While perusing patent databases we noticed that 3D Systems has published a patent on methods to 3D print soap objects.
US Patent no. 2015/0291921, entitled “THREE-DIMENSIONAL SOAP OBJECTS FORMED BY ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING” describes a method for fabricating “soap” objects from particulate material and a fluid binder.
The proposed device would operate in a manner quite similar to their existing powder-based ProJet series: a bed of powder would be selectively squirted with a binder. The binder would hold those portions of the object together, when applied in successive layers. The patent says that the binder would be “10-100%” adhesive material.
The particulate material is comprised of one or more of the following:
sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, sodium palm kernelate, sodium laurate, sodium myristate, sodium palmitate, sodium stearate, sodium oleate, sodium linoleate, and sodium linolenate.
foaming agents, colorants, fragrances, preservatives, abrasion agents, antimicrobial agents, and antifungal agents
sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, citric acid, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid or a salt thereof, sodium metasilicate, kaolin, clay, sand, pumice, and titanium dioxide
So the powdered material is apparently the soap.
This patent doesn’t seem much of a stretch over their existing plastic-powder processes, but certainly would require an amount of tuning and testing to determine the correct timings, temperatures and other operational parameters.
But once done, it’s possible that 3D Systems could announce a “Soap Printer”. Possibly they’ll call it the “3D Systems SoapJet”?
We’ve seen no other evidence of such a machine, but stranger things have happened. In past years, for example, 3D Systems has suddenly exhibited unusual 3D printers at the Consumer Electronics Show, such as their chocolate and sugar printers. We will keep watch for such a machine at this year’s CES.