"Pilot Plant" for the Chocolate of the Future
After more than five years of planning and preparation, the highly complex research facility was successfully brought into operation at the beginning of 2020. The facility combines maximum flexibility and functionality with highest quality implementation and is available to chocolate producers and research institutes as well as universities. The plant features a flexible molding line, which visitors to the Lindt Home of Chocolate can marvel at during their tour, as well as an additional production line for chocolate mass. This enables professionals to develop recipes on a small scale and simulate the optimization of production sequences and process technologies – factors that are important to the whole of the chocolate industry. Thus, the Lindt Chocolate Competence Foundation is taking a proactive stance in fostering the innovative strength of the entire industry, while also providing an ideal infrastructure for sector-specific further education and the advanced training of specialists. For the visitors, however, the highlight is the impressive open-view production taking place in the so-called molding line. Here, the making of a filled chocolate square can be followed step by step. To further enhance the experience, the various technologies, sensors and process stages are highlighted and explained in detail. Specially devised animations even provide insights into a chocolate casting tool or illustrate how the finely modulated alternating cooling and heating of the chocolate ensures a perfect taste experience for the consumer. After packaging, which consists of a highly advanced storage facility, three robotic arms and the tubular bag machine, visitors are of course offered a taster – to personally convince themselves of the product quality.
Advanced Engineering for Chocolate Masterpieces
A team of 50 experts worked for months to ensure the highly flexible plant could be launched on time. In addition to the seamless chocolate production, visitors are therefore also offered a special chocolate creation. More than 40 interfaces had to be aligned to ensure the various plant components, control systems and building services communicate correctly and to guarantee smooth operation. After all, the machine produces and packages no less than 7,000 Lindt Squares per hour – that amounts to 56,000 Squares per museum day. The advanced construction allows both solid, unfilled chocolate Squares to be created, as well as products with one or even two types of filling. For this, around 1,000 molds simultaneously circulate through the individual process steps on the machine. The rear section of the open-view production facility additionally contains an equally impressive line for cocoa mass production. This exclusively serves for experimenting with various technologies, at a production volume of five to 200 kilograms.
The facility also represents an important contribution towards instruction and training provision for specialists from a variety of fields and different companies. The pilot plant enables experimentation and training sessions to be carried out on a relatively small scale, without greatly interfering with ongoing production. This offers trainees, such as food technicians and system supervisors, an ideal preparation for the generally much larger plants they will be in charge of. The minimizing of waste is a positive side effect of the comparatively small production volume. The opportunities are promising and the first projects with start-ups and scientists from Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have already gotten off the ground.