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.


Mold Textures: Make Your Products say ‘Touch Me.’

mold texturesAt Lehrmitt Design Studios, we use 3D printing technology to design tactile, textured surfaces that bring an artist’s finishing touch to consumer products. Dubbed Surface Skins™, product designers and manufacturers can use our service to add mold textures to almost any consumer product mold.

Currently, the options for applying mold textures to products molds are limited. Manufacturers typically invest in a few ‘stock’ designs (brushed, pebbled, etc.) and use the same limited number of designs on the entire product line.

That’s why we’re pretty excited about Surface Skins.

Surface Skins: Mold Textures Made Easy

This game-changing technology enables you to create any number of mold textures so you can delight your customers in new ways. Think lizard skin, linen weave, wood grain or geometric shapes. We have a library of over 100 Surface Skins to choose from.

mold textures

Create innovative designs with mold textures

It’s a pretty neat concept. Using our 2D to 3D software conversion methodology, we take a PSD, PNG or JPEG file, convert it to a CAD file and ‘wrap’ the surface texture around your product.

We then send it to the printer to print out a 3D prototype. And when the client is happy, we use the file to create the mold textures.

For an overview of how Surface Skins works, take a look at our video:

two giant product brands

Product Brands: When Giants Get Together

Product brand mash-ups are so much fun! When companies join forces and come up with a hybrid between two disparate product brands, delight ensues. It’s always a curiosity to discover two well-known product brands juxtaposed on each other. Often times, it makes perfect sense. And sometimes, two seemingly unrelated products are married in surprising ways. But in both cases, when product brands collide to create a new customer experience, it broadens the appeal of a product and reaches out to a new crowd—the loyal fan-base of the partnering brand.

Take, for example, the just-released Moleskine Lego Limited Edition Notebook. Not only is there a real Lego on the cover, there are also delightful sketches and stickers inside that let your kid (or the kid in you) create his or her own Lego avatar. What better way to get younger people to think about buying a journal?

What’s also intriguing about the collaboration between these two industry leaders is the marketing behind their hybrid product. The video is a fun watch and does the job it’s supposed to do. It makes you want to buy one.

Here’s another great idea: infusing outdoor wear with bug repellent. ExOfficio promises 70 washings before your tick, ant, fly, chigger and no see ‘em protection washes out of your new BugsAway®shirt. Pretty handy for a walk in the woods. While the insect repellent brand is not promoted in this collaboration, somebody was thinking right when they added bug spray to outdoor clothing. That is, of course, if it really works.

We all now expect to see Starbucks at our neighborhood Barnes and Noble. And at the grocery store. But did you know you can now get a ceramic Starbucks travel mug designed by Band of Outsiders, an edgy, rebellious line of casual wear? According to the Starbucks website, “Inspired by [Band of Outsiders Designer] Scott Sternberg’s favorite coffee slang, drip, the one-of-a-kind mug features black or multicolored paint dripping down Starbucks® signature coffee cups.”

In other words, it’s pretty cool. Just like the Starbucks and Band of Outsiders brands.

Mixing Product Brands: Proceed with Caution

While a joint venture between product brands brings something fresh to the market, the strategy behind it must be undertaken with great care. Each company should consider its own customers and what type of impression the other brand will make on them. By joining two factions, a company may be at risk of creating associations that don’t serve their brand. While the intention is to create a ‘brand boost,’ it’s important not to compromise the integrity of one’s own product brand by aligning with a brand that might bring with it negative associations.

Back in the old days, giant conglomerates hoarded their brands and rarely ‘let anybody else in.’ But in the spirit of the global village, that doesn’t work anymore. A well-developed brand feels almost like a friend. And for most people, it’s a happy thing when your friends become friends with each other.

Textured Surface Designs Colors

Textured Surface Designs: A Baffling Disorder or a Gift?

What do Jimi Hendrix, Vincent Van Gogh, Marilyn Monroe and Vladimir Nabokov have in common? For starters, they were all famous, each world-renowned in his or her own right. But what you may not know about these talented artists is that they were also synesthetes.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, according to Psychology Today, synesthesia is “a neurologically based condition in which a person experiences “crossed” responses to stimuli. Synesthesia occurs when stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision).”

Simply put, synesthetes hear colors, feel tastes and see sounds—or any number of hybrid sensual responses. Considered by some to be a benign condition, it’s even possible that this ability to experience expansive sensorial stimuli may be a gift. If the long list of talented synesthetes is any indicator, for some people, synesthesia may be a predicator to genius.

Innovative Design: A Sensorial Feast

Not unlike synesthesia, good design catalyzes a holistic experience, engaging senses beyond the design medium itself. In a quirky mash-up of scent and watercolor, the makers of Method natural air fresheners asked five designers, Matt W. Moore, Satsuki Shibuya, Sara Jensen, Julia Manchik and Lisa Congdon to render images for 5 of their flagship scents.

Here’s what the artists had to ‘say’ about that:

The smell of BEACH SAGE SCENT looks like this:


Textured Surface Design: Beach Sage


The smell of FRENCH LAVENDER SCENT looks like this:


Textured Surface Designs: French Lavender


The smell of FRESH CLOVER SCENT looks like this:


Textured Surface Designs: Fresh Clover


The smell of SWEET TANGERINE SCENT looks like this:


Textured Surface Designs: Sweet Tangerine


The smell of WILD POPPY SCENT looks like this:


Textured Surface Designs: Wild Poppy


Method encourages you to download these images as iphone/ipad wallpaper so you can ‘look’ at these scents and stay refreshed all day long.

Textured Surface Designs

At Lehrmitt Design Studios, we also take our cue from multiple senses when we add new textured surface designs to our Surface Skins™ catalog. We observe patterns, light reflections and textures in the world around us to create textured surface designs that engage more than just one sense. Our textured surface designs look like their counterparts in nature and those honed from a crafter’s tool, and you can feel them, too. Because they are so true to life, our textured surface designs inspire the senses to bring on the experience of the real thing, however that may look, feel, sound, taste or smell to you.

Mary Follin, Lehrmitt Design Studios

How do you integrate senses into design? Leave a comment!

Product design for people in developing countries

Product Design that Solves Global Problems (Or: Why Didn’t I Think of That?)

For specific markets and applications, product design often addresses issues that are much larger than looking cool, being different or feeling good. In developing countries, product designers are frequently tending to basic needs that are not being met on a community-wide scale. Coming up with ideas to solve rudimentary life problems in developing countries requires an ability to do more with (a lot) less. Cost, distribution and usage instructions are all extreme challenges a designer must deal with in order to solve problems that are keeping entire populations from thriving.

Product Design: Education

Product design for pennies (Image from Business Insider, May 2014)

Ingenious product design for pennies (Image from Business Insider, May 2014)

The HelpDesk is one such product that has changed the trajectory for rural school children in Maharashtra, India, where the kids typically don’t have desks to write on throughout the school day. Sitting with hunched backs, children have to make do by working with books and papers spread out on the floor.

Mumbai-based non-profit Aarambh decided to tackle this problem with a pervasive material that was also cheap—recycled cardboard. Collecting boxes from local business, the organization constructed miniature desks at the astounding cost of 20 cents each. An added bonus? At the end of the day, children can convert their desks into backpacks so they can carry their books home.

Product Design: Light

Ingenious product design: Moser Lamp (Image from 8/2013 Huffingtonpost.com)

Ingenious product design: Moser Lamp (Image from JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

In a eureka moment, Alfredo Moser of Uberaba, Brazil, figured out that an ordinary soda bottle could provide a cost- effective way to light up a room. Filling an old soda bottle with a liter of water and a few drops of bleach, Moser affixed the bottle upside down on the ceiling and voila! The bottle instantly became a 40-60 watt ‘light bulb.’ By cutting a hole in the roof so that the neck of the bottle is exposed to the outside, residents with unreliable—or no—electricity can use this ‘Moser Lamp’ to brighten the insides of their homes during the day.

Product Design: Water

Ingenious product design—drinking from a river Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company

Ingenious product design—drinking from a river (Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company)

Accessibility to potable water is an unending challenge in many areas of the developing world. Enter, Lifestraw. Lifestraw is a portable water filter that works like an ordinary drinking straw. Apparently, the straw removes up to 99.99999 percent of waterborne bacteria, 99.9 percent of waterborne protozoan cysts and reduces turbidity by filtering particles of approximately 0.2 microns.

In other words, this amazing straw allows people to drink directly from a dirty river. That’s a tall claim, but thousands of people with limited access to clean water are using it to good effect.

Product Design: Making the World a Better Place

While product design often requires deep expertise in engineering, design and/or business process, it doesn’t have to. Who among us hasn’t identified a gap and dreamed up a solution? And how often have we seen someone beat us to it? Many ‘gaps’ are universal, and by identifying a problem, collective minds will often come up with a workable solution.

And sometimes, the simplest idea is a winner.

failed product design new years resolution

Product Design: Biggest Losers

“All design is human-centered. If it’s not human-centered, then it’s not design. If it’s not design, it’s something else and we don’t teach that here.” These are among the first words sophomore industrial design studio students hear from their instructor, Mark Baskinger, associate professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University.

According to Baskinger, consideration for the user experience (UX) has not always been a core tenet behind industrial design. He challenges his students to think about product design in ways that create utility and delight for the person who will end up using it:

“In [the students’] minds they shift their thinking from making things to designing things that help facilitate actions, behaviors and experiences,” Baskinger says. “It’s a fundamental shift to consider an object’s form to be in service of something much greater than its own visual image. This is the core of human-centered design—considering the relationship of people with their products in the context of their activities. It’s also the core of experience design.”

A talented product designer will challenge the design throughout the creative process. What is a product going to be used for? How will it be handled? How will it feel to use it? Does it create ease for the user? Pleasure? Utility? These are all questions that define a user’s experience, and necessarily must be part of the product design process.

You would think this would be obvious. (Imagine a group of executives sitting around a conference table, dreaming up ways to frustrate people with bad design.) And yet, we’ve all used products that make us wonder: Who could have possibly thought this was a good idea?

Product Design: Famous Flops


failed product design

“I admit the reception to our new product has been chilly.”

Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates. An all-in-one bowl of cereal (bowl, cereal, milk and spoon), Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates were intended to let parents sleep late while the kiddies helped themselves to breakfast. But the package was childproof. Oops. Small children were unable to ‘open’ breakfast by themselves. This conundrum is not unlike the individual fruit cups that are still on the market. They inevitably squirt juice on you when you open them. The lids are too hard for kids to open themselves, so teachers often end up with stains on their shirts after lunch.

Corfam fake leather. Developed in the mid-sixties by DuPont, Corfam was a look-alike leather that was intended to be a leather substitute—it was less expensive, did not rely on animal skins and was water repellent. Oh, and really uncomfortable. Corfam did not have the softness and flexibility of leather, and most people were not willing to put up with sore feet for—for what?

Smokeless Cigarettes. While the concept was noble—and a healthy alternative—when RJ Reynolds launched Premier, a smokeless cigarette, they forgot one thing. According to the Reporter Magazine, smoking Premier “produced a smell and a flavor that left users retching.”

‘Nuff said. The question that we consumers ask ourselves time and again is: Did anybody at that company ever USE this thing?

Product Design: Straight from the Consumer

Forward-thinking companies are now deploying ethnographic research to gain an intimate understanding of how a consumer uses a product. Researchers are sent to observe how a painter uses a can of paint, a mother uses a stroller or a scientist uses a beaker. This exercise almost always yields surprises. (Who knew that the average stroller height gives mom a backache?) By shadowing consumers, companies can satisfy and delight customers in previously unexplored ways.

For fun, scroll through some industrial design company websites. There appears to be no end to the innovative ideas that designers are coming up with. Necessities and novelties alike, today’s creative minds are offering us an array of exciting products to choose from, which bodes well for all of us.

3D Printing: The Early Years

3D printing: old cell phone

Technology moves fast

Shine a spotlight into the future, and there will come a day when our current concept of 3D-printed stuff might look a little crude. When you see cell phones the size of bricks, plain-old, white sneaker soles and clunky computer workstations, the modern-day counterparts make the old versions look laughable.Even the high-tech movies are dated within just a few years, mostly because of how old the technology appears in the film.

But the primitive nature of new technology doesn’t stop genius. Forward-thinking innovators adopt new technologies regardless of what a new technology can’t do. All they see is what it can do. So let’s talk about the movie industry. Remember when CGI was the next big thing? Special effects in pre-CGI movies look pretty fake now, don’t they?

One special effects studio, Legacy Effects is using 3D printers to move beyond CGI. Legacy Effects has been involved with special effects and costume design for numerous science fiction and fantasy movies—Life of Pi, Hunger Games and Twilight to name a few. By creating detailed miniature costumes, Legacy Effects designers can anticipate exactly what the full-scale model will look like. Once they’ve got it right, they print out the real thing on a 3D printer, printing out one piece at a time.

Jason Lopes, lead systems engineer for Legacy Effects, described it like this at RAPID 2014 in Detroit, Michigan: “That’s what’s great about this technology. It’s not just guesswork anymore. We’re not just making a suit by hand, then fitting or trying to fit an actor into it. We do it all by computer now. We can identify problems on day one, before the actual costume has been started.” And while they start with a CAD file, what they end up with is something real, unlike CGI.

