Feb 9, 2016 | By Kira

3D food printing is one of the most fun and accessible consumer applications of 3D printing technology—whether for creating custom branded 3D printed lollipops, or for pushing the limits of culinary innovation, there are tons of opportunities to explore. One of the most recent and creative examples is Daniel Wilkens’ 'Message in a Cake' 3D paste extruder, which has the ability to 3D print custom images or messages directly into a cake using a specially-created batter, meaning you only see the image once the first delicious slice has been cut. 3Ders.org spoke with Wilkens to find out his design concept as well as the 3D printing process behind creating your own Message in a Cake.

Wilkens, who is currently finishing his degree in Industrial Design at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany, boasts a background in biology, furniture design, and 3D printing technology. His previous projects include DS 1, a remarkable chair made from formfleece, offering stability without armrests, and Woogie, a foldable handcart designed for the ‘Urban Farmer’s Harvest.’ In 2014, Wilkens also won first place in a design competition for creating an urban chair (“Mercoatorstuhl”) and bench.

As an industrial designer, Wilkens was familiar with 3D printing as a rapid prototyping technology, but for his 3D food printing project, he intended to create an functional, creative project that could only be made possible through 3D printing processes.

“When I began working on 3D printed food in October 2013, I saw many applications for which 3D printing was not necessarily needed, like a ‘pizza-printer’ that just extrudes dough, tomato sauce, and cheese,” he said. Indeed, while we have covered a very wide range of 3D Food Printers currently on the market, many of the more basic extruder models simply recreate what could easily be accomplished or assembled with our own two hands. “3D printing is more interesting when it comes to individualization, and hidden structures,” Wilkens continued. “The idea for Message in a Cake was born in one of these creative moments. Printing individual pictures inside a cake can only be realized with the extrusion technology of a 3D printer.”

Essentially, the Message in a Cake paste extruder—which itself is 3D printed—extrudes two different colors of cake batter while building up the cake, layer by layer, inside a baking tin. While one color represents the ‘base’, a contrasting color is deposited in a precise, pre-determined path, to form the detailed image or message within the inner layers.

“Usually, [in a conventional cake], both batters are mixed by chance. In a 3D cake, this arrangement is highly controlled,” Wilkens told 3Ders.org. “Every cake requires a particular 3D model, which I create with the help of a common CAD software. Afterwards, the 3D model is translated into G-code, the common language of 3D printers.”

Also paramount to the final result is the consistency of the batter itself. “It has to be fulid enough to pass through the extruder and stable enough to retain its form in the cake tin at the same time,” said Wilkens. “To achieve these ambivalent composition, I experimented a lot with different ingredients.” The final blend does not contain any eggs, and is able to be 3D printed while retaining a tasty cake flavor.

Wilkens’ self-engineered, 3D printed Message in a Cake 3D paste extruder is currently attached to a Reprap V2 3D printer. So far, he has been able to ‘write’ up to five letters inside a cake (such as the word “OMA” on a cake for his grandmother), or 3D print small yet detailed pictures, such as cars or trains. Beyond these simple, customized messages or motifs however, the 3D cake batter extruder can also be used to form entire narratives. For example, one 3D printed cake contained a matchstick man that fattened up with each slice. “The cake becomes a storyteller with comic-strips inside.”

“The reaction to the Message in a Cake project has been very positive,” said Wilkens, who recently showcased his special paste extruder and 3D printed cake designs at the IMM Cologne 2016 trade fair in Germany. “It often takes some time until people understand how the cake-printer works but they usually start smiling or shake their heads in disbelief when I start to cut the slices and the first image appears. Funnily enough their first question is regularly ‘Can you really eat it?’ And yes, of course, you really can. Otherwise you would not call it 3D printed food.”

Wilkens hopes to refine and commercialize his product in the near future through collaboration with an industry. 3D food printing is gaining traction among culinary experts and experimenters alike, offering novel ways to decorate 3D printed sweets or create unexpected flavor and nutrition combinations. The Message in a Cake paste extruder is just one of the more creative ways we’ve seen to actually turn dessert into a storytelling process, revealing hidden, personalized messages with each delicious, 3D printed slice.



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories



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