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First 3D food printer in supermarkt: Dutch supermarket giant Albert Heijn debuts a chocolate 3D printer
Posted by 3DP4E
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By Alec | 3Ders

Will 2015 be the year of the food 3D printer? It is certainly starting to look that way, with all the news coming in about new models and start-up projects. Just last month, XYZprinting unveiled that their 3D food printer will be available in the second half of 2015. But the Dutch chain of supermarkets Albert Heijn seems to truly be the first to bring 3D printed food to the people, by including a non-commercial model on their confectionary department of a brand-new XL store in Eindhoven.

As far as we know, this is the first time a 3D food printer has been used in a supermarket. The machine is part of a 3D printing trial, and will be in the in-house confection department for the next few weeks to make intricate chocolate designs. Combined with a tablet running Doodle3D, customers will be able to personally decorate their cakes in the store. The food 3D printer will then extrude chocolate onto a cake in whatever shape they desire. And all that while they wait.

The printer will initially extrude the chocolate paste Nutella onto edible paper for the next couple of days, allowing customers to sample a result every five minutes or so. This will also help them to get to grips what’s going on in front of them. In a few days’ time, that initial setup will be modified to 3D print white and dark chocolate onto ready-made cakes. While this is only a trial for now, this could be replaced with a full-time 3D printing setup should the concept prove successful and popular.

This 3D chocolate extrusion printer has been developed by the young Dutch 3D printing wizard Floris Hoff. While still a student of product design in The Hague, he has extensive experience with 3D printing and 3D printers, working on several products and designs in collaboration with his father's FabLab Maastricht.

However this new food printer, called ByFlow, is entirely of his own design, though with extra input and feedback from his father’s company FabLab, the University of Maastricht, two Michelin chefs and a number of chocolatiers, chocolate manufacturers and health institutes. Floris initially built it as a portable plastic FDM 3D printer, but has since modified its designs to handle paste-like substances like chocolate. It has also been thoroughly modified and simplified to ensure that uneducated shop assistants with little to no knowledge of 3D printing can operate it as well. It also features medical syringes as extrusion heads, to ensure that the food remains edible. These can also be easily replaced in-store.

While a trial project for the supermarket, this is thus also a huge trial for Floris. Not only is it an opportunity to see how the printer operates, it also allows him to see the reactions of consumers. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the ByFlow printer pop up at other venues as well, as Floris is reportedly already in talks with chocolatiers, manufacturers of airplane food and others. Health institutes are reportedly even interested in food printing to help people who have trouble swallowing. ByFlow’s future is thus looking bright.

But finally, why would a supermarket be interested in 3D printing technology? While doubtlessly too expensive for everyday consumption Albert Heijn has included it in its new store as one of the many gimmicks to attract customers. As part of the development of a new image, the new Eindhoven store is a testing ground for supermarket innovations. Keywords are new experiences, a diverse and fresh assortment, more comfort and more hospitality. Aside from a 3D food printer, this is includes on-site chefs who cook samples, local-produce health stands, and juice and salad bars.

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