments heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to a temperature sufficient to react the one or more ingredients to form the product.
[0077] In some embodiments the admixture is homogenous.
[0078] In some embodiments the admixture is heterogeneous.
[0079] In some embodiments the admixture forms a uniformly mixed and stretched product.
[0080] In some embodiments the admixture comprises aligned fibres.
[0081] It is intended that reference to a range of numbers disclosed herein (for example, 1 to 10) also incorporates reference to all rational numbers within that range (for example, 1, 1.1, 2, 3, 3.9, 4, 5, 6, 6.5, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and also any range of rational numbers within that range (for example, 2 to 8, 1.5 to 5.5 and 3.1 to 4.7) and, therefore, all sub-ranges of all ranges expressly disclosed herein are hereby expressly disclosed.
These are only examples of what is specifically intended and all possible combinations of numerical values between the lowest value and the highest value enumerated are to be considered to be expressly stated in this application in a similar manner.
[0082] This invention may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, and any or all combinations of any two or more said parts, elements or features, and where specific integers are mentioned herein which have known equivalents in the art to which this invention relates, such known equivalents are deemed to be
incorporated herein as if individually set forth.
[0083] The term "comprising" as used in this specification and claims means
"consisting at least in part of". When interpreting each statement in this specification and claims that includes the term "comprising", features other than that or those prefaced by the term may also be present. Related terms such as "comprise" and "comprises" are to be interpreted in the same manner.
[0084] Unless otherwise stated, the singular forms "a" "an" and "the" include the plural reference.
[0085] As used herein the term "and/or" means "and" or "or", or both.
[0086] As used herein "(s)" following a noun means the plural and/or singular forms of the noun. [0087] Although the present invention is broadly as defined above, those persons skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention is not limited thereto and that the invention also includes embodiments of which the following description gives examples.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
[0088] The invention will now be described by way of example only and with reference to the drawings in which :
[0089] Figure 1 shows a frontal view of an apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.
[0090] Figure 2 shows the frontal view of the apparatus of Figure 1 with the front face plate removed.
[0091] Figure 3 shows a close-up schematic illustration of a steam injection nozzle of an apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.
[0092] Figure 4 shows a rotatable shaft for use in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
[0093] Figure 5 shows a closer view of the pair of arms of the rotatable shaft shown in Figure 4.
[0094] Figure 6 shows a partial view of a rotatable shaft according to an embodiment of the invention, the shaft comprising a plurality of protrusions along one section of the shaft and a helical blade along another section of the shaft.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
[0095] The present invention relates to an apparatus and a method for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching (that is, mechanically working) the admixture to form a product. In various embodiments the apparatus may be used in numerous industrial and food applications. The invention particularly relates to mixing and cooking one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product. In various embodiments the invention relates to an apparatus or method of forming a fibrous product, particularly a fibrous food product such as
Mozzarella cheese.
[0096] In various embodiments, for example in cheese manufacture, the apparatus and/or method may allow mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product as a unitary process. The term "unitary process" refers to the ability of an apparatus or method to mix and heat one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretch the admixture to form a product in a single processing step, that is, in a single pass from inlet 11 to outlet 16, without the need for recirculation and/or auxiliary equipment to complete processing.
[0097] The apparatus processes one or more ingredients in a temperature-controlled chamber comprising first and second rotatable shafts. The apparatus may be used in methods of food manufacture, particularly for producing food products selected from the group consisting of cheese (for example, process and related cheese varieties), pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats, meat analogues and/or confections. Preferably the apparatus is used in a method of making pasta filata type cheeses, such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese and/or pizza cheese analogues.
[0098] The apparatus may also be used in a method of making non-food products, such as for example non-food products selected from the group consisting of rubber, plastic, fibreglass and synthetic fibres, such as for example nylon. The apparatus may be used to make non-food products related to rubber, plastic, fibreglass or synthetic fibres, such as for example products comprising rubber, plastic, fibreglass or synthetic fibres. An example of such a product may be a body-care product comprising plastic microbeads.
[0099] Depending on the ingredients used, the admixture and/or the product formed may be homogenous or heterogeneous. For example, when the product is a rubber, plastic or cheese, the admixture may be homogenous. As a further example, when the product is fibreglass, cereal or nutrition bars, the admixture may be heterogeneous.
[00100] The apparatus comprises first and second rotatable shafts adapted to mix one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and to stretch and transport the admixture. The first and second rotatable shafts comprise corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed sections comprising either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially
perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft. The helical blade, arm and plurality of protrusions are each examples of functional elements.
[00101] The functional elements of each of the rotatable shafts may be specifically selected and/or designed to interact in a unique, complementary manner to promote one or more desirable functional characteristics in the product. The elements of these rotatable shafts are adapted to simultaneously mix and stretch ingredient blends within a
temperature controlled environment. In the context of fibrous food product, for example pasta filata cheese, manufacture, the elements are also adapted to knead ingredient blends. The elements on the corresponding intermeshed sections of each of the rotatable shafts may therefore produce multiple beneficial effects that the separate elements cannot produce individually. For example, in various embodiments, the selected shaft elements of the apparatus may be capable of transforming one or more ingredients into a tempered, plastic mass having certain desired properties. In particular, in various embodiments the apparatus may be adapted to produce finished products with a desired fibrous network, using only a single, unitary processing step, thereby eliminating waste.
[00102] In the context of cheese manufacture, the production of pasta filata cheeses, such as Mozzarella, may comprise heating (cooking), mixing, stretching, kneading and salting. When heated, molten Mozzarella curd is highly viscoelastic, forming a plastic curd mass that simultaneously possesses both the viscosity of a liquid and the elasticity of a solid. The inventors believe that the high apparent viscosity of the molten Mozzarella curd mass promotes laminar flow, which may inhibit mixing between different fluid layers, or 'lamellae'. Adequate mixing of the separate lamellae is thought to require chaotic motion to physically re-orientate product flow during manufacture. However, chaotic motion is known to destroy fibrous particles. One challenge in the manufacture of pasta filata cheese varieties is therefore the ability of an apparatus to produce a molten curd mass with adequate mixing of lamellae while retaining the fibrous particles within the curd mass.
