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How to Know When an Agitator is Failing

In some cases, there is a particular event that causes agitator damage such as a shovel or fork falling into a piece of processing equipment.  However, there are several other signs that determine when an agitator is failing:

  • The agitator starts developing cracks in the pipe or welds.
  • The agitator starts rubbing the tub side wall.

Here are some causes of agitator damage:

  • The drive end motor is not shimmed properly.
  • There is a bad bearing on idle side may create flexing.
  • Long term issues may be caused by a tool dropping into the tub.
  • The product is being over chilled. It is wrapping over paddles, the temperature probes are not functional, and the CO2 or Nitro is turned off.

Agitators are part of Mixers, Mixer-Cookers, and ThermaBlend Cookers.  This equipment is the most important part of the processing line and must be maintained for maximum uptime.  Other equipment, such as Metering Screws with Hoppers have leveling ribbons that may also need to be included in the list for agitator maintenance.

Currently, there is a 3-to-6-month lead time for a new agitator.  In some cases, agitator repairs can be made at the customer site.  Mepaco Services may be able to use a sleeve or secure welds to get the machine back up and running.  Sometimes, it is possible to make repairs for temporary production while the new agitator is put on order.

Contact Parts and Service at 920-356-9900 for more information.


When to Leverage Dual Zones in Thermal Jackets for Food Processing

There are various methods to heat and cool food product in cooking equipment. The application will dictate the best combination of methods and configurations ranging from stay-bolt or dimple jacket designs, to injected steam and thermal screw heating options.  On equipment solutions that use a heating jacket, a dual zone design may add versatility to operations.

Heating zones can be engineered for two separate zones that heat or cool independently.

The first chamber forms the bottom of the cooker tub to the centerline of the agitator. This zone has independent controls and can be used for small batches. The upper chamber can be activated to heat when the batch size and application demand.

The best-use application for dual zones are test market runs, small recipe variations, and staged cooking. Zoned heating jackets provide savings in time, energy, and cost for partial batch production. Depending on the application, significant efficiencies can also be realized by starting the batch in the first zone and adding the second zone to finish the batch.

The advantage of dual zones heating jackets is versatility of batch cooking processes and significant savings in energy costs.

The tenured sales and engineering teams in the Mepaco group are driven and dedicated to solving cooking and processing problems for industrial food processing customers. 


Challenges Solved by Application Engineered Solutions and Agitator Design

The Mepaco team engineers equipment and systems specific to the processing application in each thermal processing project.  In mixing and blending operations, application engineering is especially important because product quality and efficiencies are at stake. The food product, viscosity, texture, cycle times, and thermal processing technology including agitator designs are considered in the best cooking equipment solution. Here are a few examples of challenges that were solved by cooking solutions customized to the processing application.

Challenge: A mega prepared foods processor needed to accumulate flowable product after the cooking cycle, while waiting for downstream operations.

Solution: Mepaco engineered heated Buffering Mixers which kept the particulates in various densities in suspension until downstream operations signaled for more product. A single agitator with an inner/outer ribbon was utilized to meet the products' homogeneous state required for quality targets for downstream filling operations.

Challenge: A chicken processor required a scaled tempering, tenderizing, cooking, and shredding solution to replace manual processes.

Solution: Mepaco provided a 75 gallon double agitated ThermaBlend Cooker with ribbon agitators that performed well in each processing stage.  The cooker was controlled to temper the meat, massage, tenderize, cook, shred, and finally blend with a thickening sauce.  All five processes were completed in the ThermBlend Cooker solution, removing manual operations.

Challenge:  A fruit pie filling manufacturer wanted to streamline pie filling cooking and blending operations while maintaining product integrity.

Solution:  Mepaco engineered a ThermaBlend Cooker that cooked and blended the fruit, then continued cooking when the sauce compound was added, then cooled the filling within a short cycle to maintain product integrity and increase efficiency. The agitator design was a single shaft with dual paddles and a scraper system to prevent product burn-on during the cooking cycle, and blended ingredients with minimal shear.

CLICK HERE for a video introduction to the ThermaBlend Cooker.

 


Why Agitator Solutions are Important to Quality and Throughput in Cooking Operations

The type and viscosity of food product, thermal processing technology, desired texture, and cooking/processing cycle times are considered when specifying the agitator solution. Primary consideration for mixing or blending agitator solution begins with the ability for the food product to self-level. Agitator configurations also include scrapers with indirect cooking applications.

In some applications, the agitator itself may not significantly affect throughput improvement, but the overall solution does. The driving forces for throughput in batch processing is cycle times, loading, and discharging.

However, the wrong agitator solution will not mix or blend the product well. Solids need to be homogeneous and remain intact during processing operations. Further, the product must remain in a mixed state throughout the process and discharge operations.

During project discussions, Mepaco’s application team defines mixing as adding ingredients for the correct mix and consistency, while blending provides a change of the food product's properties.

