Purchasing an extruder that only applies to cookie production may limit an operation.

Having flexible equipment is always a good idea — equipment that can quickly and easily accommodate different sizes, shapes, dough consistencies and even changing between various products. It’s important for bakers and snack producers to think ahead to what their product portfolio might look like in the future.

“You don’t want to get yourself into a piece of equipment that’s not versatile enough for you,” said John Giacoio, vice-president of sales, Rheon USA.

While some of Rheon USA’s coextruders are versatile, some have specific functions.

“If you have a customer who is purchasing a cookie coextruder but down the road wants to do filled pretzels, that machine may limit them because it’s not capable of handling the stiffer or more elastic doughs,” Mr. Giacoio said.

When it comes to managing different shapes and sizes, changeovers are largely just a switch of the nozzle. Handtmann offers tool-less removal of different size nozzles for quick and easy changes.

Reiser’s Vemag system also only requires a nozzle change to switch between sizes or shapes. When it comes to shapes, John McIsaac, vice-president of business development, said the company is only limited by the customer’s imagination.

“We 3-D print nozzles, so the customer can try different sizes and shapes,” he noted. “We can produce virtually any shape: oval, square, triangular, heart, shark, shamrock, etc.”

Rheon USA enables snack producers to go beyond coextrusion into triple or even quadruple extrusion. Each additional material extruded requires a separate hopper, but the company’s equipment can accommodate that. For standard changeovers between flavors, hoppers can be removed and changed in about 30 seconds.

“We also do solid filling extrusion where we take a whole piece of any material, such as a hot dog or cocktail frank and drop it into a sleeve of pretzel dough and encapsulate it,” Mr. Giacoio explained.