3D Systems announced not one, but two edible food 3D printers last week, creating an entirely new genre of commercial 3D printing.
The two models are the ChefJet and the ChefJet Pro. As you might imagine, the “Pro” version has more functions than it’s lesser sibling.
The base ChefJet is a monochrome 3D printer that uses sugar as its material (image at top). The ChefJet includes the ability to mix one single color/flavor when printing, meaning you can punch out sugar objects flavored (and colored) with (so far) chocolate, vanilla, mint, sour apple, cherry and watermelon. These are simply regular food coloring and food flavorings that are injected into the object structure as printing proceeds. You’ll be able to 3D print sugar objects up to 203 x 203 x 152mm, although we strongly suggest smaller objects as the sugar structures are not particularly robust - and they have to fit into your mouth, anyway. The ChefJet is expected to be released in 2H2014 and will cost under USD$5,000.
The Pro ChefJet is different, although its standard 3D Systems style makes it almost visually indistinguishable. It is a multi-color 3D sugar printer, with full RGB color and multiple flavors available. The Pro is larger than the base ChefJet, having a huge print volume of 254 x 355 x 203mm. We suspect the Pro includes CMYK-like food coloring cartridges to produce the colors, plus additional cartridges to inject flavors. Apparently 3D Systems will offer chocolate, vanilla, mint, sour apple, cherry and watermelon “recipes”. The Pro will also be available in 2H2014 but will cost under USD$10,000.
Both machines use a powder process, similar to 3D Systems’ other color 3D printers. Powder (sugar) is spread over a bed and infiltrated with binder (water? food coloring). It doesn’t look like much when printing in the above image, but when extracted from the print bed, you’ll be amazed at the results in the image below.
It’s our understanding that 3D Systems will be preparing a series of pre-made 3D models suitable for printing (and eating) with these devices. We also expect 3D modeling software specifically designed for food preparation to emerge later this year.
Will you use such a machine in your home? We think not - although some well-off folks might be able to afford the $5,000 price of the base ChefJet, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find many of those people with 3D modeling skills and sufficient interest to purchase the machine. Nope, these machines are likely destined, at least initially, for professional food kitchens where chefs will prepare unique and stunning cake toppers and candy delights for specific events.
Take a close look at the cakes and candies during next year’s holiday parties.