The other key place a sticky batter will struggle is in the cutoff of the deposit itself. Once the batter is deposited into the pan, whether it’s a small madeleine pan or a larger 9-inch cheesecake, the depositor must ensure a clean cutoff for precise portioning as well as cleanliness.
“Gluten-free product is very challenging to depositing equipment because of its sticky nature,” said Rod Gregg, executive vice president, Hinds-Bock, a Middleby Bakery company. “It’s hard to let go of the deposit to make sure it’s clean and accurate.”
Nozzle design and cutoff speed are key to getting the depositor to release a challenging batter cleanly. These two variables can reduce tailing and therefore improve accuracy, said Bob Peck, vice president, engineering, ET Oakes.
“Servos give us the quickest cutoff,” he said.
Even for conventional batters, when portioned for mini products — a common way for batter-based indulgences to hop on the better-for-you trend — consistency becomes critical.
“We’ve seen an uptick in mini products, and the accuracy is tougher,” Mr. Peck explained. “When there are more rows across the width of the conveyor, there are more valves to adjust. The servos have made a big impact on the accuracy of the deposit as well as the repeatability and even reliability from a maintenance standpoint.”
Because servo-based depositors are controlled by a computer program, they move faster and can be more precise. They can also be adjusted more quickly during changeovers.
“This kind of automation helps bakeries meet increases in demand and ensure a more consistent product,” said Sonia Bal, director of global marketing, Unifiller Systems. “It also can supplement skilled workforce that can be increasingly difficult to find as well as reduce waste through more accurate portioning.”
As Mr. Hagedorn pointed out better-for-you batters really stand to gain from these most automated of depositing systems.
“Better-for-you cake, muffin and brownie batters also benefit from automated feed-system monitoring that is standard with all Handtmann dividers and their ability to automate control of attachments and communicate with downstream systems.”
The other piece of this puzzle is the nozzle opening itself. Larger openings, like larger piping, will help with thicker, stickier batters.
“Carefully designed large openings and smooth transitions of Unifiller depositors and nozzles guarantee efficient and delicate handling of batters to ensure that batters are deposited with consistent integrity and accurate portions,” Ms. Bal said.
For cutting off the batter once the appropriate weight is metered, Hinds-Bock uses auxiliary positive cut-off spouts. These are air actuated nozzles that act like a scissor.
“It opens and closes the nozzle and shears the product off by force and cutting it off cleanly by opening and closing the nozzle,” Mr. Gregg said. “It helps us handle sticky gluey gluten-free products.”
Hinds-Bock also offers individual metering pistons to ensure each deposit in the depositors’ metering piston chambers are correct.
The proper nozzle opening also preserves the expensive inclusions in better-for-you products like blueberries and nuts. These inclusions can be delicate and, when broken, can either smear into the batter, discoloring them or destroying the pieces’ integrity that makes them so appealing in the first place.
“Many batters include particulates, such as fragile blueberries, particulates that need to remain suspended, or heavy batters that are stiff and include a high number of particulates,” Ms. Bal said. “Most Unifiller systems can handle those through larger ports, attachments that allow a cleaner, intrusion-free deposit, the use of hopper agitators and more. Higher egg content batters can also be easily portioned through depositors, although processes prior to depositing may need to be adjusted.”
AMF Tromp designed its Unimac Depositor to handle a wide range of different batters, and therefore it offers easy-to-change depositing heads as well as interchangeable nozzles and dies. This allows bakers to choose the proper nozzle opening for the batter being deposited.
The right nozzle may be the key to an accurate and clean portion of batter, but bakers should not overlook flow. A proper flow may be critical to product consistency, but it’s also key to a consistent, accurate deposit. While speed is a baker’s friend when cutting off the deposit, slowing down will aid in accuracy when it comes to flow.
“Another thing that will help with accuracy is slowing down the speed that we draw the product into the machine,” Mr. Gregg explained. “If you draw a thick product into the machine too fast, you can draw in air instead of all the product and the deposit will be inaccurate.”
This extra air will throw off weights. To combat this, controls on Hinds-Bock depositors have slow suction flow to gently pull in thick batters without introducing air.
As bakers try to incorporate new products into their batter lines, they need equipment that can accommodate changing needs. With servo technology and proper equipment design, bakers can adjust to the viscosity changes that come with these formulations and still deliver products that meet expectations.
This article is an excerpt from the February 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Depositing, click here.