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Extruders are candy equipment that force a plasticized mass of material through a die which forms the cross-sectional shape. The mass exits the die in a continuous strip though some extruders have a rotating or reciprocating cutting blade that cuts the strip into individual pieces. Piece size is a function of extrusion speed, cutter speed and forming die size. Some products will expand as they leave the compressing confines of the die.
Extruders use a screw or helix in a tube or barrel to compress the product and feed it to the extrusion die. Extrusion screws can be constant or progressive pitch. Constant pitch screws merely feed the product. Progressive pitch screws reduce the thread pitch from infeed to discharge compacting the product. If the product is in its final form, a mass of candy, the constant pitch screw is what is probably needed. If the product is fed to the extruder in granular or pelletized form, the progressive screw can form it into a homogenous mass.
The screw, especially a progressive screw can add considerable heat to the product. This heat may be useful to bring the product to the proper temperature for extrusion and further processing. The heat of compaction may also be undesirable depending on the process. A jacketed barrel can allow steam, hot or cold water to be circulated for temperature control. Some extruders may have an extended barrel that allows more precise temperature control in different sections of the barrel.
Product is fed into a hopper at the machine infeed. Depending on the product, the product may fall by gravity into the screw flights in the bottom of the hopper and carried away horizontally. In other applications a pair of rollers above the screw may be employed to force the product into the screw.
An extruder plate is mouted on the end of the barrel. This can be round, square, ovoid or any other shape. Some products will be extruded in a single, relatively large diameter string which is conveyed to further processing.
The extruder plate can also have multiple smaller hols allowing extrusion of multiple strings simultaneously.
Chocolate decorators is candy equipment used for applying strings of molten chocolate to the tops of cookies, pastries, candies and other foods. They can apply caramel, liquid sugar or any other decorative liquid as well
Molten chocolate in placed in the reservoir and pumped, or piped by gravity, to the dispensing head. The dispensing head is mounted across a an open mesh conveyor at a suitable height for the product and for the desired decorating effect. The manifold contains a number of nozzles. This may be a single nozzle for each row of product on the conveyor. For more complex patterns multiple nozzles per row may be used. If it is desired to decorate with 2 different chocolates, perhaps a white and a dark chocolate two dispensing systems with appropriate nozzles may be used, one for each chocolate.
The dispensing nozzles are sized and shaped depending on the decoration. If a broad, flat, decoration is desired, a nozzle with a straight opening of appropriate width will be used. Nozzle diameter, as well as flow rate and relative conveyor speed, will determine the thickness of the decoration.
The chocolate is dispensed in a continuous stream from the nozzles. Chocolate that does not land on the cookie will pass through the conveyor to a pan for recovery or discarding.
When a simple, straight, line of chocolate is desired the manifold is mounted in a fixed position. Frequently a pattern of swirls in various designs will be wanted. In these cases, manifold will be mounted on a fixture that allows it to move from side to side across the conveyor and front to back along the length of the conveyor. The amount of movement required will depend on the chocolate pattern.
The manifold is connected to a motor or motors with linkages that move the manifold as required, if a simple wavy line is required, the manifold will reciprocate crosswise only. If a loop pattern, the combined lateral and longitudinal motions will create a circular pattern. As the conveyor is normally moving continuously, this will create a loop. Adjusting the linkages and motor speeds will determine the pattern.
Candies, pastries, foods, there are many products that are produced as sheets, strings or ropes. Once made, these sheets need to be cut into individual pieces. Guillotine cutters are the candy equipment needed.
The guillotine cutter consists of a horizontal blade traversing a belt conveyor. A motor drives the blade up and down at a set speed. As the product passes under the guillotine it is cut into pieces. The length of the pieces is a function of blade cycle speed and conveyor speed. Higher conveyor speed or shorter blade cycle time will shorten the length of the cut pieces.
When conveyor speed is slow, as in many applications, the product is not stopped during the instantaneous cutting. When higher speeds are higher, it may be necessary to mount the guillotine mechanism on a traveling mechanism so that it can travel lengthwise while cutting. This prevents the product from pushing up against the blade while it is down and deforming the product.
