Originating as early as 8000 to 5000 BC in Mesoamerica, and adopted by Aztec and Mayan civilizations and then Mexican and Guatemalan cultures, tamales are enjoyed for their portability and versatility. Made of masa or dough steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, tamales can be stuffed with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies, or any combination thereof. For more than 10,000 years, their production has been tedious and time-consuming, until now, thanks to an inventive team of senior design engineers at California State University Long Beach and custom metal belt manufacturer, Belt Technologies, Inc.

Students were tasked with designing and manufacturing fully functional prototypes of their choosing to complete their Senior Design class. Alejandra Marroquin quickly settled on what to produce: a hand-crank tamale maker. The idea was to cut down on the amount of time necessary to produce each tamale, and moreover, cut down on the manual stretching and rolling required.

“I was impressed with how well-thought-out the project and design were,” explained Belt Technologies’ Business Development Manager Michael Loomer. “During our first interaction, we [Marroquin and Loomer] were discussing the proper gear ratio and timing mechanisms and how they would integrate with a conveyor belt. Alejandra also recognized the need for a sanitary solution.”

Ultimately, Loomer recommended a perforated endless stainless steel belt. Not only did it meet the design specifications, but it was also a durable and sanitary addition to the newly devised kitchen equipment, meeting safe food handling recommendations of the Food and Drug Administration.

“We regularly work with customers in the food processing industry who use our metal belts to cook, freeze or handle edible products. They’re perfect for these types of applications because they’re durable and easy to clean,” furthered Loomer. “I’m aware that our parts have helped automate meat, seafood, frozen pizza and ice cream lines, and now we can add tamales to that list.”

In addition to the food industry, Belt Technologies’ metal belts and conveyor systems are used in 3D printing, robotics, electronics manufacturing and more. For more information about Belt Technologies, its product offerings and their applications, visit belttechnologies.com.