Pretzels at the Schill bakery

A Swabian Recipe for Success

Pneumatic Pretzel Twisting Machine

Soft pretzels are one of the most popular breakfast treats in southern Germany. Achieving the perfect shape – symmetrically twisted with a thick belly and thin arms – takes skill, practice, and time. Or simply a clever automation solution.

The list of ingredients for a traditional pretzel dough is quite straightforward – just wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt. But twisting the dough demands careful attention. The baker takes a small portion and rolls it by hand on the countertop to form a strand that tapers at each end. Next the baker lays the strand of dough in a U-shape, lifts the ends with one quick movement, twists them by 180 degrees, and lays them down again. Finally, the baker presses the two ends onto the fat U-shape, creating the pretzel form we’re all familiar with. A skilled baker can produce up to 600 pretzels per hour like this. At the Schill bakery, this process is now even easier – simply place the dough into the pretzel twisting machine, press the power button, and that’s it.

A fat belly and thin arms

The Schill bakery produces around 10,000 pretzels a day for its eleven locations. In addition to a high-speed production process, achieving the traditional shape is particularly important. Before being dipped in a lye solution and going into the oven, the pretzel dough passes through a compact production line. Here, the dough is first automatically kneaded, divided into portions, and shaped into a strand. Then it is precisely aligned to the exact millimeter on the conveyor belt by a positioning unit from Festo, which ensures that the grippers can later grip it in exactly the right places and form a symmetrical pretzel. This is followed by the actual twisting process using gripping technology with actuators from Festo. Then everything happens in a flash – in less than a second, the strand of dough becomes a precisely twisted pretzel. Sensitive end-of-arm tools grip the ends of the dough, twist the strand, and gently press the ends onto the outside edges. This process produces up to 2,300 pretzels per hour – precisely shaped with pneumatic technology from Festo. The complex single-strand pretzel braids are made in exactly the same way. Only a few steps are required to switch from one to the other.

Flour dust and sensors

From compressed air preparation to drive and gripping technology, the pretzel twisting machine is packed with Festo expertise. When selecting the automation components, the bakery needed to take the large amount of flour dust in the environment into account. To increase the pneumatic components’ service life and ease of maintenance, special seals were used to prevent the ingress of flour dust. Modern sensor technology also enables the machine to automatically detect faults and stop automatically if, for example, pretzel dough runs over the belt in single-strand mode.