The guide to your new baking band

It takes extensive experience to determine which belt works best with specific bakery products. Ashworth provides recommendations in terms of materials, design, and engineering. The choice will be the result of an extensive checklist and case-by-case analysis.

Ashworth has been manufacturing baking bands for 75 years, all translating into experience in selecting the right belt for each application. Here are the key points to consider when selecting a metal belt the specialist shared with us, having in mind that its approach is very much solution-based, and Ashworth tailors each belt to specifically meet the requirements of its customers.

“When determining the correct belt, materials and design that best meet our customer needs, we review the current situation, their goals and parameters,” said Dale Jeavons, Factory Representative Manager EMEA. “These are all imperative considerations for successful recommendations.” According to Jeavons, the following key factors are important when specifying the correct oven belt:

  • Be aware of the processing temperature – this is product specific
  • Consider the number of zones and the temperature of each heating zone
  • Method of heating - direct fire, infrared, forced air, etc.
  • The weight and size of the product – these parameters determine how strong the belt needs to be, allowing for maximum belt tension
  • Consider the lateral weave and wire diameter. Remember, the cross-sectional area of the belt is the strongest part of the belt.
  • Belt path
  • Belt strength required
  • Product support required
  • Condition of the product when placed on the belt
  • The ingredients used in the product. If you have a product with high-fat content, you need to choose a solid steel band rather than woven wire. Fat is harder to clean from a mesh belt. Avoid product getting stuck in the mesh – this is particularly true with chocolate chip cookies. Ashworth’s
    CB5 is perfect for savory crackers, for example.
  • The belt support structure must be adequate. This is a case-by-case consideration, and it will determine the width of the belt, its load capacity, and how the load is distributed on the belt. Take note that this is an important consideration, especially with breads.
  • Belt speed: belts can operate up to 30 meters per minute (or faster), on a straight run conveyor for an oven. 
  • Terminal transfers also have an impact on the choice of the baking belt. Consider the terminal transfer, as a rule of thumb, the closer the crimps the tighter the transfer. The longitudinal pitch of the belt has an impact on the terminal and transfer roller diameter.
  • The open area of the belt – to allow cooking gases to escape.
  • The type of drive and diameter of drive rollers or sprockets – some belts are friction-driven (the bigger the friction drive, the better for more contact). Positive (sprocket) driven belts often use smaller diameters.
  • Tracking and control devices

Jeavons explains, “We have our own Ashworth tracking device and control systems. Most ovens builders have an automatic tracking device (sensors) as part of the oven. You need to consider what type of tracking device is on the machine. When considering a control system, use control rollers to track the belt from a company that offers installation and service as part of their offering.”

The belt is part of the baking process

Taking all these into account, Ashworth can advise their client on the best belt for the application. “Of course, we have several belt types that we have supplied over the years and these belts have become industry standards. One such belt would be our CB5 Baking Band®, a band we have been manufacturing since 1964,” he illustrates. Due to its very solid construction, the CB5 belt itself is part of the cooking process, as the band retains a lot of residual heat when it passes through the oven. The product is baked using a combination of convection heat and conductive heat from the belt itself. This enables the processor to produce a very crisp product, which makes this type of belt particularly favored by biscuit and cracker manufacturers globally. The CB5 is also a very durable belt, its life span often exceeds 20 years, in Ashworth’s experience. There are many benefits to using the CB5 Baking Band® for various products. “Since the belt is so dense, it heats up quickly and maintains the heat required for good thermal transfer,” underlines Jeavons. “For example, the heat from the belt combined with ambient air results in a nice crispy cracker.”

According to Jeavons, other belt types that Ashworth has had huge success with are its B66 (balanced) and U66 (unilateral) weaves. “In the EU, you can use those belts for any biscuit product. Ashworth’s balanced and unilateral weave belts were developed specifically for the customer who uses the Z47 belt—apart from those products that consist of high amounts of oil or fat,” he notes. These bands are specifically designed to replace the Z47 type belt, and have several advantages:

  • Straighter running when using the balanced construction
  • Lower tension is required to drive the belt
  • Easier to repair compared to Z47, meaning less downtime
  • Smaller terminal rollers for better transfers
  • Shorter lead time in many cases
  • Inherently stronger construction, meaning longer belt life

The key in in the installation

As with any type of high-temperature band, correct installation is critical to ensure a long and successful operation of the oven and conveyor belt. The optimal installation starts with an assessment on location: “One of the most common installation problems that we’ve come across after visiting a new customer is that the previous installer did not ensure that the terminal rollers were parallel to each other,” said Jeavons. “This is a critical mistake! It’s important to understand that one side of the belt can stretch during installation, which means it is no longer even. Our customers rely on our factory service experts because it is very easy to ruin the belt during installation. Once the stretch occurs you cannot correct it; a whole new belt is required. That one mistake can be very costly.”

This is particularly true with wire mesh belts, which are made using annealed wire. “If the band has uneven forces imparted during the installation, the belt can be damaged and will never operate correctly, which can lead to the belt requiring premature replacement – along with all the other associated costs,” according to Jeavons.

Ashworth offers a package available to all customers, based on three fundamental points:

  1. The belts are tested for lateral band waver during the manufacturing process. Ashworth works within clearly defined tolerances; belts are tested and are guaranteed to run straight when leaving the factory.
  2. Ashworth offers a full installation service for all its oven bands with experienced service engineers.
  3. Ashworth’s proprietary control systems can be fitted to most ovens, to help ensure that the belt is not damaged, even when things go wrong in the oven.

“Each product and oven are unique, which we recognize when we engineer an individual solution for each,” concludes Jeavons.

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