A Sweet Introduction to Manufacturing

This week, students showed off brand new lollipop designs to their candy “client,” pastry chef Diane Yang.

Designing for Manufacture, a new course in taught by Cory Schaffhausen (Product Design), introduces students to manufacturing processes through hands-on projects in the DigiFabLab and gives them a chance to design under client constraints. When Yang met with the class to present the lollipop assignment, she encouraged them to experiment with unique shapes (i.e. not a basic circle) and to consider the modest scale of a dessert plate.


To build a mold for casting lollipops, students used technologies essential to the product design industry. The created computer models of their lollipop designs using SolidWorks, Rhino, or a similar CAD program—the same software, Schaffhausen explained, that companies creating everything from household goods to medical devices use to design product components and assemblies.

Next, they used RhinoCAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) to plan out the specific instructions to send to a CNC machine based on the part geometry and cutting tools. “In industry, any product component or tool or mold that is to be machined is processed using a CAM software package,” Schaffhausen said. Finally, the students used a 3-axis CNC router to machine the final lollipop design into an acrylic block. The CNC routers in the DigiFabLab are very similar to larger CNC machines used in industry to produce machined parts.


For the majority of Schaffhausen’s students, the lollipop mold was their first exposure to these softwares and tools. They faced a steep learning curve and a few hiccups.“Some of the parts had to be remade, but it reinforced the value of planning for surprises and using practice runs to check for potential issues.”  The assignment also challenged the students to consider how to design a part as a pattern for a mold and to think critically about relationships between the positive and negative forms. “Even something as simple as the position of a lollipop stick requires some attention and planning.”  

To finish, the class stacked their individual machined patterns together in order to pour a single silicone mold, which Yang used to cast an assortment of bright green lollipops. While this small-batch mold process is rarely used in industry, it gave the students a taste of the entire manufacturing process.


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