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Feb 4, 2018

With Christmas just passed and Valentine's Day on its way, it's during these winter months that we give the most gifts to family, friends and loved ones.

One member of our team received an interesting self-help book designed to increase one's ability to master complicated tasks by consciously changing the way in which we think. The content of the book was all quite complicated even for our expert scientists, but it did spark a conversation about something called Positive Imaginative Restriction which appeared in one of the book's passages. Positive Imaginative Restriction relates to controlling the imaginative thought process so as to be able to approach tasks in a manner which instinctively focuses on the achievable elements and automatically blocks the consideration of anything unachievable. Incidentally, this kind of thought process plays an important part in designing suitable models for 3D chocolate printing. So what does Positive Imaginative Restriction mean in terms of the way in which we think?

Put simply, Positive Imaginative Restriction is the concept of training one's mind to start the imaginative process at the simplest possible point and increase the complexity of the idea in gentle steps, rather than starting at a point where one's imagination is already running wild and overcomplicating itself. This concept is particularly applicable to both new 3D chocolate designers and their clients, neither of whom may have a great deal of experience when it comes to the possibilities and limitations of printing in chocolate.

The example of Positive Imaginative Restriction given in the aforementioned self-help book featured a group of people (the test subjects) drawing out a maze/labyrinth. When asked to draw a maze/labyrinth, no matter how simple the final result would be, the test subjects instinctively responded by aiming to sketch what they deemed a maze/labyrinth to be - a highly complicated layout of linework with multiple confusing routes and a single successful path. As you may have expected, the majority of the results were flawed and impossible to navigate, as the test subjects had aimed to depict what their mind had envisioned as the 'gut reaction' to the term 'maze/labyrinth'. However, a small number of the subjects started with a very simple direct route, and then slowly added a false route, then another, and so on. The experiment demonstrated that a small number of people in the randomly chosen group displayed a greater control over their imaginative thinking, consciously or subconsciously aware of the necessity to start a complicated task (the drawing of a maze/labyrinth) in its simplest possible form. Still confused? Well, so were we until we described it to each other in a way more relevant to the work we do.

To provide you with our example; When one's mind is unconditioned to think in a restrictive (yet still positive) imaginative capacity, the mention of the word [example] "bicycle" may instantly conjure thoughts of the type of detailed frame and spokework used to construct an ultra-slim racing bicycle - a structure that is unsurprisingly a challenge to translate effectively into a miniature chocolate sculpture. When practicing Positive Imaginative Restriction as a 3D chocolate designer, the mind's initial reaction to the term "bicycle" would most likely be to print a 2D chocolate drawing, analyzing the possibilities of 2D-relief before carrying the thought process towards a 2.75D construction of the frame, wheels, handlebars, etc. Finally, the designer may attempt a true/direct 3D print, which may prove no more satisfactory than the 2D or 2.75D construction. Starting at the most complex point and working backwards to simplify an idea often has a negative psychological effect on both the designer and client, with a sense of losing details and compromising heavily, rather than gaining details and pushing a design to the limits of the technology.

Positive Imaginative Restriction is the conditioning of the human brain to automatically consider set restrictions and limitations while still maintaining a high level of creativity by adding details and complexities to ideas and concepts in a gradual process - Why not try the maze/labyrinth test? Novice 3D chocolate designers following this process will find they spend far less time rendering designs only to find they simply cannot be printed.



Mar 14, 2017

Despite the endless possibilities for creating unique miniature 3D chocolates, our chocolatier users occasionally come to us during periods of "designer's block" for inspiration and advice.

Much like writer's block, starting a design session with a blank canvas can be quite daunting, especially when the software, hardware ( Choc Creator V2.0 Plus ) and methodology is completely new to the user.

The process of rendering a 3D model can be a challenge even for an experienced user who knows exactly what they want to achieve, so here's some advice our design team have previously given users who had plenty of freshly tempered chocolate at hand but were fresh out of ideas.

Design isn't all about software and technology - It's also about training your eyes to see everything in a way that sends sparks of inspiration to the creative part of the brain. As a starting point, purchase a pocket sketchpad - This will be your new best friend in the fight to overcome designer's block. Take a pencil and draw the outline of a 4x4x4cm cube to scale, which will act as your design canvas and help to condition your mind to work only within the limitations of these measurements. Any ideas for 3D models can be sketched inside the cube using a thick marker pen, and anything that cannot comfortably fit inside the cube can be quickly discarded as it won't likely work as a design. For inspiration, step out of the studio and spend an afternoon with your sketchbook in the city. Visit any local parks, florists, museums or streets with unusual architecture. The aim of the visit is to look at things with very different eyes, focusing on the shapes and structures of both organic and man-made objects. Pay attention to any forms that sprout upwards, twist, intertwine, or have a structural pattern. Inspiration for miniature 3D objects can be found everywhere in almost anything.

