3D Printers – Now Printing Chocolate

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How a 3D food printer works
Source: Quartz

Have you heard of 3D printers? The newfangled machines have created everything from clothing to guns using a digital model to print layer upon layer of material.

Well, now they’re printing food!

This week on the show, Evan talks to journalist Christopher Mims, who recently wrote a Quartz article about Texas industrial firm Systems & Materials Research Corporation‘s prototype printer. Right now, it only prints chocolate, but its developer, engineer Anjan Contractor, hopes to use it to bake pizza, feed astronauts on Mars, and even fight hunger.

KCRW’s DnA has covered 3D printing’s other applications. Back in March, Jeff Mayberry told host Frances Anderton that 3D printing isn’t quite as automated as people think it is. It’s more of a high-tech way of hand-crafting.

Frances also explored whether 3D printing would have a democratizing effect. Does the technology promise us all the ability to become industrial designers, or it an expensive way to produce inferior products?

A gun created with a 3D printer
An AR-15 rifle made by Michael Guslick combines a 3D-printed “lower receiver” with commercially produced parts. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

In another episode, Engineer Michael Guslick told DnA that a 100% 3D-printed gun is not viable because its’ plastic wouldn’t be able to withstand the blast of more than one shot. And it would look more like a 13th century Chinese hand cannon than the guns we’re used to.

Guslick began exploring 3D-printed guns while making weapon parts for paintball. After he heard that someone had printed part of a magazine file, he set himself to figuring out how to print the receiver of a gun. (You can see his results in the photo above.)

As KCRW reported in May, advances in 3D printing have prompted calls for legislation banning the manufacture of printed firearms.