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Iced Tea Printing
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Friday, 01 July 2011 00:00

All I could hear was the old jingle which was associated with a certain company’s Iced Tea product and its marketing campaign.

We continue with our quest to experiment with a wide variety of materials for 3DP. Our previous materials were presented in:

Bone Yard

Salty Parts

Here is another result from our Advanced RP/RM (rapid prototyping/rapid manufacturing) course.  The independent research requirement  and report tends to bring forth quite amazing results from the students.   The project is undertaken  in teams of two. As an instructor, I would remind the class at every meeting that the project clock was ticking.   A team (composed of Fang Lin and Nat Mottaz) approached me in the lab with their project idea.

“We’d like to try printing in some type of food or drink mix”

“Well we know that hot chocolate works…”  “Look for drink mixes made with sugar — not diet.”

Several days later, they came back with iced tea.  We ultimately decided to go with the iced tea powder because it makes it feel like summer is near.  Even though it was the middle of February, I was already craving summer, and that had a big part in our choice.  As far as the mango flavor, it was a couple bucks cheaper than the normal flavor and everyone loves the smell of mango, so it was a win-win.

Upon looking at the nutrition label, it became very clear that sweetened ice tea is about 90% sugar by weight!!!

“Wonderful! Sugar mixtures print quite well but you’ll need to get the particle size correct”

“I remember when we first tried grinding up the powder with a coffee grinder, I was so excited that it was working that i didn’t bother to let the dust settle and I stuck my face down to look at the powder.  Remarkably, I didn’t learn, and by the time we had ground up all the powder, I had inhaled way more powder than was probably healthy.  For some reason the provided dust masks never seemed like a good idea at the time, now however….well, lets just say that I’ve had enough mango for a little while.
After grinding about half of the powder up, the coffee grinder mysteriously stopped working.  After taking it apart, we found at least a cup of iced tea powder had fallen through a little hole into the inside of the grinder.  It worked much better after we plugged the hole up with some clay.  It seems as if the coffee grinder was actually designed to grind up larger coffee beans, rather than iced tea powder.”


A quick check that their powder was ground fine enough and then onto benchtesting.   In our lab bench testing allows one to experiment with powder mix ratios AND to see how the powder takes to our binders.


After a few days of trying out additives and powder mix ratios, Fang and Nat found what appeared to be a printer testable mix.

Ice Tea  final recipe (by weight):
10 parts iced tea powder (ground, powdered, and screened)
The iced tea powder they used was Lipton Instant Tea Mix, Mango, but any flavor (or brand) should probably work well as long as it’s sugar sweetened.


In the printer, the Ice Tea mix produced printable results on the first try,   although some adjustment of saturation and layer thickness was required.


The resulting bars were strong with a good surface finish.  The upper bar has too high of saturation.   The ice tea mix required VERY low saturation (a fact that will make it useful in the future).
The last thing Fang and Nat printed was a pineapple (even though the wrong saturation settings were applied).
“We also had a good laugh when Fang went down to take a couple more pictures of the stuff we had printed and found that Ganter had broken the pineapple when he was showing people how hard it was.”


“Oops, I guess it wasn’t completely dry yet.”
While one can’t actually eat or drink the ice tea powders due to the possible chemical contamination of the ink/binder system, the results are great fun.   In the future, we must imagine the possibility of printing food on a 3DP system.

Creative Commons License
Iced Tea Powder Printing by Fang Lin, Nathanael Mottaz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


Last Updated on Friday, 01 July 2011 00:22