About Choc Edge
Choc Edge started as a research project at the University of Exeter, the aim was to create a 3D printer that could produce objects in a material that hadn't been used for 3D printing before. As chocolate is universally loved it was decided it would be the perfect material to appeal to existing 3D printing enthusiasts and engage people who would normally not be interested in the technology.
The result was the Choc Creator and in 2012 the Choc Creator V1 became the world's first commercially available 3D chocolate printer. The first Choc Creator immediately caught the imagination of the public and media and has been followed by the Choc Creator V2 and V2.0 Plus.
Choc Edge's aim is to revolutionise the chocolate creation and consumption experience with the latest 3D chocolate printing technology. With the Choc Creator users gain access to unprecedented levels of personalisation, flexibility, and control over their creations.
We believe this new technology will not only empower users to take chocolate creation to new levels but ultimately enhance the overall chocolate consumption experience for the end user.
The Choc Creator
The first chocolate printers were a lot different to the machine the Choc Edge produces today. Initially large lab-based pieces of equipment the Choc Creator was refined to become the desktop-sized, user-friendly machine it is today.
Based on the same principals of additive layer manufacturing and plastic printing the Choc Creator is designed to provide the best possible results when printing in chocolate. The aim has always been to use the machine with pure tempered chocolate, to work within the limitations yet push the boundaries of what is possible with this material. This means that the results are always edible, and customers can know that the chocolate which comes out of the printer has had no extra ingredients added to it.
Choc Edge is always working to improve the Choc Creator - to make it as user-friendly and easy to use as possible, to reach people who are interested in 3D printing but lack the technical know-how. With its LCD screen, automatic temperature control, and a syringe which is easily refillable the Choc Creator requires no previous experience with 3D printing technology.
How it Works
3D printing or Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) describes a range of technologies that are used to fabricate physical objects directly from CAD data sources.
In 3D chocolate printing the chocolate is tempered, loaded into a specially designed syringe, and deposited into a 2D cross-section on a substrate - like a printer printing a 2D image onto paper.
The syringe is then raised by the height of the chocolate line that is being printed and the process repeats layer-by-layer to form 2D, 2.5D and 3D chocolate products that are defined by a 3D computer design.
These 3D computer designs can be created using a range of techniques and software. Any 3D design program capable of producing STL files will be able to create designs that can be printed with the Choc Creator. If you're not familiar with 3D design methods Choc Edge offers a gallery of downloadable ready-made designs and a bespoke design service.
What is Choc Edge and what do you do?
Choc Edge Ltd is a UK-based Anglo-Chinese technology company that provides chocolate printing solutions for businesses and individuals who wish to design and produce creative chocolates. We are the pioneers of the 3D ALM chocolate printing process and the initiators of the current food printing revolution.
What type of chocolate can be used in the Choc Creator?
We highly recommend the use of high-quality, machine-tempered, Belgian dark chocolate as it has consistently shown better printing results compared to other types of chocolate, due to its high level of cocoa solids. However, it is possible to print with different kinds of chocolate including milk chocolate and white chocolate.
How do I melt the Chocolate for Printing?
All Choc Edge designs are printed using machine-tempered Belgian Dark Chocolate (Callebaut 811NV). So for the best results we recommend using a professional tempering machine but there are other methods of tempering chocolate.
BBC Good Food: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-temper-chocolate
What kind of tempering machine would you recommend?
Choc Edge uses a Rev 2 chocolate tempering machine from Chocovision.
Does the chocolate need to be tempered for printing?
For reliable results it is essential that the chocolate is properly tempered. If the chocolate is not tempered results may be unpredictable or unsatisfactory.
Does the machine keep the chocolate warm during the whole process of printing?
Yes. The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus has a heating system. The barrel which houses the syringe while printing keeps a constant temperature. For example; If you set the temperature to 31 degrees, you will see "Temp: 31 degrees" on the touch screen. Sometimes this bursts up to 32 or 33 degrees momentarily while printing - The heating system is compensating for a slight drop in room temperature and is smartly keeping an even 31 degrees.
What are your cartridges made of?
The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus does not use cartridges – It has a syringe loading system.
In simple terms, tempered chocolate is loaded into the printer via a syringe (meaning that the chocolate is drawn up into the syringe by hand) and the syringe is then loaded into the printer.
