Title:
CONTINUOUS BATCH TUNNEL WASHER AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of washing fabric articles in a tunnel washer includes moving the fabric articles from the intake of the washer to the discharge of the washer through first and second sectors that are a pre-wash zone. In the pre-wash zone, liquid is counter flowed in the wash interior along a flow path that is generally opposite the direction of travel of the fabric articles. The fabric articles are transferred to a main wash zone, and a washing chemical is added to the main wash zone. At about the same time, counter flow is reduced or stopped. The main wash zone can be heated as an option. After a period of time (for example, between about 20 and 120 seconds) counter flow is resumed or increased. In the wash zone, this is considered an intermediate rinse. After the wash zone(s), the increased counter flow after chemical treatment amounts to a pre-rinse. This pre-rinse ensures that the fabric articles are substantially free of soil or the majority of any soil and substantially free of chemicals when they are transferred to an extractor for final removal of excess water. A final rinse (second rinse) is conducted during extraction of excess water.



Inventors:
Poy, Russell H. (New Orleans, LA, US)
Schubert, Karl (US)
Application Number:
12/400497
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
03/09/2009
Assignee:
PELLERIN MILNOR CORPORATION (Kenner, LA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
8/137
International Classes:
D06F31/00; D06M15/11
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAMMER, KATIE L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GARVEY, SMITH & NEHRBASS, PATENT ATTORNEYS, L.L.C. (METAIRIE, LA, US)
Claims:
1. A method of washing fabric articles in a continuous batch tunnel washer, comprising the steps of: a) providing a continuous batch tunnel washer having an interior, an intake, a discharge, and a plurality of modules that divide the interior into a plurality of zones that include pre-wash, main wash and rinse zones; b) moving the fabric articles from the intake to one or more modules that are a pre-wash zone; c) counter flowing liquid in the washer interior along a flow path that is generally opposite the direction of travel of the fabric articles in step “b”; d) transferring the fabric articles to a main wash zone; e) adding a washing chemical to the main wash zone; f) reducing counter flow during step “e”; g) increasing counter flow after step “f” to define a first rinse in a rinse zone; h) using an extractor to remove excess water after step “g”; and i) during step “h” rinsing the fabric articles to define a second rinse.

2. The method of claim 1 further comprising spraying the rinse water into the extractor in step “i”.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein in step “f” counter flow is substantially stopped.

4. The method of claim 3 wherein the extractor has a rotary drum with a side wall and an end wall, and wherein the spray has a spray pattern that extends across the drum sidewall.

5. The method of claim 3 wherein the rinse fluid of step “i” is sprayed from a position outside the drum.

6. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of heating the main wash zone before step “g”.

7. The method of claim 1 further comprising transferring heat to the main wash zone in step “f”.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein counter flow is reduced in step “f” for a time period that is less than about five minutes.

9. The method of claim 1 wherein counter flow is reduced in step “f” for a time period that is less than about three minutes.

10. The method of claim 1 wherein counter flow is reduced in step “f” for a time period that is less than about two minutes.

11. The method of claim 1 wherein the counter flow is reduced in step “f” for a time period of between about twenty and one hundred twenty (20-120) seconds.

12. The method of claim 1 wherein in step “f” the added washing chemical is heated to a temperature of between about 140 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

