Images credit EPSRC
3D printing of food isn't new; we showed a fabber that you can build to print in sugar four years ago. But chocolate evidently has its own special issues; according to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),
Chocolate is not an easy material to work with because it requires accurate heating and cooling cycles. These variables then have to be integrated with the correct flow rates for the 3D printing process. Researchers overcame these difficulties with the development of new temperature and heating control systems.
Unlike most of the 3D printers we have shown, where we talk about bringing these tools into our homes, this is designed for the chocolate shop. Research leader Dr Liang Hao at the University of Exeter explains that consumers will design chocolate objects, and upload them to an online retail business which will then print them out. And chocolate is just the start:
In future this kind of technology will allow people to produce and design many other products such as jewellery or household goods. Eventually we may see many mass produced products replaced by unique designs created by the customer.
That's mass customization, and it is happening already, all over.
More on Mass Customization and 3D Printing:
Have 3D Printing and Mass Customization Reached The Tipping Point?
Downloading Designs: Build Your Own 3D Printer
Kinko's for Kidneys: 3D Printing Your Own Body Parts