A BUN Baker’s New Best Friend
As you enjoy your lunch today, imagine more than 1000 sandwich rolls per minute moving
along a production line as bakers anxiously check for machine failures that could
result in dozens upon dozens of less-than-perfect buns that will never be invited
to the picnic.
Now ponder the fact that a prototype automated imaging system
has been developed to help bakers produce consistently high quality buns for their
food service and fast-food customers.
Senior research engineer Douglas Britton and research scientist
Colin Usher of Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta developed the system.
They worked with Georgia-based Flower Foods of Thomasville, a baking company, and
Baking Technology Systems (BakeTech) of Tucker, a baking equipment manufacturer.
The system, which was tested at a Flowers Foods bakery for more
than a year at hour-long intervals, comprises a digital camera that images the buns
as they exit the oven, and imaging software that assesses whether their color is
too light or too dark to be of high enough quality. If the software detects substandard
buns, it automatically sends the color information to the oven controller, which
adjusts the temperature. This rapid correction could help minimize a bakery’s
material and product loss.
Basically, it shortens the interval between when a problem is
noticed and when it is fixed. For example, if a quantity of buns takes a total of
12 minutes to bake and a batch is checked after eight minutes and found to be less
than perfect, there is only a four-minute window in which to correct the temperature
for the remainder of the baking.
The current manual-based quality assurance technique – checking
a sample hourly and adjusting the oven temperature accordingly – is slower
to detect changes in bun consistency, which can arise through such variables as
ingredients, batches, shifts, or daily and seasonal temperature and humidity.
The prototype system also provides bakers with up-to-the-minute
data reports on such matters as bun shape and size, seed distribution and contamination.
The buns can be in pans or on a conveyor belt of any color except the color of the
buns. The stainless steel system mounts to conveyor belts as wide as 50 in.
It’s the best thing to happen to buns since sesame seeds.
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