The Robo-Craft of 3-D Sugar Printing

Food & Wine: 3D Printing with Sugar
This vase is made from thousands of miniscule layers of crystallized sugar, all produced by a 3-D printer. Photo © The Sugar Lab
By M. Elizabeth Sheldon Posted January 13, 2014

Two architects merge art and science with sugar and water.

The single best edible 3-D sculptures came into being because a pair of Los Angeles architects were trying to make a birthday cake without an oven. That's what motivated Kyle and Liz von Hasseln to develop a process for printing with sugar and water. Since founding The Sugar Lab in 2012, the husband-and-wife team have used crystallized sugar to print everything from intricate lattices that dissolve in cocktails to delicate replicas of an extinct orchid, scanned from the Smithsonian archives. They've also collaborated with Duff Goldman of Baltimore's Charm City Cakes to create a custom wedding-cake stand made of interlocking hexagons, a design that would be impossible to make by hand. The couple created their tech prototype by modifying an existing printer by 3D Systems (which recently purchased The Sugar Lab). The machine works by wetting dry sugar to create a frosting-like texture; repeated thousands of times, the process slowly builds a three-dimensional structure. "There's already a cultural expectation that dessert should be sculptural," says Liz, "so sugar is a great place to start introducing 3-D printing into people's lives."

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