The 3D-printing revolution has taken a tastier turn. The Hershey Company, whose brand is synonymous with chocolate, has announced that it has partnered with printer manufacturer 3D Systems to “explore and develop” ways to use 3D-printing technology to create edible food, including candy.
William Papa, Vice President and Chief Research and Development Officer at The Hershey Company, said in a statement that, “[W]hether it’s creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future.”
3D Systems, which has been a pioneer in the field since the late 1980s, has been making a concerted effort to move that industry into printed foods. At the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, for instance, the company unveiled the world’s first printers for flavored sugars and chocolate output. One of those printers, the ChefJet, will sell for less than $5000 and can create one-colored edibles using sugar and chocolate. The other, the ChefJet Pro, sells for under $10,000 and offers full-color printed edibles.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., told us that "at first glance, the announcement is so outlandish and gimmicky that it couldn’t possibly work” as a successful venture. But, she added, the fact that Hershey is allied with the effort “lends a lot of credibility to this.”
DiDio pointed out that, as long as 3D printers are in the thousands of dollars, a printed foods industry will probably be limited to small bakeries or hobbyists. This could also include specialty services, where customers send designs or wording via the Net to a local bakery or a mail-order service, as one might for handmade cakes.
DiDio noted that if good quality 3D printers come down to the low hundreds of dollars, as paper printers eventually did, “there is the possibility that this could really take off.”
A printed food industry is only one of the visions that the fast-moving 3D-printer industry is offering, in addition to local 3D printing of architectural models, machine parts, dishware, commemorative items, sculpture and more.
Last week, Adobe, whose software literally created the desktop publishing industry, announced that its Photoshop program in its Creative Cloud will now support 3D printing. The update allows a 3D object to be created from scratch, or for a 3D model to be imported from another program and refined using Photoshop tools.
The Adobe announcement means that affordable, professional-level software tools for 3D printing have now become available. Additionally, Adobe will support ceramics, metals, full color sandstone and other materials on the 3D printing community and marketplace, Shapeways, which also sells 3D-printed products. One could envision that Shapeways or another community marketplace could similarly sell foods created on 3D printers as the customer demand required, as well as provide ingredients.