Feb. 18, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing food: it’s something of a holy grail of the 3D printing community, and that’s not so strange. After all, its potential market consists of every kitchen with a microwave, and not just the garages of hobbyists. It’s therefore hardly surprising that so many companies and start-ups are looking at different possibilities and 'food filaments'; 2015 could very well be the year of the commercial food printer.

While most of those projects focus on materials such as chocolate, two London-based students have instead developed a product that is so far completely original: 3D printed chewing gum. It has been developed by Chia-Ling Lin, a master’s student at the Royal College of Art in London, and Maria Nelson, a PhD student of Materials Science at the Imperial College in London who specializes in medical 3D printing.

As their respective specialties suggest, this project is above all a collaboration of art and science. As Chia-Ling explained to us, she started this project by asking people what type of chewing gum they preferred. "Everyone’s answers and choices were so different," she says. Much like any object that is 3D printed, everyone has certain preferences in color, shape and in this case even smell and taste.

"Fei comes from northern China and would like watermelon flavour. Her family usually eat watermelon after having a nap in summer. Having some watermelon makes them feel fresh and awake," she says. "Chi is a film director who wants a simple flavorless cube. Gum chewing can make him relaxing." In that sense, it’s not such a strange food to 3D print at all. "By varying the taste, smell, texture and shape everyone can create their own unique masticatory experience."

As Chia-Ling went on to explain, she developed the concept herself and was fortunate enough to run into a 3D printing specialist to make it a reality. "Maria and I we met each other in an innovation pitch between RCA and Imperial College London called VCC. We find is a good challenge because chewing gum is a material which shore hardness less than 20."

3D printed gum samples.

In order to make gum 3D printable, the pair developed the mysterious GumJet Generation1 3D printer, a Cartesian-style 3D printer about which they don’t want to reveal too much for now. "Sorry, because we had discussed with the college patent lawyer so we cannot reveal to much about the technical parts," Chia-Ling explained, adding, that "we made this printer by ourselves."

They also don’t want to reveal any info about the exact properties of the gum ‘filament’ for the same reasons, but we can image melted gum has a thick, plastic-like structure. The Gumjet extrusion system could therefore definitely be interesting for thicker filament printing. "We treat it as a technical challenge and develop the printing technique further for both fields. Through innovation we’ve created personalized chewing gum by 3D printing technology," Chia-Ling tells us.

Fortunately, they were willing to tell us more about tasting experiences, revealing that it is largely similar to store-bought alternatives. "The biggest difference in terms of taste is you can really feel the texture of 3D printed chewing gum layer by layer in your mouth," Chia-Ling explains, suggesting that the 3D printer can really add another dimension to the whole chewing gum experience. These layers can also clearly be seen in the results, which look like textured sticks of gum. But depending on the hardening rate of the ‘filament’, any type of structure could potentially be made with their GumJet. For now, their results have already been used in an interesting art project called ‘Mouths exchanging senses’.

However, it will probably take a while before we can experience the taste and texture of their gum for ourselves. Their 3D printer, while successful, is still a prototype that can be improved upon. Therefore the pair are now looking to collaborate with other startups and foundlings that will enable them to work on a second generation GumJet 3D printer. Commercial possibilities won’t be considered until that stage is reached.


Posted in 3D Printers


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avi reichental wrote at 2/21/2015 1:06:50 AM:

eeeeeeeewing gum. This is stupid

Anon1337 wrote at 2/19/2015 8:42:33 PM:

This is legitimately the dumbest use of 3D printing I've ever seen.

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