Title:
Modular portable micro-factory system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system is provided herein. It includes a plurality of intact shipping containers assembled together to provide a contiguous interior space. One such intact shipping container provides a receiving area seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container, which in turn provides a shipping area which is seamlessly connected to the production area of a third intact shipping container. The production area comprises a plurality of vessels operatively interconnected to one another. The plurality of vessels include some, but not necessarily all of a number of units, e.g., an extractor, a press unit, a screener, at least one thin extract tank, a foamer, a mixing valve assembly, a wash down unit, a slurry tank, a filter plate stack, at least one clear extract tank, an evaporator module, and a concentrator tank.



Inventors:
Ablett, Richard F. (Charlottetown, CA)
Application Number:
12/457209
Publication Date:
12/10/2009
Filing Date:
06/03/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H5/02; A23L19/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CAJILIG, CHRISTINE T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NATH, GOLDBERG & MEYER (Alexandria, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system comprising a plurality of intact shipping containers assembled together to provide a contiguous interior space, one such intact shipping container providing a receiving area seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container, which in turn provides a shipping area which is seamlessly connected to the production area of a third intact shipping container, wherein the production area comprises a plurality of vessels operatively interconnected to one another, the plurality of vessels comprising some, but not necessarily all of an extractor, a press unit, a screener, at least one thin extract tank, a foamer, a mixing valve assembly, a wash unit, a slurry tank, a filter plate stack, at least one clear extract tank, an evaporator module, and a concentrator tank.

2. A self contained modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system comprising a plurality of intact shipping containers assembled together to provide a contiguous interior space, one such intact shipping container providing a receiving area seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container which, in turn provides a shipping area which is seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container seamlessly connected to the production area of a third intact shipping container, wherein the first intact shipping container provides a receiving area comprising a storage freezer, a dry storage and thaw area, an entrance and conventional office areas; wherein the second intact shipping container provides the production area comprising a plurality of operatively interconnected vessels comprising an extractor, a plurality of reaction-supporting lines including a compressed air line, a potable water line, a steam line and a condensate return line, these units being operatively associated with one another; wherein the second intact shipping container also includes a screener, a foamer, a mixing valve assembly and a wash down station for supply to the screener, a solids tote, a press, and a liquid tub, these units being; wherein the second intact shipping container also includes a first thin extract tank for reactant passing through the screen the reactant passing operatively connected to a second thin extract tank, these units being operatively associated with one another; wherein the second intact shipping container also includes a slurry tank for receiving extract from the second thin extract tank a strainer for effluent slurry a filter plate stack for strained effluent and a clear extract tank, theses units being operatively associated with one another; and wherein the second intact shipping container also includes an evaporator module operatively connected the clear extract tank, an effluent to a cooling tower, and a concentration tank, these units being operatively associated with one another.

3. The modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system of claim 1, wherein the second intact shipping container is disposed at right angles to the first intact shipping container.

4. The modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system of claim 1, wherein the third intact shipping container is disposed at right angles to the second intact shipping container.

5. The modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system of claim 1, wherein the first intact shipping container, the second intact shipping container and the third intact shipping container are oriented in plan view as a “U-shape”.

6. The modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system of claim 1, wherein the first intact shipping container, the second intact shipping container and the third intact shipping container are oriented in plan view as “H-shape”.

7. The modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system of claim 1, wherein the modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system also includes an ingredient scale, and/or a product scale.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a modular, expandable, portable, micro-factory system In particular, it relates to such system which is expandable from a pilot plan scale and finally to full production scale, particularly in rural communities, and which is also adaptable to dismantling and reassembling at a different location. This application is a continuation-in-part of my provisional application (Se. No. unknown,) filed Jun. 3, 2008, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

2. Description of the Prior Art

One of the main problems in scaling-up reactions from a laboratory scale to a mini-pilot plant scale, then to a pilot plant scale and finally to a production scale is the cost inherent in each step. These costs are not recoverable from step to step, meaning that the cost of the mini-pilot plant scale cannot be translated into a saving of costs to scale up to a pilot plant and finally to a savings of costs to scale up to a production scale.

One means which was conceived of achieving such end, and which has been vaguely implied in the prior art, would be to build the mini-pilot plant scale in a pre-designed plurality of portable, structurally-rigid units. Such units are readily available in the form of shipping containers The term “Shipping Containers” as used herein refers to standard 20 foot and 40 foot ISO shipping containers.