[00103] Most Mozzarella manufacturing processes attempt to create elongated casein fibres from the molten curd mass and to then align the casein fibres in a single direction, preferably forming channels entrapping free serum. The entrapped serum then absorbs into the casein fibres as the pasta filata cheese ages to control Mozzarella functionality. The inventors believe that serum absorption by the aligned casein fibres may determine the elasticity, body, texture, stretch, melt, colour, blister formation, blister colour, emulsion stability, free oil release and/or mouthfeel of heated Mozzarella-type cheeses, particularly when baked upon a pizza. Therefore, the manufacture of pasta filata-type cheeses, such as Mozzarella, in a unitary process should achieve nearly mutually exclusive effects by creating casein fibres, while mixing lamellae.
[00104] The inventors believe that the interaction of the functional elements of the corresponding intermeshed sections of each of the rotatable shafts when heating, mixing and stretching allows the apparatus to produce pasta filata cheese varieties having the desired casein fibres as well as ensuring adequate mixing of lamellae. In various
embodiments the apparatus and method achieve this result in a single processing step. The inventors believe that the achievement of such effects previously required successive processing steps using multiple types of equipment. [00105] The presence of desirable functional characteristics in a product produced in accordance with the invention may be evaluated using methods known in the art. For example, in the context of pasta filata cheese manufacture, the presence and/or nature, such as size, of elongated casein fibres in pasta filata cheeses may be evaluated using microscopy. In particular, Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), including variants such as Cryo-Scanning Electron Microscopy (cryo-SEM), may be used to visualise casein fibres within a sample. For example, Figure 4A of Oberg, C. J., W. R. McManus, and D. J. McMahon. 1993. Microstructure of Mozzarella cheese during manufacture. Food Structure. 12(2) : 251-257, shows the elongated fibrous structure of Mozzarella using SEM.
[00106] Nguyen, H.T.H., L. Ong, C. Lopez, S. E. Kentish, and S. L. Gras. 2017.
Microstructure and physicochemical properties reveal differences between high moisture buffalo and bovine Mozzarella cheeses. Food Res. Intern. 102:458-467 is another reference that illustrates the distinctive fibrous structure of the skin section of Mozzarella when viewed using CLSM (see Figure 2, Al, Bl, Cl, D1 and El). Auty, M.A.E., M. Twomey, T. P. Guinee, and D. Mulvihill. 2001. Development and application of confocal scanning laser microscopy methods for studying the distribution of fat and protein in selected dairy products. J. Dairy Res. 68:417-427 illustrates the differences between the structure of Mozzarella compared to other types of cheese, namely cream cheese, Cheddar and process cheese (see plates 1 and 2).
[00107] Kindstedt, P., M. Caric, and S. Milanovic. 2004. Pasta-filata cheeses. Cheese Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology 3rd ed. P. F. Fox, P.L.H. McSweeney, T. M. Cogan, and T. P. Guinee. Ed. Elsevier London. Vol. 2, pg. 251-277 (referred to herein as Kindstedt et al.) also describes tests used to evaluate changes in curd structure during stretching, namely the formation of substantially parallel fibres within the curd.
[00108] Tests used to evaluate characteristics other than the fibrous structure of pasta filata cheeses are also known in the art. Such characteristics include, for example, heat- induced functional properties (melting), meltability, stretchability, oiling-off and browning and associated tests are described in, for example, Kindstedt et al. and Jana, A. H., and P.
K. Mandal. 2011. Manufacturing and quality of Mozzarella cheese. A Review. Internat. J. Dairy Sci. 6(4) : 199-226.
[00109] Embodiments of the invention will now be described in more detail with reference to the Figures.
[00110] Figure 1 provides a frontal view of an apparatus 10 according to one
embodiment of the invention. The apparatus comprises a housing 23 which comprises a chamber (not shown in this figure), an inlet 11 for delivering one or more ingredients into the chamber, and an outlet 16 for removing product from the chamber. In some embodiments the outlet 16 may comprise an optional vacuum system to assist in product removal. In some embodiments, the apparatus may comprise one or more secondary entrance portals 12a, 12b to introduce a secondary ingredient stream, for example one or more additional ingredients, into the chamber. Preferably, the secondary entrance portal 12a, 12b may be positioned above inlet 11 in position 12a as shown in Figure 1. In some embodiments the secondary entrance portal 12a, 12b may be located below inlet 11, in the position indicated as 12b.
[OOlll] The housing 23 may have a monocoque design or may have a modular structure. A housing having a modular structure may comprise a front face plate 101 that may be removeable from the rest of the housing 23 as shown in Figure 1. Removal of the front face plate 101 may allow direct access to the chamber or the apparatus 10 for disassembly, maintenance, and/or cleaning. The housing may be fabricated by any suitable means, for example by casting, machining, additive or mixed-mode manufacture. In various embodiments the housing may be manufactured to allow for the use of standard fittings and/or gauges.
[00112] In embodiments in which the product is a food-product such as cheese, the one or more ingredients delivered to the chamber 50 of the apparatus for mixing, cooking and stretching may comprise one or more dairy ingredients selected from the group consisting of cheese, cheese curd, skim milk cheese, lactic casein curd, enzyme modified cheese, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, butter milk, whey, concentrated milks, whole milk powder, non-fat dry milk, skim milk powder, butter milk powder, one or more starter microorganisms, rennet, milk retentates produced by membrane filtration (such as by processing with microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, diafiltration and reverse osmosis), dried milk protein concentrate, dried-mineral adjusted milk protein concentrate, dried-ion exchanged milk protein concentrate, dry sweet whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried ion exchanged whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, total milk protein, cream, high fat cream, butter, ghee, beta serum, permeate, dried permeate, lactose, minerals obtained by fractionating dairy ingredients, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, potassium caseinate, calcium caseinate and lactic casein, or a
combination of any two or more thereof.
[00113] In embodiments in which the product is a non-food product the one or more ingredients may be one or more non-food ingredients. For example, if the product is fibreglass, then the one or more ingredients may comprise one or more types of polymer and one or more types of fibre. The polymer may be any polymer suitable for use in fibreglass manufacture, such as for example epoxy, a vinyl ester, a polyester or a phenol formaldehyde resin. Similarly, the fibre may be any fibre suitable for use in fibreglass manufacture, such as for example glass fibre, carbon fibre, aramid or another type of synthetic fibre, basalt, paper or wood. In some embodiments more than one polymer and/or more than one fibre may be used. It will be understood by a person skilled in the art that the type of polymer(s) and fibre(s) used will depend at least partly on the intended application of the resulting fibreglass. A person having ordinary skill in the art will be able to select a suitable polymer(s) and fibre(s) for a particular intended application.
[00114] In the context of rubber and plastic manufacture, the one or more ingredients may be one or more types of monomers capable of polymerising to form the rubber or plastic. For example, synthetic rubbers are often formed by the polymerisation of one or more types of petroleum-based monomers.
