Title:
FILLING SYSTEM FOR HOT FILLING OF BEVERAGE BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS IN A BOTTLE OR CONTAINER FILLING PLANT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A filling system for hot filling of beverage bottles or containers in a bottle or container filling plant. The abstract of the disclosure is submitted herewith as required by 37 C.F.R. §1.72(b). As stated in 37 C.F.R. §1.72(b): A brief abstract of the technical disclosure in the specification must commence on a separate sheet, preferably following the claims, under the heading “Abstract of the Disclosure.” The purpose of the abstract is to enable the Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and gist of the technical disclosure. The abstract shall not be used for interpreting the scope of the claims. Therefore, any statements made relating to the abstract are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.



Inventors:
Clüsserath, Ludwig (Bad Kreuznach, DE)
Krulitsch, Dieter-rudolf (Bad Kreuznach, DE)
Application Number:
12/564499
Publication Date:
03/25/2010
Filing Date:
09/22/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
141/46, 141/82
International Classes:
B65B31/00; B65B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
DE102008057752A12010-05-20
Primary Examiner:
WARNER, BRANDON J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NILS H. LJUNGMAN & ASSOCIATES (GREENSBURG, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A bottle filling system in a bottle filling plant, which bottle filling system is configured to fill bottles with a hot liquid, said bottle filling system comprising: a hot liquid reservoir configured and disposed to hold a supply of hot liquid and a gas in a head space above the hot liquid; at least one filling element, each said at least one filling element comprising: a housing; a dispensing opening disposed on the bottom of said housing; said dispensing opening being configured and disposed to permit the dispensing of hot liquid therethrough and into a bottle to be filled; a hot liquid flow arrangement being disposed and configured to permit the flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said dispensing opening; a flow meter being disposed and configured to measure the flow of hot liquid flowing from said hot liquid reservoir to its corresponding filling element; a return gas flow arrangement being configured and disposed to receive a flow of displaced gas from a bottle being filled with hot liquid, said return gas flow arrangement comprising: at least one valve configured to switch the gas flow rate of displaced gas from a bottle being filled with hot liquid to permit switching its corresponding filling element between a higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling of a bottle with hot liquid, and a lower liquid filling rate, during final filling of a bottle with hot liquid; a first gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said at least one valve; a second gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said head space in said hot liquid reservoir and said return gas flowing arrangement; a gas flow throttle operatively connected to said second gas duct, said gas flow throttle being configured and disposed to permit a throttled flow of gas through said second gas duct; said at least one valve being configured to permit gas flow through said first and said second gas ducts, in parallel, with gas flow through said flow throttle, and to permit displaced gas to flow out of a bottle and into said headspace during the higher liquid filling rate, upon a bottle being filled with hot liquid during the higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling; said at least one valve being configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling, each said at least one filling element further comprising: a temperature maintaining system configured to maintain a temperature of each said at least one filling element and hot liquid within said at least one filling element at a temperature substantially equal to a bottle filling temperature by circulation of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir, upon said bottle filling system not filling bottles; said temperature maintaining system comprising: a hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an inlet operatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement, upstream said dispensing opening; a weighted one way valve in said hot liquid circulation arrangement, disposed downstream of said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement, configured to open upon a predetermined pressure being reached in said hot liquid flow arrangement and to inhibit a flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement; a ring shaped hot liquid collecting channel disposed completely about said bottle filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel cooperating with each said hot liquid circulation arrangement of each said at least one filling element, said hot liquid collecting channel being configured to collect hot liquid after flowing through each said weighted one way valve of each said at least one filling element; a shut off valve, disposed downstream of said hot liquid collecting channel, configured to stop the flow of hot liquid in said hot liquid circulation arrangement; said hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an outlet into said hot liquid reservoir; and a pump configured to move hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement from said hot liquid flow arrangement to said hot liquid reservoir; said bottle filling system further comprising a controller operatively connected to said at least one valve, said flow meter, said shut off valve, and said pump; said controller being configured to open said first gas duct upon initiation of filling of a bottle and to close said first gas duct upon a predetermined initial amount of hot liquid passing through said flow meter to a bottle being filled; and said controller further being configured to start said pump and move hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement, upon the stopping of filling of bottles by said bottle filling system.

2. The bottle filling system according to claim 1, wherein said at least one filling element comprises a plurality of filling elements, each said plurality of filling elements being substantially equidistantly disposed about a perimeter of a rotor, said bottle filling system further comprising a gas collecting chamber, said gas collecting chamber being operatively connected to said second gas duct of each said plurality of filling elements and being configured to receive displaced gas, from bottles being filled, and convey the displaced gas to said head space in said hot liquid reservoir.

3. The bottle filling system according to claim 2, wherein said housing comprises a gas reservoir operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement, said first gas duct, and a piston, said piston being operatively connected to a camming arrangement configured to increase the volume of said housing gas reservoir upon the sealing of a bottle about said dispensing opening.

4. A container filling system configured to fill containers with a hot liquid, said container filling system comprising: a hot liquid reservoir configured and disposed to hold a supply of hot liquid; at least one filling element, each said at least one filling element comprising: a housing; a dispensing opening disposed on the bottom of said housing; said dispensing opening being configured and disposed to permit the dispensing of hot liquid therethrough and into a container to be filled; a hot liquid flow arrangement being disposed and configured to permit the flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said dispensing opening; a temperature maintaining system configured to maintain a temperature of each said at least one filling element and hot liquid within each said at least one filling element at a temperature substantially equal to a container filling temperature by the circulation of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir, upon said container filling system not filling containers; said temperature maintaining system comprising: a hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an inlet operatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement, above said dispensing opening; a weighted one way valve in said hot liquid circulation arrangement, disposed downstream of said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement, configured to open upon a predetermined pressure being reached in said hot liquid flow arrangement and to inhibit a flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement; a hot liquid collecting channel, disposed downstream of said weighted one way valve, configured to collect hot liquid flowing through said weighted one way valve; said hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an outlet into said hot liquid reservoir; and a circulating arrangement configured to provide flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement upon said container filling system not filling containers and to not provide flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement upon said filling system filling containers.

5. The container filling system of claim 4 wherein said circulating arrangement comprises a shut off valve, disposed downstream of said hot liquid collecting channel, configured to stop the flow of hot liquid in said hot liquid circulation arrangement.

6. The container filling system of claim 5 wherein said circulating arrangement comprises a pump disposed and configured to move hot liquid from said hot liquid flow arrangement to said hot liquid reservoir.

7. The container filling system according to claim 6, wherein said at least one filling element comprises a plurality of filling elements, each said plurality of filling elements being substantially equidistantly disposed about said container filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel comprises a ring shaped hot liquid collecting channel disposed completely about said container filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel cooperating with each said hot liquid circulation arrangement of each said plurality of filling elements, said hot liquid collecting channel being configured to collect hot liquid from each said weighted one way valve of each said plurality of filling elements.

8. The container filling system according to claim 7, wherein each said plurality of filling elements comprise a return gas flow arrangement being configured and disposed to receive a flow of displaced gas from a container being filled with hot liquid, said return gas flow arrangement comprising: at least one valve configured to switch the gas flow rate of displaced gas from a container being filled with hot liquid to permit switching its corresponding filling element between a higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling of a container with hot liquid, and a lower liquid filling rate, during final filling of a container with hot liquid.

9. The container filling system according to claim 8, wherein each said return gas flow arrangements further comprise: a first gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said at least one valve; a second gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to a head space in said hot liquid reservoir and said return gas flowing arrangement; a gas flow throttle operatively connected to said second gas duct, said gas flow throttle being configured and disposed to permit a throttled flow of gas through said second gas duct; said at least one valve being configured to permit gas flow through said first and said second gas ducts, in parallel, with gas flow through said flow throttle, and to permit displaced gas to flow out of a container and into the headspace during the higher liquid filling rate, upon a bottle being filled with hot liquid during the higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling; said at least one valve being configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

10. The container filling system according to claim 9, wherein said at least one valve comprises a sole valve disposed and configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct and said gas flow throttle, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

11. The container filling system according to claim 9, wherein said at least one valve comprises a first and a second valve disposed and configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct and said gas flow throttle, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

12. The container filling system according to claim 11, wherein said at least one valve comprises a third valve cooperatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, said third valve being disposed and configured to calm pressurized hot liquid in a filled container by providing a controlled flow between said return gas flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, upon opening of said third valve upon a container being filled with pressurized hot liquid.

13. The container filling system according to claim 12, wherein said at least one valve comprises a fourth valve cooperatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, said fourth valve being disposed and configured to provide flow between said hot liquid flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, providing a flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid flow arrangement, upon opening of said fourth valve upon said container filling system not filling containers.

14. The container filling system according to claim 9, wherein said container filling system further comprises a gas collecting chamber, said gas collecting chamber being operatively connected to said second gas duct of each said plurality of filling elements and being configured to receive displaced gas, from containers being filled, and convey the displaced gas to the head space in said hot liquid reservoir.

15. The container filling system of claim 14 further comprising a heater, said heater being disposed and configured to heat the hot liquid.

16. A filling system for filling a liquid product into bottles or similar containers (2), said filling system having at least one filler element (3, 3a) with a product space or liquid channel (8) realized in a filler element housing (7, 7a), said product space or liquid channel being in communication with a reservoir (6) for the liquid product and on the underside of the filler element (3, 3a) forming a liquid product discharge (11), via which the liquid product flows to the respective container (2) to be filled retained on a container carrier (4), and having a liquid valve (10) positioned in the liquid channel (8), whereby to heat or keep the filler element (3, 3a) warm during a hot-filling process, in the filler element housing (7, 7a) there is a first flow path (24, 27; 33), which connects a part section (8.1) of the liquid channel (8), located with reference to the flow direction of the liquid product in the liquid channel (8) upstream of the liquid valve (10), to a ring channel (26) that is common to a plurality of filler elements (3, 3a), and in that at least one control valve (36) is provided for controlling the flow of a hot liquid product from the reservoir (6) through the part section (8.1) and the first flow path into the first collecting channel (26), wherein the control valve (36) is located downstream of the ring channel (26), and in the first flow path (33) a check valve (34) is provided, which opens for a flow from the liquid channel (8) of the filling element (3a) into the first ring channel (26) and closes for a flow in the opposite direction.

