Well Done Tension

I'm in love with a new gadget that makes cooking easier. It's the electronic temperature probe. These have been available for manufacturing applications for years, but now are inexpensive enough that you can find them in most kitchen stores.

I use mine for both oven cooking and out on the grill. The probe gives me a continuous readout of the meat's status. When the meat hits the temperature equal to medium rare or well done, the direct temperature measurement tells me. For chicken, the probe provides confidence the inside temperature has killed off bacteria without overcooking.

My father is from the old school of grilling. Over years of experience, he knows just the right burner setting or quantity of charcoal. He knows how many minutes to cook per side based on thickness and cut of meat. His method works great for him, but without his skill and knowledge it's difficult to reproduce. My direct measurement method easily allows me to repeat perfect grilling time after time.

Cooking is possible without temperature measurement. Clearly more fuel equals hotter temperatures. But without temperature measurement, we are simply adjusting an input variable with no feedback. Most ovens measure air temperature and reasonably infer that it is a good indicator of the cooking conditions. Indirect measurement is better than no measurement, but still not as reliable as direct measurement.

In cooking steaks, I know what I like and direct measurement lets me get there repeatedly.

I'm also in love with an old gadget that makes web handling easier. It's the tension-measuring roller. There are a couple old designs and some new technology, but measuring web tension via roller shaft load is not new.

I think tension-measuring rollers should be used in all web line tension zones. Tension measurement provides continuous readout of the web's running tension. When does the dancer air pressure create the desired tension? The direct tension measurement shows it.

Is measuring web tension important? Like cooking temperature, there's an optimal tension for different webs and processes. Setting tension correctly matches the strains to make curl-free laminate. Balancing the web tensions across driven rollers reduces the chance to slip and lose speed control. Pulsing tension will indicate eccentricities or transmission problems that create coating bar marks. Direct measurement of tension easily allows you to repeat perfect web handling time after time (or at least show when you've got it).

Tensioning a web is possible without tension measurement. Clearly more brake torque, higher dancer pressure, or more machine draw will increase tension. However, running a web line without tension measurement is like cooking without temperature measurement.

Web handling, unlike cooking, doesn't always provide immediate feedback. Did that roll wind with the right tightness? In cooking we eat our results and know immediately if we have over-cooked the steak. In web handling, we may have over-tensioned a roll or scratched yards of product, but we won't be eating the bad results until our customers send it back. This delayed feedback can lead to a lot of burnt steaks (bad rolls).

In web handling, I know what I like and web tension measurement lets me get there repeatedly. Use direct measurement in cooking and web handling for great steaks and webs well done.

Timothy J. Walker has 20+ years of experience in web handling processes. He specializes in web handling education, process development, and production problem solving. Contact him at 404/373-3771; tjwalker@tjwa.com; tjwa.com


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