The thermal processing solution is customized to the specific application. The PLC is programmed to include agitator speeds, pauses, and direction changes for the desired results. Further, the Mixer or Blender equipment will be sized for the batch volume required along with options (vacuum, cooling, searing, caramelizing) to meet the batch cycle times, quality and throughput goals for the processing solution.

Visit Mixers or Visit Cookers


Ask the Experts-At Process Expo-The ThermaBlend Cooker

 

This ThermaBlend Cooker is available for customer on-site testing and we are glad to have it on display at Process Expo.

In the video, Tom Hoffmann takes you on a tour of the features of this machine in our "Ask the Expert" video series that we are posting daily at Process Expo.

Be sure to scroll through our blog for other "Ask the Expert" videos from Process Expo 2019.


Comparing Kettle Cooking to ThermaBlend Cooking

Introducing our newest video: Comparing Kettle Cooking to the ThermaBlend Cooking Process. This video explains the heat transfer differences between a traditional kettle cooker and the ThermaBlend.  It also highlights some of the capabilities of the cooker that make it such a versatile solution for large batch cooking, such as:

  • Efficient agitators and patented scraper system that minimizes burn-on
  • Unique agitator designs provide quick homogeneous blending while minimizing shear
  • Direct steam injection and indirect heating customized to the application
  • Options for vacuum cooking and cooling to reduce process time

Learn more about the ThermaBlend Industrial Cooker here!

 



Dual Cook System Solves Flexibility for Production Scenarios

DUAL COOK SYSTEM SOLVES PRODUCTION FLEXIBILITY & CAPACITY

THE CHALLEGE
A multi-recipe prepared foods manufacture required an increase in cooking production and the flexibility to add more varieties of soups and sauces to their product offerings.  The application required cooking and blending of viscous food product with limitations in available floor space.

THE SOLUTION
The solution, provided by Mepaco, was a side-by-side ThermaBlend cooking system, sharing a maintenance and sanitation platform. This system utilizes minimal footprint and allows two different batches or doubling of batches.

THE EQUIPMENT

Column Dumper Two column dumpers are used to add ingredients to two ThermaBlend cookers.  The Mepaco Column Dumper offers a very heavy-duty design and are engineered for ease of maintenance.  Mepaco often makes modifications depending on the application such as column heights, dump angles to 60 degrees, dumper capacity, extended chutes, and stainless upgrade kit.

ThermaBlend Cooker In the system, there are two ThermaBlend Cookers, that support quick batch turns in their multi-recipe production needs.  A versatile unit, these cookers are capable of cooking, searing, caramelizing, sautéing and blending. ThermaBlend Cookers are designed for large scale operations, featuring:

  • A wrap-around steam jackets providing large heating surfaces for optimal heat transfer
  • Application-specific agitator designs for quick homogeneous blending, while minimizing shear
  • A bi-directional scraper system that aids in processing efficiency
  • Customization that drives production goals including vacuum and cooling

Buffering Mixer – The batches are discharged into a heated Buffering Mixer that maintains product temperature and consistency until required by downstream operations.

The Mepaco team of long-standing technical sales managers, engineers and project leaders work with customer teams on solving the best solution that fits the application and production goals. Our equipment and systems uphold increased yield performance, optimal designs for ease of maintenance and operation, single-source manufacturing capabilities, the highest sanitary equipment finishes available and vigilant compliance of food safety criteria.


Steam Options on ThermablendTM Cookers Designed to Suit Different Applications

The above illustration shows the direct and indirect steam capabilities that exist with both the single and double agitated ThermaBlend™ batch cookers.

In the process of indirect steam heating, steam is injected into the ASME thermal outer jacket and heats the product through conduction. Since there is no added moisture to the product, the potential exists for product burn-on. Both the single agitated and double agitated ThermaBlend™ cookers feature Mepaco’s spring-loaded scraper system. By eliminating burned on product, the patented scraper system allows maximum heat transfer and allows for more effective sanitation. Applications for indirect steam heating include: stews, sauteed vegetables, scrambled eggs, granola, ground beef and other types of food products where additional moisture is not desired. The indirect steam cooking option can also provide caramelization if required for the application.

Thermablend™ cookers also have a direct steam option. When additional moisture is required for the product, steam is modulated and added to the food product. Advantages of direct steam cooking include reduced batch cooking times and reduced burn-on. Application examples include: moist pet food, thick sauces and soups. Direct steam is often used when the product is more viscous or has heavy particulates.

Direct, indirect or both steam heating techniques can be used in Thermablend™ cookers. Utilizing both indirect and direct steam options will substantially increase batch cycle cooking efficiencies. Viscosity and make-up of food product, processing and production requirements dictate which type of Thermablend™ and agitator option is best utilized for the application.

Follow this blog for upcoming articles on Thermal Screws, and other thermal processing solutions from Mepaco.


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