3D CHOCOLATE PRINTING HAS ARRIVED!
Valentine’s Day and chocolate treats are practically synonymous with each other. And in the world of chocolate treats there is no greater master than Willy Wonka and his marvelous, magical chocolate factory. Who can forget dreaming (and drooling) over the possibilities of “Television-Chocolate” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
“Just imagine… when I start using this across the country… you’ll be sitting at home watching television and suddenly a commercial will flash onto the screen and a voice will say, ‘Eat Wonka’s chocolates! They’re the best in the world! If you don’t believe us, try one for yourself—now!’
And you simply reach out and take one! But wait, you may be thinking, that’s all fine for make-believe. What about an actual, tangible creator of chocolate possibilities? My friend, you are in the right place. This blog is about life in the third dimension. Chocolate television has arrived.
OK, almost. Instead of a television screen, you use a computer screen. And instead of relying on someone else’s vision, you create your own designs on a computer and reproduce them physically in three dimensional form, entirely out of chocolate. Think of it as a practical application of 3D printing for chocolate lovers.
In 3D printing technology, a printer builds up successive layers of material to create a three dimensional form. 3D printing (or Additive Layer Manufacturing – ALM) describes a host of technologies that are used to fabricate physical objects directly from CAD data sources. In 3D chocolate printing, chocolate is melted, tempered, and deposited in a 2D cross-section on a substrate, like a printer printing a 2D image onto paper. The substrate is then lowered by one layer’s thickness and the deposition process repeats. Layer-by-layer, a solid 3D chocolate product is formed, defined by the 3D computer design.
Led by the University of Exeter and funded as part of the Research Council UK Cross-Research Council Programme – Digital Economy, the chocolate 3D printer was conceived and constructed as an experiment to eventually let consumers both design their own product and select their own materials. Chocolate was chosen as a test material because it is relatively inexpensive, readily available, and non-hazardous.
However, chocolate is a fussy substance that demands precise heating and cooling temperatures. If the printer runs too hot, the chocolate will become dry and crumbly. Too cool and it won’t move through the printer into the three dimensional form. But the researchers happily point out that there is little waste because mistakes are simply eaten!
How can you get your taste buds on this 3D confection? Hershey’s is currently developing a way to bring it to consumers. 3D printed chocolate wedding cake topper selfies, anyone? Perhaps a marriage proposal spelled out in chocolate? How about giving your sweetie a chocolate self-portrait for Valentine’s Day? (“Don’t bite my head off!”)
Here’s a quick video showing the UK-based manufacturer Choc Edge‘s chocolate printer in action. The printers sell for £2,888 (about $4,750 US). So obviously chocolate printers are not for everybody yet, but maybe soon.
Here’s a link to more details and a video on the early development of the chocolate 3D printer.
As a 3D renderer and confirmed chocoholic, it’s fun to imagine the possibilities. Maybe I can give my clients a 3D chocolate rendering of the new home they’re building! Now that would be a sweet start to a project — or give new meaning to the phrase “sweetening the deal”!