4volt

The wrath of blog !
posts - 207, comments - 147, trackbacks - 12

Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

I always wanted to start a project for making 3d prototypes with my laser in layers similar to how the legacy Candyfab project did, but never got around to it. With the recent Candyfab news , and the relative success of my Laser Cooked Bacon project, my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see what would happen.

I did some research and I wasn't able to find anyone that had melted sugar with a laser, there was some posts on the Candyfab forums, some seemed to think it was possible, and some did not.

So I fired up my laser and got a small dish of standard granulated sugar, all I had to do was fire the laser and see what would happen.

Lasered sugar in dish Melted sugar in dish detail

Success! At 60% power (of a 40w co2 laser) and 5cm a second speed, my test text melted right into the sugar as I expected.

Extracted sugar Sugar thickness

The sugar sagged a bit and the melted sugar kind of sank into the sugar below. It was also about 3mm thick front to back, I used my trusty Laser-Cut Caliper to measure.

The sugar stuck to the edges of the text a bit blurring out the outline. I also tried cleaning up the letters with a bit of water, but without just the right technique the sugar dissolved very quickly, but it did help some with the edges. That technique is probably impractical with this size of construction.

Thin sugar in dish Thin lazored sugar

The second test was at 80% power and 15cm a second speed and was 75x75mm in size. The resulting construction was much thinner, about 1.5mm and fairly fragile. If I were to make a 3d object with layers, I would use a power lever similar to this. The sugar was only slightly discolored, and there was very little sagging. The construction ended up breaking when I was measuring the thickness.

Thick Sugar in Dish Thick Sugar Top Thick Sugar Underside

The third test was at 80% power and 5cm a second speed, this object is 50x50mm. The result was very solid and durable for sugar, but had quite a bit of sag and was yellowish on top. If I were trying to rapidly crank out some custom sugar treats I'd go with this power and speed.

Since the sugar never comes into physical contact with anything else, it should be safe to eat. I couldn't resist and sampled a bit of the last test, and it tastes exactly like caramelized sugar, no big surprise. If the sugar was mixed with another powdered flavoring (like cinnamon or coco) you could get some more interesting (tasty) results.

I may make some custom sugar treats for my next house party, they might go good on top of a cupcake or in a drink.

Another interesting side-note, when hitting the sugar with the laser, the sugar flared up a bit with a light orange flame, but with no smoke. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but it seems relatively harmless.

Eventually when I rebuild my laser into a larger frame, I will try to make some previsions for making 3d objects in sugar with a special sugar tray and layer leveling device.

Print | posted on Friday, May 29, 2009 1:27 AM | Filed Under [ Original Posts Laser ]

Feedback

Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

That's awesome. I was hoping someone would try this. I have an epilog mini to work with, but I'd like to do a DIY CandyFab style laser.
5/29/2009 11:10 AM | Spork
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

hey, great work... what are u doing to control the movement of the laser?
5/29/2009 11:31 AM | michael
Gravatar

# Pingback from Hack-a-day

After the recent announcement of the re-release of the candyfab, [4volt] had to give a run at melting sugar with a laser. It turns out that a 40w co2 laser works great. They don’t currently have a method of layering, so everything is one layer currently.You can see the results of different speeds and power ratings on the site. The next party they throw will have some pretty fancy tasty treats.
5/29/2009 11:35 AM | Pingback/TrackBack
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

This is a consumer laser-engraver, not a built one, so I only have to import a DXF file into the laser software and the software in turn uses HPGL to control the laser.
5/29/2009 11:40 AM | jeremy
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

Try the very fine icing sugar. much finer detail and requires less power - I suspect
5/29/2009 8:02 PM | Neon22
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

With my next go around I probably try powered sugar and see what happens, as long as there's not too much air in the mix it should be fine.
5/29/2009 9:36 PM | jeremy
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

Phillip Torrone at Make actually *did* demonstrate this method back in 2007. blog.makezine.com/.../...from_sugar_so_it_tas.html
5/29/2009 11:19 PM | Windell Oskay
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

That is interesting, I had not seen that one yet, it did not come up in any of my searches. The results are very similar. Thanks for the reference Windell.
5/29/2009 11:41 PM | jeremy
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

Thanks for posting! This was very interesting. I love the idea of edible 3d prototypes. Just an FYI - powdered sugar might give you unexpected results, since it's mixed with a starch to give it the powdery consistency.
7/17/2009 12:16 PM | Emily
Gravatar

# re: Rapid prototyping: Making Sugar Objects with a Laser

Use a fine sieve to sift the sugar on to your surface.
Turn air assist off and laser away.
When it's done, sift another layer of sugar on and repeat.

You have a great site, the tip on InkScape was worth it alone. :-)

Chad
4/7/2011 4:26 PM | Chad

Post Comment

Title  
Name  
Email
Url
Comment   
Please add 3 and 1 and type the answer here: