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EP 2 236 062 A1
EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION
(12)
(43) Date of publication:
(51) Int Cl.:
A47J 31/44 (2006.01)
06.10.2010 Bulletin 2010/40
(21) Application number: 10167803.5
(22) Date of filing: 09.12.2008
(84) Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR
HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MT NL NO PL PT
RO SE SI SK TR
Designated Extension States:
AL BA MK RS
(30) Priority: 12.12.2007 EP 07123009
(62) Document number(s) of the earlier application(s) in
accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
08860218.0 / 2 222 212
• Kaeser, Stefan
5000, Aarau (CH)
• Schenk, Rudolf
3510, Konolfingen (CH)
• Piai, Guido
81377, München (DE)
• Kreitmayr, Bernhard
85276, Pfaffenhofen (DE)
• Georgiev, Dimitar
81927, München (DE)
(74) Representative: Schnyder, Frank Simon
Avenue Nestlé 55
1800 Vevey (CH)
(71) Applicant: Nestec S.A.
1800 Vevey (CH)
Remarks:
This application was filed on 30-06-2010 as a
divisional application to the application mentioned
under INID code 62.
(72) Inventors:
• Kräuchi, Frank
1417, Epautheyres (CH)
• Ozanne, Matthieu
74500, Champanges (FR)
(54)
Modular manufacturing of beverage production machines
EP 2 236 062 A1
(57)
A beverage production machine comprises a
plurality of core units, such as two core units (2A,2B).
Each unit is provided with a beverage production module
(11) for housing a beverage ingredient batch, in particular
an ingredient contained in a package such as a capsule
or a pod, and for feeding a liquid to the beverage ingredient batch. At least two of the core units have a common
user power switch (9), such as a toggle-switch or rotatable wheel or knob switch.
Printed by Jouve, 75001 PARIS (FR)
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EP 2 236 062 A1
Description
Field of the invention
[0001] The invention relates to the field of manufacturing beverage production machines, particularly machines which are designed to produce a beverage using
a pre-portioned beverage or liquid comestible (soup etc.)
ingredient such as e.g. capsules or pods containing
ground roasted coffee.
[0002] For the purpose of the present description, a
"beverage" is meant to include any liquid food, such as
tea, coffee, hot or cold chocolate, milk, soup, baby food,
etc...
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ically or chemically alter characteristics of the beverage.
As the beverage is made based on ingredients and one
or more liquids, the beverage-related functions relate to
any kind of handling a liquid (water, milk,...) or an ingredient. The "handling" relates to the chemical, physical
and/or mechanical processing of the liquid(s) or ingredient.
[0011] Non-limiting examples for the physical processing are: heating, changing the texture (e.g. frothing), and
mixing. An example for the mechanical processing is dosing. A non-limiting example for the chemical processing
is: changing the ingredient/liquid interaction.
[0012] This object is achieved by means of the features
of the independent claims. The dependent claims develop further the central idea of the invention.
Background Art
Summary of the invention
[0003] The development and manufacturing of a range
of beverage producing machines, in particular those using portioned ingredients such as capsules or pods, offering different functions and/or different beverage delivery capacities, is complex and costly.
[0004] There is a need for rationalizing the development and the manufacturing of the beverage machines
while still providing a large range of machines with different functions and options for the consumer.
[0005] In particular, it would be an advantage to propose a range of highly versatile beverage producing machines using capsules or pods which can be upgraded,
i.e. provided with additional beverage-related functions,
at low production costs.
[0006] FR 2 554 185 teaches a series of modular elements which can be combined together so as to constitute an espresso coffee beverage system. The modular
elements are associated side by side. One element is a
coffee producing module. Another element is a steam
producing module. Each element comprises an electrical
connection.
[0007] WO 2007/141334 discloses a modular beverage production system with a docking station and a beverage production module having inter-connected control
circuitries. The control circuitry of the module can be disconnected from the circuitry of the docking station for an
autonomous control of the module when the module is
disconnected from the station.
[0008] US 2005/0015263 discloses a network of various food services equipment items that can be controlled
from a central computer.
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[0013] A first aspect of the invention relates to a method of manufacturing a set of beverage production machines with different beverage-related functions. The
beverage production machines are designed for producing a beverage on the basis of pre-portioned ingredient
batches, in particular contained in packages. The method
comprises the steps of:
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providing a plurality of identical core units, the core
units being provided with control circuitry and a beverage production module designed for housing an
ingredient batch and feeding a liquid to the interior
of the ingredient batch,
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providing a plurality of different base platforms, the
base platforms differing as to beverage production
functions, and
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manufacturing a set of different beverage production
machines by mounting the core units on the top surface of the differing base platforms and by mounting
in particular water reservoirs on the base platforms.
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Object of the invention
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[0009] It is an object of the invention to rationalize the
production of beverage production machines by offering
a range of differing beverage production machines.
