Katjes is a popular German confectionary brand known for producing a range of utterly addictive licorice and fruit gums, but their past is full of rat poison and fly traps.
In the early 1900s, when fly traps were all the rage, there was a dearth of business in winter, because well, Germany. The key component of those pest catchers was the sweet nectar that is sugar syrup. Eventually, a star was born when the owners realized that the key component in fly traps was the same as licorice. The result: a cute, cat-shaped licorice candy star, Katjes, was created.
Katjes has been pioneering vegan recipes for their fruit gummy candy since the 1970s. All products are vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, and all natural. But in August of this year, with the help of confectioner-coder Melissa Snover, the Katjes team developed one of the first food-certified 3D printer for public consumption which can create a 3D candy version of your favorite motif or whatever you fancy in less than a minute.
Charlie and the what factory now?
Melissa Snover previously ran her own organic gelatine-free sweets business, but sold it in 2013. She came up with the technology behind the Magic Candy Factory 3D candy printer when she was approached by Katjes about working together.
"We behave like a tech start-up because everyone has to contribute as much as possible. In the evenings, I had to relearn how to code and learn about G-code again. I created the software tool path that allows the prototype machine to work with the codes that we developed to work with CAD software. It's what's basically making them all talk together," she tells me.
Snover believes that 3D-printed candies are an approachable product for the public to get used to the idea of 3D-printed food. "A 3D-printed roast dinner might be too much to take in all at once. We're starting with cute and tasty fruit gums to get the public warmed up to the idea first."
According to Snover, other competitors are creating 3D-printed chocolate for example, which takes almost an hour to produce, and you can't eat the results.
So here comes the science bit: The Magic Candy Factory 3D printer system is based on the method of FDM—Fused Deposition Modeling. The fruit gum mixture made up of natural ingredients is heated and then layered by means of a nozzle so that customized shapes and forms are possible. Of the ready-made designs on hand, each form was developed by the Katjes team using 3D modeling software and then converted to a G-code, which tells the printer where to apply the individual layers.
Now that I've printed my own gummies, I'm ready for the full Sunday roast with extra gravy, please….