The typical guillotine cuts straight down. This is fine for most soft products but may not cut cleanly with some harder or more difficult products. For these, a diagonal slicing motion may be used. As the blade is always parallel to the surface of the conveyor, no gap is necessary
Blades may be straight and horizontal but they may also be shaped for specific products to optimize cutting. A blade to cut sausages might be curved to apply more even cutting pressure to the round sausage. Blades may be scalloped to cut a perforation in the product such as crackers designed to be broken apart cleanly. Blades may be angled so that as they are pushed straight down, the blade slices diagonally through the product. Where shaped blades are used, it is often necessary to provide a gap in the conveyor for the blade to cut into.
Blades are commonly stainless steel though other materials are sometimes used depending on the product and compatibility. Ultrasonic blades may be used when the product is sticky. The high frequency of the blade provides a clean cut without sticking and product buildup.
Chocolate can take on 6 different crystalline structures. Only one of them is desirable for most solid and coated chocolate confections. Tempering is a process to coax the chocolate to form the desirable type 5 crystals.
Type 5 crystals give the chocolate the gloss, snap and mouthfeel expected from chocolate confections. Other crystal types can cause mushiness, discoloration and other defects.
Tempering machines (candy equipment) may be batch or continuous. Batch machines produce a single, discrete, large or small batch of chocolate. Continuous tempering machines are more complex but temper chocolate continuously. This makes them more suitable for high volume production.
The tempering process requires precise heating, cooling and reheating of the chocolate. In a batch process, a quantity of chocolate is melted at a temperature of about 45 degrees C. This temperature will vary depending on the chocolate, recipe and desired end product. Gentle mixing during heating assures uniform melting and temperature. After melting, the temperature is lowered to about 32 degrees. Seed chocolate is added to provide the proper base for the molten chocolate to form type 5 crystals.
Adding the seed chocolate also helps cools the molten mass encouraging crystallization process.
The now tempered chocolate is ready for molding into bars or for enrobing other candies or baked products.
Continuous tempering machines follow a similar process. Instead of a mixing kettle or tank, the continuous machine consists of a series of stacked, round, jacketed chambers. Hot or cool water in the jacketing provides precise temperature control of each chamber. Each chamber has mixing paddles, driven by a vertical shaft to assure consistent temperature. Connecting ports allow the molten chocolate to transfer to successive chambers.
Melted chocolate is introduced into the bottom chamber where it is heated to the desired temperature. The inlet flow rate determines the dwell time of the chocolate in each chamber. It is heated and cooled in successive chambers according to the time/temperature profile developed for the recipe.
Tempered molten chocolate at the proper temperature exits the top of the machine and it piped to the next step in the production process.
Candy depositors are used to form final candy shapes for gummy bears, jelly beans, marshmallow and chocolate confections and more. They can work with molds or, if a sharply defined shape is not required they can deposit directly onto a conveyor belt. A chocolate drop is an example of direct deposition.
Molten candy is poured into a hopper. The hopper includes agitators and heaters to keep the candy in the optimal condition. At the bottom of the hopper is a piston. The piston draws in a measured charge of product and discharges it through a valve to a manifold. The valve controls product flow at the piston opening to the hopper when charging and opening to the dispensing nozzles when discharging.
The nozzle manifold runs the width of the depositor and may contain as many as many discharge nozzles as needed depending on desired production capacity. As the pistons cycle, product is discharged through the nozzles.
When the product is unformed and deposited directly onto a conveyor, no timing is needed. The candies are dispensed at a constant cyclic rate and spacing between rows is determined my conveyor speed relative to cyclic rate.
When a more defined shape, such as a gummy bear, is required, molds are used. Molds can be made of reusable silicone sheet. For higher production volumes, cornstarch molds may be used. A wooden frame is filled with cornstarch. A plate with male plugs is pressed into it forming the mold cavities. This may be done on a separate machine or on the same depositor.