13. The method of claim 1 wherein the counter flow in step “g” the counter flow extends through multiple of the modules.

14. The method of claim 1 wherein the main wash zone includes multiple modules.

15. The method of claim 1 wherein the rinse zone includes multiple modules.

16. The method of claim 1 wherein the main wash zone and rinse zone each include multiple modules.

17. The method of claim 1 wherein the main wash zone and rinse zone include the same modules.

18. A method of washing fabric articles in a continuous batch tunnel washer, comprising the steps of: a) providing a continuous batch tunnel washer having an interior, an intake, a discharge, and a plurality of modules that divide the interior into a plurality of zones that include pre-wash, main wash and rinse zones; b) moving the fabric articles from the intake to one or more modules that are a pre-wash zone; c) counter flowing liquid in the washer interior along a flow path that is generally opposite the direction of travel of the fabric articles in step “b”; d) transferring the fabric articles to a main wash zone; e) adding a washing chemical to the main wash zone; f) after the washing chemical reaches chemical equilibrium, resuming counter flow and wherein counter flow does not substantially dilute the washing chemical in step “e” until after a selected time interval; g) increasing counter flow after step “f” to define a first rinse in a rinse zone; h) using an extractor to remove excess water after step “g”; and i) during step “h” rinsing the fabric articles to define a second rinse.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising spraying the rinse water into the extractor in step “i”.

20. The method of claim 18 wherein in step “f” counter flow is substantially stopped.

21. The method of claim 20 wherein the extractor has a rotary drum with a side wall and an end wall, and wherein the spray has a spray pattern that extends across the drum sidewall.

22. The method of claim 20 wherein the rinse fluid of step “i” is sprayed from a position outside the drum.

23. The method of claim 18 wherein the rinse fluid of step “i” is sprayed from a position outside of the drum.

24. The method of claim 18 further comprising adding starch to the fabric articles during step “h”.

25. The method of claim 18 further comprising adding starch to the fabric articles after step “h”.

26. The method of claim 24 wherein the starch is sprayed.

27. The method of claim 25 wherein the starch is sprayed.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/046,118, filed Apr. 18, 2008, incorporated herein by reference, is hereby claimed.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable

REFERENCE TO A “MICROFICHE APPENDIX”

Not applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to continuous batch washers or tunnel washers. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved method of washing textiles or fabric articles (e.g. clothing, linen, etc.) in a continuous batch tunnel washer wherein the textiles are moved sequentially from one module or zone to the next module or zone including initial pre-wash zones, a plurality of main wash and pre-rinse zones, and then transferred to an extractor that removes water. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved method of washing textiles in a continuous batch tunnel washer wherein a counter flow of wash liquor from one module or zone to the next module or zone is stopped, allowing for a standing bath. Chemicals are then added to separate soil from the goods and suspend the soil in the wash liquor. After a period of time, counter flow is commenced again to remove the suspended soil. The pre-rinsed goods are spray rinsed during extraction of excess water so that soil is not redeposited eliminated graying of the goods.

2. General Background of the Invention

Currently, washing in a commercial environment is conducted with a continuous batch tunnel washer. Such continuous batch tunnel washers are known (e.g. U.S. Pat. No. 5,454,237) and are commercially available (www.milnor.com). Continuous batch washers have multiple sectors, zones, stages, or modules including pre-wash, wash, rinse and finishing zone. Commercial continuous batch washing machines utilize a constant counter flow of liquor and a centrifugal extractor or mechanical press for removing most of the liquor from the goods before the goods are dried. Some machines carry the liquid with the goods throughout the particular zone or zones.

Currently, a counter flow is used during the entire time that the fabric articles or textiles are in the main wash module zone. This practice dilutes the washing chemical and reduces its effectiveness. Additionally, while the bath liquor is being heated, this thermal energy is partially carried away by the counter flow thus wasting energy while a desired temperature value is achieved.

A final rinse with a continuous batch washer has been performed using a centrifugal extractor or mechanical press. In prior art systems, if a centrifugal extractor is used, it is typically necessary to rotate the extractor at a first low speed that is designed to remove soil laden water before a final extract.

Patents have issued that are directed to batch washers or tunnel washers. The following table provides examples.

TABLE
PATENT NO.TITLEISSUE DATE
4,236,393Continuous tunnel batch washerDec. 02, 1980
4,485,509Continuous batch type washingDec. 04, 1984
machine and method for operating
same
4,522,046Continuous batch laundry systemJun. 11, 1985
5,211,039Continuous batch type washingMay 18, 1993
machine
5,454,237Continuous batch type washingOct. 03, 1995
machine

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention improves the current art by reducing water consumption, improving rinsing capability, reducing the number of components required to perform the function of laundering fabric articles or textiles, and saving valuable floor space in the laundry.