17. Filling system according to claim 16, wherein the at least one first control valve (25) is provided in the first flow path (24, 27).

18. Filling system according to claim 17, wherein the at least one first control valve (36) is provided in a line (35) that is connected to the first collecting chamber (26) for conducting the liquid product away, for example for returning said liquid product to the reservoir (6).

19. Filling system according to claim 18, wherein the case of a filling machine with a plurality of filler elements (3a), the first control valve (36) is provided for all the filler elements of the filling machine or in common for a group of a plurality of filler elements (3a).

20. Filling system according to claim 19, wherein the first flow path (24, 27; 33) empties in the immediate vicinity of the liquid valve (10) or of a valve seat (10.2) of the liquid value (10) into the liquid channel (8).

Description:

CONTINUING APPLICATION DATA

This application is a Continuation-In-Part application of International Patent Application No. PCT/EP2008/002013, filed on Mar. 13, 2008, which claims priority from Federal Republic of Germany Patent Application No. 10 2007 014 702.5, filed on Mar. 23, 2007. International Patent Application No. PCT/EP2008/002013 was pending as of the filing date of this application. The United States was an elected state in International Patent Application No. PCT/EP2008/002013.

This application is also a Continuation-In-Part application of International Patent Application No. PCT/2008/001906, filed on Mar. 11, 2008, which claims priority from Federal Republic of Germany Patent Application No. 10 2007 014 701.7, filed on Mar. 23, 2007. International Patent Application No. PCT/2008/001906 was pending as of the filing date of this application. The United States was an elected state in International Patent Application No. PCT/2008/001906.

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field

The present application relates to a filling system for hot filling of beverage bottles or containers in a bottle or container filling plant. The filling system comprises at least one filler element with a product space or liquid channel realized in a filler element housing. The product space or liquid channel is in communication with a reservoir for the liquid product and on the underside of the filler element forming a liquid product discharge, via which the liquid product flows to the respective container to be filled retained on a container carrier, and having a liquid valve positioned in the liquid channel.

2. Background Information

Background information is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily admit that subsequently mentioned information and publications are prior art.

Filling systems, for example also those for filling bottles or similar containers with a hot liquid product, i.e. for the hot filling of, for example, still beverages or other products, are known. To keep the product hot in cases of a production interruption, some filling systems teach the provision of a non-return valve on each filling valve, via which, when the filling valve is closed, an internal heating circuit through the valve body, a first runnings container, a pump, a heat exchanger and the product container can be maintained. This machine concept is theoretically satisfactory, although it is complex, expensive and time-consuming to construct and requires and/or desires a great deal of control effort.

OBJECT OR OBJECTS

It is an object of the present application to provide a filling system which is suitable in a selective manner at least for a cold filling procedure or a hot filling procedure and with which in the case of a hot filling it is also possible to heat the filler elements in a simple manner. Another object of the present application is to provide a filling system which is simply designed and constructed and can be controlled easily, and with which in the case of a hot filling it is also possible to heat the filler elements in a simple manner.

SUMMARY

This object is achieved through a filling system for filling a liquid product into bottles or similar containers. The filling system comprises at least one filler element with a product space or liquid channel realized in a filler element housing. The product space or liquid channel is in communication with a reservoir for the liquid product and on the underside of the filler element forming a liquid product discharge, via which the liquid product flows to the respective container to be filled retained on a container carrier. The filling system also comprises a liquid valve positioned in the liquid channel. To heat or keep the filler element warm during a hot-filling process, in the filler element housing, there is a first flow path, which connects a part section of the liquid channel, located with reference to the flow direction of the liquid product in the liquid channel upstream of the liquid valve, to a collecting channel that is common to a plurality of filler elements. At least one control valve is provided for controlling the flow of a hot liquid product from the reservoir through the part section and the first flow path into the first collecting channel.

For example, in filling intervals or in interruptions in the filling process, the filler elements are heated by the hot liquid product, which flows through the filler elements with the liquid valves closed in a first flow path that is realized in each filler element, said flow path in one possible embodiment being part of a liquid product cycle that includes the reservoir or another reservoir for the liquid product, with its heating or warming system. This liquid product flow or hot cycle of the liquid product is introduced by activating at least one first control valve, which is provided, for example, in the first flow path of each filler element or in a line or connection that, also as part of the liquid product cycle, is also common to the filler elements of a filling machine or to a group of a plurality of filler elements.

The above-discussed embodiments of the present invention will be described further herein below. When the word “invention” or “embodiment of the invention” is used in this specification, the word “invention” or “embodiment of the invention” includes “inventions” or “embodiments of the invention”, that is the plural of “invention” or “embodiment of the invention”. By stating “invention” or “embodiment of the invention”, the Applicant does not in any way admit that the present application does not include more than one patentably and non-obviously distinct invention, and maintains that this application may include more than one patentably and non-obviously distinct invention. The Applicant hereby asserts that the disclosure of this application may include more than one invention, and, in the event that there is more than one invention, that these inventions may be patentable and non-obvious one with respect to the other.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further developments, embodiments and application possibilities of the present application are produced from the following description of possible embodiments and from the Figures. The present application is described below by way of the Figures of possible embodiments, in which, in detail:

FIG. 1 shows a simplified representation of a filling system according to the present application, together with a bottle raised to the filler element of said system;

FIG. 2 shows the filling system in FIG. 1 in an operating state with the hot filling procedure interrupted;

FIG. 3 shows a representation similar to FIG. 1 of another filling system according to the present application;

FIG. 4 shows the filling system in FIG. 3 in an operating state with the hot filling procedure interrupted;

FIG. 5 is a detail showing a filling element cooperatively connected to a filling system;

FIG. 6 is a detail showing a filling element in an operating state, where the filling process has been interrupted; and

FIG. 7 shows schematically the main components of one possible embodiment example of a system for filling containers.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENT OR EMBODIMENTS

The filling system, identified in general in FIGS. 1 and 2 by the reference 1, is a component of a filling machine of the rotary type for filling a liquid product into bottles 2 or similar containers. The filling system 1, for this purpose, essentially comprises a filler element 3 and a bottle or container carrier 4 that is associated with said filler element, said bottle or container carrier, in the possible embodiment represented, serving to hold the bottle 2 at a mouth flange 2.2 that is formed below the bottle mouth 2.1 and, for this purpose, being realized, for example, in the manner of a fork. The filler element 3 and the associated container carrier 4 are provided with a plurality of identical-type filler elements 3 and container carriers 4 at the periphery of a rotor 5 that is rotatingly driveable about a vertical machine axis. A reservoir 6 that is common to the filler elements is situated at the rotor 5 above the filler elements 3, said reservoir being realized, for example, as a ring reservoir and being filled up to a predetermined level N during the filling operation. A gas space 6.1 and a liquid space 6.2 are consequently formed in the reservoir 6. The liquid product is supplied to the reservoir 6 in a controlled manner via a supply line (not represented).

A liquid channel 8 is realized in a housing 7 of the filler element 3, said liquid channel communicating via a line 9 with the liquid space 6.2 of the reservoir 6 that is, for example, in the form of a ring reservoir. The liquid valve 10 is provided in the liquid channel 8 for the controlled discharge of the liquid product by means of a discharge opening 11, which is formed on the underside of the filler element by the open end of the liquid channel 8 at that location.

The liquid valve 10 essentially comprises a valve body 10.1, which is positioned in the liquid channel 8 and interacts with a valve seat 10.2. The valve body 10.1 is realized at a gas tube 13 that is disposed equi-axially with the vertical filler element axis, is open at both ends, serves at the same time as a valve plunger for actuating the liquid valve 10 and, for this purpose, interacts with an actuating device 12. The lower open end of the gas tube 13 is surrounded by the ring-shaped discharge opening 11. The upper open end of the gas tube 13 opens out into a gas space 14 that is realized in the housing 7. The pressing of the respective bottle 2 with its mouth 2.1 against the filler element 3 is effected, in the case of this possible embodiment, at least in a supporting manner by means of the pressure that predominates in the gas space 14 and acts upon the pressing rod assembly 4.1 of the respective container carrier.

The gas space 14 is, among other things, connected to channels 15, 16, 17 that are realized in the housing 7. Said channels are each part of a controlled flow path with control valves 18, 19 and 20. In detail, the channel 15 is a component of the flow path, which also includes the control valve 18 and a channel 21, between the gas space 14 and a ring channel 22, which is common to the filler elements 3 of the filling machine, is realized at the rotor 5 and is connected via a line 23 to the gas space 6.1. The throttled channel 16, i.e. provided with a throttle, is a component of a flow path, which includes the control valve 19 and the branched channel 21, between the gas space 14 and the ring channel 22. The channel 17 is a component of a controlled, throttled flow path, which includes the control valve 20 and the branched channel 24, between the gas space 14 and a ring channel 26, which is common to the filler elements of the filling machine and is realized at the rotor 5.

In addition to the three aforementioned control valves, the filler element 3 has a fourth control valve 25, which together with the branched channel 24 and another channel 27, forms a controlled connection between the ring channel 26 and the liquid channel 8 in the direction of flow upstream of the valve seat 10.2. The control valves 18, 19, 20 and 25, but also the liquid valves 10 of the filling machine or the actuating devices 12, are actuated in a program-controlled manner via a control device 28 corresponding to the respective filling method, as also the liquid valves 10 for a volumetric filling in dependence on the measuring signal of a throughput meter 29.

The different filling methods are possible using the filling system 1, thus for example:

a single chamber or also multiple chamber pressure filling of products or beverages comprising CO2, such as, for example, soft drinks, beer, carbonised water,

a pressureless cold filling for example of still beverages, and

a pressureless hot filling of still beverages.

The control process or control steps necessary and/or desired for the different methods are accommodated totally or almost totally in the respective filler element 3.

