Category Archives: 3D Systems

3D printing for sweet tooths

One of the niche applications we’re seeing in 3D printing is in chocolate printing.

ChocEdge was the first company to enter into this domain. The technology was developed in the UK at the University of Exeter before the new venture was created. It has developed an extrusion-based printer, the Choc Creator V1, that allows for the customisation of chocolate elements. Initially, the target market for this printer are those in the commercial domain that want to improve their offerings to their customers, with its price of £2,888 (ex VAT) reflecting that. In the long-term, the company’s strategy involves selling to retail units “so that everyone can print their own chocolate designs in their local chocolate shop”.

We’ve seen from history that in the early stages of an industry there’s a lot of experimentation, in terms of technology, the target customer group, and the business models adopted by companies. This is becoming evident in the 3D printing of chocolate as the second company to enter the market, the Australian start-up ChocaByte, has taken an entirely different approach. It’s aiming at the home consumer with a $99 3D printer capable of producing individual chocolates of 2x2x1′, as well as selling the consumable – chocolate refill cartridges – at $2.50 each.

Another common element of industrial emergence is that new entrants usually pave the way, with more established companies following once the potential of the technology has been demonstrated. So it’s no surprise that in January 3D Systems and Hershey announced a partnership to explore the 3D printing of chocolate and non-chocolate confectionary.

The partnership was the second piece of food printing related news from 3D Systems in January as it also launched the ChefJet printer at CES. The entry level ChefJet will retail at under $5,000, with a larger pro model to be sold at under $10,000. Although its target market is similar to that of ChocEdge, the final printed objects are sugar-based crystalline structures. So while the results aren’t pure chocolate, they can also be one of a number of different flavours other than chocolate, including cherry, mint, sour apple, vanilla and watermelon.

Another start-up with a product that can print chocolate is the Spanish company, Natural Machines. It’s launching a multi-purpose food printer, the Foodini. The full details of this are as yet unavailable but the ambition to print a range of different foodstuffs is certainly grand.

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