Seems as though every time you turn around there is a 3D printer with a new functionality invented. They can be used to build (faux) cars, help with school projects and even bring a virtual Minecraft world to life. While they are all cool, none have managed to hit the 'sweet' spot quite like the Chef Jet - the world's first on-demand 3D candy printer!
Introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas from January 7-10th, the first food-safe printer is small enough to fit on a kitchen countertop and uses technology similar to that of existing color jet printers.
In order to print candy, the user begins by feeding the printer with a special sugar or chocolate mix provided by 3D systems, the manufacturer of the printer. The mixture is spread in a fine even layer on the printing surface by a rolling pin-like mechanism. Then an inkjet print head similar to the one found on regular desktop printers, 'paints' water over its surface. This allows the mixture to recrystallize and harden. This process is repeated several times, resulting in a beautiful intricately designed piece of candy, built from the bottom up.
While creating the complex designs does require some knowledge of Computer Aided Design or 'CAD' software, 3D systems has created a 'Digital Cookbook', to help novices. All they have to do is select from the choices which range from cake toppers to drink sweeteners. The software will provide them with a template to which they can add their own creativity and then simply, hit the print button. The one drawback to this amazing printer is the speed. It takes one hour to print one vertical inch, which means that even a small piece of candy takes a long time!
Chef Jet, which is also available in a professional model that can print colored confectionery, is expected to come to market by the second half of the year. However, you really do have to be passionate about candy because it will set you back $5,000 USD for the basic model and about $10,000 USD, for the professional version.
For those that are not willing or able to invest such a large amount on a candy machine, there may be some hope. That's because US chocolate manufacturer Hershey's has recently teamed up with 3D systems to create a special printer. And whilst it is not yet known what they plan to do, there is some speculation that the company may incorporate the technology into their vending machines. If true, it means that all of us may some day soon, be able to custom print our chocolates with the press of a button. We sure hope that happens!