[0010] "Differing beverage production machines" relates to the beverage-relevant functions of the machines,
i.e. different beverage production machines differ as to
their hardware or software as how they are able to phys-
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[0014] The pre-proportioned ingredient batches may
be supplied within packages, typically capsules, to the
production machine or may be formed in the machine by
supplying a pre-determined amount of ingredient from
an ingredient reservoir of the machine. Optionally, the
ingredient supplied from the reservoir may be transformed before liquid is fed thereto. For example, the ingredient is ground coffee that is supplied to the production
machine within packages or from a reservoir of the machine containing a stock of ground coffee. Alternatively,
the ingredient is in the form of coffee beans stored in a
reservoir that are supplied in batches and ground before
the liquid is fed.
[0015] Each base platform may be provided with a seat
for receiving a core unit and a connection for receiving a
water tank and the electrical supply means. Thus, when
mounting a core unit on a base platform, in one step, an
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EP 2 236 062 A1
electrical connection and a fluid connection between core
unit and the base platform may be produced.
[0016] Another aspect of the invention relates to a set
of differing beverage production machines, manufactured by such a method.
[0017] According to a still further aspect of the invention, a set of differing beverage production machines is
proposed. Each beverage production machine of the set
comprises:
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-
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a core unit that is provided with control circuitry and
a beverage production module that is arranged for
housing an ingredient batch and feeding a liquid to
the interior of the ingredient batch, the at least one
core unit being mounted on
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one out of a plurality of different base platforms, the
base platforms differing as to beverage production
functions.
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[0018] Each base platform may be provided with a seat
for receiving a core unit and a connection for receiving a
water tank and the electrical supply means.
[0019] The base platforms may be provided with water
guiding means for supplying water from the water tank
to a connected core unit.
[0020] The beverage production module can be designed for ingredient batches provided in capsules or
pods.
[0021] At least one base platform may be designed to
accommodate at least two core units and to supply them
with water, preferably from a common water tank. The
control circuitries of such core units are preferably interconnected as discussed in below in greater details.
[0022] A still further aspect of the invention relates to
a beverage production machine. The machine comprises:
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one or more units provided with control circuitry and
a beverage production module designed for housing
a sealed capsule or a pod and for feeding a liquid to
the interior of the ingredient batch,
the at least one core unit being mounted on a base
platform providing the core unit with electrical power
and water from a water tank also mounted to the
base platform.
[0023] The capsule or pod contains one or more ingredients for producing a beverage or liquid comestible
(soup etc,) when interacting with a supplied liquid (water
etc.). The interaction can be e.g. mixing, extracting, brewing or diluting.
[0024] Yet another aspect of the invention relates to a
beverage production machine comprising a plurality of
core units, each unit being provided with a beverage production module designed for housing a beverage ingredient batch, in particular an ingredient contained in a
package such as a capsule or a pod, and for feeding a
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liquid to the beverage ingredient batch, wherein at least
two of the core units have a common user power switch
(or main switch), such as a toggle-switch or rotatable
wheel or knob switch.
[0025] In one embodiment, the power switch has only
two selection positions for switching on and off said at
least two of the core units, in particular the entire plurality
of core units, simultaneously.
[0026] In another embodiment, the machine has a total
number of core units and the power switch has one or
more selection positions for switching on a number of
core units that is smaller than this total number, the remaining core unit(s) remaining switched off.
[0027] For instance, the selection position(s) for
switching on a number of core units that is smaller than
the total number of core units, is/are permanently associated with one or more corresponding core units.
[0028] The machine may comprise a control unit, the
selection position(s) for switching on a number of core
units that is smaller than the total number, designate(s)
a number of core units to be switched on simultaneously,
the control unit being arranged to select which core unit
(s) to switch on based on an individual history of use of
the core units. This latter embodiment is particularly advantageous to avoid uneven wear of the core units. Typically, the history that may be taken into account can include the total number of hours of past activity of each
core unit and/or the total number of beverage preparation
cycles that have been carried out by each core unit.
[0029] To simplify the electronic conception and reduce the number of components, such a control unit may
incorporate the control circuitry of one or more core units.
[0030] A further aspect of the invention relates to a
beverage production machine, in particular a machine
as described above. This machine comprises a plurality
of core units, each unit being provided with a control circuitry and a beverage production module designed for
housing a beverage ingredient batch, in particular an ingredient contained in a package such as a capsule, and
for feeding a liquid to the beverage ingredient batch. At
least two of the core units have their control circuitries
connected together via communication means for exchanging data whenever needed.
[0031] The presence of communication means between different core units that are part of the same beverage production machine permits the coordination of
the operation of these core units. This is of particular
importance when the core units share common resources during use, e.g. a froth milk device, material and/or
power sources. Communication between the core units
can lead to an optimal sharing of the resources and
smooth use of the production machine. Such resources
may include fluid resources, electrical power resources,
ingredient resources, user interface resources, etc.
