Ultrasonic cutters

Another problem all us lovers of sandwiches face. You’ve lovingly made the best sandwich ever seen in your entire lives. The ham to cheese ratio is spot on. The lettuce is crisp, the tomatoes juicy. All that’s left to do now is to cut it in half – triangles or rectangles, the debate wages on-  so that  it can be devoured.

Ham and cheese

 

You grab the bread knife, start cutting and…Oh….ok harder than you thought…is this knife blunt?  Just have to use more force here…Oh god, the bread is too soft, it’s ripping apart! The ham is coming out! This is a disaster!

Before your eyes, that thing of beauty you just created now looks like the lone survivor of a bomb attack. You eat it anyway, but it’s just not as satisfying as it should have been. It’s acceptable to tear up slightly in such a situation, right?

Up and down the country, we the British consumers are expecting to be able to grab a perfectly cut, deliciously looking sandwich when we’re out and about. Sandwiches that fall apart during the cutting process is simply not a problem the sandwich producers can afford when they’re making thousands a day.

Jamie Oliver Sandwich from BootsWhat would Jamie say if his sandwiches were falling apart as they were on the production line? Not, “pukka” that’s for sure.

 

 How do they stop it from happening?

 

Great Question! They use an out of this world ultrasonic cutters of course!

 

What the hell does that mean?

 

Honestly…

 

Titanium blades are hooked up to a generator and transducer. When powered up, the ultrasonic cutter blade vibrate at around 20Khz a second. That is so fast you can’t even see it with the naked eye. They make a gentle humming noise and when you touch them (obviously not the sharp end unless you wanna lose a finger!), they feel like flowing water.

It was only recently that I saw an ultrasonic cutter in action. Before then I thought that the blade moved up and down and cut the sandwich as it passed underneath but that isn’t actually what happens. The blade is stationary and the sandwich comes to it. When the sandwich makes contact with the blade, it cuts even the softest bread with ease, not leaving a single crumb and keeps all fillings intact.

Trust me on this one guys, it’s pretty impressive to see.

But hold up, how does it always cut the sandwich in the right spot?

You’re on fire with the questions! Whilst there is often a person hired to ensure the bread is in the right position on the cutter (dullest job ever I’m sure), top of the line machines come with some nifty add-ons called High Speed Aligners. These things are very clever. They detect the bread as it approaches the blade and use their special fingers to delicately position the sandwich into the perfect spot. If the top slice of bread wasn’t sitting perfectly, it will be now, all with out disturbing the toppings and at lightening speed.

So how many sandwiches can it cut?

At full speed, machines can cut up to 60 single stacked sandwiches a minute. That’s 3,600 an hour and on an average 12 hour shift, that is up to 43,200. Bit overwhelming isn’t it. Quality machines also come with the option of belt adjustment. Doesn’t sound all that important I know but it actually means that sandwiches can be stacked on top of each other. Two sandwiches being cut at once guys! Whilst the machine does have to go slower for a double stack, that’s still an impressive amount of sandwiches being churned out each day.

 What about a different shaped cut?

Believe it or not, there are trends in sandwich cuts. Lately, “posher” sandwiches like a Tesco’s Finest smoked salmon comes horizontally cut (i.e. rectangles). I’m not too sure why this is deemed better than triangular, that debate is still waging on, but Tesco apparently think it is. I’m still making up my mind. Cutting sandwiches this way isn’t all that hard. All you do is position the bread at a different angle, the ultrasonic cutter slices through it and two perfect rectangles exit are produced.

 

You may also have noticed that store bought party platters are becoming increasingly popular. Nowadays, we simply don’t have the time to put together a spread so impressive that even stuck up Linda would be impressed by, along with everything else the perfect hostess has to arrange. Instead we can pop down to M&S or Sainsbury’s and get some delightful triangle sandwiches before you can say “take that Linda.”deluxesandwichplatter_lrg

I’m sure you’re probably thinking that it takes two machines  to cut one sandwich into four little triangles, one for each diagonal cut. Well, you’re wrong. SO wrong. It’s called a quartering cutter you fool!

Quartering cutters are the latest in ultrasonic cutting, and any automated production line worth talking about includes one of these bad boys.