The actuating device 12 and also the control valves 18, 19, 20 and 25 or their actuating devices are each pneumatically actuated and are controlled by means of electrically controllable valves (solenoid valves) (not represented). In the case of a filling machine with a plurality of filler elements 3, the actuating element 12 and also the control valve 18 are controlled in each case individually for each filler element by the central control unit 28.

The control valves 19, 20 and 25 are controlled in common centrally for the filler elements 3 of the filling machine, in dependence on the filling method selected in each case, for example by means of three solenoid valves, of which one solenoid valve is associated with the control valves 19, one solenoid valve is associated with the control valves 20 and one solenoid valve is associated with the control valves 25 of the filling machine.

In the initial state, i.e. in the non actuated state, the liquid valve 10 and also the control valves 18, 19, 20 and 25 are closed. In the description below of the different filling methods and their process steps, each of the aforementioned valves are also in their closed state, if the open state is not expressly specified.

In principle, for the actuation of the aforementioned valves for the different filling methods, in the case of the pressure filling procedure, i.e. when the bottles 2 are filled under counterpressure, the control valves 19 and 25 are constantly we're substantially constantly closed, whilst the control valve 20 is constantly or substantially constantly open. In the case of the pressureless cold or hot filling procedure, the control valve 20 is constantly or substantially constantly closed and the control valve 19 is constantly or substantially constantly open.

During an interruption in the filling process, a controlled circulation of the hot liquid product is carried out by means of the control valve 25, in the manner described in more detail below, through the filler elements 3 in order to heat said filler elements or to keep them at a temperature necessary and/or desired for the hot filling process.

During the individual filling methods, two valves, namely the respective liquid valve 10 and the control valve 18 of the individual filler elements of the filling machine are individually controlled. Purely the selection of the operating type desired in each case is effected with the other control valves 19, 20 and 25 through a central actuation that is common to the filler elements 3 of the filling machine.

The following methods, among other things, are possible using the filling system 1, in detail:

Single Chamber Pressure Filling

In the case of this filling method, the reservoir is filled up to the level N with the liquid product. The gas space 6.1 of the reservoir 6 and also of the ring channel 22 that is connected to the gas space 6.1 by means of the line 23 are filled with the CO2 gas that is at filling pressure. The ring channel 26, in this case, serves as a return gas channel common to the filler elements. In this filling method the control valve 20 is situated in a constantly or substantially constantly open state.

1. Pre-pressurizing: Once the respective bottle 2 has been inserted and raised in a sealed position against the relevant filler element 3, pre-pressurizing of the bottle 2 with CO2 gas from the ring channel 22 is carried out by opening the control valve 18.

2. High-speed filling: With the control valve 18 still open, the liquid valve 12 is opened.

3. Low-speed filling: On account of the signal supplied by the throughput meter 29, with the liquid valve 10 still open, the control valve 18 is closed so that the filling process is continued at reduced filling speed.

4. End of filling: Once the predetermined fill quantity has been achieved, the liquid valve 10 is closed.

5. Preliminary relief and calming: Once the liquid valve has been closed, the preliminary relief procedure is carried out via the open control valve 20 or via the throttled gas connection between the gas tube 13, the gas tube 14 and the ring channel 26 that serves as the return gas channel, so that the relevant filled bottle 2 can then be lowered and ejected.

Pressureless Cold or Hot Filling

In the case of this filling method, the reservoir 6 is once again filled up to the level N with the liquid product. The gas space 6.1 and consequently also the ring channel 22 are at atmospheric pressure. In the case of this method, the control valve 19 is in a constantly or substantially constantly open state.

1. High-speed filling: Once the respective bottle 2 has been inserted and raised in a sealed position against the relevant filler element 3, with the control valve 18 open, the liquid valve 10 is opened. The quantity of liquid product flowing to the bottle 2 via the discharge opening 11 is constantly or substantially constantly detected by the throughput meter 29.

2. The quantity of air or gas displaced from the bottle 2 by the liquid product flows via the gas tube 13, the gas space 14 and the flow paths formed by the open control valves 18 and 19 into the ring channel 21 that is connected to the gas space 6.1 of the reservoir 6 by means of the line 23.

3. Low-speed filling: With the liquid valve 10 still open, the control valve 18 is closed so that the quantity of air or gas displaced from the bottle 2 by the incoming liquid product is still able to flow via the throttled connection or the throttled flow path of the open control valve 19 into the ring channel 22.

4. End of filling: Once the desired fill quantity has been obtained, the liquid valve 10 is closed and the respectively filled bottle is then lowered and ejected.

The above-described pressureless filling procedure can also be carried out in one possible embodiment as a hot filling procedure, in one possible embodiment for the hot sterile filling of products, such as, for example, juices. In this case, the liquid product is prepared in the hot state in the reservoir 6 by using a corresponding heating device and/or by the reservoir 6 being a component of a cycle that includes a heating device, in which cycle the liquid product is circulated for heating and for maintaining the necessary and/or desired temperature.

During the normal filling operation, the hot liquid product that flows through the filler elements 3 or their liquid channels 8 then also heats the said filler elements and keeps them at a necessary and/or desired temperature so that the liquid product is introduced into the respective bottle 2 at a sufficiently high temperature that prevents, restricts, and/or minimizes the growth of bacteria.

In order to avoid, restrict, and/or minimize the filler elements 3 cooling down during an interruption in the filling process, it is necessary and/or desired, and at the least possible, in the case of a hot filling procedure to keep the filler elements 3 at the necessary and/or desired temperature by supplying heat. This is made possible with the filling system 1 in that when there is an interruption in the filling process, with liquid valves 10 of the filler elements closed, the control valves 25 of the filler elements are opened so that the hot liquid product flows out of the reservoir 6, through the connection that comprises the open control valve 25 and is formed by the channels 27 and 24, into the ring channel 26 and from there is guided via a return line 30, in which for example a product pump is also positioned, back into the ring reservoir 6 or into the liquid space 6.2 at that location, as is indicated in FIG. 2 by means of the arrows A.

FIG. 3 shows a filling system 1c in the form of another possible embodiment, said filling system being realized for a pressureless filling procedure, in one possible embodiment also for a pressureless hot filling procedure. The filling system 1c differs from the filling system 1 first and foremost in that in place of four control valves 18, 19, 20 and 25 and the associated controllable connections, just one control valve 31 is provided, said control valve also being part of a controllable connection, which includes the channels 15 and 21, between the gas space 13 and the ring channel 22. The high-speed filling procedure (with control valve 31 open) and the low-speed filling procedure (with control valve 31 closed) is controlled by means of the control valve 31. A channel 33 is realized in the housing 7a, said channel connecting the liquid channel 8 of each filler element 3a to the common ring channel 26 and opening out into the liquid channel 8 in the direction of flow upstream of the valve seat 10.2 of the liquid valve 10. A non return valve 34 is provided in the channel 33, said non return valve opening for a direction of flow out of the liquid channel 8 into the ring channel 26 but closing for a flow in the opposite direction. A line 34 with an electrically controllable valve or solenoid valve 35 leads to the ring channel 26.

The pressureless filling also of a hot liquid product into the bottles 2 is effected with the filling system 1a or filler element 3a in an analogous manner to that described above for the filling system 1, the throttled channel 32, with respect to its function, corresponding to the throttled connection formed by the open control valve 19. The individual method steps are consequently:

With the control valve 31 closed and the liquid valve 10 closed initially, the bottle 2 to be filled is raised and pushed against the filler element 3a so that the bottle mouth 2.1 abuts against the discharge opening 11 or against the seal at that location.

1. High-speed filling: For the filling procedure, the liquid valve 10 is opened by the actuating element 12 through the control device 28. At the same time, the control valve 31 is also opened. The quantity of liquid product flowing to the bottle is detected by means of the throughput meter 29. The quantity of air or gas displaced out of the bottle 2 by the liquid product flows via the channel 15, the open control valve 31, partially also via the throttled channel 32 and the channel 21 into the ring channel 22.

2. Low-speed filling: Controlled by the measuring signal supplied by the throughput meter 29, the control valve 31 is closed by the control device 28 so that the quantity of air or gas displaced out of the bottle 2 by the liquid product is still able to flow via the throttled channel 32 and the channel 21 into the ring channel 22 and consequently a low-speed filling procedure at reduced filling speed is carried out (liquid product flowing to the bottle per unit time).

3. End of filling: Prompted by the signal supplied by the throughput meter 29, the liquid valve 10 is closed by the control device 28 as soon as the necessary in a desired quantity of liquid product has been introduced into the bottle 2. The filled bottle 2 is then lowered with the container carrier 4 and said bottle is then ejected to the container outlet of the filling machine.

The afore-described filling method is fundamentally identical or substantially similar in the case of the pressureless cold filling procedure (filling the liquid product in the cold state or at ambient temperature) and also in the case of the pressureless hot filling procedure (hot liquid product), in one possible embodiment also as regards a temperature preventing the growth of bacteria.

To maintain the temperature of said filler elements during an interruption in the filling process, with the liquid valves 10 of the filler elements 3a of a filling machine closed and with the valve 35 open, hot liquid product out of the reservoir 6 is once again supplied to the individual filler elements via the line 9, said liquid product flowing through the liquid channel 8 and also the channel 33 by opening the non return valve 34 and being guided via the ring channel 26 and the line 34 back to the reservoir 6. This cycle of the hot liquid product through the filler elements 3a is automatically started if there is an interruption in the filling process and after the filler elements 3a or their liquid valves are closed, every time however before resumption of the filling process after an interruption by closing the valve 36. The ring channel 26 remains filled with the liquid product.

During the filling process the non return valve 34 prevents, restricts, and/or minimizes the liquid product flowing out of the ring channel 26, and via said ring channel out of other filler elements connected to the ring channel 26, via the open liquid valve 10 and into the respective bottle 2 and thereby falsifying the volumetric filling of the bottles 2 controlled by the throughput meter 29.

