Edible Innovations: Engineering a 3D Printer to Extrude Chocolate

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Edible Innovations: Engineering a 3D Printer to Extrude Chocolate

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

Evan Weinstein is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania who’s majoring in Mechanical Engineering. His love of engineering began at an early age with the Lego Mindstorms RCX kit, and he now works in an additive manufacturing lab at school. He went to World Maker Faire New York to introduce Cocoa Press, “his baby.” Cocoa Press is a 3D printer for chocolate that he developed all by himself. Part of the Future Food Zone, Evan attracted hundreds of people to see what he was up to. We grabbed five minutes with him to talk about his story.

Evan, tell us more about Cocoa Press and how you started working on that!

Cocoa Press is a 3D printer that prints chocolate. I started on it three years ago in high school as part of an introduction to an engineering class. However, the class was only one semester, and it was too hard to finish the project in just six months. I’ve now been working on it for three years, applying a lot of the skills that I learned while attending college, and I am finally at the point where I feel comfortable showing it off. I’m super excited to be here!

And what’s the current stage of the project?

It’s the first prototype. I finished it about two weeks ago. This is probably the third day I’m running it. It’s still a very new project!

How does it work?

It takes Hershey bars and it melts them down before printing them into any shape. So far, my favorite thing to make is a vase. The machine cools the chocolate right away, so the machine can do a lot of complex 3D geometry. I use six Peltier coolers. They get hot on one side and cold on the other. Water cools the hot side so that the chocolate solidifies immediately.

Nice! Does it work with any kind of chocolate?

So far I’ve only tried Hershey chocolate, but I have the platform. The platform is done and I can use any air pressure in any temperature. So my next project is to work on different types of chocolate and figure out what works best and what tastes best.

I don’t quite know what other parts of the machine I’m going to work on. I’ll probably keep working on the shape of it for a little while, like enclosing it and making it easier to refrigerate the entire machine. Then I’ll see where that takes me.

What’s your main take-away from these past three years?

In terms of engineering, I think I’ve learned almost everything I know through the machine. Originally, I only knew 3D design, but then I learned 3D printing and now I’m using all I know about machining. I now know a little bit about everything when it comes to machining or circuitry, and I know what I need to make a better printer.

Any advice for other makers in the food space?

Do research. I studied how to make a 3D printer and learned a ton about it before even trying to make it. Everything from machining, to circuitry, to random facts about the thermodynamics of chocolate. I learned everything just searching online and applying what I read.

Most importantly, the Internet is your friend. You can find out so much information on the Internet. I knew nothing when I started the project, so anyone can complete any project if they put their mind to it and if they spend enough time researching and trying and failing and moving forward!

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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini
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