Last year, a clutch of researchers at Britain’s University of Exeter developed the first 3-D–ever chocolate printer—and the world rejoiced. The device, which the team called ChocALM for Chocolate Additive Layer Manufacturing, uses the principles of rapid prototyping to layer molten chocolate, rather than plastic, into any shape imaginable without a mold. When we reported the story on Co.Design, an eager reader had this question, "Where, when and will this be available in the US?" The wait is over: Dr. Liang Hao, the head of the operation, has spun off a business to offer his Choc Creator printers for pre-order.
Before you get too excited: The price of the machine is roughly $3,300 (30% of that secures your order; the rest is billed once your printer ships, within 9–12 weeks after your deposit is received). Once it arrives, however, the setup is straightforward: Just fill the printer’s syringe with chocolate, select one of two printing heads, and start modeling your cat out of chocolate. Users have access to open-source 3-D software for sketching their designs. But there’s a catch: The printer isn’t yet food-grade certified, meaning that technically it can be used for creative and artistic purposes, not for consumption, though Hao gave us this assurance: "I can eat the printed chocolate myself. [You] need to follow right process to do so." A food-grade model will be released within the next three to six months.
The very first commercial printer was auctioned on eBay yesterday for GBP 1,9000 (about $3,000); Hao sweetened the deal by including 2% of the company’s gross income for the first year of sales. That might be a prohibitive cost for most interested consumers, but it’s an expense a candy manufacturer can swallow: According to the BBC, Thorntons, Britain’s largest chocolatier, has expressed interest.