Food Portioning Equipment: 3 Steps to success

Consumers are increasingly demanding portioned food products – the proliferation of coffee shops, snack food and food-to-go means that manufacturers, more than ever, need to portion their products accurately, quickly and with high quality.

So, as a food manufacturer, what are the key steps to take to ensure the perfect portioning process? Here’s our three step guide to help you.

 Step 1 – Know your technology

Fundamentally, this will depend on your product. Typical options are:

Conventional cutters – guillotines, circular blades, reciprocating blades, wires:
These are low-cost options but are only suitable for certain products. For example, a standard stainless blade will handle a frozen product, but will yield a poor cut quality, spoiling and demand regular cleaning on most products cut at ambient or chilled temperature. Similarly, a wire cutter is the tool of choice for the cheese industry but is a poor choice for certain cheese types such as blended or crumbly varieties.

Ultrasonic cutters:
This system is a perfect choice for products which normally cause cutting problems because of their soft or sticky nature, or which need to be cut at room temperature or chilled. Ultrasonic blades, also known as sonotrodes or horns, are applied with a vibration, typically at a frequency of 20kHz, to create a high quality cutting effect with a low level of routine cleaning required.

Water-jet cutting:
Typically used for more complex shapes. High pressure water has the advantage of cleanliness and good cut quality but is an expensive option and not usually necessary for the majority of food cutting applications.

Step 2 – Match the technology to your product

Put simply – test cut your product! You need to be 100% sure from the start, so regardless of whatever technology you think is right for you, put it to the test. At Newtech we always encourage our customers to send us some product for testing to ensure the best possible technology is selected. We’ve tested hundreds of different product types and can advise you with a high level of confidence – usually just based on a product description. But seeing your product cut is always the best policy.

Selecting the technology is just the start of it. If ultrasonic cutting (often the perfect choice for a wide range of products) is the way to go, then by conducting cutting trials you will be able to ascertain a host of other pointers to guide you to success. For example:

–    Blade profile and width requirements

–    Ideal cutting temperature

–    Optimum cutting speed

–    Optimum amplitude settings

–    Product handling capabilities and requirements

–    Cleaning requirements

Step 3 – Match the solution to your process

At this stage, you know the technology you need for your product, and you’ve got some pretty good information on how this need to be specified, set up and applied for cutting. But you are running a food manufacturing process and whereas the cutting technology takes care of your product, the automation you select will take care of your production process. Some of the factors you need to consider here are:

–    Line outputs and packing requirements

–    Product variants to be handled by the system

–    Hygiene and food safety requirements

–    Motion control for your blade system ; do you need multi-axis or robotic blade control?

–    Product conveying – pre-cut and post-cut handling

–    Cutting temperatures

–    Machine cleaning and maintenance considerations

These considerations are critical to getting your portioning project off the ground. Sounds daunting? It really doesn’t need to be. We can help you get where you need to be quickly, effectively and with minimum fuss. Just give us a call on +44 (0)1234 783 680, or email sales@newtech-ltd.co.uk. We’re here to help!