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Hong Kong guru creates 3D printed sugar that looks like glass

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Hong Kong 3D engineering guru and MIT graduate Victor Leung has found a way to print molten sugar to create elegant glass-like structures. He calls the 11-day workshop he created to teach kids how to follow in his artistic footsteps: The Sweetest CNC Machine.
Leung teaches 3D printing to children as part of his mission to spread the gospel of additive manufacturing and engineering in his local community. He is one of those people that has been involved with a vast amount of random hacker projects over the years, from creating a programmable camera dolly for filming and a hotwire cutter to producing a stencil for a birthday cake.
He likes to share his work and you can see some of his greatest hits on his personal website.



Having seen the MIT media lab printing glass, Leung hatched a plan to replicate their achievement with pure sugar.
Now, with MakeBlock backing, he is taking local students through the process of building a 3D printer as part of the AA Visiting School 2016 program in Hong Kong.
There are practical limitations. Leung doesn’t recommend eating the sculptures, they tend to fall apart when they get hot or wet and wasps love them. But they are an elegant way to show students how CNC controlled robotics work, introduce them to 3D printing and also to get them thinking about materials science and how we can manipulate the tools at our disposal to do a specific job.

Leung saw his old colleagues 3D printing glass with strong optical qualities and recognized that sugar and glass behave in a similar fashion, melting and achieving a certain level of viscosity. That means that gravity becomes the most effective depositing method and he ‘simply’ needed to incorporate a kiln above the print head.
So he set to work creating a design for a sugar reservoir and a print nozzle that could comfortably accommodate the molten sugar at 150 degrees Centigrade, contain a heating element to keep the sugar in the right state and come apart for easy cleaning thanks to the sticky nature of the fluid that really doesn't play nice with mechanical parts.
Together with the students, Leung built five separate 3D printers and he claims that this is the first time that molten sugar has been used as a printing material. We’re not so sure about that, but it is an interesting project.
Now Leung wants to go further and pressurize the printer head so that he can use a smaller nozzle, achieve a higher quality finish and potentially remove the clear layered effect in his sculptures. The transparency of the finished sculptures is seriously impressive. So if Leung can remove the layers and produce a smooth surface then we’re curious to see just what the next generation sculptures will look like.
If he can come up with a perfect finish then it may even be worth experimenting with coatings that turn these relatively useless sugar sculptures into permanent art installations and even usable pieces for the home.
As for MakeBlock, it is an open source platform that specializes in modular components that help students and enthusiasts get to grips with building robots and machines. They are designed to be removable and reusable, so that machines can be easily modified and the students can understand the build process.
The company produces 400 mechanical parts, electronics modules, software and training material to help people get to grips with complex engineering concepts in a way that brings the subject to life. We constantly hear about how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are losing the crowd and students are choosing to focus on arts-based subjects instead. Initiatives like this are a great way to engage the students and get them working as a team to create a beautiful sugar sculptures.
They might not have a practical purpose today, but if it gets kids into science then these sugar sculptures and Victor Leung’s workshop could help spawn the next generation of 3D printing superstars. We know we’re going to see more of Leung, too, because anybody that thinks like this belongs in the 3D printing community.


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