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Design your own Hershey's chocolate bar with new 3-D printer

3D Systems and The Hershey Company are partnering on a new 3-D food printing venture. 

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The South Carolina company 3D Systems has already developed a 3-D sugar printing system.

3D Systems

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South Carolina company 3D Systems is working with The Hershey Company on a machine that would produce custom confectionaries, including milk chocolate. 

In a press release on Thursday, 3D Systems, one of the largest companies in the booming 3D printing market, outlined a "multi-year joint agreement," meaning that the specially-shaped foodstuffs machine probably isn't coming out in 2014. Nor is there any word on price. 

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"We believe that innovation is key to delivering relevant, compelling consumer experiences with our iconic brands," Hershey exec William Papa said in a statement this week. "Whether it’s creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future." 

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The inevitable Willy Wonka jokes have already been made. And it is tempting to envision a world where the only limitation on the shape and design of a chocolate bar is your imagination. But we anticipate the uses of the 3-D candy machine are ultimately likely to be more utilitarian than fantastical: Your local confectioner could, for instance, offer to whip up a few dozen custom candies for your kid's birthday party. 

3-D printing was a growth industry in 2013, with 56,507 printers shipped globally; it is likely to further expand in 2014. According to analytics firm Gartner, shipments are likely to swell 75 percent in 2014, to 98,065 units, and double again by 2015. "As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing's potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations," a Gartner analyst has said