The right fit for depositing

by Charlotte Atchley, Baking & Snack
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Finding the right depositor for the right batter depends on the batter’s viscosity and the presence and size of any inclusions. While accuracy and high speeds are always important in this process, matching the depositor to the batter ­being deposited is crucial. Bakers must consider whether a piston depositor or a pressurized manifold will work best for their product. How the batter is drawn into the depositor and how it will maintain the product’s integrity all come into play when choosing equipment.

When dealing with batters of different viscosities and inclusions, even the pipe size matters. “The proper sizing of the piping to handle the different viscosities is a very critical element,” said Robert Peck, vice-president of ­engineering, E.T. Oakes Corp., Hauppauge, NY.

Lance Aasness, vice-president, Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, WA, stressed that different port sizing is a must, and special attention must be paid to the suction side of the depositor to best maintain the batter’s specific gravity and particulate integrity. “Through the decades, our depositors have been used for the full range of batters, from angel food to fruitcake,” he said. “Light specific gravity batters like angel food need to be treated differently from viscous batter with particulates like fruitcake.”

Depositor manufacturers developed the technology to handle the thick batters, flowable batters, cookie dough and batters with large noticeable inclusions. Some of these depositors will be on display at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, Oct. 6-9. New technology or the tried-and-true equipment, it all aims to continue in the tested goals of depositing: eliminating costly waste and downtime.

Batters keep moving

Every baker’s goal is to increase yield while reducing labor. Depositors have had solutions in place for years to ensure they don’t slow production lines down. The servo-driven pump technology on Hinds-Bock’s Servo Pump Fillers drives throughput and provides greater precision. These improvements echo down the line with increased uptime, greater yield and reduced downstream labor.

While flowable product can easily be portioned by piston depositors, thick batters may not always move through the equipment so easily. Products such as brownie batters or cookie doughs need more assistance than basic gravity to ensure smooth flow and accurate weight portions.

 “A piston filler depends on gravity and the natural vacuum created when the piston pulls back,” said John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, MA. “This is not always enough to fill the cylinder. If the cylinder is not completely filled, there is no weight accuracy.”

To combat this issue, Reiser’s Vemag uses a vacuum to draw the product into a double-screw portioning ­system. This not only ensures accurate weights in every deposit but also continuously loads the system, creating a smoother flow with thicker products. 

“We use a continuous process and a vacuum pump to create the vacuum in the screw to pull the product in,” Mr. McIsaac said. “We also have an infeed scroll that we turn to guide the product from hopper to double screw. Once we fill the double screw, we can accurately portion every time.”

Traditional gearwheel depositors are unable to handle stiff and heavy batter, and to address this gap in ­flexibility, Unifiller, Delta, BC, developed the Multistation, a multi-depositor that handles a range of viscosities from batters with chunky fillings and particulates to liquids such as eggs and custards. According to the company, this depositor will handle delicate products — even chunky, soft delicate products — gently without altering the integrity of the product. With each nozzle volumetrically controlled by pistons, the depositor ensures accurate ­deposit weights with added flexibility.

For products that need dough extruders, Unifiller offers its Cookie Dough Dopositor. The machine can handle bars, scones, pie dough, cookie pucks, sugar cookies, gluten-free products, brownies and frozen cookies.

Preserving inclusions

Baked foods that start out as batter — such as ­muffins—  lend themselves to carrying inclusions. “Bakers like to differentiate their products with inclusions like nuts, chocolate chips or gummies,” Mr. McIsaac said. “For maximum effect, they want the pieces as large as possible.” Inclusions large and small bring another level of challenges to the depositing line, the main challenge being keeping inclusions intact. Reiser’s depositors use double screws to portion dough and batter, and attachments can cut the inclusions. “We use different double screws when customers want larger inclusions,” Mr. McIsaac said. “Bascially, you need larger pitch to move the whole inclusions through.”

At this year’s IBIE, E.T. Oakes will introduce a pressurized piston depositing manifold specifically designed for batter with larger inclusions. This new machine combines the advantages of its pressurized manifold with the accuracy of a piston depositor. “The advantage of the pressurized manifold is there are no open hoppers where the batter would go in, so whatever gets pumped into the manifold would get pumped out,” Mr. Peck said. “The piston depositor usually has an open hopper, but the piston itself is what gave you the accuracy of the deposit.”

The piston feature on this depositor makes it suitable for inclusions, Mr. Peck said. The slider valve typically found in a pressurized manifold tends to catch inclusions, but with a piston in place, this is no longer an issue.

Staying flexible

To accommodate the variety of standout products bakers offer these days, depositing equipment keeps up with attachments and easy-to-move designs. Unifiller offers hundreds of attachments with its standard depositors, according to the company. These attachments enable the depositor to become an injecting, filling or decorating machine.

For bakers wanting to add something extra to the product, Hinds-Bock offers related equipment to jazz up muffins or cakes including dry ingredient applicators, streusel depositors, icers and paper cup denesters. These modules can be added to and removed from the line as needed.

Peerless Food Equipment, Sidney, OH, updates its depositing technology with flexibility in mind. “We have made changes over the years to make the adjustments for scaling as easy as possible so that down time is minimal,” said Bill Everett, regional sales manager, Peerless Food Equipment. “Making guards with safety switches instead of bolted on allows quicker adjustments when needed.” The company’s Fedco “W” Series Piston Depositor has rotary valves in the pistons that allow batter to be pushed through a die and into a pan. Peerless can customize the valves and dies to accommodate different pan configurations. PLCs store these configurations in the system, which speeds up the changeover process.

Auburn, WA-based Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group’s High-Speed Multi-Spaced Cake Donut Depositor offers quick changes between donut products and sizes as well as ease of operation. On top of being able to produce a wide variety of donuts, the depositor does so at 100 cuts per minute.

Modular designs make depositors easy to move so operators can make quick changeovers between product runs. Unifiller and Reiser both incorporate this portable quality into their depositing equipment. 

“Reiser makes all of its systems modular,” Mr. McIsaac said. “This allows easy adaptations to new products.”

To assist with changeovers, Unifiller designs its equipment to require no tools for maintenance, sanitation or changeovers.

Bakers expect depositing equipment to provide ­accurate deposits with longer uptimes. Equipment manufacturers work to maintain these high expectations while continuing to innovate ways to improve the depositing process and target it to meet the needs of different batters, doughs and inclusions.

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