It takes quite a bit of skill, sound training and experience to create the perfect croissant, pastry, roll or pretzel. It also takes a sound formula, precise measurements and durability to deliver accuracy, consistency, speed and flexibility.

That’s just a taste of what customers look for in today’s laminating and sheeting systems. But such equipment must also be able to perform multiple tasks, be stress-free and adapt or be “modifiable” for future needs.

“In the past, you’d have a system for yeast-raised donuts, another for puff pastries and Danish and a line for flatbread, baguettes and pizza,” says Rich Breeswine, general manager at Koenig Bakery Systems, Ashland, Va. “That meant having a multitude of lines in different rooms and a larger production staff for each product. The trend today is for a laminating system for one line that can do multiple tasks.”

In addition, laminating/sheeting equipment users don’t want to alter their recipes in order to make their sheeters work well, notes John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development, at Reiser, Canton, Mass. “We’ve noticed a trend toward [using] big chunks and inclusions. Just when we think people have found the biggest chocolate piece or nut, someone comes along with something bigger. Reiser has made design changes to allow these big chunks to flow more easily and maintain their integrity.”

Users also want a system that can function with breads, filled pastries and donuts as easily as it does for pizza and flatbreads, adds Breeswine.

“This gives a bakery/snack plant the ability to change a product and add new product,” he explains. “Future [laminators and sheeters] must change as fast as the customer does. Laminating systems that can multitask are the next step in future bakery production lines. Koenig has successfully accomplished this with the introduction of the Menes line.”


Flexibility factor


The Menes line features a so-called “Twin Sat,” which exerts a minimum of stress and force to the dough belt while being thinner,” Breeswine explains. In combination with several other modules, the Menes line offers high weight accuracies along with artisanal and stress-free product quality. “Customers run a flexible range of products on their Menes lines, from loaf breads and baguettes to ciabatta, pizza dough, hot dog buns, donuts, sheet cakes, croissants, strudel and even pita and other flatbread,” he says. Koenig’s top sellers are Models SFR, SFI and the Menes 600/800 laminating lines.

“It’s important that laminators and sheeters have substantial flexibility,” Breeswine adds. “The equipment needs to produce various breads and be easy to operate with rolls on the same line, with higher dough hydration, and have the capacity for a medium-sized bakery. Ease of operation, durability and low maintenance requirements are also critical, as well as good service and parts support in the country where the equipment is installed.”

Together with its Markel Bakery Group partner AMF Bakery Systems, Tromp Group, the Netherlands, is introducing laminating and sheeting technology for a wider variety of bakeries. Based in Richmond, Va., the Markel Bakery Group—which comprises AMF Bakery Systems, Reading Bakery Systems and Tromp Group—offers a wide and growing portfolio of innovative, quality process solutions for bread and buns, pizza, pies, pastries, snack foods and other food products.

Tromp Group sales manager, Paul Rooijmans, says that Markel, AMF, Reading and Tromp Group see laminators/sheeters and various makeup lines providing increased flexibility and quality. “Laminators are able to create different dough structures, product sizes and other small changes so that bakers can provide more flexible product offerings to meet the demands of their customers,” he says.

A purchaser’s primary cost concern is the value they’ll get in the line design and flexibility, Rooijmans adds. “It’s all about return on investment,” he explains. “The lines that make higher quality products most efficiently and offer the most product flexibility for the investment are going to be a customer’s primary concern. Costs are related to dough type, dough structure and capacity. Relative costs are low because changing product types in the future means only adding some small components to it. Our laminators start at similar costs as a current, traditional system. All other costs are related to the product customers want to personalize, as in a wish list.”

Shawn Moye, executive sales director at Reading Bakery Systems, Robesonia, Pa., also finds that more customers want the same piece of equipment to work with a wider variety of products. “Laminators can be added to the existing makeup lines—baking tray systems, proofers and ovens—with a relatively low investment,” Moye points out. “This affords many new products and added flexibility for products in the future. Structure and sizes are easily modified to create specific products needed. Our new laminators and sheeters are designed with modular flexibility that allows them to be used with multiple makeup lines for a wide variety of products. They feature advanced electronic controls, quicker changeover times and more sanitary designs. Now, the most popular laminator and sheeter [systems] are for artisan baguettes and flatbreads, and this has changed from the trend in pocket sandwich, pizzas and puff pastry a couple years ago.”


‘Cleanability’ counts


A sanitary design is especially a must right now, Breeswine states, in reference to the changing food-safety regulations.

In fact, more bakers are bringing up sanitation in conversations, McIsaac agrees. “It has become a real concern,” he says. “Long gone are the days of ‘cook it and kill it,’” he says. “The Vemag has always been designed with the highest levels of sanitation in mind, made entirely of stainless steel and other noncorrosive, food-grade materials.”

