Title:
Filling Machine with Pivotable Bottle Support and Filling Under-Counter Pressure or Without Counter-Pressure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A universal valve for aseptic filling of drinking liquids in which a fork is articulated on a fulcrum to allow a bottle inclination during a lifting operation to optimize an aseptic filling process of carbonated drinking liquids by reducing their turbulence.



Inventors:
Stocchi, Gabriele (Parma, IT)
Application Number:
12/089472
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
10/02/2006
Assignee:
Sacmi Filling Spa (Bologna, IT)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
141/271
International Classes:
B65B1/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
NIESZ, JASON KAROL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OBLON, MCCLELLAND, MAIER & NEUSTADT, L.L.P. (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
1. 1-4. (canceled)

5. An apparatus for usage in a bottle filling machine comprising: a universal valve for aseptic filling of flat and carbonate drinking liquids into bottles; and a gripping fork configured to be kept in a horizontal position resting on a lower fixed contrast element to ensure a vertical position of the bottle, if a flat drinking liquid is bottled, the fork further configured to be articulated on a fulcrum to allow inclination of the bottle during a lifting operation for optimizing an aseptic filling process, if a carbonated drinking liquid is bottled, by reducing turbulences of the liquids.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the valve comprises a sealing ring including a lower surface with a pre-set obliquity that defines exact inclination of the bottle to optimize the aseptic filling process of carbonated liquids by reducing the turbulence thereof.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising a rear fixed contrast element limiting the inclination of the gripping fork and defining limits of the obliquity of the lifted bottle.

8. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising a lifting equipment including a projection that includes the fulcrum.

9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the lifting equipment comprises the rear fixed contrast element, which is shaped to project towards the fork.

10. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising a vertical guide along which the lifting equipment slides, the vertical guide coupling the lower fixed contrast element to the bottle filling machine.

11. A bottle filling machine comprising: a valve; and an apparatus of claim 5.

12. A method for aseptic filling flat or carbonated drinking liquids into bottles, comprising: providing a rotating filling machine including a universal valve, a gripping fork for holding bottles beneath the valve during a bottling process, a lifting equipment, and a lower fixed contrast element; keeping the fork with a gripped bottle in a horizontal position resting on the lower fixed contrast element to ensure the vertical position of the bottle if the bottle is filled with a flat drinking liquid; and articulating the fork with a gripped bottle on a fulcrum to allow the bottle to be inclined during a lifting operation for optimizing an aseptic filling process, if a carbonated drinking liquid is filled into the bottle.

Description:

TECHNOLOGICAL FIELD

The present invention refers to the technological field of filling valves. Specifically, it refers to the aseptic filling of drinking liquids.

International classification of reference: B67 c.

STATE OF THE ART

In the prior patent literature the WO 2005/003018 application stands out. Such application features a valve for the aseptic filling of flat drinking liquids. In said document the state of the art is described as follows: it is known that for the aseptic bottling of drinking liquids a pressurized filling chamber with sterile gas is used.

At the current state of the art, it is now possible to ensure complete sterility of the gas flows employed, but not the complete sterility of the environment inside said pressurized chamber.

It is of course evident that the filling chamber, before being sterilized, is occupied by the outside atmosphere, whose presence is gradually reduced with injection of sterile gas flows. The presence of atmospheric residuals cannot be completely removed without employing full vacuum conditions. Said system does now ensure the asepticity of the area between the exit mouth of the sterile product and the mouth of the container to be filled. In said zone, the flow of drinking liquid comes into touch with outside atmosphere, and the level of asepticity of the process decreases.

Furthermore, at the end of the filling process, the neck-space of the filled container is occupied by the atmospheric content of the filling chamber that generally includes a considerable percentage of oxygen. Said residual oxygen, inside the final package, causes undesired oxidation effects that alter the organoleptic of the drinking products.

The invention object of the application WO 2005/003018 suggests an optimal solution to guarantee the aseptic filling even in the critical zone included between the mouth of the container and the filling valve exit mouth of the product. It is exactly in said critical area that a special continuous flow of sterile gas is needed to protect the product entering each container. Furthermore, the continuous flow of inert and sterile gas minimizes the amount of oxygen in the neck space of the filled container. The filling valve described in WO 2005/003018 has given excellent results for the aseptic bottling of flat drinking liquids.

The problem to be solved is the bottling of carbonated liquids when using the same filling valve. The solution proposed in the present invention is the design of a universal valve that would allow the aseptic bottling of flat liquids as well as the aseptic bottling of carbonated liquids.

The great practical benefit of this invention is quite evident: it allows considerable savings in the purchase and running costs of bottling plants and also reduces the filler overall dimensions since a single machine can perform filling of both flat and carbonated liquids.

