Most of us will gladly scarf down chocolate regardless of the form it comes in. But for the aesthetes among you, imagine if you could easily custom-make the chocolate you consume. You could render architectural models in the stuff, or make you're own sculptural box of chocolates.
That's the promise of XOCO Chocolate Printer, the invention of Michiel Cornelissen, a product designer who runs his own studio specializing in 3-D printing located in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Cornelissen wanted to design a 3-D printer that was both beautiful and technically proficient, and decided that designing one for intricate chocolates—to be used professionally by pastry chefs and chocolate shops—would be a compelling way in. The printer is connected to an app, which will have a library of chocolate designs to chose from, but will also allow users to customize the designs. Like any other home 3-D printer, XOCO prints the design in layers, using chocolate as the material.
XOCO is not the first chocolate 3-D printer (in fact, we wrote about the first 3-D printer here). But it's definitely the best-looking one we've seen. Cornelissen says he was trying to push the limits of what 3-D printers could look like: the printer includes a circular, light-up build platform and a tiny robotic arm that rotates like a record player needle. The arm can reach anywhere on the platform, so it has a wider range of flexibility for more complex designs. The whole thing is encased in glass—which is held up by the pillar in the center—so that you can watch the process unfold.
"When people 3-D print, you go back and forth with your printer to see what's going on," says Cornelissen. "But most aren’t designed to show off the product and the process. I was inspired by high-end espresso machines and also glass cases you use to show a beautiful cake. I wanted to show a technical product, a mechanical system that is putting chocolate along coordinates to make 3-D object but make beautiful and show the process as it happens."
Right now, the XOCO is in the prototyping phase, though Cornelissen says he is hopeful that he will find someone to produce it. He estimates that the market price would be between $500 to $1,000, the typical range for home 3-D printers like Makerbots. Until then, start dreaming up your confections. Cornelissen says it's designed to be easy enough for anyone to use—you don't have to have pastry chef skills to develop an eccentric (and expensive) chocolate-making hobby.