Dec 20, 2016 | By Benedict

William Kempton, a design researcher at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, has made what might be the world’s first 3D printed gingerbread house. The edible Christmas abode was made from a hardened gingerbread dough printed on a DeltaWASP 20 40 clay 3D printer.

Is this the world's first 3D printed gingerbread house?

As anybody doing their Christmas supermarket shopping this week will know, there are a multitude of foods associated with the festive season: turkey, stuffing, candy canes, eggnog, Christmas pudding, mince pies, and everything in between. Many people would also add gingerbread to that list, with the sweet and spicy baked goods forming an essential part of Christmas celebrations in countries all across the world.

Gingerbread is just about everywhere, but if there’s one place you’re really likely to encounter the delicious treat at Yuletide, it’s Scandinavia. Gingerbread didn’t originate there (thanks, Armenia), but Sweden has been perfecting the art of gingerbread making for centuries ever since German immigrants brought the auburn foodstuff there in the 1200s. Head west from Sweden to the Norwegian city of Bergen, and you’ll even find an entire gingerbread town, featuring gingerbread houses, trains, and cars.

Gingerbread town in Bergen, Norway

Gingerbread trains and cars might not be so common outside of Bergen, but gingerbread houses certainly are: you’ve probably eaten (or at least seen) one yourself. Nevertheless, while we were surprised—delighted, even—to hear that somebody had made a 3D printed gingerbread house, we were somewhat less surprised to hear that its maker, blogger William Kempton, currently researches design at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway. Could there be a more suitable location for honing one’s gingerbread construction skills?

Inspired by new, technical approaches to gingerbread house construction, Kempton recently decided that he would attempt to build a 3D printed gingerbread house this Christmas. After carrying out numerous 3D printing projects using clay, Kempton was eventually challenged by his students: why not replace the clay with gingerbread? The design researcher gladly accepted the challenge, and set about converting a DeltaWASP 20 40 clay 3D printer to deal with gingerbread.

3D printing the gingerbread house

“While the initial thought seemed simple enough, [the] first trials with gingerbread printing uncovered some immediate problems,” Kempton wrote. “Firstly, gravity is not your friend. Secondly, materials usually become softer as they get hotter. If you have ever made a gingerbread house, you will probably know that baking flat pieces and glueing them together later is the way to go. This, however, is not how I wanted my gingerbread house to be made. So I needed to develop my own process.”

The DeltaWASP 20 40 3D printer, Kempton’s chosen building apparatus, is built to handle a wide range of materials, but gingerbread is not one of them. To make the 3D printer suitable for the project, the researcher therefore had to equip the machine with a Liquid Deposition Modeling (LDM) extruder that allowed him to contain and deposit the liquid material. During initial experiments, however, the gingerbread would collapse after printing. Kempton then added a custom extruder nozzle with a heater, which allowed him to print the material at a set temperature.

Not all versions of the 3D printed gingerbread house were a success

According to Kempton, perfecting the gingerbread dough itself was just as important as tweaking the 3D printer for culinary printing. After starting with a regular gingerbread recipe, the ambitious gingerbread builder had to make the substance significantly harder by adding more flour and corn starch. Alcohol was then introduced to make the mixture flow more easily. “To find the right consistency is of great importance,” Kempton reported. “Too soft and the structure will deflate; too hard and the material will not be deposited correctly.”

Kempton’s 3D printed gingerbread house is based on Borgund kirke, a traditional Norwegian wooden stave church. Its structure has relatively few overhangs, making it ideal for 3D printing. The largest version of the 3D printed gingerbread church replica, which stands at just under 22 centimeters tall, required a number of internal structures to support the walls and roof, and was afterwards iced by hand for the perfect finish.

The 3D printable model of the gingerbread house

“[The 3D printed gingerbread house] is now still in a nascent, experimental stage, and perhaps future gingerbread enthusiasts will want to print their own wonderland of gingerbread architecture, people, and untold imaginary creations while decorating with icing and candies manually,” Kempton said. “Maybe someone else will devise a 3D printing icing and candy-placing robot. This is an open call to further develop the wonders of creating holiday treats and other awesome edibles.”

The digital model for the 3D printed gingerbread house is available to download on Thingiverse.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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