3-D shape
In today’s reality and tomorrow’s possibility, 3-D printing offers ways to create imaginative, intricate food shapes.

KANSAS CITY — The possibilities for 3-D food printing might bring to mind a scene in the 1971 movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” While Mr. Wonka (played by the late Gene Wilder) sang “Pure Imagination,” children marveled at yard-high lollipops sprouting from the ground and at trees with gumball-filled balloons in place of leaves.

After the song ended, Mr. Wonka plucked a candy flower, its petals shaped like a cup. He took a drink and then a bite out of a petal.

In today’s reality and tomorrow’s possibility, 3-D printing offers ways to create imaginative, intricate food shapes. There are additional potential benefits as well. Replicating culinary art may save on labor costs, and 3-D printers could personalize nutrition in food products through ingredient selection.

3D Systems Corp., Rock Hill, S.C., and BeeHex, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, are two companies pioneering the use of 3-D printing.

3D Systems offers engineering software, 3-D printers and printer materials to companies in various industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive, and health care. The company’s presence in the food industry increased in August when CSM Bakery Solutions and 3D Systems Corp. announced an agreement to collaborate in the development, sale and distribution of 3-D printers, products and materials for the food industry. Atlanta-based CSM Bakery Solutions will support the development and have exclusive rights to utilize 3D Systems’ ChefJef Pro 3-D printer for food products for the professional culinary environment.

Sebastian Siethoff, CSM Bakery Solutions
Sebastian Siethoff, CSM Bakery Solutions

“We saw a clear opportunity to really lead the charge in baking as a company and then as a sub-set, or as a broader set, ultimately in foods all together,” said Sebastian Siethoff, senior vice-president of corporate strategy and chief marketing officer for CSM Bakery Solutions. “We’re thinking very big on this. We’re being quite entrepreneurial and visionary on this, together with 3D Systems. The potential to monetize this is there and is getting more and more exciting every day.”

The ChefJet Pro 3-D printer uses powdered sugar and hydrated food coloring to create products. Initially, CSM Bakery Solutions will target how 3-D printing may assist chefs creating high culinary art in such venues as casinos and cruise lines.

3-D cake

A ChefJet Pro 3-D printer from 3D Systems uses powdered sugar and hydrated food coloring to create products like cake decorations. Courtesy of CSM Bakery Solutions

“We’re really thinking of this as a high culinary platform that then ultimately can go into food service and retail,” Mr. Siethoff said.

Replicating chef creations potentially may save on costs.

“Today, there is a lot of labor and time spent with bakers to decorate cakes and cupcakes,” he said. “What (3-D printing) will do is essentially allow a chef or a baker to replicate high culinary art, on a push of a button.”

3-D printing could involve flavor selection as well. Mr. Siethoff pointed to the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine as a benchmark.

“Just as much as it is modular and incredibly impactful in terms of detail and color and size and shapes, (3-D printing) can be just as versatile and modular in terms of flavor combinations,” Mr. Siethoff said.

Read on for more 3-D printing possibilities.