Despite the existence of other chocolate printers from other companies, a new startup named Print Arsenal is currently crowdfunding what they are saying is the “first” chocolate 3D printer called, appropriately enough, The Chocolate 3D Printer. The printer can create three dimensional objects from dark, milk and white chocolate up to 100mm x 150mm x 100mm in size.
The printer has a heated extruder optimized to work with chocolate, and is constructed with food grade parts and materials. Bits of chocolate are fed into a hopper where they are forced by a piston, driven by a double screw motor, into a chamber and heated to 40 degrees Celsius. The liquid chocolate is then sent into a syringe-like extruder with a 4mm nozzle to build objects on the printing bed to cool. The Chocolate 3D Printer includes several pre-loaded chocolate models and can be connected to a computer via a USB port so users can print objects that they have created themselves or downloaded from the Internet. Here is the campaign video from their Indiegogo page:
Chocolate is, of course, an ideal food product to be used in 3D printing applications. It has a relatively low melting temperature and hardens very quickly in the open air, so it is capable of holding very complex shapes. There are plenty of RepRap and home build machines that convert standard 3D printers into chocolate printers with the use of syringes filled with melted chocolate, however the quality is reportedly middling at best.
At least one company, ChocEdge, has successfully brought a chocolate printer to market, although 3D Systems and Hershey say that they are close, too. Of course, they also said that about the ChefJet, but there have been delays with that product, so it’s difficult to say when the CocoJet will be readily available.
While the Chocolate 3D Printer specs look decent, there are reasons to be skeptical of their product. Print Arsenal makes no bones about the fact that this is a prototype only, and they fully admit that there will be future improvements to the device. However when you back the campaign, you get the prototype, not the improved model. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are often used as prototype development platforms, where backers know full well that thy’re investing in unpolished technology.
However the Chocolate 3D Printer costs $3,800, and as of press time, the company has yet to put a functional website online. Not even a placeholder. There are precious few examples of chocolate 3D prints on the Indiegogo page, and at least one of the images used on the campaign page is an image that does not appear to be from the company, but simply pulled from the internet. That is never a good sign. There is also the fact that, by their own admission, they only have a few working prototypes and need the funds from the campaign to produce the rest. From their campaign’s Risks section. “We don’t anticipate delays in production and shipping, but will communicate to you if any occur. We currently have a few complete operating prototypes and are establishing plans for commercial manufacturing.”
When a campaign is scheduled to end in mid-February and they are giving fulfillment dates only weeks afterwards, with no commercial manufacturing plans, established then one of two things is happening: Either the company is selling vaporware, or they are simply using their crowdfunding campaign as a marketing tool.
Given the relatively small requested funding amount of $15,000, they are most likely not anticipating a large run on their product and a few dozen machines can be assembled relatively quickly. If the Chocolate 3D Printer does everything that Print Arsenal says that it will do, then, even with what I feel is a very high price, it could still be a decent printer with obvious applications for home users. However any hopes of using it for commercial purposes seem to me to be, at best, optimistic.