Few companies have had a more enduring relationship with the bakery industry than Sandvik Process Systems, suppliers of bake oven belts since 1925.
The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of steel belt oven belts. It supplies products to oven builders and end users around the world. Its current range of high performance steel grades and belt sizes (800mm to extra-wide 3 500mm conveyors) can meet different production requirements.
The unique sales proposition of a steel bake oven belt lies in its physical form: no other material can compete when it comes to a steel belt’s baking qualities. Not only does it deliver reliable operation in applications where temperatures can reach as high as 400ºC, but it does so with outstanding reliability.
Good tension and tracking characteristics, and resistance to stretching, results in low maintenance requirements. Exceptional durability means a working life of 20 plus years is far from unusual. One Sandvik belt was found to be fully operational an incredible 72 years after it was first installed!
As Fabio Conti, global product manager for Sandvik’s food business says, ‘Other belt materials may carry a lower purchase price, but it’s important to consider productivity, lifetime costs and overall return on investment.’
Another factor that influences long-term costs is the energy efficiency of an oven. This is another area in which Sandvik’s belts can offer significant benefits.
‘The heavier the belt, the more energy is required to heat it,’ Conti explains. ‘Solid steel belts are lighter than wire mesh. Perforated steel belts are lighter still, and can cost up to 30 per cent less to heat. Each time a belt exits the baking chamber, it begins to cool. It then has to be heated up again so the savings are continuous. As much of 25 per cent of an oven’s energy consumption is needed to heat the belt, so savings can be considerable.’ This weight advantage also means less energy is needed to “drive” the belt through the oven.
Quality baking and the cookie factor
Just as importantly, the properties of steel belt can add up to better baking performance.
Much of this is due to excellent heat transfer and thermal conductivity of the belt, but stability is also key: a solid or perforated steel belt will keep its shape and stay flat as it passes through the intense heat of the oven, resulting in consistent product quality.
There’s one other reason why the bakery industry remains a key market for Sandvik and that’s the global appetite for Americanstyle cookies.
As these products use real butter, and often chocolate chips too, they need to be baked on a solid belt to eliminate the risk of melted product dripping and causing a fire, or simply drying out. The use of a solid steel belt also produces an attractive crisp base.
This globalisation in taste is leading a growing number of bakery operations to look at how best to capitalise on the opportunities available, and many are arriving at the decision to switch their facilities from wire mesh to solid steel systems. For some this means investing in entire new production lines, but for others, close cooperation between Sandvik and OEMs has made it possible to upgrade the conveyor system while retaining existing ovens.
Hygiene and cleanliness
Alongside product quality and lifetime cost there is a third factor that bakeries have to consider, and that’s the ability to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
As a conveying medium that’s completely flat and smooth, a solid steel belt has the major advantage of having no gaps, recesses or crevices in which carbon deposits could collect. This flatness also means that cleaning operations are simpler, faster and therefore more economical than for other materials.