[0032] The communication means are advantageously arranged to allow a bidirectional communication between two inter-connected control circuitries.
[0033] Various communication interfaces and connec-
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EP 2 236 062 A1
tions can be used to inter-connect the control circuitries,
such as SPI, I2C, USART, USB systems, wire-bound or
even wireless systems. However, it has been found that
the communication means between two inter-connected
control circuitries can advantageously be made of a simple level shifter, which is inexpensive and allows fast
communication and can easily be fitted on the existing
type of control circuitry for machines with a single core
unit.
[0034] Advantageously, the communication means
between a pair of inter-connected control circuitries comprise: two transmission cables and a neutral cable extending between a pair of inter-connected control circuitries; and a pair of transistors. A less preferred communication means can involve the use of optocouplers.
However, these are slower, more expensive and more
energy consuming than a transistor-based configuration.
[0035] Usually, one of the connected control circuitry
has a master status, the remaining inter-connected control circuitry(ies) having a slave status. Such a slave/master configuration of the control circuitries is particularly
advantageous to avoid the need of an additional central
control unit for controlling and coordinating the control
circuitries of the different core units.
[0036] Each inter-connected control circuitry can be
arranged to periodically communicate its current master
or slave status to the remaining control circuitry(ies) using
a master/slave signal. Hence, when for some reason, a
control circuitry does not send any master/slave signal,
for instance when one core unit becomes inactive, e.g.
when it is individually switched off or has a failure, the
remaining control circuitries can adapt the operation of
their respective core unit to the new configuration. A master/slave signal can be sent from an inter-connected control circuitry every few milliseconds, typically at regular
intervals that are in the range of 1 to 20 ms, in particular
at about 8.33 or 10 ms.
[0037] Preferably, each inter-connected control circuitry is so configured to change its status from slave to
master and vice versa, whenever needed. This is particularly useful in case a core unit that is in a master status
becomes inactive, and whose master function needs to
be replaced by another core unit that acquires a master
status.
[0038] Typically, each inter-connected control circuitry
is configured to be in a slave status as a default status.
A master determination process is used to change the
status of one of the inter-connected control circuitry to a
master status when none of the inter-connected control
circuitry has a master status.
[0039] In practise, when all the inter-connected control
circuitries find themselves in a slave status, for instance
at start-up or when the master control circuitry has been
deactivated, the slaves will wait for a given period of time,
e. g. a few tens of milliseconds such as 50 to 250 ms in
particular 100 to 200 ms, before initiating a master designation process. A master designation process can involve a random function, for instance a time-based func-
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tion that runs simultaneously on all slaves and is terminated when the first slave, after a random period of time
determined by this function, is assigned the task to carry
out the master function and announces itself as new master vis-à-vis the remaining slaves that then remain slaves
in the system.
[0040] Conversely, a core unit that has a slave status
and that is used more intensively than the core unit with
the master status, may take over the master status, the
former master becoming a slave. This is particularly advantageous when a master status, compared to slave
status, is associated with a prioritised access to shared
resources while the slaves only have a subsidiary access.
[0041] The inter-connected control circuitries can be
arranged to communicate between themselves using a
synchronisation signal for allocating between the core
units one or more shared resources, such as supply
sources of material and/or power having a limited availability and/or limited accessibility, so as to provide a synchronised and enhanced allocation of the supply source
(s) between the core units over time.
[0042] As mentioned above, a control circuitry having
a master status can be arranged to allocate the limited
supply sources of material and/or power or other resources as needed for its core unit. In such as case, the control
circuitry(ies) having a slave status are arranged to allocate to their respective core unit, the residual allocation
capacity of the limited supply sources, within the limits
of their own needs of material and/or power or other resources.
[0043] When the control circuitries of the core units are
arranged to send master/slave signals to each other,
such signals are optionally superimposed with the synchronisation signal on a same communication channel
but separated through time windows.
[0044] In one embodiment, each core unit comprises
a thermo-block for heating the liquid prior to feeding to
an ingredient batch. In such a case, the inter-connected
control circuitries can be arranged to synchronise access
by the core units of a common power source with overall
limited accessibility per time unit and/or a limited availability, to optimise heating in the thermo-blocks within such
overall access and/or power limit. Furthermore, to optimise the operation of the thermo-blocks and their heating
and therefore the required allocation of electrical power,
the temperature of each thermo-block and/or of the liquid
heated thereby is preferably monitored by at least one
temperature sensor, optionally combined with a flow meter, connected to the control circuitry of the corresponding
core unit.
