These science experiments in high school sound a lot more fascinating than the titration experiments I endured extensively. Two students, Tyler Richards and Jonathan Thompson, took their scientific method to ketchup for their senior project. Their problem, the same annoyance for all those who use ketchup squeeze bottles, consisted of ridding the watery goop that accompanies the first squirt of ketchup. The project took weeks to develop and they eventually settled on a Pythagorean cup design for their bottles. At this point, 3D printing stepped in and successfully proved their hypothesis.
The watery squirt occurs thanks to the ingredients in ketchup. Water is combined with tomato paste, sugar, xanthan gum, and a few other fun chemistry terms. Due to the viscosity and density in the compounds, the water separates after long periods of time sitting. Therefore, when tipped to squirt, it splashes a bit. Richards and Thompson dubbed their device the “Shroom” for its aesthetic likeness with a mushroom. Regardless of the name of the device, it performs admirably.
With astute attention to detail, Richards and Thompson developed the design on a home computer’s software and sent the model to a 3D printer. The material does simply acts as a plastic attachment to the lid of the bottle that forces the condiment through two tubes while keeping the previously separated water at bay. The design is simple and the function is ingenious. A 3D print allowed the experiment to develop at a quicker rate and allowed the students to take advantage of software and 3D printing. An everyday problem could be addressed in a few weeks and had a functional and cheap solution. Two students from Missouri as part of their senior project provided a tool that would be part of a national ad campaign if a ketchup company RandD team developed it. It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done, I hope you don’t mind if we all take advantage of the solutions awaiting with 3D printing.[Ed: Admiration for their ingenuity aside – there is also the tried and tested ”shake the bottle before use” method. I’ve sworn by it for years!]