3D Printing and Chocolate: A Fine Art

3D Printing and Chocolate

3D Printing and Chocolate

We’re pretty excited about our new-to-the market technique for using 3D printing solutions to add an artist’s touch to assembly line chocolate candy. This new design technique allows large manufacturers and boutique chocolate makers to offer a wider variety of intricate, artistic surfaces on chocolate candies in a faster, more cost-effective way.

For over 30 years, we’ve been applying leading technologies to product design, manufacturing and packaging. We were quick to explore new applications for 3D printing, and making chocolate molds from 3D-printed designs was a logical next-step for us. We’ve created our own sampling of chocolate designs for fun, but we’re not chocolate makers. What we do is design 3D-printed positives so chocolate makers can create new designs without having to carve the molds by hand.

3D Printing and Chocolate: How it Works

3D printing and chocolate

3D Printing and Chocolate

With this new 3D printing and chocolate design technique, chocolate molds are made from the positives printed on a 3D printer. Molds can easily be made from 3D-printed positives and new designs can be tested with a minimal amount of time and investment. This allows for flexibility in adding new designs to a product line and for creating chocolates for specific events, themes and other types of customized orders.

Additionally, small batches of candy can be made cost-effectively by chocolate manufacturers with smaller production runs.

3D Printing and Chocolate: 3 Steps

Not familiar with 3D printing technology? Most chocolate makers aren’t there yet, either. But you’ve probably heard that 3D printing can help you add blockbuster concepts to your collection. And it’s true!

Here’s how it works:

Step 1. Based on your vision, we will create chocolate candy designs in a 3D file format. Or, you can create your own artwork in whatever medium you use now. We’ll do the conversion to 3D for you.

Step 2. We’ll send you the 3D printed plastic prototype to make sure you’re happy with it.

Step 3. The 3D printed prototype can then be used to make a mold. Many chocolate makers prefer to make their own molds, but we can take care of that if you don’t want to.

If you are currently using traditional methods to design your molds, you will find that 3D printing technology is easier and faster. Contact us if you would like to find out more about 3D-printed chocolate design.


3d printing ideas on laptop

Additive Manufacturing for Everyman

3D printing technology helps ordinary people take innovation beyond the “I’ve got an idea” stage. Good ideas are like runaway trains. They keep you up at night. They develop to a point where they won’t leave you alone. But so often, turning an idea into its manifested counterpart in the real world never happens. The investment is out of reach, the learning curve is steep and forget about building a prototype. Over time, ideas get pushed to the side and eventually dissolve into this great idea you once had.

3D Printing Technology: Making the Impossible Possible

3D printed prosthetic limbs

Richard Van As makes 3D printed prosthetic limbs Picture: Photo/Denis Farrell Source: AP

But now that 3D printing technology has become more available to the masses, many individuals with great ideas are getting the chance to prove them out. One such story is that of a South African carpenter named Richard Van As. After losing four fingers in a circular saw accident, Van As was ‘dogged’ by an idea. He describes the experience like this: “After my accident, I was in pain, but wouldn’t take painkillers. I barely slept, and the more pain I had the more ideas I got,” he said. “Sometimes you have to chop fingers off to start thinking.” Inspired by an online video about a hand created for a costume in a theater production, Van As decided to use 3D printing technology to make functioning fingers for himself.

His experiment was a success. So much so that he started making hands for other people—particularly children who suffered from Amniotic Band Syndrome, whereby the circulation to one or more appendages is cut off in the womb, resulting in shortened limbs. Dubbed ‘Robohands,’ Van As’ invention enables people with malformed limbs to close mechanical fingers around objects and manipulate these objects in ways that were impossible before. And as if that weren’t enough, Van As is able to deliver a Robohand to a family in need for roughly two thousand dollars, a far cry from the oft-times prohibitive $10,000 to $15,000 a below-the-elbow prosthetic can cost.

