Kneading machines that feel the dough

Innovation project: Intelligent kneading process

Machines for producing bread dough or similar products currently use a kneading bowl and dough hook to work the flour, water and other ingredients. To ensure that these are properly mixed for optimum quality, it has previously been necessary to continuously check the state of the dough by hand. Kneading machines therefore cannot be operated without the expertise of trained bakers. There is a particular shortage of these in developing countries, which are an important market for kneading machines due to the increasing demand for baked goods. To make the kneading process more efficient and the machines easier to use, the dough hook must be able to autonomously adapt to the state of the dough, requiring expert knowledge to be integrated in the machine.

The aims of the research project are therefore to redesign the dough hook and to make the kneading process self-optimizing. To do so, it is necessary to create the mechanical and technical conditions for the machine to feel and knead the dough like a baker.

This involves first analyzing and simulating the dough hook and kneading process, before developing sensors that continuously determine the state of the dough during kneading. The expertise of experienced bakers regarding different types of dough is also compiled and used in an intelligent control system for the machine. Interaction between the sensors and control system aims to allow the dough hook to autonomously adapt to the state of the dough. The project draws on the results of cross-sectional projects in systems engineering, self-optimization, human-machine interaction and energy efficiency. The results are validated using a prototype before being implemented in a kneading machine.

By simplifying kneading machines so that they can be operated even by personnel without baking expertise, the project will allow different types of dough to be produced at optimum quality in the future while making efficient use of manpower and resources. In light of the increasing global demand for baked goods, particularly in developing and newly industrialized countries, intelligent kneading machines are predicted to have a great deal of market potential. The new technology offers particular benefits for artisanal bakeries by helping to increase their competitiveness. The project results can be transferred to other production systems in the food industry and medical technology.

Project duration
01 January 2013 - 30 June 2015