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Some time ago I saw a documentary about snack food production.  It was on a local PBS affiliate.  I can't recall the name of the series.

They showed how various snack foods are made.  It was fascinating.  Crackers are shot through a hot mold and get cooked in the process.  So hot it baked them in the air before they landed on the pick-up conveyor belt.

The stuffed foods were made with an mold that injected the internal material inside of the external material.  Think Play-Doh but with a pipe inserting other colors. 

The combination of engineering skills here is pretty amazing.  Fluid, volumetric, flow rates, metal machining, robotics; pretty incredible.

All for that Pop-N-Fresh magic!

Bill Kearney
Wednesday, March 6, 2002

If they do use a mold to make those cookies, there's a lot more going on then just that..

I mean look at some of the designs!  They are crazy... like how do they get the little eyes on some of the creatures, and all the strange shapes and multiple colors...

Michael H. Pryor
Wednesday, March 6, 2002

"Doughboy Magic"

Dave Schnizlein
Wednesday, March 6, 2002

I would think this problem is pretty easy, but what I have always thout was amazing is seamless stainless tubing.

The dough can be re-formed after being sliced lengthwise. if you have a mold at one end that injects all the colors and patterns, then the dough can be made whole after. The crispness of the patterns is pretty neat, however.

What is amazing to me is the engineering behind the use of controlled force to extrude that seamless tubing. I've seen how seamed tubing is made, a wide ribbon is wrapped around a dowel and welded, but the seamless tubing is something else. Even making steel is such a huge effort for such a comparatively small output. It takes a place the size of a small town to generate two 2'x1' strands of steel.

The food processing industry doesn't get any of the credit it deserves. Take a tour of the Budweiser plant at Busch Gardens sometime. THe scale is incredible.

Michael Lang
Monday, March 11, 2002

I assume these are made the same way designs are put in the center of taffy candies.

The designs are made by taking advantage of the fact that the dough is soft and pliable.

They take the dough and make the design at a large diameter and thickness. The diameter could a foot or more. At this scale the design does not have to be very precise. Extrusion methods like the playdough presses would work.

They then take the giant dough cylinder with the rough design and then roll it into a "snake" just like kids do with balls of playdoh.  As the "snake" gets longer the design in the center gets uniformly smaller. The "snake" is then cut into pieces and put in packaging.

To get a more precise designs simply requires increasing the starting diameter. The engineering difficulty then lies in rolling the snake out.

An alternative to rolling would be to use a press to extrude the dough using a funnel shaped press. The engineering difficulty with a press would be to shape the press, and exert uniform pressure so the dough coming out is a shrunken version of the original.

Brad Siemssen
Friday, March 15, 2002

And here I thought it was (sometimes not-so-) simple co-extrusion.  Same way they make Combos, although the materials are different.

G. Lyph
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I would tihnk it would have to be like that, especially to get the sharp, defined edges of the different patterns. The red ornaments on the green Christmas tree, for instance.

Michael Lang
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Perhaps they make them in a similar way to "Blackpool Rock":

Wednesday, April 3, 2002

I once read in one of those 'How do they do that...' books how they get the colored stripes in toothpaste.  I think the same principal applies here.  The colored stripes in toothpaste are applied as the toothpaste exists the container as it passes through a bladder of dye.

If an attachment at the end of the dough processing machine had hundreds of small holes, where each hole can yeild a specific color, the end result could be very detailed.  Making different designs would be as simple as redirecting the dye to the different holes.  The output of this attachment would feed the packaging device forming a seemless cross section of dough.

Steve Kummer
Friday, April 12, 2002

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