Food Engineering

The soft dough challenge

March 8, 2010
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, engineering@vaccon.com