Chocolate printer to go on sale after Easter

Chocolate printer The researchers say the printer is very easy to use

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The UK scientists who developed a prototype chocolate printer last year say they have now perfected it.

They hope to have the machine on sale at the end of April - just missing the Easter egg rush.

It would allow chocolate lovers to print their own custom-made sweets, layer by layer.

Lead scientist Dr Liang Hao, from the University of Exeter, founded the Choc Edge company to commercialise the device after interest from retailers.

3D printing using plastic, wood and metal is already widely used by industry to create objects ranging from jewellery and footwear to human bones.

Dr Hao told the BBC that chocolate printing, just like any other 3D printing technique, starts with a flat cross-section image - similar to that produced by ordinary printers turning out images, and then prints out chocolate layer by layer to create a 3D shape, without any moulding tools.

"We've improved and simplified the machine, so now it is really easy to use," said Dr Hao.

"You just need to melt some chocolate, fill a syringe that is stored in the printer, and get creative printing your chocolate."

Food printing

A number of retailers and e-commerce websites around the world have expressed interest in buying the printer once it becomes available, added the researcher.

For instance, Thorntons - the UK's largest specialist retailer and manufacturer of chocolate and confectionery goods - approached the scientist after the prototype came out.

The company was unavailable for comment.

Other researchers around the world have also been busy trying to develop "food printers" - in 2011, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a prototype of a similar device, dubbed Digital Chocolatier.

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