Taste The Future: 3D Printing Using Chocolate

by Matthew Wellington on February 9, 2013

3D Printing With ChocolateYes, you read the title correctly. The world’s brightest chocolate enthusiasts have come up with a way of printing using chocolate.

It is currently very expensive to own one of these machines, however many chocolate moguls, such as Thornton’s, Britain’s largest chocolatier, are buying these incredible machines.

The company selling them, Choc Edge, is lead by Dr Liang Hao of the University of Exeter. Dr. Hao has been working at the University of Exeter since the fall of 2006. He teaches advanced materials and manufacturing.

When he isn’t teaching aspiring students, he is making great contributions to the scientific community. Dr. Hao has published over 48 peer-reviewed journals, 1 authored book, and has contributed chapters to other books. Since joining the University of Exeter he has supervised over 10 PhD students and research fellows.

While his work is well publicized, the world awaits to see what the students learning under him will offer the future. Though most famous for the 3D chocolate printer, Dr. Hao’s research interests include digital co-creation and economy, sustainable product development and manufacturing, advanced materials and additive manufacturing, healthcare engineering, creative manufacturing and entrepreneurial lab, and, of course, chocolate and food manufacturing. In regard to chocolate, he is also working on developing more healthy and organic ingredients for chocolate as well as biodegradable packaging.

Dr. Hao has initiated the Creative Lab program which invites entrepreneurs to learn about and experiment with digital design and production technologies. This program provides training and creative business ideas using 3D Design Tools such as Google Sketchup.

The technology behind 3D printing has been around since the mid 80’s. Dr. Carl Deckard and Dr. Joseph Beaman of the University of Texas at Austin created Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Fused deposition modeling was then developed by S. Scott Crump in the late 80’s. These technologies played a large role in the invention of modern 3D printers today.

The words “3D printing” was coined by Jim Bredt and Tim Anderson of MIT in the mid 90’s when they developed a printer that put a binding solution on a bed of powder to build multidimensional shapes. They used the term 3D printing because the machine resembled the way a common inkjet printer moves an ink dispenser over a sheet of paper.

3D Printing is also known as Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). This technology uses computer-aided design (CAD) data sources to make physical objects. To do this, chocolate must be melted and put into a cartridge that is mounted similar to a 2D printer. The machine moves along the page and deposits chocolate on a surface. This allows you to print detailed 2D images which can be used to decorate the surface of a cake.

The CAD data ensures you get a fast and uniform design that would normally take a chocolatier much patience and precision using pipes. In order to make the shape 3D, the computer lowers the printing surface by the thickness of one stream of chocolate then prints another 2D pattern on top of it. Layer by layer, the chocolate begins to make its 3D shape. No longer do you need expensive molding equipment that is unique to one design. You can effortlessly make any 3D figure or 2D design with some basic computer skills.

A major advantage of this technology is that companies can now create custom logos and mass produce them. Moreover, individuals can order custom chocolates from a business that has one of these machines. This Easter, you can design a series of custom chocolates for your friends and family and simply e-mail the schematics to a chocolatier.

The chocolatier can upload the design, hit print, and send your order back to you. A restaurant owner can order chocolates with their restaurant’s name and logo and give those away rather than mints. People love the idea of something that seems customized or special. By replacing standard chocolate molds with a 3D printer, it will be very easy to make a pattern for a client without baring the expense of creating a mold for a small order.

What’s exciting about 3D printing is the Many Different Uses it will have for future. Chocolate is great to eat and fun to make into different shapes. Imagine these printers on a much larger scale. Suppose you had a printer full of concrete that could build the concrete floors and walls of a structure with the touch of a button. Housing would be much for affordable if laying concrete required no manpower. Certain 3D printers dispense plastics to make various shapes.

That means you might be online shopping for a toy and all you need to do is hit print and a plastic toy will be formed right before your eyes. Some printers use metals which means you might be able to build a printer the size of a shipyard and build hulls of boats from a CAD design.

In conclusion, the 3D chocolate printer is creating a lot of excitement and discussion. The engineering community and chocolate lovers can all agree on the excellence of this apparatus. The Cost of These 3D Printers is around £2500 making them a great investment for chocolatiers or bakers.

Before you dash off, check out this YouTube Video about Printing Chocolate. Please leave a comment with your own thoughts or share this using the “Share” button below.

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