You really can 3D print anything: Ford’s edible chocolate car

For the first time a car that you can eat rather than drive has been made. Technically it is only one inch long but it’s still possible to eat the 3D printed chocolate Mustang that manufacturer Ford has created.

Ford teamed up with 3D Systems’ Sugar Lab from Los Angles, US, to produce the tiny treat from a full scale CAD version of the company’s newest car.

It may be a rather niche area, which undoubtedly will not be highly competitive, but after printing the chocolate models the partnership proudly stated that it was the world’s first 3D-printed car that can be eaten.

In terms of 3D printing food the chocolate car isn’t a revolutionary step forward but it does show the flexibility which is possible when printing food. The ability to print specific shapes will give food manufacturers with distinctive brands the option of being able to produce their products with ease, rather than having to use complex moulds.

Liz von Hasseln, the creative director at 3D Systems/The Sugar Lab who produced the edible model said it was a challenge to take it from the full CAD version of the car to a small piece of chocolate.

Explaining the printing process she says: “The printer uses an inkjet print head to very precisely paint water onto a dry sugar sub-strain where the model exists at the cross section, and then it spreads more sugar.

“It paints more water onto the sugar and the water recrystalises the sugar and allows it to harden.”

Once it has had time to harden the group then take out the entire production and clear away the excess sugar to reveal the model.

The company Sugar Lab company was created after Liz, together with her husband Kyle, 3D printed a birthday cake for a friend because they didn’t have an oven.

The print of the edible Mustang was made as a one-time special but Ford has said it is considering licensing the application in case it wanted to manufacture Mustang sweets in the future.

Ford already 3D print a large amount of parts and prototypes but the willingness of large companies to consider using 3D printing for food purposes does show some hope for the future of food manufacturing using the techniques.

Ford supervisor of 3D printing, Paul Susalla, said: “3D printing is one of the hottest buzzwords in the news today and it’s great to see more consumers learning about the technology and its applications.

“We wanted to create something fun to show that while 3D printing made these edible Mustangs, manufacturing-level 3D printing was used in the development of Ford’s all-new sports car.”


Video still courtesy of Ford.


Proof the UK is taking big data seriously

Big data projects in the UK have received a large boost as the government has pledged to support the big data revolution by making £73m available to help unlock the potential of datasets.

In total 55 projects split across four groups that including medical, arts and environmental sectors will be benefiting from the investments made by officials.

It is claimed that within the next three years that big data will help to boost the UK economy by £216bn, making it one of the largest growing trends in the country. The most recent funding was announced by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and follows the promised £189m funding announcement for big data in 2012.

The government also claims that big data projects will create 58,000 new jobs by 2017, as well as helping to drive innovation.

The funding is a boost to those working with big data and also for those who support its use to help develop advancements for society.

Receiving the biggest proportion of the money is the Medical Research Council who will be investing £50m in bioinformatics, which uses areas of computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to process biological data.

The Economic and Social Research Council will be investing £14m in four research centres at Essex, Glasgow, UCL and Leeds Universities.

It is hoped the centres will make data from private sector organisations and local government accessible to researchers. Currently, the data is being collected by these organisations but is not being used for research purposes.

The Natural Environment Research Council will be funding some of 24 projects with £4.6m to help the UK research community take advantage of existing environmental data.

Receiving the least amount of the funding the Arts and Humanities Research Council will be funding 21 new open data projects with £4m. It will make large data sets that academics would normally have access to available to members of the public.

The announcement comes as one of the latest in the global big data movement that is seeing countries, governments, and private companies try to seize the potential behind masses of information.

In the US $200m has been put into a big data R&D initiative and Japan’s Growth Strategy has allocated almost £90m for their research.

Outlining the need for investment in the sector Willets said: “Big data is one of the eight great technologies of the future and a priority for government. It has the potential to transform public and private sector organisations, drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation, and enable market-changing products and services.

“This funding will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.”


Image courtesy of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.