3D Printing: The only limit is what you can dream up

The variety of ways that companies are putting 3D printers to work is pretty exciting. We are all watching new 3D printing applications put into use almost every day. Engineers, designers, architects, physicians—all kinds of professionals—are exploring the ‘white space’ in their fields and using 3D printing technology to fill it with faster, more detailed, more scalable ways to do what they were doing before.

We are on the front end of a 3D printing technology explosion. Hobbyists are having fun with it, manufacturers are integrating it into their workflow, designers are creating new designs, engineers are building new materials and some people are building 3D printers from old parts. Everybody has their own entry into 3D printing, which is how new technologies often start out.

But what we can anticipate on down the road is more standardization and accessibility for people who have never seen one and don’t quite understand what a 3D printer does. To most people, 3D printing technology is hard to imagine, except that it sounds futuristic and sort of like magic. But this ignorance will be short-lived, which is why entrepreneurs and innovators are working hard to get on the front end of a big curve.

Additive Manufacturing Allows for Product Design Flexibility

Additive manufacturing allows for 'do-overs'

Additive manufacturing allows for ‘do-overs.’

Additive manufacturing brings exploration, flexibility and creativity to product design in ways that never could have been imagined before. In other words, late-stage prototype ‘do-overs’ are now possible—and affordable, which yields materials and products that can ultimately be built to do exactly what they are needed to do, regardless of the number of times it takes to get it right.

Remember the ‘good old days’ of manufacturing, when experimenting with new materials, structures and product design was severely limited by resources? Well, for many manufacturers, the ‘good old days’ are still here. Deploying additive manufacturing techniques is still on the front end of technology, but innovative manufacturers are doing some pretty astounding things with it.

Take Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for example. LLNL works with external partners to develop fabrics that are optimized for specialized use (like bullet-proof vests). The LLNL engineers use computer modeling to experiment with the structural, functional and thermal characteristics of materials to come up with potential solutions. The models are uploaded to additive manufacturing machines and prototypes are created to spec. If the engineers don’t like it, they can change the model and upload again. These machines create an exact sample, with a minimum amount of waste.

In their paper Design Optimization for Additive Manufacturing, LLNL describes it like this:

“Design optimization for additive manufacturing is used to create designs that fully exploit the capabilities of these newer manufacturing processes, and explore that design space more efficiently. These methods help speed experimental redesign, allowing researchers to manipulate input parameters and simulate outcomes tailored for a specific fabrication technique. As a result, researchers can determine the best design options for achieving a material with a desired resolution and geometry.”

Lehrmitt Design Studios uses Additive Manufacturing  for Prototype Design

In our wallcovering and product surface design business, we also adhere to the principal of using additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping and reducing costs by using 3D printing technology.

There’s kind of an interesting story about how we got there.

Our journey with 3D printing began the same way a lot of innovation begins—with frustration. We were sending our wallcovering designs to embossing roller manufacturers, and we weren’t getting back what we had asked for. Sometimes, the changes were subtle. But at other times, we felt the whole design had been compromised.

Additive manufacturing and wallcoverings

Additive manufacturing and wallcovering embossing rollers

Our embossing rollers are manufactured all over the world. We thought it would be a good idea to switch to a universal language to describe what we were looking for. Everybody knows the language of art and form.

By using 3D printing technology, we’ve been able to duplicate our wallcovering designs in a tactile way. We figured out how to convert our 2D designs into 3D files and print—while still maintaining the integrity of our designs.

Now that we are providing our manufacturers with actual samples of how we want the embossing rollers to look, we can expect the embossing rollers to be replicas of our original work.

Solving a problem leads to new paths

When we saw how well we could duplicate our designs, we began developing some of our product designs using 3D printing. Before long, we expanded our applications from wallcoverings to consumer product surfaces—and chocolate candy surface design.

Isn’t that how many new products and services are born? By solving problems, innovative product designers tend to see the world in a whole new way. And then they do something about it.

Product Design: Inspired or Methodical?

What’s the best way to come up with a new product design? Is it a matter of fusing your expertise and your muse, and intuitively coming up with a great product? Or does it involve a system—one that formalizes the creative process, is repeatable and can be shared with others?

inspired product design lightbulb

Product design inspiration

While there is no right or wrong answer to this, a lot of people have strong opinions about it.

Does Design Process Kill Creativity?

