A Viscous Circle

Today’s depositors can handle everything from sturdy cookie dough to delicate varieties of fresh fruit without damaging the pieces.
Mushy is fine for mashed potatoes, hot oatmeal, chocolate pudding or, if you’re British, peas. But for fruit pies — save pumpkin, rhubarb or sweet potato varieties — a mushy slurry just doesn’t cut it.
Face it, there’s nothing less satisfying than an apple pie with a filling that tastes like apple sauce or a blueberry muffin that looks like it’s been paint-gunned into a bunch of purple splotches.
That’s why the latest generation of depositors features technological advancements that allow them to handle the most delicate of fruits without turning them into slime or puree. At the same time, bakers and other food manufacturers demand that systems be able to deposit everything on one line, whether it’s a stiff frozen cookie dough chock-full of nuts or a Quattro Formaggio, brick-oven pizza topped with five types of meat for the biggest eater in the house.
“Our most recent technology advances come in the form of larger orifice designs,” notes Rick Hoskins, IV, vice president of Colborne Corp., Lake Forest, Ill. “These designs allow for portioning of larger particulate and more viscous products like pie fillings.”
Previous conventional designs used smaller inlet and outlet openings with undersized pneumatics or motors to drive the filling components.
“By producing larger inlets and outlets along with improvements in the hopper design, we are able to pump very viscous filings with very large particulates,” Hoskins says.
Maintaining the integrity of particulates and inclusions, and working with viscous material are two things that Hinds-Bock Corp. has worked with for a longtime. In the past, the industry relied on large positive-flow piston depositors with very long hoses to pump fillings, batters and icings from the depositor to the pan or makeup area, notes Lance Aasness, vice president of the Bothell, Wash.-based company.
Instead of having long hoses leading to a shut-off spout, he adds, new systems move the entire depositor along with the cake or pie pans as they travel down the line, minimizing the distance the fillings or materials travel, and thereby eliminating the long hoses between the depositor and the spouts.
Specifically, Hinds-Bock uses servo-driven technology to move the depositor station along with pie lines, which can produce pies at rates of up to 120 a minute. Shortening the flow path helps maintain the integrity of fruit.
In addition, Aasness notes, Hinds-Bock’s industrial muffin and cake batter depositors can handle up to 12,000 lb. per hour.
Smart Depositors
At last year’s International Baking Industry Exposition, Bakon USA launched its “clever” piston depositors. Equipped with a digital control panel, this new depositor can be preprogrammed, which allows for full control of various parameters like the speed of the depositing.
“Now it is easy for the operator to select a program or recipe on the convenient screen,” says Luc Imberechts, president of Bakon USA, Van Nuys, Calif. “Changeovers are really a piece of cake, and integration in a cake line offers amazing benefits when looking for true automation.”
Combined with the cake decorator, the machine takes it to the next level because the operator doesn’t have to worry about programming the system or manually finishing off the icing of cakes.
Additionally, Bakon offers its Model 600 gearwheel depositor, which has a 600-mm. working width and can handle everything from cake batter and cookie dough to hot ingredients like caramel. The system comes with numerous depositing templates as well as a wire cutter, Imberechts says.
Also at IBIE, the Fedco division of Peerless showed off a prototype XPD depositor that’s scheduled for launch during the first quarter of 2008. Fedco displayed the patent-pending system to solicit feedback from the market, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, says Dane Belden, president of Peerless, Sydney, Ohio.
Belden notes that bakers are focused on increasing productivity, and with the proliferation of product varieties, bakeries need machines that can be cleaned and changed quickly. Today’s baker is anything but a one-trick pony.
“With the escalation of commodities prices, bakers are also challenged to tighten their processes up,” he says. “Accuracy, and specifically shot-to-shot variation, is very important component to increasing the materials efficiency of a process. The final focus is the environmental movement. Never before have the costs associated with cleaning machines between runs been so high.”
The XPD depositor has a clean-in-place design and a peristaltic pump that has no moving parts touching the material being deposited. There’s only the smooth inner surface of a flexible tube to clean, Belden says. Additionally, by using the peristaltic pump, which is the same technology used to pump human blood without damage to the blood cells, there are no hard surfaces where shearing of delicate ingredients can take place.
The XPD model also is servo driven, which increases accuracy. The XPD has no seals, pistons, bores or rotary values that need to be cleaned.
Attaching New Importance
When handling delicate or viscous materials, there are alternatives to volumetric piston filler technology, notes John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development for Reiser, Canton, Mass.
“Today, the availability of Reiser’s Vemag systems allow the producer to formulate around his customer’s desires, rather than the machines’ capability,” he says. “A series of Reiser-engineered attachments allow the same basic portioning system to portion everything from thin batters with large inclusions to stiff cookie doughs. Reiser’s machines are sized to the requirement, and the modular solutions allow a producer to change his product mix without investing in a new machine.”
McIsaac adds that depositors need to be versatile because everyone is looking for a niche to fill with the latest hot product.
“When a trend is spotted, the reaction must be immediate,” he says. “This means that producers expect their suppliers to react quickly.”
Unifiller demonstrated versatility with UNIBOT, a robotic cake decorator that works “on the fly” with any flowable materials.
Unifiller’s engineering team developed a unique method of entering new designs into the computer. The baker just draws any design onto a PC tablet using a special pen. The design then is entered into the robot arm, and the results are seen on the cake instantly.
And, perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t matter whether the batter is mushy or not. SF&WB
Editor’s Note: For more information about the companies listed in this article, visit our online Buyer’s Guide at www.SnackAndBakery.com .