A print from 3D Systems' ChefJet Pro
If you didn’t see the news about 3D Systems new machine the ChefJet, you’ve either been stuck in a Polar Vortex or you’re probably not reading this article. The adapted Sugar Lab machine was just about the biggest mainstream news to come out of the 3D Printing TechZone at CES 2014.
Although many of our more established readers will be annoyed that it has been called new, it is impossible to deny that it captures the imagination of non-3D printing enthusiasts. Case in point is my common-law wife, who has absolutely so interest in 3D printing despite my persistence. Last night during The Great Sport Relief Bake Off - essentially for our American readers, a show in which some minor celebrities mix ingredients in a bowl, put it in an oven and are then chastised for their efforts – I showed her the picture that garnishes the top of this article; “that’s fully 3D printed in Sugar you know?” “ Is it where can I get one?” was the response.
Obviously, she can’t have one as we don’t have $5,000 handy, but when I explained the process immediately she got it, it was like the floodgates of possibilities to 3D printing opened; “Could you make wedding cake toppers with it?” (I hope this wasn’t a veiled proposal, it’s not a leap year is it?) Funnily enough, when we were being shown around the 3D Systems stand by CEO Avi Reichental, he said exactly this as an idea for an application of their new 3DMe Photobooth.
In the 90 days between 3D Systems acquisition of The Sugar Lab the advances made with the printing of sugar have been vast. When I first saw the new models from the ChefJet I presumed that they had hand died the models after printing but no, the models come out of the adapted Z-Corp machine as is. Then to find out they were using chocolate powder to make chocolate models, well my mind was well and truly blown.
3D Systems have obviously impressed some big names as the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, The Hershey Company, have now got in on the act with a multi-year partnership. What this means is that Hershey’s gigantic food science department will be able to help 3D Systems in their quest to bring 3D printed food to the mainstream.
However the 3D Printing big boys weren’t the only ones to get in on the 3D printing chocolate act at CES 2014. SolidIdea’s ChocaByte 3D Printer is eminently more affordable than the ChefJet at just $99.
The idea behind this machine is a lot more based on FDM principles than the binding powder principles of the 3D Systems machine.
You download a design from the digital library, take a chocolate cartridge (priced reasonably at 4 for $10) heat in microwave or hot water, place it into printer and hit print. Though we’ve not seen a working demo it appears as if the chocolate is squirted out of a syringe onto a platform. Chocolate is ideal for this process due to the fact that in cool temperatures, which we imagine is what the outer casing is for, it sets very quickly.
The chocolates can be as big as 2in x 2in by 1in and are ready within ten minutes. A great party piece or to be used in any kitchen, but the first run of the machine is being limited to just 500, so if you want one be quick.
These two new processes along with the popularity in RepRap circles of machines like the PancakeBot and The Great Foodini show how food 3D Printing is very real and is probably a huge route into the mainstream for the technology.