Mar 5, 2018 | By Tess

Students from Sweden’s Lund University have been given the challenge of developing chocolate 3D printers. And while we’ve seen chocolate 3D printing before, the students are trying out an original method that uses a bed of water to cool the chocolate layers as they are printed.

The Chocolate Hydro 3D printer, as it is aptly dubbed, was conceived of last year in a course where Lund University students were tasked with coming up with ideas for 3D printing chocolate that would quickly solidify. The most innovative proposal, it turns out, was to 3D print chocolate layers onto a walled platform and then cool the layers with small amounts of water.

To take the novel 3D printing idea further than just concept, an entire digital prototyping class was instructed to develop proof-of-concept machines for demonstrating the water-based 3D printing method.

The idea behind the chocolate 3D printer is to deposit a first layer of chocolate onto the bottom of a print bed container. Once that first layer is printed, the container is then flooded with cold water (up to the height of the chocolate). The water’s surface tension is meant to keep it from flowing over the chocolate while at the same time cooling the chocolate until it solidifies.

After the water, the second layer can be printed on top of the first layer, before more water is added, and so on and so forth.

As part of their coursework, five student teams were given six weeks to design and construct a working prototype of the Chocolate Hydro 3D printer. Fortunately, they weren’t working completely from scratch, as each team was given a low-cost 101Hero 3D printer to hack.

It is interesting to see how each team had an original approach to developing the 3D printer. For instance, one team chose to use a screw-based extrusion system, while two opted for peristaltic pump systems, and the final two used syringe extruders.

The water-raising mechanism also varied from team to team: some relied on ultrasonic sensors to detect the water levels, while others attached wires to the print head that would automatically stop the water pump when they came into contact with water.

“As for all students, there was a steep learning curve in getting familiar with all the digital prototyping technologies they had at their disposal, ranging from CAD to 3D printing, laser and water jet cutting, CNC machining, Arduinos and Raspberry Pi's, etc,” wrote Product Development professor Olaf Diegel on his blog. “It was also interesting to watch their progression as they started integrating their ideas into the printers and gradually get them to a level where they worked reliably.”

Of course, as a proof-of-concept 3D printer, there are still a few kinks to be worked out, and the quality of the chocolate 3D prints leave much to be desired. The Lund students will keep working on the chocolate 3D printing technology, however, to improve layer thickness, accuracy, and more.

“Never have I seen students put so much enthusiasm and energy into solving real technical problems,” added Diegel. “Their ability to creatively apply and adapt the theoretical knowledge taught to them during their degree in a project is simply astounding!”

(Images: Olaf Diegel)

As an added bonus, the students were even able to eat their test prints!



Posted in 3D Printer



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