Some high school students spend their summers hanging with friends or enjoying the summer sun. One particular high school student in Corvallis spent it designing a 3D printer that creates structures made of chocolate.
Albert Cai, a student at Crescent Valley High School, spent the summer participating in an internship program with Dr. Skip Rochefort at Oregon State University. During the duration of the internship, Cai and Dr. Rochefort created a machine almost entirely out of LEGO pieces that, given commands through a computer, will robotically create structures out of chocolate. Its purpose is not to create edible works of art, but for outreach efforts as well as teaching MATLAB (a computer programming software) to OSU students.
Cai was inspired to create this 3-D Chocolate printer out of LEGOs by a story about Matthew Krueger who had made a 3D printer out of LEGOs that printed hot glue. The design is based on Krueger’s design, but was edited for stability and to fit the pieces available to the team. In total, the machine has four motors, 6 touch sensors, 2 NXT bricks, and many LEGO pieces. The only non-LEGO piece is the chocolate extruder.
How does it work? The chocolate is melted by putting chocolate chips into an aluminum can which is then boiled in hot water. After it is melted, it is placed into the hopper on the extruder. The team programs the printer to create a specific design, and from there, the machine does the rest. The team just sits back and watches it create the desired shape.
Thinking as a true engineer, Cai thought of various ways that his design can be improved including adding temperature controls to create a constant process, heating the chocolate extruder to prevent clogging, cooling the base plate, and making a steadier base.
To see Albert and Dr. Rochefort’s chocolate printer in action, check out the video found here!
For more information on what 3D printing is, check out this article found here.