July 17, 2014

We Scream for Ice Cream! Three students at MIT, Kyle Hounsell, Kristine Bunker, and David Donghyun Kim have created a ice cream printer using the principals of a fused deposition model printer.

Using a Cuisinart ice cream maker and a Solidoodle 3D printer, the team developed a device that prints soft serve ice cream. The modified 3D printer is housed inside of a small freezer and the extruded soft serve freezes as a line of liquid nitrogen blasts and keep it solid.

"We were inspired to design this printer because we wanted to make something fun with this up and coming technology in a way that we could grab the attention of kids. We felt that it was just as important to come up with a new technology as it was to interest the younger generation in pursuing science and technology so we can continue pushing the limits of what is possible." Bunker told 3ders.org.

"First, we needed to print into a cooled environment so that the ice cream would hold its shape once printed." the students explained. "We bought a small upright freezer which was large enough to both put the Solidoodle inside and allow for the full build volume we were aiming for."

Then they needed a shield gas to solidify the ice cream as soon as it came out of the extruder. They built a system to spray liquid nitrogen onto the ice cream as it was extruded. "To ensure that the extruded ice cream ended up with constant characteristics, the cryogen line was bent in a circle to go all the way around the extruder and spray the liquid nitrogen evenly around the printed ice cream." they explained.

Compression system used to regulate flow of liquid nitrogen

Extruder fixture and cryogen assembly

Next the team needed to modify the Solidoodle 3D printer. The print bed had to be located outside of the original Solidoodle enclosure because the original print bed is located low in the enclosure making it difficult to fit the ice cream extruder nozzle and the cryogen line inside with it.

The dynamic print bed fixtures

Elevated print bed for ice cream printer

In order to be able to move the rigid cryogen line with the extruder head, they took the extruder head off of the Solidoodle and replacing it with "a printed ABS fitting with three holes to allow vertical movement of thin rods holding the print bed above the Solidoodle."

Finally, they also needed to include a temperature control system for the printer to maintain the extruder nozzle temperature. Additionally extrusion nozzle needed to be kept around 18°F as soft serve is typically extruded around 18°F and starts to melt at 20°F.

Last, they settled on 1/8" diameter extruder head for the ice cream to optimize the speed and size of the ice cream treat printed. "We felt that waiting more than 10-15 minutes for an ice cream to be printed would cause the consumer to lose interest." they explained. "Additionally, this was a short enough time for the ice cream to keep its shape in the freezer would excessive liquid nitrogen being poured onto it. With a 1/8" diameter we knew we could achieve some level of detail to get fun shapes but still print at a reasonable rate."

With the cryogen line installed their final setting for printing is a 3mm layer height and 16mm/sec print speed.

"In general this technology would not be replacing any existing products or technology." the students explained. "This is a novel process that we hope will get kids excited about the potential of the technology. We imagine this technology being marketable in ice cream parlors such as Dairy Queen where customers can order an ice cream treat, wait 15 minutes, and see the shape they chose be created. Of course last, and more importantly, we aim to enjoy the ice cream after successful printing!"

Posted in 3D Printers

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Tom Cooper wrote at 2/27/2015 2:00:31 PM:

Failures criticize without offering a better solution. It's obviously a beta design. I'm just imagining what shapes an artist could come up with. In parallel I'd have an engineer friend improve on the design. I love the concept.

maxy wrote at 7/20/2014 10:16:41 AM:

They totally solved the nozzle cooling problem, though.

J wrote at 7/17/2014 11:44:06 PM:

That's a crap print with a sloppy execution. I expected more from MIT students.... On the other hand, I'm not wondering what it'll be like to bite into a printed ice cream cube that's 25% infilled with hexagonal pattern. :D

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