The baking industry is an area of immense focus and growth at Reiser, McIsaac observes. “It’s the exposure to many different food-industry segments that allows us to draw on a wealth of design experience to produce the best machinery for the bakery,” he says. For instance, our work in the dairy industry helps us stay on the cutting edge of hygiene machine design.”

Moye points out that an open-frame design ensures that the equipment is easy to sanitize and maintain. “Open-frame designs with covers placed only where necessary ensure that no areas are left unclean, creating potential insect harborage,” he explains. “Servo cut-and-sheet laminators that ensure that each sheet cut is identical in size to the first and is placed directly on the last deposited sheet are top sellers. And many products that were previously sheeted at a right angle to the flow of the production line can now be created using an in-line lamination system.”

A quick release on belts is good for cleaning beneath a system, adds Rooijmans. “And cross connections [should be] at least 10 in. from the floor for cleaning underneath,” he adds. “Our equipment is built completely of stainless steel and plastic, and the parts can be removed without the use of tools.”

Eric Riggle, vice president at Rademaker USA Inc., Hudson, Ohio, says that there’s a great increase in requests for washable and hygienic equipment. “You must be able to clean the lines quickly and efficiently,” he says. “Our machines continually evolve in their ability to be cleaned, from sloped tops to open-conveyor designs, quick releases on belts and standoffs on supports and legs. We understand the need for sanitation, both in accessibility and in the ability to clean quickly and get back up and running as soon as possible.”

DrieM also manufactures laminating and sheeting lines to the highest sanitation levels, says Nigel Morris, director of sales and development at DrieM Dough Sheeting Technology BV, the latest member of the Kaak Group, the Netherlands. “The Kaak Group collaborates with organizations such as the Food Processing Supplies Association (FPSA), which is working hard to create new hygiene levels amongst machinery manufacturers.”

A hygienic equipment design is a top priority for food safety, concurs Martina Herrmann, marketing and public relations spokesperson from Germany’s Fritsch GmbH. “Our aim is always to supply customers with systems and tools that are easy to use and operate and that they can clean quickly and thoroughly,” she says. “We have achieved high standards in food safety and operating concepts. Nevertheless, we are constantly striving to further improve and become better in these areas.”


Other musts


Another priority for bakers when it comes to laminators and sheeters is speed and higher throughput. “Our lines are running faster, with belt speeds in excess of 120 ft. per minute and dough capacities in excess of 30,000 lbs. per hour,” Riggle says. “Clients are paying attention to increased efficiencies and product yields, as well as weight accuracy. Waste, by definition, hurts the bottom line, and waste at all levels is being scrutinized. Clients also want equipment that gives them feedback, both in operation and in terms of scheduled maintenance intervals or possible issues with operation.”

Customers demand top performance on laminators and sheeters, Rooijmans says. “They want [equipment that’s] dough- and product-specific,” he says. “Our systems can function within tolerances down till 0.5%. We also have laminators running up to 40,000 lbs. an hour of frozen, unbaked dough, so capacity is no issue.”

In-line retarding and cooling are also features many clients want, adds Riggle. “And they like the consistency they get with a straight-through lamination process versus a book-and-retard process,” he adds. “However, straight-through lamination without the benefit of time and retarding can create a pretty poor-tasting product. We have been delivering lines that retard the dough in-line and straight through, which provides excellent volume and flavor while delivering a consistent product. This all happens with a reduction in labor and floorspace.”

One of the exciting trends observed by Morris is in breads with longer fermentation processes and less artificial ingredients and improvers. “These give consumers breads with much greater natural flavors, a longer shelf life and a healthier image,” he says. “We also see a growing trend in pan breads that are traditionally made using dividers and moulders being made on our DrieM sheeted bread lines. Customers tell us they’re able to create a better product with less additives and higher levels of moisture. The sheeting process for these needs to be even more gentle with the dough, but at the same time, the machinery needs to be able to make products to the correct specifications. Sheeters also need to be able to fit in the production area, be cleaned quickly and have intuitive operating panels.

DrieM’s top-selling sheeters are high-capacity lines of 20,000 lbs. and higher, Morris says. “All of these lines are designed to run 24/7 and are fully automatic,” he says. “There are several that can produce more than 100 different products. The challenge is to increase the efficiencies of these lines without sacrificing the quality of the products.”

Riggle agrees that a strong opportunity for growth in both laminating and sheeting equipment is with bread products. “Laminating dough for certain bread products gives them additional structure as well as more lift (volume),” he states. “On flatbread products such as lavash and pita breads, product strength can be generated by laminating the dough. This strength is reflected in reduced cracking and splitting of the final product when it’s wrapped around a filling.”

