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Chocolate patent approval could ‘occupy 3D printing’

29 April 2013

Image courtesy of Jens-Ulrich Koch/dapd ©
Image courtesy of Jens-Ulrich Koch/dapd ©

Researchers are developing a 3D printing process that could enable chocolate to be solidified into new shapes.

Teams from The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard and Ask Patents, believe that, once patented, the principle could revolutionise the 3D printing sector.
Kit Walsh, a lawyer at the Cyberlaw Clinic, said: “If you let people get patents on every material that has those properties, you’re going to occupy 3D printing.”

The researchers are looking beyond protection 3D printing, with plans to expand their efforts to challenge patents related to mesh networking technology, a  new form of wireless communication. But the bigger idea is that their submissions could serve as a model for people who want to use a new procedure.

In the application, the researchers state that 3D printing with chocolate is sufficiently inventive to receive a patent. They also believe it paves the way for every thermoplastic material to be covered by its own patent when used for 3D printing.

“This application claims the use of chocolate in extrusion-based 3D printing,” the application noted. “The chocolate is held in a heated reservoir. When printing begins, the chocolate is pumped from the reservoir to the print head, while still being heated to maintain its temperature and tempered state. The print head then extrudes the chocolate material to build the 3D object. Unused chocolate in the print head is then sent back to the reservoir and heated again.

“Printing with chocolate is wonderful, but this isn’t just about chocolate. There is a vast array of thermoplastic materials that can be used in 3D printing, and it should not be possible to get an exclusive patent on each new material that is used in conjunction with well known technology. The use of a recirculation loop (sending unused print material back to the reservoir) is also an obvious idea.”


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