The nascent 3D chocolate-on-demand industry has been given a boost (now that it exists). Imagine being able to create chocolate forms entirely of your own design. Download some software, create what you want, and send it off to the printers. And what comes back is made entirely of chocolate.
The 3D printing industry has been making strides in recent years, but none so much as with the announcement that chocolate can now be used as a viable printing source material. Operating on the same principle as with other 3D printers, the 3D chocolate printer creates three-dimensional physical objects by building up to its end goal layer by layer. Right now, the 3D chocolate printer is a project--a project with multiple organizations involved. (This would make sense, considering that everybody loves chocolate.) Here is a mouthful, straight from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's press release:
The project is funded as part of the Research Council UK Cross-Research Council Programme - Digital Economy and is managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on behalf of ESRC, AHRC and MRC. It is being led by the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Brunel and software developer Delcam.
While the 3D chocolate printer has a lot in common with other 3D printers, the researchers did have to take into account the specific variables that popped up while working with chocolate as a medium. Matters of temperature and flow rate were addressed by creating new heating control systems, allowing the technology to become a reality. Lead researcher Dr. Liang Hao envisions a future where users can upload designs, giving consumers the opportunity to create 3D models of whatever they want. Not missing sight of the real importance of the tech, Dr. Hao adds:
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 non-hazardous. There is also no wastage as any unused or spoiled material can be eaten of course!
To see the 3D chocolate printer in action, check out this video.