Feb 14, 2018 | By Tess

The Chocolate Factory, a Rotterdam-based chocolate company, recently integrated 3D printed components into its chocolate packaging machines. Since the transition, and with the ability to 3D print replacement parts on demand, the company has reported reduced machine downtimes. This could be the chocaholic in me, but this increase in efficiency also seems to imply more chocolate.

As today is Valentine’s Day, I’ve got chocolate on the brain. And on my plate. And in my mouth. You get the point. Which is why it was great news to learn that Dutch chocolate packaging firm The Chocolate Factory is combining two of my favorite things.

Just to be clear, the company isn’t 3D printing chocolate itself, but it is now relying on 3D printed parts to maintain and keep its chocolate packaging machines running smoothly and around the clock.

The machines in question had been posing a few challenges to The Chocolate Factory because an important part of the assembly—a small hook that lifts wrapped chocolate bars onto a conveyor belt—was malfunctioning at times. Every time the hook device encountered a problem it had to be replaced with a handmade piece, meaning some machines were out of commission for over a month at a time.

Evidently, this was not the most efficient way of handling things.

Fortunately, The Chocolate Factory reached out to Visual First, a Dutch 3D service, to come up with a solution to the frequently malfunctioning hooks. Their proposal, which has since been accepted and put into use, was to 3D print the replacement hooks using FDM technology and Stratasys’ Nylon 12CF carbon-filled thermoplastic material.

“It is crucial that the packaging machine is always operational, especially during hectic periods such as Christmas,” explained Carl van de Rijzen, Visual First’s owner. “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.”

The replacement part, made using Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer, has been in use at The Chocolate Factory’s facility in Rotterdam and so far things are going as smooth as can be. The company is especially impressed with the part’s rigidity and stiffness-to-weight ratio.

“The success of the 3D printed part was instantly clear—the material is impossible to bend,” added van de Rijzen. “The part withstood all tests on the machine and multiple runs were completed without incident. The factory is now enjoying increased production throughput by replacing the metal machine part with our 3D printed version.”

The increased production experienced by The Chocolate Factory since implementing the new 3D printed part is also supplemented with significant cost reductions. According to van de Rijzen, the company is saving up to 60 per cent by using the 3D printed part instead of its handmade metal counterpart.

Presently, The Chocolate Factory is working with Visual First to determine whether 3D printing can be integrated into its business in other, equally beneficial ways. One key area they believe could be transformed by additive manufacturing is in the design of prototype casting molds for chocolates.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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