[00115] The one or more ingredients may be introduced into the apparatus 10 through inlet 11 to initiate processing of the ingredients into an admixture.
[00116] In some embodiments the one or more ingredients delivered to the chamber 50 of the apparatus for mixing, heating and stretching may comprise a prepared product, such as a pre-prepared mixture, which may include any suitable ingredient or food blend fit to produce the intended product. For example, in the context of cheese manufacture, the pre prepared mixture may comprise curd or cheese from cheese vats, or alternatively ground cheese blended with added salt, emulsifying salts and/or other suitable generally recognised as safe (GRAS) ingredients for producing process cheese. In the context of a non-food product manufacture, the pre-prepared mixture may comprise a pre-prepared polymer or copolymer that is then polymerised further with one or more monomers using the apparatus to form, for example a rubber or plastic.
[00117] In some embodiments, an appropriate conveyor and/or pump (not shown) may be attached or otherwise provided to the inlet 11 to introduce the one or more ingredients into the chamber of the apparatus 10. Suitable blenders, ribbon blenders, vats and/or other devices may hold and/or supply pre-prepared mixtures, for example curd, to the conveyor (where present) that feeds ingredients into the apparatus 10.
[00118] In various embodiments the apparatus 10 may also comprise one or more secondary entrance portal(s) 12a, 12b for delivering one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
[00119] In embodiments in which the product is a food-product such as cheese, the one or more additional ingredients may be one or more GRAS non-dairy ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, sodium chloride, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours (including spices and vegetable flavours), emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, bleaching agents, sweeteners, starches, vitamins, minerals, non-dairy fats, fat replacers and non-dairy proteins, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
[00120] Inorganic and organic acids may include but are not limited to for example, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, carbonic acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, benzoic acid, lactic acid, gluconic acid, malic acid, propionic acid, tartaric acid, fumaric acid, and hexanoic acid or a combination of any two or more thereof.
[00121] Emulsifiers may include but are not limited to for example, sodium caseinate, mono and diglycerides and polysorbate compounds.
[00122] Stabilizers and gums may include but are not limited to for example, gum Arabic, guar gum, carboxymethylcellulose, carrageenan, agar, starch, pectin and gelatin.
[00123] Safe and suitable enzymes may include but are not limited to for example, lipases, proteases, amylases and transglutaminase.
[00124] Emulsifying salts may include but are not limited to for example, sodium, dipotassium phosphate; and calcium salts of the mono-, di-, and polyphosphoric acids, sodium, potassium, and calcium salts of citric acid, sodium and potassium salts of tartaric acid, sodium hydrogen carbonate and/or calcium carbonate. Such salts may comprise monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium acid
pyrophosphate, tetrasodium, pyrophosphate, trisodium polyphosphate, sodium aluminium phosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium polyphosphate, potassium polyphosphate, magnesium polyphosphate, ammonium polyphosphate, trisodium citrate, (tri)potassium citrate, monocalcium citrate, calcium citrate, sodium tartrate and/or sodium potassium tartrate.
[00125] Non-dairy fats may be any suitable animal and/or vegetable fats. Non-dairy proteins may include but are not limited to for example, any suitable animal, egg and/or vegetable proteins, such as for example soy and pea proteins.
[00126] In embodiments in which the product is a non-food product, the one or more additional ingredients may be, for example, one or more polymerisation initiators, binders, solvents, catalysts, quenching agents and/or additives such as pigments.
[00127] The one or more additional ingredients may be delivered into the chamber 50 as fluids, such as for example salt brines, dissolved blends of emulsifying salts, dissolved GRAS ingredients, and/or ingredient slurries. In some embodiments an appropriate conveyor or pump (not shown) may be attached or otherwise provided to entrance portal 12 to introduce such ingredients into the chamber 50. [00128] The one or more ingredients and/or one or more additional ingredients may be provided to the chamber 50 either sequentially or simultaneously to form the admixture. In some embodiments some of the ingredients may be provided to the chamber at the same time, while others may be added sequentially.
[00129] The addition of one or more ingredients, through either the inlet 11 and/or one or more of the secondary entrance portals 12a, 12b may be controlled using one or more suitable positive pumps and/or nozzles 13. The addition of ingredients to the chamber 50 may be monitored using a suitable flow meter(s) and/or gauge(s) provided to the inlet 11, secondary entrance portal 12 and/or pump. Alternatively, or additionally, suitable flow meters and/or gauges may also be provided to outlet 16 to monitor and/or regulate product flow from the chamber 50.
[00130] The method comprises controlling the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to form the product. Accordingly, the apparatus 10 comprises a temperature regulator adapted to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture as the one or more ingredients move through the chamber 50 to the outlet 16.
[00131] In various embodiments the temperature regulator may comprise one or more ports 13 for the introduction of a heating and/or cooling medium, and/or a jacketed wall 29 (see Figure 2) at least partially surrounding the chamber. The one or more ports and/or the jacketed wall 29 is adapted to regulate the temperature of the chamber using a heating medium, that may be either a suitable liquid or a suitable gas, such as for example steam.
[00132] The heating medium, for example steam, may be injected directly into the chamber of apparatus 10 through the one or more ports 13, preferably containing steam injector nozzles 31. Figure 3 shows an embodiment of the steam injectors 31 that may be used in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. Any suitable steam injector design may be employed. In various embodiments the chamber 50 comprises an inner chamber wall 32. Preferred nozzles fit exactly or substantially flush into the inner chamber wall 32 to avoid interfering with rotation of the rotatable shafts and/or to promote admixture movement through the chamber. In various embodiments, the nozzles 31 may uniformly disperse steam throughout the chamber as product passes by the injector port 13. In some embodiments, nozzles 31 may be equipped with orifices that express steam in a defined, desired pattern.
[00133] The apparatus is adapted to heat ingredients at a range of temperatures. For example, typically, pasta filata cheese curd may be heated at a temperature of from about 20 to about 95°C during processing. In some embodiments apparatus 10 does not contain a backpressure plate for processing the product, preferably food product, preferably Mozzarella and/or other pasta filata cheeses. However, in some embodiments the apparatus may comprise one or more backpressure plates or valves, for example to make ultrahigh temperature (UHT) products.