This process was chosen because it is food-safe, clean, efficient, enables the use of different chocolates, and the chocolate you load will always be fresh.
Could the chocolate dry up during the process in the machine?
I will split this answer into two parts: Syringe (the steel tube we use) and Nozzle (the tiny metal tip we use).
Syringe: When recommended operating temperatures are followed, the chocolate should not dry inside the syringe. As soon as you load the syringe with chocolate (which will be approx. 30-31 degrees from a tempering machine), it should be inserted into the printer's barrel and the cover closed. If the printer's heating system has been set to 31 degrees, the barrel will already be at that temperature, so it will be a smooth transition from tempering machine to the printer (with perhaps half a degree of fluctuation at most). When using a 0.8mm nozzle, the longest we usually print a single 3D model for is 40-50 minutes, with 50-60 minutes being the absolute maximum we would recommend. For 2.5D designs which are much quicker to print, the chocolate should not dry out while printing.
Nozzle: As mentioned above, the 0.8mm standard nozzle has proven itself suitable for extended print times.
How do you get the chocolate out from the machine at the end?
For ease of use, we chose a syringe system for our printer. After you finish printing, you remove the syringe from the printer's barrel, and purge any remaining chocolate into a cup (since it can be re-tempered and re-used if needed). Then simply clean the syringe and nozzle with warm water and dish soap. We supply a little brush for this. After the syringe is dry, you can reload it with freshly tempered chocolate and start the printing process again.
Can it also produce different 3D foods with chocolate? Can we add different mixtures?
The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus was designed specifically for use with chocolate, with dark chocolate noted as being the best for 3D printing.
Chocolate from the same family of courverture chocolate (Dark Belgian, Milk Belgian, White Belgian) could theoretically be mixed together and printed with, but this will not create the desired marble texture due to the size of the nozzle.
Two-tone prints are achievable but take a little more effort that regular printing - The printer has a pause function, so if you have two syringes, you can experiment with changing syringes during a single print. Example; You could print the first half of a 3D object in dark chocolate, and the second half in white chocolate.
Most importantly, the printer's warranty does not cover other materials than chocolate.
What room temperature/humidity does the Choc Creator need to be operated in?
For reliable and accurate printing we recommend the printer is operated, and the chocolate prepared, in room temperatures between 19-22°C - ideally around 21°C. The humidity of the room should be 50%.
What is the size of the Choc Creator's print bed?
The build envelope for the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is 18cm (X axis) x 18cm (Y axis) x 4cm (Z axis).
What software is required for printing?
The software used to operate the machine is called Choc Print, which will convert .stl files into G code. It is provided free with the printer.
Will Choc Print run on my computer?
Choc Print will run on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. It will also run on Windows 10 though currently is not able to connect to the printer on this platform. Choc Print will not run on Mac OS X, including iMacs and MacBooks.
What can a Choc Creator create?
The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is capable of producing detailed 2D art, 2.5D designs and simple 3D models in chocolate. Examples of prints can be found in our creations gallery.
What's the difference between 2.5D and 2D relief?
Although they both belong in the same category of printmaking, there are slight differences between them. 2.5D is a shallow extrusion that is basically the same image repeatedly printed in layers. When printed with four or more layers, 2.5D prints are often presented as stand-alone pieces, whereas 2D relief usually refers to a shallow extrusion rising up out of a substrate.
Can solid 2D relief be achieved with a Choc Creator?
A semi-solid or solid 2D relief could be achieved but only on a very small scale due to the printing time and amount of chocolate required, with the maximum capacity being 30ml before needing to pause and refill. Due to the time and effort required to produce a quality semi-solid or solid print, we advise users to print a 1-3 layer extrusion onto a substrate (e.g. a flat chocolate bar) to achieve the same effect.
I still don't understand 2.5D and 2D-relief. Can you please elaborate on these terms?
2.5D: 2D designs are only 1 layer, which is nearly flat at 0.8mm in height. If that 1 layer is repeated 4 times, you have a design that is 4 layers high. It is not true 3D, because it does not have true 3-dimensions, so it is 2.5D.
2D-Relief: A chocolate bar from a mould sometimes has letters or images rising up out of the bar - this is relief. Depending on the design and if we have a similar flat chocolate bar, we can sometimes mimic this process with a Choc Creator by printing onto the bar.
