The soft dough challenge

New end-of-arm tool for pick-and-place application provides greater manufacturing flexibility and a better product for Brooklyn baker.

Clockwise from top left: The new pick-and-place system enables the handling and stacking of raw pastry dough prior to freezing and packaging; The biggest challenge was to avoid clogging of vacuum pumps with flour and raw dough; The system designed by Vaccon accommodates different size pastry products through the use of air dams; The freezer is at the end of the system-before packaging. Source: Vaccon.
Founded in 1978, Mazor’s Bakery is a small family owned bakery in Brooklyn, NY that employs 20 individuals and ships product throughout the US and Central America. The company specializes in puff pastry dough, and precooked tart shells and frozen pizza dough.

The bakery staff knew it could produce a better product if it could revise its production line. Success hinged on being able to deploy a pick-and-place technology that didn’t require the product to be frozen prior to packaging. Accomplishing this change required custom design and engineering as well as modular end-of-arm tooling components. The bakery chose Vaccon to integrate vacuum pumps, spring levelers, fittings, and manifolds and develop a custom pick-and-place technology.

To meet the goal of moving the freezing process from the front of the production line to the end of the production line, the solution had to handle flaky puff pastry covered in flour - physically a very different product compared to frozen dough. 

In the existing pick-and-place system, two stainless steel structures held the original venturi pump and cups. The heads were powered with a cylinder in the Z direction to pick up the pastry. A second cylinder provided lateral movement to increase the centerline distance of the two heads for placing the pastry into separate stacks. Pastry sheets are used in a variety of shapes and patterns - one size pattern has four sections cut from the sheet, and the other pattern has two larger sections.   

The strategy was to design one special vacuum cup in conjunction with a standard vacuum pump, which would pick and place both sizes of dough with minimal changeover time using the current fixturing that was in place. Due to the bakery environment (including flour covering the product), clogging of the cup and vacuum pump were major considerations in the design. 

The pumps selected for this application place the vacuum port and exhaust path inline, making a straight-through venturi vacuum pump. Developed for extremely challenging environments or applications featuring a lot of “loose” airborne matter such as flour, sugar, or powders, the pumps tend not to clog, lose suction or require a vacuum filter.

A small version of the special vacuum cup was machined and tested with a standard vacuum pump on a single piece of production dough (not frozen) with great success. Vaccon then manufactured custom vacuum cups and retested with both sizes of dough, with the same success. Mazor’s Bakery removed the fixturing and sent it to Vaccon, where it was modified and re-assembled with spring levelers, the new vacuum cups and required hardware (vacuum pumps were attached to the main housing and plumbed to cups).

Mazor’s new packaging system enables freezing pastry after it has been packaged. Elevating the freezer reduced the overall footprint of the packaging line and allows one production worker to operate in a cell environment, operating both mixer and monitoring the packaging operation.

 The result of the custom design was a faster, more flexible pick-and-place machine and a better product for the bakery. Not only did Mazor’s get the machine upgrade and production line reconfiguration it was hoping for, it realized savings by upgrading only the head on their pick-and-place machine, not the machine itself.

For more information, Vaccon Company, 508.359-7200,

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2015

Images from Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo in Clearwater Beach, Florida, April 12-15, 2015. The event brought food and beverage processors and suppliers together to gain valuable information on the latest trends and technologies in manufacturing, automation, sustainability and food safety.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

Food Engineering May 2015 Cover

2015 May

The May 2015 issue of Food Engineering explores effective tools for hitting manufacturing targets. Also, read how processors are looking for faster ways to detect harmful pathogens in food and beverages without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Plant Facility/Site Issues

What issue about your current plant facility/site keeps you up the most at night?
View Results Poll Archive


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Engineering Food Master 2015Food Master 2015 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.