There are 2 types of methods for producing unfried tortilla chips, Hand Cut and Machine Cut.
The initial process for both are the same. Corn is cooked with lime water for about an hour. The soaked for approximately 8. Once steeped, the water is drained and fed into a volcanic stone grinder. The grinder produces masa. The masa is rolled into large balls. The masa is put into a mixer along with corn flour (Maseca), water, and preservative. The preservative has 2 main ingredients. An acid to lower the pH and mold inhibitor. The mold inhibitor will only work at a low pH of 5. 7 is neutral.
The masa is fed onto a pre-sheeter that flattens the masa into a curtain. Then the masa curtain is fed into the secondary sheeter that flattens it into a much thinner curtain. There the masa is “tortilla” thin and cut underneath with a cutter in the shape of a roller. Very similar to a rolling cookie cutter.
Here is where the differences occur
The cutter here is already “chip” shaped. Either 4 or 6 cut.
Once the raw masa is sheeted then cut it goes into an oven (rolling/moving flat griddle) where the “chips” are baked. Once baked the product goes through a multi-tiered cooling conveyor on to a narrower conveyor, tumbler, bagged, weighed, check weighed, sealed and palletized.
Instead of pre-cut into chips, the masa is cut into 6″ diameter “whole” tortillas. These whole raw tortillas go into the oven (rolling/moving flat griddle) where they are baked, cooled through a multi-tiered conveyor, machine counted and stacked, then placed in bread trays to cool. Once cooled they are they are placed on a round stationary cross bladed cutter. A piston pushes the tortilla stack through the stationary cutter cutting them into 4 triangular “chips”. The “chips” are further separated in a revolving tumbler to unclump them. The separated chips are bagged, weighed, check weighed, sealed, and palletized.
The above is HAND CUT and below is MACHINE CUT.
There are pros and cons to both.