Machines deliver increasingly high processing capacities and energy efficiency standards, easy sanitation, with a particular focus on the reduction of personnel costs involved with maintenance and cleaning. Innovations also involve gluten-free products.
Technologies are constantly evolving, more patents are issued. Faster and safer production lines ensure more efficient performance, also from the energy saving point of view. Pasta manufacturers require flexible machines, capable of processing different types of pasta, with a higher level of automation. In response to numerous requests for heat processing treatment equipment that ensures careful and efficient pasteurisation of the product, new high-speed high-efficiency production lines have been developed and industrialized. For fresh pasta, there are thermal treatment lines designed to process thin-sheet pasta with a soft (approx. 60%) filling, which rules out rheological alterations to the product.
Pavan, for instance, designed a new heat treatment equipment for fresh filled pasta with a high output capacity (2400 kg based on 27g double-sheet ravioli). What manufacturers of dry and fresh pasta, couscous, gnocchi, bakery products require from their suppliers of equipment to increase their competitiveness does not involve the quality of the production process only, but also higher levels of energy efficiency. The reduction in steam consumption is achieved thanks to the following features: new design of the pasteurization chamber; a flow-meter which regulates steam flow (providing for optimal steam use according to the type and quantity of product); radiant plates with closed steam circuit; and special extractor hoods with heat-insulating and metal detectable curtains. The sealing and fastening of doors have also been redesigned so as to improve thermal insulation.
Always with the goal of reducing energy consumption, Storci designed a centrifugal pre-kneading unit, which thanks to the automatic systems for dosing dry and liquid ingredients allows for the continuous un-manned production of pre-kneaded dough. Attention is paid also to the minimization of personnel costs resulting from maintenance and cleaning interventions: the equipment is designed for easy inspection and sanitation, also thanks to washable foam-proof engines and sensors; kneading tanks with vanes secured to the shaft without bolts, for easy cleaning; rounded internal corners with drainage holes. Many companies achieve higher reduction of operating costs and performance improvements thanks to the supervision and coordination of the various implementation stages of the project, whereby the final layout of the plant is based on the desired characteristics of the end product (recipes, shelf-life, fillings, etc.). Then, there is the costing phase, consisting in a specific business plan for the estimation of energy consumption, costs, and investment returns. After delivery and installation, there is a start-up phase which involves a rigorous training of operators as well as round-the-clock after-sales support including remote online guidance. Security is definitely regarded as a prerequisite. What about the system flexibility? Issues like costs and available space call for spacesaving solutions, which however can handle many types of pasta: from the simplest to the most complex, as special formats. All types of pasta on one line, thanks to easy format changeover. Flexibility is required also for drying cells, which must be suitable to dry all types of pasta by simply wheeling in the trolleys fitted with frames or racks. Drying parameters are controlled via a PLC dedicated to the setting of the drying formulas in storable programs, humidity
and temperature management, interfaceable with the supervisor (advanced graphic management and storable executed drying formulas) – optimized and controlled management of air flow and air exchange and fan speed. More companies propose scratchproof panels covered with stainless steel, suitable for high temperatures. Thermal power is sized to bring the cell up to temperature in the shortest possible time. Modern pasta production lines are increasingly automated. The manufacturers deliver automatic systems enabling continuous production process, with considerable reduction of the engagement of operators and relevant economic and professional growth of the pasta factory. Fully automated or semi-automatic systems, suitable for traditional drying in static cells, with state-of-the-art parameter management. A variety of automatic robots is proposed, for trays of short-cut pasta, nested pasta and lasagna, as for instance the stacker/destacker, which can be delivered together or separately to complete the line, according to the offering company. Installed at the start of the line, the destacker picks the trays from the trolley and feeds them continuously and automatically into the slots on the feeder. The stacker installed at the line outfeed then continuously and automatically stacks the trays full of pasta on the trolley. Once full, the operator can transfer the trolley from the safety cage to the drying cell. These robots are characterized by high positioning speed, adjustable from the operator panel by means of PLC, and easy integration into existing lines. Often consumers require that industrial pasta offers the same aesthetic and quality standards of hand-made pasta. Pama Parsi Macchine patented a new rolling system for cannelloni, installed on a machine for the production of cannelloni and pre-cooked thin-sheet pasta, which combines high output with reduced overall dimensions, thanks to a special IN-OUT processing system on two parallel planes. Furthermore, this unit does not develop fumes, but only steam, and for this reason it does not require special extraction systems.
People affected by celiac disease are on the increase, and the same applies to the market of gluten-free products. Almost all manufacturers of pasta machines and equipment deliver lines for gluten-free pasta, using also raw flours such as maize, rice and potato flours, starches and various mixes, so that the pasta factory no longer depends on the mill. In the plant proposed by Storci, in fact, pasta is not cooked in a tank; the dough is precooked on a belt, which makes it possible to obtain the best quality pasta without restrictions. The dough doesn’t clump together, heat and moisture are evenly distributed, and the risk of some parts remaining raw is avoided, ensuring that there are no white specks which spoil the appearance of pasta. The main advantages are: high control over the degree of gelatinization; more uniform heat treatment; optimum energy efficiency; total control of heat treatment times to suit different flours; easy cleaning and no product stagnation, as in the case of pasta with gluten. Other solutions use precooked flours. Most systems can be integrated on new or existing lines, in order to switch from the production of normal pasta to gluten-free pasta.
Pasteurization and drying with radio frequency technology
Recently a radio frequency (RF) technology has been developed for the simultaneous pasteurization and drying of fresh pasta (STALAM S.p.A. in cooperation with STC S.r.l.). The RF system heats pasta by means of an electromagnetic field, until the pasteurization temperature is reached, thus obtaining the simultaneous pasteurization and drying of the product. After the RF section, the product is cooled and packaged. Considerable advantages can be derived from the RF technology: high energy efficiency and short processing time by generating the required heat directly inside the product; no surface overheating with consequent elimination of all typical drawbacks due to long exposure to high temperatures; no surface gelatinization of the starch, thus ensuring better preservation of the sensorial characteristics of the product; microbial inactivation at lower temperatures and in shorter time, with better preservation of the chemical and physical characteristics of the product.