Waterjet cutting is widely used in food production and processing. Small- to medium-size bakeries have shied away from using this technology due to its price, but as they learn the many benefits, more of them are turning to waterjet cutting.
It seems like science fiction that a jet of water can cut metal, but it’s been over 60 years since this technology first came into use. Today it is used in wide variety cutting applications for metal and other hard materials. But waterjet cutting has actually sort of come full circle.
The original use, back in the 1960s, was to cut soft materials, like paper. Engineers built on the basic concept to create jets able to cut ever-harder materials, including metal alloys. More recently, though, waterjet designers focused their attention again on softer materials, including food products.
One example of this technology is the Xilix Spectrum Series by Shape Process Automation waterjet cutting machine for the food-processing industry. While it’s proved especially useful in cutting baked goods, it has also been put to use cutting meat, fish, candy, pizza, and fresh produce.
Most small- to medium-size bakeries don’t even think about the possibility of adding waterjet cutting to their operations. They look at the price tag and figure they could never afford the cost. But when they look a little closer, and add up all the benefits, more and more bakers realize that waterjet cutting just might make sense.
1. Reduced product damage
The most-common method of cutting is a blade of some sort, typically a knife or guillotine cutter. This method usually provides good, clean cuts, depending on the texture of the product and sharpness of the knife. But with softer pastries, it can compress edges and sometimes damage the product. The waterjet, using only very high-pressure pure water, makes an absolutely clean cut the width of a human hair, with no compression, damage or wetting of the product.
2. More-precise control
Waterjets offer incredibly precise control. With manual cutting methods, not even your best employee can match the repeatability and accuracy of a waterjet. Considering how hard it is to find reliable, skilled help, this is a special problem today. And more-precise cutting means more consistency, with higher yields and reduced waste.
3. Less maintenance
Even cutting the softest products, knives and blades need to be kept sharp. That usually means having multiple blades on hand, and taking the time to swap them out for sharpening. With waterjets, there’s no downtime related to blade maintenance.
Compared to blade-cutting methods, waterjets are perfectly pristine. There are less crumbs or other product debris to clean up. And there is no mulching or buildup of product debris that can create problems and add to your cleaning time.
4. Higher productivity
Waterjet cutting productivity is impressive, with a typical cutting speed of about 750 inches per minute (317.5mm/sec). If that’s not fast enough, cutters can be configured with multiple nozzles that can double or triple the throughput.
The Xilix Spectrum has a standard cutting area of 18” x 26” (450mm x 660mm), the size of a typical sheetcake, but customized configurations can be created to meet other size requirements. Thy system is designed to cut products up to 5 inches thick, but waterjet can be configured to cut 12 inches or more.
5. Increased safety
Blade-cutting systems are plagued by cross contamination, requiring cleaning between product changes. Waterjet cutting has no cross contamination, further decreasing maintenance time. The Xilix Spectrum system maintains a totally sanitary environment and is NSF Certified. Waterjets also eliminate the possibility of operator injury. Cuts and lacerations are almost inevitable when using blades. These injuries are impossible with waterjet cutting.
Consumer safety is further increased because there’s no chance of metal finding its way into your products. That also means that you don’t need metal-detection equipment.
Waterjet programming with the Xilix Spectrum technology is incredibly simple. For sheet products, you simply enter the width and length of the as-baked product, then select the size of the desired cut pieces.
For bakers who create shaped products, waterjet cutting offers near unlimited, and totally repeatable, creativity. You can even upload and custom shapes to the device, creating a library that can be instantly recalled.
Check out the demo video below to see the Xilix Spectrum in action.
Considering the cost
The initial cost of waterjet cutting deters many people from considering a purchase. But add up all the cost savings realized by automating your cutting with a waterjet, including increased employee productivity and decreased maintenance, parts (blades), and product damage/waste. Add in the less-tangible benefits, like improved product and employee safety, and increased consistency and creativity, and the idea of a waterjet in your operations may become much more logical.
As every employer knows, manpower has never been more of an issue than it is today. Waterjet cutting automates a routine, time-consuming activity, reducing your labor needs.
Showing off its potential
Attendees at the recent IBIE Expo got to see the Xilix Spectrum in action. They saw the simple, clean, repeatable, accurate cutting capability that only a waterjet can offer. Some attendees put the Xilix Spectrum to the test, bringing their products to the booth to see how easy it would be to program and how well it would perform. They came away impressed. You can have the same opportunity at the upcoming Pack Expo in the KMT Waterjet booth.
If you’re interested in learning how the Xilix Spectrum waterjet might work in your bakery or to schedule a demo get in touch with one of our experts by filling out the contact form at the top of our website.