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Baker Perkins devises enhanced extrusion production systems

UK-based equipment and systems firm Baker Perkins has used key technology to improve process control, performance and hygiene on units within co-ex master co-extrusion systems, writes Neill Barston.

As the business noted, its latest initiative has been devised for the creation of high-value products by adding a centre filling into a cereal outer, as well as a number of potential confectionery ranges.

Co-extrusion systems can be added to virtually any new or existing food extrusion line to make a wide variety of pillows, sticks, bites, tubes and bars in attractive shapes and with fillings of virtually any sweet or savoury flavour.

Visual appeal of the product has been enhanced by adding a rotary insert to each stream of the co-extrusion die where extrudate and filling are combined. This allows the position of the seam on the pillow to be adjusted so that the unattractive dark line which features on many products is hidden.

On the cream feed system, the introduction of progressive cavity pumps transform control. Metering accuracy is precise; product conveying is gentler and back flow has been eliminated; a broad range of viscosities can be handled; and the pumps are suitable for high pressure. There is also a temperature controlled hopper with a recirculation system to maintain the filling in optimum condition, even if the line stops.

As the company explained, the unit is fully stainless, features hygienic design throughout and the time required to carry out a full clean has been dramatically reduced with the introduction of an Assisted Cleaning system.

A three-stage process uses an external boost pump to circulate water through the pumps and pipework at 1.5m/s to ensure thorough material removal. Operators are guided through the entire process by prompts on the HMI. Cleaning may be carried out in situ or the unit can be wheeled away for washdown and cleaning off-line. Flowmeters have been added to the list of optional extras

Furthermore, on the crimping unit the introduction of servo control combines extreme accuracy with operational simplicity. The crimping rolls are directly driven by Independent servo motors allowing them to be easily removed, replaced and synchronised while servo gap adjustment provides accurate and repeatable positioning with by-pass for set up.

The precision of servo control means that it is much easier to align the cutting blades for precision cutting. Co-extruded products can be positioned as cereal, pet or infant foods as well as mainstream snacks. Bite-size pieces and bars are being marketed as confectionery and count lines.

Fillings can be of virtually any colour or flavour – sweet and savoury creams, fruit pastes, cheese and chocolate praline are typical. Exotic flavours, plus glazings, frostings or chocolate coating, add even more appeal.

The outer shell can appear to be plain or stringy, with surface textures such as grooves and highlights. The product stream can be cut into appealing shapes such as chevrons, fish and faces. Co-extruded products can be made in any length from 12 to 120mm.

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