Unlike other flatbreads like pita or naan, sandwich flats are sliced like a bun. LeMatic, Inc., Jackson, MI, offers both web and band slicers for cutting sandwich thins. The first time the company attempted to slice thin buns was approximately 3 years ago when it was asked to rework a web slicer from a bagel line that was being repurposed to produce this new style. The bakery sent the original web slicing machine back to LeMatic along with some of its new thin buns. “We made modifications to the machine and test-ran their samples,” said Ray Anater, senior sales executive, LeMatic.
The equipment supplier changed the belting on the top and bottom slicing conveyors and made modifications to allow tighter height adjustments for slicing the buns. Because the slicing blades are generally positioned less than ¼ in. above the conveyor, the buns had to be held flat while being sliced.
Web slicers cut from both sides and leave a narrow intact band, termed a “web,” in the center that holds the product together. The consumer then pulls the bun apart. Because the bun is so thin, the bakers must be able to control the web slicers precisely, so that they leave only a narrow piece in the center to hold the two halves together. Otherwise, breakage could become an issue when the consumer pulls the bun apart. Thus, most manufacturers have switched to band slicers, according to Mr. Anater.
LeMatic generally designs its slicing lines with vibratory conveyors that line up buns in discrete lanes for slicing. Band slicers feature a single blade stretched across the conveyor. It is critical to keep the blade stiff and not allow it to deflect during the slicing process. To that end, LeMatic added blade guides between each lane to hold the blade flat across that particular lane.
Because thin buns are high in fiber and gluten, the blades generally get greater buildup on them, so LeMatic added blade scrapers, and in some applications, it uses a blade oiler to help keep the blade clean.
Additionally, web and band slicers both generate a large amount of crumb because of the product’s high fiber content, Mr. Anater said. Accordingly, the company developed crumb control features to redirect crumb away from the blade drive mechanism area. “We try to divert crumbs between the lanes to the floor but without crumbs falling on the return of the belt or into the drive mechanism,” he said. “So, we put in crumb chutes to direct the crumb debris in a controlled manner to the floor, and we also use an air system to blow crumbs away from the scrapers and blades into the collection area.”