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Hershey's Foray Into 3-D Printing Could Allow You to Be Your Own Willy Wonka

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Why visit a chocolate factory when you can print candy in your own home? That dream may become a reality now that Hershey is partnering with 3D Systems, a 3-D printing technology company, to develop 3-D printing methods that can be used to make chocolate confections.

"Whether it's creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3-D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future," William Papa, Hershey's head of research and development, said in a statement.

There is no indication yet as to when the multi-year agreement may bear fruit, and financial terms were not disclosed. But Pennsylvania-based Hershey, with revenues of $6.6 billion, has the size and influence to drive major growth in 3-D printing. Analysts at research firm Gartner have predicted that the number of 3-D printers in consumer hands will double this year.

3D Systems unveiled a 3-D chocolate printer at the Consumer Electronics Expo last week, along with a printer for edible sugar. But those devices, which will reportedly be available later this year and will cost several thousand dollars, are intended only for use in bakeries and other professional settings.

3D Systems sees expansion into edible products as a way to mainstream 3-D printing technology, according to the statement. A company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that 3D Systems intends to bring the technology to consumers rather than keeping it solely for commercial use. That means that individuals could print sweets for themselves instead of the sort of thermoplastic trinkets that currently represent what is achievable with 3-D printers in the popular imagination.

Related: Photoshop's Latest Feature: 3-D Printing Capability

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