[0045] Typically, the beverage production machine will
be connected to an electric network with limited power
supply. Such limit may be comprised within a range of
10 to 16 A in a European 220 V network. When the power
consumption exceeds this limit the network is disconnected from the central power supply, for example by
means of a fuse. Typically, the energy consumption of a
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EP 2 236 062 A1
core unit with a thermo-block is of the order of 1 to 1.5
kW. Operating several core units simultaneously can
thus quickly reach the network’s power limit and lead to
disconnection. To avoid such a disconnection, the interconnected control circuitries are so configured that the
power used at a given time by the beverage production
machine does not reach the network limit, if necessary
for example by prioritising the access by the different
core units to the power supply over time.
[0046] Another problem arises from the perturbation
caused in the electric network by any access thereto.
Only a limited amount of perturbations, voltage changes,
caused by the connection or disconnection of electric appliances to the network, are tolerated. Such norms are
called the flicker standards (e.g. EN 61000-3-3) whose
limits should not be exceeded by such appliances.
[0047] In the context of the beverage production machine of the invention, the temperature of the fluid that is
then fed to the ingredient batch should be adjusted to
ensure the quality of the final beverage. For instance, for
a coffee extraction, the temperature of the fluid, i.e. water,
should be maintained within a narrow range, usually from
80 to 90°C, preferably around 86°C 3°C. When thermoblocks use a two-state resistor type heater, i.e. an "on or
off" type heater with no intermediate level, the temperature adjustment of the heater can only be achieved by
adjusting the respective lengths of successive connections and disconnections of the heater to the electric power supply. However, each connection or disconnection
induces a perturbation of the network relevant for the
flicker standard. It is therefore up to the different interconnected control circuitries to adapt the connections
and disconnections of the thermo-blocks in such a manner that the flicker limits are not exceeded. In particular,
to reduce the number of connections/disconnections, the
inter-connected control circuitries can be arranged, not
only to limit to control the frequency of connections/disconnections of the different thermo-blocks but also to arrange the disconnection of one thermo-block simultaneously with the connection of another thermo-block, i.e.
to switch the power supply from one thermo-block to another so that the overall power intake of the beverage
production machine remains at a constant level, despite
the machine’s internal connections/disconnections, and
does thus not cause any disturbances in the external
electric network to which the beverage production machine is connected.
[0048] Therefore, the inter-connected control circuitry
of each core unit can be arranged to send a synchronisation signal to the other inter-connected control circuitries for each individual access to the power source with
limited accessibility per time unit, so that the overall access limit of the power source per time unit is not exceeded by the total accesses by the different core units during
the corresponding time unit. In particular, the inter-connected control circuitries may be so arranged that all the
core units enter a pause mode when the overall access
limit during a time unit is reached or close to be reached,
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no liquid heated by the thermo-blocks being fed to an
ingredient batch during the pause mode until the corresponding time unit has ended and a new a time unit has
started.
[0049] For instance, the inter-connected control circuitries are so arranged to count during a time unit all
accesses to the power source for heating batches of the
liquid passed through the thermo-blocks and then fed to
the ingredient batch, and arranged to enter a pause mode
when during said time unit the heating by a thermo-block
of a further batch of liquid would necessitate a number
of accesses to the power source that would lead to exceeding the overall access limit.
[0050] It follows that the greater the control of the temperature of the fluid passing through the thermo-block,
the greater is the number of accesses (connections and
disconnections) of the thermo-block to follow closely a
desired temperature profile. It may therefore be necessary, when a close control of the temperature is desired,
to reduce the number of heated batches of fluid that are
passed through the ingredient batches. In other words,
the higher the temperature-related quality of the beverages, the lower the frequency at which the beverages
may be produced with the beverage production machine.
[0051] For example, in the case of a beverage production machine having two core units for extracting coffee
batches, in particular in the form of packages, such as
capsule, it will be possible to configure the control circuitry
so as to have a pause period/extraction time ratio in the
range of 0.25 to 0.5. In other words, in a time period of
10 min., it will be possible to extract coffee (and heat
water in the thermo-blocks) between 3 to 8 min which
correspond to 3 to 8 cups of coffee, and allow the machine
to pause during 2 to 7 min. Typically, 5 or 6 high quality
coffee can be extracted during a period of time of 10 min.
and leave the machine inactive for about 4 min. during
this 10 min. period of time.
[0052] Should the user have exhausted the maximum
number of beverages that can be prepared during a specific period of time, a cycle, he will have to wait, during a
pause period, until a new cycle has begun.
[0053] In comparison, in the case of a beverage production machine with two core units that are configured
to extract a coffee at 86°C with a deviation of no more
than 3°C and that are not coordinated as described
above, i.e. which can be operated independently and
freely from one another, without any consideration for
connections and disconnections of the thermo-blocks,
the flicker limit may be exceeded by about 50%. If the
core units are coordinated but no pause mechanism is
provided, the flicker limit may still be exceeded by about
10%.
[0054] Further details, objects and advantages of the
invention will become evident for the skilled person when
reading the following detailed explanations of embodiments of the invention when taken in conjunction with
the Figures of the enclosed drawings.