The present invention reduces and/or combines zones, sectors, or modules and improves the method of processing the textiles. Rinsing is done in two zones, first in the continuous batch washer itself in an intermediate rinse zone after each main wash zone(s) and a pre-rinse in the last zone(s). A final rinse is then done in a mechanical water removal machine such as a centrifugal extractor or mechanical press.

When the goods are initially transferred into the main wash modules, the counter flow of wash liquor into the modules is stopped allowing for a standing bath. Chemicals are added to separate the soil from the goods and suspend the soil in the wash liquor. If needed, the wash liquor to the separate module bath is raised in temperature to facilitate the release of soil from the goods and activate the chemicals.

Once the soil has been released from the textiles, there is no more work for the chemicals to perform. At this time, the process can be described as “chemical equilibrium”. At this point, water by counter flow is commenced to remove the suspended soil. This rinsing is termed “intermediate rinse” in the wash zone(s) and a pre-rinse after the last wash zone. A final rinse can be performed in a centrifugal extractor or mechanical press.

The process of the present invention uses fresh water that can be supplied through an atomizing nozzle while the goods are being extracted. Because the free soil has already been removed in the pre-rinse zone, the spray rinse while extracting will not re-deposit soil on the linen thereby reducing or eliminating graying of the goods. It is not necessary to centrifuge (and drain at a low speed) the soil laden water before the final extract. With the present invention the process time is reduced. The amount of fresh water required compared with conventional processes is reduced.

The method of the present invention uses less water than in current art because the counter flow is stopped for part of the cycle. The spray rinse in the centrifugal extractor or mechanical press is more effective than the current practice of draining the free water from the linen and then refilling.

The method of the present invention preserves the washing effectiveness of current counter flow washers to wash heavy soil classifications because the amount of soil dilution is the same even though there are less zones, stages, or modules. The present invention provides a higher effective rinsing provided by the spray rinse in the centrifugal extractor because of the pre-rinse.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

For a further understanding of the nature, objects, and advantages of the present invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description, read in conjunction with the following drawings, wherein like reference numerals denote like elements and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram showing the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram showing the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram showing the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of an alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of the alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a partial perspective view of the alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a partial perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary perspective view of the alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the starch dispensing nozzle tube;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary perspective view of the alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the starch dispensing nozzle tube; and

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary perspective view of the alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the starch dispensing nozzle tube.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIGS. 1-3 shows a schematic diagram of the textile washing apparatus of the present invention, designated generally by the numeral 10. Textile washing apparatus 10 provides a tunnel washer 11 having an inlet end portion 12 and an outlet end portion 13. In FIG. 1, tunnel washer 11 provides a number of modules 14-18. These modules 14-18 can include a first module 14 and a second module 15 which can be pre-wash modules. The plurality of modules 14-18 can also include modules 16, 17 and 18 which are main wash and pre-rinse modules.

The total number of modules 14-18 can be more or less than the five (5) shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 2 shows an alternate arrangement that employs a tunnel washer 11 having eight (8) modules 14-18 and 35-37. FIG. 3 shows an alternate arrangement that employs a tunnel washer 11 having ten (10) modules 14-18 and 35-39. In FIG. 2, the modules 14, 15 can be pre-wash modules. In FIG. 3, modules 14, 15, 16 can be pre-wash modules. In FIG. 2, the modules 16, 17, 18 and 35, 36, 37 can be main wash and pre-rinse modules. In FIG. 3, the modules 17, 18 and 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 can be main wash and pre-rinse modules. Instead of a two (2) or three (3) module pre-wash section (see FIGS. 1, 2, 3), a single module 14 could be provided as an alternate option for the pre-wash section.

