In the future, chocolatiers could quickly create custom confections with the simple press of a button.
A machine that can print 3d objects in chocolate has been developed by researchers at the University of Exeter.
Using new digital technology, a ‘chocolate printer’ allows you to create your own designs with software and reproduce them physically in 3D form in chocolate.
The world’s first 3D chocolate printer was just unveiled in the U.K., led by the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Brunel and software developer Delcam.
The 3d printer makes use of a new digital technology that allows chocolate to be squirted out onto a particular pre set design and then gradually layered and cooled to create a three dimensional, edible sculpture.
The printer lets you create your own designs on a computer and reproduce them physically in 3D chocolate. Just imagine the next time you want to say, “I’m sorry.” You could do it in the form of a dark chocolate version of your face, with your apology in a speech bubble.
It’s still only a protoype, but chocolate retailers are already licking their lips. Research leader Dr Liang Hao of the University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, believes the device could give the manufacturing and retail industries a much needed boost.
“What makes this technology special is that users will be able to design and make their own products,” he said. “In the long term it could be developed to help consumers custom design many products from different materials, but we’ve started with chocolate as it is readily available, low cost and nonhazardous.”
Another advantage of the printer, as Dr Hao points out, is that any unused or spoiled material can be eaten. In the future, he sees the technology being used to produce and design many other products, such as jewellery and household goods. “Eventually, we may see many mass produced products replaced by unique designs created by the customer,” he said.
The research was carried out in collaboration with Brunel University and software developer Delcam. It was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
“Chocolate is not an easy material to work with because it requires accurate heating and cooling cycles. These variables then have to be integrated with the correct flow rates for the 3D printing process,” notes the press release from the U.K.’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is managing the project.
“Researchers overcame these difficulties with the development of new temperature and heating control systems. I wonder how much the replacement cartridges would cost!”
The group is also working on consumer-friendly software that could make it easy to design custom chocolate objects. Afterward, a candy company would then hypothetically deliver the treat to your doorstep. What shape or text would you make out of chocolate?