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EP 2 236 062 A1
Brief Description of the Drawings
[0055] The invention will now be described with reference to the schematic drawings, wherein:
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Figures 1 to 3 show three different examples of a
system of the invention; each example comprising a
common core unit 2, 2A, 2B and different base platforms 1, 3, 4 onto which the core unit (or units) is
(are) attached. Figure 3a shows a front view of the
system shown in Fig. 3, Figs. 3b and 3c showing an
enlarged top view of two power toggle-switch suitable for such a system.
Figure 4 shows a flow chart of the modular manufacturing method of the invention.
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Figure 5 shows the interior of a core unit according
to the invention.
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Figure 6 shows the rear side of a core unit according
to the present invention.
Figure 7 shows side panels of a core unit.
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Figure 8 shows a core unit in a state ready for being
mounted on a base platform.
Figure 9 shows the base plate of a core unit, which
base plate is the interfacing surface to a base platform.
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Figure 10 shows a detail of Figure 9 in order to illustrate a water (fluid) connector.
35
Fig. 10b shows the electrical connection of the core
unit with the base platform.
Figure 11 shows the screwing of the base platform
to the core unit to achieve a final secured connection.
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Figure 12 shows a core unit mounted on a first base
platform.
Figure 13 shows a frame (chassis) of a core unit
according to the present invention.
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Figure 14 shows a modified core unit according to
the present invention.
50
Figure 15 is a schematic drawing of the electronic
circuit of a level shifter that connects two control circuitries according to the present invention.
Detailed Description
55
[0056] In Figure 1, one example for a configuration
comprising a core unit 2 and a base platform 1 is illus-
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trated. The base platform has the minimal functions as
to the fluid management, which is supplying the core unit
2 with electrical power and with water from a water tank
7 attached to the base platform. To this regard the base
platform 1 according to this example is provided with integrated electrical circuitry to be connected to the mains.
Additionally, the shown base platform is provided with
water feed lines connecting the water tank 7 with a fluid
connector arranged at the top surface of the base platform 1, on which top surface the core unit 2 is fixedly
mounted.
[0057] "Fixedly mounted" indicates that the core unit
is mounted on the base platform 1 at the manufacturing
site. Thus, the mounting is "fixed" in the sense that a
consumer can not easily detach the core unit from the
base platform 1. Preferably the core unit 2 is screwed or
bolted to the base platform 1.
[0058] Alternatively the core unit 2 can be mounted on
the base platform 1 such that a user can detach it, e.g.
in order to transport it easily or in order to replace the
platform (e.g. by a different one having differing functionalities). This releasable mounting can be achieved e.g.
via locking means which can be manually released e.g.
via a push-button.
[0059] In the shown example, the base platform comprises a base support 5 with a seat 50 to receive the core
unit assembly 2, a drip tray 6 and a removable water tank
assembly 7. Drip tray 6 is covered with a grid member or
perforated plate for supporting a receptacle to be filled
with beverage via an outlet nozzle in delivery cover 28.
[0060] In Figure 2, a more sophisticated configuration
of the system is shown in which the base platform 3 comprises a master switch 9, a base support 5, a drip tray
assembly 6, a removable water tank assembly 7 and a
milk frothing assembly 8. The milk frothing assembly 8
is one example for a fluid management device able to
alter the chemical or physical characteristics of a liquid.
[0061] Figure 3 is a rear view and Figure 3a is a front
view of another configuration in which two core units 2A,
2B are connected to a single base platform 4 with a master switch 9. One trip tray assembly 6 is provided. Alternatively, two drip trays assemblies may be provided for
each of the core units 2A, 2B.
[0062] A retractable cup support member 6A is provided above drip tray assembly 6 for supporting small size
cups under the beverage outlet in outlet cover 28. Larger
cups or mugs can be placed directly on drip tray assembly
6 when support member 6A is in its retracted position.
On the left-hand side of Fig. 3a, support member 6A is
shown in its retracted or rest position, pivoted upwards
against core unit 2A. On the right-hand side of Fig. 3a,
support member 6A is shown in its deployed horizontal
position for supporting small cups.
[0063] Switch 9 of the system illustrated in Figures 3
and 3a is shown in greater detail in Figure 3b. Figure 3c
illustrates a variation of such a switch.
[0064] Switches and interfaces and their constructional features are well known in the art, as for instance dis-
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EP 2 236 062 A1
closed in AT 410 377, CH 682 798, DE 44 29 353, DE
20 2006 019 039, EP 1 448 084, EP 1 676 509, EP 1 707
088, EP 08 155 851.2, FR 2 624 844, GB 2 397 510, US
4,253,385, US 4,377,049, US 4,458,735, US 4,554,419,
US 4,767,632, US 4,954,697, US 5,312,020, US
5,335,705, US 5,372,061, US 5,375,508, US 5,645,230,
US 5,731,981, US 5,836,236, US 5,927,553, US
5,959,869, US 6,182,555, US 6,354,341, US 6,759,072,
US 7,028,603, US 7,270,050, US 7,279,660, US
7,350,455, US 2007/0157820, WO 97/25634, WO
99/50172, WO 03/039309, WO 2004/030435, WO
2004/030438, WO 2006/063645, WO 2006/082064, WO
2006/090183, WO 2007/003062, WO 2007/003990, WO
2008/104751, WO 2008/138710 and WO 2008/138820.
