3D Candy Printing: An Interview with Designer Marcelo Coelho 3D Candy Printing: An Interview with Designer Marcelo Coelho
The GOOD Life

3D Candy Printing: An Interview with Designer Marcelo Coelho

by Nicola Twilley

March 12, 2011

The somewhat underwhelming aesthetic results of these experiments do not discourage 3D food printing's proponents, who dream of the chance to rapidly prototype and tweak new flavor and texture combinations, the ability to digitally control nutrient intake and ensure food safety, and the possibility that, one day, your mom will be able to send you a slice of her apple pie over email. And, undoubtedly, if 3D food printers become as ubiquitous as personal computers, it will utterly change the way we think about food, as well as reshape the built environment, from kitchen design to supermarket layout.

GOOD: The last time we talked, in February 2010, you had come up with these concept drawings. Can you talk through the process of turning them into a working prototype.



GOOD: So do you actually have to design the whole candy before it even starts printing?

GOOD: How do you top it up?

GOODIn some ways, what a device like this is doing is putting the tools that are already in a factory into people’s houses. What’s the interest and value, for you, in taking these industrial food processing techniques and building them at the scale of the home kitchen.

GOOD: Did you build this prototype just to experiment with the ideas, or are you interested in developing it into something I could actually buy at Williams Sonoma?

Coelho: I would love to take it into production! I actually think designers have a big responsibility to explain what's possible and what's not possible, as well as just coming up with creative ideas. When Amit and I put out our concept designs this time last year, people wrote about them as if they were real, and that was really frustrating to me. I had never created concept renderings before, and it made me realize the responsibility of creating a fantastically realistic image—people look at it and think it exists. I think it's important to make that distinction between concept and reality clear because it affects society's reaction to new technologies, as well as what kind of research gets funded and what doesn’t.

Anyway, that's the part of the design process that I really like, the part where you actually try making it and see what works and what doesn't.

Images: (1) Digital chocolatier, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (2) Scallop and cheese spaceshuttle, Cornell University/French Culinary Institute, via the CBC; (3) Turkey and celery square, photo by Dan Cohen, via the BBC; (4) Printed mashed potatoes, via Fabbaloo; (5) Digital chocolatier, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (6) Graphical User Interface, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (7) Graphical User Interface, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (8) Digital chocolatier, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (9) Digital chocolatier, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab; (10) Concept drawing for a digital fabricator, Marcelo Coelho, MIT Media Lab.

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3D Candy Printing: An Interview with Designer Marcelo Coelho