Due to changes in industry standards and procedures, sanitation is becoming more critical when choosing the right conveyor belt for baking. Making sure that everything can be easily cleaned, while still maintaining the integrity of the process, is the key to determining what type of belt is needed for your application.
There are two main aspects of the baking process where choosing the right belt can determine the success of the end product: dough handling and cooling.
The sticky nature of dough handling has traditionally been dealt with by using large amounts of flour. Although this works to easily release the dough, the messy and abrasive nature of flour can damage the belt over time. To combat this, manufacturers look to belt materials and textures to keep the dough from sticking. Fabric conveyor belts are commonly used because the natural textured surface of woven cotton gives the belt excellent release characteristics. Despite the release capabilities of these belts, fabric is highly absorbent and prone to small nicks or tears, decreasing its durability and increasing its susceptibly to contamination.
Due to these factors, many manufacturers in the baking industry have begun switching to textured plastic belts. Using a texture that includes negative pyramid impressions allows metered portions of flour to sit in the embossing while creating a disrupted surface, preventing the dough from sticking to the belt.
For other fabric belt applications, such as rounding of the dough, there are certain characteristics to be aware of. Instead of using a natural fiber belt—switch to a synthetic alternative. Synthetic fabric belts are homogenous in nature, absorbing less oil and other food particles than natural cotton. To increase durability, look for fabric that is woven with shorter threads. If fraying occurs, it will only leave smaller shorter fibers exposed instead of longer strands, which can easily contaminate food products as well as leave the belt open for bacteria build-up.
Once a baked product comes off of the steel belts within an oven, cooling of the product needs to happen quickly to keep production moving forward. With this in mind, belts that hold heat, such as steel, are not as efficient for cooling.
In the industry today, plastic modular conveyor belts are now the go-to for fast, effective cooling. FDA compliant and easily customizable, plastic modular belts are a relatively inexpensive solution. They are easy to clean and, if damaged, give users the ability to replace small sections without having to purchase a whole new belt.
When handling pans, plastic is also an ideal belt material. Less abrasive than metallic chains, plastic belts won’t damage pans, especially when using softer metals like aluminum, thus dramatically reducing the cost of replacement pans.
Similar to dough handling, cooling or transferring sticky confectionary products require good release of the product. Polyurethane coated belts are most common, easiest to clean and are often used due to their ability to go over tight nose-bars. A variety of other cover materials are available depending on your needs.
No matter what your product or application, Eaglestone’s experts can assist you in selecting the right belt for your next project. When you need help choosing the right belt or have any other sanitary conveyor application questions, contact us.