One patent alluded to above is U.S. Pat. No. 5,656,491 issued Aug. 12, 1997 to Snamprogettibiotechnologie S. p. A. which allegedly provided a mobile-module plant for the development and production of biotechnological products on a pilot scale. That mobile-module plant included equipment for the production, separation purification and finishing of such biotechnological products. The plant consisted of at least two mobile modules which could be connected together and integrated with one another for use as biochemical plant. Each of the mobile modules comprised a movable container. At least one of the movable containers was provided with its pre-selected own set of the above mentioned equipment, i.e., for the production, separation, purification and finishing of such biotechnological products. Also, at least one of the containers was aseptic. It was said that the plant could easily be disassembled into its individual modules and then transported to a different site.

Another patent alluded to above is US Patent Publication No 2002/0129566, published Sep. 19, 2002 to H. Piccolo et al, which provided a method of converting shipping containers containing factory equipment into a modular portable factory. The disclosed method comprised transporting the shipping containers to the factory site and aligning the containers in a side-by-side relation with their facing walls, to define the walls of the factory and floor of the factory. A roof structure spanned over the top of the container to form a top closure for the factory. Access doors and stairways were provided in the factory. Shipping containers forming main storage units, and which contained building materials, were mounted on a foundation with the supply containers placed perpendicular, parallel or angled to the main storage units. The supply containers were movable by a supply track. The product moved by an assembly track. Turntables at the end of each of these tracks were operatively connected to the tracks to move the supplies or products in a desired direction. The portable modular factories thus assembled were ones which were said to be able to be assembled on one site and readily disassembled for relocation to another site.

Notwithstanding the above prior art, the need still exists for a method for the conversion of shipping containers into a modular, expandable, portable, micro-factory system. In particular, the need still exists for such system which is adaptable to pilot plant scale which can readily be expanded to full production scale, particularly in rural communities.

Therefore, it is a general aim of the present invention to provide a means for satisfying the above needs.

The invention in its general form will first be described, and then its implementation in terms of specific embodiments will be detailed with reference to the drawings following hereafter. These embodiments are intended to demonstrate the principle of the invention, and the manner of its implementation. the invention in its broadest sense and more specific forms will then be further described, and defined, in each of the individual claims which conclude this specification

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Statement of Invention

One broad aspect of the present invention provides a modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system. Such system includes a plurality of intact shipping containers assembled together to provide a contiguous interior space. One such intact shipping container provides a receiving area seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container, which in turn provides a shipping area which is seamlessly connected to the production area of a third intact shipping container. The production area comprises a plurality of vessels operatively interconnected to one another. The plurality of vessels includes a plurality of interconnected apparatus units, namely some, but not necessarily all of an extractor, a press unit, a screener, at least one extract tank, a foamer, a mixing valve assembly, a wash down unit, a slurry tank, a filter plate stack, at least one clear extract tank, an evaporator module, and a concentrator tank.

A second broad aspect of the present invention provides a self contained modular, portable, expandable, micro-factory system. Such system includes a plurality of intact shipping containers assembled together to provide a contiguous interior space. One such intact shipping container provides a receiving area seamlessly connected to a production area of a second intact shipping container, which, in turn provides a shipping area which is seamlessly connected to the production area of a third intact shipping container. The first intact shipping container provides a receiving area comprising a storage freezer, a dry storage and thaw area, an entrance and conventional office areas. The second intact shipping container provides the production area comprising a plurality of operatively interconnected apparatus units including an extractor, a plurality of reaction-supporting lines including a compressed air line, a potable water line, a steam line and a condensate return line, these units being operatively associated with one another; a screener, a foamer, a mixing valve assembly and a wash down station for supply to the screener, a solids tote, a press, and a liquid tub, these units being operatively associated with one another; a first thin extract tank for reactant passing through the screen and being operatively connected to a second thin extract tank, these units being operatively associated with one another; a slurry tank for receiving extract from the second thin extract tank, a strainer for effluent slurry, a filter plate stack for strained effluent and a clear extract tank, these units being operatively associated with one another; an evaporator module operatively connected to the clear extract tank, an effluent to a cooling tower, and a concentration tank, these units being operatively associated with one another

OTHER FEATURES OF THE INVENTION

According to one variant of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the second intact shipping container is disposed at right angles to the first intact shipping container

According to another variant of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the third intact shipping container is disposed at right angles to the second intact shipping container

According to another variant of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the first intact shipping container, the second intact shipping container and the third intact shipping container are oriented in plan view as a “U-shape”

According to another variant of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the first intact shipping container, the second intact shipping container and the third intact shipping container are oriented in plan view as a “H-shape”

According to another variant of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the modular, portable, expandable micro-factory system also includes an ingredient scale, and/or a product scale

The foregoing summarizes the principal features of the invention and some of its optional aspects. the invention may be further understood by the description of the preferred embodiments, in conjunction with the drawings, which now follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system according to the one aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic representation of the interior of one novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system of FIG. 1, but of another aspect of the present invention; and

FIG. 3 divided into FIG. 3A, FIG. 3B, FIGS. 3 C and 3D for convenience shows the piping instrumentation and processing units layout of a main processing module of a novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system according to the another aspect of the present invention

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Detailed Description of FIG. 1

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system (10) according to one embodiment of the present invention. It shows six modules, each of which is an intact shipping container.