Inlet end portion 12 can provide a hopper 19 that enables the intake of textiles or fabric articles to be washed. Such fabric articles, textiles, goods to be washed can include clothing, linens, towels, and the like. An extractor 20 is positioned next to the outlet end portion 13 of tunnel washer 11. Flow lines 21, 25, 26, 27, 27 A are provided for adding water and/or chemicals to tunnel washer 11 as will be described more fully hereinafter.

When the fabric articles, goods, linens are initially transferred into the main wash modules 16, 17, 18, a counter flow of wash liquor into these modules 16, 17, 18 is reduced, preferably stopped allowing for a standing bath. Chemicals are then added as indicated by arrows 26, 27 to the modules 16, 17 and/or 18. In FIG. 2, chemicals are added as indicated by arrows 26, 27, 27 A to the modules 16, 17, 18, 35, 36 and/or 37. In FIG. 3, chemicals are added to the modules 16-18 and 35-39 as indicated by the arrows 26, 27, 27 A. In FIGS. 1-3, these chemicals separate the soil from the goods, linens, textiles and suspend the soil in the wash liquor. During this step of the method of the present invention, the wash liquor temperature can be elevated if needed to facilitate the release of soil from the goods, fabric articles or linens and activate the chemicals.

Once the maximum soil has been released from the textiles or fabric articles, there is no more work for the chemicals to perform. At this time, the process can be described as chemical equilibrium. The flow of water is stopped for a time period sufficient to release soil from the goods such as for example between about 20 seconds and one hundred twenty (120) seconds. However, this time interval can be between about ten (10) and three hundred (300) seconds.

After this time interval of having no counter flow, water by counter flow is commenced to remove the suspended soil. This rinsing can be termed pre-rinse. A final rinse is then performed in a centrifugal extractor or mechanical press 20. The process of the present invention uses fresh water that can be supplied through an atomizing nozzle for example while the goods are being extracted using the extractor 20. The process of the present invention uses fresh water in the extractor that can be supplied through an atomizing nozzle for example while the goods are being extracted at high speed (e.g. between about 200 and 1,000 g's) using the extractor 20.

Flow line 21 transmits water to hopper 19 as indicated by arrow 22. Flow line 21 also carries water to pre-wash module 15 as indicated by arrow 23. Arrow 24 indicates a flow of water from module 14 to module 15 as part of the pre-wash.

In FIG. 1, flow line 25 adds water for counter flow pre-rinse to module 18. Such water added via flow line 25 to module 18 flows in counter flow fashion from module 18 to module 17 to module 16 (see arrow 25A). Arrows 26 and 27 indicate chemical addition to modules 16 and 17 respectively. Chemicals to be added to modules 16 and 17 can include for example detergent, alkalaii, and/or oxidizing agents.

In FIG. 2, flow line 25 adds water for counter flow pre-rinse to module 37. Such water added via flow line 25 to module 37 flows in counter flow fashion from module 38 to module 37, then 36, then 35, then 18, then to module 17 (see arrow 25B).

In FIG. 3, flow line 25 adds water for counter flow pre-rinse to module 38. Such water added via flow line 25 to module 38 flows in counter flow fashion from module 38 to module 37, module 36, module 35, module 18, and module 17 (see arrow 25C).

In FIG. 1, textiles or fabric articles that are pre-washed, washed, and then pre-rinsed in tunnel washer 11 are transferred from module 18 to extractor 20 as indicated schematically by arrow 28. In FIG. 2, the textiles or fabric articles that are pre-washed, washed, and then pre-rinsed in tunnel washer 11 are transferred from module 37 to extractor 20 as indicated schematically by arrow 28. In FIG. 3, textiles or fabric articles that are pre-washed, washed, intermediately rinsed and then pre-rinsed in tunnel washer 11 are transferred from module 39 to extractor 20 as indicated schematically by arrow 28.

