The Texas-based company has introduced 3D-printed chocolate molds that can be used in industrial chocolate factories.
Roadblocks for 3D printing
“Everybody is looking at the idea of printing chocolate as opposed to printing a mold,” owner Bob Lehrmitt told ConfectioneryNews.
Hershey for example has partnered with 3D printing specialists 3D Systems and is exploring using the technology in retail stores. However, it concedes 3D chocolate printing is much slower than conventional chocolate molding and currently sees no application in an industrial setting.
“There are some real roadblocks to 3D printing,” said Lehrmitt. “There is a big difference between printing chocolate and printing with 3D molds. 3D printing is really interesting but it is slow and does not integrate into your conventional processes.”
However, he said that molds produced through 3D printing offered ample possibilities to add elaborate features to chocolate surfaces.
Lehrmitt Design Studios has already tested a series of chocolate molds with floral patterns and geometric designs.
“You can really extend the range of designs you can bring to chocolate. It allows you to do photographical representations…it’s a real market differentiator,” said Lehrmitt. “We haven’t come across anything yet that we haven’t been able to print."
He said the 3D-printed molds were made from foodgrade silicon and offered chocolatiers a greater level of detail compared to conventional molds such as ones made from vacuum-formed polycarbonate. However, companies can expect to pay more.
Choose your own design
Manufacturers create a design in Illustrator or Photoshop, which is then converted into a 3D file using Lehrmitt Design Studios’ proprietary translation software Surface Skins.
Manufacturers can view the 3D image before the molds are made and decide on any alterations.
Lehrmitt said that once a chocolate company had chosen a design it could take as little as 5-10 days to get the molds.
Lehrmitt Design Studios just launched the 3D-printed chocolate molds and is currently running a pilot with businesses in Austin, Texas.
“Chocolate is amazing because it picks up detail very well,” said Lehrmitt. But he added that effectively any food produced in a mold or a pan could benefit from 3D printing and said he was confident the company could even produce a mold for sugar confectionery if a customer asked.