Occasionally, we have been asked how to create 2D drawings, so we have produced a 2D drawing app (ChocDraw) for this purpose.
When printing 3D models, how is the exterior support structure (or raft) formed?
No exterior support structures or rafts are used when 3D printing in chocolate. Designs therefore need to have very little in terms of overhang and any steep angles need to be considered.
Can more complex models be printed when the printing speed is reduced?
Yes. By reducing the printing speed the chocolate has more time to dry, creating hardened layers to build the next layers onto. This helps with areas of slight overhang and steep angles.
Can I use a coolant to cool the chocolate faster?
Cooling the chocolate should not be necessary to achieve 3D printing when tempered chocolate is used. (Please note that all the prints in our gallery have been produced without the use of a cooling system.) If your room temperature is very difficult to control, it may be marginally helpful to place a small cooling appliance such as a USB-powered refrigerator in front of the printbed. Cooling the chocolate too quickly can also negatively affect the quality of the chocolate and cause it to become brittle.
What chemicals or additives do you use to make your chocolate suitable for 3D printing?
Absolutely none. We use chocolate straight out of the bag and place it into our tempering machine. We recommend Callebaut's Dark Belgian Chocolate for best results.
I have a very small (2cm) and detailed 2.5D model that was created for plastic printing. Can the Choc Creator print it?
It is difficult to say without seeing the model, but due to the nature of chocolate itself, the Choc Creator has a limited resolution. Although more detail can be achieved by reducing the nozzle size, there will always be a limited to what is achievable in terms of size and clarity. It is worth noting that our smallest prints have been approximately 4cm square and only very simple designs to put onto biscuits.
Can a Choc Creator save me money, and if so, how much?
The answer to this question depends entirely on your individual situation. Please contact us for a consultation.
I'd like to reduce manpower. Will a Choc Creator run unassisted all day long?
No. The Choc Creator is essentially a desktop printer for one-off bespoke items and small production runs. It is therefore necessary to refill and reset the printer after each print, as well as to intermittently monitor the printer.
If the chocolate is tempered and all other conditions are perfect, what is the longest the Choc Creator can print a single model for?
60 minutes is the absolute maximum. After this point, the chocolate loses it properties and printing loses it quality. We recommend keeping your print time to no longer than 50 minutes for a single 3D print. Scaling down models and increasing the print speed will help to reduce printing times. However, speeding up a print may negatively affect the print quality on 3D models as there is less time for each layer to dry.
Is there any free software available that will help me to create simple designs?
Yes. Google SketchUp, Autodesk's 123D collection, Blender and many more free applications will allow you to create simple designs and save them as STL or OBJ files. As with any piece of software, you may need to dedicate some learning time.
I noticed that the layers of the 3d objects are VERY noticeble, kinda "stripy" and sometimes "messy". Is it possible to solve this distracting problem?
This is technically not considered a "problem". 3D printing is an ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing) process, so what you see is the result of the ALM layer-upon-layer methodology.
If the individual 0.8mm chocolate layers are visible, it is a good sign that the chocolate used is high quality and has been correctly tempered. When you are 3D printing in chocolate, you should be aiming to have the layers as visible as possible, and you should be able to count the layers and match the exact amount to the value given by your slicing software.
(Example: When you slice a 3D model that is 35mm in Z-height at 0.8mm, the slicing software will tell you it has sliced 43 layers, and you should able to count all 43 layers of the finished chocolate print.)
As mentioned, tempered chocolate has the viscosity of toothpaste (very thick) and has a similar glue-like or sticky quality, so any "messy" areas of a print are largely due to the material being used. We would consider none of the prints in our gallery to be "messy" despite the small scale of every design - This is simply what 3D (ALM) chocolate looks like, and we feel these prints show the best chocolate can look when printed at 0.8mm.
Of course, we respect and understand people's opinions regarding the "stripy" look of 3D (ALM) chocolate, and sometimes a moulding method is better suited to these people's tastes.
I want to make my own designs (not yours) but I know absolutely nothing about 3D computer software. I only have some pens and paper. How easy it is to to make my own designs , and what software would I need?
Although Choc Edge can provide customers with some pre-rendered printable designs, we realize that most customers want to create their own unique designs. When non-artists, non-designers or non-3D people think about "design", they usually imagine a sketch on paper since that is their level of familiarity. Although a sketch of an idea is a great place to start, the creation of a printable 2D, 2.5D or 3D design involves a number of processes which use 3D modelling software.
