It’s not all Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompas you know. Designing chocolates is serious engineering. Just like when you made jelly as a child (or adult!), every chocolate shape is made by a mould and every mould is created by forming plastic around a metal ‘tool’. As a result, making ‘tooling’ is at the heart of the chocolate industry.
Leigh Down, Managing Director at DPS Designs, helped bring the M&S Easter egg ‘Bendy Bob’ to life. “As you can see from our bendy friend, it can be a lot of fun and be really creative,” he said. “But behind this fun stuff is a team of engineers who need to be able to make tooling to the nearest 10 micron. That’s about five times thinner than a strand of hair!”
The team at DPS Designs have been honing their craft for over 20 years. Based in the Forest of Dean, we pride ourselves on using creativity and innovation to create fun chocolates. We challenge you to name something that we haven’t worked out how to mould in chocolate!
From stilettos to the Gruffalo and from Baftas to Santas, the process is the same. First, release your inner child to come up with ideas no-one else has thought of. Then put your engineering hat on to work out how they can be mass produced in chocolate. Anyone can make one-offs, but it takes a real engineer to be able to design chocolates that look good, are affordable and can be produced time and again.
There are so many engineering roles that are essential to make just one chocolate come to life. For example, a design could start as a hand carved sculpture that is scanned into the 3D environment by using a 3D scanner. It can also start out as a 2D sketch and built into a 3D model using a computer software.
Next, the physics behind how chocolate flows through the mould must be considered. This looks at the fluid dynamics of the liquid chocolate. Once cooled, the solid structure of the chocolate must be able to come out of the mould without breaking. Engineers must also think about the design of the tool that makes the mould. They look at how plastic would flow inside injection mould tooling or form over the tooling of thermoform moulds.
At DPS, we employ rapid prototypers, 3D machining operators and bench-workers to hand finish the tools. All this engineering experience is vital to production. That’s even before a mould is made and long before any chocolate is added to it! Young or old, experienced or fresh from studying, there are so many options for enthusiastic engineers in this industry.
The skill set and standards required to produce luxury chocolates is so broad, we decided to branch out. DPS got so good at cutting metal into fancy shapes that half our business now supplies tooling into the aerospace sector. Who would have thought that making chocolates and aeroplanes used the same technology! In fact, making the metal shapes to create the first class seats in aeroplanes is exactly the same as making metal shapes to create chocolate. Sometimes an engineer will work on both in the same day, so there’s rarely a boring moment!
Fanzi Down is the Commercial Director of confectionary division at DPS. She won InnovateUK Women in Innovation Award in November 2016. She is responsible for business development and makes sure that projects run smoothly from initial design concepts to mould production and delivery.
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