This is a story I could not wait to sink my teeth into.
This is a story I could not wait to sink my teeth into. When I first heard about Ellie Weinstein's invention, a 3-D printer that makes edible chocolate, I thought it was a joke.
Weinstein, a Mt. Airy native who went to Germantown Friends School for 10 years and switched to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) “because of their robotics program,” graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Weinstein came up with her savory idea — using 3-D printing to create personalized, on-demand chocolate production — in 2014 while at SCH. She continued working to develop the idea, and in 2019 she was selected for the “Pennovation Accelerator” award, which put her in touch with professors and businesspeople who helped her further develop her product and start her business, Cocoa Press, at the Pennovation Center in Grays Ferry.
“It started as a hobby,” Weinstein said. “In 2014, Mr. (Peter) Randall, a teacher at SCH, challenged me to create something that did not exist. I thought this would be a good way to get the school to pay for chocolate. I worked on the idea for five years, and it was my senior design project at Penn. Some people did think I was a little crazy at first, but when I started winning awards and getting attention from highly respected professors and businesspeople, they changed their minds.”
Weinstein's Cocoa Press 3-D printer is a food grade stainless steel and climate-controlled enclosure that has been tested to ensure a clean food-safe environment for the chocolate. You can load a chocolate cartridge into the 3-D printer, select a design and hit print on the touchscreen, watch as the design is being made and then eat the chocolate creation. Each printer includes three chocolate cartridges and two baking sheets.
Weinstein, who is in the process of getting a patent for her creation, is apparently the only person in the country to have created a 3-D chocolate printer. There are two other companies that make baking products with a 3-D printer, but there are none that make chocolate. She has sold her chocolates with customized company logos on them to some customers, including the University of Pennsylvania, but her goal is to sell the printers to consumers, chocolate shops and other businesses so they can make their own chocolate.
Her first printer cost about $10,000, but Weinstein insists that she will start taking reservations in April and will be shipping the 3-D printers to chocolate shops, other businesses and consumers for $1,499 this August or September. She said she may start trying to find investors, and eventually try to get on the TV show “Shark Tank,” which often helps company sales skyrocket into the stratosphere.
“There are a few reasons why 3-D printing and chocolate go very well together,” Weinstein explained. “The first is obviously that it’s delicious, and it’s really fun to get to mess around with a whole bunch of different types of chocolate. But the two reasons that actually make sense are customization and being able to make things that are not possible with traditional chocolate-making.
“So in terms of customization, you can make one-off chocolate bars, and you can do things that chocolate shops just wouldn’t do because they’re not going to buy a custom mold for it. Or you can just take your entire library of molds ... that all fit on an SD card (“Secure Digital,” or memory card, like the ones used in digital cameras), so you don’t have to keep all that physical stock or buy each one individually. You have your whole album library (of molds) on your hard drive.”
Ellie comes from a very accomplished family. Her father, Ken Weinstein, is president of Philly Office Retail and is a prominent real estate developer and former owner of The Trolley Car Diner and Cresheim Cottage Cafe (now Jansen's). Her mom, Judy, is active in the community “and a great cook.” All three children are technology buffs. “Growing up, I was always in the shadow of my older brother, Ari,” Ellie said.
In December of 2015, Ari made national headlines with two other software developers, Nick Frey and Conrad Kramer, when their app, Workflow, won Apple's “Most Innovative App of 2015.” When the app was released, it became the most downloaded app in the entire App Store, and Ari now works for Apple in California. Ellie's younger brother, Noah, is a student at Georgia Tech University, majoring in computer science.
For more information, visit cocoapress.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org