Earlier this year we covered a particularly novel 3D printer add-on called ColorPod. Developed by Netherlands-based Aad van der Geest, ColorPod is a useful add-on to any RepRap style of 3D printer that allows it to print in full color using a combination of powder-based 3D printing and more traditional color inkjet cartridges. Now, as we’ve just learnt, the developers of ColorPod have further updated their technology so that it can actually 3D print full color edibles!
In order to make the jump from inkjet color printing to edible 3D printing, ColorPod, quite obviously, had to find some new materials to print with. As the device’s main function of color 3D printing is designed to use stock inks from HP, which are printed layer by layer onto the object as it is being 3D printed into the powder bed, they evidently needed to integrate some edible coloring and printing ingredients and make the device’s output safe for consumption.
The solution, as it turns out, was to use an edible ink made out of water and a small amount of ethanol (such as vodka, for instance), which could be jetted out by the ColorPod device onto a powder bed made up of sugar and dextrin, building up a sugary but edible 3D printed object layer by layer. According to the developers of the edible ColorPod, the device can be used to 3D print small full color candies, or can even be used to print 2D color images onto existing foods—think of an ultra-personalized cake topper image, for example.
Another step in making the ColorPod food-friendly was to find a way to replace the ink from the cartridges with the edible ink solution without leaking the ink everywhere. This was ultimately solved in a relatively rudimentary way, by creating a small vacuum in the existing ink cartridge that could house the edible solution.