The method of the present invention thus conducts rinsing in two zones. Rinsing is first conducted in the tunnel washer 11 in a pre-rinse zone which occurs after the main wash. In FIG. 1, pre-wash zones can be 14, 5. The pre-rinse zone and main wash zone can be modules 16, 17, 18. In FIG. 2, the pre-wash zone can be modules 14 and 15 while the main wash and pre-rinse zones can be modules 16, 17, 18, 35, 36 and 37. In FIG. 3, the pre-wash zone can be modules 14 and 15 while the main wash and pre-rinse zones can be modules 16, 17, 18, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39. The second rinse zone is the final rinse, which is conducted in the extractor 20 or other mechanical water removal machine such as a mechanical press.

Because the free soil has already been removed in the pre-rinse zone at modules 16, 17, 18 of FIG. 1 (or 16-18, 35-37 of FIG. 2 or 16-18, 35-39 of FIG. 3) as part of the method of the present invention, the spray rinse while extracting will not redeposit soil on the linen thereby reducing or eliminating graying of the goods. With the present invention it is not necessary to centrifuge (and drain at a low speed) the soil laden water before the final extract at 20. With the present invention, the process time is thus reduced. The amount of fresh water required compared with conventional processes is reduced. The spray rinse and the centrifugal extractor 20 or mechanical press is more effective than the current practice of draining the free water from the linen and then refilling the extractor 20.

An additional benefit of the pre-rinse concept of the present invention is to permit the mechanical press or extractor to have more time extracting the free water. This result follows because the effect of the pre-rinse is to remove most of the suspended soil. The amount of fresh water required for final rinse is thus greatly reduced. The time for rinsing is reduced, allowing this saved cycle time for water removal.

The method of the present invention preserves the washing effectiveness of current counter flow washers 11 to wash heavy soil classifications because the amount of soil dilution is the same even though there are fewer zones or stages or modules.

The present invention provides a higher effective rinsing provided by the spray rinse 30 and the centrifugal extractor 20 because of the pre-rinse that is conducted in the modules 16, 17, 18 as discussed above.

FIGS. 4-10 show an alternate embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention, designated generally by the numeral 40. The textile washing apparatus 40 of the alternate embodiment can provide the same tunnel washer 11 of the preferred embodiment having the modules 14-18, 35-39 provided in any one of the embodiments of FIGS. 1, 2 or 3. FIG. 4 shows the embodiment of FIG. 1 having a specially configured starch spray arrangement.

In FIG. 4, a starch tank 41 contains starch that is to be injected into the linen, fabric articles, or clothing contained in extractor 20. Starch for the table linen, clothing, fabric articles is pumped in the first phase of the cycle through a spray nozzle 60 (see FIGS. 8-10). Controlled flow metering can be achieved for example using an inverter controlled flow metering device. The precise amount of starch is thus injected into the linen, fabric articles, clothing or the like while in extractor 20. Excess starch can be removed in a separate tank indicated as starch recovery tank 52 in FIG. 4. Flow line 53 enables recovered starch in tank 52 to be transferred to starch tank 41.

Starch tank 41 contains starch that is to be pumped via flow line 42 to nozzle 60 and then to extractor 20. Fresh water tank 43 can also be used to pipe fresh water to extractor 20, flowing through valve 45 to nozzle 60. Valves 44, 45 and 46 are provided for controlling the flow of either starch or fresh water or a combination thereof to nozzle 60 as shown in FIG. 4.

Flow line 49 is a flow line that carries extracted water to tank 51 as it is purged from the fabric articles, clothing or linens contained in extractor 20. Starch can be recovered via flow lines 49, 50 to starch recovery tank 52. Valves 44, 47 are provided for valving the flow of starch from tank 41 to extractor 20 via flow line 42. Valve 48 enables tank 41 to be emptied for cleaning or adding new starch.

