As you bit off the ears of the chocolate bunny that was in your Easter basket, did you ever wonder just how they made that? I found out from Micelli Mold Co. in West Babylon, NY, and I will never look at a piece of chocolate in quite the same way again.
Micelli has been in business since 1917 making chocolate molds for the leading chocolatiers in North America. For the first 60 years that the business was owned by the Micelli family, these intricate chocolate molds were made of metal, with each cavity carefully welded by hand. Around 1987, the company started making the precision chocolate molds by means of injection molding. Today, Micelli is the only company in North America producing high-tolerance chocolate molds, which it supplies to some 700 companies, according to Tim Goddeau, co-owner of Micelli, who, along with a partner, purchased Micelli in 2007. In fact, said Goddeau, only nine companies in the world make chocolate molds for that market.
|Micelli was one of the first U.S. customers to buy a Bole EK series machine with its patented toggle design. Image courtesy Micelli Mold Co.|
Making these precision chocolate molds from polycarbonate requires injection molding presses with a stable platen design to reduce deflection and provide longer life for the aluminum molds out of which the candy molds are made. Micelli uses Bole injection molding equipment.
It was one of the first U.S. customers to purchase a Bole EK series machine, and it was the unique, patented toggle design that sold Goddeau on the Bole machine. “Because we do not have high-volume production, we build our molds out of aluminum and need good clamping to extend the life of these molds,” explained Goddeau.
Micelli builds about 250 chocolate molds each year, most of them making 100 to 200 pieces. The biggest produces about 2,000 pieces of chocolate. The molds are produced in the company’s five Bole injection molding machines— including a Bole DK two-platen machine — that range from 200 to 1400 tons.
Bole’s EKS line incorporates a patented, German-engineered toggle linkage design known as the “center clamp” system. Traditional designs place the toggle pins near the outside edges of the platens, resulting in platen deflection — the bending of the platen around the mold. This deflection causes parting line wear, which aluminum molds are particularly susceptible to, and can result in a poor quality chocolate mold.
“The toggle system is unique. The toggle lock is 100% horizontal and is very efficient in that there are certain jobs in which we can run less tonnage and hold the part weight accurately,” said Goddeau, adding that part weights for the molds range from one pound for the smallest chocolate mold to eight pounds for the largest. The molds have wall thicknesses of 0.0150 to 0.0160 in. and are up to 4 ft long by 1 ft wide. Two-hundred forty-four pieces of chocolate can be molded at a time. Flatness is absolutely critical. “These are very high-tolerance chocolate molds,” emphasized Goddeau. “Our customers have a system to check to make sure the tolerances on every cavity are exact within 0.0002 in. A lot of the chocolate machinery is made in Europe and operates with incredibly high tolerances for the chocolate pieces.”
So, the next time you bite the ears off your chocolate bunny at Easter, or put that heart-shaped piece of chocolate into your mouth on Valentine’s Day, think about the precision that went into making the mold to produce that perfect piece of sweet, yummy goodness!