Module # 1 (100) is a shipping container providing office and employee facilities and is shown being lowered into position by a sky crane (not seen) Module # 1 (100) is labeled “Lab & Office” and “Change Room”

Module # 2 (200) is a shipping container providing downstream processing and shows a freezer/dryer.

Module # 3 (300) is a shipping container providing extraction and concentration facilities and shows a pressure filter and a product scale.

Module # 4 (400) is a storage container providing raw material storage and flammable material storage.

Module # 5 (500) is a shipping container providing a tank module, and includes preliminary evaporator facilities and second stage evaporator facilities.

Module # 6 (600) is a shipping container providing services, namely electrical facilities, boiler and chiller shop areas and finished storage.

Detailed Description of FIG. 2

FIG. 2 is a schematic representation of the interior of one novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system but of another aspect of the present invention in which the intact shipping containers are arranged in an “H” plan orientation (3000).

In a receiving area provided by the right-hand vertical arm of the “H”, there is a freezer (2022) for storing frozen waste bio-active material and therefore also a freeze/thaw area (400) and refrigerated storage (3002) and dry storage (3004) areas That right-hand vertical arm of the “H” also provides space for an office (100) and washrooms (3006).

The contiguous space provided by the horizontal arm includes the interconnected reaction apparatus units. They may consist of a weigh scale (2042), a screen (2040), a filter (2034), an evaporator (2036) other condensers (2032) and packaging weighing and labeling machines (2032, 2028)

The contiguous space provided by the left-hand vertical arm of the “H” includes the shipping area (2024) and a utility room (600). The shipping area (2024) includes a freezer/refrigerator (200) and a shipping dock (2044) Also shown, but not numbered, are the various pipelines carrying water, compressed air and various reactants, waste bio-products and final processed bio-products.

Detailed Description of FIG. 3A, FIG. 3B, FIG. 3C and FIG. 3D

Composite FIG. 3 shows the piping instrumentation and processing units layout of a main processing module of a novel modular, expandable, portable micro-factory system according to the another aspect of the present invention The interconnected units are labeled and so the drawing is believed to be self-explanatory. However it is to be noted that there are main processing lines for incoming and outgoing compressed air, potable water, steam and steam condensate, the latter leading to a condensate return.

In composite FIG. 3, FIG. 3A shows an ingredient scale (4012), and an extractor (4018) A pump (4016) feeds water to a condenser return (4014) which leads by associated lines to a condensate return line and a bleed line to a surrounding heat exchanger to cool the extractor (4018) The extractor (4018) includes the necessary lines for the various reagents and reactants.

In composite FIG. 3, the continuation in FIG. 3B shows a screener, (4022) where liquid leads to a holding tank (4023). The solids are captured in a solids tote (4040) which feeds a press (4024—so that expressed liquid in liquid tub 4026) is fed to the holding tank (4023) Interconnecting feeder lines are connected to, and between, a pair of thin extract tanks 4028)

In composite FIG. 3, the continuation in FIG. 3C shows a slurry tank (4034) which is connected to a filter plate stack (4038). A strainer (4036) from the slurry tank (4034) also feeds the filter plate stack (4038) The clear extract from the thin extractor tanks (4928 see FIG. 4B) is fed to a clear extract tank (4080). From the clear extract tank (4080) clear effluent is led to its associated line. Other lines, namely the main processing lines which are continuations of lines in FIG. 4A and FIG. 4B are provided for incoming and outgoing compressed air, potable water, steam and steam condensate provide a mixing valve assembly (4030) leading to a washroom station (4031) The generated foam feeds a foamer (4032) or to a filter previously mentioned

In composite FIG. 4, the continuation in FIG. 4D shows an evaporation module (2034). This consists of plate evaporator (4042) and cyclone evaporator (4044), with their attendant connecting lines. The cyclone evaporator (4044) has an effluent leading to another condenser (4045) which drains to a cooling tower The bottoms for cyclone evaporator (40440 feeds a concentrate tank (4046) The final unit is a product scale (4048).

CONCLUSION

The foregoing has constituted a description of specific embodiments showing how the invention may be applied and put into use. These embodiments are only exemplary. The invention in its broadest, and more specific aspects is further described and defined in the claims which follow. These claims, and the language used therein are to be understood in terms of the variants of the invention which have been described. They are not to be restricted to such variants, but are to be read as covering the full scope of the invention as is implicit within the invention and the disclosure that has been provided herein.