To put things simply, every 3D printer follows a set of instructions - to print something, the printer needs a code that tells it such things as "move left", "move right", "squeeze out chocolate", etc. Since the Choc Creator has been designed a standard kind of 3D printing instruction code, known as G-codes, every design method needs to result in a G-code. So if you start with an idea in your head and make a quick sketch it on paper, you need to somehow transform your quick sketch of an idea into a G-code.
In the case of Choc Edge and our Choc Creator, our G-codes are usually created by slicing up STLs using our own software called ChocPrint. STLs, G-codes and ChocPrint are linked in the following way:
STL: a 2D, 2.5D or 3D model (in other words, "your artwork"). STLs have no "instructions" embedded into them, so the Choc Creator cannot read these files - Instead, it needs a G-code that is created from the STL.
G-code: an instruction code that tells the Choc Creator what to do (such as move left/right, move up/down, extrude, etc). The Choc Creator reads these files and they can be created by "slicing up" an STL.
ChocPrint: is a "slicing software" specifically tailored for chocolate. It is not a model-making or sculpting software. To create a G-code, import an STL into ChocPrint and use the "STL-to-Gcode" function.
The three main types of printing are as follows, and an STL must be made accordingly:
2D: When you make a design (such as a company logo which is flat, not 3D), it is usually a flat design that has been slightly extruded on the Z axis. We consider these STLs as 2D, because they only have 1-2 layers, and they result in a print that looks like a flat drawing.
2.5D (aka 2D-with-height): When you make a design (such as a company logo which is flat, not 3D), the Z height can be extruded so that it is 3-6 layers (or even more layers) in height. We consider these STLs as 2.5D, because they have 3-6 layers in Z height, and they result in a print that looks like a flat drawing that has been 'raised up' in height.
3D: True 3D prints from 3D models. (Of course, not every 3D model is suitable for printing in chocolate. Unlike 3D plastic printing, there is no 'support' when printing in chocolate, so it is best to avoid 3D models that have severe angles and lots of overhang. For example it would be impossible to print an open umbrella that is standing upright because of the severe overhang. However, it is possible to print 3D models with a reasonable amount of angular ascension that almost overhangs, such as the 3D LOVE print in our website gallery.)
If you are able to create an STL, you will be able to "slice up" the model into a G-code using our ChocPrint software. But we often meet novices who are concerned as to whether or not they will be able to get as far as creating an STL. The Choc Edge team uses a great deal of freely available software and some that is only available via monthly subscription. We try to use free software as much as possible as we need to be able to introduce it to our users and sometimes instruct them on its use. If you are concerned that you may not be able to get the hang of creating STLs yourself after you purchase a Choc Creator, why not try downloading some free software and spend some time experimenting?
I've found some 3D models on the internet. Can they be printed in chocolate?
It is difficult to say without seeing the models. If the models are very large, have areas of fine detail, unsupported overhang or very steep angles, it is likely that the models will need to be edited to meet the requirements of chocolate printing. However, many models print perfectly as they are without any editing - see the octopus in our gallery for an example.
I own a chocolate studio / bakery. Will I need to employ a full-time 3D modeller in order to use the Choc Creator?
No. Choc Edge aims to provide you with the tools necessary to generate printable files (G-codes) from 3D models, whether they are models we have provided you with or ones you have sourced or made by yourself.
Of course, gaining a little knowledge of 3D printing would be useful, and it will help you to determine what kind of models can and cannot be printed in chocolate.
How do I make and where do I get customised models for chocolate (not plastic) printing?
Even with very little experience you can create your own by simply taking into consideration the following: Unlike 3D plastic printers, there is no structural support when using chocolate, so make sure the model you make does not have overhang or very steep angles. Make sure the model is no more than 4cm in height and that 30ml of chocolate will be enough to print the model. Very tiny areas of detail don't print well - Remember the resolution is 0.8mm lines with our standard nozzle - So try not to create too much detail. It is always best to start with very simple shapes and work your way up to more complicated models. Choc Edge can also assist with customised designs.
What software is your Choc Creator compatible with for 3D
(To answer this correctly, it's important to touch on a few points here....)
