For bakers, it really does matter how you slice it, whether it’s bread, buns, bagels, cakes, croutons and more. If these products aren’t precisely portioned, there’s no second chance.

That’s why bakers are looking to get a piece of the action when it comes to the latest advances in technology for the slicing, dicing and scoring of baked goods. It’s especially true on high-speed production lines where there’s no room for human error and even a few millimeters can determine if baked goods miss or make the cut.

“As sensor technologies evolve, their incorporation into the slicing operation allows the system to monitor conditions and suggest or make corrections in real time,” observed Matt Phillips, aftermarket manager at LeMatic Inc.

Recipe-driven automated lane guiding along with conveyor speed and component monitoring allow for simpler setups and more reliable operations.

“The use of video surveillance and IoT (Internet of Things) on a line offers exciting opportunities to address issues before they compound and to pinpoint their source,” said Aaron Weaver, vice president of engineering, LeMatic. “We’ve researched the most effective software and networking solutions so that service and engineering staff can often address an issue remotely and offer a solution without an onsite visit. This saves time and money for everyone.”

Justin Atkins, director of sales, Bettendorf Stanford, pointed out some of its recipe-driven systems automatically adjust guide rails and tuckers on bun lines or the lattices for different slice thicknesses on bread slicers.

By receiving data from sensors, actuators and controls, recipe management settings can be customized to make automatic adjustments and provide visualization of operating states, offer information in different languages, and take derivation of operating data to a higher level for information processing and remote services.

“The development of sensor technology and the possibility for evaluating information is becoming more and more versatile and extensive,” said Patrice Painchaud, vice president of sales and marketing for Rexfab, which represents GHD Hartmann in North America. “Baked goods are always going to have variables, and it’s the core task of the sensors to monitor these variables and process the data. The next step in sensors is evaluating the data through artificial intelligence and making actionable changes to improve the overall process.”

To enhance an operation’s flexibility, FoodTools uses robotics for its RPS line of ultrasonic slicers.

“A robotic arm can cut virtually any size of squares, rectangles and various geometric shapes while using the ultrasonic technology to obtain high-quality cuts on fresh, ambient or sticky products,” said Matt Wermund, general manager, FoodTools.

With hand scoring, the production line must run at a slower speed and operators can experience fatigue and strain from the repetitive scoring motion, said Felix Pang, applications engineer, ABI Ltd. Since scoring is a relatively simple motion, a robot can perform up to 200 cuts per minute to reduce labor.

“ABI robotic scoring systems can also be programmed with a catalogue of cuts that vary in style, degree and depth for different products,” he said.

He added that high-volume bakeries can replicate artisan-style scoring that can increase production time and lower the cost per unit.

“We can program a type of cut to include slight variances and irregularities that mimic a hand-scored bun,” Mr. Pang said. “As a result, the blade scores at a specified angle and creates some jagged edges, and for the subsequent score, the blade then rotates a fraction of a degree to repeat a similar style cut.”

Additionally, Urschel recently developed its SlideLocc SL14 CC slicing heads to extend run time between knife changes, simplifying normal periodic adjustments and easing the cleaning and quickening knife changes. Mike Jacko, vice president of applications and new product innovation at Urschel, said these features “reduce labor or lessen the caliber of labor required for these jobs.”

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