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"The Illusion Of Defying Gravity"

Jul 20, 2020

“I still don't understand how you can 3D print without scaffolding. How are you guys deiying gravity?”

We're often asked this question, and the answer is quite simple : We design and build chocolates that don't require any form of support.

As mentioned in our literature, no exterior support structures (known as "scaffolds" or "rafts") are used when 3D printing in chocolate. Despite videos showing objects being built in real time, the fact that no support structure is used seems to perplex many of our followers, as if it should be impossible to build an object without it.

Although support structures are commonly used in 3D plastic printing, the same approach to building complex structures with areas of overhang simply isn't suitable for chocolate. There are a number of reasons why support isn't used, which include :

(1) We print using tempered liquid chocolate with lines that are 0.8mm in thickness, which means the liquid chocolate deposited for any kind of exterior structural support would be equally thick (and even with a heavily tailored system, no smaller than 0.4mm, which would itself reintroduce the unreliability factor we put to bed a few years ago). Any support structure in liquid chocolate, in equal thickness, will interconnect and adhere/bind itself to the rest of the model. Tempered chocolate is like the cement of the food world, and it can't be cleanly detached from itself - It's simply impossible to break away (or even gently scrape away) unwanted areas without snapping parts of the model and destroying its beauty. It's a matter of material - When we produce any 3D plastic prints on our state-of-the-art FDM printers, we regularly need to tidy the results by sanding down the remnants of the support to get a perfect finish, and there is no real process that equates to this for chocolate with any reliable outcome.

(2) A single 3D print without any support can use close to an entire syringe of chocolate, so the printing of any structural support would require approximately 30% more chocolate than can be loaded into a syringe. However, this is a moot point - See (1).

(3) A single 3D print uses the maximum print time possible with tempered chocolate - So any structural support would add 15+ minutes to the print time and cause it to pass the "breaking point" of tempered chocolate. However, this too is a moot point - See (1).

(4) With so much liquid chocolate being deposited in such a small space, it would be near impossible to stop the lines of chocolate bleeding into each other, which would not only cause dragging but also change the shape of the model when they cure and adhere/bond to each other. Even by cutting or snapping these away, the model would be left scarred and can't be refinished - If you are going to that much trouble for every chocolate, the output rate wouldn't be viable for any business, but this is again a moot point - See (1).

(5) Even with a machine designed to use support, the function could never be used to any reliable effect due to the time that would need to be dedicated to manually removing the support, which is an impossible task even for our expert chocolatiers. Even if there was an automated method for this, it is again still a moot point for all the other aforementioned reasons.

In summary, 3D chocolate designs need to be carefully considered and have very little in terms of overhang and points of severe angular ascension. Chocolate has to be deposited onto a base for the first layer, and then all subsequent layer deposits must be directly on top of a prior deposit. Any areas of a model that are "floating in the air" with no underlying support will simply not print as expected.

Now, the above doesn't include any mention of "experimenting" as we focus solely on what our clients need to understand and what they will be able to achieve. We are certain there will be students in a university somewhere you might want to challenge all of the above for their graduation thesis, but we prefer to focus on what can be done repeatedly and reliably.

However, we do encourage our users to push their designs to the limit - If you take a look at the LOVE design in our gallery, you might notice that it almost overhangs, and it should be noted that this was the revised version for clients to use. The original version was actually overhanging, and although it could be printed under optimal conditions, the all-important level of user tolerance wasn't there, and that verision didn't pass the validation process for that reason. (Please see our article on validation to learn more).

If you're looking to produce a single item that shows off the prowess of the Choc Creator V2.0 Plus, why not try pushing the limits of unsupported printing as far as you can go ?

So use your imagination, get designing, and see what you can create !

Below you'll see an image featuring a variety of interesting designs mid-validation, and you might notice that some of the designs are really pushing the boundaries of unsupported angular ascension. Not every design shown here made it into the current library, as we listen to feedback and remove those that our expert chocolatiers feel cross the line between a 'severe angle' and 'overhang'.


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