3D Printing Technology: The Father of Invention

Chuck/Charles Hull

Chuck Hull, the father of 3D printing technology, image by The Guardian

True to the spirit of 3D printing technology, 3D printers themselves were the result of an engineer who was frustrated by something. Chuck Hull, now known as the father of 3D printing, was annoyed by how long it took to make plastic parts for prototypes. In 1986, Hull, who went on to found 3D Systems, patented his system of layering materials to more rapidly build parts. Now 75 years old, Hull predicted years ago that it would take at least this long for his invention to enter into the mainstream. Turns out he was right. Still passionate about 3D printing technology and its place in the world, Hull tried to retire but couldn’t stay away. He now serves as Chief Technology Officer at 3D Systems.

For inventors, the 21st century is a good time to be alive. Not only do rapidly advancing technologies spark new ideas on a daily basis, but thanks to early pioneers like Chuck Hull, we are now able to bring many of them to fruition.

Can 3D Printing Take Us Back to Our Roots?

In a moving introduction to his March 2014 TED talk on all things 3D printing, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental pays tribute to his grandfather, a cobbler who perished in the Holocaust. Although Reichantal never met his grandfather, the older gentleman’s love of craft was a legacy he imparted to his yet-to-be-born grandson.

True to his DNA, the grandson is now pioneering new ways to apply 3D printing technology to products and devices that are designed for beauty, function and individual tastes. Reichental points out that 3D Printing allows us to “emotionally reconnect with [our] symmetry” in a way that mass-produced goods are hard-pressed to do.

What’s touching about Reichental’s story is his passion for being a self-described ‘maker of things.’ (Remember Julia Roberts’ ‘Vivian’ in Pretty Woman, asking billionaire Edward [Richard Gere]: “So you don’t make anything? You don’t build anything?”) Clearly, Reichental takes pride in crafting beautiful and useful items with the same tender care that his grandfather did so many years ago—this time, with a 21st century craft. But the reward does not end when the product is finished. Reichental also gets to experience the joy of watching his 3D printing innovations change lives.

Granted, many 3D printed experiments are just that—experiments. We are a long way off from integrating 3D printed output into our everyday existence. But technology often works like that. When people all over the globe are exploring an emerging technology, we can expect it to reach a critical mass, at which point the new technology will start showing up in our common experience. (Think vaccines, the Internet and cell phones.)

3D Printing—A Historical Thread

What if 3D printing can take us farther back than just a generation or two? In a science-fiction-like scenario, San Francisco Biotech startup Cambrian Genomics is using 3D printing technology to print DNA. While printing DNA isn’t new, the company has innovated a way to discard defective strands and keep the good ones. To put this in perspective, Scott Grunewald writes in the 3D Printing Industry April 10, 2014 online newsletter: “The DNA laser printer will produce more viable DNA in a single run than is produced in all of the machines in the entire world in a single year.”

3D printing DNA

3D printed DNA

One vision for this innovation (aside from designer genes and medical applications) is to explore the possibility of resurrecting extinct species, including dinosaurs. But not the dinosaurs we’ve read about in books. In theory, these dinosaurs will be genetically engineered to survive in previously uninhabitable places—like outer space.

Perhaps in the process, we will learn more about the ‘spark’ that brings something inanimate to life. But until then, we can at least watch companies introduce 3D printing technologies that are about to change the way we live very soon.

Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Design Studios

What 3D Printing technologies are you following? Tell us!

A 3D Printer Near You

3D printer networking

A 3D Printer Near You

Need access to a 3D printer? In the spirit of making the world a smaller (and friendlier) place, people use the Internet to find a couch to sleep on, a sweet guitar and even a spouse.

Not to be outdone, 3D printing fanatics can now tap into the global village, too.

In August of 2013, Netherlands-based 3D Hubs began playing matchmaker between people who need to print and people who have 3D printers. At its August 2013 launch, 3D Hubs had a directory of 500 hubs (people with 3D printers) world-wide, which has grown to over 5,000 hub locations across the globe in just under a year.

Bringing the 3D printer community together

So what is a hub? Basically, it’s anyone with a 3D printer that signs up to be one. 3D Hub was started with the intention of connecting hobbyists, enthusiasts and 3D printer owners with each other so that creators could print their stuff close to home and printer owners could make a little money. 3D Hub has identified 750 million people across the globe as living near a hub. And with over 5,000 hubs to choose from, you could easily be one of them.

