Engineering students 3D print decorative molds for the Mānoa chocolate factory

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When you see a box of chocolates on Mother’s Day, you might not realize how ingenious each truffle is. Students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of Mechanical Engineering learned first-hand in the new Advanced Additive Manufacturing course.

I hope to be able to use the skills we are learning in uh to benefit more businesses.
—Kendall Lorenzo

Under the direction of Assistant Professor Tyler Rayapproximately 10 graduate-level mechanical engineering students spent the spring semester of 2022 developing a 3D printing-based system to produce custom chocolate molds for the chocolate factory Chocolate leʻalocated in the Mānoa Valley just 1.6 km from campus.

According to Mechanical Engineering major Kendall Lorenzo, custom chocolate molds ordered off the shelf cost thousands of dollars, making them out of reach for many small businesses. Ray and the students provided the custom molds to Choco leʻa for free to help the local business save costs, while gaining real-world experience.

“Honestly, it feels really good; it’s amazing,” Lorenzo said. “I never thought I would use my skills for the benefit of the community. But that’s the comforting part of this whole project. I hope to be able to use the skills we are learning in uh to benefit more businesses, more businesses and help them solve the problems they have.

A chocolate challenge

chocolate blocks

Ray connected with Choco leʻa owner Erin Kanno Ueharaa uh Alumnus of Mānoa, who earned her Bachelor of Education in 2006 and her Masters of Business Administration in 2013. In fact, a majority of Choco leʻathe team graduated from uh system, including uh Manoa and Kapiʻolani Community College Culinary Arts Program. Uehara introduced Ray to his company’s challenge of finding low-cost chocolate molds, and Ray thought it was a challenge his students could take on.

The students created the designs in consultation with Choco leʻathen used food-safe materials, a high-tech 3D printer in Ray’s lab, and manufacturing equipment in the uh ProtoLab, a new student in Mānoa’s mechanical engineering department, to create the moulds. The students also visited the chocolate factory at the end of April 2022, seeing firsthand how their molds were used.

“The collaboration with Choco leʻa is an opportunity to both connect classroom concepts with real-world design challenges and simultaneously give back to the community,” said Ray. “In addition, students learn to approach engineering in a consulting environment and gain hands-on experience in product development.”

person taking chocolate out of molds

“At Choco’s leʻa, we use chocolates as a way to connect with others and it was an honor to be able to do so here in our own community,” said Kanno Uehara. “A conversation with a chocolatier friend led to an opportunity where together we could truly ‘Bring Peace to Our World, One Chocolate at a Time.’ On behalf of my entire team, we are very grateful to have shared this experience of working together to grow together. I hope more companies and schools will join together, because we can all learn a lot from each other! Mahalo Professor Ray and the Mechanical Engineering students for your outstanding contribution!”

This work is an example of uh Mānoa’s goals of Research Excellence: Advancing the Enterprise of Research and Creative Work (PDF) and Improve student success (PDF), two of the four objectives identified in the Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (PDF), updated December 2020.

-By Marc Arakaki

masked people looking at the camera

chocolate molds

white commercial building

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