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.
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.
Our long-time followers will be excited to hear that 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of our pioneering 3D ALM Chocolate Printing process.
From our very first 2D experiments with the Choc ALM prototype back in 2007, to the full 3D library created for the best-selling Choc Creator V2Plus last year, the Choc Edge team has continually pushed the limits of 3D chocolate printing to ensure that the process will one day become a staple of every chocolatier's repertoire alongside hand-piping, sculpting and moulding.
The last 10 years have seen many landmarks reached by Choc Edge, all of which we're immensely proud of, including:
- World's first working prototype of a 2D/3D Chocolate Printer (Choc ALM prototype aka V0)
- World's first registered limited company specializing in the design and manufacturing of 3D chocolate printers
- World's first commercially available 2D/3D Chocolate Printer (Choc Creator V1)
- World's first large-scale production run of 3D printed chocolate items (Commissioned for a gala event in the USA)
- World's first dedicated apps for chocolate printing (ChocText, Mix&Match, ChocDraw)
- World's first 2D/3D library of STL and G-codes specifically designed for chocolate printing
- World's first education programmes focused on 3D food printing (Implemented in schools in China as Choc STEAM)
- It is, however, the release of the Choc Creator V2Plus that we're most proud of, and there's an interesting story behind its development.
After the Choc Creator V1 made headlines and started a 'space race' to see who could release a more advanced chocolate printer by the end of the following year, we set out to release a 2nd generation printer to meet the challenged deadline. During the design process, we made the difficult decision to withdraw some of the advanced features originally planned for the Choc Creator V2, including the LCD touchscreen.
On the release date of the Choc Creator V2, our 'space race' competitors hadn't met the challenge, and the Choc Creator V2 proved again to be the pinnacle of 3D food printing technology at that time. Despite this, there was always a feeling that we hadn't yet reached the point of perfection, and that we could've gone a few steps further.
Finally, we decided to develop our 3rd generation printer as the Choc Creator V2Plus, which would be the ultimate upgraded version featuring everything and more that we had on our wish list of functions and capabilities for the previous models. The Choc Creator V2Plus finally enabled true/direct 3D printing of miniature items, and is without a doubt our most popular product to date.
Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing. After becoming a limited company in 2012, we moved out of our university laboratory and into the 'school of hard knocks' where we had to work harder than ever before to market ourselves effectively, internationally disseminate our concepts, build our credibility, and earn a reputation for quality products accompanied by a trustworthy and efficient sales service.
Five years later, we're proud to say that 3D chocolate printing has reached all four corners of the globe, with companies and individuals from all types of backgrounds using our printers not only to produce unique bites of chocolate but also to entertain and educate.
Our founder, Liang, is now recognized as a leading authority on 3D ALM foodstuff printing, and our CEO, Christina, is in constant demand for the facilitation of education programmes related to 3D printing. In 2017, we're now in a position where we've been graciously accepted as peers to many of the world's finest chocolatiers, and we're lucky enough to be working directly with premium chocolate producers in Belgium, Switzerland and many other parts of Europe.
Our team of Liang, Christina, Neo, Frank, Yukai, Sunliang, Stone, Cathy, Jane and Mark, and all our other members of the past and present would like to say just how much we appreciate all the support and encouragement you have given us over the years.
Having now amassed a wealth of specific knowledge related to engineering, coding, designing and chocolate-making, Choc Edge is recognized as a truly one-of-a-kind team of innovators with a relentless passion for the work we do. We certainly don't take this recognition lightly, and we will continue to work hard to stay at the cutting edge for the next 10 years, ensuring that the very latest 3D chocolate printing solutions are available to people who love chocolate just as much as we do.
What will the world of 3D chocolate printing be like in another 10 years? You'll just have to wait until 2027. What we do know at the moment is that the future's looking very tasty!