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Katjes creates first-to-market 3D printed gummies

By Hal Conick+

03-Sep-2015
Last updated on 03-Sep-2015 at 11:39 GMT2015-09-03T11:39:32Z

How will Katjes 3D printer change the game in the sugar confectionery market?
How will Katjes 3D printer change the game in the sugar confectionery market?

The first commercial 3D printer for retail will be used to create gummies in different shapes, sizes, colors and flavors, says creator Katjes Fassin UK.

The Magic Candy Factory, as the gummy 3D printer is known, is expected to be released in the US, UK and Germany by 2016.

The printer takes about five minutes to create gummy candy weighing between 15 g and 20 g. Katjes said other 3D printer prototypes can take nearly an hour to make the same product.

Melissa Snover, managing director of Katjes Fassin UK , told ConfectioneryNews that she and the company’s R&D team have been working around the clock over the past year in an effort to develop the printer.

The machine uses real fruit puree and vegetarian gels to produce the 12 shapes and 10 colors and flavors from the machine. It will also have the ability to create custom, gummy-based greeting cards.

How it started

German headquartered firm Katjes has been creating gummies and similar candies for more than 100 years and started looking at creating 3D printer prototypes last year through its UK subsidiary. Snover said they wanted to make candy customizable.

“There are a lot of people developing food printers, but none of them have actually reached the market yet. We are the first,“ she said. “It was full-throttle work from myself and our R&D team.”

There were plenty of challenges in getting the machine up to speed, according to Snover, as all of the ingredients used for gummies needed to be redeveloped.

One problem is that the ingredients usually used to create gummies would make the final product inedible, formless mush for three days. The company needed to find a way for the product to keep its consistency and shape while remaining vegan.

“Another challenge is that [3D] printers are all over the place, but not for this type of material,” Snover said.  “We were able to take some learning from mainstream printers, but we really had to create customer solutions when it came to the way that our codes work. We had to rewrite the way our machines would look at the code and material and the way the material behaved.”

A current challenge is that the first-ever prototype, now in operation at the company’s Berlin location, does not yet have user-friendly software that will be needed to easily operate the machine for retail customers. Snover said they are working on implementing more user-friendly software and expect it to be ready over the next few months.

An expanding customer base

Customers can have custom gummies printed online and at the company’s Berlin shop over the next few months, Stover said.

Following the multinational rollout in 2016, the evolution of Katjes’ 3D printer will likely get very interesting. Snover believes the Magic Candy Factory can create more than just gummies.

“We do believe every consumer has a place in kitchen for 3d printing for food,” she said. “We’re already looking at doing different disciplines in the future. The more and more capabilities our product has, the more it makes sense for it to be a wider system.”

The company is now looking into the possibility of customized boiled candy, chewing gum and chocolate with the machinery, among other types of 3D printed food.

The personalized, custom market

While 3D printing candy sounds like a huge shift, Snover said the biggest shift in the industry is already happening across all food: Personalization and customization.

“The reason for that is customization gives people a sense of importance,” she said. “That’s not a trend; it’s a basic human need. Everyone everywhere likes to feel important. Being able to create unique products that feel special and make it just for you fills that need.

“That is the trend I think is the most exciting for the customer worldwide that has happened in a long time. We as manufactures are giving the entire power back to the consumer to create whatever they want, wherever they want it exactly how they want it.” 

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