While 3D Hubs is trying to optimize a scarce (and expensive) resource, they also have a much larger vision. They want to straighten out a crimp in the manufacturing supply chain by giving product designers more affordable access to 3D printing capabilities. Rather than sending 3D files off to be printed, a designer can find a local 3D printer and print with a shorter turn-around time—and less money. If you are a designer experimenting with 3D printer designs, your next 3D model could be printed on a kitchen table in the neighborhood right next to your studio.

“We are excited to alter the way people make and distribute products,” says Bram de Zwart, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hub. Brian Garret, CTO and co-founder adds: “Our goal is to turn the manufacturing industry on its head and enhance our market position through increased speed and direct communication with local 3D printer operators.”

Paving the way for additive manufacturing

At Lehrmitt Associates, we have been experimenting with 3D prototyping for a few years now. What we are finding is that manufacturers are moving forward with the technology, but that one stop-gap for many small companies is cost. The fees to print even smaller-scale prototypes can run into the hundreds—and even thousands—of dollars. And forget about printing over and over until you get it right.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing

Fortunately, the 3D printing industry is attracting innovative thinkers in droves. We think 3D Hub has a pretty good idea. Creativity should never be squelched by a lack of resources, and 3D Hub is creating flow for companies who want to explore (on a budget) how 3D printing can take their manufacturing process and their products in entirely new directions.

Let’s give this forward-thinking company a round of applause.

Mary Follin Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Tell us about your experiences with finding a 3D printer.


wild wild west 3d printing of textured surface design

3D Printing and the Wild Wild West

O Pioneers! Like the wild west, the 3D printing industry is uncharted territory that attracts people who prefer to live on the edge. In the 3D printing world, it’s the innovators who are gravitating toward the technology and doing cool things with it.

3D Printing: A Scan of Your Face

No surprise, Microsoft is already a strong player. Take the 3D scanner project, which Microsoft has dubbed SKYNET UI, after the artificial intelligence system in the Terminator. (We wonder if Arnold might not have been a better choice, as the fictional SKYNET was out to destroy the human race.)

Using your cell phone, you can use SKYNET UI to take a 360 degree picture of someone’s head, then convert it to a 3D picture onscreen. Next, print it out on a 3D printer. Then, do with it what you want with it. (Put your kids’ heads on your fireplace mantel, perhaps?)

3D printing bust

Faces in 3D

Maybe that’s what some people will do. But others might use it to model the healthy half of a face before doing reconstructive surgery on the other half. Or use it as the beginnings of a sculpture. Whatever it’s used for, it sure beats creating a plaster-of-Paris mask when you need (or want) to replicate somebody’s face.

Collaboration in the 3D Printing Industry

In another nod to the wild west, innovators are staking their claims all over the 3D printing space. In collaboration with MakerBot, Microsoft offers the company’s printer for sale in their online store. If you aren’t sure where to go when you’re ready to print your friend’s face, you can simply order a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer for $1,999 from Microsoft and print it at home.

Collaboration is what it’s all about. Business models in the 3D printing industry are shaping up to be a collection of disparate talent that comes together to create the whole. In the old days, conglomerates did everything—innovate, design, develop, manufacture and sell.

Not anymore. Companies are more nimble and expect to find talent wherever it happens to be on the planet. Conversations between idea-makers, start-ups and more established companies flow more easily than they used to. Access to new technologies is quicker, as we now have the Internet to tell us everything about what anybody is doing.

This is good news for us at Lehrmitt Associates. We are designers. We make 3D printed prototypes beautiful by adding textured surfaces to them. For us, it’s exciting to see so many product manufacturers experimenting with new looks for products that have been around for years. In our discussions with product designers from multiple industries, we can show them how we can add Surface Skins to their product designs.

We don’t want to make products. We just want to make them beautiful.

Mary Follin—Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Comment section: What is the most interesting 3D application you have seen so far?

3D Printed Chocolate Ford Mustang. Yum.

