In the food service and production industry, conveyor ovens are also used as a means to streamline production and minimize labor intensity. In both cases, if the process that precedes heat treatment is efficient enough, conveyor ovens can allow for the near-automation of production and require a minimum of technical supervision to operate.
A conveyor oven is a type of thermal processing machinery that heats a product on a conveyor belt. A wide range of industries require a means of heat treating products. In the manufacturing industry, heat treatment as an annealing, drying and melting process is very common.
In the food service and food production industries, machinery that can operate on an industrial scale is required. In the case of the manufacturing industry, large batch ovens produce simultaneous, uniform application of heat for the large scale products being produced.
Conveyor ovens move small parts through an open oven on a conveyor belt or a chain belt. Conveyor ovens used for industrial purposes range in size and are often custom-made to fit the need of the buyer. Most designs feature insulated steel walls that maximize air temperature stability. There are four main types of conveyor ovens: infrared, natural convection, forced convection and quartz.
Quartz ovens cook using high-intensity light. Natural convection is simply the transfer of heat from the heat source to the air and then to the product; this is how many consumer ovens work. When a fan that circulates the air is added to an oven’s design, it is called forced convection. Forced convection ovens can be a better choice in conveyor systems where even heat distribution is desired.
Infrared ovens offer the most evenly distributed heat, as the heat generated by an infrared source is transferred directly to the product using electromagnetic radiation. While conveyor ovens offer process streamlining and even heating, there are some disadvantages to their design. Heat treating processes that require a vacuum are not possible in conveyor ovens as products are not heated in an enclosure.
Also, for smaller operations whose production levels are not very high, conveyor ovens may not be practical as their initial cost is higher compared to batch ovens, and because they require a steady input of products in order to remain efficient.