As Halloween approaches, candy makers are ramping up production to make sure American kids have plenty of candy. Plenty, in this case, means $2,600,000,000 dollars’ worth of sugary goodness.
Manufacturers mostly rely on packaging to make everyday Snickers and Twizzlers say “Halloween,” but there are also some special products for Trick or Treat. Hershey’s is making Caramel Apple bonbons this year, and M&Ms is doing white chocolate pumpkin pie flavors.
One of the most iconic Halloween candies, candy corn, was developed over a century ago. At first, it was called “Chicken Feed” and sold year-round. In the 20th century, parental fears about homemade trick or treat goodies drove store-bought candy to the top of the Halloween sales and Chicken Corn became Candy Corn. Now strictly a Halloween phenomenon, Candy Corn has inspired myriad variations, from super sour Zombie Corn to the more elegant sea salty caramel flavors.
Producing candy is a perfect situation for automation. A century ago, strong men poured molten sugar mixtures into molds to make candy corn — three colors, three passes with three buckets of candy mixture.
Roy Fraser of Rexroth’s parent company, Bosch, says the focus for automation in candy making is on speed and ease. The robots, he claims, should be as easy to use as a smartphone, while their production should come to many multiples of human productivity. Now that candy corn production is fully automated, American candy makers produce about nine billion kernels each year.
Forget making your own candy — parents won’t let their kids eat it, so cooking up homemade goodies for trick or treaters is a waste. Building candy-throwing robots has become surprisingly popular, however.
Whether you make yours with Legos and home-sized servos or recycle machine parts with face-recognition solutions to make sure your robot only throws candy at human beings, you can join the growing number of people who like to go out on Halloween without stiffing the kids.
However you look at it, it’s clear that we just wouldn’t have Halloween as we know it without robots.