Ford's iconic muscle car

Ford’s iconic muscle car

Let’s pretend you were born early enough to answer this one.

Quick. What happened on April 17th, 1964?

Some folks will never forget. The first game was played at Shea Stadium (NY Mets lose to Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3), Jerrie Mock became the first woman to fly solo around the world, and Ford introduced its new pony, the Mustang ($2,368 for the base model).

Let’s talk about that car. This year, in honor of the Mustang’s 50th birthday, Ford is introducing a new version of its iconic muscle car. All grown up now, the 2015 Ford Mustang sports a sleek, ergonomic and high-tech design. It’s not the same hotrod you went cruising in back in the sixties. (Or seventies, eighties and beyond, for that matter.)

But it’s every bit as groovy rad cool hot good.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression, and when you see this [new] car you immediately see a Mustang strong and true,” says Moray Callum, Ford executive director, design, The Americas.

There’s something about that shape, isn’t there? You’d know it anywhere.

Even in a 4”x2” piece of chocolate.

3D Printed Chocolate Ford Mustang: Tiny Replica of an Automotive Giant

As part of an early promotion for the 2015 Mustang, Ford has commissioned a limited-edition batch of 3D printed chocolate replicas of the new Mustang model. 3D Systems, one of the few companies that offers food-grade 3D printers, was the lucky company chosen to tackle this challenge.

3D printed chocolate Ford Mustang in process

3D printed chocolate Ford Mustang in process

Apparently, it wasn’t easy to convert such a complex product design into something that could be held in your hand and popped in your mouth. According to Liz Von Hasseln, Creative Director Food Products at 3D Systems’ The Sugar Lab, “It was a challenge to take [the car] from the full CAD version down to a little, one inch bite of chocolate. That was fun!”

As is typical of 3D chocolate printing, the 3D printed Chocolate Ford Mustang was printed in cross-sections, one layer at a time. Each layer starts with a solid layer of sugar, laid down by precision ink jets—filled, of course, with the sweet stuff, not ink. Then, the jets do another pass, moistening the sugar with water, crystallizing only those areas that will eventually be the finished car. (Picture a bird’s-eye view of a car-shaped stencil on a solid plane of sugar.)

The final output looks like—well, a pile of sugar. But then, the designers get to dig out the buried car. They clean it off, blow on it and voila! A tiny replica of the 2015 Ford Mustang is born—the first 3D printed car you can eat.

Another historic day in the fifty year history of the Ford Mustang.

Watch a video of the 3D printed Chocolate Ford Mustang process—it’s pretty interesting:

Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Leave a comment: Tell us your Ford Mustang stories!

Rapid prototyping with 3D printers

3D Printer Applications — Where Are We Today?

As tempting as it is to imagine science-fiction type outcomes using 3D printing technologies, the state of the art simply isn’t there yet. In fact, it’s a long way off. 3D printing is expensive—and slow—and 3D printer applications in a production environment are limited.

But there are 3D printer applications that have become today’s reality. Manufacturers are using 3D printing to assist with rapid prototyping, allowing product developers to experiment with multiple designs—quickly and at a low cost. (This has actually been going on for years, by the way. It just keeps getting better.) Food manufacturers are exploring ways to produce gourmet foods using 3D printers, producing food samples in a variety of configurations that allow for artisan design using 3D-printed molds.

Medical 3D printer applications

But perhaps the most gratifying 3D printer application for all of humankind is the ability to design custom medical implants that create mobility, aesthetics and functionality for people who have been disfigured by accident or disease.

One such story is that of a 22-year old Dutch woman whose skull was thickening due to a rare brain condition. This thickening was causing problems with her vision and her ability to make facial expressions. Left untreated, the condition would most likely prove fatal. Doctors at Utrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands used a 3D printer to create a prosthetic skull. The implant surgery took 23 hours, and was so successful that the patient is now symptom-free and back at work.

Another modern day miracle that took place because of 3D printing technology is that of a man who lost part of his face due to an aggressive form of squamous cell carcinoma. When a rapidly-growing tumor was discovered behind his nose, doctors had no choice but to remove his left eye and most of the left side of his face. He was unable to eat and drink normally for four years until a specialist suggested using a 3D printer application to create a prosthetic ‘mask’ for him to wear.

