The folks at the University of Exeter who were experimenting with 3D printed chocolate that actually tastes good have spun off the technology into a commercial venture, Choc Edge. Their first product, the Choc Creator V1, is now available for pre-order.
What is it? It's a true 3D printer that is specifically designed to print chocolate. The device uses cartridges containing malleable chocolate that are squished through a syringe. The company says you can "use any other materials in their printer for as long as the material can flow out of the printing head".
The Choc Creator V1 has a build envelope of 175x175x70mm, the shortest vertical build we've seen in any recently announced 3D printer. Each cartridge holds 10ml, which isn't all that much, particularly when you realize you'll be eating the printout. Two sizes of nozzles can be used for different print quality.
Software is said to be open source, but there are few details currently available. We'll have to see how the software can produce 3D models that can be efficiently printed using two nozzles.
Their approach to raise money is quite interesting: They're auctioning off the first few units on eBay and then offering pre-orders for "regular" units. The pre-order price is steep: £2,488 or USD$4000. Evidently the pre-order price is a discount over their proposed regular price of £2,888 or USD$4600. Note: the fine print says:
Choc Edge is in the process of obtaining food grade certification for the Choc Creator printer. Pre-order Choc Creator printer is not currently food grade certified. The printed chocolate is therefore suitable for printing trials and demonstration purpose only and not suitable for consumption.
Obtaining food safe designation should not be an issue as they've been researching this aspect for some time. It's not clear whether the eventual food safe designation would apply to all pre-order models or just new units built after that point. It's even possible there could even be a food safe upgrade option in the future for pre-order units.
We think this is a terrific development as many people will be attracted to the notion of a 3D printer in their kitchen that can produce food items, particularly chocolate. However, we think there may be a few challenges:
- The device visually appears quite mechanical and will definitely be out of place in a kitchen. Perhaps future V2 or V3 models could have spiffy white plastic cases?
- 3D printing is always quite slow and after watching Choc Edge's video, the Choc Creator seems even slower than typical plastic 3D printers. This may surprise uninformed buyers.
- The low vertical build height suggests there might be issues with tall, stacked chocolate prints. Does chocolate slump? What restrictions on 3D model design exist?
- 3D Printing workflow is difficult as several complex software tools must be used together. This is beyond the capability of most people and won't change in the kitchen.
- The syringe size implies prints will be of limited size. Probably this is OK until someone wants to print a full size solid bunny - and it is Easter, isn't it?
Nevertheless, the time for kitchen 3D printing has now officially arrived and there is only one thing to say: Yum!
Via Choc Edge