In FIGS. 8-10, starch spray nozzle 60 is shown in more detail. The spray nozzle 60 can provide an elongated section of conduit or pipe 61. Spray nozzle 60 has an influent end 62 and a discharge end portion 63. Conduit 61 provides an open ended bore 64 for conveying starch from flow line 42 to nozzle 60. Influent end 62 provides a connection 80 for attaching conduit 61 to flow line 42.

FIGS. 5-7 illustrate the spray pattern 76 that strikes the wall of drum 57 of extractor 20 as emitted by nozzle 60. In FIGS. 6 and 7, extractor 20 provides a drum 57 that provides a chamber 55 having an inlet 56. Clothes, textiles, linens to be sprayed are discharged from tunnel washer 11 via chute 79 into the chamber 55 of extractor 20. The extractor 20 is preferably movable between a loading and discharging position. The loading position is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. In the loading position, clothes transfer from the tunnel washer 11 to the chamber 55 via chute 79. Pumps 54 can be used to aid in the transfer of water from tank 43 or starch from tank 41 into chamber 55 via nozzle 60. The spray nozzle 60 produces a spray pattern 76 that extends substantially across the cylindrical wall 58 of drum 57 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. Drum 57 thus provides an inlet 56 for enabling clothing, textiles, or other fabric articles to be added to the drum 57 interior 55 and a rear circular wall 59. Notice in FIGS. 6 and 7 that the spray pattern 76 extends generally from inlet 56 to circular wall 59, thus extending substantially across cylindric wall 58 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. Arrow 77 in FIG. 7 illustrates the width of spray pattern 76 which can be about 16 degrees as an example along cylindrical drum wall 58.

A mounting plate 65 can be provided having one or more openings 66 for attaching (for example, bolting) spray nozzle 60 to extractor 20 or to a frame that supports extractor 20.

The discharge end portion 63 of spray nozzle 60 provides a nozzle tip 67. The nozzle tip 67 provides a nozzle outlet 70 formed by side plates 71, 72, upper plate 73 and lower plate 74. Atomizing water nozzle 68, 69 are provided next to nozzle outlet 70. The atomizing water nozzle 68 is mounted to upper plate 73. The atomizing water nozzle 69 is mounted to lower plate 74 as shown in FIGS. 8-10. Spray nozzle 60 can be equipped with aerating or atomizing nozzles 68, 69 to control the consistency of the starch in the nozzle 60, thus preventing starch build-up which might eventually plug of the nozzle 60.

As part of the method of the present invention, all starch flow lines 42, 60 can be purged with hot water from fresh water tank via flow line 75.

The following is a list of parts and materials suitable for use in the present invention.

PARTS LIST
Part NumberDescription
10textile washing apparatus
11tunnel washer
12inlet end portion
13outlet end portion
14module
15module
16module
17module
18module
19hopper
20extractor
21flow line
22arrow
23arrow
24arrow
25flow line
  25Aarrow
  25Barrow
  25Carrow
26arrow - chemical addition
27arrow - chemical addition
  27Aarrow - chemical addition
28arrow - textile transfer
29spray rinse flow line
30arrow
31extractor water
32flow line
33outlet valve
34arrow
35module
36module
37module
38module
39module
40textile washing apparatus
41starch tank
42flow line
43fresh water tank
44valve
45valve
46valve
47valve
48valve
49flow line
50flow line
51extracted water tank
52starch recovery tank
53flow line
54pump
55chamber
56inlet
57drum
58cylindrical drum wall
59circular drum wall
60spray nozzle
61conduit
62influent end
63discharge end
64bore
65mounting plate
66opening
67nozzle tip
68atomizing water nozzle
69atomizing water nozzle
70nozzle outlet
71side plate
72side plate
73upper plate
74lower plate
75flow line
76spray pattern
77arrow
78drum moving mechanism
79chute

All measurements disclosed herein are at standard temperature and pressure, at sea level on Earth, unless indicated otherwise. All materials used or intended to be used in a human being are biocompatible, unless indicated otherwise.

The foregoing embodiments are presented by way of example only; the scope of the present invention is to be limited only by the following claims.