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Childhood fantasy come true: a 3D chocolate printer made from LEGO

Sep 19, 2015 | By Kira

If you happen to be parent looking for kid-friendly maker activities, look no further: this project is perfect for you. Also, if you a college student and doesn’t want to make a real dinner, or a dessert enthusiast, or party planner, this is also perfect for you. Actually, it’s a homemade 3D printer that is made of LEGO and involves sweet, sweet chocolate, so I take it back: this project is literally perfect for just about everyone.

Dutch engineer Gosse Adema recently uploaded an Instructable for his fully functional, 3D Chocolate LEGO printer as an update to his previously-posted LEGO 3D printer, which won him the grand prize in a 3D printing contest, as well as a response to this 3D chocolate printer, created in 2005 and just begging to be rebuilt ever since.

“The chocolate extruder started as a joke,” he told 3Ders.org. Apparently, a company asked him to make a LEGO 3D chocolate printer, but after some experimentation, it didn’t work. Later, a colleague introduced him to the Instructable Remix Contest, in which an existing Instructable is used as inspiration for a new one, and showed him the old 2005 chocolate printer model. “The original Instructable is over 10 years old, still gets replies, but nobody made such a printer. Since I already made a LEGO 3D printer, all I had to do was build a chocolate extruder,” he said.

The thing is, 3D printing chocolate isn’t exactly an easy process. The chocolate has to remain in a melted state so that it doesn’t clog up the extruder. This requires either a worm screw with pre-melted chocolate and/or a heating system, or pre-melted chocolate in a syringe. Ademia chose the second option for simplicity, and because the chocolate remains edible—“that’s what it’s all about.”

The material needed includes a 12 volt fan, Nema steppers, various nuts and bolts, and of course LEGO. He then chose a 20 ml syringe, which is on the small side, but since the project is scalable other makers could go bigger. As with Adema’s original, this LEGO 3D printer is based on the Prusa I3 Rework and uses Marlin firmware controlled by Pronterface.

“The reason to use LEGO is because I wanted to experiment with different setups,” Adema told 3Ders.org. It’s really easy to alter parts of the printer. I could easily change this Prusa printer to a Delta Printer, if I wanted. This would only require a different extruder. “The best way to gain knowledge of a 3D printer, is to build one. Building this LEGO 3D printer taught me a lot about all aspects of 3D printing. Even making mistakes was part of the learning…I can therefore recommend, for anyone interested in 3D printing or robotics, to experiment with LEGO, Arduino and Nema Steppers.”

The Instructable page contains detailed step-by-step instructions and images. He began by building the LEGO parts (there are three pieces: extruder, pressure lever and fan duct), and then altering the firmware of the printer and recalculating the extruder federate (the syringe has a larger diameter than normal filament). At this stage, controlling the temperature of both the printer and the chocolate is vital to the project’s success.

“If you heat and cool chocolate without controlling the temperature your chocolate will bloom. It will appear matt and covered with white patches,” explained Adema. “This is caused by chocolate crystals of different sizes. In order to avlid this you will need to temper your chocolate. Tempering controls the crystias so that only consistently small crystals are produced, resulting in much better-quality chocolate.”

For this, he suggests using the ‘bain-marie’ method of heating chocolate, and altering the printer’s temperature settings to allow for cold extrusion. He also advises that for 3D chocolate printing, it is always better to stay slightly higher than the normally recommended temperatures for melting chocolate, otherwise it may cool too early and jam the syringe. In the end, filling the syringes with no air and working as quickly as possible with the warm chocolate proved too difficult, so Adema turned to the next best thing: chocolate spread.

After successfully printing a few simple chocolate shapes, such as the above heart, Adema had another mouth-watering idea: using the heatbed, which so far had been untouched, and making pancakes. That’s right, he just combined LEGO, chocolate and pancakes, all with one DIY 3D printer.

Adema, who has a background in electro-technical engineering, told 3Ders.org that the step will be to turn his LEGO printer in a CNC machine by replacing the extruder with a dremel, for which he has already ordered the materials. The final goal will be to build a non-LEGO version with exchangeable extruders.

If you want to give this printer a try, check out the Instructables page before your (or your child’s) next birthday party. Alternatively, you can support Adema by voting for him in the Remix Contest and the Epilog Challenge.

Posted in 3D Printers

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