DESCRIPTION

The invention is now disclosed with reference to the pictures of the drawings attached as an unrestricted example.

Pictures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 point out the state of the art published in the international patent WO 2005/003018.

Picture 8 shows schematically the vertical positioning of a bottle 3 held by the fork 1 in horizontal position located by the filling valve V for the aseptic filling of flat liquids. We can notice the flow of sterile air that comes out of the valve and surrounds the neck of the bottle keeping it isolated from the atmosphere. The fork 1, articulated on the fulcrum 2, is kept in horizontal position by the fixed contrasting element 4 below. The lifting equipment 9 is kept in a lower position by the contrast spring 8.

Picture 9 shows the beginning of the aseptic filling phase of the flat liquid coming out the valve V and entering the bottle 3. The flow of sterile gas surrounds coaxially the liquid coming from the valve, thus keeping the liquid isolated from the atmosphere. It should also be pointed out that by increasing the filling level of the liquid inside the bottle 3, its gas content is freely discharged outside.

Picture 10 shows the final phase of the aseptic filling operation: the flow of sterile gas has prevented the direct contact with the outside atmosphere throughout the entire filling process of the flat liquid.

Picture 11 shows the same valve V with the same gripping fork 1 still in horizontal position holding a different bottle 3′ in vertical position that needs to be filled with a different process of aseptic bottling of carbonated drinking liquid.

Picture 12 shows the lifting phase of the bottle by the fork 1, which, being freely articulated on fulcrum 2, takes an oblique position because of its own weight. It should be observed that the limit to the fork inclination is given by the rear fixed contrast element 7. Still in said picture 12 it can be noticed that the gripping fork 1 lifts the bottle 3′ by means of the lifting equipment 9 specifically designed to perform vertical excursions on its fixed guide 10.

Picture 13 highlights the beginning of carbonated liquids bottling inside the bottle 3′ in inclined position. The ring of the bottle 3′, lifted in inclined position, is placed against the lower oblique surface 6 of the hermetic sealing ring 5 to allow the preliminary entry of a process gas such as carbon dioxide fed through the special coaxial conduit of the filling valve. The shutter of the liquid is closed and only carbon dioxide enters the inclined bottle 3′.

In the following picture 14 while the liquid gets in contact with the inner part of the inclined bottle 3′, in order to reduce the turbulence during filling, the air and the carbon dioxide 12 are discharged through the same duct through which the carbon dioxide was let in.

Picture 15 shows the conclusion of the bottling operation.

The clearness of the picture highlights the production and simple functioning of the valve that is the object of the present invention. It should be pointed out that the inventive core of the present invention is the articulation fulcrum 2 that allows the inclination of the bottle 3′ during the filling of drinking carbonated liquids.

The inclined position that the bottle 3′ takes by gravity is exploited to lower the turbulence during filling. The liquid fed by the valve V gets in touch with the inner surface of the inclined bottle 3′, and its laminar flow reduces the turbulence of the bottling process of carbonated liquids.

In pictures 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 each single detail is marked as follows:

    • 1 indicates the gripping fork of the bottles.
    • 2 indicates the fulcrum allowing the inclination of the fork and therefore the inclination of the lifted bottles.
    • 3 indicates a bottle to be filled aseptically with flat liquids.
    • 3′ indicates a bottle to be filled aseptically with carbonated liquids employing the same filling valve.
    • 4 indicates a fixed contrasting element that keeps the fork in horizontal position, and hence the bottle in vertical position during the filling of flat liquids.
    • 5 indicates a hermetic sealing ring applied on the valve V.
    • 6 indicates the lower surface of said sealing ring to guarantee the hermetic conditions during the bottling of carbonated liquids.
    • 7 indicates the fixed rear contrast element that limits the obliquity of the fork and defines the inclined position of the bottle during the filling process of carbonated liquids.
    • 8 indicates a contrast spring that keeps in lowered position the lifting equipment of the gripping fork 1.
    • 9 indicates the lifting equipment of the fork 1.
    • 10 indicates the fixed guide for vertical sliding of said lifting equipment 8.
    • 11 indicates a flat liquid.
    • 11′ indicates a carbonated liquid.
    • 12 indicates the snifting during the bottling of carbonated liquids through the same duct fit for carbon dioxide entry.
    • V is a valve for the aseptic bottling.
    • R indicates the rotating filling machine of bottling plant set up peripherally with a plurality of aseptic filling valves for both flat and carbonated liquids.

The invention of course allows several variations both in terms of dimensioning and structural proportioning of the various components, and of the technological choices of the materials used in the manufacturing process.

Any technician skilled in this technological field, now that the inventive combinations have been disclosed, will be able to realize without effort valves for the aseptic bottling of carbonated or flat liquids having the same original design and functional characteristics as the ones described, shown and claimed by the present invention.