3D Printing With Sugar

Kyle and Liz von Hasseln, a California-based couple with a background in architecture and geometry, and a suspected sweet tooth, have found a way to use a 3D printer and granulated sugar to make intricate, edible geometrical decorations.

The couple set out to use a 3D printer to make a gift for their friend's birthday. After much trial and error, and long after their friend's birthday had passed, the couple found a formula that worked. They were able to print their friend's name in cursive and their friend loved the gift so much they thought other people would also love their sugar-based sculptures. This is how The Sugar Lab was born.

With their backgrounds in architecture, they quickly began to create much more intricate structures of complex geometries, testing the limits of their newly-invented granulated sugar building material. Their work includes complex lattices, curves that have created shapes that look like high-end architectural works, and 3D snowflakes.

Click on the photo below to see examples of work from The Sugar Lab.

The finished structures are delicate. Their integrity is easily compromised by rain and susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Interestingly, and somewhat intuitively, is that the more complex geometric designs, with many curves and intersecting planes, are the ones that yield stronger structures. I'm sure this concept of printing with sugar would be fun to use in learning about how to support architectural loads.

The Sugar Lab offers no pre-designed sculptures but instead asks customers to participate in the design process. Anyone interested can share a concept, or send in a picture or even a physical object they would like to have captured in a sugar sculpture. They suggest perhaps a ribbon from a wedding dress, your city's skyline, or medieval design from a wrought iron gate. Sugar printings can be put on top of cakes, made into chandeliers or intricate sugar cubes, or used as standalone edible centerpieces.

Just be sure to protect them from rain or harsh changes in temperature and moisture, Liz von Hasseln warned me. The sculptures melt at around 150F, same as sugar, so don't leave them in the car for too long! "3D printing represents a paradigm shift for confections, transforming sugar into a dimensional, structural medium," she told me.

Understandably, the company is keeping the information regarding its formula and process close to the vest. Eager to start 3D printing with sugar? See The Sugar Lab's website. That's a sweet idea.

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