Bake oven belts, process expertise and high-power laser cleaning: what IPCO had on show at IBA 2023 demonstrated solutions to increase efficiency and reliability
IPCO, manufacturer of bake oven belts and conveyor components, used IBA 2023 to highlight the benefits it can bring to bakery operations through belt management, conveyor system inspections and process consultancy.
IPCO’s services range from the supply and installation of solid and perforated steel belts to process upgrades in the form of belt replacement and the supply of tracking systems and other productivity-enhancing conveyor components. The company’s global service teams can offer system consultancy and planned preventative maintenance designed to maximise uptime and oven reliability.
Marko Leber is Global Product Manager for food belts at IPCO. “We are belt specialists first and foremost, but nearly 100 years’ experience of working with the bakery industry has given us an insight that goes much deeper,” he said. “To our service engineers, the steel conveyor belt acts as a window into the performance of the entire bake oven. It’s almost always the case that belt condition is the symptom of a problem, not the cause.”
High power laser cleaning
A key focus of IPCO’s stand at IBA was its innovative bake oven belt laser cleaning system. Based on high power laser technology, this portable system removes burnt on residues from bake oven belts significantly faster than other processes, and usually enables bake operations to continue uninterrupted on nearby ovens.
The laser is installed above the belt and as the belt travels beneath the beam, deposits are burnt off and collected by a vacuum system. Once the strip has been cleaned, the laser head is moved across to the next section.
The key benefits are speed and convenience. Cleaning can be carried out at a rate of between 10-15 m2/hour depending on the level of build-up. This means that a typical bake oven belt can be cleaned in a day, depending on belt size and level of build-up. Compare this with cleaning by hand or dry ice and that really is significantly faster.
Other benefits include the fact that the results are immediate, and full production can be restarted immediately – there are no ‘waste’ batches – and product discharge is noticeably improved. This is also a much cleaner process than other technologies and in most cases will not require adjacent lines to be closed down.
Laser cleaning is an entirely contact-free cleaning process – the structure of the belt is unaffected by the laser.
Steel belts offer a number of advantages in terms of sustainability and this will be another key message, as Leber explained. “A solid or perforated steel bake oven belt is an exceptionally durable process tool – a 20 year working life is far from unusual. As well is representing an attractive ROI, this also makes it a more sustainable choice than other belt materials.”
Steel belts are also lighter than mesh so take less power to drive in the first place, and less energy is needed to reheat them every time they re-enter the oven...
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