The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus follows the same principles as any 3D printer, so like all 3D printers, laser cutters and milling machines, the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus reads G-code files. G-code files contain movement and action instructions for the printers X,Y, Z and E axis - They are basically files that contain thousands of numbers like a binary code.
To get a G-code, you usually need to start by creating an STL (the actual 3D model file).
As a printer, the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is just the hardware, but we do, of course, supply you with a piece of software, too.
ChocPrint is the software that we supply to our users.
ChocPrint is used in the following way: Users open ChocPrint on their computer, import an STL (3D model file) into the software, and press the "generate G-code" button. The software will slice up the STL into layers that are suitable for chocolate printing. When it has finished slicing up the STL, you will have a G-code that you can directly port into the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus.
"Where do the STLs come from to begin with?" you may ask.
To create you own STL, there is a lot of free software available on the internet. Google SketchUp, Autodesk's 123D collection, Blender and many more free applications will allow you to create simple designs and save them as STL files. As with any piece of software, you may need to dedicate some learning time. For dedicated users, purchasing a monthly license for some of the more popular 3D modelling software, as well as Photoshop-CC, will provide you with a very useful pieces of software.
We also have two online apps which feature ready-made STLs - The designs are all simple, but it is a good starting point for many of our users.
What type of files are required for printing?
The Choc Creator V2.0 uses Choc Print software which accepts .stl files, a standard 3D printing file.
Can the Choc Creator print with other materials?
No, the Choc Creator has been designed and tested specifically for use with chocolate.
Can the Choc Creator print onto a cake or other surface?
It is possible for the Choc Creator to print onto shallow surfaces like biscuits, but not deeper objects like cakes. However, prints can be lifted off the print bed and placed onto different surfaces when dry.
How do I keep the chocolate I've printed in a good condition?
Chocolate will keep well for months if stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight at 21°C or below. The humidity should be 50% or under. Airtight packaging will help to preserve the chocolate.
Is any assembly required?
No, the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is fully assembled and tested before delivery.
Does the Choc Creator require much maintenance?
The only maintenance the machine requires regularly is cleaning the nozzles and syringe after use to prevent clogging. It is not necessary to use the machine every day to ensure that it runs well.
What consumables does the Choc Creator require?
The reusable syringe required for printing is included with the printer, the rubber bung may wear down after time but replacements are available by contacting our sales team.
What is the capacity of the Choc Creator?
The Choc Creator V2.0 uses a reusable syringe that holds up to 30ml of chocolate.
Does the machine have a warranty?
Yes, the Choc Creator is covered by a 6 month warranty. During this period any mechanical problems which cannot be fixed under our guidance will need to be looked at by our team who manufactures the Choc Creator. You will only pay for the shipping cost for sending the machine back to us. We will fix it or replace it depending on its condition.
After 6 months, you will have access to our technical support team and if the machine was to break down, you can ask for a repair. We will then diagnose the problem and provide you with a quote. We only charge for the cost of the repair and will not make any profit out of it.
What is the expected life of the printer?
The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus should be mechanically sound for at least 5 years.
What are your delivery times?
Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is drop-shipped worldwide. Once payment has cleared, delivery typically take 5-7 working days if all the ordered items are in stock.
How much does delivery cost?
Please see our delivery page for the cost of shipping to your location.
Will I have to pay import duties on my Choc Creator?
The Choc Creator unit will be shipped from Choc Edge's manufacturer in China and import duties will therefore apply. The duty will vary from country to country. It is the buyer's responsibility to pay for these import duties.
I work near Piccadilly Circus. Can I pop in to see you guys during my lunch break?
Although we have an office and studio in the UK, we are not based in London. Our UK team is based in Devon in the Southwest region, approximately three hours from London by train. Please note that we are unable to accept visitors to our premises.
Didn't I see you guys in (country name) last month? Your machine was cheaper and looked different.
Copycat companies may be trying to sell low-quality reproductions of our unique technology.
Please note that only Choc Edge, Qiaoyi3d, and our team of official distributors sell Choc Edge/Choc Creator technology. If you are ever unsure that an item is genuine, please contact us.
I'd like to purchase a printer to experiment with things like cement, plaster, paint, and really thick foods like nutty peanut butter. Will this void the warranty?
Yes. Choc Edge's policy is to advise Choc Creator users that our technology (including the Choc Creator's motor system) was designed specifically for use with chocolate, nothing else.