Sugar Selfies

In His Own Sweet Image

Sweet shop kids Katjes Paul Aidan Perry
Children watch as sweets are made.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The 3D printing revolution could be applied to address hunger in the world.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Customers at the Magic Candy Factory can mix and match colors, flavors and shapes to create a personalized sweet treat for €5.
    • Other companies including Barilla pastas, Hershey chocolates and the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn already are working their own versions of 3D printers.
    • The 3D printing revolution could help solve world hunger by allowing combinations of common materials such as algae, duckweed, mealworms and other insects into a nutritious, appetising food.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Berliners are in for a treat. The Magic Candy Factory offers those with a sweet tooth a unique experience – 3D printed sweets.

Last week Katjes, the confectionery manufacturer from Emmerich on the Rhine, opened a new store and café on a side street near the Hackescher Höfe, a network of pretty courtyards much beloved by tourists in the Mitte district.

There, using three iPads, customers can create their own personally designed concoctions. The sweets might look, for example, like a strawberry, a flower, a heart or a butterfly. And it might taste like lemon, raspberry, mango or apple. It can even be decorated with glitter.

The order then goes into a food product 3D printer located behind a large glass plate. A server puts a kind of syringe into the machine, where the chosen fruit gum mix is placed. The warmed mass spills out of a fine nozzle, layer-by-layer, for five minutes or less, forming a product that is a few centimeters large and weighs about 10 grams. It comes in a clear gift box with a label customers can design. The price is €5 ($5.62).

It’s a lot of effort compared to the conventional production of sweets, where machines spit out gummy bears and licorice by the thousands, yet the small factory represents a turning point.

In the future, people may be able to prepare meals differently, manufacture their own food products in ways that allow cooks to wow their guests.

Hod Lipson, director of the laboratory for creative machines at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is convinced the breakthrough will occur. “With the progress with 3D printing, a new era is also beginning with individualized food products and meals,” he said.

What sounds like a dream is already an edible reality. In the laboratory, researchers have printed out pancakes, marzipan, chewing gum and even pizzas with toppings. At the Milan World Expo, the Italian pasta maker Barilla unveiled a prototype requiring only two minutes to print a portion of pasta for a dish. Meanwhile, completely new forms are being created such as a rose that can hold tomato sauce. The Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and the American chocolate manufacturer Hershey also are testing the technology.

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