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Whether you like it or not, 3D printed food is on the way

Despite the fact that buying a bulky, expensive machine to print your food isn’t the most practical or attractive idea for most consumers, there are a handful of companies in the 3D printing space that are racing to get food printers into your kitchen and relieve you of your culinary duties. 

The latest such device was unveiled last week at CES, when South Carolina-based company 3D Systems pulled the curtain back on the ChefJet and ChefJet Pro – two new machines that the company is billing as “the world’s first and only professionally-certified, kitchen-ready 3D food printers.”

Unlike some of the 3D food printers we’ve come across in the past, this one is designed specifically to make candy and dessert. It also works in a slightly different manner. Rather than using pre-loaded tubes to squirt out the edible printing material, ChefJet printers use a granular materials binding technique to create custom-designed sweets.

Here’s how it works: First, a roller spreads a thin, even layer of fine-grain sugar onto the printing substrate. Then, the printing head sprays a narrow stream of water onto the sugar in whatever pattern you’ve programmed it to create. When the water mixes with the sugar, the sugar recrystallizes and bonds to neighboring grains, thus causing it to form a rigid shape when it dries. This process is then repeated, layer by layer, until the desired shape is created. 

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Using this method, ChefJet can print sugar, chocolate, and candy in practically any design imaginable. The larger version, ChefJet Pro, is even equipped with a full palette of food colorings and dyes, which makes it possible to print some incredibly elaborate treats.

Cool? Most definitely. Practical? Not really, and 3D systems knows it. At $5,000 and $10,000 respectively, ChefJet and ChefJet Pro aren’t targeted at regular consumers, but instead geared toward professional confectioners, bakers, pastry chefs, and chocolatiers. 

The ChefJet food printers are set to go on sale in the latter part of 2014, so for the time being you’ll just have to stick to dropping those boring, normally-shaped sugar cubes into your coffee.

[image credit: pcpro]

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