by Lilly Smith
These intricate, colorful ornaments look good enough to eat. And luckily, you can do just that.
Los Angeles confectioner Sugar Lab has made a series of 3D-printed holiday ornaments and accouterments that double as beautifully delicate sweet treats—because they’re made of sugar.
Kyle von Hasseln, founder and CEO of Sugar Lab, launched the company in 2012 after he and his wife, Liz, experimented with uncommon 3D printing materials, like cement and sawdust, while in architecture school. They tried the process with sugar, and quickly connected with L.A. pastry chefs who were interested in using 3D printing to create pastry cups and small dessert accents. B2B sales became the von Hasselns’ core business.
But Sugar Lab hasn’t been producing B2B products for the past four years, as the von Hasselns were focused on R&D. In that time, they developed a 3D printer that’s now sold by a bakery manufacturing company, Brill 3D Culinary Studio. Sugar Lab uses this device to run its test and commercial kitchens; the company just started retail sales this year.
The 3D printer makes tiny sculptures through dry printing rather than extrusion, which is another common 3D printing method. The machine uses a laser guide to spread super fine layers of powder in varying colors. Sugar Lab can print up to one per minute, according to Hasseln, and each can be a different shape, color, or pattern.
The holiday line provides a cheery introduction to the space. There are the blue-and-white snowflake-inspired sugar ornaments, designed so you can hang them with a ribbon; the red-and-white-striped sugar “cubes” (that are actually intricate, hollow polygonal shapes); and what Sugar Lab calls “holiday marshmallows” that are more like cute accents you’d put on top of whipped cream or a frothed latte.
It’s the attention to detail that really makes these mementos stand out in a season of shiny objects, and Sugar Lab makes a point of highlighting designs that would only be possible with the precision of a 3D printer. Von Hasseln says that while many 3D-printed designs focus on overlapping and complex shapes, he wanted to use the technology to showcase precise color blocks, edges, and perfectly curved surfaces.
So a tiny red-and-green sweater is “screen printed” with a tiny reindeer and snowflakes. Interlocking polygonal sugar pieces allow you to build your own snowman. Lumps of sparkly black “coal” melt away to reveal an intricate, colorful sugar interior. They’re all available on the Sugar Lab site and range from $15.99 to $27.99 for various-sized packages.
No matter which you choose, each has its own festive flair. I’ll even take that lump of coal.