LAS VEGAS -- 3D printing is cool. Chocolate is cool. So what could be better than a 3D printer that prints in chocolate? These sweet unions of technology and gastronomy have been around for years. But now, 3D printing company 3DSystems thinks it has perfected the chocolate 3D printer with the upcoming Chocojet.
Developed as a partnership between 3DSystems’ subsidiary Sugar Labs and The Hershey Company, the Cocojet debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The printer will eventually be on sale for consumers, but there's no pricing or availability information as of yet.
The Cocojet prototype at CES uses a modified version of the 3D printing model fused deposition modeling, or constructing objects by extruding layers of liquid material (usually heated plastic) that then cool into a solid form. The Cocojet printer cools its chocolate objects via fans on either side of the interior.
The prototype wasn't printing live at the show, but it can print objects up to about the size of a grapefruit in milk chocolate. The team is currently working to add dark chocolate and white chocolate functionality as well.
Sugar Labs also hope to have the Cocojet print in flavored chocolate such as hazelnut or amaretto, Sugar Labs co-founder Liz Von Hasseln told me, but it's not as easy as just putting the new material into the printer.
"Chocolate is a tricky material to work with," Von Hasseln said.
The 3DSystems booth had chocolates on display that had been printed in the Cocojet: flat letters and several three-dimensional geometric shapes. All of them had impressively sharp, firm edges.
The Cocojet is currently in use at the Hershey Chocolate World park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When it eventually goes on sale for consumers, it will join 3Dsystems' two other food 3D printers, the ChefJet and ChefJet Pro. Announced at CES last year, these printers print in sugar and will go on sale later this year.
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Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and onGoogle+.