“Flexibility of these lines continues to be in big demand,” Herrmann says.

Fritsch also sees a trend in baking more natural doughs. “The challenge facing machine manufacturers in the future will be to develop even gentler dough-processing techniques, because of the use of more ‘natural’ ingredients in doughs,” adds Herrmann. “These doughs no longer have the added chemicals to aid processing through industrial lines.”

Fritsch’s popular laminator is Model 3000, built with components designed specifically for pastry doughs that require precise shaping, gentle handling and high throughput. At the heart of the technology is the Fritsch satellite head, several versions of which are available for specific pastry doughs, explains Herrmann. The system operates with high rolling levels yet gently handles dough and adapts to different dough types.

“It’s very flexible,” she points out. “Operators can work with the most diverse types of pastry dough using the Laminator 3000. The system accommodates between three and 44 layers during lamination, depending on the configuration of the system and the number of turns.”


The cost of downtime


Today, equipment purchasers must consider the long-term cost of ownership as well as downtime—both planned and unplanned—which can have a great impact on the bottom line, Riggle says. “We are very aware of the cost of downtime,” he says. “One hour of downtime could mean $10,000 to a client, so in less than one shift of downtime, our equipment becomes less expensive.

Sheeting lines also require flexibility at the makeup station, Riggle says. “Clients want to be able to produce a wide range of products on the same line, with minimal downtime in product changeover,” he explains. “For this reason, we developed equipment designs that allow clients to perform a lot of basic maintenance functions while they’re in production, such as automatically greasing key components of the line or cleaning critical areas.”

Rademaker’s top-selling laminators are for croissants and Danish. “Over the past two or three years, we have seeing wider and faster lines with end widths of 1,200 mm wide and capacities in excess of 20,000 lb. per hour in some instances,” Riggle adds.

There are great opportunities in the specialty bread market for artisan breads and bread sticks, baguettes and croissants in a diversifying market, says Rooijmans. “The flexibility of making loaf bread and buns on a laminator presents a great opportunity, given the size of the existing market.”

Reiser’s customers also look for versatility and portioning accuracy in their laminating and sheeting equipment. “The sheeter/laminator must be able to easily produce a wide variety of products, viscosities and portion sizes,” McIsaac observes. “Our Vemag system uses a variety of attachments to easily produce all type of products. The system also must be versatile enough to handle different fats and be easily adjustable. The Vemag easily handles all type of products and viscosities. With just the push of a button, the pre-programmed Vemag can easily switch over from one product recipe to another.”

In fact, customers want reliable equipment in order to produce reliable product. “And they want support,” McIsaac says. “We are always on call if there’s an issue. We have technicians stationed around the country if the need arises.”

Rooijmans says his groups are able to make different products on the Tromp Combo Line. Introduced at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) show this year at AMF Bakery Systems’ booth, the line can combine a bread and bun line with a laminator, which can all be merged into a customer’s existing production line. “Suddenly, the possibilities are much wider,” he says.

Accurate portioning is critical to all facets of production, from managing material costs to uniform product appearance to product cook time, McIsaac points out. “Customers don’t want any over- or under-cooked product due to over- or under-weight portions,” he says.


Many methods


There are many different ways to laminate dough, most of which are product-specific. “It’s critical to work with an equipment supplier who understands your product in order to design and implement the correct process for the product,” says Riggle.

“Some equipment has one method of laminating; we have six. In the case of sheeting lines, it’s the same story. We first look at what makes the product unique and then develop a system that provides the utmost quality at the highest efficiency and uptime.”

Space constraints can often be an issue, because laminators are wide. “They’re typically L-shaped or C-shaped,” Riggle says.

Rooijmans agrees about the line layout and available space for setting up the working width of the system. “The final dough thickness in combination with production speed and the reduction capacity to create the final thickness are considerations, as are the baking tray or peelboard size.”

Gemini Bakery Equipment, Philadelphia, offers the BM Moulder Series of bread moulders, which come with four, six or eight sheeting rollers in a diameter of 125 mm. Easily cleaned, the system has high access parts and quick-locking scrapers on each roller. Each set of rollers is independently driven with space between rollers for more relaxed time during the sheeting process. A high-speed curling and moulding belt is available with variable speed control.

There are three models in the series: The BM 2-40; the BM 80; and the BM 4-80. The 4-80 handles up to 70 pieces per minute and has a moulding table available in 17- and 24-in. widths. The 80-B generates up to 4,200 pieces an hour and has three sets of 5-in.-diameter polyethylene sheeting rollers.

Morris says today, new laminating and sheeting equipment is as popular as ever. “We have never been busier,” he sums up. “There are always companies that invest against the trends to make sure they’re ready when the economy turns in the right direction. So it’s crucial for us to understand wha