From CAD to Confectionary: Chocolate Production in the Age of 3D Printing

Cocoa. Milk. Sugar. That irresistible combination of ingredients has made chocolate the billion dollar powerhouse of treats it is today. Consumption of the delicious brown stuff skyrockets over festivities, where waistlines give way to the alchemical allure of the confection’s taste. Easter in particular is where manufacturing ramps up to meet the season’s strong demand for the foodstuff woven from mouth-watering liquid chocolate.


It’s not all eggs and bunnies consumed around the spring season however. Literally breaking out of Easter’s traditional moulds, an added touch of culinary creativity has seen chocolatiers experiment with designs that would make Willy Wonka doff his hat in respect. What’s more, it’s all thanks to 3D printing.

Life is like a box of 3D printed chocolates…

3D printing has hit new heights in manufacturing, from building houses to body parts. It’s an innovation that has been embraced wholeheartedly by the chocolate industry too. Factory produced chocolate still dominates the market, but big time manufacturers such as Nestlé and Mars have trialled the new technology. It’s a design process that allows for a greater flair and a more intricate level of detail and invention. How is it achieved? Well, it’s an undertaking that should be familiar to anyone au fait with SOLIDWORKS.

A glass and a half of…ink

Chocolate printing works pretty much just like any other 3D printer. The product is built from files and designed in 3D CAD software. However, in place of a filament such as plastic, delectable chocolate is piped delicately from a mechanical syringe. The temperature is the most difficult part – the liquid needs to be warm enough to be malleable, cool enough to shape, but not so hot that it melts on impact. It’s a precise balancing act that in part, explains why the procedure can’t be carried out on a mass production. There’s an impracticality to the art, which is how it’s become the go-to as a bespoke product; a treat for the connoisseur conjured up in the imaginations of anyone looking to personalise their chocolate.

3D printing has carved the way for a very specialist market: a world of artisan chocolate for bright-minded caterers and adventurous chocolatiers-in-waiting to wrap their talents around. Opening up a myriad of milk chocolate possibilities for anyone willing to invest their time and finances into the art, companies such as Choc Edge sell the entire venture as either a service or a product. Formed by a team from the University of Exeter, the company made available the technology that renders almost impossibly beautiful shapes and creations out of finest chocolate.


Eggstraordinary chocolate

It’s a far cry from the hollow eggs usually associated with the season. Taking advantage of the ability to build with pin-sharp precision, the 3D printed chocolate is layered to create exquisite frameworks of astonishing intricacy. In fact if ever any food deserved the phrase, “too good to eat”, this is it. It’s an ethos that has transcended its culinary trappings to make confectionary art; a range of styles, designs and flavours that present luxurious boutique bites somewhere between objet d’art and scrumptious snacks. All thanks to 3D printing!

At present, it’s a comparatively costly venture due to its highly detailed nature, time consumption and the above noted heating issues. However, as another delicious option in the world of confectionary, this is a treat worth indulging. Nom, nom.

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>> Brooching the issue: how 3D printing transforms jewellery production

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.