For a pressureless cold filling procedure, the closed position is maintained by means of suitable measures, for example by impinging the ring channel 26 with the pressure of a sterile compressed medium, for example with sterile compressed air or with the pressure of an inert gas or sterile air or a sterile liquid, consequently closing the connection between the liquid channel 8 and the ring channel 26. In one possible variant, a return gas duct 13, 14, which during the filling is in communication with the container which is located in sealed contact against the filling element 3, 3a, through which a second and third flow path 15, 16, 21; 15, 21, 32 realized in the housing 7, 7a of the filling element 3, 3a which connects the return gas channel 13, 14 with a second ring channel 22 that is common to a plurality of filling elements 3, 3a, and through at least one control valve 18, 19; 31 for the controlled connection of the return gas channel 13, 14 with the second ring channel 22 via the second flow path 15, 21 and/or via the third, throttled flow path 18, 31 which is provided in the second flow path 15, 21 and/or a third control valve 19 which is provided in the third flow path 16, 21.

In one development of the present application, a continuous connection with the return gas channel 13, 14 exists via the third, throttled flow path 21, 32, whereby the return gas channel can be formed by the channel of a gas tube 13 that is open on both ends, and the lower end of which is in communication during the filling with the interior of the container 2 and its upper end is in communication with the second and third flow path, for example by means of a gas space 14 realized in the housing 7, 7a of the filling element 3, 3a.

In addition, the filling system can be realized so that a fourth flow path 16, 24 realized in the housing 7 of the filling element 3 exists between the return gas channel 13, 14 and the first ring channel 16, and through a fourth control valve 20 located in this flow path, through which, in the open position, there is a connection between the return gas channel 13, 14 and the first ring channel 26, ideally if the fourth flow path is a throttled flow path.

In one variant, for a pressure-less filling, the second ring channel 22 is in communication with the atmosphere and/or with a gas space 6.1 realized in the bowl 6, whereby the pressure-less cold or hot filling takes place with a continuously open third control valve 19 and the fourth control valve 20 is continuously open for a pressure filling.

The filling system can also be modified by having the first and third control valves 25, 19 continuously closed for a pressure filling.

In one development of the present application, for a pressure filling with the bowl 6 partly filled with the liquid being bottled and with an inert gas, such as CO2 gas in a gas space 6.1, for example, at filling pressure, and in the second ring channel 22 which is connected with this gas space 6.1 a pre-pressurization of the container 2 which is in sealed contact against the filling element 3 takes place via the return gas channel 13, 14 by opening of the second control valve 18, and in one possible embodiment when the first ring channel 28 serves as the return gas ring channel. In that case, in the variants, during the pressure filling, for a fast filling the second control valve 18 is opened and for a slow filling it is closed.

It is thereby possible if, on a filling machine with a plurality of filling elements 3, the first and the fourth control valve 25, 20 of the filling elements or of a group of a plurality of filling elements can be controlled jointly, and in one possible embodiment if, in a filling machine with a plurality of filling elements, the filling elements can be configured for a pressure-less filling by opening the third control valve 19 or for a pressure filling by opening the fourth control valve 20.

The first and second ring channels 26, 22 are thereby provided on a rotor 5 of a filling machine.

The present application has been described above by way of possible embodiments. It is obvious that modifications and conversions are possible without departing from the teaching concept underlying the present application.

The present application relates to a filling system for hot-filling a liquid product into bottles or similar containers. The system comprises a filling element comprising a liquid channel configured in a filling element housing. The channel communicates with a bowl for the product and forms a product dispenser on a lower side of the filling element, via which dispenser the liquid product flows towards the container to be filled, said container being held on a container support. The filling system also comprises a liquid valve arranged in the liquid channel.

FIGS. 5 and 6 show detail of at least embodiment of a filling element 201. A bottle or container filling system is configured to unpressurizedly fill bottles or other container 2 with a hot liquid. The filling system comprises an unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206 configured and disposed to hold a supply of hot liquid 206.2 and a gas in a head space 206.1 above the hot liquid. Filling element 201 comprises housing 207. A dispensing opening 211 is disposed on the bottom of housing 207. Dispensing opening 211 is configured and disposed to permit the dispensing of hot liquid therethrough and into a bottle 2 to be filled. A liquid flow arrangement 208 is disposed and configured to permit the flow of hot liquid from unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206 to dispensing opening 211. A flow meter 227 is disposed and configured to measure the flow of hot liquid flowing from unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206 to its corresponding filling element. A return gas flow arrangement 213 is configured and disposed to receive a flow of displaced gas from a bottle 2 being filled with hot liquid. Return gas flow arrangement 213 is operatively connected to a sole valve 217 configured to switch the gas flow rate to permit switching its corresponding filling element between a higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling of a bottle 2 with hot liquid, and a lower liquid filling rate, during final filling of a bottle 2. A first gas duct 220b is disposed in housing 207 and is operatively connected to return gas flow arrangement 213 and sole valve 217. A second gas duct 215.1 and 215.2 is disposed in housing 207 and is operatively connected to sole valve 217 and head space 206.1, in unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206. A third gas duct 220 is disposed in housing 207 and is operatively connected to first gas duct 220b and second gas duct 215.1 and 215.2, at point 220c, bridging sole valve 217. A gas flow throttle 220a is operatively connected to third gas duct 220 and is configured and disposed to permit the flow of gas through third gas duct 220 at a lower filling rate. In the embodiment shown, throttle 220a is a narrowing of gas duct 220, however, other and different flow regulators or flow reducers as are known in the art may be used to regulate the flow of gas through gas duct 220.

Sole valve 217, upon opening, is configured to permit gas flow therethrough, in parallel with gas flow through flow throttle 220a, and to permit displaced gas flow out of bottle 2 and into headspace 206.1 during the higher liquid filling rate, upon a bottle 2 being filled with liquid during the higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling.

Sole valve 217, upon closing, is configured to stop the flow of gas therethrough and still permit a flow of gas between first gas duct 220b and second gas duct 215.1, through third gas duct 220 and gas flow throttle 220a, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

Filling element 201 comprises a temperature maintaining system configured to maintain a temperature of each filling element 201, in a plurality of filling elements 201, and hot liquid within each filling element 201, at a temperature substantially equal to a bottle filling temperature, by circulation of hot liquid from unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206, upon the bottle filling system not filling bottles. The temperature maintaining system comprises a heater 206.3 configured to heat the hot liquid. Heater 206.3 is shown in reservoir 206, however, it is to be understood that heater 206.3 may be disposed anywhere within the liquid circulation of the hot liquid. The hot liquid circulation arrangement comprises a liquid duct 221 with an inlet operatively connected to the liquid flow arrangement 213, proximate dispensing opening 211. A weighted one way valve 223 is disposed in the hot liquid circulation arrangement and is configured to open, by being lifted from valve seat 223a, upon a predetermined pressure being reached in liquid flow arrangement 213. A shut off valve 225 is configured to stop the flow of hot liquid in the hot liquid circulation arrangement. A pump 224a is disposed and configured to move hot liquid through the hot liquid circulation arrangement from liquid flow arrangement 213 to unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206, through liquid line 224b, having an outlet into unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206. The bottle filling system further comprises a controller 226 operatively connected to sole valve 217, flow meter 227, said shut off valve 225, and pump 224a. Controller 226 is configured to open sole valve 217 upon initiation of filling of a bottle 2 and to close sole valve 217 upon a predetermined initial amount of hot liquid passing through flow meter 227 to a bottle 2 being filled. Controller 226 is further configured to start pump 224a and move hot liquid through the hot liquid circulation arrangement, upon the stopping of filling of bottles 2 by the bottle filling system.

The bottle filling system may comprise a plurality of filling elements 201, each being substantially equidistantly disposed about a perimeter of a rotor 205. The bottle filling system may also comprise a gas collecting chamber 218, operatively connected to the second gas duct 215.1 and 215.2 of each filling element 201 and configured to receive displaced gas, from bottles 2 being filled, and convey the displaced gas to head space 206.1 in unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206.

The bottle filling system may further comprise a liquid collecting chamber 222, operatively connected to the hot liquid circulation arrangement of each filling element 201. Collecting chamber 222 is configured to receive hot circulated liquid from liquid flow arrangement 213 and convey the hot liquid to unpressurized hot liquid reservoir 206.

As shown in FIG. 6, the respective bottle 2 to be filled is held during the filling process on a container or bottle holder 204, which in the illustrated embodiment holds the respective bottle 2 by means of a radially projecting flange configured to hold bottle 2 on the bottle neck, below the bottle mouth. The bottle carrier can be moved by a predetermined distance along the axis FA to raise and lower the bottle 2, and in particular to press the bottle 2 with the edge of its mouth against the gasket 211c, and in particular controlled by a control roller 204.1a that is connected by means of a lifting rod 204.1c and interacts with a control cam 204.1b that may not rotate with rotor 205. By means of a compression spring 214c and by means of a pressure exerted on the piston 214b, in the chamber 214 comprising bellows 214a, the container carrier 204 is biased upward for the movement, so that for a filling there is a “self-clamping” effect.

Guide elements 211a may be provided for the liquid, generally these devices may be referred to as screens or shields. Guide elements 211a may be located on the external contour of the valve body 213 and may be configured to deflect the liquid and steer it toward the bottle 2 wall in a swirling motion. For example, guide elements 211a may be swirl inserts or torsion bodies and may be located inside the liquid path and impart a rotational motion to the liquid, as a result of which the liquid flows into bottle 2 in contact with the inside wall of the bottle 2 by centrifugal force. A swirl effect of the liquid may be realized with a swirler 211a in the form of a flat, plane element. In at least one possible embodiment, the liquid beverage is swirled into the bottles or containers 2 to cause the liquid to travel across at least a substantial portion of the interior surface of the bottles.

A seal 211c may be located proximate guide elements 211a to effectuate sealing of the neck about the opening of bottle 2 with filling element 201. A seal 211b may be disposed about an outer perimeter of liquid flow arrangement 213 for closing off the flow of liquid into a bottle 2 through dispensing opening 211.

