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2019 Engineering graduate Ellie Weinstein founded the startup Cocoa Press, which utilizes 3D printing to create customizable chocolates (Photo courtesy of Ellie Weinstein).

Cocoa Press — a startup founded by 2019 Engineering graduate Ellie Weinstein — seeks to create customizable chocolates through 3D printing.

Cocoa Press reimagines 3D printing by allowing individuals and companies to use the technology for producing chocolate treats. Throughout high school and her undergraduate years at Penn, Weinstein worked to bring Cocoa Press to fruition.

Weinstein said that universities are the ideal avenue for ideas or startups to become realities. As a student at Penn, she had access to labs, materials, and encouragement from experts in engineering fields that Cocoa Press needed.

Weinstein also received funding through her senior design project class, as well as the $15,000 Miller Innovation Fellowship for Cocoa Press.

In Weinstein’s introductory engineering class in high school, her teacher challenged her to come up with an innovative way to use 3D printing, and she turned to chocolate. Years later, she refined her craft through Penn courses and independent work. 

"You need incredibly precise temperature control. The chocolate needs to be in a gel-like state, where it's not even a liquid, you then push on it with about 10 pounds of force, and it solidifies after being extruded,” Weinstein said. “A quarter of a degree Celsius is too high — it's going to be liquid." 

Chocolate has other constraints. For example, its temper and crystal-like structure can make it prone to molding mistakes. Weinstein used the example of a chocolate bar to describe how melted chocolate will never fully solidify, even after it is cooled.

During Weinstein’s senior year at Penn as a mechanical engineering student, two of her four classes were dedicated to Cocoa Press and fixing its potential kinks. 

Graham Wabiszewski, one of Weinstein’s former professors and a senior lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department, said that students with ingenious ideas like Weinstein bring life to the engineering program.

"It's really great to be in the sphere of the energy of students that are highly motivated,” Wabiszewski said. “They come up with ideas or they come up with a problem that is impactful and leads to a solution that is realizable."

Currently, there are two types of 3D printers available for purchase from Cocoa Press. The first printer is a DIY model, which caters to customers with previous printing experience and starts at $1,499. The second is the $3,995 professional package, which arrives to purchasers fully assembled. 

Weinstein says her goal is to meet the needs of "3D printing hobbyists and professional chocolate shops."

Weinstein is currently working at Pennovation to improve her products. People interested in purchasing a 3D chocolate printer can place a $100 deposit to buy one of two Cocoa Press printers starting in mid-April.