After nine years, The Sugar Lab is back with its original founders.
The Sugar Lab developed an unusual 3D printing process for food objects well over ten years ago. At the time their main material was granulated sugar, hence the name of the company.
The process used was a binder jet style approach in which layers of powdered material are bound together — and colored — with a selectively applied edible binder. Back then they were able to 3D print small sugary objects in a variety of geometries, colors and flavors.
I actually had the opportunity to taste one, long ago. It was sweet.
But then, The Sugar Lab was abruptly scooped up by 3D Systems in 2013. At the time it was thought that the power, reach and resources of then industry leader 3D Systems could push the notion of food 3D printing into the mainstream.
But alas, that didn’t happen. The Sugar Labs’ technology, along with countless other 3D Systems acquisitions made during that era, was seemingly ignored and faded away from the company’s pages.
3D Systems had acquired several food-related technologies, and basically nothing came from any of it. However, several years later 3D Systems announced a partnership with CSM Bakery Solutions to pursue food printing activities.
That didn’t go anywhere, either, it appears.
Then apparently earlier this year in May, the original founders of The Sugar Lab, Kyle von Hasseln and Meagan Bozeman, managed to raise enough funds to quietly re-acquire their technology from 3D Systems. Today they are continuing to raise funds to support growth and expansion of their food technology into the market.
Their technology today is the same as before, under the product name “Currant 3D Printer”. The system is said to be able to 3D print objects in not only sugar, but also a wide variety of powdered food material.
In a TechCrunch interview, co-founder Kyle von Hasseln explained:
“I recognized straight away that 3D printing with extruded food paste was too slow and rudimentary for wide adoption in the culinary world. That realization led me to immediately pivot to another 3D printing engine where thin layers of dehydrated food powder are bound layer after layer by water jetted from a printhead — which allows for precise, fast, full-color 3D printing. That invention, now called the CURRANT 3D Printer, solves the fundamental problem in the 3D-printed food space: mass adoption.”
TechCrunch said the company’s food ingredient list now includes “dehydrated fruits, vegetables, spices and plant proteins,” which will make the Currant 3D Printer quite versatile in its production capabilities.
It’s actually not surprising that 3D Systems sold the company back to the founders, as the new management of that company has been divesting itself of non-core activities for at least a year, with some notable divestures. This seems to be another one.
For The Sugar Lab this is truly a rebirth. Their innovative technology became mired in 3D Systems corporate limbo for far too long, and now it is unleashed. Limited only by funding, it’s quite possible this could be the moment that food 3D printing started to become truly real in the marketplace.
I’ll be watching for further developments with the Currant 3D printer, and so should you.