Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Assembly Lines are Fascinating

I'm curious to know if anyone else out there shares the same fascination that I do when it comes to assembly lines. Two shows that I try to catch from time to time are Unwrapped on Food Network (hosted by none other than Double Dare's Mark Summers) and How It's Made on the Science Channel. I mostly watch Unwrapped to find out about cool new food products. I am a total sucker for wanting to sample new food items (and new products in general). I also like to try to catch Mark Summers eating a piece of food on the show. He rarely does so due to his OCD issues so it's like finding a needle in a haystack to witness Summers actually consuming food on-camera. How It's Made showcases how a wide variety of products and structures are made from the planning stages to completion.

Both of these shows feature an awful lot of automated assembly line footage. The process of making/packaging something in an automated mechanical contraption is extremely intriguing to me. I can actually just zone out watching this stuff. The amount of ingenuity and effort that goes into building these assembly systems is amazing. Equally astonishing are the numbers and figures that Mark Summers throws at you on Unwrapped. Some crazy stats like "The Hershey's factory runs through 30,000 tons of butter per day to produce 3 million Hershey bars daily." (I just made that up but there are some really mind-blowing numbers thrown around)

Now there are some pretty disgusting side effects to the assembly line process when it comes to food production. The chief offender is the legendary extruder. An extruder takes a high volume of some sort of substance and pushes it through a hole or die of the desired cross-section. This is how most food-type material gets dropped (or plopped) onto a conveyor belt. Unfortunately, sometimes the material coming out of the extruder looks like the picture above and instantly a once-delicious product looks like an intense bowel movement. Fortunately, these types of extrusions are few and far between to fully dampen the marvels of assembly line footage.

While I do love me some scripted TV dramas, reality TV and sporting events, sometimes all I need is a quality show featuring assembly line footage to make me bask in the wonders and advancements of technology. I think there's a certain synergy or rhythm to these assembly lines that actually calms and relaxes me. Wow I just had a zen moment thanks to the Food Network.

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