As with a regular ultrasonic cutter, the first diagonal cut is made by a stationary blade. Next, the bread passes through a second set of High Speed Aligners, making sure everything is in the correct position, before a second moving blade travels with, and cuts the sandwich as it moves down the conveyor. The end result is four perfect triangular sandwiches.

Quartering cutters do not operate as fast as regular ultrasonic cutters, averaging about 36 sandwiches a minute, you can’t rush perfection!

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Bread buttering machine

 

 

You know when you’re buttering bread, and the butter is too hard and the bread is too soft so it doesn’t spread right and it’s staying in lumps, and no matter how hard you try to get an even coverage, you only end up with holey, broken up bread? SO annoying isn’t it.

Badly buttered bread

This is not the kind of problem you want to be having when you are making hundreds of sandwiches a day.

Ain't nobody got time for that buttering machine Am I right?

 

Thankfully, clever people came up with a brilliant machine that solves this issue and saves a hell of a lot of time.

I am of course talking about a Buttering machine!

 

Sandwich buttering machines can be standalone -This means that there is no collator (conveyor) attached to it. The bread is fed on to the machine from one conveyor, is buttered and immediately exits straight off onto another. The machine is controlled by simple start/stop buttons.

Alternatively, they can be attached to a collator – This means there is a small conveyor with a butterer attached to it at the end. The benefit of this is that plenty of bread can be loaded on to the conveyor and as one piece moves off, another is added. It gives more control over the production process than a standalone butterer, with some being controlled by special programmes and touch screen technology.

Even more exciting though is that you can get twin lane buttering machines – that equals two pieces of bread buttered AT THE SAME TIME! You can also programme them to butterer alternate slices of bread so that butter is only on the bottom slice!

That does sound cool, how do they work?

 I like your enthusiasm.

So, here we go.

To put it simply, a special type of butter, one that’s been whipped and aerated, is put into the top of the machine, called the butter box. Special gears churn it up to keep it soft. Some UK sandwich machinery manufacturers even make butter boxes that are heated! Good bye lumpy butter! When a piece of bread is detected passing under the butter box, a scraper (acting as the knife we’d use at home) deposits the perfect amount of butter onto the slice of bread. The bread then moves off for the filling to be added, have another slice of bread placed on top, cut, shoved into a box and shipped off to your nearest store.

If only we could all have a butter spreading machine in our own lives. Our sandwiches would never be the same again.

 

Buttered bread

Perfection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s get quizzical

Who doesn’t love a quiz? Don’t all rush to answer at once now

Sandwich machinery – an overview

Ok guys, this is a nice gentle introduction into the world of sandwich machinery before we start focusing in detail on a different machine each week.

The aim of all this is to inform the wider public on the various types of sandwich machines that are available here in the UK. Why? Well why not?

Seriously though, why?

Well have you not ever wondered how that sandwich you buy in Tesco or boots for lunch is made? Or the difference between Sainsbury’s own and that fancy new Jamie Oliver one?

Not really, no.

Well tough, I’m telling you anyway.

First an answer to a question I’m sure you’re all asking, isn’t my sandwich made by hand? Er NO!

From start to finish your humble sandwich passes through a long line of sandwich machinery which includes bread butterers, cutters, depositors, tomato slicers, crushers and more. Together, these machines make up an automated sandwich assembly line.

Mind blown? I thought so.

The reason for all these different machines is to ensure a level of consistency that you, the buyer, expects every time you buy a sandwich from a shop. It also cuts costs, saves time and means less people need to be hired to make sure that slice of bread is facing the right way as it travels down the production line. The wonders of automated machinery!

There are a number of companies that manufacture sandwich machinery here in the UK. You may be aware that I actually work for one. Not that I’ll be name dropping, that isn’t what this is about.

These UK manufactures need a lot of support from the sandwich producers with the markets here currently being saturated with American rivals and their inferior designs.

 

Like I said, over the next few weeks I will be going into a bit more detail about the various machines and how they are used in the sandwich production industry and hopefully showing British manufactures are at the cutting edge of innovation in this field. Get ready for a thrilling ride.