[0065] Switch 9 is of the toggle-type with a lever 91
movable along a selection path 92 into various selection
positions 93 to 98.
[0066] Toggle-switch of Fig.3b has three selection positions and allows a user to:
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switch on left core unit 2A or right core unit 2B, as
indicated by position 94 and corresponding visual
sign "L/R" for "Left" or "Right",
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switch on left core unit 2A and right core unit 2B
simultaneously, as indicated by position 95 and corresponding visual sign "L+R" for "Left" and "Right", or
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switch off both core units 2A,2B, as indicated by position 93 and corresponding visual sign "OFF".
[0067] When a user does not need both units to be
operational at the same time, for example because he or
she only wants one cup of beverage to be prepared, the
user will move toggle-switch member 91 into selection
position 94. In this position, the system will determine
itself which unit 2A or unit 2B should be activated, for
instance in view of the history of use of units 2A and 2B
so as to allow even wear of the two core units, used separately over time. In this case, the system includes a control unit that stores, typically in an electronic memory device, the history of use of the core units 2A and 2B. Alternatively, if one core unit is in no condition to be operated, for instance because it requires servicing, the control unit may be arranged to active the other core unit.
[0068] Figure 3c shows another toggle switch that has
a selection lever 91 movable along a selection path 92
into various positions to: switch off the system as indicated by selection position 93; switch on the left-hand
unit 2A as indicated by selection position 96; switch on
the right-hand unit 2B as indicated by selection position
97; and switch on both units 2A,2B as indicated by selection position 98.
[0069] The machine may also be provided with an automatic shut-off mode, such as a timer-based mode. In
this case, the power-switch may be automatically returned into its "OFF" selection position 93 when the automatic shut-off mode runs an automatic shut-down proc-
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ess on the machine.
[0070] In a variation, it is also possible to provide a
different multi-position switch such as a rotatable knob
or wheel or cursor with a selection scale.
[0071] In Figs 1 to 3a, power switch 9 is shown on base
platform 1,3,4. However, it is also possible to locate such
power switches elsewhere, in particular on a core unit.
[0072] In a further variation, it is also possible to provide only two operative modes, e.g. via a two-position
button, namely: all core units 2A,2B switch on or all core
units 2A,2B switched off.
[0073] Furthermore, a common water tank 7 is provided. Thus the shown base platform 4 does not only accommodate a plurality of core units 1, but has the fluid
management functionality of having means for distributing water from a common water tank 7 to a plurality of
core units.
[0074] Note that different fluid management functions
can be achieved via hardware and/or software.
[0075] As has been shown with reference to Figures
1 to 3a, different platforms are provided which distinguish
from each other by their respective fluid management
equipment. The core units according to the invention,
however, do all have common fluid management equipment. This leads to a modular manufacturing of beverage
production machines which will now be explained in the
following.
[0076] Figure 4 shows a flow chart representing the
modular concept of the invention. A common core unit A
or B can be connected respectively to different platforms
1, 3 or 4 to produce specific machines 1, 3 or 4. It can
be noted that a limited number of core units can be selected that fits a higher number of base platforms offering
different functions. Therefore, a base machine 1 can be
easily upgraded (preferably at the manufacturing site and
not by the consumer) by exchanging the platform 1 by a
second platform 3 which has different fluid management
functions than platform 1. Also, the platform 4 may receive two core unit A, B or A and B, thus offering a larger
choice of machines.
[0077] The difference in core units A and B may comprise slight variations. However, the core units A and B
should be essentially of the same size for fitting in each
of the platforms 1, 3 or 4.
[0078] In Figure 5 is illustrated an inside view of a core
unit of the system. It comprises a frame 10. See Figure
13 for the frame 10 alone. On the frame is assembled a
brewing module 11. The brewing module comprises
means for holding a substance containing capsule, e.g.,
a coffee capsule, and beverage delivery means such as
a beverage duct.
[0079] The holding means typically comprises a capsule holder and brewing cage, a fluid injection system for
injecting water in the capsule and a closure device such
as a lever and a knee joint mechanism. Suitable extraction modules are described in EP 1 859 713. Since the
system is modular, other brewing units of different designs could be associated to the frame for upgrading me-
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EP 2 236 062 A1
chanical functions or receiving other capsule formats or
types (e.g., filter pods).
