Take a walk down any grocery store aisle and the sheer variety of food products lining the shelves is mind boggling. Today's consumers demand choice – and food producers oblige with selections that accommodate a wide range of flavor preferences, portion options, dietary requirements and additive restrictions.
This drive for versatility has a direct impact on machine builders who are challenged to develop efficient, agile equipment for an ever expanding range of ingredients and processing parameters.
“No doubt, our dough mixing equipment must quickly changeover from one formulation to the next,” said Alain Lemieux, director of engineering for dough systems, AMF Bakery Systems. “But even more important, our machinery must address increasing safety and sanitation requirements.”
A Markel Food Group company, AMF Bakery Systems manufactures high-speed bread, bun and soft roll machinery and provides complete automated bakery solutions and engineering expertise. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, the company enjoys a global customer base and counts some of the world's largest commercial bakeries among its clientele.
Backed by more than 50 years of experience in mixing innovation, AMF recently entered a new market segment with the introduction of the Specialty Sigma Arm mixer. This sanitary direct-drive mixer can accommodate a variety of dough types for cookies, crackers, buttermilk biscuits and specialty snacks. The machine has a mixing capacity of 250 to 1000 pounds.
“Compared to many machines on the market, our Sigma Arm mixer offers significant design benefits – especially from the standpoint of efficiency, operator safety and equipment sanitation,” Lemieux explained. “The key is a less complex, more open design – and a fully integrated control system.”
A hallmark of the new design is the fully enclosed bowl tilt system. The simple, mechanical tilting mechanism allows a 180-degree forward tilt to discharge the dough once mixing is complete.
“The better the tilt angle, the faster and more efficiently the dough is released from the bowl,” Lemieux said.
Typically, the dough is released to an AMF complete dough transfer system before moving on to portioning equipment and other downstream processes.
“The complete forward tilt of the bowl – along with the tubular, open-frame design – also enables easier washdowns and significantly reduces equipment sanitation time,” Lemieux added.
To enhance operator safety, the Sigma Arm mixer features two-hand safety controls combined with AC inverter agitator speed control and fast stop-action from a dynamic brake resistor. Simply put, during the manual discharge sequence, the mixer is designed to agitate only when both of the operator's hands are on pushbuttons – and away from rotating machinery.
The Sigma Arm mixer is built on a Rockwell Automation control and information solution featuring an Allen-Bradley Micro850® controller. The system includes Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives to run the agitator's rotary motors, an Allen-Bradley Guardmaster® 440C-CR30 software configurable safety relay and an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ 800 graphic terminal. The machine is integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network.
To simplify machine development, a single programming platform, Connected Components Workbench™ software, was used to configure all control products within the application.
“From a safety design standpoint, using the Guardmaster relay in combination with the PowerFlex drives was a game changer,” Lemieux said. “Instead of applying multiple, hard-wired safety relays, we could achieve the functionality we needed with just one smart, programmable safety relay.”
The PowerFlex 525 drive provides built-in dynamic braking to help stop the motor quickly – and Safe Torque-Off functionality to remove rotational power from the motor and bring equipment to a safe state.
The Sigma Arm mixer also features complete recipe integration, which improves overall system performance and allows operators to quickly changeover the machinery from a recipe-driven interface.
“Thanks to recipe integration and the new control system, one of our customers was able to reduce his mix time by about 30 percent,” Lemieux said. “This helped improve the efficiency of his entire operation.”
“Our success is based on innovation – and it's the same for Rockwell Automation,” Lemieux continued. “By applying the latest control technology, we were able to streamline our design process – and create the best value for our customers.”
Allen-Bradley, Connected Components Workbench, Guardmaster, Micro850, Listen.Think.Solve., PanelView, PowerFlex, and Rockwell Software are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc.
EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA.
Other trademarks are the property of their respective companies.