[00134] The preparation of UHT products often uses sufficient pressure to heat one or more ingredients and/or admixture to temperatures greater than or equal to 100°C, typically achieving temperatures between 120 to 160°C. Accordingly, in various
embodiments heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture comprises heating at a temperature of from about 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 150, 155 or 160°C, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values for example from about 25 to about 160, from about 50 about 160, from about 80 to about 160, from about 100 to about 160, from about 120 to about 160, about 25 to about 100, about 35 to about 95, about 35 to about 70, or about 35 to about 60°C.
[00135] It will be understood by a person skilled in the art that in some embodiments temperature ranges outside of those listed above may be utilised. For example, in the context of plastic and rubber manufacture, the conditions required for polymerisation may vary widely depending on factors such as the monomers to be polymerised, the
absence/presence and quantity of catalyst(s), additives and/or polymerisation initiators present. A person skilled in the art will be able to select an appropriate temperature to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to, to produce the desired product, for example synthetic rubber or plastic. Accordingly, in some embodiments heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture comprises heating at a temperature of from about 160, 180, 200, 220. 240. 260, 280, 300, 320, 340, 360, 380 or 400°C or more, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values for example from about 160 to about 400, from about 160 about 300, from about 180 to about 200, from about 200 to about 400, from about 200 to about 300, about 240 to about 400, about 240 to about 300, about 280 to about 400, or about 280 to about 300°C.
[00136] In various embodiments, for example when the product is a non-food product, heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to a temperature sufficient to react the one or more of the ingredients to form the product. In such embodiments, a person skilled in the art will be able to select an appropriate temperature for heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture.
[00137] In the context of plastic manufacture, the presence, absence or quantity of unreacted monomer may be used to monitor the production of the plastic product, and to aid in the selection of an appropriate temperature for heating. The presence, absence or quantity of unreacted monomer may be monitored by techniques known in the art, for example using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, or a combination thereof. Certain desirable functional characteristics, for example the degree of cross-linking in plastic products, may also be monitored using these techniques. Other techniques will be apparent to a person skilled in the art and will depend, at least partly, on the type of product produced.
[00138] Additional to the heating described above, the apparatus may also be adapted to cool the one or more ingredients and/or admixture. Therefore, in some embodiments the method may comprise one or more optional temperature adjustment steps, for example one or more cooling steps. During cooling, for example in the manufacture of Mozzarella or other pasta filata cheese varieties the one or more ingredients and/or admixture may be cooled to a temperature of about 95, 90, 85, 80, 75, 70, 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25 or about 20°C, and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 20 to about 95, about 30 to about 95, about 50 to about 95, about 70 to about 95, about 20 to about 90, about 25 to about 90, about 45 to about 90, about 65 to about 90, about 25 to about 75, about 20 to about 60, about 20 to about 50, about 20 to about 40, or about 20 to about 30°C.
[00139] It will be understood by a person skilled in the art that the above cooling temperatures may be applicable to a number of food and non-food products produced in accordance with the invention. However, in some embodiments other cooling ranges may be desired for other products.
[00140] The cooling step, where present, may be carried out before or after the heating step. In some embodiments the method may comprise multiple temperature adjustment steps, for example more than one heating step and/or more than one cooling step. For example, in some embodiments the method may comprise two consecutive alternating heating and cooling steps. As a further example, in some embodiments one or more ingredients may be delivered into chamber 50 first, and the one or more ingredients may be heated or cooled prior to the delivery of one or more other ingredients into chamber 50.
[00141] Although Figure 1 only shows four injection ports 13, the number of injection ports 13 may be adjusted as needed to meet specific apparatus, product and processing requirements. Alternatively, or additionally to the use of injection ports 13, in some embodiments heating and/or cooling of the chamber may be achieved by the introduction of heating and/or cooling fluids into apparatus 10 through jacket portals 14 to a jacketed wall 29 of the chamber to provide indirect temperature adjustment. For example, ammonia or a halocarbon coolant such as halocarbon coolants available under the brand name Freon® may be used. In some embodiments cooling may be achieved by a gas/liquid phase transition of the coolant. Exit portals 15 may be provided to allow removal of the tempering fluids (heating and/or cooling liquid) from the jacketed wall 29. Suitable flow meters and/or gauges may also be provided to the injection ports 13 and/or exit portals 15 to monitor and/or regulate the flow of tempering fluids to/from the jacketed wall respectively.
[00142] In contrast to the use of temperature regulators such as injection ports and/or jacketed walls, a number of traditional mixer-cookers and other apparatuses use interior cooling or heating water baths to control the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or admixture during various stages of processing. The inventors believe that the use of water baths may lead to the production of large amounts of wastewater, which may in turn produce excessive amounts of waste. In the context of cheese manufacture, large amounts of wastewater may promote high curd and/or milk fat losses. Therefore, in various embodiments the apparatus 10 does not comprise a water bath. Also in the context of cheese manufacture, in various embodiments the apparatus 10 allows for direct dry salt or fluid salt brine addition, eliminating salt whey production, and therefore minimising or eliminating waste streams.
[00143] Figure 2 shows a frontal interior view of the apparatus 10 according to an embodiment of the invention. The apparatus 10 is illustrated with the front face plate 101 removed, providing a cut away view exposing two rotatable shafts 21 provided within the chamber 50. In some embodiments the apparatus may comprise 2, 3, 4 or 5 rotatable shafts, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example 2 to 5, or 2 to 4 rotatable shafts, preferably 2 rotatable shafts, preferably 3 rotatable shafts.
[00144] In various embodiments the one or more ingredients are contacted with an apparatus comprising first and second rotatable shafts. In various embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts 21 are parallel to each other. However, other orientations of the first and second rotatable shafts are also contemplated herein.
[00145] The first and second rotatable shafts 21 are adapted to mix the one or more ingredients and optionally the one or more additional ingredients to form an admixture, and to stretch and transport the admixture. In various embodiments the apparatus is adapted to stretch and transport the admixture such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the apparatus. The rotatable shafts 21 may take any form suitable to effectively mix, stretch and transport the one or more ingredients and/or admixture. In various embodiments the rotatable shafts may have a high stiffness allowing for geometric precision under load.
[00146] The first and second rotatable shafts 21 are located adjacent to each other within the chamber 50, and comprise corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed section comprising a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprising either at least one arm 80 extending from each rotatable shaft 21 or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft 21.
[00147] "Corresponding first and second intermeshed sections" means that
• the first section of the first shaft is intermeshed with the first section of the second shaft, such that the first section of the first shaft corresponds with the first section of the second shaft, and
• the second section of the first shaft is intermeshed with the second section of the second shaft, such that the second section of the first shaft corresponds with the second section of the second shaft.
