When it comes to making an equipment purchase, testing is always recommended; some equipment suppliers even require it. With the latest waffle and wafer technology, many are thinking outside the test-lab box.

For example, at its headquarters in Bothell, Wash., Hinds-Bock has a full testing facility equipped with conveyors, pumps, depositors, fillers, hand-held nozzles and more. The company will often suggest that a customer (or potential customer) send product to the test center so Hinds-Bock can conduct a trial based on ­customers’ production requirements. It’s like a “pretest” so they don’t have to invest too much before considering if the equipment is a viable option.

“After the test is done, we invite the customer to our headquarters and go over the results in person or take part in further testing,” said Lance Aasness, executive vice-president, Hinds-Bock. “Sometimes you can say you have the equipment to do something, but until you actually test the product, you’re not going to have a 100% answer.”

There’s also much to be said for the home court advantage. TSA offers what it calls a “mini R.&D.” benchtop waffle unit that uses the exact same moulds as its full-size equipment.

“If a customer buys a griddle, we’ll include this unit; we come out and train them on how to use it, and they can perfect their formulas on it,” said Larry Beck, general manager, TSA, a division of CPM. Sometimes, Mr. Beck said, smaller operators who aren’t sure they’re ready for a fully automated waffle line can purchase the test unit to work on product R.&D.

“If they get the product they want off the benchtop unit, and it’s releasing easily, it’s going to run well on our full-size machine,” Mr. Beck said.

Hinds-Bock can also design custom dies for testing new varieties with different shapes and sizes.