September 16, 2015
You Won't Believe Some of These Machines
We have spent a lot of time looking at technology and manufacturing innovations in the past. We have covered everything from cutting-edge assembly lines to the latest and greatest in smart manufacturing tech. But what about some of the more "unique" factory equipment maintenance professionals come into contact with? What are some of the strangest manufacturing machines out there?
If you have ever seen a caramel apple machine at work, then you have bore witness to one of the most ingenious and mouth-watering inventions of all time. From inserting the lollipop stick to swirling the fruit in a giant vat of gooey caramel, this machine is truly a sight to behold. If that weren't enough, it also dips the candy-coated apples in nuts and cellophane-wraps them for protection and shipping. It's truly a remarkable piece of machinery!
While we are on the topic of sweets and confections, we would be remiss if we did not include a piece of equipment that looks as if it came straight out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Created in Atlantic City, New Jersey, taffy is a sticky, stretchy type of candy that comes in a wide variety of flavors. Perhaps the most popular version of taffy is Starburst candies.
When salt-water taffy is made, it is formed into giant sheets of candy that are then folded and stretched over and over again until the desired consistency is achieved. Some of these taffy-stretching machines are simple-looking, consisting of several "arms" that pull and stretch the candy. Other taffy machines are much more complicated and are made of long conveyor belts and many arms, all working in unison to create large batches of the delicious sweets.
Just as candy captivated our minds as children, crayons were just as important of a part of our daily life. Who can forget the utter joy of opening up a fresh box of crayons, maybe even the giant box of 64! Everything about a crayon as a child was magical, from their vibrant colors to their smell and waxy feel. And if we are to be honest, more than a few of us probably tasted them, too: You know who you are!
Just as magical as the crayons themselves is the process by which they are created. The creation of our favorite little colored sticks involves several machines, including molders and cutters (to shape the crayons), dyeing machines to add color, dryers to bake them, and finally wrappers and packing equipment that assemble the final product.
Finally, a list of strange manufacturing equipment would not be complete without the granddaddy of them all. Fans of Star Trek are familiar with the infamous replicator, a device capable of creating any beverage or meal, regardless of the culture or ingredients. It was a magical piece of equipment that was even more magical because it somehow managed to not cause everyone on the Enterprise to become morbidly obese. Unlimited Mexican lasagna at the press of a button? Sign me up, captain!
Today"s 3D printers, likely inspired by sci-fi imaginings such as the replicator, are capable of creating much more than pizza and the perfect latte; they can create anything from functional guns to building materials. In the future, we will even begin to see artificial limbs and fully developed human organs being printed just as easily as a science report!