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The future of gluttony: A 3D chocolate printer

Ever wanted to design your own chocolates? A sweet new 3D printer out of the United Kingdom is coming to the rescue.

I never met a chocolate I didn't like. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

In the future, chocolatiers could quickly create custom confections with the simple press of a button.

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. Typically, 3D printers create objects by gradually stacking layers of material into a desired shape, and that's how the chocolate version operates. Also known as additive manufacturing, the process has mostly been used for plastic and metal production, which isn't quite as tasty.

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.

Creating the delectable chocolate printer poised several challenges (aside from a lot of missing samples).

"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?