Like many groundbreaking advances, the journey toward transforming sugar into a dimensional, structural medium began somewhat by accident.
Kyle and Liz von Hasselns, a pair of architectural designers, started experimenting with the technology in their kitchen, while trying to 3D print a cake for a friend's birthday. While they didn't quite end up with a cake, they did print a cupcake topper with the birthday girl's name spelled out in 3D sugar script.
Fast forward to early 2013. The von Hasselns started a firm, Sugar Lab, where they took orders for architectural, intricate and customized sweets. Along the way, they attracted the attention of 3D Systems, one of the biggest players in 3D printing, who subsequently acquired Sugar Lab in late 2013.
Shortly after, the company announced a ChefJet series of 3D printers, launching an entirely new, kitchen-ready 3D printer category that specializes in sugar. The first two printers in the series are the monochrome, countertop ChefJet 3D printer and the full-color, larger format ChefJet Pro 3D printer and are expected to be available later this year.
ChefJet printable materials will come in a variety of recipes, including chocolate, vanilla, mint, sour apple, cherry and watermelon.
"Food is an incredible platform for creativity, experimentation, and celebration and we are thrilled to place these powerful 3D printers in bakers and chefs' kitchens," said Liz von Hasseln. "We invite leading pastry chefs, restaurateurs and event planners to join us in bringing 3D printing into the kitchen."
Don’t expect to see 3D printers to in most homes yet, however. The ChefJet is clearly priced for professionals (sub-$5,000 range). But the company says it may eventually offer future sugar printers for amateur kitchens—which would bring the idea of 3D sugar printing quite literally full circle. You can learn more about these new printers at www.3DSystems.com.
Sugar’s been safely consumed for centuries. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t play a role in technological advances, or unleash the scientist or entrepreneur in all of us.