Coming soon: A chocolate printer
It would allow chocolate lovers to print their own custom-made sweets, layer by layer.
Lead scientist Dr Liang Hao, from the University of Exeter, founded the Choc Edge company to commercialise the device after retailers expressed interest.
3D printing using plastic, wood and metal is already widely used by industry to create objects ranging from jewellery and footwear to human bones.
Dr Hao said that chocolate printing, just like any other 3D printing technique, starts with a flat cross-section image - similar to that produced by ordinary printers turning out images, and then prints out chocolate layer by layer to create a 3D shape, without any moulding tools.
“We’ve improved and simplified the machine, so now it is really easy to use,” he told the BBC.
“You just need to melt some chocolate, fill a syringe that is stored in the printer, and get creative printing your chocolate,” he said.
A number of retailers and e-commerce websites around the world have expressed interest in buying the printer once it becomes available, the researcher added.
Thorntons - the UK’s largest specialist retailer and manufacturer of chocolate and confectionery goods - approached the scientist after the prototype came out.
Other researchers around the world have also been busy trying to develop “food printers” - in 2011, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a prototype of a similar device, dubbed Digital Chocolatier.