More and more businesses nowadays that are involved in the food manufacturing industry are showing keen interest in employing the water jet cutting process to become part of their production runs. While the technology itself is not considered as relatively new within the food production and manufacturing sector, the growing trend for this now seems to stem from the following 3 areas of concern:
- The need to have more level of control over a product.
- The reduction of production costs.
- Flexibility in cutting random food shapes.
If you are not aware of what this system of cutting is all about, the working principle behind it is the use of a very high-pressure fine jet of water to create the “indestructible blade”. Water used for food cutting and processing applications should be purest and most clean whereas waterjet cutting used in the metal fabrication and machining industries may also involve the use of abrasive materials to help further intensify the waterjet machine’s cutting power and double its cutting speed.
A nozzle for a waterjet cutter can be installed on a servo drive. You can link this to a vision system to make way for accurate product cutting without the need for a human hand guide or touch. There is also a growing demand for various food product offerings to be presented in a variety of shapes, most often in seasonal shapes.
The same servo technology and vision can be taken advantage of to design a cut-out plan and carry out the same. Another advantage of waterjet technology of cutting over traditional blade cutting is the element of cost savings with respect to the change-over of the product. This will not necessarily involve the changing of the physical blade between products. The production runs for different market offerings can easily become seamless, saving your team cleaning costs and downtime.
Waterjet Cutting is very Promising for Produce Items
Even if the waterjet technology has been around for a couple of decades now, many people are still not aware of what it is or how it can work in the farm produce industry. Waterjet cutting in the farm produce industry is where the stainless steel water jet cutting used to be, some 25 years ago, but right this very moment this sector now is on its learning curve.
Research on waterjet technology is further increasing our knowledge base about it. This includes a very recent study headed by the University of California Davis. The project centered around the comparison of waterjet performance against traditional material cutting methods (stainless steel knives) in cutting lettuce. The study eventually showed some cosmetic defects on the cut surface, red discoloration and dehydration indicated by whitening of the affected cut area.
Several major mechanical factors will help us determine the level of quality of a waterjet cut. This would include the conveyor speed, nozzle, and water pressure. This team of researchers from UC Davis took time to analyze these factors in two of their research tests comparing the traditional method of cutting with the use of reconditioned blade against a waterjet system.
Two different types of nozzles for waterjet are used in one of these tests and they were compared, food-grade nozzles which are extremely sharp and standard. The sharp nozzle comes with special characteristics designed for its continuous improvement on cutting produce. Now as for the fuzzy nozzle, it is the standard nozzle that everybody has, an off-the-shelf type.
The study only validated what everybody was expecting it to do. It proved that the sharp nozzle is the better alternative, the better choice to have for the food industry.
The test made use of very high-quality romaine lettuce. It was cut using four different treatments, sharp knives, sharp nozzles, fuzzy nozzles, and dull knives. The first set of cuts was stored inside a modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) at 4.4° C or 40° F . As for the second set, they packed it in air, then stored at 2.5° C or 36.5° F.
After the lapse of 18 days, the use of sharp nozzle in the water jet cutting process stood out because it showed itself, proved that it is by far the best cutting treatment since the romaine lettuce it has cut displayed less red discoloration as opposed to what the new blade has cut.