Industry: Artisanal cracker and cookie maker from Seattle, Washington
Challenge: Cooling crackers longer along the conveyor system in a small footprint
Solution: A 360-degree curved conveyor with only a quarter-horsepower motor
Product: Spiral plastic belt cooling conveyor by SpanTech
The world of artisanal cracker making may not be something you spend a lot of time thinking about, but Charlie Williamson of Advanced Equipment Company (AEC) does.
His client, a family-owned bakery in Seattle, Washington, is an expert in making high quality, artisan cookies and crackers. A company known for their high-quality standards and attention to detail needed an expert in material handling for a very specific baking need.
With a history of partnering together, the client naturally turned to AEC. “We’ve been working with this client for years. I take their needs – and their trust in AEC – very seriously,” said Charlie.
“It’s all about asking the right questions. It’s getting to know exactly what the problem is versus what is wanted. It’s about understanding the problem that needs to be solved and providing more effective solutions.”
Baking is a Science
In the artisan cracker-making process, as baked goods come out of the oven, they need an exact time to cool before moving on to the next process. If they’re not cooled properly, the extra heat will expand the sealed packs making it difficult to fit properly into the containers. Two things were making this a challenge for AEC’s client:
- The crackers have to keep moving – there’s no option for a “holding area” where they can rest
- The available space to move these cooling crackers is limited
Engineering is an Artform
To solve the cracker cooking conundrum, AEC’s engineers designed a fascinating piece of conveyor technology.
First of all, it travels 360-degrees around the room. Although this is not completely unheard of, it’s very challenging. The nature of the spiral conveyor means there’s a lot of drag between the plastic chain and the outside edge.
Drag means friction and friction means more horsepower is needed to keep things moving. “To do it the traditional way, we’d have needed three, synchronized motors,” said Charlie Williamson. Not impossible, but very difficult and expensive.
Instead, AEC constructed a quarter-horsepower motor driving the belt chain at multiple points. This allowed the 360-degree conveyor to move to the exact timing needed by the cooling crackers – 10 feet per second – on far less horsepower than would have been needed.
In this video, you can see the shaft under the conveyor and two outside edges opposite each other.
The client was very satisfied and material handling artist Charlie Williamson has admitted, “It’s the prettiest conveyor I’ve ever done.”
About the author
Charlie Williamson has been a Material Handling Specialist with AEC since 1996. Prior to AEC, he spent an additional sixteen years in the material handling industry. Charlie invests his time and ingenuity into every project as well as gains a real sense of fulfillment to see all projects through to final working solution. As an Integrated Systems Specialist, he welcomes the opportunity to be of service for solutions involving single conveyors, complex turnkey systems and everything in between. Connect with Charlie on LinkedIn.