A chocolate teapot is finally a reality after scientists invented technology that allows people to design their own 3D objects which can be reproduced in chocolate.
Researchers hope an online retail business will host a website for users to upload their designs for 3D printing and delivery.
The project is being led by the University of Exeter in collaboration with Brunel University and software developer Delcam.
Using new digital technology the printer allows people to create their own designs on a computer and reproduce them physically in three dimensional form in chocolate.
3D printing is a technology where a three dimensional object is created by building up successive layers of material. The technology is already used in industry to produce plastic and metal products, but this is the first time the principles have been applied to chocolate.
The research has presented many challenges. Chocolate is not an easy material to work with because it requires accurate heating and cooling cycles.
These variables then have to be integrated with the correct flow rates for the 3D printing process. Researchers overcame these difficulties with the development of new temperature and heating control systems.
Research leader Dr Liang Hao said: 'What makes this technology special is that users will be able to design and make their own products.
'From reproducing the shape of a child's favourite toy to a friend's face, the possibilities are endless.'
'It could be developed to help consumers custom-design many products from different materials, but we've started with chocolate as it is readily available, low cost and non-hazardous.
'There is also no wastage as any spoilage can be eaten.'
Dr Hao added: 'Eventually we may see many mass-produced products replaced by unique designs created by the customer.'
EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy said: 'This is an imaginative application of two developing technologies and a good example of how creative research can be applied to create new manufacturing and retail ideas.
'By combining developments in engineering with the commercial potential of the digital economy we can see a glimpse into the future of new markets - creating new jobs and, in this case, sweet business opportunities.'