Doctors use 3D printers

3D printers help treat patients in new ways.

A London dental surgeon used the scanned image of the right side of the patient’s face to create—and print—an identical ‘left side.’ Using the printed output to make the mold, the surgeon then created a mask out of silicone.

Not only did this face mask—and the internal structures that were anchored to it—restore the ability for the patient to eat and drink normally again, he now has some semblance of a whole face, as opposed to the exposed, cavernous areas where the cancer had been cut out.

The speed of innovation

While many of the 3D printing applications are still experimental and left up to the imagination of product developers, inventors, designers and medical doctors, what has changed is the speed with which the technology is progressing and the amount of resources that are being invested in it.

In January 2014, a mutual fund dedicated to investing solely in 3D printing technology opened for business. According to portfolio manager Alan Meckler, the 3D Printing and Technology Fund owns roughly 40 companies.

And because companies like these are racing to develop marketable 3D printer applications, 3D printing stocks have spiked in the past few years. (Recent drops may be a correction of the over-zealousness of investors who were overly confident of the imminence of mainstream applications.)

But there is no doubt that the 3D printing industry is on a growth trajectory. While history is littered with technology fads that have faded quickly, 3D printing has been around since the early 1980’s. And the industry has seen an increase in applications, awareness and pervasiveness in recent years that portend more good things to come.

Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Leave a comment! Where is your company with regards to 3D printer applications?


3D Printing Tells a Story. Yours.

As mankind plods determinedly into the future, scientists, engineers, philosophers and ethicists all agree that the distinction between ‘human’ and ‘machine’ is taking a turn. Human beings are plugging into technology and installing bionic body parts at an increasing rate, and (if you squint) you can see a not-so-distant future where these technologies will integrate into body and mind in a more seamless way.

Stanley Kubrick's Hal the Computer

Stanley Kubrick’s Computer—Hal

Cyborg, if you will.

But sometimes, rather than man chasing technology, it feels like machines are reaching out to us. (This is the subtle nature of the whole thing, by the way, and how something like Hal can happen.)

Take, for example, this tiny (cute) 3D printer that can track human emotion in the telling of a story and create a sculpture about it. While the kids tell their stories, the printer ‘listens’ and softly, gently sculpts a 3D shape that reflects the ups, downs and soothing stretches of each tale.

Bless its little heart!

And in an extreme rush of anthropomorphism, you might even want to give it a hug. Once we’ve put our handprint on an inanimate object, we suddenly see ourselves in it. Which is why we surround ourselves with spaces and things that help us tell everybody who we are.

Since the time when prehistoric man began carving on cave walls with rocks and sticks, we’ve been using whatever’s handy for self-expression. And emerging technologies are no exception.

Why should they be?

3D printing and self-expression

3D printing is opening up all kinds of options for creating products that please consumers and help them look different from everybody else.

What 3D printing technology can do is create choices for product design that—beginning with the prototyping stage—gives companies significantly more workable ideas to choose from. In the design stage, visionaries can come up with a myriad of designs and integrate them more easily into the basic product. And in the final stage—where Jane and Joe consumer are using, looking at or gifting the real thing—each person can enjoy a self-styled look and feel.

Product differentiation

3D printing can make your product stand out.

Custom 3D printing options at the retail level are already in the works at some forward-thinking enterprises. This is good news for us at Lehrmitt Associates, as we specialize in embossed surface textures for consumer products.

Since 3D printing technology has made it possible—and cost-effective—for manufacturers to add cool ‘skins’ to cell phone covers, make-up compacts, light switch plates—and even gun stocks—we envision a world where everybody can pick their own designs for the stuff they buy.

What’s coming in custom 3D printing

Picture this. You and your friend walk into your neighborhood packing and shipping store with your boring, plain-old cell phone cases. OK, maybe yours is decorated in a cool faux leather print. And hers is hot pink with purple flowers.

But could you tell them apart in the dark?

