Pasta Technologies Group: solutions for sheet pasta ready-to-eat meals24 October 2013
Versatile, efficient, reliable: the production lines for ready-to-eat meals containing sheet pasta designed and manufactured by Pasta Technologies Group.
by Pasta Technologies Group
A market extremely cognizant of the real needs of today’s consumer has registered in recent years growing demand for ready-to-eat meals that must have characteristics the end user can easily perceive and appreciate. First and foremost, the extreme practicality of being able to prepare quickly in the oven or microwave a dish that is complete, not only nutritionally but also one that is delicious and full of flavour.
This requires a complete production line, one that can package the pre-cooked and sauced pasta in a serving tray or pouch. A high-output line which manufacturers require have an elevated level of automation in order to safely handle all processing phases using a limited number of employees.
The PTG company headquartered in Onara di Tombolo (Padua, Italy) has been successful in the ready-to-eat meal sector, offering automatic and semi-automatic systems with high levels of reliability and food safety and hygiene during food processing.
From the initial phases of the process involving the transport and dosing of ingredients (semolina and flours), PTG offers specific solutions with a range of volumetric or drop-weigher dosers to choose from to guarantee dough quality that remains constant every time. In addition, the lines incorporating egg, water and micro-ingredients are designed to precisely dose the percentage of these centrifugated ingredients and include state-of-the-art detection devices to monitor working conditions such as output, pressure and temperature.
The pasta sheets created from the dough must be resistant yet elastic so that they can be processed in a continuous and regular way as part of the mass production process which includes (in the case of cannelloni) that the pasta be shaped and rolled up. The mechanics and design of the MA series kneading machines have been studied down to the smallest detail in order to avoid heat damage and mechanical stress as the dough is being processed. The dough preparation phase has always been considered the most critical of the entire production process because this is when the gluten protein network is formed, determining the resilience and texture of the pasta sheet.
Once the sheet has been given the correct shape and thickness by passing through the extruder or laminator, the sheet is cooked in a multi-layer CC series cooker where a series of overlapping belts immersed in water keeps the sheet moving for the time required to cook it.
PTG’s accumulated experience can be seen in its in-line cooking systems which allow users to vary the amount of time the sheet is immersed in water and, as a result, the actual cooking time—all in a compact sized piece of equipment. Adding salt to the cooking water is managed using an independent circuit that guarantees the correct level of saltiness for a given recipe, while the sensor that monitors the percentage of starch in the cooking water controls automatic topping-up to keep the cooking water constantly clean. The addition of some of the rinse water (to wash the sheet once it is cooked) and the monitoring devices described above have been designed to limit energy consumption and avoid extended downtime of the equipment to empty and sanitize the entire cooker, while also guaranteeing a high-quality sheet.
The lines are designed to accept the integration of an automatic traying system with a station for lasagna pasta sheet positioning and dosing of sauce and other condiments, or a manual system with operator for the less-expensive lines.
Completing the lasagna line is a system for in-line shaping, filling, cutting to size and positioning of filled cannelloni in serving trays. The system comes with a lobe pump for continuous filling of the shaped pasta sheet with various types of filling and either a mechanical or ultrasound cutting system.
Below are some of the special features of the ready-to-eat meal lines offered by PTG.
Production and versatility
The continuous production lines are extremely versatile and allow for rapid size change of cut sheet pasta and recipe change, with customizable technologies to meet the requirements of modern mass production calling for a continuous process with automated phases.
Automatic and semi-automatic lines
The lines are managed using programmable logic to monitor the main process parameters during all production phases and, if necessary, modify them to obtain the desired operating conditions. A clear, user-friendly graphic interface provides practical monitoring of these parameters and processing conditions in order to be able to intervene in emergency or warning situations. The state-of-the-art software utilized to manage the line can interface with the client’s own system to upload and download data and information. For example, upload the daily production schedule and order of job files, and download the production data report, graphics of process parameters, production and alarm log archive, etc. Traceability of job lots allows for unique identification of the ready-to-eat meal prepared and packaged, generated at the end of the production cycle, and be able to trace its progress throughout the entire production process.
Line hygiene and safety
While fully respecting the strictest international standards for food safety and hygiene, special attention has been paid to the preliminary design of the system to avoid inaccessible areas where residue can accumulate and limit as much as possible the risk of product contamination from outside sources. The processing and transport equipment is made entirely of certified stainless steel and is built to be sanitized using high-pressure water and detergents. Also of note the special construction criteria designed to allow access to the inner areas of the equipment to facilitate cleaning. And finally, the company’s R&D department has integrated the latest technologies and solutions available on the market to create fully CIP equipment, the goal being to limit as much as possible manual operations during cleaning.
The equipment is built to guarantee high-level productivity with maintenance time and operations reduced to a minimum. This translates into a significant reduction in personnel and ordinary and extraordinary maintenance costs.
Integration means synergy with reliable, recognized technical partners to offer clients complete and safe turnkey systems, from the arrival of ingredients to final modified atmosphere packaging or freezing of the product.
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