Last week I bumped into something called “Brill 3D Culinary Studio”, and was surprised to see something from the past. Or is it?
It seems that in December, 3D Systems struck a deal with Brill, a ninety-year-old company based in Atlanta that produces solutions for bakeries. They produce icings, glazings, muffins, cakes, fillings and similar products. They also provide manufacturing solutions for companies requiring scale.
Brill / 3D Systems Partnership
The arrangement with 3D Systems involves development of a new “Culinary 3D Printer” to be released later on in 2020. Or at least that was the plan until recent events occurred.
3D Systems Food Printers
Hold on, wasn’t 3D Systems involved in food 3D printing in the past?
Indeed they were. We were onsite way back in 2014 when they announced something called the “ChefJet”. It was a device that was similar to powder 3D printers, except that it used powdered sugar instead of thermoplastics. It seems to have been based on technology gained from their acquisition of The Sugar Lab in 2013.
The device was able to produce small sugary objects, and they could be colored by automatic application of food dyes as well (Pro version). Once I was even able to sample one of the prints, and it tasted like, well, sugar. It dissolved pretty quickly, though.
The announcement in 2014 was literally at the very peak of inflated expectations. The ChefJet was announced to be released in the second half of 2014 at a cost of around US$5,000.
That, of course, never happened.
Along with a chocolate 3D printer, 3D Systems’ foray into food 3D printing disappeared into the void along with several other distracting initiatives like consumer 3D printing in 2015.
At the time 3D Systems had embarked on multiple new lines of business, perhaps in a fishing expedition to see if any of them were profitable. However, management decided enough was enough and changed things around.
CSM Bakery Solutions Partnership
Since then I had not heard much about 3D Systems’ involvement with food 3D printing. No mention of culinary devices appeared on 3D Systems’ websites after 2015. Then in 2017 the company issued an unexpected announcement indicating they were partnering with CSM Bakery Solutions to jointly pursue food 3D printing technologies.
CSM Bakery Solutions is a 100-year-old Atlanta-based company that provides bakery solutions. Their products include bread, cakes, muffins, fillings, toppings and the like. Hm, this sounds familiar.
However, since 2017 there has been zero mention of this arrangement and there appears to be no related products or services using the technology from CSM Bakery Solutions to date.
[UPDATE] It turns out that CSM Bakery Solutions is actually a brand owned by Brill! Thus it seems that the new venture is another iteration by the same underlying company.
Brill Culinary Studios
Now there is what appears to be a very similar partnership with another Brill bakery provider. Brill 3D Culinary Studio (Powered by 3D Systems) seems to be a subsidiary or brand of Brill that intends on producing a sugar 3D printer with software and materials as a packaged solution for high-end bakeries.
They believe they can “transform the culinary industry” with their technology. Items produced include cake toppers, candies, centerpieces, sugar cubes, cocktail adornments, seasonal items, garnishes, “and more”.
The difference in this venture could be the software. They describe an easy-to-use system, which makes a great deal of sense because few bakers would happen to be 3D modeling artists. The operator would simply choose a design from a canned set, perform some simple customizations like selecting colors, etc., and then print it off.
The system is not yet available, and there is a way to get on their wait list for the eventual announcements.
3D Systems Ongoing Food 3D Printing Work
I find this all very curious, because from the front appearance of 3D Systems, they definitely do not offer any kind of food 3D printer. As you can see their list of 3D printer types does not include food, chocolate, sugar or anything similar; just mechanical materials.
However, there is still in existence a hidden page for their culinary 3D printing.
On this page 3D Systems describes the Brill partnership and directions. However, some of the 3D prints shown are literally the same food 3D prints I saw in 2014.
What is 3D Systems up to here? I suspect they are performing yet another iteration to see if they can find a way to make the sugar 3D printing technology profitable. However, this time they could be more successful.
There are some reasons for this conclusion: they are letting a leader in the field take the front position, as they are the ones with the customer list for selling the system. They understand the food market far better than 3D Systems.
Will this iteration work? We’ll find out later in 2020.