Thermal Performance Research Oven
An article in the last issue referred to the key role of pilot equipment in the speedy development of new products. A new research oven is now available that can simulate exactly the conditions within the zones of a travelling baking oven.
Arguably, industrial baking has to date been as much an art as a science. Heat and mass transfer in the baking process is a very complex phenomenon because many oven parameters are interrelated. The balance of these is highly dependent upon the heterogeneity and non-linear thermo-mechanical properties of food ingredients versus temperature.
The new test oven aids understanding of how these parameters interact. The results of a prolonged period of tests and research investigation have helped to define zones of 'baking comfort' similar to zones of 'thermal comfort' in buildings engineering. The TPRO contributes to our understanding of how these zones of 'baking comfort' might be extended.
The new Thermal Performance Research Oven (TPRO) has the capability of rates of heat transfer higher than have been achieved in previous baking ovens. It facilitates the improvement of existing processes as well as the development of new biscuit, bread, cake, pizza, cereal and snack products. This extremely flexible batch oven employs advanced heat transfer technology to replicate baking conditions within a customer's travelling oven and allow existing product conditions and behaviour to be logged and analysed.
Using the latest shop floor data capture technology, (see also the lead article in this issue), a logger can measure the key parameters within an existing production oven. Pre-programmed Wonderware PC based software is then used to replicate those conditions in the TPRO. Tests or product development trials can be carried out with the TPRO sitting alongside the production line, using the customer's own mixing, forming and cooling equipment. Where this is impractical, it is anticipated that a customer will send ingredients to the Food Process Centre at Peterborough.
The TPRO's advanced heat transfer technology enables baking conditions to be optimised for any given product. Wonderware software can then be used to replicate these new conditions in the customer's production oven.
Whether carried out on site or in APV Baker's Food Process Centre, experiments in the TPRO can be used to establish how altering bake conditions or recipe can improve quality and cost efficiency. Because of the small scale of the oven and its sophisticated control, many of these tests can be performed in one day. The results of these tests can be used to justify capital expenditure on new plant or equipment modifications, or to prove the continuous production potential of new product ideas.
As well as customer trials, the TPRO will be used for further research into heat transfer, providing a better understanding of the effect on the product of variables in the baking process. This will contribute to future oven design by setting new standards in reliable thermal performance and precise control.