Industrial-scale 3D chocolate printers will be on the market within five years, according to 3D printing firm Choc Edge.
In April 2012, UK-based Choc Edge became the first firm to launch a 3D chocolate printer.
Last month, it introduced an updated version: the Choc Creator V2, which allows small to medium sized production of personalized chocolate gifts. The machines costs £3,888 ($6,667) and is intended for retailers. However, chocolate manufacturers could also stand to benefit.
“We can easily envisage a bank of Choc Creators all working on the same design, or a range of different designs, in an industrial manner,” Liang Hao, Choc Edge founder and senior lecturer of Engineering at the University of Exeter told ConfectioneryNews.
It currently takes around 5-15 mins to produce an individual chocolate praline to a unique design.
“We do not intend to develop 3D chocolate printers to compete with mass production methods using traditional molding technology,” said Hao. “However, we have found that 3D printed chocolates can be designed with unique hollow and porous structures which can be made in a relatively productive fashion.”
“We do envisage that we will develop an efficient 3D chocolate printer in next three to five years for industrial applications.”
The $6,667 machines are currently out of reach of most consumers, but the technology could become more affordable and many consumers may one day own their own chocolate printer, creating personalized products.
“The Choc Creator V2 is also an ideal marketing tool for companies large and small to engage their customers to design and create unique, individual designs themselves,” said Hao.
“It uses tempered chocolate as the sole ingredient, so certainly it could be possible for large companies to adopt their own chocolate for the printer.”
According to Lao, the quality and taste of chocolate is not impacted by 3D printing.
Hershey and 3D Systems deal
Tempered chocolate is fed manually into the machine, which is in effect a big syringe. The Choc Creator V2 is controlled by a PC or laptop equipped with software to produce 3D designs that are sent to the printer. The 3D printer creates layers to produce a finished product. 3D printing is also known as Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM).
Hershey recently partnered with US 3D chocolate printing firm 3D Systems to explore and develop opportunities for using 3D printing technology to create foods, particularly confectionery.
“Whether it’s creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future,” said William Papa, vice president and chief R&D officer at Hershey in January.