Accuracy is important across the entire width of a line — and today’s lines are becoming wider.

Enemy of the glaze

In maintaining integrity of icings and glazes, it’s important to monitor the breakdown of the material. For this, Axis Automation designs its icing pumps to be over-sized for the application. “We find this reduces the amount of shear on the material — and shear is an enemy to glaze,” Mr. Sarajian said.

In some cases, temperature can affect shearing, so he advised bakers to maintain the temperature of an icing or glaze to plus or minus half a degree. “If we don’t take special care to heat and jacket everything in the tank, all the piping, all the heads of the pumps, bakers won’t get as much life out of the icing as they should,” he explained. “We minimize the shear and maintain the temperature, and then we can control the process.”

Rick Hoskins, CEO, Colborne Foodbotics, noted that shear is an issue in high-quality, aerated icings that require more gentle handling and pumping. “With a highly aerated icing, it’s easy to create too much shear such that it loses its aeration or contains air pockets after depositing,” Mr. Hoskins said.

Colborne employs a proprietary pump and nozzle technology that addresses this challenge and actually limits the amount of shear in the process. “These systems are designated to slowly move the product with limited resistance in the system without sacrificing output rates,” he said.

Stay consistent, minimize waste

When finishing a sweet baked good, consistency is key, not only to maintaining a clean, uniform product but also controlling waste or avoiding giving product away. “Even though most bakers like their product to look somewhat hand-made, they still require a very even distribution icing on each piece,” said Lance Aasness, vice-president, Hinds-Bock.

For example, tailing can happen when a system is not perfectly streamlined. “When you dip a donut into a bath of hot icing and tip it over, it’s usually pretty hard to do without a bit of tail dripping down the side,” Mr. Sarajian said. “In an automated process, this is something bakers are struggling with, especially in an automated inline fashion.” To address this, Axis Automation developed a patent-pending technology that creates a smooth edge around the donut.

Unifiller also offers technology to help operators finish a product while avoiding tailing. “We have one machine that can apply a variety of icings at speeds up to 60 eight-packs per minute, and the same machine can spread a thick or thin sheet across a moving target with no drip or tail,” Mr. Macpherson noted.

When using a glazing system, a baker needs to have a consistent spray no matter the width, and that should be addressed up front. “It’s important to know the application rate and the customer’s expectation as to application accuracy,” said Norm Searle, sales and marketing, GOE/Amherst Stainless Fabrication.

According to Mr. Searle, consistency is about the math. “Proper design of a spray system considers application rate, expected accuracy, liquid viscosity, temperature, particulate size if there are any in the solution, debris removal and recovery of non-applied liquid,” he said, adding that these are all important for design of pump(s) size, line size, equipment geometry and heating or cooling components

GOE/Amherst equipment is designed to avoid drips, a high priority for waste reduction and a consistent product. “The last thing you want is a drip on product because it will affect accuracy. A drip is added weight and could affect what the customer’s product labels are stating,” Mr. Searle said.

Accuracy is important across the entire line, no matter how wide, especially in today’s operations where the higher the production, the wider the lines. “If you’re considering accuracy, you have to also consider repeatability, across the full width,” Mr. Searle explained. “And if you have a drip, it adds to the applied weight and throws everything off.” To address this, GOE/Amherst designs its system’s geometry to inhibit drips, channel away from the spray area and reclaim.

Consistency also applies to icing, and it can be controlled by paying attention to the nozzles, according to Mr. Peck. “Filtering affects consistency,” he said. “We have to make sure there are no lumps or particles that might have congealed, so we make sure the filter is a bit smaller than the nozzle orifice to keep the nozzle from clogging.”

Additionally, Mr. Peck suggested that wasted icing on E.T. Oakes’ squiggle icer can be avoided by proper product placement. “We recommend keeping the gaps between products at a minimum or, if possible, eliminating the gaps altogether,” he said. When a cupcake is transferred on a conveyor, the closer they are to one another — perhaps even kissing — there will be little to no wasted icing.

ABI uses 3-D vision to guide its robotic application to further ensure consistency. Vision systems can identify the location of a product. But, according to Mr. Renaud, “When you’re using 3-D vision, you’re getting a topographical image of the product, and you know the boundaries. It gives a much more robust way of looking at a product; instead of, ‘Is it there or is it not?’ The question becomes, ‘It’s here; what’s the position and orientation, how high is it?’ ”

To control residual product, Hinds-Bock designs all its icing/glazing systems with a comprehensive filter and recirculation system to reuse unapplied icing. “Any icing left in the product line can be quickly pumped into a pail or tank to be reused the next day via our quick-release piping system,” Mr. Aasness said.

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