Last year, Hershey entered a joint development agreement with 3-D printing specialists 3D Systems. In December, the chocolate firm debuted a 3-D Chocolate Candy Printing at Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction in Pennsylvania.
“One of the goals of our exhibitions has been to gather consumer insights on price point and designs as we build out our commercialization plan for Hershey 3-D printed chocolate,” Jeff Mundt, Hershey’s senior marketing manager of technology, told ConfectioneryNews.
A permanent fixture in Hershey retail stores?
Mundt said that 3-D printing had an exciting future as consumers increasingly looked for customized food.
“3-D printed chocolate could become a permanent fixture at our retail stores in the near term, for example,” he said. “Consumers will be able to design their own piece of chocolate, have it printed before their eyes and take it home as a special souvenir.”
Hershey says the principal advantage of 3-D chocolate printing is that every item from the printer can be completely unique.
Can it replace chocolate molding?
Mundt said the technology was not currently a good substitute for mass production because it was far slower than traditional chocolate molding . “That being said, with each iteration the technology becomes faster and more precise so we’ll have to see what the future holds.”
Liang Hao, a senior lecturer of Engineering at the University of Exeter and founder of 3-D printing firm Choc Edge previously told this site that he expected industrial 3-D chocolate printing within 3-5 years.
Industrial potential beyond capabilities of molding
Mundt said that printing times depended completely on the amount of chocolate needed for the design.
“A standard 40 gram chocolate bar would take about an hour, but if it was a complex lattice that 3-D printers are capable of making you could print something the ‘size’ of a standard chocolate bar in much less time,“ he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to use the 3-D printing today to make a standard bar when we have such strong manufacturing competency, but it does make sense to make something that you couldn’t make with a mould, like a lattice or other design that would be totally unique and delightful to consumers.“
How does the printer know what to print?
3-D printer print a design according to a 3-D design file. Hershey’s Jeff Mundt said: “The file could be a CAD file you download from a sharing site like Quickparts or a 3-D scanned image of your face, a photo of your dog or your company’s logo. Also, with the advent of the low cost, high resolution scanning technology available today, you no longer need to be a CAD designer to create your own unique designs and print them out. The possibilities are truly limitless.”
Are 3-D printers set to boom?
Basic 3-D printers currently sell for upwards of $5,000. The price may be prohibitive for many households, but Mudnt said that things could change rapidly.
“We are living in an exponential world with technology making progress much more rapidly than anticipated, so it is very likely that each of us will one day have a 3-D printer in our homes sooner than we think. Remember how revolutionary the microwave oven was when it was first offered commercially, today it is ubiquitous,” he said.
He added that the 3-D printing exhibit space at the Consumer Electronics Show had doubled between this year and last, showing how interest was mounting among inventors.
3D Systems exhibited its latest printer –the Hershey/3D Systems CocoJet 3-D Chocolate printer – at the show earlier this month. The company also showcased its full-color ChefJet Pro printer, which features Digital Cookbook software to create intricate candies and sweets. It will be commercially available in the second half of 2015.