Tessa’s Weekly Picks – Sugared 3D Printing


Tessa Blokland  


Did you know you can 3D print sugar? Well, I didn’t and I have found some really interesting projects in which sugar is used.

As you might know, sugar is long-lasting when dry and dissolves quickly in liquid (think of your cup of tea or coffee). This property is particularly interesting for 3D printing blood vessel models. Ian Kinstlinger, a bioengineering Ph.D. student at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, found a way to 3D print sugar into complex networks of branched blood vessels. Several types of sugar would be mixed together to make the final printing material. Once the 3D printed part is injected with the liquid gel, the sugar dissolves and evacuates to leave a passage for nutrients and oxygen.

These lovely 3D printed white and red sugar vessels are 3D printed with powdered sugar and water but are used for another purpose, obviously. In 2011, Kyle and Liz von Hasseln tweaked an antique Z310 gypsum into a 3D printer with which you could 3D print sugar. The duo teamed up with 3D Systems and Brill to help bring their invention to life. Now you can buy a 3D printer to create the most amazing geometries in sugar (see also top image). The 3D printed sugar shells can be ordered online via Suger Lab, the digital bakery of Kyle and Liz. 

Another fine example of 3D printed sugar is this delicate 3D printed network of thin ribbons of hardened isomalt, a type of sugar alcohol used to make throat lozenges. Isomalt is a water-soluble, and biodegradable glassy sugar structure that has multiple applications in biomedical engineering, cancer research, and device manufacturing. The material in combination is used for the freedom of design. Rohit Bhargava, Professor of bioengineering and director of the Cancer Center at Illinois, USA, explains on the website: “One advantage such free-form structures hold is their ability to make thin tubes with circular cross-sections, something not possible with conventional polymer 3-D printing. When the sugar dissolves, it leaves a series of connected cylindrical tubes and tunnels that can be used like blood vessels to transport nutrients in tissue or to create channels in microfluidic devices.”

If you are looking for less delicate structures, Candyfab would have been a good choice. The CandyFab machines were able to print very large objects out of pure sugar, very inexpensively, by melting sugar grains together with hot air, using a process called selective hot air sintering and melting (SHASAM). The 3D printed object you see here is 3D printed from granulated sugar. CandyFab was a pioneering initiative of Windell Oskay and Lenore Edman which took place from 2007 until 2009.

Together with Chikara Inamura, Victor Leung designed a sugar 3D printer for educational purposes and to 3D print colorful sculptures, since the objects are unhealthy to eat, spontaneously melt in high humidity, and attract unwanted insects. This sugar 3D printer is an indirect copy of the glass 3D printing project developed in the MIT Media Lab. Both machines use a gravity feeding system from a temperature-stabilized reservoir, and explain the similarity of both molten sugar and molten glass as essentially slow-flowing sticky liquid. Using sugar is an easy solution to mimic glass.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_Sugared 3D Printing

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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