In his article Design Process Kills Creativity/Design Process Creates Creativity, Daniel Stillman, co-founder of the Design Gym, takes a look at these two disparate schools of thought. A proponent of process, Stillman contends that developing a design is all about storytelling—where the idea came from, why it was born and how it ultimately came into being. In fact, Stillman would also argue that even if you didn’t use a process, you can always go back and overlay one on top of how you created your design. The process was there, whether you saw it or not.

Each creator has his or her own way of developing a product design, but without a structure behind the creative process, there may be ‘holes’ in the design that are hard to see. Beautiful design often speaks to its more primitive counterpart—the early-stage development, the false starts and the detail that doesn’t make it to the end product.

Inspired product design: Picasso's Bull

Rough sketch of Picasso’s Bull

Take, for example, Picasso’s Bull. The Bull, which now hangs in the MoMA, is a mere suggestion of a bull. It’s a simple form that, well, feels like a bull. It certainly doesn’t look like one. But somehow, we know what it is. And part of that is because of the intricate sketches—the scaffolding, if you will—that Picasso used to create the piece. In the end, he stripped away the detail and left us with a simple yet awe-inspiring form.

Checks and Balances in the Product Design Process

We hate to say it, but we see bad design all the time. (We see the good stuff, too, but that’s not the point we’re trying to make here.) Process can check a run-away muse that thinks it’s communicating something, only to find out that the creative process was so insular that the end product is only satisfying to the designer. Bad design is perfectly fine, as long as you are only designing (painting, writing, sculpting etc.) for yourself.

But if you are designing to inspire others, a documented process gives you a language, a schedule and a framework so that you can evaluate the product’s worthiness at multiple touch points. And it’s much easier to get a team involved when there is a process to speak to.

On the other hand, if you have a genius inside of you, don’t fight it. Feel free to break all the rules and come up with something that will rock the world. Leonardo da Vinci did. So did Benjamin Franklin. And what about Steve Jobs? Inspiration comes from a lot of mysterious places. Balancing how you manage your product design effort will ultimately be up to you—and how you work best.

Leave a comment. Do you use a design process or do you just ‘wing it’?

3D Printing Vending Machines: Virginia Tech and UPS


VT experiments with 3d printing


In its pursuit of additive manufacturing innovation, Virginia Tech’s Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory has invented the DreamVendor, a 3D printer that students can use to print CAD files.

The DreamVendor operates no differently than the 2D printer you might have used as a student in the library. Upload a file, swipe your student card and voila! A short time later, you walk away with your printed output.

Except the output is plastic. And three dimensional.

The whole process is pretty straight-forward. Yet, what students are doing with this application is changing how they experiment with custom designs. For example, one student needed a stand for her microscope. Designing a microscope stand to her own specs on a CAD system, she then printed it out on the DreamVendor. Her new microscope stand now sits on her desk.

3D Printing in a Store Near You

Virginia Tech is not the only place experimenting with making on-demand 3D printing widely available. UPS is testing the ability for customers to stop in at a UPS store and print a CAD file on their resident 3D printer. The UPS product development team will even offer design help for a fee. Some of the people who are pretty excited about this service are engineers, product designers, artists, inventors, students, and architects.

UPS experiments with 3d printing

UPS offers 3D printing on demand

One common use for 3D printing at a UPS store is rapid product prototyping. Product designers, manufacturers and inventors can now test a product without going to the expense of actually developing it. Oftentimes, a 3D facsimile is all you need to demonstrate the efficacy of a part or the aesthetics of a design. Product developers can test new designs quickly and at a low cost by taking advantage of this new service by UPS.

Although possibly not yet in a store near you, UPS offers the service in about 50 of their retail locations.

Making 3D Printing Available to Everybody

The way it stands now, you need to know something about CAD to create your files. Or, you can pay someone at UPS to do that for you. But we envision the next generation of on-demand 3D printing to include options for multiple product features that anyone can use by making selections from a menu.

Let’s say you want a pair of sunglasses with some cool lizard-skin stems. You walk up to the UPS 3D vending machine and start pushing buttons:

1) Choose your product: Sunglasses
2) Choose your style: Funky
3) Choose your color: Red
4) Choose your texture: Lizard

Then hit PRINT, put your funky red lizard shades on and go get a latte at Starbucks.

We’ve been experimenting with tactile, textured 3D product surfaces—Surface Skins™—on multiple consumer products. It’s pretty do-able to add Skins to most 3D product files. What we can’t do yet is give you the option to do it on your own.

But consumer product design is heading toward personalization so that each person can have what he or she wants. We think you’ll be printing your own skins from our Library of Surface Skins in no time.