The mold, whether cornstarch or silicone, is indexed under the depositor, pausing while each row of cavities is filled. Some high speed depositors are reciprocate the nozzle manifold linearly, tracking the mold. This eliminates the need to index the mold. This continuous motion molding allows higher throughput.
After depositing, the candies are allowed time to cool and solidify. They are then scraped off the conveyor or released from the molds. In the case of the cornstarch mold, the cornstarch and frame are recycled and reimpressed for another molding cycle.
Candy equipment depositors are used to form final candy shapes for gummy bears, jelly beans, marshmallow and chocolate confections and more. They can work with molds or, if a sharply defined shape is not required they can deposit directly onto a conveyor belt. A chocolate drop is an example of direct deposition.
Cooling conveyors are candy equipment used to cool products after or during processing. In some instances they may be used to cool products, raw materials or components prior to processing. Depending on the product, it may be desirable to cool it rapidly or it may be desirable to cool it gradually. This will determine the design of the cooling conveyor. Cooling conveyors will often be enclosed in cooling tunnels to facilitate control of the cooling rate.
Cooling cycles depend on time, temperature and air flow/velocity. Time is a function of conveyor speed and length. Cooling conveyors tend to be long and slow and, plants don’t always have room for a long conveyor. There are several ways to compress long conveyors into a relatively small footprint:
Spiral elevating conveyors – Spiral conveyors use a sideflexing chain to wrap around a center column to form a spiral. They can be as tall as necessary to achieve the desired length. A second spiral may be required to carry the product back to floor level. Some designs intertwine both the elevating and lowerating spirals on a single column. The entire system may be located inside a walk-in cooler or freezer of appropriate size.
Serpentine conveyors – Serpentine conveyors consist of sections of conveyor, side by side, running in alternating directions. Product enters the first conveyor traveling downstream, then reverses direction onto the second conveyor traveling upstream to a third conveyor traveling downstream and so on for the appropriate total length.
If the product permits, a similar arrangement of stacked conveyors may be used. Product enters the top conveyor, travels to the end where it falls onto a conveyor underneath traveling in the opposite direction. As many conveyor levels and length may be used as needed for the required dwell time.
In general, the conveyor chains should be open mesh to permit air flow around the product. It is important to assure that chains, bearings and other components are compatible with a cold environment. Some cooling conveyors run at subzero and even cryogenic temperatures. These low temperatures can affect components in unexpected ways.
There are 3 main components to the candy stove (candy equipment)
The kettle may be made of stainless steel but is often made of copper. Copper gives a more even distribution as it absorbs heat from the source and transfers it to the product. Kettles are round bottomed and will not stand on their own so the support ring is required.
The ring is supported by legs, or feet if tabletop size. The ring is sized to allow the kettle to sit down, inside of it. If the heater is gas, there are support blocks to hold the kettle away from the ring proper. This provides space for hot gasses to vent. The design of the ring permits the kettle to be rotated or tilted during mixing if desired. The underside of the ring is skirted and insulated. This helps focus the heat onto the kettle and prevents operators from touching the heater or the hot kettle.
Heating may be with gas, either propane or natural gas or electric. Gas is generally preferred due to its more even heating, fast response, and precise temperature control. Temperature control may be manual, controlled by the candymaker’s eye and thermometer or can be automated based on a temperature probe.
Where the process is repeatable, same temperature profile and cycle every time, automated controls are preferred to optimize batch consistency. For more artisanal candy, made by an expert candymaker, manual controls may be preferred.
Mixing may be done manually with a spatula or paddle in smaller lot sizes. Larger kettle and lot sizes may require powered agitators with scrapers to prevent product buildup on the kettle surface. Depending on size, these can be built into the stove or can be freestanding.
Removing the hot, finished, candy from the kettle is usually done by pouring. Some stoves mount the kettle on trunnions so that it can be tilted. For smaller kettles, the kettle may be lifted from the stove and placed into a portable pouring cart. The pouring mechanism is built into the cart.
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