We’re filled to brimming with articles about the ways in which 3D printing has impacted medical, automotive, and military sectors, and there have been a number of discussions around the impact that the technology will have in fashion, foods, and furnishings. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find an area in which 3D printing hasn’t made some impact. One of my favorite applications is 3D printed chocolate. Not so much the product as the idea, so far, but I have high hopes, as I always do with chocolate. And while 3D printed chocolates themselves may not be making the splash that many anticipated, the technology is still having an impact on the chocolate industry.
There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in the world of chocolate making, not quite so much as Willy Wonka may have led you to believe, but still more than you may have thought. Chocolate that is made using machinery is getting quite a boost from 3D printing. Stratasys has just announced that the Dutch 3D service bureau Visual First is creating parts for the machines of Dutch company The Chocolate Factory, using FDM Nylon 12CF carbon-filled thermoplastic. It’s less glamorous than if 3D printers were fabricating the end product, but just as vital.
Don’t worry, you aren’t getting thermoplastic in your food, instead the hook-shaped component being fabricated is part of a machine involved in the packaging of the chocolates. It’s a simple piece, working to lift the chocolates onto a conveyer belt, but its function is vital and the company has found itself needing to replace the part about three times per month. As each replacement needed to be made by hand, with a turn around time of approximately a month, one extra malfunction could set back the production process enormously. The introduction of the possibility for 3D printing the parts on the Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer was a game changer for The Chocolate Factory, as Carl van de Rijzen, Business Owner of Visual First explained:
“It is crucial that the packaging machine is always operational, especially during hectic periods such as Christmas. With Stratasys additive manufacturing, we can produce customized replacement parts on-demand that can perform just as effectively as the metal machine parts. We can 3D print and deliver production parts to The Chocolate Factory in under a week, which is vital to ensuring manufacturing line continuity.”
Not only is the new part helping to alleviate problems of down time because of production turn around time, it also malfunctions less frequently and is less expensive to create, by about 60%. The new part has withstood a barrage of tests and proven to increase the capacity of the packaging machine; the very hardness of the material used to create it works to increase its lifespan. The Chocolate Factory is now looking to Visual First to address other problem areas or parts of the process that could benefit from the increase in speed and decrease in cost that 3D printing has demonstrated possible. Nadav Sella, Head of Stratasys’ Emerging Solutions Business Unit, described the impact 3D printing components is having:
“We’re witnessing a growing demand for 3D printed production parts and replacement parts of industrial machinery, especially for packaging machines. These machines require a high level of customization due to the large variety of products that are packaged. In many cases, the use of additive manufacturing can not only save time and cost during the manufacture of such machinery, it can also make them more efficient by reducing weight, simplifying the design, and increasing functionality.”
Dutch chocolate is a process for alkalizing chocolate that makes it particularly easy to stir into milks and as powdered hot chocolate, and The ChocolateFactory offers fifty different flavors ready to be made into chocolate milk. They’ve also created numerous confections, from truffles to bars to spreads, with their specially created cocoa and carry on their passionate chocolatiering in the tradition of their founders Chef Toussaint and his wife Miriam.
The company is also considering the possibility that 3D printing might offer for the creation of casting molds for their creations. So while the chocolate itself isn’t 3D printed, a vital component of the process of getting it from where it is made to my mouth has been greatly enhanced by the advanced technology and for that, I am grateful.
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