For some reason this week a wave of chocolate fever passed through the Fabbaloo offices. After gorging on several delectable chocobars, we wondered about the current state of 3D chocolate printing. Certainly we saw early experiments by the Fab@Home folks, but what else is happening?
After some searching, we encountered ChocALM: Customized Chocolate Made by Additive Layer Manufacturing. This is an ongoing research project by the School of Engineering, Computer Science & Mathematics, University of Exeter in collaboration with Exeter Advanced Technologies. The project has been in existence since 2007, and each year a fresh crop of hungry students continue to improve the ChocALM's capabilities.
The project has now progressed to the point where they've built a specialized 3D printer, based on the Fab@Home design, capable of creating basic chocolate items. They've had to do some significant changes, "given the complex nature of chocolate as a non-Newtonian fluid".
However, one of their major sponsors, Cadbury Schweppes, was recently acquired by Kraft. Will their sponsorship continue?
Nevertheless, there are good reasons to continue with this work:
What makes ChocALM special is that the material for manufacture will be chocolate! Chocolate is readily available, low cost and non-hazardous. There is also no wastage as any unused or spoiled material can be eaten!
There are few images of printed chocolate samples, presumably because they don't last very long after emerging from the printer.