Improvements to equipment destined for snack and bakery lines tend to track along several consistent paths of focus. Efficiency is always top-of-mind, and any ability for a machine to trim time off production runs and minimize downtime remains a key consideration. Along similar lines, equipment needs to accommodate easy clean-down and changeovers. Carefully considered hygienic design is now par for the course.

Slicing, cutting, portioning and similar equipment play a vital role in the dough make-up and processing sections of automated snack and bakery lines and require streamlined, seamless functionality to keep lines humming.

Refining the standards

The Vemag from Reiser, Canton, MA, is a tried-and-true dough divider, portioner and depositor. “The Vemag is a single machine that incorporates many innovative attachments specifically designed for bakery applications,” says John McIsaac, vice president, strategic business development. “Each Vemag attachment is carefully designed to produce consistent, high-quality bakery products. Attachments can be easily swapped out in minutes so that bakers can produce a variety of different products.”

McIsaac notes that the Vemag features a powerful, positive-displacement double-screw pump that provides portioning accuracy. “The double-screw transports product extremely gently and without crushing or smearing,” he says. “Large inclusions are not damaged or crushed. Single-lane and multi-lane configurations are available to meet virtually any production requirement.” He notes that the machines can be used for all types of dough portioning, from dough dividing to cookie dough depositing to batter/filling portioning and brownie sheeting.

The Vemag has recently received some refinements. “The Vemag’s double-screws and attachments are where our newest innovations take place,” says McIsaac. “For instance, we have developed ‘bottom filling’ diving heads for batter depositing where the heads drop into the pan or box on the fly to prevent air from being trapped under the batter—all with no mess or container contamination. Recent advances in both the infeed system and the double-screws themselves now allow us to produce exact weight portions with even less work on the product.

Baker Perkins, Grand Rapids, MI, notes that it has upgraded its range of TruClean sheet forming and cutting lines. The lines comprise either a three-roll sheeter or a laminator to take a bulk feed of dough and form it into a sheet, ready to pass through gauge rolls to achieve a chosen thickness and then onto a rotary cutter before baking. The equipment is able to process a wide range of dough types, including crackers, snack crackers and cookies.

TruClean production lines can be configured to suit laminated or straight-sheeted process requirements—or both, if the combination laminator is used. Laminated and sheeted products are gauged to the chosen thickness, relaxed and then embossed and cut before passing into the oven.

Integrated efficiency

Accurate portioning is critical to the profitability of any snack or bakery operation. “Smart bakers understand that their dough portioner is the key piece in controlling raw ingredient cost,” says McIsaac. “The closer our customers can maintain their portioning to label weight, the more money they can make.”

Accurate scaling has implications down the line. Accurate weights translate into uniform baking and mean more consistency in packaging. “Our Vemag Process Check checkweigher can take portioning accuracy to another level,” says McIsaac. “The inline Process Check is ideal for all dough dividing lines where consistently accurate weights are critical. Portion weights can be affected by a number of variables, including changes in the dough, product temperature, density and even machine wear. The Vemag Process Check communicates directly with the Vemag Dough Divider to compensate for those variables, continuously fine-tuning each dough portion to increase on-weight percentages, with no operator intervention.”

The ACCUSONIC-2100URFi from FoodTools Consolidated, Inc., Santa Barbara, CA, features ultrasonic slicing technology, servo-driven product rotation for speed and accuracy, a servo-driven divider insert roll feeding for speed and accuracy, and Allen Bradley controls. It’s suited to slicing layer cakes, tortes, pies and other delicate deserts at a wide range of temperatures. A switch can change from cutting with divider inserts to cutting without. It can slice up to 360 cakes per hour.

Urschel, Chesterton, IN, recently released the Comitrol Processor 3600F. The unit is suited to chopping, flake cutting or granulating a wide variety of bakery products. The company notes that the compact size of the 3600F makes it ideal for small-volume production, but it has the flexibility to easily fit into high-capacity operations. Options include multiple cutting heads and impellers to produce particle sizes from coarse to fine emulsions.

Urschel has also released the Affinity Dicer. The equipment is suited to dicing cheese in a pizza manufacturing environment, as well as for bread cubing or dicing candied fruits for bakery applications. The largest dicer Urschel manufactures, the Affinity handles difficult-to-cut applications via a 25 HP motor to deliver maximum torque and yield. A VFD-controlled 5 HP crosscut motor allows significant cost-savings by adjusting the motor speed to obtain dice sizes instead of swapping spindles.

Ever-evolving sanitary design

“We assume any product being processed through a Vemag should be ready to eat,” says McIsaac. “The Vemag is built entirely of stainless steel and is designed for easy and thorough cleaning. It can be quickly opened up without tools in seconds. The full product path is exposed for complete inspection and sanitation.”

Baker Perkins has upgraded its TruClean range of sheet forming and cutting lines for hard sweet biscuits and crackers, resulting in maintenance and hygiene benefits, lower costs and faster changeovers.

Doug Petrovich, vice president, FoodTools Consolidated, notes that the ACCUSONIC-2100URFi has been updated with stainless steel wire mesh guarding, light curtains for safety and sealed sloped cabinets for optimal water drainage. It’s built to Baking Industry Sanitation Standards Committee (BISSC) and Conformité Européene (CE) standards.