When working with sticky, wet doughs that have long fermentation times before makeup, bakers do not want to impart stress on the dough that would destroy the cell structure created by having the dough rest. Therefore, the bakery may not want to use conventional extrusion or ram-and-shear dividers to portion dough pieces. When working with highly hydrated doughs often used for making artisan-style breads, many bakeries turn to sheeting lines to form a dough sheet and then slice and cut it to size. Sheeting lines allow bakers to increase the amount of water and floor times for doughs, which help to create artisan-style breads’ open crumb structure.

“Many artisan-style breads incorporate long pre-fermentation periods prior to processing to give the products a unique, irregular internal crumb, which would be damaged via conventional dividers and processing methods,” said Eric Riggle, vice-president, Rademaker USA, Hudson, OH. “The pressure and forces created by a conventional bread divider for white sandwich-style bread would result in a damaged interior and [removal of] characteristics associated with artisanal breads.”

Although the ability to process higher-absorption dough represents the biggest advantage to using sheeting, according to Mr. Riggle, he noted that this process also gives bakers flexibility to produce a wide variety of artisan-style breads as well as conventional pan breads. “Minimal damage to the dough and to the internal structure is imperative to creating a truly authentic artisan-style bread product,” Mr. Riggle said.

Bakery equipment manufacturers have designed a variety of lines specifically created to sheet and portion highly hydrated doughs.


Stress-free sheeting lines allow manufacturers to produce a wide range of dough types, final bread shapes and sizes using the same line with a different combination of cutters, separators and moulders on one makeup system, according to Jon Thompson, national sales director, Rheon USA, Irvine, CA.

Stress-free stretchers gently reduce the thickness of the dough sheet without degassing the dough. “The dough is stretched and not crushed by conventional gauging systems,” Mr. Thompson said, describing how Rheon’s V4 systems work.

Rheon introduced the V4 stress-free dough feeder at the International Bakery Industry Exposition at Las Vegas, NV, in 1997. “Since this time, Rheon improved the dough feeding efficiency and the widths of the dough feeders to accommodate higher capacity requirements of the industry,” Mr. Thompson said. “With the changes in the V4 Stress Free dough feeder larger production lines are now possible.”

In fact, Rheon offers a wide range of stress-free sheeting systems. Its V4 systems for smaller bakeries produce 400 to 550 lb per hour, while larger plants can choose lines capable of outputting 9,000 to 10,000 lb per hour. “Each of Rheon’s V4 stress-free systems is designed to fit into the needs of the manufacturer whether small or large,” Mr. Thompson noted.

Rheon’s larger sheeting lines for artisan breads generally include V4 dough feeders, cross rollers to extend the dough sheet width, stress-free stretchers to reduce the dough thickness without degassing the dough, up to three rows of separate weighing stations, guillotine cutters and panning systems. In addition, these lines also often feature makeup sections for moulding baguettes, bâtards and rounds. Rheon’s VX122 divider, the company’s most popular system, combines the V4 stress-free dough feeder, cross rollers, separating conveyors, weighing rollers that also can cut bread by length and a guillotine to cut the dough sheet. The guillotine cutter can cut doughs either by weight or length on the same line, according to Mr. Thompson.

The VX122 weighing feedback system checks weights and provides information back to the dough feeder to make adjustments, he said. “This VX122 can produce up to six rows of dinner rolls as well as ciabatta and divide doughs for moulding with dough sheeting capacity of 800 kg (1,764 lb) per hour of dough,” Mr. Thompson said.


The V4’s modular designs allow for various pieces to be moved onto the line for separating, moulding, rounding and cutting. Because the equipment is modular, bakers have greater flexibility when changing from one size or shape to another, Mr. Thompson added.

“Flexibility is the key to sheeting lines producing high-water, long-fermentation breads,” Mr. Thompson said. “Baguettes, bâtards, sandwich rolls, large boules, and flatbreads such as ciabatta and focaccia can all be produced on a single V4 Stress Free artisan bread line.” Continuous weighing systems help ensure accurate piece weights, he added.

To portion sheeted dough pieces precisely, WP Kemper offers a new delta robot cutter that uses machine vision to accurately cut the dough within 1% of the desired weight, according to Pat Kennedy, president of WP Kemper, Sheldon, CT, the North American sales office for The WP Bakery Group of Germany.

