Anyone who has tried flipping a pancake to cook the reverse side knows it takes a degree of skill – and it’s no different in automated mass production.  Indeed it is a process that continues to confound many bakery machine manufactures but not Sugden Limited in Nelson, Lancashire.  They have developed a system that will flip pancakes with a high degree of efficiency, accuracy and repeatability and the HepcoMotion DLS (Driven Linear System) is a key component in this success.

Sugden’s attention to engineering detail has earned it a high reputation on the international stage.  Indeed is it now a world leader in the design and manufacture of hotplate plants for the production of bakery products such as pancakes, muffins, crumpets, potato cakes, Welch cakes, farls and soda bread. 

Most of its plant is servo system based and incorporates robotic handling to meet the increasing need for high duty cycles, greater baking efficiency and minimum wastage. As a result its bakery systems are largely custom designed with elements, such as the flipping system, being incorporated in line with individual application requirements.

Two HepcoMotion DLS linear transmission and positioning systems, linked with a beam, form the basis of the flipping mechanism; the beam carries a row of spatulas that lift and turn-over the product.  The DLS is a complete, off-the-shelf modular guide and drive solution that was introduced to save OEMs design and specification time.  It is belt driven and can be specified with a range of different sized motor and gearbox packages.  For this application Sugden chose a HepcoMotion DLS3 with AC geared motor – directly coupled for compact assembly.

“This HepcoMotion product fits our requirements well as we need to achieve high speed, high accuracy and reliability in both rotary and longitudinal movements,” explaines Sugden’s Managing Director, Barry Mulholland.  “In addition clients require the ability to program various modes of movement to accord with the range of products that would be made on this plant.”

Sugden did consider alternative actuation methods as Barry Mulholland confirms: “The most obvious choice would have been air cylinders but they couldn’t give us the accuracy or the engineering quality we wanted.  And whilst recirculating ballscrews are reasonably priced they would have a very short running life at our required rate.  So yes, we did look at the options, but not for long!”

The HepcoMotion DLS has a number of design features that make it the perfect choice for this application.  Double row cap sealed bearings ensure high load capacity, constant lubrication of the guidance system and therefore low maintenance.  Its steel-reinforced polyurethane belt reduces stretch to an absolute minimum and allows the system to work accurately, reliably and consistently at high speed.

Sugden bakery systems operate by indexing the product forward through the baking process at a rate of around 22 indexes per minute, resulting in a ‘flipping’ motion of twice that rate. 

Although the HepcoMotion DLS can work perfectly well in hostile environments, in this case the machine design also protects it from contamination.  Barry Mulholland continued: “Our main purchasing criteria for the linear transmission and positioning system were simply that it should provide good accuracy and reliability. And the DLS3 has proven itself on both counts.”

He concludes: “We also continue to receive good technical back-up from HepcoMotion® and prompt service, the company does exactly what it is asked.  One of our hotplate machines with integral flipping mechanism has recently been installed for making pancakes at Allied Bakeries in Belfast and I am pleased to confirm it is working well and the customer is highly satisfied with its performance.”