[00148] The concept of corresponding intermeshed sections is also applicable where more than two sections are present on each shaft. For example, if a third section is present on each shaft then the third section of the first shaft is intermeshed with the third section of the second shaft, such that the third section of the first shaft corresponds with the third section of the second shaft.
[00149] In various embodiments the intermeshed sections may allow for overlapping flow channels for ingredient and/or admixture transport and mixing.
[00150] In some embodiments the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises at least one arm 80 extending from each rotatable shaft 21.
[00151] In some embodiments the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade 60 and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft 21.
[00152] In some embodiments the helical blade is at each instance an Archimedes screw.
[00153] In some embodiments the sections of each rotatable shaft 21 may be modular, such that they are combinable in various sequences as desired. Such modularity may also facilitate disassembly of the rotatable shaft 21 for cleaning and maintenance.
[00154] In some embodiments, for example as shown in Figure 4, the rotatable shaft 21 may comprise the following three distinct sections: • an initial section equipped with a helical blade 60, preferably a helical blade 60 in the form of an Archimedes screw, comprising approximately a third of the rotatable shaft
21,
• consecutive pairs of arms 80 in a separate section to the initial section, the separate section occupying approximately the middle third of the rotatable shaft 21, and
• a third section equipped with a helical blade 60, preferably a helical blade 60 in the form of an Archimedes screw, comprising approximately the final third of the rotatable shaft 21.
[00155] Figure 5 illustrates each arm 80 of Figure 4 in more detail. As shown in Figure 5, each arm 80, where present, may comprise a first portion 81 provided to the rotatable shaft 21 and being substantially perpendicular to the rotatable shaft 21, and a second portion 82 provided to the first portion 81 and being substantially parallel to the rotatable shaft 21.
[00156] The corresponding arms 80 of the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may be spaced apart from each other. Alternatively, the corresponding arms 80 of the first and second rotatable shafts may be intermeshed. In the context of corresponding arms 80, intermeshed means that the second portion 82 of the first rotatable shaft 21 may pass within the space defined by the second portion 82 of the second rotatable shaft 21 and the cylinder 100 of the second rotatable shaft 21, and vice versa.
[00157] In some embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts 21 each further comprise an additional corresponding intermeshed section comprising a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from the first and second rotatable shafts. The plurality of protrusions may be in the form of flaps, fingers, projections, hooks or pins.
[00158] In some embodiments the protrusions of the first rotatable shaft 21 are shaped to intermesh with protrusions of the second rotatable shaft 21, and vice versa. Some of the ways in which intermeshing of protrusions may be achieved are described below. For example, intermeshing may involve rings and/or rows of protrusions. Other ways of intermeshing will be apparent to a person skilled in the art and are also contemplated herein.
[00159] As mentioned above, the apparatus comprises a first and second rotatable shaft 21. In some embodiments the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a ring A of protrusions around the circumference of, and projecting outwardly from, the first rotatable shaft 21 as indicated by arrow A in Figure 6. The second rotatable shaft 21 (not shown in Figure 6) may comprise a corresponding ring B of protrusions around the circumference of, and projecting outwardly from, the second rotatable shaft 21. In this embodiment,
intermeshing may comprise interleaving the protrusions of ring A of the first rotatable shaft 21 with the corresponding protrusions of ring B of the second rotatable shaft 21, such that each protrusion of ring A is intermeshed between two protrusions of ring B, and vice versa.
[00160] The first and second rotatable shafts 21 may comprise one or more, preferably several rings of protrusions. In this embodiment intermeshing may occur as described above. Alternatively, intermeshing may be between rings rather within rings, such that each ring A is intermeshed between two rings B, and vice versa.
[00161] In another embodiment, the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a set of protrusions A, with the set of protrusions A comprising several rings A of protrusions. The second rotatable shaft 21 may also comprise a set of protrusions B, with the set of protrusions B comprising several rings B of protrusions. In this embodiment, intermeshing may be between sets of protrusions rather than between rings of protrusions, such that each set A is intermeshed between two sets B, and vice versa.
[00162] In some embodiments the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a row C of protrusions extending longitudinally along and projecting outwardly from the first rotatable shaft 21 as indicated by arrow C in Figure 6. The second rotatable shaft 21 (not shown in Figure 6) may comprise a corresponding row D of protrusions with the protrusions in row D extending longitudinally along and projecting outwardly from the second rotatable shaft 21. In this embodiment, intermeshing may comprise interleaving the protrusions of row C of the first rotatable shaft 21 with the corresponding protrusions of row D of the second rotatable shaft 21, such that each protrusion of row C is intermeshed between two protrusions of row D, and vice versa.
[00163] The first and second rotatable shafts 21 may comprise one or more, preferably several rows of protrusions. In this embodiment intermeshing may occur as described above. Alternatively, intermeshing may be between rows rather than between individual protrusions of rows, such that each row C is intermeshed between two rows D, and vice versa.
[00164] In another embodiment, the first rotatable shaft 21 may comprise a set of protrusions C, with the set of protrusions C comprising several rows C of protrusions. The second rotatable shaft 21 may also comprise a set of protrusions D, with the set of protrusions D comprising several rows D of protrusions. In this embodiment, intermeshing may be between sets of protrusions rather than between rows of protrusions, such that each set C is intermeshed between two sets D, and vice versa. [00165] In some embodiments the protrusions within a ring or within a row may be equidistant from each other.
[00166] In some embodiments rings or rows may be equidistant from each other. For example, when a first rotatable shaft 21 comprises several rings A of protrusions or several rows C of protrusions, the rings A or the rows C may be equidistant from each other. As another example, when the second rotatable shaft 21 comprises several rings B of protrusions or several rows D of protrusions, the rings B or rows D may be equidistant from each other.
[00167] In some embodiments the chamber 50 may comprise at least a first wall section. In some embodiments the first wall section may comprise a plurality of
protrusions. In some embodiments the protrusions on the first wall section may intermesh with the protrusions 30 on one or both of the first and second rotatable shafts 21. In various embodiments the protrusions on the first wall section are shaped to intermesh with the protrusions on one or both, preferably both, the first and second rotatable shafts 21, as described above for intermeshing between shafts. Accordingly, the protrusions on the wall of chamber 50 may be arranged as rings about the circumference of the chamber 50, or as rows extending in a longitudinal direction along the chamber 50, each protrusion projecting into the chamber 50.
[00168] It will be apparent to a person skilled in the art that the various ways of intermeshing described with reference to the first and second rotatable shafts 21 are also applicable to intermeshing between protrusions of the first wall section of the chamber 50, where present, and one or both, preferably both, the first and second rotatable shaft 21.
