chocolate printer that allows sweet lovers to create their own custom-made 3D treats is to go on sale at a cost of £2,500.
The machine squirts out chocolate and, via computer instructions, allows the user to build any shape they like out of the food. But makers Choc Edge - founded by Dr Liang Hao, from the University of Exeter - have missed the Easter rush.
Dr Hao came up with a prototype last year and has only just perfected it so that it can now go on sale.'We've improved and simplified the machine, so now it is really easy to use,' he told the BBC. 'You just need to melt some chocolate, fill a syringe that is stored in the printer, and get creative printing your chocolate. '
3D printing is a technology where a three dimensional object is created by building up successive layers of material.The technology is already used in industry to produce plastic and metal products, but this is the first time the principles have been applied to chocolate.The research has presented many challenges. Chocolate is not an easy material to work with because it requires accurate heating and cooling cycles.
Dr Hao said: ‘What makes this technology special is that users will be able to design and make their own products. From reproducing the shape of a child’s favourite toy to a friend’s face, the possibilities are endless. It could be developed to help consumers custom-design many products from different materials, but we’ve started with chocolate as it is readily available, low cost and non-hazardous.
EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy said: 'This is an imaginative application of two developing technologies and a good example of how creative research can be applied to create new manufacturing and retail ideas. By combining developments in engineering with the commercial potential of the digital economy we can see a glimpse into the future of new markets - creating new jobs and, in this case, sweet business opportunities.'