In at least one embodiment, a filling element having a sole valve configured to switch between a high filling rate during initial filling and low filling rate during final filling, is provided. A filling machine may have more than a hundred filling elements on a rotor. Filling elements of the prior art typically have two or more valves for switching between filling rates, greatly increasing the number of parts of the filling machine. Therefore, costs in manufacturing a filling machine may be decreased with embodiments of the present disclosure. Additionally, it is well known in the art that downtime increases substantially with an increase in the number of parts. Therefore, embodiments of the present disclosure may provide filling machines with increased reliability and increased mean time between failure.

FIG. 7 shows schematically the main components of one possible embodiment example of a system for filling containers, specifically, a beverage bottling plant for filling bottles B with at least one liquid beverage, in accordance with at least one possible embodiment, in which system or plant could possibly be utilized at least one aspect, or several aspects, of the embodiments disclosed herein.

FIG. 7 shows a rinsing arrangement or rinsing station 101, to which the containers, namely bottles B, are fed in the direction of travel as indicated by the arrow A1, by a first conveyer arrangement 103, which can be a linear conveyor or a combination of a linear conveyor and a starwheel. Downstream of the rinsing arrangement or rinsing station 101, in the direction of travel as indicated by the arrow A1, the rinsed bottles B are transported to a beverage filling machine 105 by a second conveyer arrangement 104 that is formed, for example, by one or more starwheels that introduce bottles B into the beverage filling machine 105.

The beverage filling machine 105 shown is of a revolving or rotary design, with a rotor 105′, which revolves around a central, vertical machine axis. The rotor 105′ is designed to receive and hold the bottles B for filling at a plurality of filling positions 113 located about the periphery of the rotor 105′. At each of the filling positions 103 is located a filling arrangement 114 having at least one filling device, element, apparatus, or valve. The filling arrangements 114 are designed to introduce a predetermined volume or amount of liquid beverage into the interior of the bottles B to a predetermined or desired level.

The filling arrangements 114 receive the liquid beverage material from a toroidal or annular vessel 117, in which a supply of liquid beverage material is stored under pressure by a gas. The toroidal vessel 117 is a component, for example, of the revolving rotor 105′. The toroidal vessel 117 can be connected by means of a rotary coupling or a coupling that permits rotation. The toroidal vessel 117 is also connected to at least one external reservoir or supply of liquid beverage material by a conduit or supply line. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 7, there are two external supply reservoirs 123 and 124, each of which is configured to store either the same liquid beverage product or different products. These reservoirs 123, 124 are connected to the toroidal or annular vessel 117 by corresponding supply lines, conduits, or arrangements 121 and 122. The external supply reservoirs 123, 124 could be in the form of simple storage tanks, or in the form of liquid beverage product mixers, in at least one possible embodiment.

As well as the more typical filling machines having one toroidal vessel, it is possible that in at least one possible embodiment there could be a second toroidal or annular vessel which contains a second product. In this case, each filling arrangement 114 could be connected by separate connections to each of the two toroidal vessels and have two individually-controllable fluid or control valves, so that in each bottle B, the first product or the second product can be filled by means of an appropriate control of the filling product or fluid valves.

Downstream of the beverage filling machine 105, in the direction of travel of the bottles B, there can be a beverage bottle closing arrangement or closing station 106 which closes or caps the bottles B. The beverage bottle closing arrangement or closing station 106 can be connected by a third conveyer arrangement 107 to a beverage bottle labeling arrangement or labeling station 108. The third conveyor arrangement may be formed, for example, by a plurality of starwheels, or may also include a linear conveyor device.

In the illustrated embodiment, the beverage bottle labeling arrangement or labeling station 108 has at least one labeling unit, device, or module, for applying labels to bottles B. In the embodiment shown, the labeling arrangement 108 is connected by a starwheel conveyer structure to three output conveyer arrangements: a first output conveyer arrangement 109, a second output conveyer arrangement 110, and a third output conveyer arrangement 111, all of which convey filled, closed, and labeled bottles B to different locations.

The first output conveyer arrangement 109, in the embodiment shown, is designed to convey bottles B that are filled with a first type of liquid beverage supplied by, for example, the supply reservoir 123. The second output conveyer arrangement 110, in the embodiment shown, is designed to convey bottles B that are filled with a second type of liquid beverage supplied by, for example, the supply reservoir 124. The third output conveyer arrangement 111, in the embodiment shown, is designed to convey incorrectly labeled bottles B. To further explain, the labeling arrangement 108 can comprise at least one beverage bottle inspection or monitoring device that inspects or monitors the location of labels on the bottles B to determine if the labels have been correctly placed or aligned on the bottles B. The third output conveyer arrangement 111 removes any bottles B which have been incorrectly labeled as determined by the inspecting device.

The beverage bottling plant can be controlled by a central control arrangement 112, which could be, for example, computerized control system that monitors and controls the operation of the various stations and mechanisms of the beverage bottling plant.

One feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a filling system for filling a liquid product into bottles or similar containers 2, said filling system having at least one filler element 3, 3a with a product space or liquid channel 8 realized in a filler element housing 7, 7a, said product space or liquid channel being in communication with a reservoir 6 for the liquid product and on the underside of the filler element 3, 3a forming a liquid product discharge 11, via which the liquid product flows to the respective container 2 to be filled retained on a container carrier 4, and having a liquid valve 10 positioned in the liquid channel 8, wherein to heat or keep the filler element 3, 3a warm during a hot-filling process, in the filler element housing 7, 7a there is a first flow path 24, 27; 33, which connects a part section 8.1 of the liquid channel 8, located with reference to the flow direction of the liquid product in the liquid channel 8 upstream of the liquid valve 10, to a collecting channel 26 that is common to a plurality of filler elements 3, 3a, and in that at least one control valve 25, 36 is provided for controlling the flow of a hot liquid product from the reservoir 6 through the part section 8.1 and the first flow path into the first collecting channel 26.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the at least one first control valve 25 is provided in the first flow path 24, 27.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the at least one first control valve 36 is provided in a line 35 that is connected to the first collecting chamber 26 for conducting the liquid product away, for example for returning said liquid product to the reservoir 6.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein in the case of a filling machine with a plurality of filler elements 3a, the first control valve 36 is provided for the filler elements of the filling machine or in common for a group of a plurality of filler elements 3a.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein a non-return valve 34 is provided in the first flow path 33, said non-return valve 34 opening for a flow out of the liquid channel 8 of the filler element 3a into the first collecting channel 26 and closing for a flow in the opposite direction.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the first flow path 24, 27; 33 opens out into the liquid channel 8 in the direct vicinity of the liquid valve 10 or of a valve seat 10.2 of the liquid valve 10.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, comprising a return gas channel 13, 14, which, during filling, is in communication with the interior space of the container that is positioned in a sealing position against the filler element 3, 3a, by at least one second, as well as third, flow path 15, 16, 21; 15, 21, 32 which is realized in the housing 7, 7a of the filler element 3, 3a and connects the return gas channel 13, 14 to a second collecting chamber 22 common to a plurality of filler elements 3, 3a, and by at least one control valve 18, 19; 31 for the controlled connecting of the return gas channel 13, 14 to the second collecting channel 22 via the second flow path 15, 21 and/or via the third, throttled flow path 16, 21; 32, 21.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein a second control valve 18, 31 is provided in the second flow path 15, 21.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein a third control valve 19 is provided in the third flow path 16, 21.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein there is a constant or substantially constant connection to the return gas channel 13, 14 via the third, throttled flow path 21, 32.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the return gas channel is formed by the channel of a gas tube 13 that is open at both ends, the lower end of which communicating with the interior space of the container 2 during filling and the upper end of which communicating with the second and third flow path, for example via a gas space 14 realized in the housing 7, 7a of the filler element 3, 3a.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, comprising a fourth flow path 16, 24 realized in the housing 7 of the filler element 3, between the return gas channel 13, 14 and the first collecting channel 26, and by a fourth control valve 20 positioned in said flow path, via which control valve there is a connection between the return gas channel 13, 14 and the first collecting channel 26 in the open state.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the fourth flow path is a throttled flow path.

One feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein for a pressureless filling, the second collecting channel 22 communicates with the atmosphere and/or with a gas space 6.1 realized in the reservoir 6.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the pressureless cold or hot filling process is effected with the third control valve 19 constantly or substantially constantly open.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the fourth control valve 20 is constantly or substantially constantly open for a pressure filling process.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the first and third control valves 25, 19 are constantly or substantially constantly closed for a pressure filling process.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein for a pressure filling process with the reservoir 6 partially filled with the liquid product and with an inert gas at filling pressure, for example CO2 gas in a gas space 6.1 of the reservoir 6 and in the second collecting channel 22 connected to said gas space 6.1, a pre-pressurizing of the container 2 that is in a sealing position abutting against the filler element 3 is carried out via the return gas channel 13, 14 by opening the second control valve 18, with the first collecting chamber 26 serving as the return gas collecting channel.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein during the pressure filling process, the second control valve 18 is open for a high-speed filling procedure and closed for a low-speed filling procedure.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein in the case of a filling machine with a plurality of filler elements 3, the first and the fourth control valve 25, 20 of the filler elements or of a group of a plurality of filler elements are controllable in common.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein in the case of a filling machine with a plurality of filler elements, the filler elements are configurable in common for a pressureless filling process by opening the third control valve 19 or for a pressure filling process by opening the fourth control valve 20.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in the filling system, wherein the first and second collecting channels 26, 22 are provided on a rotor 5 of a filling machine.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a filling system for filling a liquid product into bottles or similar containers 2, said filling system having at least one filler element 3, 3a with a product space or liquid channel 8 realized in a filler element housing 7, 7a, said product space or liquid channel being in communication with a reservoir 6 for the liquid product and on the underside of the filler element 3, 3a forming a liquid product discharge 11, via which the liquid product flows to the respective container 2 to be filled retained on a container carrier 4, and having a liquid valve 10 positioned in the liquid channel 8, whereby to heat or keep the filler element 3, 3a warm during a hot-filling process, in the filler element housing 7, 7a there is a first flow path 24, 27; 33, which connects a part section 8.1 of the liquid channel 8, located with reference to the flow direction of the liquid product in the liquid channel 8 upstream of the liquid valve 10, to a collecting channel 26 that is common to a plurality of filler elements 3, 3a, and in that at least one control valve 36 is provided for controlling the flow of a hot liquid product from the reservoir 6 through the part section 8.1 and the first flow path into the first collecting channel 26, wherein the control valve 36 is located downstream of the ring channel 26, and in the first flow path 33a check valve 34 is provided, which opens for a flow from the liquid channel 8 of the filling element 3a into the first ring channel 26 and closes for a flow in the opposite direction.

One feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a bottle filling system in a bottle filling plant, which bottle filling system is configured to fill bottles with a hot liquid, said bottle filling system comprising: a hot liquid reservoir configured and disposed to hold a supply of hot liquid and a gas in a head space above the hot liquid; at least one filling element, each said at least one filling element comprising: a housing; a dispensing opening disposed on the bottom of said housing; said dispensing opening being configured and disposed to permit the dispensing of hot liquid therethrough and into a bottle to be filled; a hot liquid flow arrangement being disposed and configured to permit the flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said dispensing opening; a flow meter being disposed and configured to measure the flow of hot liquid flowing from said hot liquid reservoir to its corresponding filling element; a return gas flow arrangement being configured and disposed to receive a flow of displaced gas from a bottle being filled with hot liquid, said return gas flow arrangement comprising: at least one valve configured to switch the gas flow rate of displaced gas from a bottle being filled with hot liquid to permit switching its corresponding filling element between a higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling of a bottle with hot liquid, and a lower liquid filling rate, during final filling of a bottle with hot liquid; a first gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said at least one valve; a second gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said head space in said hot liquid reservoir and said return gas flowing arrangement; a gas flow throttle operatively connected to said second gas duct, said gas flow throttle being configured and disposed to permit a throttled flow of gas through said second gas duct; said at least one valve being configured to permit gas flow through said first and said second gas ducts, in parallel, with gas flow through said flow throttle, and to permit displaced gas to flow out of a bottle and into said headspace during the higher liquid filling rate, upon a bottle being filled with hot liquid during the higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling; said at least one valve being configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling, each said at least one filling element further comprising: a temperature maintaining system configured to maintain a temperature of each said at least one filling element and hot liquid within said at least one filling element at a temperature substantially equal to a bottle filling temperature by circulation of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir, upon said bottle filling system not filling bottles; said temperature maintaining system comprising: a hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an inlet operatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement, upstream said dispensing opening; a weighted one way valve in said hot liquid circulation arrangement, disposed downstream of said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement, configured to open upon a predetermined pressure being reached in said hot liquid flow arrangement and to inhibit a flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement; a ring shaped hot liquid collecting channel disposed completely about said bottle filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel cooperating with each said hot liquid circulation arrangement of each said at least one filling element, said hot liquid collecting channel being configured to collect hot liquid after flowing through each said weighted one way valve of each said at least one filling element; a shut off valve, disposed downstream of said hot liquid collecting channel, configured to stop the flow of hot liquid in said hot liquid circulation arrangement; said hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an outlet into said hot liquid reservoir; and a pump configured to move hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement from said hot liquid flow arrangement to said hot liquid reservoir; said bottle filling system further comprising a controller operatively connected to said at least one valve, said flow meter, said shut off valve, and said pump; said controller being configured to open said first gas duct upon initiation of filling of a bottle and to close said first gas duct upon a predetermined initial amount of hot liquid passing through said flow meter to a bottle being filled; said controller further being configured to start said pump and move hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement, upon the stopping of filling of bottles by said bottle filling system.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a bottle filling system, wherein said at least one filling element comprises a plurality of filling elements, each said plurality of filling elements being substantially equidistantly disposed about a perimeter of a rotor, said bottle filling system further comprising a gas collecting chamber, said gas collecting chamber being operatively connected to said second gas duct of each said plurality of filling elements and being configured to receive displaced gas, from bottles being filled, and convey the displaced gas to said head space in said hot liquid reservoir.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a bottle filling system wherein said housing comprises a gas reservoir operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement, said first gas duct, and a piston, said piston being operatively connected to a camming arrangement configured to increase the volume of said housing gas reservoir upon the sealing of a bottle about said dispensing opening.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system configured to fill containers with a hot liquid, said container filling system comprising: a hot liquid reservoir configured and disposed to hold a supply of hot liquid; at least one filling element, each said at least one filling element comprising: a housing; a dispensing opening disposed on the bottom of said housing; said dispensing opening being configured and disposed to permit the dispensing of hot liquid therethrough and into a container to be filled; a hot liquid flow arrangement being disposed and configured to permit the flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said dispensing opening; a temperature maintaining system configured to maintain a temperature of each said at least one filling element and hot liquid within each said at least one filling element at a temperature substantially equal to a container filling temperature by the circulation of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir, upon said container filling system not filling containers; said temperature maintaining system comprising: a hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an inlet operatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement, above said dispensing opening; a weighted one way valve in said hot liquid circulation arrangement, disposed downstream of said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement, configured to open upon a predetermined pressure being reached in said hot liquid flow arrangement and to inhibit a flow of hot liquid from said hot liquid reservoir to said inlet of said hot liquid circulation arrangement; a hot liquid collecting channel, disposed downstream of said weighted one way valve, configured to collect hot liquid flowing through said weighted one way valve; said hot liquid circulation arrangement comprising an outlet into said hot liquid reservoir; and a circulating arrangement configured to provide flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement upon said container filling system not filling containers and to not provide flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid circulation arrangement upon said filling system filling containers.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system wherein said circulating arrangement comprises a shut off valve, disposed downstream of said hot liquid collecting channel, configured to stop the flow of hot liquid in said hot liquid circulation arrangement.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system wherein said circulating arrangement comprises a pump disposed and configured to move hot liquid from said hot liquid flow arrangement to said hot liquid reservoir.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said at least one filling element comprises a plurality of filling elements, each said plurality of filling elements being substantially equidistantly disposed about said container filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel comprises a ring shaped hot liquid collecting channel disposed completely about said container filling system, said hot liquid collecting channel cooperating with each said hot liquid circulation arrangement of each said plurality of filling elements, said hot liquid collecting channel being configured to collect hot liquid from each said weighted one way valve of each said plurality of filling elements.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein each said plurality of filling elements comprise a return gas flow arrangement being configured and disposed to receive a flow of displaced gas from a container being filled with hot liquid, said return gas flow arrangement comprising: at least one valve configured to switch the gas flow rate of displaced gas from a container being filled with hot liquid to permit switching its corresponding filling element between a higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling of a container with hot liquid, and a lower liquid filling rate, during final filling of a container with hot liquid.

A further feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein each said return gas flow arrangements further comprise: a first gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said at least one valve; a second gas duct disposed in said housing and being operatively connected to a head space in said hot liquid reservoir and said return gas flowing arrangement; a gas flow throttle operatively connected to said second gas duct, said gas flow throttle being configured and disposed to permit a throttled flow of gas through said second gas duct; said at least one valve being configured to permit gas flow through said first and said second gas ducts, in parallel, with gas flow through said flow throttle, and to permit displaced gas to flow out of a container and into the headspace during the higher liquid filling rate, upon a bottle being filled with hot liquid during the higher liquid filling rate, during initial filling; said at least one valve being configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said at least one valve comprises a sole valve disposed and configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct and said gas flow throttle, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said at least one valve comprises a first and a second valve disposed and configured to stop the flow of gas through said first gas duct and still permit a flow of gas through said second gas duct and said gas flow throttle, during the lower liquid filling rate during final filling.

One feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said at least one valve comprises a third valve cooperatively connected to said return gas flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, said third valve being disposed and configured to calm pressurized hot liquid in a filled container by providing a controlled flow between said return gas flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, upon opening of said third valve upon a container being filled with pressurized hot liquid.

Another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said at least one valve comprises a fourth valve cooperatively connected to said hot liquid flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, said fourth valve being disposed and configured to provide flow between said hot liquid flow arrangement and said hot liquid collecting channel, providing a flow of hot liquid through said hot liquid flow arrangement, upon opening of said fourth valve upon said container filling system not filling containers.

Yet another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system, wherein said container filling system further comprises a gas collecting chamber, said gas collecting chamber being operatively connected to said second gas duct of each said plurality of filling elements and being configured to receive displaced gas, from containers being filled, and convey the displaced gas to the head space in said hot liquid reservoir.

Still another feature or aspect of an embodiment is believed at the time of the filing of this patent application to possibly reside broadly in a container filling system further comprising a heater, said heater being disposed and configured to heat the hot liquid.

The components disclosed in the various publications, disclosed or incorporated by reference herein, may possibly be used in possible embodiments of the present invention, as well as equivalents thereof.

The purpose of the statements about the technical field is generally to enable the Patent and Trademark Office and the public to determine quickly, from a cursory inspection, the nature of this patent application. The description of the technical field is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately describe the technical field of this patent application. However, the description of the technical field may not be completely applicable to the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, any statements made relating to the technical field are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

The appended drawings in their entirety, including all dimensions, proportions and/or shapes in at least one embodiment of the invention, are accurate and are hereby included by reference into this specification.

The background information is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately provide background information for this patent application. However, the background information may not be completely applicable to the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, any statements made relating to the background information are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

All, or substantially all, of the components and methods of the various embodiments may be used with at least one embodiment or all of the embodiments, if more than one embodiment is described herein.

The purpose of the statements about the object or objects is generally to enable the Patent and Trademark Office and the public to determine quickly, from a cursory inspection, the nature of this patent application. The description of the object or objects is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately describe the object or objects of this patent application. However, the description of the object or objects may not be completely applicable to the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, any statements made relating to the object or objects are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

All of the patents, patent applications and publications recited herein, and in the Declaration attached hereto, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein.

The summary is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately summarize this patent application. However, portions or all of the information contained in the summary may not be completely applicable to the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, any statements made relating to the summary are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

It will be understood that the examples of patents, published patent applications, and other documents which are included in this application and which are referred to in paragraphs which state “Some examples of . . . which may possibly be used in at least one possible embodiment of the present application . . . ” may possibly not be used or useable in any one or more embodiments of the application.

