Feb 12, 2016 | By Benedict

Post-holiday dieting must be well and truly over, because we’ve had two chocolate 3D printing stories in a day. 3D printed organs? 3D printed houses? Sure, but we’ve all got priorities, and with Valentine’s Day looming, the current priority of the maker community appears to be 3D printed chocolate. Yum. Following on from our earlier story about blogger Richrap’s valiant attempt to 3D print the discontinued Trio chocolate bar, Instructables user Dainis_Dz has now built a functional chocolate 3D printer extruder for the Ultimaker 3D printer. Forget to buy that Valentine’s Day gift? Quick! Modify your Ultimaker and get choc-struding!

Frankly, it’s times like these when we should be thankful for the community spirit embedded in the 3D printing industry. Nobody showcases that spirit better than Netherlands-based 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker, whose open source hardware permits the kind of radical sweet-toothed experimentation carried out by tinkerers like Dainis. The Instructables user’s handy guide shows makers how to transform their innately hackable Ultimaker 3D printer into a legitimate chocolate factory. Turns out all you need is a syringe and some cold weather.

In actual fact, 3D printing chocolate is a lot like 3D printing plastic. Both materials—one delicious; one less so—need to be melted by the hot-end of the 3D printer, before being squeezed out through the nozzle. But wait! You can’t just feet reels of chocolate through your desktop 3D printer, as you’ll end up with a gloopy mess and might just poison yourself. Follow Dainis’s steps closely and you’ll soon be putting Lindt and Hershey’s out of business with your own batch of elaborate 3D printed treats.

To modify his Ultimaker, Dainis used a 20ml syringe covered with aluminum foil and Kapton tape, fashioning a heater from NiCr wire coiled around the syringe and covered with more Kapton. The tinkerer then wrapped a layer of aluminum foil and further Kapton around the heater to ensure even heat distribution, before installing an NTC 100kOhm thermistor with which he could precisely control the heat.

After some minor firmware modifications (preheat temperature 30°C, 90 steps per mm), Dainis sourced some M5 threaded rod and other bits to act as a feeder which could press the melted chocolate through the syringe. But which chocolate to use? Using the cheapest milk chocolate at the grocery store (way to treat your loved one, Dainis) was a total failure, as the melted chocolate stayed melted for an hour after extrusion—far from ideal when more chocolate needs to be stacked on top of it. A darker chocolate was found which could be melted at 35°C as opposed to the milk chocolate’s 30°C, but the chocolate still wouldn’t cool quickly enough…

The solution? Move the hacked 3D printer outside, of course! With Dainis currently enjoying a tropical -4°C winter, moving his Ultimaker outside allowed the extruded chocolate to rapidly cool down and solidify, allowing the next layer to be applied without destroying the sugary underlying structure. Although this relocation caused the extruder to have trouble melting the chocolate at all, Dainis found the ideal compromise by starting the print inside before wheeling the machine outside to perform the bulk of the print.

There you have it: 3D printed chocolate from an Ultimaker 3D printer, with just a handful of DIY modifications. 3D printed chocolate hearts? 3D printed chocolate flowers? I don’t know; I’m no romantic, but extrude something sweet this Sunday and your choc-struding syringe won’t be the only thing getting a squeeze!



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories



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