Mixing technology continues to advance, particularly when it comes to software and parameter control. As bakers branch out into new products, and maybe even stretch the boundaries of what their mixers can do, control over mixing parameters helps bakers adapt their processes to new products easily. Software eliminates the guesswork and streamlines consistency, regardless of what is being mixed.

Between recipe management systems and variable-speed drives, the sky is the limit when it comes to controlling the phases of the mixing.

“The operator can have 50 to 200 recipes in the system, and with the variable-speed drive, we can have up to 15 different speeds, or phases, in each recipe,” explained Kevin Wilkinson, North American sales, Tonelli Group. “In each phase, we can have a unique RPM from very slow to very high RPM, and in each phase, we can have automatic ingredient batching or feeding of liquid or dry ingredients.”

Having automatic control over these RPMs throughout the phases enables bakers to automatically slow down the mixer for adding delicate inclusions or speed it up to develop gluten. Having complete control over the process avoids human error and improves consistency.

“Especially on new equipment, the ability to control the complete process eliminates the need for constant attention from the operations crew,” said Kevin Knott, technical sales manager, Bühler-Haas.

These two elements — recipe control and variable-frequency drives (VFDs) — have empowered operators to have greater control over mixing to energy rather than mixing to time.

“The technology for monitoring the energy driven into a dough to objectively measure dough development has been around for decades,” said Andrew McGhie, director of sales, Shaffer, a Bundy Baking Solution. “The introduction of VFDs to control mixer agitator motor speeds and the adoption of more sophisticated PLCs to control the mixing profiles of different doughs has added a new dimension.”

By monitoring the energy curve during the mixing cycle, this provides the mixer operator and bakery supervisors instant feedback of the development process of each dough mixed. They can reach optimal dough development every time. AMF Bakery Systems’ Dough Guardian System monitors the energy input of the equipment, and by extension, the energy being added to the dough.

“By monitoring this information on a batch-to-batch basis, you can determine the peak development point for each dough in addition to identifying any changes or variations in ingredients that are fed into the mixer,” said Terry Bartsch, product group leader, AMF Dough Systems.

Having data like this as well as automation helps mixers adjust automatically to these changes, without operator intervention. This enables the equipment to continue turning out a consistent dough or batter despite input changes.

RBS Exact Mixers collect data to continuously improve on the dough quality. The system also adjusts itself as it detects changes in ingredients to ensure consistency.

“The system self-monitors and self-corrects,” said Jim Warren, vice president, Exact Mixing, Reading Bakery Systems (RBS). “This has always been a focus of our designs.”

WP Bakery Group USA’s Kronos Digital mixer also provides bakers with a constant monitoring system that adjusts for inconsistencies. It measures applied energy, dough stiffness, momentum, viscosity and temperature to adapt to raw materials and environmental conditions. Paired with Zeppelin Systems USA’s DymoMix technology, the KroMix system optimizes the mixing process added digital controls and hydration. 

E.T. Oakes’ mass and gas flowmeters also assist operators to ensure tighter density requirements.

VMI’s pressure control also ensures that the mixer can adjust to whatever the product needs and optimize it.

“For sandwich bread, it’s necessary to have a dispersion of air bubbles while pizza dough requires degassed dough,” said Claire Auffrédou, marketing and digital development, VMI.

With all this data and automation, bakers can not only switch between applications quickly, but they can also be assured that the technology’s settings will be optimized for the most consistent dough or batter, regardless of input and environmental changes.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Mixing, click here.