For producers of grain-free, keto-friendly and other specialty breads, the slicing process isn’t always cut and dried. In fact, it is a delicate question which can get complicated.
Justin Atkins, sales manager, Bettendorf Stanford, said slicing gluten-free baked goods can be done on an industrial-grade belt slicer or reciprocating slicer, but he suggested doing it on a slicer. reciprocating motion because cleaning is much easier.
“When running gluten-free items on a belt slicer, the slicer should honestly be a full wash bottom slicer, as you end up with buildup flowing from the blade guides as if they were. a pasta machine, ”he noted. “You end up needing to spray oil and scrape both the blades and the drums. “
If operators do not thoroughly clean the slicer after the production run, this build-up will coagulate on the drums, blades and blade guides.
“Once this product hardens, it could potentially grab the blades,” Atkins explained. “You don’t have the same problem with our RSC slicer because the blades don’t move all around the machine like with a belt slicer. The blades move back and forth just enough to cut a clean slice. This minimizes build-up and allows for quick cleaning.
At the end of the cycle, he added, it only takes about 5 minutes to replace the blade guides and blade frames to clean the RSC slicer. Bakeries can also use a spray greaser system like the frequently used belt slicers, but this is often not even necessary when producing these loaves.
Patrice Painchaud, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Rexfab, observed that operations need to select the right cutting knives and use the right natural or vegetable cutting oils, then properly dose that oil for consistent slicing results.
Using its ultrasonic capabilities, FoodTools approaches gluten-free and other alternative ingredients in the same way as conventional baked goods. Matt Wermund, chief executive of FoodTools, said the company evaluates the temperature, consistency and composition of the product, and then combines them all to determine the most qualitative and economical slicing technology.
For gluten-free croutons or stuffing mixes, Mike Jacko, vice president of new product applications and innovation at Urschel, recommended evaluating the formulation, moisture, and ingredients before determining the process. slicing.
“The normal cutting action to make dice or strips can heat up or cause friction, which is normally not a problem on ordinary products, where gluten-free items can become sticky, jam the machine and cause shoddy cuts, ”he said.
Mr Jacko added that the system may require special parts, depending on the recipe formulation and the time elapsed for a quality cut of the stuffing and croutons. Urschel manufactures a number of heavy-duty parts and options to meet the needs of processors.
Perhaps the most important is the cutting tool used. Allen Wright, vice president of sales and marketing, Hansaloy, suggested a blade with a higher quality parallel edge, and a 0.375 or 0.250 inch pitch tends to work best in gluten-free applications.
With consumers counting their calories, producers of ultra-fine sliced breads also have their work cut out for them.
“When using these kinds of products, you want to make sure you are using the right combination of scrapers, grease nipples, blade guides, and blade profile to reduce any potential slicing issues that result in a slice. the best possible quality, ”Mr. Atkins said. “Every baker’s products are different, so we take a personal approach to the combination of things we recommend. You have to see and feel the product, and it’s even better if you can see it sliced before you make your recommendations.
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Jean-Marc Fauteux, director of electrical engineering, ABI Ltd., said the company uses advanced detection and analysis to deliver repetitive scoring and cutting products.
“A precision encoder is used with the conveying system so that the product can be accurately measured and tracked,” he said. “Once the product is scanned, the encoder allows each robot to track each product even as it moves through the system. “
In addition, a laser vision system collects data on the shape and topology of the product. The custom system analyzes the information gathered and determines a cutting or scoring operation to ensure repeatability throughout the process.
“In the bakery industry in particular, there are variations from product to product,” said Fauteux. “We designed our system to be adaptable and to analyze every incoming part, even at high production rates. “
If a problem does arise, a surgical approach to troubleshooting will often identify the root cause of the problem. In general, Wright said, the end product will tell bakery engineers a lot about the slicing system.
“Rough or torn bread or excessive crumb can indicate the wrong blade choice for the product,” Wright explained. “An incorrect slice thickness can indicate a problem with a grating and grid spacing.”
Mr Wright also pointed out that a used blade will reveal more potential information about the operating system.
“Flattened or worn spots on the blade can indicate mechanical interference between the blade and the mesh or blade guides,” he said. “Dark streaks on the blade indicate heat, and the blade may be over- or under-tensioned. “
When troubleshooting a slicer, Sandra Ryan, Vice President of Operations, Ryan Technology, focuses on three main points, starting with the rotation of the blade.
“If the blades are spinning back against the flow of product, you won’t get a good slice,” she said. “This happens most often when setting up the machine for the first time or after moving it. “
Another concerns the alignment of safety sensors. Ryan Technology uses magnetically interlocking switches on the blade covers. If they are not aligned, the machine will not run. In addition, belt routing can become a problem if the rollers and sprockets are not regularly maintained. The build-up of debris, Ms. Ryan pointed out, can stretch the belts, cause tracking problems and can lead to belt tearing.
“Clean, neat and clean. Clean the blades. Dirty and dull blades do not cut well. Have spare parts on hand for a change. Dull blades can be sent in to be sharpened, ”she said. “Prevention is the best remedy against breakdowns”.
Chris Carter, service technician at Bettendorf Stanford, gave a few often overlooked tips, such as regular lubrication of roller chains.
“Blow them out to get rid of the crumbs, then spray them with a dry, food-grade silicone lubricant,” he said. “The chains will last a lot longer if it’s done every week, and it only takes a few minutes. Check and keep your drive chains properly tensioned. You don’t want them to be banjo-tight, but you also don’t want them to be loose. You will end up breaking the chain or prematurely wearing out your sprockets. And don’t over-lubricate your bearings. If your preventative maintenance (PM) is just someone walking around once a week with a grease gun, you’re more than likely to be using the bearings faster than you should. Over-lubricating a bearing can cause the seals to pop or heat it up more than it normally would.
Mr. Painchaud pointed out that improper product temperature is often the cause of inconsistent or poor slicing.
“Bakery products are only ‘baked’ after cooling before they are ready to be sliced,” he said. “Depending on the type of dough and the ingredients, there are big differences and possibilities that influence the process, which must be considered very closely. “
In addition to focusing on the basics, Mr. Wright suggested that operators keep a blade log to identify any problems.
“The blades should be replaced when the slicing gets rough and too many crumbs are generated,” he said.
Even on ultrasonic slicers, cutting corners when it comes to sanitation and PM can lead to more expensive downtime.
“Time and time again, we’ve been called in to take care of emergencies where the error or downtime is caused by easily preventable issues like product build-up or late PM,” Mr. Wermund. “Food safety sanitation is extremely important, but mechanical sanitation is essential for long-term operations. Following the manufacturer’s PM programs can help spot problem areas early, and extensive training of machine operators as well as sanitation personnel can help avoid them altogether.
New technologies, such as sensors, may seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but it often takes a little human intervention to help bakeries cut losses and stay above the rest of the competition in the market. .
This article is an excerpt from the November 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full article on Slicing & Cutting, Click here.