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Transparent chocolate production

© Hans Fischer Kunststoffverarbeitungs-GmbH

At the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, visitors get an insight into the production of sweet figures, truffles and chocolates. The viewing windows made from PLEXIGLAS® are so transparent that it is tempting to snag a bite.

 

Almost everyone loves chocolate! But who knows how the bitter cocoa beans are turned into sweet delicious treats? The Chocolate Museum in Cologne shows the production steps from roasting to the finished chocolate bar in a walk-through chocolate factory.

Its highlight is the glass chocolate factory in which chocolatiers show their craftsmanship: In the hollow figure studio, they coat molds with melted chocolate, giving chocolate Santas their white beards and Easter bunnies large dark eyes. At another station, chocolates and truffles are decorated. This fascinating manufacture was modernized with large viewing windows made from PLEXIGLAS® in March 2020.

Clear view of the chocolatiers’ work

“We want to make the production of chocolate transparent for our visitors so they can experience it themselves,” says Dr. Christian Unterberg-Imhoff, Managing Director of the museum. And where transparency is needed, PLEXIGLAS® is the ideal solution as it is one of the most transparent materials ever. Since it is also completely colorless in its initial form, objects behind it are displayed without distortion in the correct proportions and colors. It provides the perfect view, regardless of the material thickness. Transparency and brilliancy are retained permanently, which is why PLEXIGLAS® is a popular material for viewing windows, aquariums and display cases in museums.

Since the Chocolate Museum already uses protective shields and machine casings made from the brand acrylic glass, it seemed obvious to also use the proven material from Röhm for the Chocolate Studio – not the least to create a uniform and high-quality appearance.

The PLEXIGLAS® enclosure of the hollow figure studio reaches up to the ceiling and creates a hygienically sealed room within a room. This is important as food is produced amidst the museum traffic. Two unobtrusive doors are cut in the enclosure, providing access for the maître chocolatiers. The enclosure also protects the visitors against the machines that are in operation, such as the spinning machine for hollow figures.

Top logistical performance

While the extensive redesign of the Chocolate Studio was completed several months ago, the museum director still needs to catch his breath when talking about it: “That was a big challenge!”

Tim Kulisch from the PLEXIGLAS® processing partner Hans Fischer Kunststoffverarbeitungs-GmbH from Cologne explains which challenges they faced. The company designed, planned and installed the enclosure. The dimensions of the viewing windows posed special requirements on statics, transport and installation. “Some of the PLEXIGLAS® elements installed here nearly have the maximum available sheet size of two times three meters.” This made transporting them through the building challenging in narrow spaces.

“The most challenging part was transporting the large PLEXIGLAS® sheets unscathed to the museum’s second floor. Vacuum lifters were used for this that resemble large suction cups and safely grip bulky parts. We used two cranes with vacuum lifters – one that lifted the sheet from below and another that received it at the top,” says Kulisch in explaining the process. How fortunate that PLEXIGLAS® only weighs half as much as glass and is many times more durable.

Maximum transparency

The hollow figure studio is entirely enclosed by ceiling-high, transparent PLEXIGLAS® sheets, giving museum visitors the best view from all sides.

© Hans Fischer Kunststoffverarbeitungs-GmbH

Hygiene and safety

The PLEXIGLAS® cladding ensures the necessary hygiene in the production of the chocolate specialties while also protecting visitors from running machines, such as the spinning machine for hollow figures.

© Hans Fischer Kunststoffverarbeitungs-GmbH

PLEXIGLAS® can be adjusted during installation

Kulisch also appreciates that PLEXIGLAS® is a material that can be adjusted to handle unexpected situations during installation. For example, if a component protrudes somewhere. Or if a sheet gets scratched during transport. “If it were glass, the entire part would have to be thrown out. PLEXIGLAS® on the other hand can be cut to fit on site and scratches can be polished away.” This was not necessary in the case of the Chocolate Museum project where everything went off without a hitch.

PLEXIGLAS® XT with the best thickness tolerance

Over a length of ten meters, 15 PLEXIGLAS® elements are fixed between stainless-steel strips on the floor and ceiling. The specialist company chose extruded (XT) brand acrylic glass from Röhm with a thickness of 25 millimeters for this project. “PLEXIGLAS® XT is excellently suited to such applications that require high dimension accuracy due to its low thickness tolerance,” explains Kulisch. The individual elements fit perfectly into the strips. The construction is stable, with no wiggling or rattling.

“Spectacular construction”

The museum director is delighted by the new exhibition room, as are his colleagues and visitors who know what the hollow figure studio looked like in the past. “The previous studio was smaller and not visible in its entirety from the outside. Now we have a spectacular, elegant construction with continuous viewing windows that allow visitors to get a very close look at what is going on,” says an enthused Unterberg-Imhoff.

And it doesn’t matter if especially curious chocolate fans leave some fingerprints in the process, as PLEXIGLAS® is very easy to clean – for a permanently appetizing view.

Brilliant appearance

PLEXIGLAS® has an outstanding brilliance, making it suitable for a high-quality appearance in shop-fitting and in museums. Here visitors can watch how the maître chocolatiers are putting the final touches on the truffles.

© Hans Fischer Kunststoffverarbeitungs-GmbH

Before the renovation

This is how the truffle production station looked before. The area was not encased entirely in glass and not fully enclosed.

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