Feature article

Understanding the benefits of ultrasonic food cutting 

Ultrasonic technology enhances the cut quality and consistency of foods by cleanly slicing multi-textured food products without deformation.

Ultrasonic food cutting uses high frequency vibratory knives. Applying ultrasonic vibration to a cutting tool creates a nearly frictionless cutting surface which provides many benefits, according to Bill Aurand, packaging technology manager at Sonics & Materials, Inc. 

“This low friction cutting surface can slice many food products cleanly and without smearing. Very thin slices are also possible due to the reduced resistance,” says Aurand.

Foods containing items such as vegetables, meats, nuts, berries and fruits can be cut without deformation or displacement of the internal product. The low-friction condition also reduces product sticking to the cutting tools, resulting in more consistent cuts and less down time for cleaning. And because of the advanced process control that is available in ultrasonic generators, cutting performance can be manipulated by adjusting the equipment parameters.

According to Sonics & Materials, Inc., ultrasonic food cutting systems can be used in these applications: 

• Hard and soft cheeses, including products containing pieces of nuts and fruit 

• Sandwiches, wraps, and pizzas for catering industries 

• Nougat, candy bars, granola bars and healthy snack bars 

• Semi-frozen meats and fish 

• Fresh or frozen vegetables 

• Breads or cake products 

• Ice cream and other frozen snacks 

Ultrasonic food cutting system are comprised of the following components: a generator or power source; transducer; ultrasonic booster; cutting tool or horn; and a material handling system, Aurand explains.

“Sonics and Materials, Inc. uses a using a unique wire EDM technique and subsequent stress relieving which results in tools with reduced material stress. Typical Sonics cutting horns last for years of operation before the fatigue properties of the titanium become an issue,” states Aurand. 

Proper automated machine programming and good maintenance practices can greatly extend the life of cutting horns, he states. Also, with ultrasonic technology, the sharpness of the cutting edge is not as critical as it is for mechanical knives. In fact, Aurand says many ultrasonic cutting horn designs incorporate a small flat on the cutting tip to extend tool life and enhance performance. 

The vibratory motion provides much more of the cutting effect than the sharpness of the tools, he adds. However, high frequency vibration applied to cutting tools does provide significant benefits. Primarily, ultrasonic technology enhances the cut quality and consistency, and enables the ability to cleanly slice multi-textured food products without deformation.

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