Last updated: January 16. 2014 2:44PM - 446 Views
By - erinsmith@civitasmedia.com - 910-862-4163

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Well, they have finally done it! They have finally created a way for me to have infinite amounts of chocolate right at my fingertips — or rather at a mouse click. No, I’m not talking about placing orders for chocolate goodies on Amazon.com, though that is still an option. I’m talking about something even better.

I’m talking about pressing the print button and, poof, instant chocolate. What? You haven’t heard the good news? The Hershey’s Chocolate Company and 3-D Systems have teamed up to produce the world’s first 3-D chocolate printer. Yes, it is edible chocolate goodies that the machine can produce. They are virtually indistinguishable from the variety produced in the standard chocolate factory, or so I am told.

The company’s owners said this partnership is a way to help the relatively new technology of three dimensional printing to “go mainstream.”

I began to daydream as I thought about all of wonderful chocolate confections that could be produced with this gadget by just inputting a little data and clicking on print.

Since the news was released, there has been no date set for release of this printer to the public nor a price. A machine this valuable would be a highly prized addition to any office. The average 3-D consumer printer starts about $1,000.

Think about how much easier this would your baking tasks at home. The mom that needs to create the perfect birthday cake can do so now with the aide of the 3-D printer. Bakeries could use the new technology to create all manner of elegant eats for weddings, galas and so on.

The 3-D printing technology is basically exactly what it sounds like. It allows the printer to print an actual product such as a shirt, scale model of a building, or in this case, a chocolate confection. The technology calls for printing the desired items in layers by adding to the printer such materials as metal, plastic, resins, or in this case chocolate instead of the traditional inks.

These printers have been used in commercial settings and some engineering firms have used 3-D printing technology to print scaled models of building concepts. The printing technology has also been used by medical facilities to print human tissues such as skin and medical grade silicon and is anticipated the technology will be used to print a human liver in 2014. The technology can also be used to manufacture computer parts and automobile parts.

Three dimensional printing capability has been around for about a decade, give or take a few years. As it grows in popularity in the manufacturing world, it is expected to make manufacturing goods easier and will likely cause distributors and manufacturers to rethink their processes.

The big question about 3-D printed food is whether or not the taste and texture of printed foods will equal that of their conventionally manufactured counterparts. Also, how well will printed confections hold up compared to there conventional counterparts? Will they crumble at a moments notice or will they hold their shape on the dessert table?

There are still far more questions than answers regarding 3-D printed confections and other foods, but the implications are obvious. Master Chefs will have the ability to create more intricate designs than ever before thanks to three dimensional printing.

Yes, I think we need one of those Hershey’s 3-D chocolate printers in our office. After all, what could be better than a chocolate printed news page?

Erin Smith is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal and can be reached at 910-862-4163 or on twitter @ErynnSmith.

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