The sentence immediately above relates to patents, published patent applications and other documents either incorporated by reference or not incorporated by reference.

All of the patents, patent applications or patent publications, which were cited in the International Search Report dated Nov. 27, 2008, and/or cited elsewhere are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein as follows: DE 201 05 716, having the German title “Gefässfüllmaschine,” published on May 29, 2002; EP 1 215 166, having the following English translation of the German title “Method and device for filling containers with a liquid product,” published on Jun. 19, 2002; and EP 1 559 674, having the following English translation of the German title “Filler with circulation of the liquid,” published on Aug. 3, 2005.

All of the patents, patent applications or patent publications, which were cited in the German Office Action dated Apr. 6, 2009, and/or cited elsewhere are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein as follows: DE 201 05 716 U1, having the following German title “Gefässfüllmaschine,” published on May 29, 2002.

All of the patents, patent applications or patent publications, which were cited in the International Search Report, dated Jun. 20, 2008, of the U.S. patent application having Attorney Docket Number NHL-HOL-253A, and/or cited elsewhere are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein as follows: EP 0 775 668, having the following English translation of the German title “Filling machine and filling head for such a machine,” published on May 28, 1997; and EP 1 584 601, having the following English translation of the German title “BEVERAGE BOTTLING PLANT FOR FILLING BOTTLES WITH A LIQUID BEVERAGE, HAVING A FILLING MACHINE WITH A ROTARY CONSTRUCTION FOR FILLING BOTTLES WITH A LIQUID BEVERAGE,” published on Dec. 30, 2008.

Some examples of methods for determining parameters such as the filling volume, the empty volume, and the filling height which may possibly be utilized or adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 6,463,964, invented by Clüsserath, published on Oct. 15, 2002 and entitled “Method of operating a machine for filling bottles, cans or the like beverage containers with a beverage, and a beverage container filling machine”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,134,407, issued to Elam on Jan. 16, 1979 and entitled “External pressure-volume monitor”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,282,757 issued to Cohn on Aug. 11, 1981 and entitled “Device for detecting rate of change in pressure”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,391,412 issued to Goldhammer on Jul. 5, 1983 and entitled “Apparatus for limiting filling height of containers”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,765,342 issued to Urman et al. on Aug. 23, 1988 and entitled “Timed drift compensation for rate volume monitor”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,788,456 issued to Urman et al. on Nov. 29, 1988 and entitled “Variable threshold for rate volume monitor”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,928,687 issued to Lampotang et al. on May 29, 1990 and entitled “CO 2 diagnostic monitor”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,008,653 issued to Kidd et al. on Apr. 16, 1991 and entitled “Fluid detector with overfill probe”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,110,208 issued to Sreepada et al. on May 5, 1992 and entitled “Measurement of average density and relative volumes in a dispersed two-phase fluid”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,244,550 issued to Inoue on Sep. 14, 1993 and entitled “Two liquid separating methods and apparatuses for implementing them”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,279,157 issued to Mattis et al. on Jan. 18, 1994 and entitled “Liquid level monitor”; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,099,470 issued to Bahr on Aug. 8, 2000 and entitled “Monitor for diffusable chemical substance”, all of these U.S. patents being hereby expressly incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein.

Some examples of flow meters that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patent Publications: U.S. Pat. No. 7,139,667, entitled “Method for Calibrating a Volumetric Flow Meter Having an Array of Sensors”; U.S. Pat. No. 7,127,953, entitled “Target flow meters”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,845,704, “Beverage Making System with Flow Meter Measurement Control and Method”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,394,312, entitled “Beverage Feeding Apparatus”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,876,610, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Monitoring Liquid Flow Through an Enclosed Stream”; and U.S. Pat. No. 7,069,793, entitled “Ultrasonic Flow Meter and Ultrasonic Sensor.”

Some examples of swirl-inducing devices that may possibly be utilized or adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 2005/0257499, entitled “Beverage bottling plant for filling bottles with a liquid beverage material having a filling machine”, invented by Krulitsch, published on Nov. 24, 2005; U.S. Pat. No. 5,501,253, entitled “Apparatus for filling vessels with liquid;” U.S. Pat. No. 5,190,084, entitled “Filling element for filling machines for dispensing liquid;” and U.S. Pat. No. 4,757,847, entitled “Filling machine filling element having no filling tube.”

Some examples of filling machines that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following filling machines: Innofill DVR, Innofill DNRV, Innofill NV, Innofill DVF, Innofill NMW, Innofill DRS, Innofill DPG, Innofill DNRT, and Innofill MF-UP; each being manufactured by KHS Maschinen-Und Anlagenbau AG, headquartered in Dortmund, Del.

Some examples of filling machines that utilize electronic control devices to control various portions of a filling or bottling process and that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 4,821,921 issued to Cartwright et al. on Apr. 18, 1989; U.S. Pat. No. 5,056,511 issued to Ronge on Oct. 15, 1991; U.S. Pat. No. 5,273,082 issued to Paasche et al. on Dec. 28, 1993; U.S. Pat. No. 5,301,488 issued to Ruhl et al. on Apr. 12, 1994; U.S. Pat. No. 7,469,726 issued to Clüsserath et al. on Dec. 30, 2008.

Some examples of control valve apparatus that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 5,406,975 issued to Nakamichi et al. on Apr. 18, 1995; U.S. Pat. No. 5,503,184 issued to Reinartz et al. on Apr. 2, 1996; U.S. Pat. No. 5,706,849 issued to Uchida et al. on Jan. 13, 1998; U.S. Pat. No. 5,975,115 issued to Schwegler et al. on Nov. 2, 1999; U.S. Pat. No. 6,142,445 issued to Kawaguchi et al. on Nov. 7, 2000; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,145,538 issued to Park on Nov. 14, 2000.

Some examples of electric control valves that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 4,431,160 issued to Burt et al. on Feb. 14, 1984; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,609,176 issued to Powers on Sep. 2, 1986.

Some examples of hydraulic valves which may possibly be utilized or adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,090, entitled “Hydraulic valve;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,745,557, entitled “Hydraulic valve arrangement;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,578,819, entitled “Hydraulic valve;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,505,645, entitled “Multiple hydraulic valve assembly with a monolithic block; U.S. Pat. No. 6,499,505, entitled “Hydraulic valve arrangement;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,427,721, entitled “Hydraulic valve arrangement with locking function;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,412,392, entitled “Hydraulic valve for a hydraulic consumer of a vehicle;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,397,891, entitled “Hydraulic valve, in particular, adjustable pressure control valve;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,349,743, entitled “High-pressure hydraulic valve;” and U.S. Pat. No. 6,305,418, entitled “Hydraulic valve.”

Some examples of pneumatic arrangements that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 6,609,767 issued to Mortenson et al. on Aug. 26, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,632,072 issued to Lipscomb et al. on Oct. 14, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,637,838 issued to Watanabe on Oct. 28, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,659,693 issued to Perkins et al. on Dec. 9, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,848 issued to Ladler et al. on Dec. 30, 2003; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,676,229 issued to Marra et al. on Jan. 13, 2004.

Some examples of seal arrangements that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 5,411,273 issued to Pietsch et al. on May 2, 1995; U.S. Pat. No. 6,290,234 issued to Berle et al. on Sep. 18, 2001; U.S. Pat. No. 6,474,653 issued to Hintenlang et al. on Nov. 5, 2002; U.S. Pat. No. 6,616,146 issued to Friend et al. on Sep. 9, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,692,007 issued to Oldenburg on Feb. 17, 2004; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,648,335 issued to Ezell on Nov. 18, 2003.

Some examples of lifting devices that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following patent publications: U.S. Pat. No. 2,535,272 issued to Detrez on Dec. 26, 1950; U.S. Pat. No. 2,642,214 issued to Lippold on Jun. 16, 1953; German Utility Model No. DE-GM 1,923,261 issued on Sep. 9, 1965; German Laid Open Patent Application No. DE-OS 1,532,586 published on Oct. 2, 1969; British Patent No. 1,188,888 issued Apr. 22, 1970; German Laid Open Patent Application No. DE-OS 26 52 910 published on May 24, 1978; German Patent No. DE-PS 26 52 918 issued on Oct. 26, 1978; German Utility Model No. DE-GM 83 04 995 issued on Dec. 22, 1983; German Patent No. DE-PS 26 30 100 issued on Dec. 3, 1981; and German Laid Open Patent Application No. DE-OS 195 45 080 published on Jun. 5, 1997.

Some examples of computer systems that may possibly be utilized or possibly adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present application may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 5,416,480 issued to Roach et al. on May 16, 1995; U.S. Pat. No. 5,479,355 issued to Hyduke on Dec. 26, 1995; U.S. Pat. No. 5,481,730 issued to Brown et al. on Jan. 2, 1996; U.S. Pat. No. 5,805,094 issued to Roach et al. on Sep. 8, 1998; U.S. Pat. No. 5,881,227 issued to Atkinson et al. on Mar. 9, 1999; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,072,462 issued to Moshovich on Jun. 6, 2000.

Some examples of bottling systems, which may be used or adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment of the present may be found in the following U.S. patents assigned to the Assignee herein, namely: U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,911,285; 4,944,830; 4,950,350; 4,976,803; 4,981,547; 5,004,518; 5,017,261; 5,062,917; 5,062,918; 5,075,123; 5,078,826; 5,087,317; 5,110,402; 5,129,984; 5,167,755; 5,174,851; 5,185,053; 5,217,538; 5,227,005; 5,413,153; 5,558,138; 5,634,500; 5,713,403; 6,276,113; 6,213,169; 6,189,578; 6,192,946; 6,374,575; 6,365,054; 6,619,016; 6,474,368; 6,494,238; 6,470,922; and 6,463,964.

