Mondelez International, an American multinational confectionery, food, and beverage company based in Illinois (which employs approximately 83,000 people) approached automated manufacturing systems company 3P Innovation to work on a ‘Test and Learn’ project, to develop (yet another) 3D printing technology as a method of manufacture for chocolate. The two companies’ means enabled the development of one of the most effective chocolate 3D printers seen so far: a Cadbury Dairy Milk 3D printer.
The systems required Chocolate fundamental expertise from Mondelez and 3P know-how in industrializing and commercializing products and devices. The project started with Feasibility Study activities between Mondelez and 3P to understand the most appropriate process concept for the application. This included identifying any high-risk processes that needed to be developed and tested before designing the machine.
The 2nd stage of the project involved Proof-of-Principle testing of the core printing technology – the heart of the machine. Identifying the critical process parameters (CPPs) that need to be controlled to ensure that every chocolate produced is of top quality was another key objective of this phase.
The principles of 6 sigma manufacturing were also applied to ensure that all processes were capable of consistent, reliable production and high yield in manufacture. Using the chocolate expertise from Mondelez, we developed a method to control chocolate conditions throughout the manufacturing process. This was essential to ensuring smooth and evenly-colored chocolate. This means customers can enjoy the same high-quality Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate they love, with no change to the standard recipe.
Another key area of development was to explore and define the constraints around shape and form of chocolates that can be produced using 3D printing. Together the companies created a set of design rules for future products to be made on this machine.
Cadbury Dairy Milk 3D printer-ready
The 3rd stage of the project was the design and manufacture of the Prototype 3D Printing Machine. As Mondelez wanted to show-case the machine on World Chocolate Day, this meant that the prototype machine needed to be of top build quality, reliable, consistent in performance and to have the required run times to meet the production demands in Melbourne.
The overall principle of additive manufacturing and 3D printing carries many potential benefits applicable to multiple industries, not just to chocolate. One of the main benefits is the ability to rapidly produce a brand-new design without the need for special tooling or expensive capital investment. On this machine, a user-friendly operating screen allows for immediate, low-cost changeovers between products, meaning that lower-volume batches can easily be produced; for example, to celebrate ‘one-off’ major national events or to provide highly-personalized gifts. Designs for new chocolates can be downloaded to the machine in seconds, allowing Mondelez to rapidly manufacture and test market new products in days rather than weeks.
One of the main differences and a key benefit with this machine is that it produces 8 chocolates at a time, which is a new development for 3D printing applications. This multi-lane approach provides the balance between flexibility and a sensible production rate, meaning that the machine is viable for higher-throughput, commercial production. Other industries, such as pharmaceuticals, stand to benefit from this, where 3D printing of, for example, personalised drug therapies can become a reality.
“Working in collaboration with one of the chocolate industry giants has been a privilege and a very rewarding experience for us,” commented Tom Bailey, Managing Director at 3P. “The combination of our well-proven process development methodology and production technologies with their product development know-how has resulted in a new and disruptive technology that can potentially shape the future of chocolate manufacturing.”