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An oven system incorporating the latest carbon infrared (CIR) heating technology from Heraeus Noblelight is helping Hitchen Foods, part of the Bakkavor Group and based in Ince, near Wigan, to meet demands for pre-browned, ready-meal Dauphinois potatoes.

The browning of ready meals can be achieved by various techniques such as steam or hot-air convection ovens or by long-wave radiant heaters and electrical panel heaters. However, all of these technologies have a large footprint and tend to have a cooking effect on the product, when only surface browning is required. They can also be difficult to maintain and are not very energy efficient.

After considering the various options, engineers at Hitchen Foods decided that medium-wave infrared heating could solve their browning problem. As a result, an infrared oven, featuring two 40kW carbon medium-wave modules and three exhaust cassettes to provide balance to the system, was installed at the Ince factory. This also offered two-zone control to allow production flexibility when required.

Key benefits of product application

  • CIR is said to be ideal for applications in the food industry, such as surface browning, as it delivers medium-wave infrared radiation, which is suitable for evaporating water from products at a very high power density.
  • The technology ensures that the surface of the food product achieves a sufficient temperature to drive away any local moisture, so that moisture is achieved without heating the body of the product.
  • Since installation, the compact oven system has proved reliable in operation, with minimum maintenance requirements.
  • The working environment around the oven has proved very comfortable and the virtual instant response of the carbon emitters means that they can be switched off quickly in the event of unexpected line stoppage.
  • There is no need for lengthy pre-heat times to ensure that the oven reaches its operating temperature before starting the line.

Heraeus Noblelight

Heraeus specialises in the production and application of high quality energy sources covering the electro-magnetic spectrum from ultraviolet to infra-red. It has over 40 years experience in infra-red technology and offers the expertise, products and systems to provide efficient and effective solutions to drying, heating and curing problems throughout industry.

Heraeus Noblelight GmbH with its headquarters in Hanau and with subsidiaries in the USA, Great Britain, France and China is one of the technology- and market-leaders in the production of specialty light sources and systems. In 2016, Heraeus Noblelight employed 707 people worldwide. The organization develops, manufactures and markets infrared and ultraviolet emitters, systems and solutions for applications in industrial manufacture, environmental protection, medicine and cosmetics, research, development and analytical measurement techniques.

In the 2016 financial year, Heraeus generated revenues without precious metals of €2.0 bn and a total revenue of €21.5 bn. With approximately 12,400 employees worldwide in more than 100 subsidiaries in 38 countries, Heraeus holds a leading position in its global markets.

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