Africa’s Willy Wonka and the 3D-Printed Chocolate Factory

(htxtAfrica) Hans Fouche’s workshop is a room where ideas take on physical presence. It’s the room of someone who thinks with his hands. There is a model airplane. And a 3D-printed sculpture of Rodin’s Thinker. It’s also the room of South Africa’s very own sweet-toothed dessert maestro. For Fouche is a down-to-Earth Willy Wonka with all of the ludicrously clever inventiveness and none of the silly showmanship of Charlie’s favorite confectioner. Hans’ company Fouche Chocolates in Centurion, South Africa is producing chocolates and cake decorations with 3D printing.

The chocolate factory is a fascinating building, and its food-preparation cleanliness and order is a direct contrast to Fouche’s mad-looking workshop back home. Half a dozen staff busy themselves around chocolate-making machines: pouring, stirring, trimming, carrying and moving the most amazing scents all around the single room. What’s remarkable is that almost every machine in here has either been built or customized by Hans in some way. Likewise the tools for which they create their fare. Even for the repetitive designs which they produce en masse – mini-chocolate potjies, edible name plates and so on — the molds for shaping chocolate are 3D prints of his own design. “I could not have done this if I wasn’t an engineer, it would have all been too expensive,” Fouche says proudly. He opens up a large cabinet in which chocolate is being churned up and then piped away and points inside, “This is a peristaltic pump, and to buy one commercially would cost a fortune. But I can build it myself.”