I want to make an almond candy machine!

My coworker Jacques brought extremely delicious dragees to work, from France. They’re candy coated almonds. I looked it up and they’re made by tumbling almonds in a tilted bowl and pouring hot sugar on them.

I want to make my own almond candy! But the machines are thousands of dollars on Ebay :(

I think it’s in Hong Kong dollars because I set my VPN to go through Hong Kong. (I need a VPN to access Medium in China)

Also there’s a great YouTube video about someone hacking a drill to make this machine, but there’s one person in the comments saying that they burned out their drill.

I got busy and forgot about almond candy for a while. But now I’m with the annual Noisebridge China hacker trip in Shanghai, with lots of people who know about electronics! With some help I sketched out some of the stuff I would need.

There are four piece of electronics: the power supply, the board with the potentiometer, the motor, and the coupler which has gears to get things to e at the right RPM and torque. Mechanically there’s the motor housing and the bowl attachment, but we’ll deal with that stuff another time. I thought that all four parts would be easy to source whole, and then I could hook them up. But after Robert taught me some electronics theory, we were able to simplify it so that we didn’t need a potentiometer.

Included in the above diagram is three different ways to make the circuit safer. The danger with big motors like this is that if you are spinning it, and then you turn it off, the momentum will cause it to still be spinning a little before it stops. When the motor is spinning while turned off, it becomes a generator, and voltage is pushed into the circuit the wrong way. This can fry things, and that’s probably how the person burnt out their drill trying to make this machine.

The first way is a capacitor. If there’s a sudden spike in voltage, the capacitor will store it, and discharge it at a more controlled rate. The second way is a diode. A diode only allows current to go through it in one direction, until there is so much voltage that the diode is overwhelmed, and then it acts as a resitor. Lastly, there is a special TVS diode, which has very little resistance once it’s overwhelmed. These are used for when you absolutely don’t want the voltage of something to go over a limit. You can connect the TVS diode from the power to the ground so that if the diode is overwhelmed by high voltage, all the extra voltage will go straight to ground instead of going through your precious components.

We went to the Shanghai SEG Electronics Market! I was able to buy motors with couplers attached, which simplified it even further. The offered price was 240 RMB for both but I haggled and got themfor 220 RMB.

More pictures from the market.

Robert taught me that that you can tell it’s a potentiometer if it has three things going into it. If it has more, it’s probably a switch.

Housing and stands for security cameras
This building has like, seven floors of stuff! I think it’s so dark because it was the end of the day and some stores were closed

Noah, who’s also on this trip, says that maybe there’s a reason the industrial machines cost thousands of dollars. But I don’t need industrial-level reliability, and I’m excited for potentially having a candy almond machine. Next up: Buying the remaining electronics (power supply and diodes/capacitors for the safety mechanism), and doing all the mechanical work with the motor housing and the bowl itself!