Industry 4.0: The intelligent mixer

WP Kemper conducted extensive research in cooperation with scientists of Paderborn University and the Bielefeld Technical College as part of the “It´s OWL” technology cluster over a period of three years. The project aimed at the development of an intelligent mixer that is able to sense the consistency of the dough just like a baker dies, and automatically mixes the dough in an optimal manner. Now the prototype is ready.

Good or bad dough? During the machine mixing process, the available time span to arrive at a decision is 10 to 20 seconds. If the right instant of time is missed, the dough is overmixed. Experienced bakers can tell the right consistency by taking a small sample. Traditional expert knowledge, however, becomes increasingly scarce worldwide. The number of artisan businesses is decreasing rapidly in Germany, and there is a shortage of young professionals for the future. In African and South American emerging markets, the profession of a baker is still not a recognized occupation requiring formal training, despite the growing demand for baked goods.

An intelligent machine mixing solution now undertakes to compensate the lack of human know-how. The idea was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Research with a six-digit amount of funding. WP Kemper assumed 70 % of the project costs of one million euros. The innovation integrates the required expert know-how in a mixer. To achieve this, it is equipped with twelve sensors to measure torques, temperature and the forces produced on the dough hook, and to continuously determine the condition of the dough. In conjunction with an intelligent control system, the mixing process is optimally adapted to the current condition of the dough, and stopped at just the right instant. The prototype can process 50 to 80 kg of wheat dough.

This solution may be interesting for industrial enterprises as well in the distant future. A fully digitized mixing process would render laboratory analyses of dough samples and readjustment of machines, as they are common today, a thing of the past. In the light of Industry 4.0, the data from the mixing process could also be leveraged in a factory with a networked production workflow that ranges from raw materials supply through to end customer logistics.   

When the prototype will be ready for series production and launched onto the market still needs to be determined.

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