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Chocolate printer oozes 3D fun

Machine can produce a wide range of 3D images using liquid chocolate

Chocolate printer oozes 3D fun
Scientists in the UK are developing a printer that can print 3D images in chocolate.

Chocaholics may soon be able to indulge their every whim with a 3D printer that creates chocolate confections. Scientists at the University of Exeter in the UK have developed a 3D printer that uses chocolate instead of ink or plastic.

The printer is still a prototype, but already retailers are showing interest in the device.

3D Chocolate printing, much like normal printing begins with a flat cross-section image, said scientist Dr Liang Hao. Once a layer is completed, it solidifies and then the machine builds the next layer, forming the 2D image into a 3D shape.

Producing a correct 3D image involves ensuring that all key parameters, including temperature control are in the optimum range.

Developers hope that once the machine is out of prototype, it will be used in the restaurant and gift industry. The machine can produce any 3D image, including faces.

Dr Hao's team also wants to take their chocolate printer into cyber-space, creating a chocolate-oriented website so people can develop ideas and share designs that can be used with the machine.

"Now we have an opportunity to combine chocolate with digital technology, including the design, digital manufacturing and social networking. Chocolate has a lot of social purpose, so our intention is to develop a community and share the designs, ideas and experience about it," said Hao.

There have been previous attempts at creating 3D food printers, including, in 2010 researchers from Cornell University in the US who used liquefied food inks in a specially designed machine.

3D printing, in materials such as metal and plastic, is already in widespread use in various industries to speed up the design process.

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