Charles Goulding and Ryan Donley of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing as it impacts chocolateering.
Chocolate has been around for millennia now, dating as far back as early 1750 B.C., presumably in the area of the Gulf Coast of Vera Cruz where cocoa beverages or chocolate drinks were used in ceremonies by pre-Olmec peoples. Evidence suggests cacao pods may have even been used in alcoholic beverages as early as 1400 B.C. Today, the cacao bean has evolved to encompass a $50 billion chocolate industry worldwide that consists of edible chocolate confections being brought to mass markets.
As the chocolate industry approached what seemed to be its pinnacle, the 3D printing era began gearing up. This led to additive manufacturing reaching numerous food markets, including the frozen dessert industry. Because of this, it is no surprise that 3D printing has made such a quick impact on the chocolate industry, largely due to the creativeness and innovation the industry has invited since its inception. Consumers are embracing these new twists on a favorite sweet, especially during holiday seasons where custom and unique confections are in high demand.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
Must be technological in nature
Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives
Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, US contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax for companies with revenue below $50MM and for the first time, startup businesses can obtain up to $250,000 per year in payroll taxes and cash rebates.
The Impact of Additive Manufacturing
Due to functional capabilities made possible by 3D printing techniques, not only can consumers enjoy the creative designs of 3D printed chocolate but so can professional chefs and culinary students, as these technologies are quickly being integrated into professional kitchens and classrooms alike. Coupled with traditional culinary methods, the intersection of 3D printing into professional kitchens is allowing for intricate designs to be used to elevate dishes and desserts as well as to explore new heights in crafting foods.
Companies Utilizing 3D Printing to Produce Chocolate
In 2015, Hershey partnered with 3D Systems in the creation of a custom 3D printer known as the CocoJet. Currently it is being used in a commercial setting, specifically for consumers to create personalized messages on chocolate bars. The printer is also capable of producing complex chocolate bar designs up to 40 grams, quickly and precisely. At Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania, printers are equipped with an interactive touchscreen that immerses the user in the technology and conducts a survey on completion in order to gain further insight on customization preferences from the users.
Choc Edge Ltd is a technology company that provides chocolate printing solutions to individuals and businesses. Choc Edge was an early starter in the chocolate 3D printing trend as they provide design and production services to consumers for creative and whimsical chocolates. The company uses a unique process to complete fully printed chocolate. First a design idea is submitted and transformed into a 3D model, where it is then converted to an instruction code for Choc Edge’s special Choc Creator program. This is achieved by going through a slicer, which slices the 3D model into layers and writes the printing instructions for each layer. Once ready, the chocolate design can be printed accurately and quickly.
La Miam Factory
La Miam Factory is a Belgian chocolate shop that has specialized in 3D printing chocolate after only being operational for less than a year. Recognizing the benefits of 3D printing technology, the company has gathered a reputation in the industry as they are becoming highly sought after by nearby businesses, as well as hotels, individual customers and even a brewery. Their overnight success has been attributed to extensive research in this arena, as their custom 3D printer meets food regulation and can achieve complex geometries and delicate structures. La Miam Factory also offers a range of sizes, shapes, and chocolate, including white, blond, milk and dark.
What began as engineering student Evan Weinstein’s small project, Cocoa Press has since blossomed into a large production DIY 3D printing chocolate company. Chocolate is stored in an aluminum syringe, and pressurized air at 15 psi is used to extrude the chocolate. An integrated cooling system is utilized to solidify each layer as it is extruded, allowing for chocolate creations with complex 3D geometries to be produced. In March 2018, the Cocoa Press received an award from the Wharton Entrepreneurial Fund at the University of Pennsylvania in order to support further development of this custom printer. The Cocoa Press continues to be worked on for mass production and will hopefully be available soon for any household to print their own chocolate from home.
The use of 3D printers in the food industry is a growing trend and should continue to rise as more culinary artists utilize the technology to their tastes. As the technology around 3D printing continues to improve, soon enough there will be rapid and more precise methods to produce food through additive manufacturing. The future holds the potential to see food produced in mass as a result of 3D printing and culinary methods joining forces.