3D printing has gained popularity recently as a variety of uses have manifested — everything from prosthetic hands to airplane parts to vagina art and even chocolate.
But never has it looked so cool.
Trust Massachusetts’ Institute of Technology to take things to another level.
Three graduate students at MIT’s additive manufacturing department have cobbled together a 3D printer that could soon thrill children with ice cream that can be printed to fit a prearranged form in less than 15 minutes.
Students Kyle Hounsell, Kristine Bunker, and David Donghyun Kim have created a method of printing an edible ice cream star by combining a Solidoodle 3D printer with a Cuisinart Soft Serve machine, a Kenmore freezer, some tubes, and a liquid nitrogen tank. The food industry might never be the same.
Housed inside the Kenmore freezer, the modified 3D printer’s print bed moves in a preset pattern, accepting the ice cream stream which is swiftly blasted by liquid nitrogen, to keep it solid. Soft serve melts at 20°F, so the extrusion nozzle has to be kept very cold, too. To do this, the cryogen line was bent around the extrusion nozzle, enabling the LN2 to spray evenly over the design as it forms.
To keep the print time low, the 3D treat is created in an area approximately the size of a human hand. This also serves to prevent excessive liquid nitrogen use.
The grad students responsible for this new design told 3dprint.com and Techcrunch.com:
“We were inspired to design this printer because we wanted to make something fun with this up and coming technology in a way that we could grab the attention of kids. We felt that it was just as important to come up with a new technology as it was to interest the younger generation in pursuing science and technology so we can continue pushing the limits of what is possible.”
The ice cream has to be printed into a cooled environment in order to hold its shape. To this end, the 3D printer was installed in a freezer large enough to handle the full build volume.
As of yet, refinements are needed if the technology is to see commercial use. The students have explained that the design doesn’t replace any existing technology, but is a fun and novel process that will interest children in what’s possible with 3D printing.
Who said technology had to be boring?
[Image courtesy of www.3dprint.com]