23 Processing Equipment Considerations

It is time to figure out how to make your product on a large scale!

The goal is to think about the process which includes the function of each step (why is the step in the process and how does it affect the ingredients) and what equipment is needed to perform that function. Each time equipment is scaled to a different size (kitchen equipment, lab equipment, pilot plant equipment, plant equipment), the equipment will function slightly differently, which can have small or large effects on the finished product. These effects can be due to small differences in how the equipment works, how full the equipment is, differences in volume to surface area ratios, and more. It is best to be prepared for changes and adjustments when scaling up equipment.

The core thought process when updating the flow diagram and choosing equipment should be the function of the processing steps.

Start with the flow diagram from Formulation and update for the industrialized formula.

To keep the functionality of each step in mind, start with the flow diagram from the Formulation stage. Update the flow diagram once the formulation is converted to industrial ingredients (this may need to be updated more than once while working through other processing steps). These updates may be minimal or considerable depending on the ingredient changes (wet ingredients to dry ingredients, real ingredients to flavors, etc.). See the Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance Preventative Controls for Human Food manual page A3-5 for a flow diagram example.

Research large processing equipment for an ideal plant processing line.

You will be in charge of designing your processing line on a large plant scale. This may look similar to the small-scale equipment, just with larger pieces of equipment, or it may look considerably different based on small equipment available to you and changes encountered when converting to a continuous process (as opposed to a batch process).

Method/Steps: Design a processing line on a plant scale.

  • Use the functions of the processing steps to choose large-scale processing equipment for an ideal plant processing line.
  • Use processing equipment references, textbooks, and the Common Types of Food Processing Equipment list shown below to start.
  • Then look at other processing equipment images and videos online (How It’s Made videos are very helpful) to find specialty equipment.
  • If a new piece of equipment is needed to make your product (most commonly needed for shaping or molding), sketch an image of the needed equipment or find a similar piece of equipment and describe how it would be modified for your process.
  • Include conveyor belts and holding tanks as much as possible.
  • End with filling and packaging equipment. Consider the filling speed and precision of the chosen equipment.

Common Types of Food Processing Equipment

Size Reduction

  • Family of equipment that specializes in reducing fibrous roots, fruits, cooked meats, dry cheese, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and more into smaller sizes for further processing.
  • Common types:
    1. Angle disintegrators
    2. Screw-fed disintegrators
    3. Pump fed disintegrators
    4. Crushers
    5. Shredders
    6. Mills
    7. Grinders


  • Process of taking a nearly finished product and making it into the desired shape
  • Common types
    1. Dough Sheeter
    2. Bread Molder
    3. Confectionary Molder
    4. Enrobing Machine


  • Process that forces food through a small opening called a die to form and shape the materials into a desired shape
  • Combines multiple food processing steps into one
  • Common types
    1. Single Screw Extruder
    2. Twin Screw Extruder
    3. Pasta Extruder
    4. Co-extruder


  • Operation that reduced the average particle size and increases the consistency of semi-solid and liquid food matter
  • Common types
    1. High-Pressure Homogenizer
    2. Sonolator
    3. Colloid Mill
    4. High Shear Mixer


  • Processing step that combines and disperses two or more components into one another to achieve and maintain a uniform mixture and/or an alteration to the functional or aesthetic qualities of the food product
  • Common types
    1. Agitation Tanks
    2. Paddle Mixers
    3. Drum Blender


  • Employs heated air to heat and produce physical and chemical changes in food material, such as texture and/or flavor
  • Assists in the preservation of food matter by killing microorganisms and reducing the moisture content.
  • Common types
    1. Deck Oven
    2. Rotary Oven
    3. Convection Oven
    4. Combination Oven


  • Process of foods being heated in (160 – 180°C) fat or oil to transfer heat directly to food material
  • Reduces moisture content, forms a crispy/crunchy exterior, and inactivates microorganisms
  • Common types
    1. Batch Fryer
    2. Continuous Fryer


  • Employs heated water or steam to reduce the number of microorganisms and inactivate undesirable enzymes that cause spoilage
  • Removes excess air from the fruit or vegetable, softens the texture, and improves the overall quality
  • Typically done before freezing vegetables
  • Common types
    1. Steam Blanchers
    2. Hot Water Blanchers


  • Process that places food in a sealed can or glass jar that is heated at high temperatures for enough time to preserve the food
  • Creates products that are commercially sterile where all pathogenic, toxin forming, and spoilage organisms are killed
  • Allows food to be stable at room temperature
  • Retort Canning is the main example
  • Hot Water Cooker is an option for some foods, but does not provide the same level of heating/microbial reduction as retort canning (typically acidic, high sugar, or high salt foods)


  • Food processing step where food materials are placed under moderate temperatures to inactivate pathogenic microorganisms
  • Typically, pasteurization produces food products with limited shelf lives and sterilization produces food products with extended shelf lives
  • 3 major types
    1. Vat pasteurization
    2. HTST
    3. UHT


  • Process that removes water from a food with the intention of producing a solid food product with low water content
  • Increases the shelf life of food products by reducing water content which inhibits or slows microbial growth and enzyme activity
  • Common Types
    1. Convective Dryers
    2. Vacuum Dryer
    3. Drum Dryer
    4. Spray Dryer
    5. Freeze Dryer


  • Process that lowers the temperature of a food product to -18°C or below
  • Decreases the enzymatic action, as well as slows the metabolism of microorganisms, acting as a preservation method
  • Common types
    1. Blast Freezers
    2. Plate Freezer
    3. Cryogenic Freezer
    4. Belt Freezer
    5. Fluidized Belt Freezer


  • Process that lowers the temperature of food to below 40°F
  • Typically encountered as a walk-in cooler


  • An important component in a food processing line transporting food throughout the factory
  • Common types
    1. Plastic Modular
    2. Solid Flat Belt
    3. Wire Mesh


  • Used for storage, as well as the main component of metered transfer of food components
  • Can be equipped with jacketing to help heating and cooling, or equipped with special attachments based on the food product

Filling Equipment

  • Final process before final packaging that places the food products created into the proper package. Packaging comes in all different shapes and sizes, with different filling equipment necessary for all the different food products, as well as all the different packages available
  • Common types
    1. Volumetric Fillers
    2. Net Weight Fillers
    3. Overflow filling machines
    4. Cup Machines
    5. Centrifugal Machine Counting

For more information, check out the article, Overview of Food Processing Equipment. The content above is adapted from the same article by Romina Ronquillo. [1]

Determining Lab-Scale or Small-Scale Equipment Based on the Large-Scale Equipment

Match the function of the large-scale equipment to small processing equipment available for lab scale-up. Think through the processing steps and functions of equipment chosen for plant production. Then consider the small processing equipment available. Make the best fit matches of functions of steps to equipment available to scale-up.  When your team is ready, review your large-scale and small-scale equipment with faculty. Then test the small-scale equipment to determine the effectiveness and optimal run parameters (time, speed, temperature, etc.).

It is important to note that choosing lab-scale equipment is not necessarily about what is the easiest or most convenient. It is about matching functions of the equipment so that the lab scale-up is as close as possible to large-scale production.

  1. Ronquillo, R. Overview of Food Processing Equipment. Thomas. Retrieved June 15, 2020 from https://www.thomasnet.com/articles/machinery-tools-supplies/overview-of-food-processing-equipment/


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