[0080] A water heater such as a thermo-block 12 or
similar thermal bloc inertia-type heaters is provided in
the frame and connected to it. The water heater is associated to the brewing module via a priming valve 13 and
soft tubular lines 14, 15. For ease of connection, clipping
means may be used to connect the tubular lines to the
different elements.
[0081] A pressure pump 17 is provided to supply water
to the water heater at a high pressure. Therefore, the
pressure pump is associated to the water heater by
means of a soft tubular line 16 .The pump can be a piston
pump. A flow meter 18 is also provided upstream the
pump to count the volume of water sucked by the pump
and distributed to the water heater and therefore to enable a precise beverage volume management. Water line
19 represents the cold water entering the water connection entry 21 and leading to the flow meter 18. Water line
20 represents the cold water line exiting the water connection exit 22 coming from the priming valve 13. This
line 20 is to balance the pressure in the fluid circuit by
purging air and/or water during the priming operation of
the system. The valve is described in more detail in EP
1 798 457.
[0082] An electronic circuitry 23 is also disposed in the
frame to control the different elements of the core unit,
in particular, the water heater, the pump and the flow
meter.
[0083] One or two button prints 24 are also placed on
the side of the module which are electronically connected
to the electronic circuitry 23. These are known per se and
typically soft pads enabling to open/close the electronic
circuit for running the pump. Each print 24 may serve for
a programmed volume of water to be pumped corresponding to a beverage size, e.g., a short espresso coffee
of 40 mL or a long coffee cup of 110 mL.
[0084] In Figure 10b one can see, at the rear of the
core unit, a possible embodiment of an electrical connector 37 and the water connectors 21, 22 representing the
essential connections to be connected to matching connecting means of the selected base platform.
[0085] The different elements are typically connected
to the frame by screws, rivets or equivalent connecting
means.
[0086] As illustrated in Figure 6, a cover 25 is connected to the frame to at least partially mask the components
of the frame. Then on Figure 7, two side panels 26, 27
are hooked and fixed to the cover on each side of the
core unit to finalize the masking of the components.
[0087] Figure 8 represents the core unit 1 as available
for being associated to different base platforms. A front
beverage delivery cover 28 can be snap fitted to the side
panels for masking the front of the brewing unit.
[0088] At the front of core unit is provided in the frame
a cavity 29 for lodging a capsule collecting basket 29a
which can freely slide in the cavity. The basket is placed
below the brewing module for collecting the waste cap-
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sules that fall by gravity after brewing and opening of the
module by the lever. A recipient 29b under the basket
29a is provided to separate waste water from the waste
capsules. Thus, the cleaning and the handling of the core
unit are enhanced.
[0089] In Figure 9, a base platform 5 (seen upside
down in this Figure) is selected and associated to the
core unit 2 of Figure 8. The base platform comprises a
base support made of injected plastic. Figure 12 shows
the upper side of the base platform with a central seat
50 forming a hollow recess sufficient to receive the core
unit. As illustrated in Figure 8, the core unit 1 can comprise a lower front engaging portion 31 that can fit in a
front connecting recess of the base platform (not shown)
to ensure a better connection.
[0090] The final secured connection can be done by
screwing of the base platform to the core unit as shown
in Figure 11.
[0091] Figures 9 and 10 show a recess 36 at the rear
and bottom end of the base platform for connecting the
water connectors 21, 22 of the core unit to the water
connector 32 of the base platform in the water tank connecting zone. In Figure 12, one can see the water tank
7 which is removably mounted on the connecting zone
of the base platform. A recessed and/or protruding structure 33 can be provided for a better fitting of the tank on
the platform.
[0092] On Figure 10B, one can also see the recess 36
of the platform being equipped with the electrical connection 37 of the core unit 2 for connecting it to the base
platform. The connection can be made by flying cables
as known per se.
[0093] Figure 14 shows another system with a similar
core unit 2B and a different base platform 6C. The core
unit 2B is technically identical to the core unit described
in relation to the previous Figures but may have aesthetic
variants such as a different finish surface, e.g., a metallised or chrome-plated surfaces.
[0094] The base platform 6C has new fluid management functions compared to the base platform of Figures
12. It may have a cordless milk frothing assembly 8.
Therefore, the base platform comprises a dedicated area
34 forming support with a cordless electrical connection
able to receive in a removable manner a milk frothing jug
80. The milk jug has mechanical whipping elements for
whipping liquid milk. A description of a cordless milk frothing assembly itself is described in detail in WO
2006/050900.
[0095] The base platform may also comprise a cup
support area 35. This support area can comprise heating
elements, e.g., a resistive heating surface for maintaining
the cups at a warm temperature. The heating elements
can be switched on as soon as the platform is supplied
in current of the main.
[0096] It can be noted that the base platforms provide
the water and electrical supplies to the core unit. Peripheral functions can be provided such as milk frothing function, cup heating function, a hot water delivery (e.g., by
15
EP 2 236 062 A1
a heating water kettle) additional brewing capacity, etc.
