DIY Chocolate Molds - Revisited Topic I think

timwilde
@timwilde
01/10/17 10:08:51AM
33 posts

Hello everyone!  I'm sure this has been discussed but cant find anything recent. But I'm looking for a cost effective way to get a custom mold done and as I've been researching I found quite a few ways that I'd like some choco-life feedback and opinions on.

There's 2 ways I will ultimately go about this so this is getting done, but looking for safest and most cost effective way to do this.

3D printing.  It's come a LONG way since I started researching this several years ago. In the past couple years filament materials have kind of exploded - to the point it's nearly impossible to keep track of all the available materials. It's no longer a matter of PLA or ABS if you too havent looked at this in a while.

In the last year, a few companies have produced an FDA Approved Food Safe filament. There are a few companies making stuff with PET-G (water and soda bottle materials, lesser extent hobby grade mold sheets) and Polycarbonate.  But only a few have gone that extra step to get FDA Approval and it's stamped on the spool.  

So, has anyone contemplated any of this, looked any further on the aspects of 3d printing custom molds?  

I should note, that 3d printers have stepped up in quality, they still dont have super fine resolution without going the route of say, Shapeways, with the multi tens of thousands of dollar machines.  However, that should not stop you from finishing any mold that comes out. Sanding, polishing, engraving fine details, sealing (if necessary)

Doing things this way, if you already have the printer, it should only cost approx $10-$20/mold depending on mold size and who you source your filaments from.

I do have a line into the FDA to confirm that this is food safe and possible. The big question on hand is if it's a sterilizable finished piece. Polycarbonate does require much hotter temps to print though, so any bacteria on the filament is likely to be destroyed.  Proper finishing should provide a food contact surface that is sterilizable though.

So while I'm waiting I'd love to hear your opinions on the matter.

The other, much more expensive option is to 3d print a "positive".  Well, I guess in mold making terms they'd ultimately be negatives. But you'd design the bar/tablet/bonbon the exact way that you want it to look. You then print that out in whatever plastic is your choice.  Then you spend extra time getting that finished/post processed to look as perfect as you can get it.  Then you use that as a negative and pour a silicone mold of the printed piece.

With the mold materials that I've seen and researched, this is entirely food safe and sterilizable and may actually make for a better mold than what Polycarbonate can do due to stretching and elongation properties of the silicone. That being said, an "avg" size mold would run between $30-$50 each.  Better than getting an injection mold created, but also more expensive than just buying commercially available molds.

Anyone trying any of the above options? What are your thoughts on it? If you've tried it, how is it working for you?

timwilde
@timwilde
01/18/17 11:24:45AM
33 posts

Well, the FDA came back with an answer.  The first answer was kinda bunk, gave me an application for a new Contact Surface.

However, I asked them more directly and got a response back.  Essentially if the printer itself and the materials can be safe, it is ok with the FDA. The onus is on the manufacturer (you in this case) to follow FDA guidelines for food safety.

PETG is a filament that is now regularly available. I would imagine research would be needed to find out if the colors are food safe, but clear/natural PETG would be recommended.  PETG can be sterilized by going through the dishwasher and withstands high heat.

Polycarbonate is another filament that is considered to be an exotic filament at the moment. It's available but more expensive than PETG and it's only available from some companies.  PC can be sterilized through dishwashing procedures and it can withstand high heat.

Printer extruders and hot ends can be made out of stainless steel or printed via PC or PETG for food contact safety.

This all being said, 3d printers arent exactly user friendly and you would still need to learn CAD or 3d modeling of some sort to do this completely DIY.  Luckily for me, that's my background. I was just wondering if there are others attempting this and how it's working out for you.   I just ordered my first 3d printer and expect to have a foodsafe printer capable of printing in Polycarbonate sometime over the summer.

I'm kind of excited that these breakthroughs have been made and that it seems that a reasonable cost for custom chocolate molds.  The designs also dont have to be awkward to handle because there's no need for injection molding support and structure in the mold.  This can make the mold smaller or be able to support more cavities than is usually available in a given commercial mold.

KevlarCoated
@kevlarcoated
01/20/17 01:01:05PM
5 posts

Have you considered vacuuming forming the mold? You could 3D print the positive then vacuum form polycarbonate over it. If you have access to a vacuum former its probably the easiest and cheapest option

timwilde
@timwilde
01/20/17 01:26:31PM
33 posts

Vacuum would be more expensive than simply printing the mold.  Which has been confirmed is possible and allowed :D

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