Some examples of bottling and container handling systems and components thereof which may possibly be utilized or adapted for use in at least one possible embodiment, may possibly be found in the following U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 6,484,477, entitled “Capping Machine for Capping and Closing Containers, and a Method for Closing Containers;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,474,368, entitled “Beverage Container Filling Machine, and Method for Filling Containers with a Liquid Filling Material in a Beverage Container Filling Machine;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,494,238, entitled “A Plant for Filling Beverage into Beverage Bottles Other Beverage Containers Having Apparatus for Replacing Remaining Air Volume in Filled Beverage Bottles or Other Beverage Containers;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,470,922, entitled “Apparatus for the Recovery of an Inert Gas;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,463,964, entitled “Method of Operating a Plant for Filling Bottles, Cans or the like Beverage Containers with a Beverage, and a Beverage Container Filling Machine;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,834,473, entitled “Bottling Plant and Method of Operating a Bottling Plant and a Bottling Plant with Sections for Stabilizing the Bottled Product;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,484,762, entitled “A Filling System with Post-dripping Prevention;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,877, entitled “Filling System for Still Beverages;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,024,841, entitled “Labeling Machine with a Sleeve Mechanism for Preparing and Applying Cylindrical Labels onto Beverage Bottles and Other Beverage Containers in a Beverage Container Filling Plant;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,971,219 entitled “Beverage bottling plant for filling bottles with a liquid beverage filling material and a labelling station for labelling filled bottles and other containers;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,973,767, entitled “Beverage bottling plant and a conveyor arrangement for transporting packages;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,013,624, entitled “Beverage bottling plant for filling bottles with a liquid beverage filling material, a container filling plant container information adding station, such as, a labeling station, configured to add information to containers, such as, bottles and cans, and modules for labeling stations;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,108,025, entitled “Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and a Container Filling Lifting Device for Pressing Containers to Container Filling Machines;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,062,894, entitled “Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and a Container Filling Plant Container Information Adding Station, Such As, a Labeling Station Having a Sleeve Label Cutting Arrangement, Configured to Add Information to Containers, Such As, Bottles and Cans;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,010,900, entitled “Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and a Cleaning Device for Cleaning Bottles in a Beverage Bottling Plant;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,918,417, entitled “A Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and an Easily Cleaned Lifting Device in a Beverage Bottling Plant;” U.S. Pat. No. 7,065,938, entitled “A Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and a Container Filling Plant Container Information Adding Station, Such As, a Labeling Station Having a Gripper Arrangement, Configured to Add Information to Containers, Such As, Bottles and Cans;” U.S. Pat. No. 6,901,720, entitled “A Beverage Bottling Plant for Filling Bottles with a Liquid Beverage Filling Material, and Apparatus for Attaching Carrying Grips to Containers with Filled Bottles;” and U.S. Pat. No. 7,121,062 “Beverage bottling plant for filling bottles with a liquid beverage filling material, having a container handling machine with interchangeable receptacles for the container mouth.”

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/564,290, entitled “FILLING SYSTEM FOR UNPRESSURIZED HOT FILLING OF BEVERAGE BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS IN A BOTTLE OR CONTAINER FILLING PLANT,” having inventors Ludwig CLÜSSERATH and Dieter-Rudolf KRULITSCH, and filed on Sep. 22, 2009, is hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in its entirety in.

The patents, patent applications, patent publications, and other publications listed herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein, except words relating to the opinions and judgments of the author and not directly relating to the technical details of the description of the embodiments therein are not incorporated by reference. The purpose of incorporating U.S. patents, Foreign patents, patent publications, and other publications is solely to provide additional information relating to technical features of one or more embodiments, which information may not be completely disclosed in the wording in the pages of this application. The words all, always, absolutely, consistently, preferably, guarantee, particularly, constantly, ensure, necessarily, immediately, endlessly, avoid, exactly, continually, expediently, ideal, need, must, only, perpetual, precise, perfect, require, requisite, simultaneous, total, unavoidable, and unnecessary, or words substantially equivalent to the above-mentioned words in this sentence, when not used to describe technical features of one or more embodiments, are not to be incorporated by reference herein.

The corresponding foreign and international patent publication applications, namely, Federal Republic of Germany Patent Application No. 10 2007 014 702.5, filed on Mar. 23, 2007, having inventors Ludwig CLÜSSERATH and Dieter-Rudolf KRULITSCH, and DE-OS 10 2007 014 702.5 and DE-PS 10 2007 014 702.5, and International Application No. PCT/EP2008/002013, filed on Mar. 13, 2008, having WIPO Publication No. WO 2008/116564 and inventors Ludwig CLÜSSERATH and Dieter-Rudolf KRULITSCH, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein for the purpose of correcting and explaining any possible misinterpretations of the English translation thereof. In addition, the published equivalents of the above corresponding foreign and international patent publication applications, and other equivalents or corresponding applications, if any, in corresponding cases in the Federal Republic of Germany and elsewhere, and the references and documents cited in any of the documents cited herein, such as the patents, patent applications and publications, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein.

The U.S. patent application having Attorney Docket Number NHL-HOL-253A and the corresponding foreign and international patent publication applications, namely, Federal Republic of Germany Patent Application No. 10 2007 014 701.7, filed on Mar. 23, 2007, having inventors Ludwig CLÜSSERATH and Dieter-Rudolf KRULITSCH, and DE-OS 10 2007 014 701.7 and DE-PS 10 2007 014 701.7, and International Application No. PCT/EP2008/001 906, filed on Mar. 11, 2008, having WIPO Publication No. WO 2008/116559 and inventors Ludwig CLÜSSERATH and Dieter-Rudolf KRULITSCH, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein for the purpose of correcting and explaining any possible misinterpretations of the English translation thereof. In addition, the published equivalents of the above corresponding foreign and international patent publication applications, and other equivalents or corresponding applications, if any, in corresponding cases in the Federal Republic of Germany and elsewhere, and the references and documents cited in any of the documents cited herein, such as the patents, patent applications and publications, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein.

The purpose of incorporating the corresponding foreign equivalent patent application(s), that is, PCT/EP2008/002013, PCT/EP2008/001906, and German Patent Applications 10 2007 014 702.5 and 10 2007 014 701.7, is solely for the purpose of providing a basis of correction of any wording in the pages of the present application, which may have been mistranslated or misinterpreted by the translator. Words relating to opinions and judgments of the author and not directly relating to the technical details of the description of the embodiments therein are not to be incorporated by reference. The words all, always, absolutely, consistently, preferably, guarantee, particularly, constantly, ensure, necessarily, immediately, endlessly, avoid, exactly, continually, expediently, ideal, need, must, only, perpetual, precise, perfect, require, requisite, simultaneous, total, unavoidable, and unnecessary, or words substantially equivalent to the above-mentioned word in this sentence, when not used to describe technical features of one or more embodiments, are not generally considered to be incorporated by reference herein.

Statements made in the original foreign patent applications PCT/EP2008/002013, PCT/EP2008/001906, DE 10 2007 014 702.5, and DE 10 2007 014 701.7, from which this patent application claims priority which do not have to do with the correction of the translation in this patent application are not to be included in this patent application in the incorporation by reference.

Any statements about admissions of prior art in the original foreign patent applications PCT/EP2008/002013, PCT/EP2008/001906, DE 10 2007 014 702.5, and DE 10 2007 014 701.7 are not to be included in this patent application in the incorporation by reference, since the laws relating to prior art in non-U.S. Patent Offices and courts may be substantially different from the Patent Laws of the United States.

All of the references and documents, cited in any of the documents cited herein, are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety herein. All of the documents cited herein, referred to in the immediately preceding sentence, include all of the patents, patent applications and publications cited anywhere in the present application.

The description of the embodiment or embodiments is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately describe the embodiment or embodiments of this patent application. However, portions of the description of the embodiment or embodiments may not be completely applicable to the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, any statements made relating to the embodiment or embodiments are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

The details in the patents, patent applications and publications may be considered to be incorporable, at applicant's option, into the claims during prosecution as further limitations in the claims to patentably distinguish any amended claims from any applied prior art.

The purpose of the title of this patent application is generally to enable the Patent and Trademark Office and the public to determine quickly, from a cursory inspection, the nature of this patent application. The title is believed, at the time of the filing of this patent application, to adequately reflect the general nature of this patent application. However, the title may not be completely applicable to the technical field, the object or objects, the summary, the description of the embodiment or embodiments, and the claims as originally filed in this patent application, as amended during prosecution of this patent application, and as ultimately allowed in any patent issuing from this patent application. Therefore, the title is not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

The abstract of the disclosure is submitted herewith as required by 37 C.F.R. §1.72(b). As stated in 37 C.F.R. §1.72(b):

    • A brief abstract of the technical disclosure in the specification must commence on a separate sheet, preferably following the claims, under the heading “Abstract of the Disclosure.” The purpose of the abstract is to enable the Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and gist of the technical disclosure. The abstract shall not be used for interpreting the scope of the claims.
      Therefore, any statements made relating to the abstract are not intended to limit the claims in any manner and should not be interpreted as limiting the claims in any manner.

The embodiments of the invention described herein above in the context of the preferred embodiments are not to be taken as limiting the embodiments of the invention to all of the provided details thereof, since modifications and variations thereof may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the embodiments of the invention.

AT LEAST PARTIAL NOMENCLATURE

  • 1, 1a Filling system
  • 2 Bottle
  • 2.1 Bottle mouth
  • 2.2 Mouth flange
  • 3, 3a Filler element
  • 4 Container carrier
  • 5 Rotor
  • 6 Reservoir
  • 7, 7a Housing
  • 8 Liquid channel
  • 9 Line
  • 10 Liquid valve
  • 10.1 Valve body
  • 10.2 Valve seat
  • 11 Discharge opening
  • 12 Actuating device
  • 13 Gas tube
  • 14 Gas space
  • 15 Branched channel
  • 16 Channel with throttle
  • 17 Channel
  • 18, 19, 20 Control valve
  • 21 Channel
  • 22 Ring channel
  • 23 Line
  • 24 Channel
  • 25 Control valve
  • 26 Ring channel
  • 27 Channel
  • 28 Control device
  • 29 Throughput meter
  • 30 Line
  • 31 Control valve
  • 32 Throttled channel
  • 33 Channel
  • 34 Non return valve
  • 35 Line
  • 36 Control valve
  • A Direction of flow