The base platform does not need to receive an electronic
circuitry although such circuitry is not to be excluded if
complex functions would require a specific control, e.g.,
independent from the control of the core unit. In case,
the platform would require a control circuitry, the core
unit can work as a master unit and the base platform as
a slave unit or vice versa.
[0097] In any case, if two or more core units are provided each having control circuitry, a protocol for coordinating the control is provided. E.g. the protocol can coordinate the control such that one of the core units has
a higher priority control than the respectively other one.
[0098] As illustrated in Figures 3 and 3a, more than
one core unit can be connected to a selected platform
adapted for this purpose. Each control circuitry of the
units can work independently or in a master/slave relationship to ensure a proper energy management control.
In particular, compliance with particular flickering norms
(e.g., EN61000-3-3) requires the coordination of the empowering of the water heaters and eventually enforcement of current breaks in the extraction frequencies or
limitation of simultaneous or overlapping extraction cycles.
[0099] Figure 15 is a schematic drawing of the electronic circuit of a level shifter 60 that connects two control
circuitries illustrated in doted lines 60A and 60B, each
having a micro controller associated with the level shifter
60. The level shifter 60 comprises two transmission lines
61,62 and a neutral line 63 to equalise the electric potentials of the control circuitries 60A,60B. Each line 61,62
connects the control circuitries through a transistor 64.
[0100] Such a level shifter 60 permits a fast bidirectional communication between control circuitries 60A and
60B at a low price.
for switching on a number of core units that is smaller
than said total number, the remaining core unit(s)
remaining switched off.
5
2.
3.
A beverage production machine comprising a plurality of core units, such as two core units (2A,2B),
each unit being provided with a beverage production
module (11) for housing a beverage ingredient batch,
in particular an ingredient contained in a package
such as a capsule or a pod, and for feeding a liquid
to the beverage ingredient batch, wherein at least
two of the core units have a common user power
switch (9), such as a toggle-switch or rotatable wheel
or knob switch.
4.
The machine of claim 3, wherein said selection position(s) (96,97) for switching on a number of core
units that is smaller than the total number of core
units is/are permanently associated with one or more
corresponding core units (2A,2B).
5.
The machine of claim 3, which comprises a control
unit (23,60A,60B) and wherein said selection position(s) (94) for switching on a number of core units
(2A,2B) that is smaller than the total number designate(s) a number of core units to be switched on
simultaneously, the control unit being arranged to
select which core unit(s) to switch on based on an
individual history of use of the core units.
6.
The machine of any preceding claim, wherein each
core units (2A,2B) is provided with a control circuitry
(23) and wherein at least two of the core units (2A,
2B) have their control circuitries inter-connected via
communication means (60) for exchanging data.
7.
The machine of claim 6, wherein the beverage production machine further comprises a base platform
(1,3,4) which provides the core unit (2A,2B) with
electrical power and water from a water tank (7) also
mounted to the base platform.
8.
The machine of claim 7, wherein the core unit (2A,
2B), but not the base platform (4) is provided with a
user control interface (24).
9.
The machine of claims 7 or 8, wherein the base platform (4) is provided with a seat (50) for receiving a
core unit (2A,2B) and a connection for receiving a
water tank (7) and the electrical supply means.
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Claims
1.
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10. The machine of any one of claims 7 to 9, wherein
the base platform (4) is provided with water guiding
means for supplying water from the water tank (7)
to a connected core unit (2A,2B).
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50
11. The machine of any one of claims 7 to 10, wherein
the core unit (2A,2B) and the base platform (4) are
designed such that an electrical connection and a
fluid connection between the core unit and the base
platform is produced in one step.
55
12. The machine of any of claims 6 to 11, wherein the
communication means (60) are arranged to allow a
bidirectional communication between two inter-connected control circuitries (23).
The machine of claim 1, wherein the power switch
(9) has two selection positions for switching on and
off said at least two of the core units (2A,2B) simultaneously.
The machine of claim 1, which has a total number
of core units (2A,2B) and wherein the power switch
(9) has one or more selection positions (94,96,97)
13. The machine of any one of claims 6 to 12, wherein
the communication means (60) between two inter-
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EP 2 236 062 A1
connected control circuitries (23) is a level shifter.
14. The machine of any one of claims 6 to 13, wherein
the communication means (60) between a pair of
inter-connected control circuitries (23) comprise: two
transmission cables (61,62) and a neutral cable (63)
extending between said pair of inter-connected control circuitries; and a pair of transistors (64).
15. The machine of any one of claims 6 to 14, wherein
one of the connected control circuitry (23) has a master status, the remaining inter-connected control circuitry(ies) (23) having a slave status.
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REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION
This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader’s convenience only. It does not form part of the European
patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be
excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.
Patent documents cited in the description
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