To better control the breakdown of material, icing pumps can be over-sized for the application.
Creativity in automation

Even with a fully automated system, icing some sweet goods such as cupcakes or even decorating a cake ­requires the ability to get creative now and then.

Mr. Renaud observed that seasonal and limited-time offer (LTO) items are a big piece of ABI customers’ business. “A baker can ‘decommoditize’ standard products and more easily develop a premium-looking product,” he said. “Having the ability to help a customer accomplish that is certainly advantageous.”

To help bakers with customization, ABI recently released a thermal imaging system that allows the operator to upload or draw and image, company name or logo and automatically apply it to the product.

ABI’s robotic system allows bakers to scale up production while having the freedom to intricately decorate cakes. “If you’ve ever watched someone decorate a cake, there are very small gestures and pressure changes, such as when rounding corners,” Mr. Renaud said. “The robot only does what it’s told. Those little things that people do? You have to also program the robot, pump or system to mimic that.”

To perfect this, ABI commissioned a professional cake decorator to work with its programmers to mimic the execution of certain designs such as dollops, waves and piping.

Axis Automation also has a servo drizzler for stringing applications. “It allows operators to program whatever recipes, designs or patterns they want, making it very easy to pull up previous patterns without having to change any parts or move any pieces,” Mr. Sarajian explained. String-ice patterns can have different results depending on the height of the product off the belt. “With the servo drizzler, we don’t have to do that. We can tell what the height is, and it compensates automatically,” he said. Because of this, bakers don’t have to adjust the drizzler for varied product sizes and string designs.

Innovating flexibility

Today’s bakers are trying to do more in less time, in every aspect of the process, and finishing is no exception. Changeovers, maintenance and sanitation all must be done quickly to get the process back online.

“We have created tool-less discharge plates that allow customers to quickly change from product to product,” Mr. Hoskins said. “These plates also have adjustable discharge nozzles that allow users to adjust the weight control across a line based on different consistencies of various icings or batches.”

For Unifiller, a cantilevered design means bakers can wheel the machine up to the conveyor belt at any time, and it takes up very little conveyor length. Spreader and deposit nozzles are built into the equipment and can also be changed out quickly.

Similarly, E.T. Oakes offers quick changes with its nozzles; for icers that run across the conveyor belt, this aids in efficiency should one or two nozzles become clogged at any time. In fact, all the nozzles can easily be changed at once, Mr. Peck noted, to ensure all are applying icing consistently.

Older iterations of E.T. Oakes’ equipment were mounted directly onto the conveyor system. Today, however, its icers are engineered with a cantilevered design. “The icer will roll up to the side of the conveyer and just cantilever over so that it just swings right out,” Mr. Peck said, noting that it can also be rolled out of place for cleaning and sanitation.

Hinds-Bock redesigned its icer/glazer to be a one-piece unit. “The conveyor lock-down feature simply un-clamps and allows it to pivot up and away from the central icing tank assembly for easy access to clean the conveyor and icer,” Mr. Aasness said.

For glazing, Axis Automation uses separate kettles so operators can remove one at a time. “All our kettles are made with quick disconnects,” Mr. Sarajian said. “Because we’re doing one that’s mobile, we’re putting all the heater controls for the jacketed hot water systems on the same cart.” These features come in handy for changing icing flavors, such as from vanilla to chocolate.

The fickle consumer changes his or her mind about what’s hot (and what’s not) quicker and more often than it seems food producers can keep up with. By focusing on things like temperature, consistency, efficiency and waste, makers of sweet goods can finish products with icing glazing to not only craft new and LTO products but also create upgraded line extensions, and that makes for smooth sailing.

Find resources for icing and glazing by Browse by category under Equipment, and click on Finish for listings.