[00169] Figure 6 shows a partial view of a rotatable shaft 21 comprising a plurality of protrusions 30 along one section of the shaft 21 and a helical blade 60 along another section of the shaft. The protrusions 30 shown in Figure 6 are cylindrical in shape.
However, it will be understood by a person skilled in the art that the protrusions 30 may have any suitable shape, such as for example cylindrical, conical, cuboidal or substantially or partially spherical. Rotatable shafts 21 comprising a plurality of protrusions 30 may be manufactured by various ways known in the art. For example, protrusions 30 may be set into the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50 by methods known in the art. In some embodiments the plurality of protrusions 30 may be set into the rotatable shaft 21 by, for example, welding, pinning, screwing, or similar methods for attachment known to those skilled in the art. Similar processes may also be used to set the protrusions 30 into the first wall section of the chamber 50. In some embodiments the protrusions 30 may be removable from the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50, for example during cleaning. In some embodiments the helical blade 60 and/or the pair of arms 80 may also be removable from the rotatable shaft 21. In some embodiments the helical blade 60, the arm 80 and/or the protrusions 30, where present, may be permanently fixed in the rotatable shaft 21 and/or the first wall section of the chamber 50.
[00170] An apparatus 10 comprising the first and second rotatable shafts 21 and at least one other rotatable shaft is also contemplated herein. For example, in some embodiments the apparatus 10 may comprise a first and second rotatable shafts 21, preferably parallel to each other. The first and second rotatable shafts 21 may be positioned along a length of the chamber 50 and may each comprise two sections, each section comprising a helical blade 60, and a third section comprising a pair of arms 80, the third section separating the two sections comprising the helical blade 60 surrounding the rotatable shaft 21. The apparatus 10 may further comprise a third rotatable shaft, preferably positioned parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts 21, preferably behind, and between the first and second rotatable shafts. In such configurations, the third rotatable shaft may be adapted to enhance mixing and stretching by the first and second shafts and/or may be adapted to stretch and transport the admixture while maintaining an emulsion. In some embodiments the third rotatable shaft may be positioned at an angle or parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts 21. In some embodiments the third rotatable shaft may be positioned at or near the outlet 16, for example at or near the outlet at an angle to the first and second rotatable shafts 21.
[00171] With reference to Figure 2, suitable drives 211 may be provided to each rotatable shaft 21 to provide rotation. The drives 211 may each comprise a motor, preferably a suitable electric motor, and suitable gearbox. A range of different drives may be compatible with the apparatus. The drives selected in various embodiments will operate the apparatus to maximise useful work relative to mechanical losses from the drive and any associated gearbox.
[00172] In various embodiments the rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction, such that in some embodiments each of the rotatable shafts 21 may each rotate in the same or in counter directions to each other. For example, the rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in a first direction, for example to transport the one or more ingredients and/or admixture through the chamber 50 from the inlet 11 to the outlet 16, and may rotate or be adapted to rotate in a second direction, opposite to the first direction, for example to facilitate apparatus cleaning.
[00173] In various embodiments sections of the first and second rotatable shafts 21 may rotate or be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction, such that in some embodiments different sections of the same rotatable shaft 21 may each rotate in the same or counter directions to each other.
[00174] In embodiments comprising more than two rotatable shafts any or all the rotatable shafts may be adapted to rotate in either rotational direction independently of each other.
[00175] Each of the rotatable shafts and/or each section of each rotatable shaft may rotate or be adapted to rotate at different tip speeds. For example, in various embodiments the first and second rotatable shafts 21 or each of the sections of the first and second rotatable shafts may rotate at a tip speed independently selected from about 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 or 2 m/s or more, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values for example a speed of about 0.1 to about 2 m/s, 0.1 to about 1 m/s, about 0.1 to about 0.8, about 0.1 to about 0.5, about 0.2 to about 1, about 0.2 to about 0.8, or about 0.2 to about 0.5 m/s.
[00176] Independent rotation of each rotatable shaft and/or of each section of each rotatable shaft may allow for increased control over the processing of the one or more ingredients into the product, preferably food product, and may in turn lead to improved outcomes, for example improved control over product characteristics, processing efficiency and/or reduced waste. Other features of apparatus 10 may also be tailored to promote processing of the one or more ingredients into the desired product, for example a fibrous food product. For example, the corners of chamber 50 may be radiused to facilitate the movement of the admixture through the chamber 50 and/or to eliminate or limit dead spots that may retain and hold a measure portion of the admixture in the chamber 50. Radiused corners may further facilitate cleaning and maintenance.
[00177] As described above, the modularity of the housing may also facilitate cleaning and maintenance and appropriate systems may be installed to allow cleaning-in-place of the apparatus 10 described herein. For example, a typical cleaning-in-place system may comprise a balance tank comprising a cleaning solution (not shown). The cleaning solution may be connected to an appropriate pump that allows for the introduction of the cleaning solution through the inlet 11 of apparatus 10. The cleaning solution may then flow through apparatus 10 to exit the apparatus 10 through outlet 16. Cleaning liquids may be returned to the original balance tank and recirculated as needed to complete cleaning.
[00178] One of the disadvantages of some conventional product processing apparatuses is that they often hold a large volume of product and have dead spots that may retain and hold a measure portion of the admixture as described above. A large internal volume (heel volume) may lead to product wastage if product is trapped in the apparatus after it is shut down. In various embodiments, the apparatus of the present invention comprises a chamber 50 with a volume of at least about 0.15, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.35, 0.4, 0.45, 0.5, 0.55, 0.6, 0.65, 0.7, 0.75, 0.8, 0.85, 0.9, 0.95, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, 500, 525, 550, 575, 600, 625, 650, 675, 700, 725, 750, 775, 800, 825, 850, 875, 900, 925, 950, 975, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, 2,500, 3,000, 3,500, 4,000, 4,500, 5,000, 5,500,
6,000, 6,500, 7,000 or 7,500 L, and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 0.15 L to about 7,500 L, from about 1 to about 3,000, from about 1 to about 1,500, from about 1 to about 1,000, from about 100 to about 1,500, preferably from about 300 to about 1,500, more preferably from about 500 to about 1,200 L. The inventors believe that in various embodiments the interior design of the apparatus described herein may reduce product wastage during processing.
