I have been using the Hilliard Little Dipper for about 4 years. I have a great affection for this little, incredibly hard working and reliable machine. It has been running almost continuously 5 to 6 days a week for all this time and has never shown the slightest sign of fatigue. I use it for all my hand dipping, literally tens of thousands of chocolates.
I have to admit it is noisy which drives me crazy but I found a solution to that problem (quite quickly, the noise was simply too much to handle on a continuous basis). When I sit down to dip my centers I make myself very comfortable, put on my good headphones, and don't even notice it makes a noise after that.
Hilliard has been a pleasure to deal with, being extremely helpful and generous. They send me, free of charge, new little scraper flaps and offered any information on how to troubleshoot and where to go (locally) to get a replacement motor if the need should arise. I always drop the machine off at a local small engine repair shop for a yearly tuneup. They clean it internally and grease the bearings, all for $70 - money well spend. It runs the way it did the very first day.
As to the tempering procedure, I changed my technique over the years. Originally I adhered step by step to the tempering manual for that machine, let the chocolate melt overnight at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, raised it in the morning to 113 degree and turned the bowl on. Once it got to that temperature I lowered it to 84 degrees, added a big, solid chunk of chocolate to the back of the tank and removed that chunk only once the chocolate reached the 84 degrees. Then I raised the temperature to 88 degrees (my working temperature) and let it run for a good 10 minutes or more. This method has always delivered excellent results but I now cut time the tempering procedure takes by at least 70% simply by treating the machine as if it was a melting tank. I remove a bit more then 50% of the chocolate once it is at 113 degrees, temper it on a marble slab (all of that takes usually less then 3 minutes), then add it back to the machine. I turn the machine to 86 degrees. Once it is all mixed in it is absolutely always perfectly tempered and I am ready to go. Over the next 10 minutes I turn the temperature slowly up to 88 degrees where it stays throughout the day. All in all I save money in the unnecessary cooling effort the machine makes on its own, and more importantly save myself the pain of having to listen to the loud fan for half an hour or so. Every once in a while, when the chocolate gets to thick, I turn the rotation of the bowl off, take a blow drier and heat the surface of the chocolate a bit. Then I turn it back on and walk away from it for a good 5 minutes or so to let it stabilize.
There is only one, and not a minor issue I have had with the machine in the past: if you leave it out of sight for too long or if you are not working with it continuously the chocolate tends to over-temper quite quickly and seemingly all of a sudden (sometimes within 5 to 10 minutes depending on the chocolate you are using). I have found myself coming back from having a cup of tea only to find the chocolate pushed out of the rotating tank, spilled over the sides. I know you are not supposed to leave the machine alone but I took that as meaning, not for an unreasonable amount of time. Especially my Easy Flo milk chocolate will over-temper in a flash. I never leave it out of the corner of my eye. Once you have the spilled chocolate problem on your hands you will have to painstakingly scrape the chocolate out of every crevice, especially out from around the underside of the rim of the bowl. The first time I had this problem happen to me I had to bring the machine in for service (at the local small engine repair shop I mentioned earlier) to get all the bearings cleaned. If you don't do that the machine will start making a dreadful whining/rattling sound because the bearings are gummed up and don't roll efficiently. That said, I simply don't leave the rotating machine alone for more then a few minutes when tempering milk chocolate, and up to 15 minutes when tempering dark chocolate.
What I really love about the Hilliard is that is small enough that the chocolate always gets used up in a day. This ensures that every day I begin with completely fresh chocolate. I find that keeping a large tank heated over days and days really diminishes the flavour of the chocolate - a really great and important issue in my eyes.