© RATIONAL AG

Combination ovens: Anything but half-baked

With a new generation of combination ovens, RATIONAL is setting a new industry standard, partly thanks to intensive consultations with partner ebm-papst.


With some 1,300 exhibitors from around 25 countries and approximately 95,000 visitors, the Internorga is a special event in the German gastronomy trade fair calender. In normal circumstances, cooking systems manufacturer RATIONAL would have presented its new products to gastronomers from far and wide in 2020, who would have eagerly awaited to see what new products might make their lives that little bit easier. And in normal circumstances, the order book would already be looking nice and full after the three-day event. But this past year has been anything but normal. Due to the corona­virus pandemic, the trade fair had to be canceled and RATIONAL was forced to present its new generation of combination steamers online.

And so, a few weeks later than planned, RATIONAL introduced its latest generation of iCombi Pro devices online to the general ­public — and some of the feedback was nothing short of exuberant: “What an exceptional device. It’s what all chefs dream about,” was a response. Or: “When is it being launched to marked? I’d like to reserve one or two right now!”

Others pointed out how RATIONAL never ceases to improve its products and that it had a status akin to that of Apple. The presentation, given via a YouTube video, made sure not to leave any questions unanswered: with the new iCombi Pro, food can be cooked to the exact desired cooking point — no matter on which level of the oven. You can even cook a combination of dishes at the same time: for example, salmon at the top, roasted vegetables in the middle, and chicken breast at the bottom. The device’s smart technology regulates aspects such as the temperature, steam inlet, and cooking times for the selected cooking process. The user controls the cooking process via a simple touch pad, which displays all of the parameters.

“For us, technology is just the means to an end — and it is the benefits of the device that are always front and center of our work.”

Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL

Customer-centric approach

“For us, technology is just the means to an end — and it is the benefits of the device that are always front and center of our work,” says Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL. Customers, including internationally renowned brands want greater capacity and more convenience in operation. Consequently, the new iCombi Pro can take up to 20 trays, enabling chefs to cook, for example, between 250 and 300 steaks simultaneously. A special assistant can even make suggestions as to how to load the trays, to save time or energy for example. “With our devices, you don’t have to know every step in the program. You just state what the result should be, and the device will do the rest,” says Schmidt.

Good Partnership

RATIONAL once again approached its long-standing partner ­ebm-papst during the development of its new iCombi Pro generation. The requirements specification stipulated the need for up to three (instead of the usual two) high-efficiency motors for the drive of the fan impellers, with the additional requirement for the motor electronics to be easy to replace.

However, the amount of installation space available for all remaining components was to remain the same. Thus, the matter of installation space became the hardest nut to crack for ebm-papst. “There was very little space in these devices before,” says Alexander Remmele, Key Account Manager for Sales at ­ebm-papst in Landshut.

“And with the new generation, we were going to have to take the depth of integration to a new level.” A total of 13 ebm-papst employees working across three sites were enlisted to address this challenge. Although nothing could be done about the number of motors and gas blowers, the architecture could be tweaked. “We developed an integrated housing for the blowers and gas valves and used our existing platforms for this purpose,” says Remmele.

“The collaboration went brilliantly. In terms of the gas blowers, ebm-papst supplied a system that houses the gas and air modulation system, gas valve, and venturi in one.”

Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL

Making space where there is none

The developers at ebm-papst Heating Systems in the Netherlands maximized the space they gained by using combustion controllers. This type of controller actuates the blowers and valves and monitors the combustion process. “For the new series, we were able to increase the functionality of the machines, thus reducing them from one or two per device to just one,” says Remmele.

This gave the experts a bit more breathing space, in the proverbial sense, so their colleagues in Mulfingen were able to focus on the matter of the motors. In order to make the additional motor more maintenance-free, the electronics that are usually installed inside the motor were relocated to behind the drive, where, under a cover attached with four screws, it is more easily accessible. This makes the maintenance process much faster, as it is not necessary to replace the entire motor in the end device.

New, better, evenly cooked

The development of the new iCombi Pro generation was a challenging project for ebm-papst. “From a technical stance, things got very deep,” recalls Alexander Remmele. “That’s why we agreed to have meetings with RATIONAL on a four-weekly basis for the entire duration of the project.” The meetings took place alternately in Mulfingen or at the headquarters of RATIONAL AG in Landsberg. RATIONAL AG was very happy with the project.

“The collaboration went brilliantly,” says Michael Schmidt. “In terms of the gas blowers, ebm-papst supplied a system that houses the gas and air modulation system, gas valve, and venturi in one. This is more cost-effective for us and makes installation much easier because all the necessary hose connections are already integrated. There was also a significant improvement in terms of the motor. Now, where we no longer have to remove the entire motor and impeller in the event of a malfunction, maintenance is much easier. After all, most faults came from the electronics, and the removal of the motor would otherwise damage the impeller,” explains Schmidt.

The result of this collaboration is more than impressive: a new, more powerful device generation that is also more maintenance-free. There is nothing half-baked about that! 

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