[00179] Another feature that may minimise product wastage and/or enhance ingredient mixing efficiency is a close clearance between an inner diameter of the chamber 50 and an outer diameter of the helical blade 60 and/or arm 80 in use where present. In various embodiments the helical blade 60 and/or the arm 80, where present, each have an outer diameter of from about 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 or substantially 100% if the inner diameter of the chamber 50, and suitable ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 90 to about 100, about 92 to about 100, about 95 to about 100, or about 98 to about 100% of the inner diameter of the chamber 50.
[00180] The distance between functional elements (for example, helical blades 60 and/or arms 80) on different rotatable shafts 21 is also a feature that may be modified to optimise mixing efficiency. For example, in some embodiments the minimum separation between the elements on at least one of the two rotatable shafts 21 and the elements on the other of the rotatable shafts 21 may be less than about 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1% of the inner diameter of the chamber 50, and useful ranges may be selected from any of these values, for example from about 1 to about 20, from about 1 to about 15, from about 1 to about 10, from about 1 to about 5, from about 1 to about 4, from about 1 to about 3 or from about 1 to about 2%.
[00181] The housing comprises a first end and a second end. In some embodiments the first end may be the end nearest the inlet 11 and the second end may be the end nearest the outlet 16. In various embodiments a base plate may seal the first and/or second end of the housing 23. As shown in Figure 2, a base plate 22 may seal one end, for example the first end of the apparatus 10. The base plate 22 may be attached to the housing 23. For example, the base plate 22 may be attached to the housing 23 by suitable bolts, pins, screws 24, or a combination of any two or more thereof. [00182] Each of the rotatable shafts 21 also comprise a first end and a second end.
One end of each of the rotatable shafts 21 may be held in place to the base plate 22 by suitable bolts, pins, studs, screws 25, or a combination of any two or more thereof, that fit into an appropriate anchor plate 26. The other end of each of the rotatable shafts 21 may fit into one or more suitable upper anchor plates 27, also attached by suitable bolts, pins, studs, screws, or a combination of any two or more thereof, to the appropriate upper base plate 28. During installation, the apparatus 10 may be mounted upon any suitable platform, base, frame, bench, table or scaffold (not shown) for support.
[00183] As mentioned above, in some embodiments the outlet 16 of apparatus 10 is located vertically above the inlet 11 such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber 50 from the inlet 11 to the outlet 16. In some embodiments the apparatus 10 may be positioned substantially horizontally or at any appropriate angle, provided that the outlet is above the inlet. In various embodiments, for example the embodiment shown in Figure 1, the apparatus 10 may be positioned substantially vertically. A vertical orientation of apparatus 10 may be advantageous, for example in minimizing the plant floor footprint of the apparatus.
[00184] The inventors believe that an apparatus in which the outlet 16 is above the inlet 11 such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber, for example an apparatus with a vertical orientation, may enhance product mixing, heating and/or stretching. Such an arrangement may ensure the slow movement of the admixture through the chamber 50 (against gravity). In various embodiments, for example when the outlet 16 is above the inlet 11, the apparatus does not require a system to recirculate the one or more ingredients or admixture to complete the mixing, stretching and heating process. This contrasts with the supplemental equipment often needed by traditional apparatuses, in particular, apparatuses used to process cheese. Such apparatuses often require recirculating systems to complete mixing, heating and stretching to form products, in particular food products such as cheese, with suitable and/or desirable characteristics.
[00185] After the product reaches the outlet 16, the product is removed from chamber 50 through the outlet 16 for packaging. In some embodiments products may undergo further processing after removal from the apparatus 10. If the product is a cheese, then such further processing may include vacuum treatment and/or packaging in bulk boxes as blocks or loaves, individually wrapped slices or slice-on-slice cheese. Alternatively, the cheese may be cast as a sheet on a suitable cooling surface, cut into shreds or other suitable shapes or forms, frozen and/or packaged. If the product is a non-food product, then further processing may comprise, for example moulding, cutting to size and/or packaging. [00186] Where in the foregoing description reference has been made to elements or integers having known equivalents, then such equivalents are included as if they were individually set forth.
[00187] Although the invention has been described by way of example and with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that modifications and/or improvements may be made without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention.
INDUSTRIAL APPLICATION
[00188] The apparatus and method described herein has use in many industrial processes, including but not limited to for example the manufacture of process cheeses and fibrous pasta filata cheeses such as for example Mozzarella, pizza cheese, and/or pizza cheese analogues.

Claims

1. An apparatus for mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture, and stretching the admixture to form a product, the apparatus comprising
a housing comprising a chamber, an inlet for delivering the one or more ingredients into the chamber, and an outlet to allow the product to exit from the chamber;
first and second rotatable shafts provided within the chamber and adapted to mix the one or more ingredients to form the admixture, to stretch the admixture, and to transport the admixture through the chamber to the outlet; and
a temperature regulator adapted to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture,
the first and second rotatable shafts being located adjacent to each other within the chamber, and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, the first corresponding intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed sections comprising either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the outlet is located vertically above the inlet such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the chamber from the inlet to the outlet.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 or 2, wherein the apparatus is operable in a substantially
vertical orientation.
4. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the first and second rotatable shafts further comprise corresponding third intermeshed sections comprising a helical blade extending from each rotatable shaft.
5. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the first and second rotatable shafts each further comprise an additional corresponding intermeshed section comprising a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from the first and second rotatable shafts.
6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the chamber comprises at least a first wall section, the first wall section comprising a plurality of protrusions that intermesh with the plurality of protrusions on one or both of the first and second rotatable shafts, when present.
7. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 6, further comprising a third rotatable shaft positioned at or near the outlet and at an angle to or parallel to the first and second rotatable shafts.
8. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the at least one arm at each instance comprises a first portion provided to the rotatable shaft and being substantially perpendicular to the rotatable shaft, and a second portion provided to the first portion and being substantially parallel to the rotatable shaft.
9. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 8, wherein the first and second rotatable shafts are parallel to each other.
10. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the section comprising the helical blade is at each instance an Archimedes screw.
11. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the chamber comprises an inner diameter, and the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present each have or describe an outer diameter in use, and the outer diameter of the helical blade and/or the at least one arm where present is between about 90 to about 100% of the inner diameter of the chamber.
12. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 11, wherein there is a minimum separation between the helical blade or the at least one arm on the first rotatable shaft and the helical blade or the at least one arm on the second rotatable shaft and the minimum separation is between 1 and 20% of the inner diameter of the channel.
13. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 12, wherein the first and second rotatable
shafts are adapted to rotate in a first direction to transport the one or more ingredients, or admixture through the chamber from the inlet to the outlet, and in a second direction, opposite to the first direction.
14. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 13, wherein the first and second rotatable
shafts are adapted to rotate at different speeds along each section of the rotatable shaft.
15. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein the chamber further comprises one or more secondary entrance portals for delivering one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
16. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the apparatus does not comprise a system for recirculating the one or more ingredients or admixture.
17. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 16, wherein the apparatus, the housing and/or at least one of the first and second rotatable shafts has a modular structure.
18. The apparatus of any one of claim 1 to 17, wherein the housing has a modular structure and comprises a removable front face plate.
19. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 18, wherein the chamber has a volume of from about 0.15 L to about 7,500 L.
20. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 19, wherein the temperature regulator
comprises one or more ports for the introduction of a heating and/or cooling medium, and/or a jacketed wall at least partially surrounding the chamber.
21. The apparatus of claim 20, wherein the one or more ports and/or the jacketed wall are adapted to regulate the temperature of the chamber using a heating and/or cooling medium.
22. The apparatus of claim 20 or 21, wherein the heating or cooling medium is a fluid.
23. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 22, wherein the apparatus does not comprise a water bath.
24. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 23, further comprising instrumentation selected from the group consisting of a temperature probe, pressure valve or gauge, vacuum valve or gauge, steam valve or gauge and flow meter, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
25. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 24, further comprising a conveyor and/or pump provided to the inlet to introduce the one or more ingredients into the chamber though the inlet.
26. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 25, wherein the inlet, the outlet, and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals comprise a flow meter to monitor the flow through the inlet, the outlet and/or the one or more secondary entrance portals respectively.
27. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 26, wherein the chamber comprises radiused corners.
28. A method of mixing and heating one or more ingredients to form an admixture and
stretching the admixture to form a product in a unitary process, the method comprising contacting the one or more ingredients with an apparatus comprising first and second rotatable shafts located adjacent to each other and comprising corresponding first and second intermeshed sections, to form an admixture, stretch and transport the admixture, while controlling the temperature of the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to heat the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to form the product.
29. The method of claim 28, wherein the first corresponding intermeshed section comprises a helical blade and the second corresponding intermeshed section comprises either at least one arm extending from each rotatable shaft or a plurality of protrusions extending substantially perpendicularly from each rotatable shaft.
30. The method of claim 28 or 29, wherein the admixture is stretched and transported such that the admixture follows a generally upward path through the apparatus.
31. The method of any one of claims 28 to 30, further comprising a temperature adjustment step.
32. The method of any one of claims 28 to 31, further comprising providing one or more additional ingredients into the chamber.
33. The method of any one of claims 28 to 32, wherein the one or more ingredients is
provided to the apparatus sequentially or at the same time before forming the admixture.
34. The method of any one of claims 28 to 33, wherein the first and second rotatable shafts or each of the sections of the rotatable shafts rotate at a tip speed of about 0.1 to about 2 m/s.
35. The method of any one of claims 28 to 34, wherein each of the first and second
rotatable shafts rotate in the same direction.
36. The method of any one of claims 28 to 35, wherein each of the first and second rotatable shafts rotate in a different direction.
37. The method of any one of claims 28 to 36, wherein heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture at a temperature of from about 20 to about 400°C.
38. The apparatus of any one of claims 1 to 27, or the method of any one of claims 28 to 37, wherein the one or more ingredients is selected from the group consisting of cheese, cheese curd, skim milk cheese, lactic casein curd, enzyme modified cheese, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, butter milk, whey, concentrated milks, whole milk powder, non-fat dry milk, skim milk powder, butter milk powder, one or more starter microorganisms, rennet, milk retentates produced by membrane filtration, dried milk protein concentrate, dried-mineral adjusted milk protein concentrate, dried-ion exchanged milk protein concentrate, dry sweet whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried ion exchanged whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, total milk protein, cream, high fat cream, butter, ghee, beta serum, permeate, dried permeate, lactose, minerals obtained by fractionating dairy ingredients, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, potassium caseinate, calcium caseinate and lactic casein, or a combination of any two or more thereof.
39. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 15 to 38, wherein the one or more
additional ingredients is one or more generally recognised as safe ingredients selected from the group consisting of water, salt, mineral acids, organic acids, colours, natural and/or artificial flavours, emulsifiers, stabilizers, gums, safe and suitable enzymes, emulsifying salts, brines, antimicrobial agents or preservatives, antioxidants, chelating agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, bleaching agents, sweeteners, starches, vitamins, minerals, non-dairy fats, fat replacers and non-dairy proteins, or a
combination of any two or more thereof.
40. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 1 to 39, wherein the product is a food product.
41. The apparatus or method of claim 40, wherein the food product is selected from the group consisting of cheese, pasta, cereals, nutrition bars, processed meats and confections.
42. The apparatus or method of claim 40 or 41, wherein heating comprises cooking the one or more ingredients to form the food product.
43. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 40 to 42, wherein the food product is cheese.
44. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 40 to 43, wherein the food product is a fibrous food product.
45. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 41 to 44, wherein the cheese is selected from the group consisting of process cheeses, pizza cheeses and cheese analogues.
46. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 41 to 45, wherein the cheese is a pasta filata cheese.
47. The apparatus or method of claim 46, wherein the pasta filata cheese is Mozzarella.
48. The apparatus or method or use of any one of claims 42 to 48, wherein the cheese
comprises aligned casein fibres.
49. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 1 to 37, wherein the product is a non food product.
50. The apparatus or method of claim 49, wherein the non-food product is selected from the group consisting of rubber, plastic, fibreglass and synthetic fibres.
51. The apparatus or method of claim 49 or 50, wherein heating comprises heating the one or more ingredients and/or the admixture to a temperature sufficient to react the one or more ingredients to form the product.
52. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 49 to 51, wherein the admixture is
homogenous.
53. The apparatus or method of any one of claims 49 to 51, wherein the admixture is
heterogeneous.
PCT/IB2020/051158 2019-02-15 2020-02-12 Manufacturing apparatus and method WO2020165805A1 (en)

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CN114287347A (en) * 2022-01-12 2022-04-08 王全华 Cheese stretch forming device with buffer
CN115414834A (en) * 2022-10-08 2022-12-02 江西诺泰生物科技有限公司 High-efficient mixing arrangement of pregnant woman and breast-feed nutrition supplementing food
WO2023175523A1 (en) * 2022-03-16 2023-09-21 Cmt Costruzioni Meccaniche E Tecnologia Spa Machine for the production of pulled-curd cheeses, provided with means of transport of the material using twin augers

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