Hearts are so not original. I wonder if anyone's tried a bunny.

Remember how you screwed up your girlfriend’s last birthday gift, when she looked at you like “You’ve got to be kidding me”? Well, I’ve got just the remedy. Those engineering geniuses at the University of Exeter near London have created a printer that prints chocolate in any 3D shape you like. Lead scientist Dr. Liang Hao is simply a stud and has taken it upon himself to make a Staples Easy Button that fixes all of our less-inspired gift giving moments.

Chocolate is just the latest ingredient to come out of the 3D printer mix. 3D printers are gaining use and have already been used to spit out robots, art, prosthetic limbs and–perhaps not as tempting as chocolate–human body parts. The machine dispenses a layer of chocolate, it solidifies, another layer is spread on top, and so on. But Dr. Hao and colleagues want to take their chocolate printer further and use their palatable platform to advance manufacturing design in general. To this end, software will be made available on their website whereby you can design your own super bonbon at home and then go pick it up at a chocolate shop, assuming the boutique has sprung for the printer. And multiple consumers can collaborate via the internet in a “co-creation” design. Exeter’s Professor Richard Everson points out that using chocolate as a testbed for collaborative design is preferable to, say, airplanes.

In the first video Dr. Hao and Professor Everson discuss the printer’s “techolology” (I appreciate Dr. Hao’s clever play on words: ‘chocolate’ + ‘technology’).

In the following two videos you can actually see an earlier prototype in action.

Oh the possibilities are literally endless. It would be great to couple the printer to biometric face scan technology. Imagine, a chocolate bust of your grill. That would be a birthday present your girlfriend would never forget.

[image credit: technabob]

image: Chocolate Printer
video 1: Chocolate Printer
video 2: Chocolate Printer
video 3: Chocolate Printer

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.