Believe it or not, a simple thank you gesture for industry support ... and a little chocolate ... stirred up a story I wanted to share.
Here is a photo of a chocolate mold and the resulting custom chocolate bar ... as well as a photo of the high-speed machining center used to make the mold.
The customer is Totally Chocolate (Blaine, WA) and the technology supplier is Datron Dynamics USA (Milford, NH), whose DATRON M8 high-speed machining center is the newest version of the machines that Totally Chocolate houses.
Totally Chocolate was founded in 1988 with a focus on producing custom chocolate for business purposes--such as corporate gift-giving, customer appreciation and sales promotion. According to the company, in 2004 they set out to find a more eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to the chemical etching process they were using to produce chocolate molds. Typically, chemical etching is a very fast but expensive process due to the procedures required to responsibly store, manage and dispose of the chemicals used in the process.
After identified high-speed machining as a viable option for producing aluminum molds, Totally Chocolate wanted to make sure that they didn’t sacrifice efficient cycle times. They settled on a DATRON M8 high-speed machining center for its speed, large work area, integrated vacuum table workholding and an eco-friendly coolant system.
According to Datron, the 60,000-rpm spindle combined with a large 40” x 30” work area and vacuum table workholding allowed for quick set up, fast cycle times as well as the ability to batch machine. So, custom molds for different customers could be ganged together, programmed into one continuous machining path and milled from a single sheet of aluminum held by DATRON’s integrated vacuum table workholding.
The ethanol-mist coolant system used to maximize tool life and workpiece surface quality provided additional benefits. Ethanol is a form of alcohol that naturally results through the sugar fermentation process and it evaporates quickly during machining. So, completed molds come off the machine dry and do not require degreasing or any other cleaning. Because it evaporates there are no costs associated with disposal or recycling.
According to Datron, unlike chemical etching, milling allows for a range of depths and the flexibility to produce compelling 3D molds. So by using the DATRON M8, Totally Chocolate was able to replace the chemical etching process and expand their capabilities. They now have three M8s to machine high volumes of aluminum molds with their busiest production occurring between fall and the end-of-year holiday (gift-giving) season.