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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The future of gift shopping - design and print your own 3D chocolate objects

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
July 4, 2011

Manufacturing and retail could get a much- needed boost from a newly- developed 3D chocolate printer.

In the long term the technology could be used by customers to design many different products themselves - tailor-made to their needs and preferences.

Using new digital technology the printer allows you to create your own designs on a computer and reproduce them physically in three dimensional form in chocolate.

The project is funded as part of the Research Council UK Cross-Research Council Programme - Digital Economy and is managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on behalf of ESRC, AHRC and MRC. It is being led by the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Brunel and software developer Delcam.

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. 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.
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