Now back to that store. You swipe your credit card through a reader on this metal box that looks a little like a microwave. A menu pops up (on the front of the box, maybe?) and you choose from a list of products. Let’s go with the cell phone cover. Then you pick the embossed surface you want.

Hit the button, and within a short period of time, you print out a textured cell phone cover with an embossed lizard skin surface that is really, really cool.

It’s so you.

And just as you are turning to leave, you swear you hear the printer say something like this: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”

Or maybe it was Hal who said that. But you get the idea.

Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Leave a comment! What are some of the ways you are using 3D printing technology?

3D Printer Chocolates Don’t Taste Like Paper

If you find yourself wondering ‘How do they DO that?’ when you hear about 3D printers making chocolate, you wouldn’t be alone. Maybe your mind jumps to the food replicator on the Starship Enterprise. (Does the stuff just come out of thin air?) Or perhaps you imagine the Keebler elves inside their hollow tree. Somebody’s got to be in there making those chocolates appear like magic.

Box of chocolates

Redoute’s roses in chocolate

But most likely, you know there has to be a logical explanation. You’re just not quite sure what it is.

Printing food is an emerging technology that portends a future with some pretty interesting-looking things for us to eat. By using 3D technology, food shape is limited only by the imagination and the physical attributes of the ingredients when they’re combined through the printing process.

For example, take a look at these interesting, edible shapes. Notice how the sugar cubes have a carved-out, sculpted look. Because of the way a 3D printer prints, food can have ‘holes’ in places it never could before. (Aren’t those lacey corn chips gorgeous?)

How a 3D printer creates cool-looking food

The actual process is surprisingly simple. You just load up the printer ‘capsules’ with each ingredient, fit them into the printer and hit the print button.

It’s pretty amazing to watch the printer ‘build’ your snack, layer by layer. At least, at first. Since it takes about an hour to print a vertical inch, you might tire of that excitement. And you’ll want to start the whole thing long before you’re hungry. Or old, if you’re planning to rely on a printer for your sustenance should you travel to say, Mars. (Which is one application being seriously considered—and funded— by NASA.)

Here’s how it works. The separate ingredients are forced through syringe-type ‘jets’ that look more like a perfect pastry bag at work. First the bottom layer is squeezed onto the printer platform, then the next—and so on. Back and forth. Back and forth. Not much to look at, but because of the layering technology, the jets can ‘skip’ parts and create holes through the center of the food, thus creating lace, latticework and hollowed-out eyes on snowmen cookies.

In other words, what comes out of the printer is a proverbial visual feast.

Are we there yet?

Technology moves so fast, by the time most people even become aware of the concept, there will likely be a wide selection of commercially available printed chocolates to choose from. Chocolate manufacturers are already testing recipes and designs for new chocolates and printing custom candies in small batches.

Chocolate roses

The inspiration for our chocolate roses

We’re pretty excited about this, because we’ve been creating some 3D chocolate designs of our own.

For foodies who want to enjoy the art before taking that first bite, we’ve created beautifully sculpted roses, modeled after Pierre-Joseph Redoute’s roses. We’re having fun dreaming up images that no one has ever seen on chocolate before.

Take a look at what we’ve come up with!

How can I get some?

Once you hear about it, you can’t help but want to try it. Of course, you could buy a chocolate printer. 3D Systems offers the ChefJet for roughly $5,000, which comes with a digital cookbook and easy-to-use ChefJet software. Or for about the same amount of money you can buy the Choc Creator V1 from Chocedge.

But if you want someone else to print your chocolates for you, you might have to wait. Piq Chocolates offers custom 3D printed chocolates, but they imply on their website that they can only handle a limited number of orders. And PrintCandies does just what its name says; they print custom logos and messages on candies, but you need to place a big order. (And if you’re one of those manufacturers experimenting with 3D chocolate design, talk to us! We’re quite good at it.)

‘Waiting’ appears to be the current state-of-the-art in the 3D printing world. The printing process is slow, and printed food is not yet widely available.

For now.

Go ahead and start salivating; printed chocolates are coming soon. Most likely to a store near you.

-Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Associates Marketing

Have you ever tasted printed food? Tell us about it! Leave a comment.