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Straightening the 3D chocolate printing learning curve

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.