WP Kemper’s Magic Line sheeting system allows the production of nearly any dough process or recipe, according to Ms. Kennedy. The concept sheeting system features modular construction and quick changeover times. Examples of configutrations for this new line include MagicRolls for the producing square products, MagicBaguettes for baguette production and MagicCiabatta. It can handle up to 5,000 kg of dough per hour with absorption rates up to 80%.

The new Kemper Quadro RelaxS sheeting line completley eliminates scrap dough, she said. The compact line uses a tilting, integrated dough strip former that is as stressless as any machine can be, Ms. Kennedy added. Its modular design allows for stamping, moulding and panning modules among others.


Bakeries must use sheeting equipment for high-speed manufacturing of artisan-style products, according to Josef Hoos, senior technical and projects manager, Fritsch GmbH, Markt Einersheim, Germany, the parent company of Fritsch USA, Cedar Grove, NJ.

Whether producing cut or cut and moulded products, bakers generally employ sheeting equipment for smaller breads weighing up to 500 g, Mr. Hoos added. However, he noted, the most recent advances in sheeting has been made to gain better weight control for moulded products and other artisan breads that weigh more than 500 g.

The main advantages to using sheeting lines, according to Mr. Hoos, include gentle dough handling, so even highly pre-fermented dough can be processed and that natural dough can be handled without comprises. In addition, he pointed out that sheeting lines produce a wide variety of breads of different shapes and sizes.

Fritsch’s Impressa line features a dough sheet former with a patented 5-roller design. The coated rollers and specially designed scrapers create a uniform dough sheet no matter how soft the dough may be.

The sheeting action embodies the heart and soul of the Impressa line, according to the company. Fritsch refers to this as SoftProcessing, using patented, nonstick, coated rollers for the satellite head to further reduce the dough sheet to the right thickness before making longitudinal cuts with driven cutting discs.


To handle highly hydrated dough that has rested for up to 3 hours on the floor, Mecatherm developed the Mecaflow divider. “The dough must be gently handled to guarantee that we do not lose the benefit of the resting time, which is exactly the system that Mecatherm patented on its Mecaflow,” said Cyril Munsch, sales director for the Schirmeck, France-based equipment manufacturer.

Dough flows naturally into the machine’s calibrating channel, creating a large width of dough. Because of its wide width, dough moves very slowly even at high production rates, he observed. The unit can produce a variety of flat products as well as French baguettes.

Flat products run through the machine using the laminating technique, and because Mecaflow does this on a large width, the equipment maintains the dough quality from the beginning of the process to the end, Mr. Munsch explained.

“The amount of trim, which is a consequence of lamination, is limited by the fact that we work on a large width,” he added.

For long-shaped French products such as baguettes, rolls and bolillos, the Mecaflow acts as a divider and feeds one or several moulders. “In this case, we duplicate the different steps a baker would do by hand for flattening the dough pieces, folding it, moulding it and finally stretching it to its final length,” Mr. Munsch said. In the case of producing boules or rounded loaves, Mecaflow can feed a rounding machine.

Mechatherm’s lines process between up 6,000 lb per hour of finished products when making moulded products, and up to 9,000 lb per hour for flat large products, he added.


Rademaker’s Crusto Breadline is continually its most popular sheeted breadline, according to Mr. Riggle. “It eliminates transfer falling heights between reduction steps and has the ability to grow with our customers as their product and production requirements change and grow,” Mr. Riggle said. “Makeup tooling can be made mobile to allow for a variety of products.”

In addition, he noted that bakeries use sheeting to divide dough pieces for conventional pan breads. “The advantage of this method is that the line can be used for a variety of bread products, whereas a conventional pan bread system is more mono-purpose in its design,” Mr. Riggle noted.

A stress-free dough feeder at the head of a pan bread line offers flexibility in the doughs and also can eliminate the need for an overhead proofer, Mr. Thompson said. “Because the dough is not damaged in the dividing, there is no need for recovery or rest time before moulding and panning,” he said. “The V4 Stress Free dough feeder and our weighing and cutting system for pan breads can handle very stiff sourdough, sticky sprouted grain and gluten-free dough.”

Additionally, using Rheon stress-free technology and sheeting allows bakers to use inclusions such as fruits, raisins and nuts directly to the dough sheet and not mixed into the dough, which can cause discoloration of the dough, Mr. Thompson added.