Caketoppers Update Plus Bonus Food-Safety Lecture

I posted the tutorial for the You Are Old cake toppers a few weeks ago and said I would update with the actual printed version once I got back, so here’s to making good on birthday promises:


These are a variation on the idea, using the T-Splines function of Autodesk Fusion 360. I love the way they, when printed in white, look almost like 3D frosting. I’m a sucker for an old-school bakery-case supermarket cake.


I printed these at Shapeways in White Strong and Flexible. Now, a quick word on 3D printing and food safety: technically, this material is NOT food safe. No printed materials from Shapeways are, with the exception of their glazed porcelain. The stuff you print at home isn’t food safe either.

But yet, as you see here, I did jam these into cupcakes- and full disclosure- I ate two of them for breakfast. I’m not a materials scientist or a food safety expert, but I don’t get too stressed about decorative items like this.

See, it’s not that nylon is poisonous. In fact, there are plenty of food-grade nylon products. What precludes 3D printed nylon  food from this category has to do with two main causes: 1. the material properties that arise as a result of sintering, and 2. the strict regulatory processes of foodsafe products.

  1. Sintered nylon is porous. Porous materials are REAL good at trapping bacteria and keeping them nice and safe until they’re ready to attack you the next time you use it. Anything that gets stuck in the tiny little microscopic spaces of the matrix are going to be basically impossible to get out. It’s similar to the way food-safety experts warn people off of using old, knife-scarred plastic cutting boards for meat and poultry. Yum.
  2. Regulations. I’ve been to the Shapeways factory and I can attest that the space is lovely and beautifully maintained. However, getting stuff certified as food-safe is a complicated process (thanks a lot, Upton Sinclair), and since the properties of sintered nylon don’t really make it a great companion to edible stuff (it’s not watertight, it stains like a mofo, the whole pesky bacteria-trapping thing), I can’t imagine any 3D printing platform putting the time and effort into processing things as if they were a food plant.

So, like, don’t go sticking these into raw meat, and then try to reuse them on cupcakes. I hope you wouldn’t do that with anything, actually, but especially don’t do it with these.

For a single use, you’re in the clear. In that case, stick it into all the raw chicken you want- just throw it out afterwards. But if you want to reuse, and you’re particularly cautious, you can either wrap the parts of the stake that come in contact with frosting and/or cake with plastic wrap or foil, or you can use those old-school candle-holders (although they’re very hard to find nowadays, and who KNOWS what was in the plastic from the 1950s… probably lead). Or, if you’re extra industrious and have a lot of people you want to burn about their ages, you could dip the ends in a food-grade silicone.


So there. Please don’t sue me.



***In case you don’t want to model these up yourself (hey, no judgment), I’ve added the version you see pictured to my Shapeways store.





Designer, magpie, maximalist.

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