For standard chocolate printing, color information is not important, as is the need for any areas of fine detail, so anyone looking for a challenge can try training their eyes to see only the kinds of simple shapes they need to. As with some of the most beautiful paintings and sculptures ever created, forms don't need to be figurative to be exciting or appealing - Complex objects and figurative shapes can be broken down into simple abstract (non-figurative) forms that retain much of the beauty and excitement of the original.

Take our UnUlam Spiral design as an example; The idea for this design came from glancing at a textbook of math problems. The spiral was carefully rendered in 3D software, and the final model was twisted and skewed before exporting it as an STL. When printed, the 0.8mm lines of chocolate created a ribbed effect that added to the pattern of lines travelling in multiple directions.

For those users who really want to get a feel for 3D abstract art, we recommend visiting a sculpture gallery in your area or taking a look at an online gallery.

If you're interested in getting creative with 3D chocolate printing, contact our sales team for a  Choc Creator V2.0 Plus  quote.



Feb 20, 2017

The realm of chocolate printing exists between the worlds of 3D printing (aka Additive Layer Manufacturing) and chocolatiering - two very different disciplines that are equally important for users of our technology to understand.

It is therefore necessary for any user, regardless of their background, to approach chocolate printing with the understanding that they may need to acquire some new skills in order to reap the full benefits from our Choc Creator technology.

Whether it's the need to learn simple 2D/3D modeling or take a night class in chocolate-making, the more users of our technology understand about both disciplines, the more they will understand the possibilities, limitations, reasons for certain aspects of our methodology, and perhaps most importantly, the more confident they will become in this new form of chocolate artistry.

Despite our literature focusing heavily on the importance of familiarizing oneself with chocolate, there is still a tendency for 3D plastic aficionados to overlook the importance of preparing well-tempered chocolate, reasoning that plastic is simply being replaced with chocolate, when in fact chocolate behaves very differently from plastic or indeed any other material. Likewise, there are still some chocolatiers who steer themselves away from our technology, as they assume they will need to hire the services of PIXAR to create their 3D models and ask NASA to program their G-codes. Although not every chocolatier chooses to take on the 3D challenge, we've seen many chocolatiers surprise themselves when attempting to create their own designs, realizing that the process is certainly a challenge but not impossible - It requires time, motivation and dedication.

One thing that both the disciplines of 3D printing and chocolatiering have in common is the artistic element. Whether the subject is a digital 3D object or a chocolate sculpture made entirely by hand, the importance placed on aesthetics related to shapes, textures and colors is a shared value by members of both communities. In fact, at 3D printing trade shows and chocolate events, we rarely meet anyone we wouldn't consider an artist of some description. It therefore seems to be the overt complexity of some of the modeling software available that still deters a small number of chocolatiers from venturing into 3D printing, with the need to prepare chocolate still intimidating some 3D modelers who are too used to pre-made plastic filaments. We encourage people who have yet to embrace our technology for these reasons to 'play around' with free modelling software or to try 'hand tempering' some chocolate at home to see just how easy (or indeed difficult) these processes actually are - We find that many users surprise themselves, and those who don't at least feel happy to have tried rather than just dismiss the idea of 3D chocolate printing completely.

The most successful users are those who are dedicated to learning and also able to "unlearn", as there are still some misconceptions about chocolate printing. For example: Many 3D modelers have "learned" specific points regarding structure and construction which tells them they couldn't print a 3D model using liquid chocolate without supports or a cooling system, yet it's something the Choc Edge team has achieved.

For novices, our apps have proven to be excellent tools for introducing the STL to G-code conversion process. Once the process is understood and users have acquired some printing practice, they very quickly take the next step towards creating designs from their own imagination, as oppose to using designs from our library. Despite the amazing response we've had to all our designs over the years, our library is largely considered a stepping stone, and it's the possibility of creating something truly unique all by oneself that has always excited our users. The growing need for 3D printed work outside the immediate community is something that the major software players are well aware of, and the amazing Autodesk team have recently announced that they are consolidating much of their software to make it easier for newcomers of any age and background to download just a single piece of software and get involved.

The acquisition and honing of new skills does, of course, take time, effort, motivation, and often a reliance on others who know the methods and processes well enough to effectively educate others. The key to our success in merging technology with chocolate has been working with the world's most dual-skilled engineers, technicians and designers who are equally versed in the science and workings of chocolate. Again, it is the artistic element that has bridged all these disciplines, enabling us to hold 1-to-1 training with users who may already be familiar with 3D printing, chocolate, or perhaps have no knowledge at all of either. A new chocolate printing language has also grown out of our interaction with users, which is a fusion of 3D printing terminology, art & design lingo, and traditional chocolatiering vernacular.

By standing on a common ground and sharing our knowledge, we're proud to say we've been able to help a variety of companies and individuals join the 3D food printing revolution.

Any chocolatiers who are interested and want to know more about the design-to-print process can download our extended FAQ known as the 3D Chocolate Printing Guide.