Bakeries move to steel belts as market tastes change
Posted: 13 January 2014 | Sandvik Surface Solutions | No comments yet
Sandvik Process Systems is reporting increased business from customers returning to traditional bake oven belt technology…
Sandvik Process Systems, the world’s largest manufacturer of solid and perforated steel belts for the food industry, is reporting increased business from customers returning to traditional bake oven belt technology as they look to broaden and enhance their product ranges.
Steel belts were for decades the conveying medium of choice for bake ovens, providing exceptional thermal properties, a long service life, and a smooth, flat surface for easy cleaning.
The development of the wire mesh belt, with its lower initial purchase cost, saw many bakeries move away from the solid steel belt, but the pendulum is now beginning to swing back as manufacturers look at overall lifetime costs, product versatility and bake quality.
Products as varied as biscuits, pizza bases, granola bars, cakes, macaroons and brownies can all be baked on a solid steel belt. The flat surface provides a crisp base that cannot be achieved on any other conveying medium, and its hard, smooth quality delivers a clean product release. The inherent stability, durability and resistance to stretching of a steel belt also means it will delivers a much longer working life than other materials, with many continuing to provide reliable performance 20 years or more after they were first installed.
But the factor that has perhaps played the greatest role in bringing steel belts back into fashion is the global appetite for American-style cookies. As these products use real butter, and often chocolate chips too, they need to be baked on a solid belt to eliminate the risk of melted product dripping a causing a fire, or simply drying out. And again, the excellent heat transfer and thermal conductivity of the belt delivers the desirable combination of a crisp base and rich, buttery cookie.
The global appetite for real butter cookies has led a growing number of large players in the bakery industry to convert existing wire mesh lines to run on Sandvik’s steel belts. While this isn’t quite as straightforward as simply swapping out one type of belt for another (the conveyor components also need replacing), it is far more economical – and faster – than having to invest in completely new lines.
Another factor that has become an increasingly important consideration in the modern day bakery industry is hygiene, and this is another area where steel belts score highly. With no hidden gaps, recesses or crevices, a solid steel bale oven belt is easier to easy to clean than other conveying materials.
Recognising the importance of quick and effective cleaning, Sandvik recently launched its QuickCleaner, a system that cleans, degreases and sanitizes in a single operation by blasting salt at high pressure onto the moving belt.
“Belt cleaning is one of the dirtiest and most time-consuming maintenance jobs in any bakery,” says Fabio Conti, Global Products Manger, Food, “but it’s also essential. Inadequate cleaning leads to a build-up of burned on carbon residues, which, at best, will affect the look and taste the product. Worse still, it could be harmful to health.”
The Sandvik QuickCleaner blast salts – actually a combination of baking soda and calcium phosphate – at high pressure onto the moving belt. The process works in two ways: firstly, the abrasive impact of the material removes the bulk of the residues, then the chemical action of the salt attacks the residues at a molecular level.
An extendable arm allows the blasting to be directed across the full width of the belt, and a vacuum system collects the contaminated cleaning agent. The system is suitable for all types of bake oven conveyor, including steel belt and wire-mesh.
“QuickCleaner cleans, degreases and sanitises in one quick operation,” says Conti. “And low cost cleaning agent means it’s economical too. We estimate that we can help bakeries reduce cleaning times by as much as 70 per cent.”